Creativity

Inktober: Super Cute Octopus

Every year I look at Inktober, and every year I forget about it before it starts. But this year, Amanda Kammarada mentioned that she was thinking about doing it. So I messaged her, and said “hey! I’ve been eyeballing Inktober too… let’s do it!” She messaged me back, and an accountability partner was created!

Some participants are just following the basic premise of an ink drawing a day, but I decided to follow the prompts given. I knew following the prompts would push me to draw things I normally wouldn’t think of.

On the 4th, the prompt was Underwater. Now I’ll be darned, if I didn’t have a song from a bajillion seasons ago on America’s Next Top Model pop into my head. But that’s not drawable.

I wasn’t in the mood for fish, or coral…. sunken treasure wasn’t floating my boat… nor was a sunken ship (haha). Finally I settled on the idea of an octopus. To my own surprise, he turned out pretty freaking adorable.

Olly the Octopus - Had I not given Inktober a try, I'd never know that I have the ability to draw an octopus!

When I posted him on Instagram, someone in the comments said they wished they could draw like that. But here’s the thing…. *stage whisper* I didn’t know I could. If I’d never decided to do Inktober… if I’d never decided to push myself… if I never started asking myself “what if” or “how can I”… I wouldn’t know I could draw an octopus either.

Have you ever tried something new, and found out you really loved it? Tell me about it in the comments below!

How To Get Started Lettering

Edgar Allan Poe

When I was a kid, my Mom did calligraphy for our local funeral home. That lovely little book nestled near the doorway, where those who’ve come to pay last respects sign their names? Yep, that’s the one.

I’d softly creep into her room, carefully trying to avoid the creaky wooden board, and I’d sit on the bed near her. She’d watch me warily to make sure I was settled, and she wouldn’t get joggled, and then she’d set to work again.

The whole process fascinated me… the little ink cartridges, the various nibs, and the way the lines went from thick to thin. It so much prettier than my handwriting, and it wasn’t long before I asked for a calligraphy set of my own.

I absolutely adored practicing with it, and it was even more fun than my mother’s calligraphy work, because I got to use colors! Funny thing about funeral books.. they only come in black writing.

Later, my love affair with calligraphy developed into an interest in dip pens. I read about dip pens, and sealing wax. I was charmed with the romantic nature of it all… especially since letter writing seemed to be a dying art. When my husband was in the military I sent him a few letters written in dip pen, and sealed with wax. It felt like something straight out a delicious adventure story… the handsome Airman, serving his country overseas, receiving letters from his wife, sealed from prying eyes.

Inconceivable

But last year, I started digging into modern calligraphy and brush lettering. I even gave it a quick shot, and I was terrible. Of course, I was impatient, and did all the things wrong… I used whatever paper, a cheap brush pen I picked up somewhere, and I was sprawled out on my bed. But that’s not where I went the most awry… I didn’t bother to read up on how brush lettering was done.

I foolishly assumed I already had the gist from having seen it, and that I could just dive in. And because of that, my lettering was pretty bad. So I didn’t touch it again for months. But it kept nagging at me. This little piece of me was dying to really give it a try.

So at the end of 2016, I vowed that instead of flitting from one class to another, I’d choose 3 topics to really bear down on for 2017. I even created a secret Pinterest board and found as many of the classes, and books, and tutorials as I could. I chose lettering, watercolor, and doodling as my 3.

But most importantly, I promised that I would give those topics everything I had. I wouldn’t give up on the rough attempts. I wouldn’t assume I had no ability, and I wouldn’t give up on myself.

If, at the end of 2017, I didn’t like it… I would stop. But stopping, just because I wasn’t “amazing” wasn’t going to be good enough. Especially if I loved it… if you love something, you shouldn’t have to be good at it. Do it for the love, even if you suck.

So here we are. I haven’t played with doodling as much (so I’ll need to give it some serious love for the next couple of months), but I absolutely adore lettering and watercolor. And just think… if I adore doodling, I have potential to create some very unique and fun pieces!

So How Can YOU Get Started?

