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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

What I've been up to lately

It has barely been two months, but offices and cubicles feel so foreign already. This morning, I got out of bed at 9. Is this the slippery slope to becoming nocturnal again? I hope not. I like getting up early nowadays. But for the last few nights - tsk, tsk - I've stayed up past midnight, reading.

Reading. This is now essential to my professional development. Even fun reading has become a matter of study. Heaps of things are now a matter of study. I may as well tell people I'm a full-time student with heaps of prac assignments.

So here's what's been going on:

Gardenhand - After spending 2 years bumbling over how to do this, it's finally live: my gardening blog. Not much to look at now, but I have a pile of notes and drafts waiting to be written properly - answers to questions people have asked me about setting up and maintaining their gardens, little how-to's, and tips for outdoor and indoor planting.

Office Plants - Speaking of indoor planting, this project has also been keeping me busy and out of trouble. Friends setting up small businesses and home offices have asked about putting greenery in drab indoor spaces. So I'm building this site as a resource for busy office people, and as an excuse to study and grow more plants. I am loving my maidenhair fern, which I bought after writing the plant profile.

hand-lettered poster, work in progress

A hand-lettered poster - Some days, I wake up full of self-doubt. My Inner Critic suggests I'm delusional for thinking my recent life changes could ever work. Standing next to my Inner Critic, though, is an odd pair of characters. I can't find a reference to them on wiki, but I call them my Inner Drill Sergeant and Inner Cheerleader. I'm not crazy, I promise. These guys only live in my head. I know they're not real. :) Sarge is all brass tacks. He reminds me that I don't get to eat if I don't get shit done. Cheerleader is sweeter. She hangs onto positive, motivational quotes for the days I need them. Anyway, this work-in-progress poster is of something she's told me often since I started freelancing.

Inktober (day 4) - I started playing Inktober, thinking it would be a breeze after 100 teacups, but... nope. I got six days in, which you can see on my insta. It was fun, but some days, I didn't feel like drawing. I wanted to read about plants, fuss over my new tillandsia, do art that didn't involve ink. Oh well, there's always next year. I do want to finish the story of this boy and his sea adventure. Maybe I can do Inkvember and Inkcember.

Writing, and editing. I can now say I've gone through the process of pitching, writing, revising, and selling a story. Yay, achievement unlocked! More on that later, when I get a copy of the newsletter running the article. I also hit a small milestone last week in writing an article over 2000 words. I didn't think I'd ever have the patience for that, but well - it's done and I feel ever so slightly more capable.

Reading. The damn book that's been keeping me up was "Xenocide" by Orson Scott Card. So good. I thought it would be an extension of a town's relationship with the native population, but it turned into this massive question of philosophy and ethics. I love story books that give you things to bring back to real life. I've just finished reading "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out" by Justin Cawthorne. It's a fast read, and gave me the creeps, like a good horror story should. It also kept me up late. I'm now confident I'll blitz my 20 book pledge.

Ned's Pup - A fundraiser for an extended family member with autism. Ned's a good kid. :) It was nice to use my website-making skills to help out. The family are running a couple of events to help raise the money - small charity dinners, a quiz night, stuff like that. We're sitting on $2100 at the moment, so there's a long, long way to go.

And finally, Planetbase - It's like Dwarf Fortress, but in space. I love base builder and resource management games. And I love space. After spending the day super focused on tilling the career fields, it's nice to go colonise a planet. Mm, come on, little space men and women. Build me a bio-dome. ^____^

Now, how bout you? What have you been up to?

100 Days of Teacup (Set 5)

Brush strokes set

Fuck yeah, I am done. Pardon my language, but after 100 days of commitment, I feel I've earned a few swear words. Promise I won't spend them all at once.

This is set 5.

Day 81: Coloured shapes cutouts

Day 81: Coloured shapes cutouts. Decorated my sketchbook with pieces of a Kikki-K sticker book cover.

Day 82: A teacup-shaped cryptic crossword about tea

Day 82: A teacup-shaped cryptic crossword about tea. I put a lot of effort into this, yet still it might not be any good. There's a printable at bit.ly/crypteacrossword if this is your sort of thing.

Day 83: Stolen coaster

Day 83: Stolen coaster from Dominion League in Perth.

Day 84: Brush strokes 2

Day 84: Brush strokes 2. Acrylic on canvas. Working on a set from day 68http://sanlive.com/100-days-of-teacup-set-4/.

Day 85: Brush strokes 3

Day 85: Brush strokes 3. Acrylic on canvas.

Day 86: Brush strokes 4

Day 86: Brush strokes 4. Acrylic on canvas. The set is complete!

Day 87: Hobonichi teacup

Day 87: Hobonichi teacup. I am in love with my Hobonichi AVEC Cousin, a beautiful planner/notebook from Japan.

Day 88: Stencil teacup

Day 88: Stencil teacup, done with my 20-year old Caran D'ache crayons. The stencilling was what sold me on them - soft gradients, lovely colours.

Day 89: Teacups in my house 1

Day 89: Teacups in my house 1. A drawing in a mini-zine.

Day 90: Teacup on a woven table

Day 90: Teacup on a woven table. This table was given to us by previous neighbours as they were moving house. The woven top is rotting away; I plan to replace it with wood. Maybe jarrah or plain ol' pine, or whatever nice thing they have at Perth Wood School.

Day 91: Sewing drawing

Day 91: Sewing drawing. Kind of fun Would try again.

