Art Journal this Week: No Mud, No Lotus

My art journal this week has focused on the lotus as a metaphor for pain and suffering followed by regeneration and happiness. This is one of the many lessons we can learn by observing the natural world.

No Mud No Lotus

NO MUDNO LOTUS Both suffering and happiness are of an organic nature, which means they are both transitory; they are always changing. The flower, when it wilts, becomes the compost. … Happiness is also organic and impermanent by nature. It can become suffering and suffering can become happiness again.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

lotus1No Mud, No Lotus The Art of Transforming Suffering is a book authored by a Vietnamese Buddhist monk named Thich Nhat Hanh. I was attracted to this title because long ago I accepted the idea that growth only comes when we are on the edges of or well past our comfort zone. As a young student from a rural homogeneous hometown, I found the adapting to a diverse college in an urban setting to be difficult. I did consider going home, but luckily I stuck it out and as a result, my world grew. I gained an education and a perspective with lifelong benefits. Changing ourselves can be an uncomfortable process wether, it is adapting to a new place, learning an instrument, practicing math, or developing an athletic ability. If we persist through the discomfort and temporary failures we often find we are better off on the other side. By facing the temporary discomfort rather than avoiding it we strengthen ourselves.


No Mud, No Lotus‘ premise take this idea father by applying it to tragedy and hardship. All humans must face difficulty and loss in our lives. I am lucky in that my share has been mild and I live the comfortable lifestyle of a middle-class westerner. But, we can all learn from what we find difficult, stressful, even tragic.  The analogy of the lotus can teach us how. The lotus rises from the muddy bottom of dark pools. Much of its existence is spent in darkness but it will eventually rise out of the mud to bloom. Eventually, the flower will wilt and return to the mud. Such is life a cycle of happiness and sorrow.  But, if we face and embrace the pain we are better able to appreciate what is good in life. Additionally, we learn compassion from our pain. That we may have empathy and offer support to others in their moments of darkness. We can offer a path for those lost in the mud of life.

Pink Lotus


We can embrace pain via stopping to think (aka mindfulness), breathing exercises, and focusing on what is really happening in that moment. Mental pain and physical pain are very similar. Scientific research has even found that the pain of a breakup is chemically similar in our brains to the pain of a broken leg! But, the pain of a physical wound will dissipate as we heal and so do also wounds of the heart.

Happy Art Journey,



The Why and the How of a Daily Art Practice

Why We Need a Daily Art Practice

As I have mentioned in previous posts, great art is not gifted by the fates via raw talent but is the product of persistence on the part of the artist. Like many things our art skills only improve as we practice them. I really believe that anyone can develop their drawing, painting, and sculpting skills if they exercise those skills. If I did not believe in the power of practice, I would not bother creating art, and I certainly would not be blogging about it. Your favorite artist the person whose work you most admire was not born with art talent they developed art skill over years of training.

Michelangelo did not start with the Creation of Adam. This is the pinnacle of his career. The cumulative effort of years of practice.

I don’t practice under the belief that I can be Michelangelo. Only Michelangelo can be Michelangelo. But, I do work under the assumption that I have plenty of room for improvement. I believe that I and anyone else who wants it can create lovely art and improve with persistent practice. But, we can only grow if we practice. To practice, we must make time and space for it.

You may be thinking ‘Who has time to paint every day? Certainly, not me!’ Look I get it, life is busy. I have a job, a family, etc. I have days where I consider myself lucky to make it through the work day and get myself and my kids home in one piece. But, I do make time for my art practice, and my goal is a daily practice. Note, the use of the word “goal.” A goal is not something you have already but something we strive to have. I do have days where I fall sort of my goal, and that is okay.

Tips for Maintaining a Daily Art Practice

Tip #1: Accept that what you have to offer today is enough.

We don’t have to embark on a major art project every single day. Only have 5 minutes to do a little sketching? That is awesome! Just do it. Don’t get hung up on completing an epic social media share-worthy piece every day. Just doing a little doodle is practice and will help you improve.

A quick watercolor sketch to get down an idea bouncing around my head. Perhaps some day it will evolve into a more detailed project.

Tip #2: Get a little sketchbook.

I have a few small sketchbooks I carry around with me. I have an itty bitty one for my purse. I have a bag packed with a few art supplies I can grab on my way out the door to take the kids to the playground. It contains a small travel watercolor pallet, a water brush, and a small watercolor paper notebook. I even have a small book and pen stash in my work bag. If I get the chance to do a little sketching on my coffee break or waiting at the doctor’s office I will take advantage of it. It is great to have some simple art tools on hand where ever you are.

