Getting On Task With A Chalkboard

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This post is part “How-To” and part “Creative Life Lessons.”
I had been talking about putting this chalkboard up since my studio-office was in the last studio-office (which is now our son’s room). I have been talking about ACTUALLY doing it since the summer, and even went so far as to buy the paint I’d need in September.

But you know – life happens. I’ve been writing and making art and raising kids and being a teacher, and somehow the chalkboard just never got up onto the wall.

Until it did. And now – I can’t believe I ever waited, or didn’t have it!

Putting it together was very simple and straightforward. These are the steps I followed:

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  1. Randomly block off a chunk of wall with masking tape, and judge it by eye, or as my
    wife calls it, “Patrick-style measuring.” Note: for the purpose of having the wood ready before hand, you may wish to actually measure it all first. I was not that well organized, and sort of lucked out that it even worked.
  2. Paint 2-3 coats of chalk paint. The beauty behind chalk paint is that it dries very quickly, so I was able to do all of the coats I needed in one night, and each coat only took about 5 minutes to put up onto the wall. The other beautiful thing is that since it will soon be marked up with chalk, the odd line of overlapping paint really does not matter.16996038_10101693858602301_1812734655181382082_n
  3. Let it dry overnight.
  4. Find some scrap wood. Okay, you may want to be more prepared than I was. I happened to have just enough pieces of 1x4x8 hanging around in the garage, leftover from another project. This stuff is rough, and I like that about it. It’s not meant to beautifully finish anything, but with the right stain, and in the right room, it’s perfect. It also costs a few dollars a piece at almost any lumber supplier or hardware store.
  5. 16939205_10101693858517471_4045315626190068656_nMeasure the wood to size and cut. I had measured the size that I’d painted, and then cut according to that. I opted not to worry about angling the corners. I prefer the blocked look.
  6. Stain the wood. I used Special Walnut from Minwax. It is my all time favourite stain – we use it for almost every project. It’s light, but brings out the rich darks in the wood, and is rustic without being overbearing. It’s like a just-right plaid shirt on a fall day.
  7. I used a nail gun to attach it to the wall – it’s the easiest way to do it, and you don’t need to worry about finding studs! But if you don’t have a nail gun accessible, you could glue (use construction adhesive), or screw, or nail it to the wall.
  8. This is maybe the most important step: cover your new board in chalk! I mean rub the chalk all over it – leave no space untouched. When you’ve done this, wash it off with a damp cloth. This allows the new chalk paint to take the chalk and not leave any “burns” – a burn with chalk is when your first drawing, doodle, mark, words, whatever – the first things you put on the board are permanently there, even after you wash it off. It’s a terrible ghost that will haunt you forever, so be sure to cover and wash.
  9. Use it.

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I’m using my chalkboard to help me with two specific areas of my work right now: my weekly accountability list, and my plotting for the second half of a novel I am working on. In the future, it may also be home to lists of clients and projects commissioned, orders made on prints, important dates, general ideas, picture book developments, and whatever else I need it for.

I love this board because of its flexibility, and because it brings importance to my ongoing work. It is a way of exploring ideas without having to save a file on a computer or track a piece of paper, and because it washes off so easily, there is a low commitment level. If I hate it, I can change it without any sweat.

I’m finding that seeing this when I walk into the space is inspiration in itself. There is a certain beauty in creative scratches on a chalkboard; in the lists and wonders and projects-in-motion. It keeps me on-task and motivated, inspired and excited. It feels importance because of its size, too.16999163_10101693858357791_7465253261281917625_n

This is really the next phase of my belief in having work ready to jump into at any time. I tend to keep lists on my phone and in a notebook on my desk, as well as in ongoing message and email format between myself and my critique partner, but this is in my face. I can’t lose it; it is the first thing I look at when I walk into the room.

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How To Get Organized (For Creatives)

I’m a highly organized and structured person. I’m also (even more) highly creative, abstract in thinking, and inspired every few minutes. I have millions – no, billions – of ideas, and I see things in pictures when I imagine them. My two year old walks around declaring, “I HAVE AN IDEA!” – I am much like him. I do the same thing. My wife even promised to listen to all of my ideas in her wedding vows.

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My latest acrylic piece, Educating The Heart.

These two sides of my brain (or maybe it’s my personality?) don’t always get along, but when they work together, future versions of myself are thankful.