Firstly, promise yourself that it’s okay for the first tries to not be amazing. You weren’t born knowing how to walk, or speak, or read… don’t expect that first go-rounds of lettering will be anything you’d want to pop on Etsy. If they are, happy news! If they’re not, consider them what they are… a piece of the journey. A marker to look back on, and recognize just how far you’ve come. In fact, tuck it away somewhere and forget about it for 6 months.

Secondly, let’s start with the supplies you’ll need.

Paper

The good news is, that there are tons of options, and generally they’re budget friendly. I’m personally fond of the 6″ x 9.5″ sketchpad from Master’s Touch (Hobby Lobby), and the 9″ x 12″ Bristol Vellum* pad from Strathmore.

*It should be noted, that the Bristol must be smooth/vellum. When in doubt, feel it! It should be slippy. If it’s textured, avoid.

Other fantastic options include

  • Index cards
  • Cardstock
  • HP 32# Laser Paper
  • Marker paper
  • Hot press paper

It just needs to be heavy enough to handle whatever pen you choose, and smooth enough to not tear up the lovely felt tips. If you’re using an actual paint brush (including water brushes) you can get away with more texture to the paper.

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Pens

Lettering Comparisons

*Links below are affiliate links, which means I get a teeny kickback. All proceeds are put towards global domination, and Netflix fees.

Tombow Fudenosuke (hard and soft)

These are what I started with, based on numerous recommendations, and they’re what I recommend starting with. As you can see, they’ve got one of the finest t tips, which also means it’s easier to control. Their cases are covered in kanji, but fear not… they’re color coded! Silver is the harder tip, gold is the softer tip. They create very similar writing, the gold is just slightly thicker on both the up and downstroke. Only comes in black.

Pentel Sign Pen

This is right around the same thickness as the soft Tombow fude, but it comes in 12 colors. Once you’ve got the hang of brush lettering down, this is a fun way to expand your color options, while staying in with an easier size tip.

*Quick tip – Because these are water based, you can create an easy ombre effect, by dipping them into liquid watercolors, and writing your word/phrase out. This goes for any of the water based inks, but your mileage will vary, dependent on the color of the pen, and the color of the ink.

PITT Artist Pen

I haven’t played with this as much as some of my other pens… I feel like these almost came frayed already, so they don’t create nice clean lines when I write. That having been said, I really love the shades of their greys.

Marvy LePlume II

These are fun to play with. I don’t think their color saturation is as well done as Tombow’s Dual Brush, but these are a pretty solid option. One of the fun things about these larger tips, is that on a lot of the colors, there’s an ombre effect created by the varying pressure of the pen… darker at the top, lighter at the bottom. Comes in 108 colors.

Tombow Dual Brush Pen

Let me give you the lowdown on these… they’re expensive. Especially if you want the big grandaddy package of 96. Which, by the way, is amazing. They run around $145 in the States. So if you’re drooling over these babies, and you’re not named Ellen Degeneres (and if you are, then hey girl!!! Let’s do lunch, I’ve got some friends who are dying to be on your show… and tell Gladys I said hi!) then stick ’em in your cart, or wish list, and stalk them. Every once in a while the stars align (and Mercury isn’t in retrograde) and you can snag them for about $20 less. Still not a huge bargain, but hey… anything helps right?

Belle - Kuretake Gold

Kuretake Metallic

I’ll be real… I don’t use these very often. But every time I do, I wish I remembered them more often. They’re a good bit thicker than most of my pens, so I have to pay attention to what I try to use them on, but they feel delicious on paper. My personal favorite is to use them on black paper. They’re one of my few pens that I can use on dark paper, and baby they gleam! Comes in 6 colors.

Jane Davenport Mermaid Markers

I saw these things making waves with art journalists, but hadn’t picked up any to play with. As it happened, I had a bad experience with another brand of brush markers, and to make up for it, I was sent a whole box of goodies to play with, including these. I haven’t played with them for very long, but they’re filled with liquid watercolor. Fun right? AND when they’re empty, you can refill them. Uhhhh yes please! Don’t be fooled by the watercolor part… the color in these is very saturated. Comes in 12 colors.

Spectrum Noir Sparkle

I haven’t written much with these, but when I have, I don’t feel like the tip stays together as well as some of the other ones I’ve used. These have nylon bristles like the watercolor brushes do, but they don’t hold together as nicely as some brands. That having been said, they’re fun for adding a little sparkle to your writing.

