How Post It portraits helped me wrestle with my completion monster

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I had become so used to falling short of the goals I set for myself that the promises I made to myself and others felt empty. While almost certainly partially fun-monkey related*, I do think that part of my procrastination was a submission to the fate of the partially completed project. And somewhere in you-tube-athon or possibly procrastination click-fest I came across the tiniest piece of advice. A snippet of a frase, and frustratingly I’m not even sure where it came from – really – because I’d love to say thanks.

The advice was: lower the goal. Set yourself the minimum achievable goal. Something you can definitely do. Build your confidence in your willpower and creativity by achieving at first, the ridiculously easily achievable.

I’d tried the sketchbook route before, which I know works very well for a lot of people. I have a tendency to become frustrated with the “bad” pages, and an equally frequent tendency to mislay the book when I’m looking to draw. I understood: the low goal had to include fail safes. I settled on the post-it note. One note, one face, one day.

An unexpected upside of the post-it note was the very visible nature of the activity. “What’s going on here?” said my flatmate, and she’d visit the wall to laugh at the squished faces of the people hastily sketched at 2.43 am. I can’t tell the number of times I’ve retired to bed to face the wall, feeling sweaty with the realisation that I haven’t done the days drawing.

The theory went that provided it was a face, some drawing was better than none, and keeping that bar ground-scrapingly low I  wasn’t allowed multiple attempts. After drawing inspiration to scribblers everywhere, Danny Gregory, for a week, I switched onto an actor in a TV show I was watching, then my family, and then my Facebook friends from a randomised list.

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The eagle-eyed among you will spot a faceless day. Failure. A real low.

The success of the post-it portraits had significantly improved my ability to take on and complete other tasks, and in the week of the 4th of February my flatmate and I successfully launched, on a very tight deadline, a special project (which is ongoing). I hit the sack on the night of the 11th without even realizing I’d not done a face.

I felt pretty crappy about it the next day. I felt like a 2 ball juggler who’d added a third to her repertoire and dropped one without even noticing. I felt like I’d be a 2 ball juggler all my life. And my drawings were crappy. They weren’t even great – unlike in the first weeks I was rushing them, and many were a late night afterthought.

I put a blank post it on the wall, giving ditching the project some serious consideration. And with that I realised how pitiful I was being. With one setback, and some subpar images, I was ready to sabotage the whole – let’s face it – frivolous project. The polar opposite of grit, it’s not too great to realise that when the going gets tough (or even just doesn’t continue being super easy), you’re the first with your hands in the air saying “well that didn’t work”. I grumpily and begrudginly continued onwards (what a champion I am!). Although the quality of the work didn’t greatly improve I was certainly faster at getting down a likeness and some shadows and contours seemed to be becoming almost like friends.

For a few years, I’ve thought of doing a drawing for my parents’ birthdays. They are the proud owners of the publishers’ proofs of their wedding photos that they couldn’t afford to print properly, and I’ve always toyed with drawing one (minus the big “proof” stamp). This year, I felt it would be possible: I knew I was faster and with the strict no multiple attempts rule not in place, I started a drawing 3 days prior to the event (because although I might be better at follow though I still have the tendency to be a bit last minute). About 1 hour in I had some doubts, and then banished them. The whole thing is about A3 size, took nearly 10 hours, and is the most serious piece of intentional drawing I’ve done in years.

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Please excuse the glare on my dad’s shoulder from my desk lamp! It’s by no means perfect, but it’s a solid likeness. I am 100% sure I would never have done it without all the crappy 3.25 am faces, I’m sure my power of observation and possibly even technical ability has improved slightly, but more important was the belief that I could take on the project (albeit only lasting 10 hours in the end) and see it through.

Thanks post-it notes. Thanks internet artists (notable mentions Danny Gregory, Mark Crilley) Thanks whoever it was that helped me set the bar low.

 

*the best article/post on procrastination ever written by Tim Urban. I imagine everyone’s already read it but i’ve linked it anyway :-).

Cinematic Counsel Courtesy of Dr Nathan

 

doctor will see you

Since graduating from a Buzzfeed quiz with a recommendation to become a medical professional, my good friend, Nathan, ahem: Dr Nathan has been “prescribing” cinematic advice and council for the needy of Jaén  (and indeed those further afield). And who would have thought it? It turns out in these dark days it’s a much required service.