As Creatives, having organization systems in place are really the only way to stay on track. Realistically, I can only complete so many projects in any given amount of time. I’m a full time teacher, a fuller time parent and husband, and I no longer have the ability to forget about sleeping. When ideas and inspiration hit, I need some way of tracking all of this so that I can actually follow through on the better ideas.

I’m not going to pretend I’ve got it figured out. I don’t. But Past Patrick has definitely found some ways of helping out Present and Future Patricks.

Here are my top ten tips for getting, and staying organized, creatively:

  1. Use email. Don’t delete emails to yourself! I often begin looking in my email for something that I am vaguely aware of making. I often find an image or word file that I sent to myself, and when I fall out of control on keeping up with my submission tracking for books, I check my emails (because I never delete any) for dates and notes.
  2. Start using a cloud-based storage system for creative work. I love Google Drive. It’s easy, I can drag and drop and I can access it anywhere. This means, if I find 10 minutes that I steal on my lunch at work, I can open it up and work. It means I can organize everything into files that work for me and not only do that when I’m at my personal computer.

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    “I Can & I Will” – available in my shop now!
  3. Organize as you go. It’s a pain sometimes, yes, but future you will be grateful. You might say, “Okay, this manuscript is for a picture book … it will be the first thing I put in a Picture Book Manuscripts In Progress folder.” Then, begin placing all of those types of manuscripts in that file. Put a sticky note on your computer/desk/wall/wherever you work most, so that you can recall where on earth did I save that stuff? The more you use it, the more likely it is to become a habit.I’m not an expert – my files are generally pretty wild. But I’ve been slowly working at this.

    I decided to start with my 2016 Writing Files. I organized my Google Drive by making a folder called “Writing” (I know, I know, we all have 18 of those). Then, inside I had been just popping in every new version of every manuscript, it was loaded with picture book dummies and submission tracking pages and idea lists. I organized it by creating subfolders: Works in Progress, and within that, “Middle Grade,” “Young Adult,” and “Picture Books”; I also created subfolders called “Finished Manuscripts” and within that subfolder, another folder for each completed manuscript, with everything required for submitting.

    The main idea was to clean up the main folder so that when I click into, I’m not overwhelmed and/or more importantly distracted by all of the files I’m working on!

  4. Make a gosh darned list. PRINT IT OUT. And keep an electronic copy updated. I don’t do this every day. In fact, it was August when I printed out my “master list” of current picture book ideas that are writeable/publishable (by my standards). I’ve been scribbling notes and ideas on and around it since then. I recently opened the electronic file and updated it. I’ve reprinted and now I will work from there. Because I saved it in a logical spot – on my Google Drive, in the Writing folder, in the subfolder “Works in Progress”, I will be able to find it more easily. If I can’t find it later, I can use the search option – because Google Drive syncs with my desktop app, and it is easy to search just about anywhere.(Note: Google is not paying me to amp up their Drive app. I just love it. Google has way better reach than I do!)
  5. Keep one “to do” notebook near your workspace. I tend to jot ideas and notes anywhere and everywhere. I try to jot those down in my To Do notebook, so that when I’m stuck or uninspired, I can just flip through the book.
  6. how-to-get-organized-for-creatives-patrick-guindon-art-2Be intentional. Name your files something you’ll remember; something that is explicit and maybe even long, using descriptive words that you know you will probably think of to describe the project. “MGWIP” is not a great file name for your untitled middle grade work in progress. “Middle Grade WIP – MG WIP – Boy Gets Lost In Woods” might be better (uh, if it’s about that).Also be intentional with your time. See tip #8.
  7. Sync everything to the same email account. If you’re going to use gmail, then when emailing yourself, email to that account. Sync your notes in your phone to that email. Sync your calendars so that you can schedule for yourself, and the reminder will show up everywhere. It simply takes a lot of work out of your searches.
  8. Take the time. It means that sometimes, you have to set aside 30 minutes to go through files. It also means that you need to make a decision about what you’re going to do and when. Sometimes, we can leave it to inspiration and that “pull” to a certain project – but when you’ve got lots of projects on the go, you need to have a plan. Maybe you wake up early to get more time in, or maybe you schedule out a few nights a week. You have to do what works for you, but you also have to do the work.
  9. Have a partner. This is someone who will hold you accountable. For me, it’s my art critique partner. In November, we were both feeling overwhelmed with all the things we WANTED to do, but were never getting to. We agreed to email rather than message a weekly to-do list. We send this on Sundays, usually, and then at the end of the week, we also send a little reflection. This is where we talk about how we did and how we’re feeling about it. Did we take on too much? Too little? We also make a conscious effort to keep the stories out of it. No excuses – we either did the work, or we didn’t.We decided to email because we regularly are in contact through messaging. It would be impossible to find the list at the end of the week, and there is something about the not-immediate pace of email that pushes us to pause, think, and reflect more carefully.
  10. Change. When your system isn’t working – when you can’t find something, or anything; when you are constantly overwhelmed; when you have nothing to show for a month of work – then it is time to change your system.

