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Do It 2017!: #7 Give yourself a creativity budget

February 25th, 2017 No comments

Do It 2017

Do It 2017! #7: Give yourself a creativity budget

So far in this series, I have talked about being creative, making space for your creativity, and making time for your creativity. Today, though, I’ll address one of the more problematic aspects of creativity and your creative pursuits — giving yourself a creativity budget.

It is a sad fact that, even when money is available, we often discount our own creative adventures, deciding that it isn’t worth the monetary investment to pursue our creations. We feel frivolous, silly, wasteful, imprudent and a hundred other things. We might be saying to ourselves, “It is wrong to spend money on paper and paint brushes when there are bills to be paid, children to be fed, etc, etc, etc.” While it may be true that we have other commitments, most of us usually have some discretionary income, too. If you have enough money for a pint of beer, you have enough for a few sketching pencils. If you can eat out once or twice a week, you can also afford a nice set of watercolors or a couple blocks of paper. For most of us, there is money available. We just have to realize that we deserve to spend it on ourselves.

That said, creating art can often be done on a shoestring budget — or no budget at all. How many buskers have you seen that create some amazing music beats using only recycled buckets or crates? Acapella singers on the street can captivate an audience using only the power of their voice. Sometimes constraints can help us to go deeper in our creativity than we might in a fully stocked studio. If you truly have no budget for art, start making collages from newspaper and magazines. Draw with a ballpoint pen on copier paper or Post-It Notes. You can even burn the end of a stick and draw on the cement sidewalk if need be. It is creativity that is important, not the tools you use to express it. Don’t let yourself get caught in the trap of thinking you need hundreds of dollars of supplies to even get started. Do something today, using the supplies at hand. You can always get more or different supplies later once you’ve created a habit of creativity.

Budgeting isn’t just about saving your money, it’s also about deciding where it goes. You can create some space in your budget to support your creative endeavors if you try. I know I can cringe at the price of some art supplies, but I still make space to buy some every now and then. I know that a good brush or good paper can make the difference between great, fun creativity and struggling. Like a student musician who struggles with their first cheap instrument, you can struggle with cheap supplies. Once you allow yourself to dedicate time and attention to creativity, you’ll come to a point where your future growth requires some investment, so you can continue to grow in your art.

Look for sales at your local art stores and haunt them religiously. Recently, our local Aaron Brothers store had an amazing sale on art supplies of all sorts. Papers — for drawing, painting or journaling — were Buy 1, Get 2 Free! I typically see 2-for-1 sales, but this sale was amazing. The same sale was also available on a variety of paintbrushes. Instead of spending $60+ on watercolor paper, I purchased 3 pads for around $20. One paintbrush was priced at $16, but I came away with 2 more brushes for the same price. Buy as much of your supplies as possible during sales like this and you’ll only have to budget them in one or twice a year.

Finally, remember that you yourself are worthy of investment and that is exactly what art supplies are — an investment in you, your creativity and in many cases, your happiness. Don’t shortchange yourself. In most cases, you aren’t going out and buying a ceramics kiln, print presses or other big ticket items for your creativity. You’re buying yarn, paints, glues, polymer clay or papers. You can always add the larger equipment and supplies later, as our skills and needs grow.

Surely you can find some space in your budget to add some supplies to your studio — even if your studio is comprised of your kitchen table or the stoop outside your back door. Go out this weekend to your favorite store and, at least, see what they have to offer. Spend $20 on your creativity and then get creating. You deserve it and the world deserves your creativity!

Show off how you are using your creativity budget this week! What small tool or supply did you add to your studio? Why? What will it help you create?

Previously on Do It!:

Categories: Art-Architecture, Creativity, DIY, Do It!, Make Tags:

On YouTube: SparkFun Simultaneous RFID Tag Reader

February 24th, 2017 No comments
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Do It 2017!: #6 A Bias Towards Action and Being The Good Example

February 16th, 2017 No comments

Do It 2017#6 A Bias Towards Action and Being The Good Example

One phrase that drives my creative life — and my life as a whole — is to always have a bias towards action. When life is confusing, worrisome, sad or dark, I find that doing something is always my solace.

Why? Well, to be as honest as I can be, I can be a moody, depressive, SOB at times. My normal(?) thoughts are pessimistic and worrisome. For me, this means if I am not careful — very careful — I can be overwhelmed and overdriven by the people and events around me. Something as simple and common as a couple having a quiet, if obvious, argument nearby can make me just as badly as if I were participating in the argument.

Knowing this about myself means that I have to have methods of controlling my downward spirals and a bias towards action is one of them. For me, being trapped in indecision affects me deeply, and in many cases, even physically. There is a tightness in my chest, an increasing pulse and a general feeling of anxiety that won’t go away. One of the few things that can help to alleviate this feeling is doing something.

Deciding to Decide

Even though I might not be able to make a particular decision or change a particular situation now, doing something about that decision can help — and “Deciding to Decide” is better than nothing. Much better, in my case.