Pentel Aquash

And last, but certainly not least… the water brush. These delightful little numbers can be filled with water, and used with watercolors, or they can be filled with ink. Or liquid watercolor. Perfect for crossing the bridge between watercolors and brush lettering. They come in a variety of sizes, but I haven’t the faintest idea which one I used up there, because my kids ran off with the other 2, so I have nothing to compare with. 2 year olds love to run off with things. They’re like pack rats, except they don’t actually care if an item is shiny.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, and there are many other great brands to try. But hopefully this gives you some ideas to start with, and a visual idea of what each one looks like when used.

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So that’s all the supplies you need… but what to write? If I may, I have a teeny tiny idea!

September 30 Day Challenge

For the month of September, I’m hosting a lettering challenge. Here’s how it’ll work!

The Format

Each day I’ll be on Facebook Live, demonstrating that days prompts. I’ll also pop a video onto Instagram. You’re more than welcome to join the challenge on Facebook, or Instagram, whichever you feel most comfortable with.

If you join on Facebook, simply drop your lettering in the comments below that day’s Live. If you join on Instagram, post it to your feed, and use the hashtag #mitmletters, and tag me @amandasuehowell.

If we get enough participants, at the end of each day I’ll round up a few of my favorites from that days posts, and share them on my Instagram.

Want an even bigger challenge?

If you really enjoy a challenge, there’s a sister challenge to this one. Neesha of Paper Wand is hosting a 30 day watercolor challenge. Each day she’ll be teaching how to paint one element (leaf, flower, etc.), leading up to the final challenge?

The final countdown (errrrr challenge)

Yes, I went there. 80s music is awesome, and I ain’t ashamed.

For the final challenge, Neesha will be teaching how to create a watercolor wreath using the elements you’ve been learning all month. Then she’ll turn it over to me, and I’ll teach you how to put lettering INSIDE of the wreath.

She’s making this super approachable, and she’ll be using inexpensive pan watercolors for the challenge, so anyone can join. 🙂

But I don’t want to watercolor/I already know how to watercolor

No problemo. You’re more than welcome to bow out, or participate… totally optional. If we get to the final challenge, and you don’t want to watercolor, just hang out with us, supporting the ladies who are watercoloring, and then learn how to letter the final phrase that will be inside of our wreaths.

I hope this has been super helpful, and if you have ANY questions please don’t hesitate to put them in the comments below. 🙂

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Your Kid Is Not Monet (And That’s a Good Thing!)

Your Kid Is Not Monet (And That's a Good Thing!) | When I was a kid, I got a lot of comparisons to my younger sister. I was the "music kid" and she was the "artist kid"... but there's a problem with that...

When I was a kid, I took to music from an early age… I sang for anyone and everyone who would listen. In fact on one memorable occasion, we were out of town for a funeral. My parents left us with our Nanny & Grandpa so they could go see some old high school friends, and we put on a full production for my grandparents. We sang, we danced, we dressed up… the works. At one point, I sang “Amazing Grace” for Nanny, who clasped her hands together and said “if I’d have known you sang like that, I’d have asked you to sing at the funeral!”

Whew. Dodged a bullet! Generally speaking, 8 year olds aren’t prepared to sing for funerals… especially for people they barely remember.

Later on, I sang during a Christmas parade (their scheduled person was late, or didn’t show, and I volunteered like a crazy person… for the record my moments of spontaneity are very rare, and when they do rear their head, they’re usually insane.

I entered a talent competition, I attended the Dove Awards twice, and I’ve sang for my church since I was in my teens. But why am I telling you this?

I was the “musical kid”.

My next sister down was the “artist kid”. She took to art from an early age, and even got to attend classes with our little towns resident artist.

But here’s the thing… I hated that it was like that. She sang too… we even did a few songs together at charity fundraisers. And I’d been noted at a very young age for how neatly I colored (won a coloring competition and got a stuffed animal out of it!), and had conversations about my horse drawings with that very same in-town artist (who was noted for her horse art no less).

