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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 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.

Bloom in weather

pink Camellia japonica

We have what I think is a Camellia japonica in our garden. It has been budding for a few weeks, and chose the most miserable grey patch of days to flower.

Of course, when I say miserable, I mean totally awesome. Thick, woolly winds. White noise rain to sleep to. Humidity and cloud cover keeping warmth close to the ground. It's still wintery and cold, but this being Perth, it's still quite nice.

That said, I have felt a bit shithouse this past fortnight. I blame it on getting too caught up in work-work and home-work, and not getting outside enough for sun and fresh air. Friends have recommended getting a blood test done for vitamin D levels, but I've had enough blood tests for a while.

Assuming vitamin D might actually be the problem, I'm going to get out more with my arms uncovered and be conscientious with food, and see if the low moods go away. Cancer Council Australia recommends 2-3 hours of winter sunlight, spread over the week - I can manage that.

The plan for workdays now is to spend at least 15 minutes in view of the sky, sometime in the middle of the day. Even indoors by a sunny (or cloudy) window is fine.

I tried to get some sun in the garden this afternoon, but we've been overcast and stormy all day. Nevertheless, I planted some cos lettuce seedlings in the no-dig bed, squatting out in the drizzle while cold, cold rain spattered on my bare arms. Surely I soaked up a bit of good UV through the clouds. Didn't want to jinx my brave winter seedlings with a photo, but if they survive the week, I will show you them.

The other day, we did get a couple hours of bright, bright sunlight, so I stood in the yard for 8 minutes and took a picture of this watercolour. That was okay. :)

watercolour painting with

Mm, I can hear the wind howling outside. Time for some tea.

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

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