Sketchy: Keeping up Creative Practice through the Holidays

It’s been rough finding time around the Holiday hoopla to slow down and keep creativity in the rhythm of things.  Life gets busy sometimes, and the holidays aren’t the only excuse I’ve run into.  Oy, it’s always something!  Carving out that time is a real challenge, but I try to give myself a break, taking baby steps if I can’t give it my all.  Fifteen minutes to a half hour is what I’ve been able to find here and there, and it’s not a huge chunk of time, but it’s better than nothing.  I sit down for those few minutes with my little notebook to put in some sketch practice.  Most times, I’m not even in a creative mindset, can’t even tap into my imagination or find any inspiration with my pen in hand.  Just another part of that challenge, I guess, and I can’t let that discourage me.

A draw-anything moment turned into a pretty satisfying rendering of the power lines outside my living room window.

Draw something, KB.  Anything!

The practice, while sporadic, has been important.  I’ve never really been great at drawing, and it’s not really my goal to be great.  It’s more been an exercise in recognizing my own hand.  The same way that I would know my own handwriting, I think I want to be able to see myself in the way I draw, and to take note of the choices naturally I make.  Do I get caught up in details?  Do I re-trace over my lines?  Am I being too judgmental of myself?  I learn how I deal with the absence of color when I just have one pen handy.  I notice the way I accept reality when I’m drawing an object, what defining characteristics of a particular object I think are enough to capture its totality.  I also try to let go of perfection, and just have fun.  This is difficult, but still worth the try.  Can’t let standards rule my creative space.

Color is definitely a game-changer!

The Wife (my bestie, Jessica) gifted me some colored pens as a just-because present a few weeks back, and I love them!  They’ve been a game-changer in my notebook scribblings and sketching.  It’s great to have the support of my favorite people in my endeavor to live creatively!  It’s certainly a comradely gesture for her (Jessica’s a Creative, too!) to take notice of my efforts and supply me with some tools.  Holler!  And may I just brag a little that it’s a 20-pack?  !De colores!

The pens helped me break through some of my holiday creative block, and realize that not all of the holiday stimulation has burnt me out creatively.  Lights, glitter, bows, wrapping… not to mention the bevy of foods at holiday celebrations!  Inspiration abounds!  How could I possibly have nothing to draw?  I just had to make sure to make the time for it…

How have the holidays inspired you?  Have you been able to keep to your creative projects and practices these past few weeks?   Hope the holidays were more of a joy than a headache.

Looking forward to more as the new year approaches.  Keep practicing!

Some holiday inspiration, after all!  There really ought to be more holidays where we gather around trees.

 

 

 

I’m Dreaming of a White Elephant Christmas: A rambling on Gift-giving

Gift giving isn’t everyone’s forte.  It took my husband years before figuring out not to shop for my Christmas gift in a sporting goods store.  As much as I love to unwrap me some ski socks on Christmas morning (they’re so comfy!), the novelty and sentiment is only good for maybe a one-time gifting.  Not to worry — Mike D.’s grown since then, and has developed a better sense of what makes a good gift for me.  This past Christmas, he hit the nail on the head impressively.  Like, so impressive, it was almost uncanny:  a much-needed black v-neck cardigan (correct size), black/gray-marled sweater jogger pants (the right size, again), and a Lulu Lemon sports bra (the correct size, again! and for a bra!).  For the cherry on-top of an amazing gift-combo sundae, a seriously-cool black Swatch with a gold-colored face!  The perfect, comfy, KB-style-appropriate outfit, whose separate pieces I’ve been able to wear proudly all year long!  Way to go, Mike D., and cheers to excellent gift choices!

To some degree, even choosing a Christmas card requires the same consideration and care.  The two basic rules for choosing a gift or card, alike are:

  1.  Know your audience
  2. Love what you’re giving

Pictured is the card I got for my sister.  We like tasteless jokes in my family, so choosing this card satisfies both rules:  1) I know my sister’s sense of humor, 2) I think this card is adorable and hilarious, and I’m excited that it will give my sister a good laugh.  Laughs make great gifts, too.

