Sharpen the Saw & The Difference Time, Good Paper and Reading can Make

Hi freinds! I hope you are having a pleasant weekend.  I took some time this morning to paint while listening to an audiobook, I started listening the The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen. I thought since I am listening to the Peach keeper I might as well challenge myself and paint a peach in water color. My first attempt was a quick sketch in a lightweight watercolor journal (the Jane Davenport journal that I HAD to have but the more I use it the less I like the paper. I am not knocking it, it is great for mixed media but not as robust as I would like for straight watercolor.) Painting on paper I am not crazy about can be a positive and a negative. On the plus side it is fairly inexpensive and I can be free because I am not afraid of wasting it, heck, I’d love to use it up! I can paint til the cows come home and not give a care about using up my “precious” paper. On the downside the paper is flimsy, it tends to ripple, it can’t take much scrubbing and I really don’t want to put much time or effort onto anything in this book because I know if I come up with something really great the paper won’t handle me working on it with watercolor for that long. Because of this I don’t work on anything too serious in this book.

pach_example

That said, working out a design on “practice” paper or in a journal can make you realize if it’s something you want to dive deeper in. Did you know many “old masters” would use watercolor for their on location studies and then paint their “real” painting back in the studio with oils. In the above example the peach on the left is painted on a sample of 300lb CP (oh so precious) Stone Henge Aqua paper and the one on the right was done in my Jane Davenport mixed media journal. Both were done with Rembrandt watercolors, I will have a review on that paint later:) Because I knew what I wanted to achieve with this painting after I “played” in my journal I was able to confidently dedicate time and effort on a nice piece of paper. The sketch took about 20 minutes, the final painting took about 2 hours which was a pleasure to spend while I listed to my audiobook. I didn’t film it. When I was about halfway through I thought “Oh shucks, I should have turned on my video camera!” but then I realized that if I was taping this I would have taken safe routes and tried to paint this in the quickest amount of time and not try new things to stretch my skills. I would have fallen back on my tried and true techniques instead of pushing myself to discover something new. I needed to sharpen the saw.

Like I said I like to listen to audiobooks when I am working and not filming. Earlier this year when I was working on my latest children’s book illustration project (more on that later) I listened to The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. He lists 7 habits that we should adopt to be more effective people and leaders:

  1. Be Proactive
  2. Begin with the End in Mind
  3. Put First Things First
  4. Think Win-Win
  5. Seek First to Understand, and Then to be Understood
  6. Synergize
  7. Sharpen the Saw

I am not going to get into the first 6 habits, you can read the book (it is a popular one and your local library should have it) but the 7th habit was one I had been neglecting and it was really starting to bother me. For the three years leading up to about last February I had posted a tutorial a day. I certainly had daily practice in my craft but when you are focused on producing something decent continuously you don’t take risks, you repeat the same things that you know will yield predictable result. Well, you know what? Predictability does not yield exciting art and I had felt stuck, like I plateaued. Meanwhile my house was a mess and I was stressed! I got my home under control with the Konmari method (the decluttering method from the book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying up by Marie Kondo) and I vowed to make progress in my art as well.

The “Sharpen the Saw” analogy goes something like this:

There are 2 woodcutters, the first one works non stop for a week cutting wood from sunrise to sunset. He looks over to the second woodcutter who seems to always be taking breaks and resting. At the end of the week the second woodcutter has three times the wood cut than the first woodcutter does. The first woodcutter says “How have you cut so much more wood than me? Every time I look over you are resting!” The second woodcutter replies “I was not resting, I was sharpening my saw.”

Deep huh? But so true, we spend our time running at top speed to keep up and not questioning the way we do things. Like the cleaning for instance, I would spend so much time trying to organize, dust and manage my junk and it did not occur to me to get rid of a bunch of stuff and you will have less you have to manage. If you feel like you are just repeating yourself in your art because you know how this will turn out and it is becoming repetitive why not take a risk and try something new? After all, precious or cheap, it’s just a piece of paper. Happy crafting:)

 

PS, I bet you can find most of the books I mentioned for free at your local library. Compensated affiliate links to amazon are provided in the post if you wish to own any of the books I mentioned.

 

 

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