I find myself back at the South Pole for another year of work and creating photos when time permits. It's hard to know when this will all end, but until then I'll keep at trying to document this weird & wonderful place in my own way.
Less than a year ago, I started a little sketching project on a whim. I did it quickly and without really thinking it through. My main goal was to simply have a documented daily creative practice. Documented, so that I would have to commit to doing it and I would feel accountable. Daily because I wanted to stay grounded. And 10,000 sketches was suddenly born.
I've just reached 500 sketches. This may not sound like a lot. But it IS a lot! At least for me. (ok, it's NOT as much as 900,000...)
What I've learned is that after 500 times of doing something you definitely get better! Now I can sometimes sketch a thing that is recognizable when I'm done with it. I'm not so sure that's true for some of my earliest sketches but it's true now. I've never been able to draw. My high school art teacher actually told me that drawing 'wasn't my thing'. And I believed her. But I found my own way to do it and with enough practice, I think anyone can do it. I'll never be a Leonardo, but I'm not trying to be and I don't need to be.
I've become really attached to having a daily practice. Reliant on it even. There are days every once in a while when I just can't get to it because life gets in the way, and I really notice it missing from my day. It's the few minutes every day that I get to sit and think while doing exactly what it is that I want to do. Those moments seem rare but this is a way for me to insert more of them into my life.
5 0 0.
I'm not sure I really thought I was capable of continuing this project for so long. I am easily distracted when it comes to creative pursuits. But 500! I've successfully completed 5% of my project now. (I'm already thinking about how I'm going to miss this project when it's over!)
I have a long ways to go but the journey so far has been far more valuable to me than I ever thought it would be. I don't really think anyone is watching, kind of like this blog. But I know. And it feels good.
1 0, 0 0 0.
I'm on my way and it's really achievable.
Jump people. Find a little ledge and jump into whatever the thing is that you need to jump into. If I can do it, anyone can.
It's been a rough couple of weeks for my family but I'm finally back in Denver and painting. I live for the weekends when I can stay up all night sketching and painting. There just aren't enough hours in the week to do everything I want to do. I tend to be a little hyper focused on things I'm interested in. I'm not planning any extensive travel this year like I normally do because I'm only interested in painting right now.
I'm heading back to Antarctica in just 5 short months and I won't be ready to go this year. There are far more creative projects floating in my mind right now than I can possibly finish before I leave but such is the life of the artist that holds an awesome regular job.
I feel such a pull in both directions. Almost anyone that has been to Antarctica can tell you that once you step foot there, it's hard to imagine not going back. But I don't paint while I'm there so while I'm at South Pole I feel a constant pull to come home and get back to painting. Often there are piles of unfinished canvases waiting for me and I literally lose sleep thinking about them while I'm gone each year. I suppose in the big scheme of things, I should just appreciate that this is a good problem to have.
I've done a lot of experimenting with my paintings this spring. I seem to be gravitating towards more bold, graphic designs which is partially influenced by my 10,000 sketches project. This project is having a much bigger impact on me than I ever imagined. (I'm nearly 5% done. At this rate, it will take me about 12.5 years to finish...)
I've also discovered some artists recently that are influencing my work like James Victore and Bryden Lando. The way their minds work is so completely foreign to mine, but I love studying their work. It makes me think about things differently and I can see the change in some of my recent work which is exciting to me.
It's spring in the rockies. And right now I can't imagine being anywhere else...
This has been the year of getting things done. And the more I do, the more the world continues to open up to me. It's Big Magic as Elizabeth Gilbert would say. I keep showing up and magic keeps happening. It's too bad I had to get so far down the road in life to figure this out, but better late than never!
I'm going to hit 500 sketches in my 10000 sketches project before the end of this month. I can't even believe that I'm nearly 5% done. I do the work every day. And it's small work, but it's important to me and I've learned so much. Not just about how to draw but about how to be persistent and follow through. How to show up even when you don't feel like it. This is where magic really happens.
There's also an exciting collaboration going on over here with Nikki Cade. Nikki is a fabulous artist based in Texas. We met last year in Italy and are now collaborating on a series of paintings that will be released in the early summer this year. I could not be more excited about this project. Nikki's aesthetic and magical paintings are inspiring and I can't wait to see what we're able to do together.
