Monday, December 2, 2013

November's Darkness: Dealing with Anxiety and Depression

Wow, November was a tough month in almost every way I can say.  Weather changes and storms coming through Indiana.  Illnesses of one sort or another.  The upcoming holidays making their presence known.  Deaths, unexpected and painful, shaking my family.  I recount all of this as a way of saying, I have had a hard time being creative this month.  I had big plans.  I was going to do the SkAdMo challenge along with the PiBoIdMo challenge.  I got  almost half way there with some rough ideas and some rougher sketches, 13 in all. I could take that as failing, but when I consider I started with an empty book and having never done it before, I have to remind myself to say, "Good Job.  You'll do even better next time!"

And that brings me to something I have touched on in the past here on my blog.  I struggle with the inner critic.  But I am coming to grips with the possibility that the inner critic is more than just me being hard on myself.  I am realizing I have a deeper struggle that has embattled me for years and that is depression.  My husband pointed out that it always seems to come on worse this time of year, a dark nervous and angry mood that won't go away.  My family doctor suggested I get off my anti depressant a bit more than a year ago so I decided I should.  I had been on it for a couple of years and thought maybe he was right and it was time.  Last winter I noticed the tightness in my chest and the nervous feelings I had struggled with a few years before when I had started the meds returning.  But I was determined to push through it.  I told my doctor about the discomfort in my chest but he seemed unconcerned.
I drew this on November 7th.  I think I was trying to work my pain out here.  I love her eyes. 

Lately though the anxious feelings that come and go have been staying longer and there is an edge to me that wasn't there before.  I am quicker to snap and my voice reflects the annoyance I am feeling every time  I am asked to do something I would prefer to avoid.  And avoiding is what I want to do about everything from house work to going to work to talking to people to picking up a pencil and drawing.  October was so fun.  November has been miserable in a silent secluded way.

Last week I asked my OBGYN doctor about going back on an anti depressant (same as I had taken before).  He agreed and wrote a script.  I feel relieved and I look forward to feeling better.  I look forward to feeling creative again.  And I feel peaceful about accepting that I have this vulnerability in myself and that sometimes I need help that comes in the form of a little pill.

I was so reluctant to accept. I have fought this for years, believing that I will talk myself out of the darkness or that if I pray enough or read scripture enough God will lift this off of me. My husband and my sister have both advised me to get help, but I felt too proud because that would be to admit I am weak.  But then I recall a man who was very close to God, close enough that God spoke to him.  He had prayed more than once for his own difficulty to be taken away, something he called "a thorn in the flesh."  Finally God said, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9).  This is my thorn.  And His grace is sufficient.  And rather than remain frustrated and angry and anxious, I will rest in his provision.

This is not to say the pill is the final answer.  I need to exercise more, talk to friends more often, make more art and find ways to celebrate this life God has given me.  I have so much to be thankful for and practicing thankfulness will help me to let go of some of the fear and cynicism which has squeezed so tight around me.  But I know from past experience that the medicine will help me do all these good things.  I asked for help when I finally admitted I needed it and I know I have received.  I am thankful.

Thank you for stopping to read my post.  This was a difficult one to write, but I felt like I needed to share my struggle and admit that I do struggle.  I know many people struggle with depression and anxiety and as these are complicated issues, they require complex treatment.  I have found therapy helpful too and may look into that again.  If you struggle with this, please tell someone and seek help. It is okay to admit you are not perfect.  No one is.  My prayer is that you will find healing in what ever form it comes in.  Please leave a comment.  I would love to know if you found this article helpful and maybe your comment will help someone else.  Blessings!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Passing On a Dream

This week I got the opportunity to share my aspirations of becoming a picture book illustrator with some bright young artists at my local library.  I had read Jon Acuff's book Start (which you can find on Amazon) earlier this year.  In it, he talks about giving away our gifts.  To me that meant I needed to find a way to share what I am doing but I wasn't sure what that would look like. Then when the summer activities began at my local library, I thought that might be a good avenue to share what I am doing and what I am learning.