In our house this year we’re opting out of gifts for each other in an effort to focus on the “peace” often associated with the Christmas season that we’re rarely able to observe (it can get pretty nuts this time of year).  Also, we’ve realized that anything we would really want for in terms of gifts are things that we’ve easily just bought for ourselves. We’re adults, after all. Still, gift-giving is a big part of Christmas tradition, and a favorite expression of love in our family. So, we’ll try to get our gifting fix via White Elephant exchanges in our respective offices and Friendsmas celebrations.  Surely, in the end, it will all suffice, and we’ll achieve that  “peace”, and likely a whole lot of merriment, all the same.

White Elephant seems to be the answer to the holiday gift-giving dilemma, more commonly when engaging with a large, diverse group.   It’s all the rage because of its non-specific recipient, and sometimes the added fun of it being an unconventional gift!  Last year proved to be the most successful White Elephant Christmas Eve party ever!  By “successful” I mean that I brought the most coveted, talked-about gift of the night!  Hoping this year will serve just as fruitful, but it will take some planning.

While the W.E. gift should alleviate some anxiety of thoughtfulness, a good gift that whoever ends up with it will actually enjoy still takes some effort. Same guidelines for choosing a gift or a card apply!  If your W.E. group is a more conservative crowd, stick to classy gifts that are useful and of general interest. Despite what SNL says, a candle makes a good, general gift.  It might not be a thriller, but it’s an acceptable go-to.  If your group is a little more on the wicked side, get creative!  A gag gift is one thing, but if it’s interesting enough, it’ll be worthwhile, and not so seemingly jerky.  Also, W.E. often has a price limit.  The higher the limit, the less gag-y of a gift you should get, without a nice-gift supplement (it’s pretty messed up for someone to leave the party with a gag gift when they legitimately spent the $20 limit on the gift they brought).

I’m so proud of the White Elephant gift I gave last year, mostly because I’d seized an opportunity to be creative.  It may also have been the closest to a DIY gift I’ve ever gotten.  Was it a jerk gift?  No. Those are too easy.  I really got into this, and was certainly aiming to please.  I gave a lot of thought to the group that was participating–  These folks really look forward to the whacky shock-value of the White Elephant game at this annual neighborhood Christmas Eve party.  I’d observed what gifts brought a lot of fun to the party over the years, and decided I wanted to challenge the types of gifts they found hilarious.  It involved some random doll parts that a co-worker had mentioned throwing out from a hoard clean-up.  So weird, it was like gold to me!  It was perfect.  I procured the doll parts and cased them in a handsome mason jar.  Next, some supplement items to off-set the gag, and add to the gift value (there was a price limit – gotta hit that worth).  I bought a couple of similar-sized jars of fancy preserves, and grouped them with the doll-parts jar, like they were items in a gift basket.  It was so much fun putting this gift together, anticipating the rise I would get at the party.  The pay-off was the jovial reaction to this weird, outrageous gift (opened, in the end, by the conservative patriarch of the house, who admitted to really loving the doll-part jar, mostly, of course, because of the laughs it brought to the party).  It was odd, interesting, and fun.  And like I said, laughs make great gifts!

What is gift-giving going to look like for your Christmas this year?  Do you have a strategy for choosing gifts?  Whether you go big or go simple, it’s really the thought that counts that will make this a meaningful, joyful season.  I’m certainly looking forward to all the ways that good intentions in the spirit of the holiday materialize.  Cheers to making the yule tide fun!

Culture Club: English Grocery Cute-stuffs

Written during my trip to England over Thanksgiving.  Enjoy!

Ahoy from England! I’m visiting my sister and her husband in Cheltenham this week. Great to see how they live out here, and just spend some time hanging out, like we would back home.

My sister and I have traveled together a bit here and there, and one of the most fascinating things anywhere we go is the grocery store. It’s just a common, boring place to the people who live their every day here, but to me, it’s a wonderland of relatively “exotic” flavors and creative brand marketing.  Take a look!

 

Loving the color scheme for these Oat-ly products.  Totally branded out with a cool voice, including playful-but-stylish font, graphics and clever verbiage.

 

Honestly get a kick whenever anything is described as “proper” around here — which is a common claim!

 

Smart and simple design is also appreciated.  I would think that British sugar fancied itself refined, rather than granulated.
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Aside from Heston products having handsome mascots, it also has some lovely-sounding ice cream flavors!

Maybe not the usual thing to write home about, but this kind of stuff is definitely note-worthy in my book.