Tag: sketches

Keeping a Humor Journal

Life is strange right now. But the isolation and huge disruptions to normal life are temporary. There is a light at the end of the tunnel (and no, it’s not a train).

One thing that has really helped me keep my perspective is to keep a humor journal. Every day I write at least one funny thing that happened that day. Sometimes the entry is just “I forgot to do the laundry again.” Sometimes I ask someone in my family if they can remember something funny. Watching for the humor helps. Rereading the entries is even better. Here are a few of the entries in my humor journal:


Yesterday, the school told us it will be online school in the fall. It will be quality education, they reassured us. Not like in the spring, they added.


As I was leaving the house to go grocery shopping, the kids were still calling after me the things they thought I should buy. “Is syrup on the list?” “I need shampoo and conditioner.” I think the list grew by 35% or so in the hour before I left.


I woke up and wanted to go right back to bed. I spent all day fantasizing about taking a nap. I’ll probably stay up late reading.


Our neighbor got a new mailbox, bigger than ours. Our mailbox used to be the biggest on the row. “Do we need to get a bigger mailbox?” I joked. My husband laughed. “Can you imagine escalating that until we’re getting our mail delivered to tree houses?” he asked.


My oldest child: Who has the dishes?

Me: You do.

My oldest child: But I did the dishes a few days ago!

Me: And it’s your turn again.

Adulthood: Finally realizing that chores are never ever truly done.

I’d love to hear some funny moments from your life! Please share them in the comments. And, if you have any questions about keeping a humor journal, please ask!

When Things Don’t Look Right

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Sometimes things go wrong and your painting or drawing just doesn’t look right. Kathy Decker says that this can happen even when you know what you’re doing. She likes the saying, “Sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn.”

There are days when everything works and days when nothing does. When you’re starting out, mostly nothing does. Not knowing what to do or how to fix things can feel overwhelming and discouraging.

One day, Kathy Decker asked me how my drawings were going. She had challenged me to do some drawings of people from magazines as though I were going to paint them, paying close attention to light and shadows.

“I’m having a hard time making them look like the people in the pictures,” I told her. “They look like people, just not the people I’m drawing.”

She offered to come over and look at them. When she came, I took out the magazine and the pictures I’d drawn. She asked for a ruler.

She measured an eye in one of the magazine pictures, and then measured distances between the features on the face in eyelengths. She measured the distance to the other eye, the nose, the ear, the mouth, the chin, the top and back of the head. Then she measured the eye in my picture and did the same measurements on my drawing.

I like to use the Ensign Magazine to find pictures of people to draw.
The original picture is in this article: https://www.lds.org/ensign/2017/07/a-teacher-who-helps-save-souls?lang=eng

Next she checked angles and drew a line to show me the angle of the top of the head, the neck, the eyeline, the chin, the nose. She did the same with my picture. We compared them.

The rulers lines are in the upper left corner.
The original picture is in the is article: https://www.lds.org/ensign/2017/07/a-teacher-who-helps-save-souls?lang=eng

I had thought my picture had all the right things in all the right places, but looking at the measurements and angles, I was off in a lot of little ways. “If you check each picture you draw like this for a while, eventually it will become second nature, and you won’t need to check every time,” she said.

I am embarrassed to admit it, but I haven’t taken her advice to check every picture I draw yet. However, when I draw something that just doesn’t look right, I now have tools to see what went wrong. I check angles and distances, and usually I can find my errors.

I am also more aware of angles and distances as I draw. I mentally check the angles and distances before I add the nose, the ears, the chin, an arm… I think it’s helped me improve my drawing. Sometimes, there are days when I do my best and the drawing still looks terrible, and everything I draw looks awful despite my best efforts. Kathy Decker says it’s normal to have days like that.

If there are enough errors, or if I really am unhappy with my picture, I redraw it the next day. Usually it’s enough better that I can move on. Rarely, I end up drawing the same picture every day for a week.

This is from the May 2018 Ensign. The online version doesn’t have all the pictures of people, but this picture is on page 26 of the magazine.

Weeks like that are frustrating, but they help me learn. Weeks like that, where I try and fail and learn, are the types of week that contribute to my growth spurt theory. When things start looking right again, I find that I draw little bit better than I did before. And so, I am maybe even grateful for the mistakes. They help me learn and grow.


Have you measured distances and checked angles on your drawings? Has it helped you? Are there other tools you use when things don’t look right? Please share them!

Keeping a Creative Travel Journal

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There are so many ways to creatively document a special trip. I don’t travel often, but when I do, I try to make a record of the trip that I will want to look back through and relive the memories. Adding a visual element to the travel journal makes it more interesting and captures the memories better.