But despite the fact that we were both multipassionate, we got put in distinct boxes, based on our first skillset we’d taken to.

By the time we were teenagers, people would compare her singing to mine… which wasn’t fair to her. I got a lot more attention for my singing, so I’d always practiced on it a lot more. And I hit a point where I didn’t show off my artwork anymore, because people always had to make comparisons.

I’ve said on numerous occasions, if everyone did art like Monet, the world would not know his name. There’s a reason the artists we’ve heard of, are well known.

If everyone did art like Monet, the world would not know his name. Click To Tweet

They did something different. They did something that stood out.

But we make comparisons between our kids. We make comparisons between our art, and that one friend we have that does it “so much better”.

We take classes and get frustrated that our stuff doesn’t look like the teachers, or one of our classmates. And we fail to realize that’s a GOOD thing.

Does it being different make it good? Not necessarily… No one is born painting like Monet… not even Monet. No one is born knowing how to sculpt, or photograph. Some people take to it more quickly than others, yes, but no one wakes up with all of the skills in place. And being crappy at it now, doesn’t mean you can’t get better.

So here’s the good news… your kid is not Monet. Your kid is not Mozart. Your kid is not Leonardo (Da Vinci, Dicaprio, Da Ninja Turtle… take your pick… it’s still no). But that’s awesome! It means they have potential to create something magical all of their very own.

Your kid is not Leonardo (Da Vinci, Dicaprio, DaNinjaTurtle... take your pick... still no). Click To Tweet
I’d love to know… were you ever compared to a classmate, friend, or sibling? Have you compared yourself to an artistic friend or family member?

Discourage Perfection (yes I said it)

Discourage Perfection (Yes I Said It) | As adults we usually want to do EVERYTHING perfectly, and it's easy to fall into the habit of doing this with our children. But Neesha's here to explain that's not always the best way to teach your kids art.

Today I’m thrilled to say that we’ve got the very first guest post on Magic in the Mess. I met Neesha in April Bowles-Olin’s Sunday Society and I got really excited to hear about her latest project, which is an art journal for young children. I knew our core values were very similar and since I’m planning to add guests posts to Magic in the Mess in 2017, I took a jump and asked Neesha to be my first guest and she graciously accepted!

After becoming a mama to my two littles, and also teaching art classes, I saw first hand how naturally creative children can be. I am always fascinated by the way kids tap into a fearless zone of creativity. How they color outside the lines. How they choose their materials and use them in the most imaginative ways. Somewhere in our growing years we were taught that everything had to have a place, space, name, purpose…etc. Sometimes that works, but not in Art. It doesn’t necessarily fit into a tidy box. Creativity is completely subjective. Rules and methods are always being broken and part of the fun is experimenting with the process and letting that imagination free. In fact, one of my favorite artists (Pablo Picasso) has said this so well: “Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.”

Discourage Perfection (Yes I Said It) | As adults we usually want to do EVERYTHING perfectly, and it's easy to fall into the habit of doing this with our children. But Neesha's here to explain that's not always the best way to teach your kids art.

My art classes for younger kids inevitably end up with a couple of parents who (although well meaning) don’t understand that creativity needs room to breathe. It cannot be dictated. Often I’ll see their child check in with their grownup about nearly every decision… “Which color should I use?” “Where on the paper should I make this mark?” “Is my work good?” “Is it done?” “If you take a picture on your phone then that means you like it?” “If you don’t, did I fail?”

And then there are the kids who try desperately to be themselves and make their work their own and again, their parent is hovering over them. “No, do it like this.” “Use this color.” “Oh I like that, good job.”

The problem with trying to control the art process and “approving it”, especially for very young kids, is that you’re teaching them that your judgement matters more than their creative experience. They are learning early on that they cannot trust their own instincts. Creating art is a time to play. It’s a time for expression. There is not a right and wrong. There is no perfect. And certainly your child’s art process shouldn’t be dictated by anyone else, including you. To those parents, I’m asking you to be like Elsa, and let it go. Put down the phone taking pictures of only the “pretty” work. Avoid making creative decisions for them. And definitely allow them the space they need to figure out the process themselves. You will see your child blossom.