 

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Eat What You Love/Love What You Eat

Eat What You Love/Love What You Eat is the first print I am sharing in my countdown to Shop Opening Day: December 1st! That’s Thursday, friends!!

All of my prints, for December, will be set at $25 for an 8×10, and I will be posting a Coupon on Wednesday to help you save and shop small!


Eat What You Love/Love What You Eat is about indulging, and if you’ve been following my blog, Instagram, or Facebook page, then you know that this is what I am all about. I am living my life joyfully and with wide eyes. While this image shows a happy chef dancing amongst his creations, it is also about being the happy chef who dances amongst your own creations. 

So dig in!

The shop opens on December 1st, 2016, and can be found through my main web portal: www.patrickg.ca or directly at www.patrickguindonart.etsy.com.

Forgiveness

For the past few weeks, I’ve been writing heavily about creativity, the process and scheduling/stealing time. And while the tone of this has all been about making progress and getting stuff done, today I want to balance that out. This is for all of my Creative friends.

Creatives;

Forgive yourself for missing the deadline. It happens.

Forgive yourself for taking much longer to complete a piece than your ideal timeline. It might mean you are about to break through.

Forgive yourself for making ugly, crappy art. It’s a part of the process. (Remember the Ugly Duckling?)

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Psst! I’m reopening my Etsy shop on December 1st! 

Forgive yourself for missing the alarm and not getting a sketch into your sketchbook this morning. Maybe you needed to sleep a bit longer, because your kids would need you more later.

Forgive yourself for feeling like you suck, like you’re not good enough, like you should throw in the towel. You’re allowed to feel all the feelings. You just can’t marry them. They’re gremlins.

Forgive yourself for the growing to-do list and the never-changing “finished!” list. Is anything ever really finished anyway?

Forgive yourself all of this guilt, because in Guilt we cannot create or feel good or productive. Just remember to keep going – keep chugging along, making stuff (up) and getting stuff done.

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(One of my favourite quotes from Mr. Gaiman. When I feel guilty and down and like I just can’t forgive myself for not making enough, I remember this quote and I go on, making the things as only I can.)

When forgiveness becomes an excuse, then it is a problem. But sometimes, we need to be kind and forgive ourselves for a tough week, or a rough project, or an unfinished manuscript that just wasn’t meant to be.

As long as it’s not every time.

Forgive, and carry on, Creatives.

 

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How (& Why) I Became a Morning Person

I’ve always wanted to be a morning person. I’ve read book after book for creative people saying, “If you get up before anyone else, you’ll get more done!” I knew it was probably true, but I told myself the same story: I’m NOT a morning person.

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From my Instagram. 🙂

WANT TO KNOW HOW AND SKIP THE WHY? Scroll down to the lists – the #1 MOST IMPORTANT TIP is the last one! 🙂

The thing is, I used
to be a night person. But after having one baby, I was no longer a night person. I wasn’t a morning person. I was a “from 10am to 2pm” person. The rest of the time? Exhausted!

Something had to change. I wasn’t working regularly enough and I wasn’t getting to the never-ending list of ideas I had. I knew I wanted to work on them, and I knew I didn’t want to wait until retirement, or summer break, or the weekend, or the next lifetime to get to these ideas.

And then … we had another baby.

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Isn’t he just perfect? I would eat him up if I could.