The same can be said for bad situations. While burying myself in a project can have the immediate effect of isolating me from an uncomfortable situation, the act of doing also calms me mentally and physically. Doing something, nearly anything lightens my spirit and keeps me on the road to productivity and creativity instead of descending into the depths that my mind can conjure. Left to its own devices, my mind will create almost unimaginable horrors, if I let it.

Do something — good

When I am driven to action, though, I try to take the next step and also think about doing some good with my actions. Sometimes this takes the simple form of creating something beautiful when the world is rather ugly. I tend to not get involved in online arguments about politics or policy (unless pushed to action by the outrageous), but instead, I make a point of being a bit a beauty — a bit of light — in an otherwise dark world.

Look at my social media feeds, especially Instagram, and you’ll see little hint of whatever turmoil I am feeling in my life today. Instead, I use these sites as a salve for both my own and, hopefully, my readers/followers, souls. Whatever news surrounds my posts, I hope that my posts bring a smile or sense of happiness, if only for a moment. I know that these are the people I seek out in my own feeds and I try to do likewise.

Be The Good Example

In fact, in all my creative pursuits, I try to be the beauty, the change, the “good example”, that I can be. I believe that no matter the state of the world, our neighborhood, or our lives, we can also strive to provide a good example to others. This is the simplest, straightforward power we have and should never relinquish. No matter how crazy things get, create — and create something good, however, you might define it for yourself.

I know that, for me, creativity — making, taking action, building, drawing, painting, whatever you might do — is an important part of making the life that I want to live and, hopefully, making the lives of others just a little bit better.

What are you creating? What good example are you providing? How are you making the world a better place? For yourself and  others?

 

Previously on Do It!:

Categories: Creativity, DIY, Do It!, Make Tags:

On YouTube: Watercolor Tips to Improve Paintings – 5 MORE Beginner Mistakes

February 9th, 2017 Comments off

Do It 2017!: #5 Creative progress So Far

February 9th, 2017 Comments off

Do It 2017#5 Creative Progress So Far

This week I’ll give you a few updates on how I am doing with my own creativity and creating.

First, as part of allowing more time for my own creativity I am trying to stick to a more normal 9-5 work schedule. This is always a challenge when you work for yourself. The computer is always sitting there, staring at you, and wondering why you aren’t working on something. I work in my home office, so unless I make some definitive movement from work to personal life, it all just blends together.

Watercolor Wandering

Since my wife and son have late nights at college this quarter, it has been a little easier to set aside my own time in the evenings, but I still had to nearly force myself to make some movement. First was clearing off the left wing of my desk and setting up my watercolors. Years ago I was able to get some professional training in watercolor painting — for free – and developed some skill in painting from nature. Unfortunately after years of disuse, it is taking me a while to get my skills back. That said, I did get things set up and even did 2 quick practice pieces. Movement is always the first important step, so I feel that this is a big accomplishment and it puts me back on the path of my own creativity.

Watercolor setup

Of course, it will be up to me to sit down at the desk and pull out my brushes, but having them open and available certainly helps in that regard. They also provide an easy excuse to move from work mode to creative mode as they site just an arm’s reach away and I only need to pivot my chair to change my attention.

One big help is simply seeing dinner time as my switch over time from work to creativity. After I sit down to dinner I remind myself that I need to work on something creative and not simply fall back into the computer as I might have in the past.

I have also been looking for watercolor tutorials on YouTube and have shared a few to the blog here. YouTube has a huge wealth of resources and it only took a quick search to turn up hours of watercolor demonstrations and tutorials. Make sure you dive into YouTube and see it has to offer in your creative area. I am sure you will find many resources to expand your own creativity there. Be sure to share your favorites with me and the other readers in the comments.

Youtube watercolor videos

Music Making

As I mentioned before, I now also have my guitars set up next to my desk again and I have been practicing 30-45 minutes each evening after dinner. It is a great time to work as often the family is out of the house, so I don’t have to worry about disturbing them (or embarrassing myself) (LAUGH)

At first I only had the electric guitar out of its case, but as we have put the home office back together after having carpet installed, it gave me a reason to set everything back up again. So now the electric, the acoustic guitar, tuners, music and such are all close at hand.

Guitars

What are you creating?

So, now the big question — how have you been doing with your own creativity over these last 4 weeks?  I love to hear your accomplishments, both large and small and I am sure others readers would too. Leave a comment here and let us know what is working — or not working — for you.

This week I plan on paying more attention to setting aside time for painting and playing to try and make it more of an easy habit to full into each evening. I hope you are making space for creativity in you day, too!

Previously on Do It!:

On YouTube: Tutorial how to paint a Pine Tree with Watercolor, fast and easy

February 8th, 2017 Comments off

On YouTube: PAINT WITH ME: Watercolor Roses Tutorial (Easy, Beginner Painting)

February 8th, 2017 Comments off

On YouTube: Digital Theatre Props – Computerphile

February 3rd, 2017 Comments off

On YouTube: Make a PVC Light Stand for Under $5

February 2nd, 2017 Comments off

Do It 2017!: #4 Discovering what you want to create and following where it leads you

February 2nd, 2017 Comments off

Do It 2017#4 Discovering what you want to create and following where it leads you

So now that you have, hopefully, decided to do something special this year and made space and time for creating, you are ready to get started on actually creating something new. Of course, that then raises the question — what to you want to create?