You can take it one step further and connect with your child about their work with comments like these: “How did you choose these colors?” (vs. “Nice job.”); “I see you chose to make wavy lines here.” (vs. “I like those wavy lines.”); or “Can you tell me about this picture?” (vs. “What is that?”). Taking out the “right/wrong” or “good/bad” from their efforts really puts the focus on what’s most important their creative process.

Making art is so much more than producing a pretty picture. Your little one will be selecting colors, shapes, materials and more. These decisions might seem insignificant, but these are the seeds to growing a confident child who has no fear or pressure to be perfect. Have you noticed some children give up doing something the first time if it’s not “right.” And then there are other children who keep going even if they “fail” the first time. They keep trying. They know that “failing” is only part of the process and they have the inner grit and confidence that they can figure it out.

Making art is so much more than producing a pretty picture! Click To Tweet

This is the heart of the creative process allowing the unknown to unfold naturally. Being comfortable in not knowing the answer and still forging ahead. Allowing that inspired part of the brain to follow an inner compass is a life skill all children need. It takes time to learn creative and critical thinking skills, and it takes support from you to develop.

Letting go of perfection is letting in authentic growth. Some of the most magical things about creating art are the “mistakes” and happy accidents that occur. It is a gift to be able to enjoy the process and truly be present in the moment. Let yourself and your child experience this wonder and connection. Art for me is rarely about the end result; the joy truly is in the journey.

bio_pic_neeshaAbout the author:

Hello! My name is Neesha Merani and I’m a mama to two littles, an art teacher, kids book illustrator and creative biz owner. I currently design & dream over at Paper Wand ; my little space, where I share my creativity, whimsical gifts and DIY projects.

Teach your child that creativity = LIFE

Teach your child that creativity = LIFE | What if, instead of teaching our kids how to see the world how WE see it, we learned to see it how THEY see it?

As we’ve discussed before, most people have pre-conceived notions of what creativity looks like. They put creativity inside of a box, and unfortunately most people leave it there. And it sits on some mental shelf, wasting away and collecting dust, until the rainy day when they decide to pull it out.

And that’s how our children see us… we don’t raise them as creative beings, because they’re not raised BY creative beings. They see adult life the way we train them to… an endless series of backaches, headaches, footaches, and heartaches. Adult life is “boring” and we train them to dread it. Rather than allow them to experience the world as a place of endless possibility, we teach them that artists are sad starving souls with no real aspirations for their life. We teach them that dreams are for suckers and children, and that if you want to be a “real” adult, you have to get a pathetic, soul-sucking job, and enslave yourself to the clock for the next 40 years of your life… and all for a pittance of a retirement.

And the payoff for not living until you’re 60? Good question… it’s not like most of our grandma’s and grandpa’s are out living the glamorous life either. We spend 40 years wearing down our body, mind, and soul… and at retirement, many people are simply to tired to go and enjoy life… or too broke. What a legacy.

But what if we taught our children to ignore the limitations that society will try to put on them? What if we taught them that creativity should be a lifestyle, not an afterthought? What if we taught them that you’re never too old to learn something new or exciting?

What if we stopped waiting until we’re closer to death than birth, to actually begin living?

My son looks at the grit and dust in the tinted back window of an unwashed red Durango, and he doesn’t see the path carved by the wipers. He sees a rainbow, and he thinks the car is magical, and he asks why our car doesn’t have a rainbow.

Children don’t see rubber bands, or cardboard boxes. They see weapons, and boats. They don’t see clean white walls, they see a bare canvas waiting to be filled (much to Mommy’s dismay!). They don’t see Mom’s really comfortable boots… they see pirate boots, or cowboy boots, or even firefighter boots.

They live in a world that is un-restrained in it’s concepts… they’re not bound by the realistic constraints of color, or style, or even function. An item is what they say it is, no more no less. If older sister has a toy that looks like a phone, little brother will turn a shoe, a teddy bear, or even a potato into his phone. They just don’t care.

What if instead of teaching children to experience the world the way most adults do, we adults learned to experience the world the way most children do?

70+ Ways to be More Creative

70+ Ways to be More Creative | Have you ever felt like you weren't very creative? Or maybe you just want to be MORE creative? Click through to see over 70 ways you can up your creative game!How many times have you heard someone say, “oh I’m not creative… but I wish I was” or “I’m not creative, but my mom/dad/uncle/sister is”?

