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Hello, my name is Sandy.

Creative guilt

Over the holidays, I was chatting with an artist, and mentioned in passing that I often felt guilty for making crap art because of how much garbage ends up in landfill. He remarked that this seemed like a very self-deprecating thing to say.

I thought nothing of it at first, but then someone else said the same thing to me later that evening. It got me thinking about how I approach creativity and my own creative output.

I struggle with creative guilt. It strikes me at every turn, usually shaping up in one or more of these forms:

  • This story is too farfetched. Just don't.
  • You're never going to get this. Why bother?
  • This is drek. Stop wasting time.
  • Your lines are wonky. Give up now.
  • Your technique sucks, just stahp!
  • Why are you taking up space with your crap art?
  • Don't watch tv, go make something, you lazy cow!

It's a rock and a hard place. Especially with that last one in the mix. It all sounds harsh when written out, but I swear it's placid and conversational when I hear it in my head. I'm not crying the corner or anything.

Feeling insecure about my work doesn't stop me, but it does suck some joy out of the process. It's like trying to swim with clothes on. The extra weight makes me fatigued and I experience reluctance when it comes to trying again. It makes everything feel 10x harder than it needs to be.

Anyway, I've decided to reprogram my brain where this is concerned. Not for all the art I might make. I'm still getting my head around this landfill issue. And honestly, I found the 100 days of teacup a bit upsetting cos I just plain didn't like some of the art I made. :|

But I've wanted to invest a bit of time in drawing and watercolour for a while, so I'm re-thinking my emotional response to the learning process. I decided not to feel guilty for producing shit drawings and paintings.

You know, as if guilt is a tap you can just turn on and off. But for something like this, let's say it is. It takes extra mental effort, but it's worth a shot.

So, it was odd at first, but I'm enjoying it now. And I'm really happy with the progress. Here's what the last week of swimming naked (not literally) has been like:

watercolour anime girl

watercolour collage with cat, goldfish and mountain town

the top of a church in ink and watercolour

vanishing point perspective of a row of shops with a disembodied eyeball floating overhead

war memorial at Kings Park

urban scene in Venice

100 Days of Teacup (Set 4)

my little filofax

This little Filofax Pocket Metropol planner has been super useful in keeping track of teacup days. I've enjoyed ripping pages out as the weeks pass - a feeling that gets only more satisfying as we get closer to 100. :)

So, set 4.

Day 61: Envelope cutout

Day 61: Envelope cutout. If you've ever made a zine, you'll be familiar with the happy feeling of finding a cute pattern inside of boring official envelopes. Ah, joy in mundane things.

Day 62: Tea with cream

Day 62: Tea with cream. Fighting winter skin with Michael's Olivara Skin Cream. This makes it look like I'm conscientious about self-care, but that's a lie. My skin is scaly and crinkly, but I remembered to moisturise that day and celebrated with a teacup.

Day 63: Family crest

Day 63: Family crest. I stuffed up the Latin and had to fix it.

Day 64: Teacups in the paper

Day 64: Teacups in the paper. I wonder if the people in this picture will ever see the tea I served them.

Day 65: Etchings in white-out on adzuki beans

Day 65: Etchings in white-out on adzuki beans.

Day 66: Wire skeleton, acrylic sinew

Day 66: Wire skeleton, acrylic sinew. The paint was still wet the next day.

Day 67: Fuzzy lines

Day 67: Fuzzy lines.

Day 68: Brush strokes

Day 68: Brush strokes. Acrylic on a very small canvas.

Day 69: Watercolour practice

Day 69: Watercolour practice. Terrible perspective and brush control, but it was fun to try painting a 'fine' pattern with watercolours. Something to try again later.

Day 70: Watercolour crap in a cup

Day 70: Watercolour crap in a cup. My fingers itch now to paint some postcards. Maybe on proper watercolour paper instead of getting them printed, so they're extra special. :)

Day 71: Triptych in colour

Day 71: Triptych in colour. Piece from day 49, coloured with acrylics.

Day 72: Painted clay egg

Day 72: Painted clay egg. After this photo was taken, one of the cats claimed it and now I don't know where it is.

Day 73: Teacup topiary

Day 73: Teacup topiary. In my new colouring book. Ahh~ such relax.

Day 74: PVA glue

Day 74: PVA glue. I thought this would turn out more like a decal, but it's just a slightly gummy piece of PVA. Maybe a viable medium for a bigger, more intricate piece?