Capture your thoughts and ideas

For me, I often capture ideas about items, programs, photographs, podcasts and more that I want to create in my handwritten journal. You do have a journal, right? How are you going to capture the important thoughts and ideas in your life if you don’t have somewhere to capture them? While I am a technology lover, I find that capturing raw, fleeting ideas is best done with a pen and paper. If you know me personally, you will nearly always see me with my journal in hand. Years ago I started carrying a purse and one of the biggest reasons for that was so I could carry all my technology AND my paper journal. You don’t have to use paper, of course. It is far more important to keep a journal rather than worrying about how you keep it. Use your phone, your computer, the back of your hand, whatever, but capture the ideas.

For more information on how I use my paper journal, check out this Snapguide on the topic

How to use a paper journal effectively – my first Snapguide

Now, what do you need to learn?

Once you start collecting ideas, you are sure to come across ideas that require a bit more learning to make them happen. Maybe you need to learn a bit more about watercolor technique, or how to us a CNC machine or 3-D Printer. Perhaps you need a bit more research into a historical novel you are writing or want to better understand how and why encryption can and should be used in today’s high-tech world.

We you are presented with questions related to your project, do what I do. Immediately start researching the topic on the Internet AND at your local library. Take 5 minutes to follow your interests and you will be greatly rewarded. You don’t have to dedicate hours to your research, but dive in and see what resources might be out there. I find that this research always spurs me on to more action — exactly what you need to create more in your life.

Two of my biggest sources for research are probably the most common for everyone — Google (or your other favorite search engine) and YouTube. Yes, that’s right, YouTube — source of mindless cat videos and screaming pranksters, right? Wrong! YouTube is one of the finest sources available today to help you learn nearly everything. Do many people dismiss it, often because they have never really engaged in the wealth of resources it holds.

When I started to learn about Arduino and Raspberry Pi computers I found tutorial after tutorial to help speed my on my way to actually using the devices. The best videos are like having a friend take you through a lesson, step-by-step, leaving you with something completed and concrete at the end. Even the worst videos can contain a tidbit of information or links that might lead you to even better sources elsewhere. Do not underestimate the power of YouTube to jumpstart your creativity and education, whether you want to learn about knitting, leatherwork, Raspberry Pi computers or raspberry Pie (the actual pie!) (LAUGH) I simply cannot quantify how much I have learned there over the years.

Go where they lead you

The other phenomenonal power of Google, YouTube and other online resources is that they can trigger creative thoughts and start you on a creative journey that perhaps you have never contemplated. I subscribe to a variety of YouTube channels so that I get a notification of each new video the channel creator release. While I might not watch every video, everything in their channel — and in my subscriptions — is potentially something I might like to watch. In many ways, along with Netflix and a few other video sources, YouTube has become the bulk of my daily video viewing.

Youtube channelYoutube sub page

An example of my channel subscriptions on YouTube

My subscriptions and viewing habits also means that YouTube can suggest other videos, from other creators, that I might find interesting. Nearly every day this leads me into another area of creativity. Recently, YouTube turned up videos on paper marbling, based on some other videos I had watch on artistic procedures. After watching a few of these videos, I am planning on trying my hand at paper marbling, at least in some small way. There are simple water and ink methods that you can do with just a few supplies, so it is easy to try it out and see what happens. I love this serendipetous discovery of new and amazing areas of knowledge and creativity and they simply pop up in my YouTube feed each day.

Once I find a YouTube Channel, web site or blog that I like, I can then use another tool to constantly monitor that source for new material and ideas. I use Feedly to subscribe to hundreds of blogs and websites from around the world. Feedly has replaced my daily newspaper and magazine reading much in the same way that YouTube has replaced network television. Each day I turn to my Feedly feed and find a host of new articles, photographs,projects and ideas. If you follow my blogs, you have probably seen me share some of the best of these blog posts there.

Iphone readingFeedly

Why reading apps and a page from Feedly

(Another great source I use is Flipboard which presents similar information in a magazine style format. You’ll also find my own blogs on Flipboard.)

Flipboard storyFlipboard

An example story from my Clipboard reading an My Flipboard Magazines

Further, whenever I am rambling about the Internet via links or a search engine, when I find a particularly great blog, I add it to my Feedly feeds, so it becomes part of my own, daily, customized newspaper or magazine, along with all my other sources. In this way I don’t even really have to go out searching for new information and ideas. Instead, it arrives in an easily readable (and shareable) form right on my phone, tablet and computer. Without Feedly and the blogs I follow, I would much less well informed about the world and miss many new ideas to further my own creativity.

Follow wherever your creativity and your sources lead you. You never know what amazing things you might find there!

Previously on Do It!:

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