If you’re anything like me, you’re torn between feeling sorry for them, and wanting to shake them. We’ve put creativity into a tiny, narrow box. If you were to ask someone what creativity is, they’d likely say something like painting, or photography, or writing. Maybe they’d say all 3. But they’re missing out on the big picture… creativity comes in tons of forms… some obvious, and some not so obvious.

For example, if you sit down with your family’s favorite recipes, and you create a menu plan for the next week… you’ve used creative function. Did you put together an outfit and earned you rave compliments? You used creativity! Ever had a child inform you that their teddy bear is a pirate? Or that their pencil is a booger gun? (yes kids are gross!) Or that the box you’ve tried to throw away 6 times is their space shuttle? Creativity!

So those are some of the less obvious ways. But what about the obvious ones?

Spring Flowers

Visual

Photography

  • Landscape
  • Portrait
  • Wedding
  • Macro
  • Product
  • Stock
  • Underwater
  • Photojournalism

Painting

  • Watercolor
  • Oil
  • Acrylic
  • Pastel
  • Fresco/Mural
  • Gouache
  • Encaustic

Designing

  • Interiors
  • Theater/movie sets
  • Typeface/font
  • Drawing
  • Jewelry
  • Costume
  • Tattoos

Musical

  • Songwriting
  • Singing
  • Music production
  • Sound engineer
  • Album design

Writing

  • Blogs
  • Books
  • Articles
  • Screenplays
  • Poems

CrochetTimeline

Fiber arts

  • Knitting
  • Crocheting
  • Spinning
  • Weaving
  • Textile design
  • Batiking/Hand-dying
  • Basketry
  • Beadwork
  • Sewing
  • Quilting
  • Embroidery
  • Applique

Paper crafting

  • Paper making
  • Card making
  • Stamping
  • Quilling
  • Scrapbooking
  • Paper flowers
  • Decoupage
  • Origami
  • Paper mache

Hands-On/Outside the Box

  • Acting
  • Sculpting
  • Woodworking
  • Pottery
  • Florist
  • Cooking
  • Gardening
  • Puttering on cars
  • Food stylist
  • Hair stylist
  • Nail artist
  • Makeup artist
  • Metalworking/Forging
  • Leatherworking
  • Architect
  • Toy design
  • Glass blowing
  • Teaching

For Type-A people who think they’re not creative

Planning/Directing

  • Animation director
  • Play producer
  • Event planning
  • Wedding planning
  • Film director
  • Museum director

Editing

  • Copy editor
  • Music editor
  • Screenplay editor
  • Book editor
  • Photo editor
  • Video editor

NeonPencilsLarge

As you can see there is a lot that falls under “creativity”. And this is by no means everything, and there are crossovers between these lists. I included the “type-A” list, because there are things that are considered to be non-creative fields that I consider to be very creative. And there are several on the “outside the box” list that fall in this territory as well. My husband is in mechanical maintenance. Grease monkeys aren’t usually considered to be creative, but I think the ability to look at something and understand how it’s all put together, and how to fix it, and how to improve it is extremely creative.

Architecture is considered an extremely left-brained sort of field… it’s very analytical, and required immense precision when drawing up blueprints and schematics. But the ability to dream up a building concept, and put it down on paper in a way that makes sense for builders is extremely creative also! Some of the finest minds of the Renaissance were strong in fields that are considered to “left brained” and fields that are considered “right brained”, because back then, no one sat children down and told them creativity was narrowly defined. No one told young apprentices that if they were a creative type, they couldn’t do anything mathematical or scientific. And no one told scientists that they couldn’t create.

Imagine telling Leonardo, that because he was a brilliant inventor, that he shouldn’t be capable of drawing or painting. It would never happen, because we know that’s ridiculous. But when it comes to our creativity, we put these sorts of restraints on ourselves. Oh I’m not creative… I’m an accountant, lawyer, doctor, etc.

Nonsense! Get out there and explore… you may be surprised what undiscovered talents you have.

What’s something you’ve always wanted to try?