100 Days of Delight Photography: Week 1

Phew! This week marks the first in my 100 day project, where I am taking photos of people each day and asking them the question “What does delight mean to you?” (To find out more, check out this blog post.)

Each week, I’ll post a photo and quote from each person featured from the previous week. (For more photos and interview quotes, check out my Instagram feed.)

Here’s week 1:

Day 1: Hijab and Tayyaba

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H: It means making silly jokes, spending time with my best friend, looking back at old memories and laughing at it.

T: My classes are really hard and anytime I’m having a bad day and feeling stressed out, and I’ll just text her…and she’ll just say one thing and it’ll brighten my day…I’ll get so happy.

Day 2: Nate

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“Delight is basically, to me, when you’re rewarded by something that you yourself are either a part of or completely involved in—something that you know you created and a rewarding feeling you’ve given yourself.”

Day 3: Andrew

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Me: “What was the last thing you did that delighted you?”

Andrew: “I finished a really great book.”

Me: “What was the book?”

Andrew: “It was on the Cuban Missile Crisis [laughs] but it was written really well but it showed that sometimes things are not as cut and dry as we think they are.”

Day 4: Beth

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“I think delight, to me, is being with loved ones. I think of just hysterically laughing with my nieces and nephews and enjoying the people that you love.”

Day 5: JonJon1

“Spending time with people that I love…and Blejwas shirts.”

Day 6: Kyle (aka my delightful husband)

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Me: “What makes you happy, baby?”

Kyle: “Adventure…and shiny, pointy objects.”

What Could You Do with 100 Days?

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Photo courtesy of Elle Luna

Last year, I discovered this wonderful cohort of international artists who took part in this thing called The 100 Day Project.

The idea is simple: Artist Elle Luna picks a 100-day block of time and you pick the activity. Do that same activity for 100 days straight.

Simple idea, but amazing results! Those who I followed during the project were mostly artists, but I’ve heard that others went on 100 dates or wrote down their dreams for 100 days. The possibilities are  totally far flung!

Last year, I wanted to create 100 pieces of abstract art. I got quite a bit done, but never finished. Despite my lack of follow-through last year, I want to try again this year.

So what’s my project for 2016? I will be merging my love of photography and my word for the year (delight) to create #100daysofdelightphotography. For 100 days (starting on Tuesday, 4/19), I’ll be posting photos I take of people (both those I know and those I’ll randomly ask) along with their answer to the question “What does delight mean to you?” (Yes, I’m well aware that I’m taking a cue from Humans of New York.)

Want to follow along? Follow me on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. I’ll also be posting photos and responses on the blog, but I haven’t decided if I’ll create a blog post each day or a weekly digest yet. I guess I should figure that out soon….

I can’t wait to kick off this project, and I hope you’ll follow along! More than that, though, I hope you’ll participate!

If you could focus on one project for 100 days, what would it be? Share in the comments!

100 Day Sneak Peek

A sneak peek at the project!

How to Keep Occupied on a Snowy Day

(Would you like to listen rather than read? Check out my podcast episode on this same topic here.)

This snow is peaceful. Blizzards...not so much. Image courtesy of murrysvillechurch.com

This snow is peaceful. Blizzards…not so much.
Image courtesy of murrysvillechurch.com

I wanted to keep this week’s post timely. Since storm Jonas is upon the US East coast, here are a few ideas on how to keep occupied while you’re snowed in, not just for this 2016 weekend, but also for other snow days as well.

I’ve broken the suggestions down into four categories: Netflix, Books, Art, and Being a Kid.

  1. Netflix: Here are my suggestions on fun shows to watch while sipping your warm beverage of choice.
    • If you’re in for thrills and psychological intrigue, watch Dexter & Criminal Minds.
    • The 100 provides a great sci-fi plot line and a diverse (and large!) cast of characters.
    • Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. Solving mysteries set in the 1920s. ‘Nuff said.
    • How Stuff Works gives a behind-the-scenes looks at, well, how stuff works. One of my favorite episodes was seeing how contacts were made.

The next few activity categories can be done with or without power.