The display case in the foyer of the library is decorated with
 not only the books of some really great illustrators,
but a few of my own illustrations as well!
So November 12th I got to sit down with 4 children, grades 3, 4 and 6 along with their parents.  I shared my own story of how my 8th grade art teacher told me I should be an illustrator.  Looking back, I did not take that idea seriously nor did I really have a clear vision of what I wanted to do in my life.  I had a fuzzy notion about being an artist and had no idea how to go about it.  When I got to college, I had one professor encourage me and advised me to go to New York City then saw I had an engagement ring and said sadly, "I guess you won't be doing that."  She was right.  But, like I told the students Tuesday night, it is never too early or too late to begin to pursue your dream.

I didn't sugar coat it.  Not everyone who is an illustrator gets to do it for a living, but that doesn't mean it can't be a fulfilling way to spend your time and energy.  And the fact that so much illustration is done for the sake of being seen by eyes which are usually 10 and younger, it is an opportunity to touch and educate and inspire children.  Those children need dreams and some of those dreams are to make art to inspire others.  What a great calling!  And I would love to see these young people, if it is their calling, to start now to formulate plans and educate and prepare themselves to pursue those plans.  Even if illustration is not in their futures, I wanted them to know, the future is something we should be looking forward too.  It is not something we waste the present while we wait for the future to happen.  Dreams don't just happen. They need impetuous and perseverance on top of talent.

By the end of our hour together, we had talked about picture books, publishing, the difference between illustration and fine art, and they had made some beautiful sketches based on nursery rhyme titles I had put on slips of paper and placed in a bowl.  They asked if I would do it again and I said I would love to.  Who knows, maybe we could start an illustrators club!  The best part, was being able to share what I have learned over the past 15 months with people who love art and books too.  I get to share my journey and hopefully, I will share more of my journey with more students in the months to come.

Thanks for stopping by to read my blog.  If you are an artist or illustrator or writer or you just enjoy people, I would so appreciate any ideas you may have or things you have done to share your gifts with others.  What's the good of having a gift if you don't give it away?  Please leave a comment.  Love hearing from you!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Illustration Friday : Creature

I haven't done Illustration Friday in a while but since I have finished this Little Red Riding Hood piece, I thought it would work for this week's theme "Creature".  I think she's in trouble.  Follow this link and check out more great illustrations and artwork!  Thanks for stopping by and if you have a second, leave a comment and tell me what you think.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Creative November Challenges

As is I don't have enough to do on a day to day basis....

Actually it is time for me to push a little harder, work more consistently and get busy making art.  In the process of scouring the internet for help and inspiration, I am now hip to the challenges that are out there in the world of cyber-space.  There are so many, but these two suit me just fine.  I am going to fill a note book with daily sketches and picture book ideas so that at the turn of the new year, I will be all ready to start pushing harder and having a clearer direction to go in as I continue down the road toward becoming a published professional illustrator.  I have been making a lot of art, but not so much head way and I hope that by pushing myself this month, I will quicken my pace and keep moving forward!

If you want to take the challenges follow these links: Tara Lazar's PiBoIdMo - Picture Book Idea Month and Linda Silverstri's SkADaMo - Sketch a Day Month.  And if you want to be super organized about it with a nifty worksheet check out Jenn Bower's blog.  Sign up and join me in the fun and inspiration.  Please be sure to leave a comment and tell me if you are up to the challenge!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Illustrator Study: Maurice Sendak

image found on Wikipedia
I am beginning a new series here on my blog about famous and influential illustrators and chose Maurice Sendak to start off with.  I have read several articles about him and his work and have enjoyed sharing "Where the Wild Things Are" with my kids.  It seems there are different reactions to his work.  Some adults find him disturbing.  Some kids do too.  Both my children found the first reading of Wild Things to be scary.  And I have read a few of his other pieces, "Outside Over There" and "In the Night Kitchen".  His stories are a bit unsettling, and writers who enjoy him often comment on his ability to be truthful with children.  Whether you find him shocking or not, his art work is something to admire in and of itself.  And he is not afraid to make monsters scary, children less than wholesome and create landscapes and settings that live and breath in their own right.