Tip #3 Don’t have time to create a full piece? Practice the fundamentals.

We need to spend time on brush, pen, and pencil strokes if we want to get really good at them. We may not have time to create a full painting but time spent practicing brush strokes is well worthwhile.  Here is a great tip I learned in Ana Victoria Calderón’s SkillShare Premium watercolor classes. Improve brush precision by painting small rectangles or interlocking shapes as close as you can get them without touching. You can spend as little or as much time on it as you like.

Tip #4 Have a family? Do art with them.

In my family, we have instituted a “Screen-Free Sunday” policy. One day without screens a week. Very often we spend time together on crafts. Right now favorite activities include creating pixel characters with Fusebeads and Poly-clay Mario power-ups. Sometimes I just draw simple images with a Sharpie for my youngest to color in.

Tip #5 Find your time sinks replace them with art.

For me, this was commenting on political articles on Facebook. I would do this to unwind at night, which is really counterproductive in today’s political climate. When I actually started to pay attention to the amount of time I spent on this I realized it was closer to an hour than fifteen minutes that I thought it was. I try to limit my social media time to friendly Facebook banter and Deviant Art which is a great place to network with other artists and see their work. I will admit I have little time for TV and video games because I would rather paint.

Happy Art Journey,


Art Journal this Week: A Whole lot of Corona :)

This week we were lucky enough to travel to Tennessee for the Great North American Eclipse of 2017. It was a very surreal experience. A brief dark sky in the middle of the day. The insects and birds suddenly go quiet and the the dogs in the area all started barking. The only time one can view the sun’s corona the plasma aura around the sun is during an full eclipse. My journal entries really don’t do the corona justice but then again nether do the photos. It has a slight blue ting in person but in most of the photos it just appears white. In some of my drawings I depicted the corona in gold and cooper to relate the sun message. Keeping an art journal is great for one’s art practice. It helps institute a regular reason to apply your skills. As I have said before art is persistence not raw talent. You can experiment with new techniques and ideas without using up a large amount of reasources. Even if your entries don’t work out like my Corona entries. You still learn from the activity.

Happy Art Journey,


August SketchBox Review

My August Premium Sketchbox(this link gives me sharing credit) arrived a couple of weeks ago so I think I should take the time to review its contents. I originally purchased a 3-month subscription in an attempt to force myself to learn to use new art supplies and styles. Also, I have an art supply problem. I really really really like new art supplies. Actually, I love new art supplies. Being short on cash last month I decided to suspend my account until December because I wasn’t really feeling the expense was worth it. The most fun I was having with it was looking at the featured artists’ work. I am regretting it a bit this month as I really enjoyed the contents.

What is Sketchox?

Sketchbox is a subscription service of art supplies sent monthly. It comes in basic and premium subscriptions. Each month you get a box with art supplies, some cool art work, and products descriptions.  SketchBox comes in a neat box featuring an artist’s work using the contents from a previous month’s box. Unfotuently I must have recycled the box and product description card because I can’t find them in my home office for the life of me.  So you will have to take my word for it that the products pictured below actually came from this Month’s box. (Go me at failing sigh…)

The Contents this Month


Paint Markers and Refills

The first thing I saw was the 3 empty acrylic paint markers from Montana Markers and thought “well that is not entirely useful”. Luckily, two water-based refill colors were included Shock Yellow Light and Cyan. One marker is fine the other two are extra-fine. I mixed the colors on the 2nd extra fine to get a nice turquoise. I have to say I like the


markers. I use paint markers for the silhouettes in my constellation art quite often.  So far these three have not had the usual problems I experienced with other brands becoming bleedy and/or flow stopping suddenly even if the pen is half full. I find when the flow stops on my Sharpie paint markers if I press down on the nib to reinitiate the flow I risk breaking what I guess to be some kind of semi porous seal turning the markers into an overflowing unusable mess. I have not had that problem with these Montana Markers at all so far. On the left is a quick art journal entry using the markers. There was also a Dewert Graphink Line Painter .5 in color #06 (hot pink).

Black Artist Tiles

The last item I removed from the box was black Artist Tiles which I really had no idea what to do with. So I made gift tags for my sister in law’s baby shower. Her nursery theme is Alice in Wonderland. The pink, blue, and yellow are the markers from this month’s box.


The bottom line is Sketchbox worth it?

In all honesty, I am not sure. I think it would make an excellent gift. Your loved one can get lovely surprises in the mail for one month, three, or for a full year and think of how awesome you are each time. But, for self-gifting, I am not sure. I guess I will get back to you on the topic in December.