Here are 2 referrals which I personally fielded:

Here is a two letters which I am forwarding to you in good faith for your cinematic counsel. I trust that our colleague Jessica Marie may have some further referrals for you.

1.

Howdy Dr Nate (yah don’t mind if ah call you Nate do yah’ll?),

Ahm what you might call a business bigwig (in more ways than one), but ahm nat content with screwin’ over the little guy in the private sector so ah’ve now set my sights on public office in the goddam, god bless best country in this whole world. Frahm leading corporate America to leading “America Corporate” (copyright pending), ah just love privatising the shit out of every last inch of this beautiful country. Ahm lookin’ to watch a feel-good film about how megalomania pays, and ah don’t wanna see any art-crap-europe cinema, unless it’s full of titties,

Best regards,

Mr Darren Muffet
(ah have changed ma name to protect mah identity – but ahm still proud to be from the U S of A)

 

Dear Mr ‘Muffet’,

I must tell you that in all my years practising medicine, I’ve never quite seen a case as aggressive and advanced (yet simultaneously backward) as yours.

I’m afraid that at this stage, the only course of action is a heavy dose of The Wolf of Wall Street. Please take one viewing, once a day for a week, in order to give sufficient time for the initial europhic cool to wear off and the underlying message to work its way into your system. Although you may not see it right away, I feel this course of action is best for you in the long run.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Nathan

 

2.

Dear Dr Nathan,

I am a simple lad from ‘oop north’ and have neither access to kestrels nor a village hall ballet school. I’m shit at football and am worried that I’ll be left to push bicycles laden with bread up cobbled paths for the rest of my days. Can you offer some celluloid inspiration for a poor lad like m’self?

Yours beseechingly,

Timmy Buttons

 

Dear Timmy,

Don’t fret m’duck, we’ll have ya raaaht as reeeehn in no time.

From the symptoms you describe, I’ve detected a deficiancy in your sense of belonging and feeling accepted. Therefore, the only course of action seems to be a prescription of This is England.

The dosage is particularly important in this case, so please ensure that you watch the whole film first, and then suppliment this with the subsequent series’ in chronological order: This is England 86, This is England 88 and This is England 90.

Please note, this suggestion has been known to cause side effects including mild melancholia in some cases. If so, please contact me as soon as possible, so that I can provide you with the alternative lighter treatment – Kingsman: The Secret Service.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Nathan

 

Of course, it is only polite to follow up on such matters, and duly I sent the following update to Dr Nathan:

 

Esteemed colleague,

many thanks for your prompt diagnoses and your judicious treatment schedules. I trust I shall be able to make further referrals? . Timmy has already announced his intention to get some tattoos and has told the bakery owner to f*ck off, but as you note Mr ‘Muffet’ has quite an intractable case and a few more viewings will be required.

Sincerely,

 

Dr Nathan is available for consultation in Jaén for all your cinematic queries. If you can’t come to this Andalusian “Pueblo masquerading as a City” yourself, myself or my colleague at “Dos Besos” can certainly relay your request.

 

What it feels like to not show up for work, or what I learned from Whiplash

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A trembling cymbal and fine motor control of a rhythmic iteration have brought me to my senses.

I’ve realised what it feels like not to have been showing up to work.

Possibly for years.

I put more time and effort into my transitory job, than into the reasons I took this low paid but commitment-lite work in the first place.

I know what “bone tired” feels like, but it’s not a sensation I’ve had for years. I’ve not poured my heart and soul into anything, and it’s killing me.

Whiplash is a raw film about the demands and exhilaration of excellence.

I have a moderate life and I detest myself for it.

I fear late nights, when I am at my most productive, for feeling tired and raw the next day. I think, better go to sleep, and have that lie-in anyway because I’m really not at my best then anyway.

This year, my aimless existence has even been subsidised by a sibling, so I can’t even claim self sufficiency.

I feel deeply uncomfortable in my high level of comfort.

Before I slept: 2 drawings. An attempt at Terence Fletcher’s concentrated but at once contemplative face (a justly oscar worthy performance from JK Simmons), and a scribblier Miles Teller in a relatively neutral pose from the final scene. Expressions and likenesses are obviously a challenge. In particular with regard to Teller, I’ve learned from this to choose a stronger facial expression to give the thing some life!