      2. Books: Are you a bookworm? Curl up with one of these while watching the snow fall outside your window!

    • The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey is a whimsical yet mature tale that asks: Can a snow girl come to life?
    • The Walking Dead comics by Robert Kirkman have fantastic artwork and have (in my opinion) a grittier storyline than the show.
    • The Sketchnote Handbook by Mike Rohde is a fun, quick read that will give you tools to spice up your yawn-inducing meeting notes.
    • The Olympians comic series by George O’Connor. Greek gods in comic form. Do you need more convincing? (If so, I don’t think we can be friends…. :-P)

      3. Art: Use the time off to get your hands dirty!

    • Fingerpaint.
    • Paint with coffee or tea.
    • Draw with whatever you have. Draw your meal, the scene outside your window, or your pets. Make the mundane frame worthy!
    • Play the squiggle game. This is pretty simple: Take out a piece of paper and draw a squiggle on it (any shape, size, etc). Have the next person add to it. You can go back and forth (or pass from person to person if there is a group of 3 or more) until the squiggle looks like something recognizable, like a person, a starfish, or a dragon.

      4. Be a kid!

    • Build a fort. Get pillows and blankets, then defend your territory!
    • Make shadow puppets.
    • Make hot chocolate with tons of marshmallows for a lovely sugar coma.
    • Tell (ghost) stories.
    • Play in the snow!

What are some activities you like to do when you’re snowed in? Share in the comments!

Why I’m Ditching New Year’s Resolutions

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Image courtesy six8seven5.com

I know, I know…”Not another resolutions post!” That’s what you’re probably thinking. I’m hoping this one has more of a twist, though, because (spoiler alert!), I’m ditching resolutions in 2016. More on that in a bit.

First a wrap up of 2015:

1. Cook a healthy meal once a week: Didn’t do too great here. 2015 was the year of takeout for the hubs and I. I think it had to do with busy schedules, but really, that’s just an excuse. Hopefully this year’s schedules won’t fill up as fast (i.e., I’ll say “no” more often), and I’ll stay more on top of having healthier food options in the house.

2. Meditate once per day: I got SUPER lax with this because I started counting super short prayers as fitting the bill. Really, they don’t. I needed to be more intentional. Something to keep in mind for this year.

3. Work on art once per week: This one I actually did! I tried a bunch of different techniques and tools, particularly digital methods. I’m really happy with my art progress and want to continue this year.

4. Read 60 books: 48. Not quite, but so close!

5. Keep a steady writing practice: Nope. This one just didn’t happen. Visual art really took over, which isn’t a bad thing. This is just one example of how my priorities changed during the year.

So, that last note (“priorities change”) is exactly why I’m ditching New Year’s resolutions in favor of something else: a yearly word.

Resolutions are fine, and if they work for you, that’s fantastic! They just don’t work for me. Over the years, I’ve found myself working toward goals that start out really important and then fall by the wayside because after a few months, circumstances change and I just don’t have the energy to focus on goals that I don’t want to prioritize.

And then there’s the issue of guilt. I used to think, “Well, I set this priority for myself and I should see it through, right?” Usually, I’d say yes, but it’s so hard to predict what will happen in a year, (or even the next couple of months!). I didn’t want to be beholden to goals that would just weigh me down when I could actually make progress on things that mattered to me.

So how does a yearly word come in? The thing about single words or phrases is that they are versatile. They can be interpreted in many ways and take different shapes. Yearly words can grow with you.

Take my 2015 word for example: gather. This can be a verb or a noun. There can be a gathering of people. Or you can gather resources. It was such a nourishing word for me. I certainly gathered a lot in 2015! I gathered art techniques, I got together with friends and family often—and these are just a sampling of the ways I acted on my word!

I was so reluctant to let “gather” go in the new year, but I think my new word will be just as awesome. “What is it?” you ask. DELIGHT!

In 2016, I want to focus on delights, or people and moments that make me smile. I want to fill others with delight through my art. I’m sure come the end of the year, I will have tons of other ways I’ll interpret this word.

But do you see what I mean? Words are so versatile. At least to me, they aren’t weighty and clunky. I’m so excited to dive into delight this year!

If you’d like to hear a bit more about why I’m ditching resolutions (and ideas for how you can choose your own word!), check out my podcast’s (Roaring Out—yep, same as the blog) episode 11.

How about you? Do you stick with resolutions, do you choose a yearly word, or do you have a different yearly ritual?

Stand by for Breakthrough…

My breakthrough piece!

My breakthrough piece!

My formal schooling is in English literature and poetry, as many of you know. However, I’ve lately been dabbling in the visual arts, which I’ve done most of my life, but for the past few months, I’ve been very intentional about it, drawing nearly every day and sharing my work on Instagram.

The other day, I had a breakthrough—I let the work guide me.

Allow me to explain: because of my training in writing, specifically creative writing and poetry, I have a bunch of tools in my writer’s toolbox so to speak. What I mean by this is that when I’m stuck, I have methods of pushing through. Put simply, I know how to “play” with language. If a prompt isn’t speaking to me, I move to another. If I’m experiencing writer’s block, I repeat what I just wrote until a new thought comes. I’m fairly comfortable with my writing sounding terrible in the first draft because I know I have the skill set to fix it up. I’m not intimidated by the “shitty first draft,” as Anne Lamott so eloquently puts it.