Day 92: Teacups in my house 2

Day 92: Teacups in my house 2. "Lintu" is Finnish for bird. :)

Day 93: The calm centre with tea

Day 93: The calm centre with tea. I received a letter from my penpal in The Netherlands. It had some stickers in it, one of which was a teacup!

Day 94: Tea and craggy biscuits

Day 94: Tea and craggy biscuits. Fountain pen ink on cotton paper.

Day 95: Fabric ink on calico

Day 95: Fabric ink on calico. Drawing testers for a sewing project.

Day 96: Waiting for tea

Day 96: Waiting for tea. Watercolour on cotton paper.

Day 97: Strawberry cup

Day 97: Strawberry cup, to match my new strawberry tower in the garden.

Day 98: Teacups in my house 3

Day 98: Teacups in my house 3.

Day 99: Teacups in my house 4

Day 99: Teacups in my house 4. There's actually a 5th type of teacup in my house too, but it's not very interesting to draw, and I can only fit 4 in the mini-zine.

Day 100: Acrylic on wood

Day 100: Acrylic on wood.

And that's it. :)))

Finishing felt great. Spending the following evening without this on my mind felt even greater. I went to training, I came home, I went to bed - THAT WAS IT.

Brush strokes set

It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.

Not sure if Confucius actually said that, but it's a nice thought, especially in the context of this exercise. I started my 100 days hoping to develop more creative habits in my everyday life.

At the start, I was nervous about art, about my ideas being lame. But pretty quickly, it became apparent how little that matters. Coincidentally, perhaps through the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, this became apparent in other areas of my life too - that it doesn't matter if the idea is crap. You having done something makes it significantly better, and often enough, what you end up with will suffice.

In the weeks that followed, I realised art doesn't have to be complex or difficult. You can do some pretty cool things without too much effort or commitment. Sure, inspiration and innovation are fun, but it takes perseverance and focus to turn them into something you can appreciate. Effort makes an idea matter.

Reassuring, isn't it? To know you've already succeeded at something just by having a go. Whether you hit the target is immaterial - you could well hit it on your next go. Of course, we're only talking about trying out art projects here. Don't take this mentality to the Roulette table.

It's only been a few days since the project ended, but more than before, I feel in the habit of creating. I can't attribute this to any one cause. Having such an intense track record gets me feeling more capable and motivated. But it could just as easily be that my art supplies are conveniently arranged now, so it's easier to dive in and make something. Maybe it's simply coincidence, a by-product of our new house having a better layout and more room for tools. Maybe it's the combination of all these things.

Thank you, everyone, for your support, hearts, likes, comments, and advice. I'm glad I had a go. Whether the new habits stick remains to be seen, but for the moment, I got what I wanted out of it. And now I'm going to savour the feeling of it being over. :)

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.

Nesting and crap

my messy desk

We're in the new house and everything is a mess. But slowly, slowly, objects are finding homes, and we are settling into new routines.

a no-dig garden bed pile of crap

This weekend, we spent some time setting up a 'no dig' bed. It's basically a compost pile you plant seeds and seedlings directly into. At the moment, it looks like a pile of crap. It is actually literally a pile of crap. Cow crap. Wet newspaper, pulled-up weeds and soggy mulch too.

It'll be a couple weeks before I can plant anything in it. Our landlords, who lived here before us, suggested herbs for the amount of sunlight in that spot. So, maybe parsley or coriander.

I've been told this is crazy, but I kept my soil from the veggie bed at our old house. About 250 litres of it in 3 large, heavy bags. After 2½ years of careful cultivation, I wasn't about to discard my loamy treasure. We're due a thunderstorm tomorrow, so I planted kale, carrots, radishes, marigolds, rocket, and a habanero chilli, to see whether any of them will grow this winter.

teacup in the sky

I ordered the Secret Garden colouring book last week, and am looking forward to sipping tea on cold nights, while making colours with various implements. It won't be here for another 3 weeks, and I'm feeling inspired to try drawing colouring book pictures. This teacup was my first go - there are a couple of wonky bits from my unsteady hands, but it was fun and relaxing. I wonder now if I needn't have bothered buying a book, but aaah, I'm still excited. :)

garden lights and a ceramic thingy no one can identify

I've been pondering the 'free' time I have now. I say 'free' because when you work part-time, people assume you put your feet up all day and just lounge. I admit, there is naturally more lounging, since you spend fewer hours tied upright to a desk, but think I actually lounged for a greater proportion of my spare time when I worked an 8/5. Simply from needing to unwind and process. Mentally, I feel more awake now that I work less. And at work, I feel focused.

A 3-day work week seems to be optimum for me, so I'm a bit nervous that this month, I'll be doing 4-day weeks to help cover a few projects. In my 12-year in-an-office career thus far, I've had burnout twice. Twice. I'm not even 35 yet. Not only is it a bad state, it makes you develop self-defeating habits that keep you there - so each time, it took a couple years of constant vigilance and re-training to recover.

But I don't want to run from offices like they always spell frazzled doom. I mean, they might (at least for me), but the prejudice does no good. It would be nice to know what this variation in the week will be like, and there are clear and manageable boundaries around this, so I guess it's safe to dip my toe back in at the shallow end. :)

Anyway, I'm feeling the urge to spend some of this 'free' time making things that are not teacups. But for the present, I'm taking it slow, since there are still 43 days left of this bloody project. That should be enough time for both scheming and lounging.

It is time for tea now. Good night, friends!

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