I realized deeply, in my gut and my heart and my soul, that my time for creating could easily slip away. My very “ness” was at risk. With one kid, you’ve got time. There are naps, there’s after bedtime, there’s whenever Mommy takes him so that I can create. But with two? Nope. That time was waiting to be sucked up. Pooping on different schedules, napping on different schedules, eating at different times? I knew that eventually it would even out (we aren’t there yet) and that I would have some more time to work on my creative endeavours, but I also knew that if I got into the habit of NOT making, then starting again would be very difficult.

So, I decided it was time to invest in inspiration, and not production. The result would be improved productivity, but the intention was simply to steal some time to work for ME. (I mean, all art should be worked on for the artist, right?)

I bought a book on creative business, from Kelly Rae Roberts, and I set to work reading it. This is how week 1 of becoming a morning person started.

  • Week 1: Read every morning for 30 minutes before everyone else wakes up. For our house, that meant 5:30. That meant, I needed to get a short haircut and shower at night, instead of in the morning. At 5:30, when I rolled out of bed, I would have 30 minutes to read before Kingsley would be waking up and I would be getting him ready for his day.
  • Week 2: Continue reading every morning, but keep a sketchbook near by. Inspiration was starting to come by, because I kept showing up … even on the weekend. Inspiration wanted to flirt. (Inspiration is a sassy one!)
  • Week 3: Back the time up by 10 minutes. This meant I was rolling out of bed by 5:20, and making my way downstairs by 5:25. But, then my book finished. So now what?!
  • Week 4: Make it 5:15 and work on a list. I made a deal with my critique partner, and told her I would be emailing her on Sunday night with my To Do list for the week. I kept it manageable and interesting: work on this manuscript, work on those thumbnail illustrations, develop ideas for this sequence, etc. Nothing that was too heavy, but something that was meaningful enough to bother with so early in the morning. I also told her I would be checking in again on Friday to let her know how my list went. We agreed that this would NOT include stories – those stories that let you off the hook or excuse laziness. If I didn’t do something, I would say I didn’t, and that would be that.
  • Week 5: Keeping it at 5:15. Continuing with the list. Making space in my time for reflecting and meditating on myself.

And now, it’s a habit. So I continue to back it up, and will continue doing so until I am at my desk, working, at 5am on the dot.

So that it is all easy and nice to say, but what did I do to really make it work? I had tried in the past and nothing worked. I really think that the pressure I put on myself, to feed my soul, with 2 kids – to keep making and doing and being myself – to find the time and space to do this – to not let go of it – is what pushed me the most.

But these tips … I wish I’d had them before:

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    No – eating cupcakes at 5am is not a recommended practice for becoming a morning person!

    Reading something inspiring helped with the first 2 weeks, as I was forming this new habit and setting down the foundation for my new “morning person-ness” (I didn’t let myself read any other time, so I was hungry for it!)

  • Setting up the night before: I always set the coffee maker and timer now. At first, I even put the mug and spoon out so that all I had to do was pour. You really want to treat yourself and get to know all the little hooks you’ll let yourself off of, so that you can stop it before it happens. Think of it as time travel.
  • Checking my list the night before. This helps me keep it in my head so that when I wake up, I know what I am about to go and do. There is no sit-and-wonder-which-project-to-work-on time.
  • Putting out what I’ll need: tomorrow, I’ll be working on wrapping up a chapter of a middle grade novel I am about half way into writing. It is a hard scene and I have told myself stories about it. I realized tonight that it is fear feeding this beastly excuse-making I’ve been doing. Tomorrow, I’m writing. My computer is set up for it, and the file is open and waiting to be written on. On days when I sketch,
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    Setting up the night before is a huge improver for morning productivity. In addition, invest in yourself by prepping the things you know you will soon need – here you can see several prepped canvasses, waiting for me to steal some time to work on them.

    I make sure that everything I will need is ready, including WHAT I am sketching. If it’s a painting day, the paint is out and ready. There is no wondering and waiting that happens.

  • Keeping accountable with a partner who will keep me accountable. (It helps when it is a mutual agreement – it’s nice to be on both sides of the fence/in both roles, so that it feels balanced and your different voices are heard!)
  • This one is the most important. Weekends are archaic! In parenting world, they are busy and wild and chaotic. If you want to be a morning person, then there is no sleeping in on Saturday. For me, sleeping in means I feel guilty, I feel groggy, and I struggle for a week to get back to waking up early. I may go a bit easier on myself, because I make my To Do lists for Monday-Friday, but I still work on something. At the very least, I am up, breathing and centring and reminding myself that it is going to be a great day.
  • THIS ONE IS MAYBE MORE IMPORTANT! Sleep according to sleep cycles. I use http://www.sleepyti.me, and I just check it before bed. I want to make sure I’m waking up BETWEEN sleep cycles and not in the middle of. THIS has made the BIGGEST difference to my overall feelings of being awake and refreshed!