Day 75: Whiteout on plastic

Day 75: Whiteout on plastic. I bought stationery from Char's Planner Goodies, and it arrived in recycled packaging. I don't mean new store-bought stationery made from recycled materials - I mean Char had taken packing materials from around the house and used them to package my stuff. I love that. :) Yay, recycling!

Day 76: Ink on wood

Day 76: Ink on wood. This is an off-cut of American rock maple from a woodwork project at Perth Wood School. We went to learn how to make pigeonhole shelves. It's nice being surrounded by people working on projects they're passionate about, while you're working on yours.

Day 77: Ink on a petal

Day 77: Ink on a petal. Camellias are blooming in our garden. :)

Day 78: Tealeaf teacup

Day 78: Tealeaf teacup. This is peppermint tea, so it should actually be called a 'tisane' or herbal 'infusion'.

Day 79: Teacup on a punchie

Day 79: Teacup on a punchie. I bought a flower-shaped hole punch. It's surprisingly sturdy and crisp, and works on firm paper too.

Day 80: Shortbread and teacup

Day 80: Shortbread and teacup. I used to be able to stuff my face with shortbread, but now after learning how to make it, every mouthful is guilt. Tasty, tasty guilt. Spoiler alert - you are pretty much eating butter and sugar, stiffened by white flour. Out of a batch of 16, I ate 3, so that's not too bad.

And here we are - the home stretch.

The point of quitting full-time work was to get my life in order and accomplish things I'm passionate about, but lately, I've wondered if I have the balls for it. I decided for 100 days, teacups would be the thing I hope to accomplish, but it's been 50/50 lately on teacups that slot into my life versus teacups I stop and make time for. To succeed at the things that matter to you, you have to stop and make time for them.

I see friends starting businesses, writing books, making stationery, throwing everything they have at their goals and realising success. I feel tiny by comparison. Not that I believe in comparison. More I envy their passion and focus. Or maybe I'm letting the hyperbolic lens of social media distort the view from here.

Everyone has their main quest, and I know mine isn't to run a business, write books or make stationery. I have to consciously remind myself every day not be swayed by shiny things or pressured by other people's successes and methods, however enticing they may be. Just because an opportunity is good, it doesn't mean it's good for you.

I'm also consciously rewriting my definition of success. Nothing is perfect. Nothing is excellent all the time. Sometimes done will do. So maybe I can feel okay about at least fitting a half-arsed teacup into the overstuffed days.

I'd hope this is a poignant life lesson from set 4, but it feels more like a grumble. I kept my head down and pressed on for this one. Tonight, I will make a wishlist for my life after teacups, then think long and hard about my life choices. Or put my feet up and sit in front of the heater. Whatever I'm more passionate about at the time.

100 Days of Teacup (Set 3)

teacup sculpture with messy background

I'm never doing this again. I'll see it through this time, but boy, I really felt the weight of it here. Or is this just the swansong of laziness and malaise? Will I emerge, after 100 days, a creative genius who shits gold and teacups?

Here is set 3.

Day 41: In dust

Day 41: In dust. 20+ days ago, we were still in the old house, still packing. It feels ages away now, even though we're still in the process of moving stuff. I never realised how messy my desk was until this day.

Day 42: Scrunched up paper bag

Day 42: Scrunched up paper bag. I was in the middle of a Windward game and didn't want to leave my seat. Necessity really is the mother of invention.

Day 43: Sewing pins

Day 43: Sewing pins. It very slightly triggers my trypophobia (don't look that up).

Day 44: Theta teacups

Day 44: Theta teacups. I've been drawing teacups in my filofax to remind me to make one each day - over time, they got so sloppy, they started to look like theta symbols. So onto a postcard they went.

Day 45: Tea light

Day 45: Tea light. A desperation teacup; my art supplies were packed away. It has given me the urge to draw on everyday things.

Day 46: Rubber stamp teacup

Day 46: Rubber stamp teacup. Cut and delivered by CustomMadeStamps.com.au. If I could do this over, I'd make the cup rim bigger to prevent blotting, but this will do for now.

Day 47: Ink on felt foot

Day 47: Ink on felt foot. We moved all the big furniture that day. It was our first night in the new house. :)

Day 48: Drawing my feelings

Day 48: Drawing my feelings. On the evening after a good day.

Day 49:

Day 49: "Tea Party" triptych in pencil. To be coloured on another day.

Day 50: Air-dry clay

Day 50: Air-dry clay. To be painted on another day.

Day 51: Shadow box

Day 51: Shadow box. My boss made me a cardboard teacup in a knowledge-sharing meeting. Making a shadow box has been on my craft bucket list for ages. Now it has happened.