I have never lived so creatively and this had made all the difference in my life. This is what I need. I still lose a lot of sleep, but now I'm losing sleep not because I'm worrying about things, but because I lay awake thinking about all the things I want to paint, sketch and create. It's a great life and I feel lucky to be able to call it mine.
There are big fluffy flakes falling in Denver right now. I'm hanging out at The Molecule Effect drinking coffee, writing to you and lining out future art projects.
Carry on creatives and make something magical today!
When I was 20, I read Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones and it changed my life.
I had secretly been writing my entire short life. Writing Down the Bones suddenly put perfect clarity on the subject for me. I was a writer. I had always felt it but I had never thought that a regular person like me could own the word ‘writer’ and so it never occurred to me that I might be one.
Natalie’s words gave me permission to not only do it, but to own it.
It was a defining moment of my life. I was living on a dude ranch in Western Colorado lying on my creaky bed reading her little paperback book that I had found on Main Street. The windows were wide open and I remember the sweet smell of fallen apples from the orchard blowing through the room. It was a perfectly perfect day.
Natalie’s words brought a specific truth and reality to me. It was a little stunning. I put the book down, stood up and paced around the room all afternoon until the sun set, often returning to book for brief periods to be certain.
I was certain. I was a writer.
My heart & head exploded with this new understanding as I tried to portend how this new identity might play out in the many remaining years of my life. I wrote furiously during the next couple of years. I penned numerous short stories, poetry, journal entries, newspaper editorials and letters to family & friends. I looked for any excuse to write.
I joined a women’s writing group made up of women in their 40’s & 50’s. It was exhilarating to have them accept me as one who writes. They were courageous and outspoken. As they read the things they had written to the group, I saw that they had a deep well of experience to draw from. They wrote beautifully, poignantly and with deep empathy for the world.
I also saw that I did not. And this crushed me.
I could see no way for me to write anything meaningful or substantial given my youth and inexperience. My writing was not poignant or graceful in my eyes. I didn’t feel that I had enough life experience to draw from. I wasn’t a courageous person.
I put my pens down, put away the journals and gave it up. Completely.
I told myself I would come back to it after living. After I had years of experience to share and a better understanding of the world. I told myself that only after living a while could I possibly come up with something useful to write.
I could not find bravery to meet the world with my words standing firmly where I was at the time.
That was more than 20 years ago.
Imagine if no one ever put anything out into the world until they felt ‘ready’ in mid-life? How many beautiful stories would have never been told, musical masterpieces never written, art never created. It’s a ridiculous concept. But only in looking back these last few years do I see how I so clearly missed the real message.
Today I’m reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic and feel my story as a writer coming full circle. Elizabeth so beautifully explains how great ideas and inspiration can flit past you and if you don’t grab on to them, they will continue carrying along until someone else does.
How many ideas have I allowed to pass me by while I waited to live ‘enough’ to write? How many times have I turned the volume so low on inspiration that I couldn’t have possibly heard her whispers? How many years have I let the river of creativity flow past me while I watched and waited for an invite to take a dip?
I have lived and experienced so much since that day at the ranch when clarity tapped me on the shoulder and told me to open my eyes. I was so enamored with the possibility she whispered in my ear that I didn’t hear the second part of her message.
I missed the part about carrying on with intention, purpose and hard work. I didn’t hear the riff about bravely meeting the world in your current state and standing tall in your today. I let the message of persistence get carried away on the breeze that day. I heard Natalie’s prod of permission to call myself a writer, but not her even clearer call to just be brave and write down the bones of your life as it is today.
Thank you Natalie for the gift of realization and being the first person to give me permission to be me. I’m sorry I didn’t catch the full message that day and misunderstood your real call to action.
Thank you Elizabeth for sending another gentle breeze my way and floating Natalie’s call to action past me one more time. You sprinkled just enough magic on just the right day when all is still and I’m finally listening.
I declared my intentions at the start of the year. This is the year of Doing Big Things.
As many other have said before me, there’s magic in sharing your intentions with the universe. Doors open, paths unfold and the universe will rise up to meet you.
Declare your intentions to the world and then listen carefully. The universe just might hear you and toss a little message your way on the wind…
At the start of 2015, I declared it the year of ‘doing big things.’ I wasn’t quite sure what I meant by it but I knew it was time to start making intentional changes in my life.