I decided to try to copy the style he uses in "Where the Wild Things Are".  From my time in college studio classes, I recall more than one professor urging students to copy the masters and develop our own styles from what flowed out of those lessons.  So I am following that advice here.  I never had any formal illustration training, so where better to learn than from the old masters like Sendak.

I love the style he uses here with his brown tones in every color, giving the artwork a far away remembered feeling like black and white photos which have been colorized.  And I love the ink work.  His cross hatching is so intricate and skillful.  He uses it to create shadow and texture as well as defining what is real from what is the dream.

My attempt at using Mr. Sendak's illustration style
 and characters
My effort is certainly not up to his standards, but it has been a great chance to practice pen and ink as well as balancing colors and tones.  I have gotten to see my own weaknesses as well as strengths and that is always a great way to learn.

I hope you will come back to see what illustrator I will learn from next.  There are so many great ones and so many styles to choose from.  I would love to read some suggestions.  Maybe your favorite illustrator?  Who has influenced your work, or was just your favorite from childhood?  Please share in the comments below!  Thanks so much for stopping by!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Killing Paper Tigers

I am blogging tonight just because I need to vent a little, clear my head a little, get my thoughts out a little.  And I think this drawing is a pretty good illustration of how I feel... rearing to go, but like this horse staring off into the distance, there is something off the edge of the paper that is putting fear in my heart.

Struggling with fear has become a daily project for me and I have learned a lot from that struggle.  I mean, fear has always shadowed my path, but as I have been planning and goal setting and dreaming, fear has become this very real opponent who harasses me.  The cool thing is that now I can actually see fear.  It is not just a murky shadow.  It is a paper tiger and I can actually figure out how to deal with his tactics and reveal how flimsy fear is.

I have been really industrious lately.  I have been making a lot of art and I am about to make some more.  I have plans to open an Etsy shop.  I have plans to create a post card mailer to send out and plans to create a mailing list.  But now, I am at that place where plans have to become real action.  Guess what... I am making excuses.

Have you ever gotten to that place where all of your dreams are about to become footsteps on a path but then you start to second guess and even wonder if the journey is one you should take?  I am there.  And I am finding reasons to flounder.

Okay, so I need to get a good scanner for my art work since all of it is made with water color, pencil and paper rather than digital.  I need to get a printer so I can make nice prints to sell in an Etsy shop.  I need some extra cash to support this en devour.  I need to make some decisions about how to sell my art, where to sell my art, all along wondering if anyone will even want to buy my art.

All of these fears are little paper tigers, roaring at me, but amounting to nothing, only having power if I give them power.

So I am going to look at this picture of this wild mustang and I am going to gather my courage and run into the wind!  I am going to make this work.  I have to!

Have you found it hard to get started when you think of all you need to do to make your plans happen?  How have you coped with that?  What did you do to get over that hump?  I would love to hear from you because I am always looking for good advice.  Please leave a comment and share!  Thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Unexpected

Sometimes it is too easy to lose track of what you are doing.  Like why am I even writing this down?  Actually, I am trying to get a hold of myself.  Too many things are flying at me at once and I am not sure I am totally ready! 

I am discovering that opportunities are like links in a chain.  You do something, take an action that will be good, beneficial to you and to someone else and somehow that leads to another good thing which leads to another.  All of the resulting links were completely unforeseen, though they may have been hoped for.  And they happen because of the one thing you did that started the chain reaction.  That first link.

I have to say the way things are going I had not seen the coming, but what seems to be coming seems to be good.  I put one thing out there, not really expecting anything, but it was something that was for my art and it was a gift.  The gift has come back to me.

So be generous.  Be open.  Be ready.  Be active.  Be creative in everyway.  Be positive and keep going.

I am posting this picture because it is part of the links in the chain that I am following.  I am excited about it because I felt like it was my first really successful watercolor.  I have become familiar enough with the medium now that I could predict what it was going to do when I applied it and the was really exciting for me.  Plus I have found an excellent link though Facebook, called the Watercolor Painting Club (  If you are interested in watercolor, it has been a great place to see other artists' work and get tips.