Day 52: Beads and craft wire

Day 52: Beads and craft wire. This was very fiddly, it hurt, and made my fingers smell. I didn't remember til the very end that there were brand new needle-nose pliers in the other room. Bloody heck.

Day 53: Masking tape sculpture

Day 53: Masking tape sculpture. With paper tablecloth from @corridorgirl.

Day 54: A Yuliia Bahniuk fan art

Day 54: A @yuliia_bahniuk fan art. Check out her drawings - they're adorable!

Day 55: Steaming cup

Day 55: Steaming cup. Our new mirror. Our new bathroom. Foggy from the best new shower with hot water that doesn't run out like a bastard.

Day 56: Teacup in the sky

Day 56: Teacup in the sky. Drawn while waiting for my Secret Garden colouring book to arrive. Maybe I will colour this another day.

Day 57: Chia seeds and pear carving

Day 57: Chia seeds and pear carving. Caught this just in time. The following day, my pears started turning brown and drippy.

Day 58: Hints, lines

Day 58: Hints, lines. I wish I had used colour.

Day 59: Tea Times

Day 59: Tea Times. Masthead for a new, very tiny zine project.

Day 60: Curry

Day 60: Curry. Out at dinner with friends.

Set dragged on a bit. Sorry to sound negative. Some pieces were fun, and it was nice having an excuse to try things, but I'm feeling antsy. I want to explore my other projects, but that means twice the teacup effort the next day, thrice the day after that.

Dealing with desperation teacups was a fun challenge. I think the lesson for this set has been in making the most of what I have on hand, even if it's a little odd. This is especially pronounced when I can't find things, or when I'm bored of the usual things, or when I have plans that don't involve sitting at home doodling.

Curry, a paper bag, an etching on a pear, pins in a pincushion - I like to think this proves you can make 'art' anywhere if you had to. Cavemen painted on their living room walls with rocks stolen from another caveman's back yard. We have so much more available to us today. Perhaps it's fair to say there's no excuse for not trying?

Though, excuses seemed significant for this set too. Teacups gave me an excuse to draw a colouring book page, draw a masthead for a zine, try making a teapot out of tape. I feel I never would have tried without undertaking this project. So maybe it's fairer to say the only excuse for not trying is not having an excuse to try.

I will see this through.

100 Days of Teacup (Set 2)

setting up a teacup photo

Teacups are still happening. Here is the second set of 20.

Day 21: Watercolour crayon

Day 21: Watercolour crayon, using old Caran d'Ache Aquarelle Neocolor II.

Day 22: Dots

Day 22: Dots, ink on paper.

Day 23: One continuous line

Day 23: One continuous line, red fineliner on paper.

Day 24: It'll do

Day 24: It'll do. Green fineliner on paper, along with my batch cooking plan.

Day 25: Packing with teacup

Day 25: Packing with teacup. Artline marker on cardboard. Packing began then, and is still going. Ironically, there are no teacups in this box.

Day 26: Felt cutout

Day 26: Felt cutout.

Day 27: One continuous wire

Day 27: One continuous wire. Used craft wire. This was meant to be a beaded teacup, but my beads were sealed up in a packing crate.

Day 28: Sketch on a paper fan

Day 28: Sketch on a paper fan. I regret using colour pencils - the surface was too bumpy. Next time, I will try felt tip markers or watercolours.

Day 29: A smallish cup

Day 29: A smallish cup. Used an Artline 231 tech drawing pen.

Day 30: Keynote shapes

Day 30: Keynote shapes. I spent 2 days designing presentations. Pretty bloody exhausted by the end of it, but day 30 needed a teacup.

Day 31: Teacup stamps

Day 31: Teacup stamps. Drawn in Acorn, printed by Australia Post's personalised stamps service. This is nice as a one-off treat, but generally terrible value. 20 custom local stamps cost $27, which works out to $1.35 a stamp. The service seems to target people having special parties or weddings, and I'm thinking for a party that special, you'd invite a lot of guests... that's a lot of over-priced stamps. Guess I won't be having a special party any time soon!

Day 32: Pastel version of stamp artwork

Day 32: Pastel version of stamp artwork.

Day 33: Drawing with the flat side of pencil

Day 33: Drawing with the flat side of pencil.

Day 34: A RimWorld teacup

Day 34: A RimWorld teacup. It's all fun and games until half your colony gets malaria, your hunter loses an arm in a snake attack, and a fat pirate decomposes in your strawberries cos no one will dig him a grave.