But when it comes to visual art, I’m terrified by that shitty first draft. After all, when you make a mark with paint, you can’t just cut it out and paste it somewhere else (like the trash) as you can easily do with writing. What happens when a mark I make isn’t what I want? What happens when I don’t know where to start? How can I “play” as freely as I do with language?

Over the past few months, I’ve been working diligently to add some tools to my artist’s toolbox and have done so fairly successfully by studying the work of artists like Lisa Congdon and Shantell Martin on platforms like Skillshare and Creativebug. (For a more comprehensive discussion of how I’ve come to accept my art as well as information on the tools I use, listen to the fifth episode of my podcast here).

As mentioned earlier, I recently had a breakthrough. Like with writing, I think I finally learned to “go with the flow” of my art and let the process guide me instead of me making the art piece strictly what I wanted.

I was inspired the other day to try my hand at a profile because of artists I follow on Instagram. It started out as a person, but as you can see from the finished product above, it turned into a lizard girl.

See? Totally needs texture!

See? Totally needs texture!

When I started adding color, I first added a darker flesh tone on the forehead, which I liked. However, the more of that particular color I added to the face, the more I didn’t like it. So, I scrolled through my digital color palette and found a color I liked–green. Without hesitation, I slathered that on. But when I stepped back, I realized I wanted more texture, so I added some scallop scales and, voila, my lizard girl was born!

This is really the first time where I trusted the artistic process and wasn’t afraid to stray from my original concept. Normally, I have an idea in my head and force it, even when the piece is clearly calling for a different approach or simply isn’t working. When I was adding green to the girl, it was fairly easy to silence the critic in my head that was saying “Hey, people don’t have green skin!” The part of me that said, “Yeah, but let’s just see what happens!” was way louder. I think this is because I’ve been practicing my hand at other techniques, so my “letting go” muscle has been exercised enough in preparation for a moment like this.

Is this piece the best thing I’ve ever made? Nope, but I’m really excited about this breakthrough and can’t wait to see what else I make when exercising my “letting go” muscle in the future.

Better Late Than Never: 2015 Resolutions Update

I intended to have two updates posted by now, but the best laid plans and all that jazz…

OK, so let’s get this part started. In previous resolutions posts, I noticed that I tended to be down on myself when I didn’t do well on a goal (which was often!). So now, I’m taking a cue from Sunflower Paperie and posting both my successes and areas of improvement.

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1. Cook a healthy meal once per week

Successes: Shoprite from Home has helped tremendously in this area! Each week (or nearly), I sit down with the hubs, and we decide what we need for the coming days. We still buy cookies and such, but we buy a bunch more fruit and healthy snacks since we don’t have to putz around the produce aisle anymore. This has also helped us save money in the long run since we have a fairly steady supply of good food options, so we don’t eat out as often. One of my favorite meals we’ve made this year is roasted pork loin with roasted red potatoes. YUM!

 Areas of improvement: I need to plan meals better. While my snack options have improved, meals have not overall. I was using a meal planner at the beginning of the year. I think it’s time to bust it out again!
Not as healthy, but totally yummy!

Not as healthy, but totally yummy!

 

2. Meditate once per day

Successes: This has taken different shapes throughout the past eight months. I downloaded the Headspace app, which helped a lot. I also got a devotional that I like and have been (fairly) consistent with reading it. I’ve also noticed that I meditate better at night. I’m trying to meditate first thing in the morning, but perhaps my rhythm is better later in the day.

Areas of improvement: I fell out of rhythm with the app and am trying to get back on track. I need to make it a priority. Overall, this is probably the habit I need to make a priority the most. My iPhone tends to get in the way. Perhaps instead of opening up Twitter first thing in the AM, I should open up Headspace. If only there was an app for that….

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3. Work on art once per week

Successes: I have tried more types of art so far this year than any other in recent memory, so that’s a huge win! I’ve taken part in a few art challenges and have gotten to know quite a few great people through Instagram and Twitter. Given that my word for the year is “gather,” this area has been a big success in that I’ve “gathered” a lot of practical art tips, art friends, and prompts.
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Areas of improvement: I tend to work in bursts. I’m super prolific for a few days, but then I may not create anything for a few weeks. In the long run, this may just be how I work, but I do want to create the habit of a steady creative practice.

