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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28 Responses

  1. Boy can I relate to everything you posted!!! Well put Lindsay! I am a work in progress to sharpen the saw!! As you know…that alone takes some time but I am getting there. Thank you for the wake up call and reminder. Two thumbs up! ;-))

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  2. Great article, Lindsay, thanks. Not to bore anyone, but I’ve been “stuck” for quite some time now and your article is helping, so … Thanks again and please keep on blogging. 🐣

    Liked by 2 people

  3. A great blog topic, Lindsay!! I took the Covey training, quite a while ago now, when I was still working. My retirement has been spent learning new skills as I had always wanted to have time to learn to draw and paint, (then I discovered an entire world of crafts!) So I am sharpening my saw as I watch your videos and take your classes! (Yep, I’m in your Craftsy and your own watercolor classes! 😃) Thank you for sharing your skills and thoughts with us!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Well, I think someone is sending me a message. Yesterday my husband said I should paint something I normally don’t and then your sharpening the axe. I guess I’ll listen to the Art gods and try some new things this week. The question is what.

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  5. Thank you for your highly intelligent video! I now subscribe to Audible.com due to your mega-KonMari videos. It’s easy to listen to books while you’re resting and while you’re being productive. Thank you for all the behind-the-scenes work that you provide for your audience!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Great post! So true! Thank you.

    Christine

    >

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  7. What great thoughts!!!! My husband slipped to Heaven in Oct. so I needed to downsize not only my home on 5 1/2 acres with a tree farm, but my craft supplies as well, in order to move to a one bedroom apartment in a Continuing Care Retirement Community. All is well, house sold in one day and the move and organization in the apartment is done…..but now having a difficult time getting started again with my crafting! Thanks so much for the ‘pep talk’…will begin today!!!
    Paper Hugs,
    Jan

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I have the 7 habits book. Picked it up at Thrift Shop. Originally , i liked the size. Had just seen pwople making altwred books. Then i skimmed through it. And now it ia a keeper. Will have to get familiar with audio books. So i can listen while i Art. Picking it up to read, sounds positive stuff!! Thankyou for your hard work, Lindsy. ~ Anna Tronson Brightmeadow

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    • I couldnt delete the reply.
      But the book is a different one that i have! Called The Pursuit of Happiness!! I confuse these two books. And i believe they are from the same time frame.

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  9. I would be thrilled if I could do the sketch, let alone the fine tuned painting! I am an artist wannabe. I have artistic talent, but not when it comes to drawing! Nice job!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I love both paintings, but esp like this post. I seriously need to declutter, but on the way to do that, I gotta walk by my desk, with the happy lite, and all those paints, and a new video from Lindsay, soooo…. Your class is my way of pursuing a new, and challenging set of skills for my new passion. I hope you do not stay stuck, but I do know that feeling. Play on!

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  11. Thank you for sharing …wonderful reminders! Blessings…

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  12. This is a great post. I think so many of us feel this way, and it’s nice to know done one I admire can feel it, too! Thank you for speaking up! My sons school uses those 7 steps to help the kids, he won an award for putting first things first! They’re awesome. Thank you for being such an honest, open inspiration!

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  13. Gosh, what a deep message. Powerful on so many levels. I have been struggling with this in my work which takes so much out of me personally and can consume me if I let it. So I even think it can apply to taking time for yourself in some ways. Finding the things that you love (creating art just for art’s sake) and making sure those are just as important as everything else you do. Being whole when you do your work makes you stronger and taking time to find your space and try new things and enjoy your life makes you whole. Thank you for the post.

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  14. Dear Lindsay,

    I just wanted to say thank you for a heart felt blog about life! You are wonderful artist and a very patient teacher!