Day 35: My teacup-shaped todo list

Day 35: My teacup-shaped todo list.

Day 36: Washi tape and wire

Day 36: Washi tape and wire.

Day 37: Finger painting in Sketches (iPad)

Day 37: Finger painting in Sketches.

Day 38: Peas, glue and ink on canvas

Day 38: Peas, glue and ink on canvas. With most of my art supplies packed away, I'm relying on salvaging what I can from what's still lying around the house.

Day 39: Ink on tracing paper

Day 39: Ink on tracing paper. Yep, more salvaging. I found the tracing paper under a yet-to-be-KM'd pile of crap in a corner of the study.

Day 40: Photo stitch

Day 40: Photo stitch. A copycat of art @blaizey made for me. I used a lovely business card from Lovegrove Photography, which came inside a thank you card for supporting his wet plate collodion photography campaign.

So, that's the second set. I noticed an interesting psychological thing around day 32. My mind would frame the creation of a teacup like it's some huge undertaking. But in reality, even the more complicated pieces - like the washi sculpture and stamp artwork - didn't take much time. Hmm... or maybe they did, but I was in flow and did not notice.

Anyway, nothing in the last 20 days felt like it took a great deal of time or effort, and at no point did I feel unable to do recreational stuff like watching tv or playing games. When life tasks needed to take priority, I found I could compensate by figuring out how art could be integrated into those tasks. All I needed to do was remember and spare a thought - the rest seemed to follow on from there.

I wonder if expectation is the reason some people grow away from creative endeavours. Expectation that if you're gonna do something, it should be bonkers amazing. Then it's so daunting, you never even start. This, over years and years.

But just to hammer out a thing - good or bad, for the sake of experiencing its creation - there's no expectation there. You don't spend extra energy constantly checking yourself while you're doing it. You just do it, and then look upon the thing once it's done.

If the lesson from the first set was to regard perspiration ahead of inspiration, the lesson from this set is surely to jump in and try stuff while being comfortable with the idea of failure. You know, there are so many areas in life where failure is largely irrelevant. Making tiny teacups for 100 days is one of them. What else might be too?

100 Days of Teacup (Set 1)

The 100 Day Project, how to play

Earlier this month, I pledged to spend 100 days of teacup in #The100DayProject.

May I show you my first 20 teacups?

Day 1: A study of edges + shadows

Day 1: A study of edges + shadows. Pencil and watercolour crayon drawing of peppermint tea, enjoyed at Sydney Airport on our way home from the farm. The crayons still work nicely, even after 20+ years.

Day 2: Acrylic on canvas

Day 2: Acrylic on canvas. I wanted to try making textures with paint, as people have told me you can do with oils. Oils are nicer to work with, but I will stick with acrylic until I learn not to get paint on everything.

Day 3: Origami

Day 3: Origami. Original "teatime" design by Tomohiro Tachi. I followed the MrViolinPeter tutorial on youtube. It looks complicated, but if you can fold 45° angles, you can totally do this.

Day 4: Crochet teacup

Day 4: Crochet teacup. I was really pleased with this, even though I'm not in love with amigurumi. The free Lion Brand tutorial is easy-teasy. :) The base is weighted with beans, the rest is filled with wadding.

Day 5: Paper art teacup

Day 5: Paper art teacup. A friend gave me a stack of beautiful washi paper, which I left untouched in a box of precious things. I found it again while KMing and decided it was time to help those beautiful papers fulfil their life purpose.

Day 6: Doodle on a napkin

Day 6: Doodle on a napkin stolen from a whiskey workshop at Whipper Snapper Distillery. If you're in Perth, love whiskey, and enjoy learning interesting things, go sign up for the 2-hour workshop. You learn about distilling, get to do some tasting - and The Royal is close enough for some good food after.

Day 7: Off-hand

Day 7: Off-hand. Felt-tip on paper. I have a drinking game I like to play with people. The first part is to get nicely sozzled and draw a teacup with your non-dominant hand. I wasn't drunk for this, though. Usually it doesn't go as well.

Day 8: Off-hand, eyes shut

Day 8: Off-hand, eyes shut. Marker on paper. The second part of the game is to shut your eyes and draw with your non-dominant hand. Once in a while, things look how they were meant to.

Day 9: Jute and glue

Day 9: Jute and glue. Because the glue took so long to dry, this took 3 days to complete. It stinks of PVA. I'd like to explore this more if I could find a less smelly adhesive.