4. Read 60 books

Successes: I’m a little over halfway on my goal! So far, I’ve read 33 books and am 55% done with my goal. I’m pretty happy with where I am. I’ve read fairly broadly. Some titles that stick out to me include The Night Circus, The Fire Next Time, and Raising My Rainbow.

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Photo courtesy of Google Images

Areas of improvement: Goodreads says I’m three books behind, so I suppose I should catch up. I also haven’t read any books I own nor have I finished any ARCS I’ve received. I think I’ll make more of an effort to read at least one book in each of the aforementioned categories in the next 4.5 months.

5. Keep a steady writing practice

Successes: One of the bullet points I listed in this area was to celebrate the publication of my chapbook, which I did to the fullest! I did a bunch of readings all over New Jersey from April through June. The crowds were fabulous, and I saw so many familiar faces. I loved talking about my process and sharing my work with others. I also recently signed up for Sarah Selecky’s daily writing prompts, which arrive every day to my inbox. They’ve provided great inspiration, and I wrote a poem with one of the prompts that I’m pretty sure is a keeper!

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Areas of improvement: Other than celebrating my chapbook, I haven’t done much writing (other than that keeper poem). I have tons of ideas, but I’m not making time to write them down. Much like the meditation habit, I need to be more conscious of making my writing (and art) practice a regular habit. I’m just not quite sure how to do that, but I’ll brainstorm some strategies 🙂

How about you? What is one goal you are working on this year/month/week? What have been your successes and areas of improvement?

Why Are People Staring at Me? Or My Experience as a Portrait Model

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Oh, hey, it’s me!

I recently hung out with a friend who does improv and loves it. On our train ride into the city for a show, we got to talking about our summers. She told me more about her improv shows, and I told her about the activities (paper marbling, sketching, and copy editing, among others) I was making time for.  Her reaction was, “Wow, you do a lot!” But I never think I do. And then later that night I told her how I used to bartend and that I was also an honorary member of my alma mater’s theater department back in the day. OK, maybe I have done a lot…

This past weekend, I got to add one more experience to my ever-growing list: portrait drawing model. I’m a member of the Center for Contemporary Art in Bedminster. I’ve taken a few classes there, but lately, I’ve been taking advantage of the open studio time.

During one of those studio sessions, I was asked if I’d like to be a model for portrait classes. I accepted, and this past weekend was my first gig!

I’ll be honest: I had no idea what to expect. I mean, I knew there’d be pencils and that I’d have to sit still. But otherwise? No clue.

In reality, it was both an exhilarating and surreal experience. In nitty-gritty reality, I sat still for about five hours (minus breaks and lunchtime), and my shoulders hurt somethin’ fierce by the time I drove home. In reminiscent reality, I actually learned so much. Yes, I had to sit perfectly still, but I also got to hear the teacher lecture. I got to walk around and see sketches during my breaks. It was a crash course in seeing myself how others see me, and it was…eye-opening? Thrilling? Scary? Pretty freaking cool? I can’t put one word on it.

The first half of the class was dedicated to getting a sketch of the model (me) that would be refined in the latter half of the five-hour course. The teacher showed the students a method of measuring the spaces between my features using a pencil and his thumb. When it was the students’ turn, I took all my strength not to giggle at all the thumbs and pencils I saw pointed in my direction. From a different perspective, here were eight students of all ages (literally high-school students to elders) who were practicing their craft side by side. It was heartwarming and inspiring.

During my breaks, I walked around to see half-drawn, rough sketches of myself. But they were distinctly me! This was the surreal part. I walked around, talking to the students and taking pictures, all the while thinking, “Woah, that’s my nose!” or “That’s totally the curve of my lower lip!” I’ve experienced the thrill of getting a feature just right when I draw, but to walk around and see a room full of “me” sketches was unreal.

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After lunch, we all convened again, and the students added more detail to their drawings, trying to make them appear three-dimensional. If I thought the drawings from the first half of the class were great, these were even more spectacular! It was so cool to see each student’s take on how to render my form. One student drew me as a graphic-novel-type heroine. In another, I thought I resembled Joan of Arc, with a very stately pose. Yet another drew me with very undefined lines, making me look almost like a watercolor painting. It was fascinating!

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The teacher and a student

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The teacher’s final rendering

 This experience made me recognize all of the little idiosyncrasies of my face that I don’t normally pay attention to. It also made me realize that I can sit stone still for a pretty long time. Being on the other side of the drawing pad was a great experience, and I met some really great people. One student even took a photo of me beside the drawing he made of me. Even though my face rested while I posed, I left the class smiling!

What experience with art or writing has left you with a smile?