One of the earliest ways I recorded a trip was to make a scrapbook, where I collected tickets stubs and postcards and photos and newspaper articles and pieces of pamphlets and magazines to tell the story of my trip. It was a long trip, study abroad to France for six weeks, so I kept a notebook of the places I visited and the photos I took there so that I would remember what each photo was about. It was very time consuming, but it was a very special trip that I knew I wouldn’t be able to take again.

Scrapbook page from my study abroad trip to France when I was at Brigham Young University. Click on the picture to zoom and look at the details.

On another trip to Madison, Wisconsin, I brought along a travel watercolor kit. Each evening I would scroll through the photos I took that day and do a quick sketch of the most memorable photo of the day. Next to the watercolor sketch, I wrote a sentence telling what was happening in the picture and the date. It didn’t take long, and it’s a lot of fun to look through. The kit didn’t have many colors, and I didn’t want to spend much time blending them to get just the right shade, so maybe next time I’d bring a bigger kit. And more than one brush.

Watercolor journal from a long business trip/family vacation to Madison, Wisconsin. The captions are tiny. From top left to lower right with links so you can explore the places we visited!
We tried orange custard chocolate chip ice cream from Babcock Dairy Hall at UW. Yum! 7-14-17
Giant globe outside the geology museum at UW we visited yesterday. 7-15-17
A giant cauldron a the cheese-making museum in Monroe, Wisconsin. 7-17-17
For family home evening yesterday, we helped do yard work at the church building. 7-18-17

Last August, I went on a very short trip. It involved a lot of standing in lines and waiting. I brought along a pen and a sketchbook. Whenever we were waiting again, I picked something to sketch. I took a quick reference photo, and started sketching. It was a lot of fun. It made the wait seem short, and I didn’t worry about making everything look great because I had the photo if I wanted to do a better picture later. Looking back through it, I wish it was a lot longer. This is a little strange, because it would require more standing around waiting in line.

Sketches made while waiting in line for Astro Blasters. If that doesn’t give away the location of our trip, you need more Disney in your life!

Waiting @ Airport to head home. This was the last sketch for our trip.

I am sure there are more ways to keep a travel journal. I will probably do some research before my next great trip, whenever that may be. Have you kept a creative travel journal? What did you do? Did it turn out well? What would you do differently? Are you planning to keep a creative travel journal in the future? What will you do?

As I described in my post last week, keeping a comic diary is another way you can make a travel journal.

My DIY Art School

I like to draw and paint, and I want to improve my technical skills. I cannot go to art school right now, and I’m not getting any younger. So, rather than waste precious time, I am trying to do what I can here and now.

I am lucky. I have access to lovely, helpful books and people to guide me in my studies. This year, each Saturday, I will share some of the work I’m doing and the things that have been helpful. If anyone has any advice or suggestions, please add them to the comments.

I’ll begin with two different activities that I believe have really accelerated my growth as an artist:

My first drawing teacher was probably the book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. I did all the exercises in the book many times over the years, challenging myself to complete them again every five years or so. Each time I get to the end of the book, I can see the improvements I’ve made. It requires an investment of time, but I think it’s worth the effort. You can check out Betty’s website at http://www.drawright.com/.

Second, I see a lot of growth through consistent drawing practice. Right now, I draw a face a day from life and one from a magazine.

Sketches of two of my kids, 10-17-18 and 10-18-18

Sketches of people going to General Conference from the November 2017 Ensign Magazine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sketched on 8-31-18 and 9-1-18. You can access this magazine at https://www.lds.org/ensign/2017/11?lang=eng. Bonus points if you can tell me which page of the magazine these two sketches come from!

I also draw something from the yard. Sometimes I do gesture drawings of kids running around and playing. Those almost always turn out terrible, but I think it’s good practice.

Sketches of various plants found in my backyard between 6-25-18 and 7-13-18

All of the above are easy to do and take maybe a half hour total. I draw in pen so that I don’t obsess and give in to my perfectionist tendencies. I draw what I see, and when I make a mistake, I just move forward. Even if the drawing won’t end up perfect, I learn something from drawing it, so I finish anyway.

I also do a study from artwork by an artist I admire, trying to copy it as best as I can. Some I always do a pencil sketch first, others I just dive in and see how it goes. This takes about a half hour to an hour. When I finish, usually all I can see are the mistakes. A few days later, if I look back, I usually think it turned out okay. Some of the artists I consistently study are Chris Riddell, Stephen Cartwright, Bill Watterson, Skottie Young and Quentin Blake. Often, I’ll just copy a piece of an illustration.

When I do a study from a published illustrator or draw a person from a magazine, I always write down the reference next to the picture. That way, I always know what is mine and what is not. Right now, that’s mostly pretty obvious, but I want to make sure I’m honest.

Any questions or comments? I’d love to hear from you. What has helped you as an artist? Who are your favorite artists? What do you wish you had the resources and time to do, and what’s stopping you from doing it?

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