Day 10: Layered pop-up card

Day 10: Layered pop-up card. Definitely something to be said here about using good quality materials. I used glossy labels salvaged from bedsheet packaging - annoying to work with. It might be fun to try again with nicer paper.

Day 11: Chalk pastel on paper

Day 11: Chalk pastel on paper. Again, good paper will make a good experience.

Day 12: Tea from a passionfruit shell

Day 12: Tea from a passionfruit shell. Even though I'm used to seeing Chinese and Japanese teacups, I don't find them very teacuppy without the other parts of a tea set. So I got a pot of tea and our last biscuit. It was nice. There was a hint of passionfruit aroma. :)

Day 13: Body paint on skin

Day 13: Body paint on skin. Neshka from Little Magic - Art & Design let me try her face paint. This is a lovely type of art. And the very temporary nature makes it feel so delightful. I would probably feel differently if I was covered in it, but something tiny like this is OK.

Day 14: LED dot matrix display

Day 14: LED dot matrix display. I was working on a LED display for a project; a teacup emerged. The Freetronics DMD is great. It comes with the cable, you just plug it into the arduino - so easy. I expected to struggle, but it only took an hour-ish to get the software, play around, then make the picture appear. That includes the nervous procrastination preceding all my projects. A more experienced maker could do it in half the time.

Day 15: Charcoal on paper

Day 15: Charcoal on paper. Some study of light and shadow. I did the top wrong. I know. :(

Day 16: Watercolour

Day 16: Watercolour. This was fun. Watercolour, let's date each other.

Day 17: Ink fingerpainting

Day 17: Ink fingerpainting. Normally, I try to prevent ink from getting on my fingers. But the stamp pad was just there. Finger was still black the next day. B-, would fingerpaint again, but won't use ink.

Day 18: Puff pastry and mozarella

Day 18: Puff pastry and mozarella. The fails are in the background. Beauty only matters for the photo. They were all equally yummy.

Day 19: Mouth drawing

Day 19: Mouth drawing. This felt weird. I think you have to use your tongue for finer control, but I didn't want to get licky with my pen. It's hard with a fineliner, cos too much slanting lifts the tip off the page. This could be worth trying with a paintbrush.

Day 20: Foot drawing

Day 20: Foot drawing. Also feels weird, also want to try with a paintbrush.

"Show up, show up, show up," says one of the posters for #The100DayProject. After 20 days of showing up, I realise art is more about perspiration than inspiration. Ideas flow fast and free when you're in the right state of mind, but it takes discipline and perseverance to turn it into something you can behold.

There are days my discipline wavers, but I want to make it to 100. It's like exercising muscles. I want to come out the other end with the creative process feeling like the natural course of things. I am still nervous about art, but starting to feel more confident.

The bit I enjoy most is having an excuse to try new stuff, or try new ways of doing old stuff. I don't know what you call these things. Art forms? Mediums? Some of them I've wanted to try for ages, but never got around to it. This is wonderful incentive.

I'll post sets here every 20 days, but if you'd like to follow the days, check out my instagram or 100 Days of Teacup album on Facebook.

So, that's it for now. 80 days to go.

Waaaaaaah~ 80 is a such a big number. T___T

Flowers and rainy windows

a shelf of paintings

Oh yeah, the farm and house we stayed at are chock full of awesome paintings. I'm a noob about art, but since trying to paint, I like looking at things other people do. Anyway, most of the awesome paintings were done by Sydney-based artist, Ali Wood. She even let me check out her studio. Thought you might like to see. :)

creative space

a creative table

I love seeing other people's setups and works in progress. It makes their work relatable, and that's important to me as a person in an audience.

Ali's rainy window stuff got me into her work. They're not photo-realistic, but they're what I see when I shut my eyes and remember. That's what appeals to me about her paintings, and paintings of that ilk, I think. They echo my memory more than my eyes, so I feel closer to them.

Stephen King talks about something similar in On Writing, where you refrain from over-telling so there's still room for the reader to fill in the blanks. This makes them feel closer to the work because they've done some of the telling on their terms.

painting of a vase

What blew my mind was seeing a painting of a thing, then seeing it in real life. Like seeing a celebrity in the flesh after many years, and making the connection between the virtual and the real.

the vase in person

Anyway, I'll probably sound dumb, saying more. Here are the rest of the photos I got of her paintings and tools.

so many paintings of flowers in vases

more flowers in vases!

just decoration, or art about to happen?

pencils and brushes

props and pieces on a creative table

oil painting of a road through the trees

You can find more Ali Wood stuff at her website and her instagram.

Instagram