I declared it simply to propel myself to action.
A couple of years ago my life changed rather unexpectedly. I quickly found myself single again with decades ahead of me to fill with more living.
After this big change, I spent the first couple of years sitting around collecting my thoughts and reflecting. I was trying to work out how I wanted to live going forward and how to create the life I wanted. It was time well spent but I didn’t find it easy.
These are big questions that we all have to answer at some point. Mostly, I found it paralyzing because there were so many choices. I wanted to make big changes in my life, but it was hard to pick a starting point or know where to focus.
My declaration of 2015 being the year of ‘Doing Big Things’ was meant to kick off a personal revolution of sorts.
I knew I wanted to:
· Travel more
· Get my finances under control
· Live a life of less consumerism and be easy on the earth
· Focus on my art & photography
· Plan a future path
· Live a life of creativity
· Show up more and be brave
· Only surround myself with that which is essential
These goals were all well and good but generalities can be hard to actually achieve.
It was a year of doing random, imperfect things and not creating as much as I could have.
I did some things that were scary and some things that were lazy. There were moments of big inspiration that I failed to capitalize on, moments of wonder, moments of total fear.
The Big Things!
I traveled to 6 countries by myself (including Haiti!). It was a little scary and a big coup in personal independence. Now I know I can do it. I always knew I could, but now I really know it. I miss having someone to travel with, but that doesn’t have to stop me from continuing to have grand adventures throughout the world.
This summer I attended the World Domination Summit in Portland along with 3,000 other people. I was solidly petrified the entire time. It was inspirational in many ways (thank you Chris Guillebeaua and Sean Ogle) but my inner introvert didn’t have a plan for dealing with this kind of large, outgoing group of strangers.
It was perhaps the scariest thing I’ve ever done but I showed up. I wouldn’t say it was super successful for me but I learned some things that I really needed to learn and heard some things I really needed to hear. I’m going back next year to do it better.
I also went to Pioneer Nation. A gathering of 150 strangers in the name of entrepreneurial excellence. I was totally unprepared and that was my biggest takeaway from the experience. Don’t spend a lot of money to set yourself up to have magical experiences and then do absolutely nothing to prepare! That was stupid. That was my loss. And not a mistake that I’ll soon repeat.
August 2015 saw the birth of my latest and largest art project: 10000sketches
Admittedly, I could have done a little math before committing, but I often breeze past those kinds of details. The idea hit me and I began the project within minutes.
So, I’m in it for the long haul. 10,000 sketches will pour forth from my little fingers over the next who-knows-how-many years. It feels good. I’m only at 225 sketches but I already have a small body of work and I keep surprising myself with new ideas.
The longest journey always starts with just one step. I have bigger things planned for 10000sketches in 2016 (nope, not 100,000sketches….)
I failed at getting my finances totally under control. But I increased my net worth and didn’t increase my debt. So I am taking that as a small win.
Rejection met me in other areas but I let these things go and moved on. I’m also taking this as a win because I showed up and put myself out there. Shots on goal.
In October I had a moment of recognizing that I will live the rest of my life as the laziest person I know if I continue to own a car. I have two bikes and I literally found spider webs (and spiders!) on both of them as they sat forlornly in the corner of my house.
I sold the car and then immediately deployed to Antarctica. There’s no telling how next year is going to go. I will return to the US in February. Carless. With no easy way to get to my office.
Living more intentionally on this earth is a priority for me and it starts with giving up a car for a while. The big unknown is if I will really be able to create what feels like a better life, without feeling deprived. But that is my aim for 2016.
It was a year of Doing Big Things. I’m proud of what I got done and the things I was able to see and learn. But I have along ways to go.
It was also a year of realizing that:
· Good intentions will only get you so far. Generalities are loosey-goosey without specific goals and a plan for stepped achievement of those goals.
· Scary isn’t bad- just scary. And usually not as scary as you thought it would be.
· I’ve been neglecting some of my relationships and need to re-prioritize some things, like my time.
· I’m not giving enough back to the world.
· I’ve wasted a lot of time, potential and universe expanding opportunities by not showing up to answer the call to action. By not being brave.
Most importantly I’ve realized that every day is another day to Do Big Things!
And so, the planning for the next year of Doing Big Things begins…