 

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Process Post: Adventure Awaits

This piece started as a traditional acrylic painting for my not-yet-born baby’s room. My wife had put together the most perfect room, and I wanted to make a unique painting for the baby. I waited until she had done all of the things in the room that she wanted, and then took my cues from there. The result was a culmination of my ongoing development in art. The book opens – nay! EXPLODES out and these kids are off on their adventure. It features lines from my favourite books and stories.

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This was a commission for my own home – but I also take commissions for other people! Check out my pricing guide and other pieces on my Facebook page.

Upon completing it, I really wanted to continue working on it digitally. I thought this might make the perfect addition to my illustration portfolio.

{Psst! Do you like this kind of thing? Then consider signing up for my quartlery newsletter! It’s free, and comes in February, May, August and November!)

The following photos are progress shots, so that you can see some of my process. I started with the sketch, and then worked out the greyscale and began working on the colour. After lots of back and forth with myself and my critique partner, I decided to rework the sail and the water. I felt that the sail, particularly, would give more of the story if it wasn’t just a solid piece of fabric, but rather something from Gramma’s linen closet. The water I opted for went through many phases, though I didn’t snap shots of them along the way (oops!). Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 7.40.46 PM.png

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Now, we’re ready to go. The digital sketch is complete.

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The greyscale came together over a few solid hours of painting, then standing back and looking, then fussing, then repeating. I was really focused on creating some stark contrasts and zeroing in the focus on the kids.Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 7.09.01 PM.png

Adding colour:

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This boat was a major pain. I couldn’t settle on a look or colour!

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I sent this to my partner at one point, feeling pretty excited. Then I thought … geeze. It’s just not right. My partner cleared it up when she said, “You’re right, it’s not … I think the tones are too close in the face and the background.” Bingo! This, folks, is why you need a skilled and honest critique partner if you want to make real progress.

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I changed the colour of the boat, added this little iguana dragon guy to the head of it, and worked away for hours on the shirt, hair and hat. I toned down the background, changed the colour and faded it out around the shoulders, as to have a greater contrast of the face against the sky.

At this point, I thought: DONE! I was very excited about the vintage sheets.

Then I looked closer. Problem areas: the waves. They just weren’t doing it for me. The boat was too prevalent. Should I increase details? Should I change colours again? Should I add waves in the back and amp up the props by adding flying fish and other stuff?

After a long discussion with my critique partner, I made the decision to try some different waves. Through that process I found myself noticing the need for waves in the background and a higher contrast to increase the energy of the piece.

In general lately, my focus is on increasing energy. Sometimes it is through a slight shift in the eyes, or the body language. Sometimes it’s through tension built with things like waves.

This is the end result, and I am VERY excited about it:

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I also made a process video of the acrylic painting. If you haven’t seen it, check it out here!

Joy – A Collaborative Painting

Kingsley and I have completed our first collaborative painting! (It’s at the bottom!)

I am really excited about the pure joy that this piece communicates.

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We did some painting the other night (mostly with fingers), and then I scanned it into IMG_7188.JPG
Photoshop. I did the slightest bit of editing. I thought about adding a lot of my own touches, but for this first try at merging traditional and digital, I opted to keep it almost as-is. Sometimes (usually) it is best to leave the adult’s voice out of it.

I grabbed some of the colours from the original painted (using Photoshop) and added in some feathering-out, and then scribbled on the earth. Then I saved it. This is mostly Kingsley’s piece.

Take a close look and notice the uninhibited nature of the work. We can learn so much from kids who are exploring. IMG_7191.JPGFor Kingsley, this was about colours on his fingers and smacking the paper. He was having fun and it shows. To me, this looks like all of the potential in the world EXPLODING into the universe, a sure sign of amazing things to come. It’s pure joy, pure love, pure fun.

How do you collaborate with your creative kids?

 

 

 

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