    I am not an Artist but with your awesome tutorials and words of encouragement ! I have found that I still love to color and make hand made cards ! I also realized that I am an Artist in my own way ! As I have been a quilter and weaver for years! Keep up the great work, and the videos too! As for the konmare’ video that was awsome, I have kind of been doing something close to that since I was a kid! I think it’s the dragon in me keeping track of my treasure! Take care and God bless, Tessa ~ From~Ohio ~

    On Jun 4, 2017 10:29 AM, “Thefrugalcrafter’s Weblog” wrote:

    thefrugalcrafter posted: “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 w”

    Like

  15. U r brilliant!! That is quite a perspective! I like it! I love your blog! I am a newbie watercolor mist & I love your tutorials. Linda from New Brunswick, Canada.

    Like

  16. I had always wondered how you could possibly produce a video each day, along with a blog post, not to mention all the other things you do each day as a parent of three. While you may not have thought you were producing exciting art, I was always amazed at the wide variety of projects you produced.

    Your comment about not being afraid to use up cheaper materials really hit home. I am going to teach a class how to make a homemade art journal (thanks to your Easy DIY Beautiful Handmade Journal Tutorial – I will absolutely be crediting you). I had made the first one and started filling up the pages as an example. The pages were small and just cardstock and when I did something that wasn’t working I simply stopped and went to the next page. The next thing I knew I had filled the entire little book and was really thrilled with most of the pages. I was able to experiment with techniques and I’m using supplies that have been gathering dust for quite a while.

    Thanks for being such an inspiration.
    KRye

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  17. Thanks Lindsay. I will certainly try to get Stephen R. Covey’s book it might get the passion I had and get me painting on a regular basis again. Lise

    Sent from my iPad

    >

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  18. Loved this post LIndsay, as usual you hit the nail on the head and am working on getting there but, when one is OLD, it takes longer. You are such a wise Lady for one so young, not to mention talented! Loved the peach, thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. So agree with you! The Kondo method is a realignment of values around possessions and I love the information I get from the sorting process. It makes decluttering so practical and me so proud of myself–spark turns out to be the best word.

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  20. I think I hear a happier and more at peace Frugalcrafter.
    Let’s hope we all get there too.

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  21. I have been going through much the same phase, Lindsay, and I’m glad you didn’t wait as long to learn these valuable lessons. The best advice I was ever given was , ‘Never mistake a career for your life.’ Fulfilling your artistic potential is part of your life, the tutorials and the rest, while much appreciated, are just part of your career. Take the time to feed your creative needs first. 😉

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  22. Thank you Lindsay for another great pep talk! My clean out is still in progress and I work on it daily, however I try to create everyday too. I think we are all a work in progress….I love your videos! I especially enjoy the videos
    when your heater comes on or your phone rings or the kids are thumping around upstairs, makes you feel real, like you are sharing your knowlege and your life with us.

    Like

  23. Good post – good food for thought. I’ve been “sharpening my saw” a little too long and I look forward to getting some paint on my canvas today (switch up to acrylic for a bit). Interesting to see the difference good paper makes — I’ve been saving my Arches for when I feel my skill is worthy. Maybe I should just unwrap it and give it a try. Kind of silly, isn’t it? Like not using your “best” stuff except for special occasions. Every day should be a special occasion!

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  24. I’m kind of at the opposite spectrum. I hadn’t done any art since high school, almost 40 years ago. I pretty much started over from the beginning about a year ago. There are so many things I want to do and try, I don’t know where to start. I’ve done some acrylic, some watercolor, familiar with pastels, pen and ink drawings and still being introduced to more and more. I often feel bombarded by too much making my focus scatter to the winds. I’m wondering if I should stop jumping around from one medium to another and just take one medium and focus on it until I feel I have developed proficiently in my skills before working with another medium. What are your suggestions in this regard? If I were to focus on one medium, it might be watercolor. I have been pleasantly surprised each time I work with it. I love your tutorials and especially your live streams when I can make it to them. Thank you so much for sharing your talent in your videos. I have learned a lot about watercolor through them. ~Patti, British Columbia, Canada

    Like

    • I love that watercolor is so compact and you can be painting in minutes with limited set up so if time is an issue I’d stick with that. If you find a large chunk of time you can experiment with other things.

      Liked by 1 person

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