On looking at these images again this morning, I made some adjustments – but my international adaptor is currently in Seville, so better to upload these now than later.

You’ll never believe what this dog is doing here!

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Oh wait, yeah you will. I just remembered my account isn’t the Huffington Post, although the disappointment on clicking on such a leading title is probably similar.

My sister’s dog. Already subject to a number of indignities (wears various outfits) is now subject to gracing one of my journal pages as a virtual card to my sister (it’s been a bad year with the back pain 😦 !).

The dog photo (my reference) was posted this morning, and for some reason TAKEN DOWN by her partner mid afternoon. For this reason (and none relating to my own draughtsmanship) it’s more a “Crombie inspired” image than a faithful reproduction :-).

BTW: Crombie is a poodle cross… but we don’t know what with….

A Posting Experiment: What is this Camino anyway?

  Many thanks for your comments and suggestions regarding my camino experience! I have some more queries that I am hoping some of you might have some thoughts on :-). The experiment part of this post is to do it entirely from my phone to see how long that will take :-)!! But first, in response to Karen’s question “what is the camino anyway?” (She put it more elegantly!). Veterans please skip to “questions for the veterans” :-)!

The Saint James Way

Often Spoken of in the singular, these are a collection of medieval pilgrimage trails (some pre dating this) leading from various sites in Europe (as far as northern France and Austria) to the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia.

St James (Santiago) is a big deal in Spain, he brought the message of Christianity to the Iberian peninsula. The Virgin Mary was said to have appeared to him on a pillar while he was preaching here (explaining popular Spanish female first name “Pilar”).

After that, he made the unwise decision to return to Judea and was promptly decapitated.  But his remains ended up in “the field of stars” (possibly via people, possibly via angels, the exact story is debated), now Santiago de Compostela.

While many still make the journey motivated by religion, it has become a popular way to see a beautiful variety of Spanish landscapes, while throwing off the trappings and luxuries of daily life. All you own (for the duration of the trip), you carry.

Routes

The routes which I am considering are in the north of Spain and thus benefit from the proximity of the Atlantic, and are significantly cooler than the “Via de plata” from Seville, or the camino de Madrid. The “camino Portuguese” is the second most popular trail in the Iberian peninsula, but I’m keen to stay in Spain, so it’s not a route I’ve considered in detail

Camino Francés

The distance and duration depend on your starting point. By far the most popular is the “Camino Francés”, with some …. Pilgrims completing the trail in 2014. It takes around 4 weeks and covers ….km (miles). It is well serviced, with villages, or at least rest stops every few kilometres.

Camino del Norte

I’m tempted by the camino del Norte, running right along the coast, starting at San Sebastián. The distances between the allergies (or albergues without the spellcheck!) are greater and it’s less well marked. Less pilgrims choose this route, and I wonder if it’s slightly quieter reputation would suit me better.

Accommodation

The albergues are very basic hostels, which commonly cost very little (€7-10) per night for communal sleeping areas. My understanding is that these could be more expensive on the camino del Norte.

Questions

I’d welcome any advice on the following issues:

1. Do you know anyone who has done the “camino del Norte”? How easy is it to keep to the route

2. Will I be able to buy a silk sleep sheet on the route? I’m worried about the bed bugs!

3. Has anyone been sketching or drawing on the route? Any advice about this?

4. What is the availability of wifi on the camino DSL Norte? Ps experiment took quite a long time. Less words from the road I think!

Evaluation of the post writing on the mobile platform:

it’s possible but the nature of a small keyboard makes it more time consuming.

An autocorrect has changed my “albergues” to allergies without me noticing.

For uploading some pictures, and short commentaries, it should be ok.

Catching a dream

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My friend Cassie makes very cool dream catchers, and she had offered to make me one in exchange for a drawing.

A drawing of what? My choice.

Cassie is off to travel around South America next year, and I wanted to give her something inspired by this, but made the mistake of working too long on the same drawing – should’ve had a breather!

The drawing of Cassie herself is pretty accurate, the plane is ok, but i really got into trouble with my heart not being in those hot air balloons :-(.  I’m getting something nice in exchange for my drawing, and I feel I can do better. I may cut and re-use the picture of Cassie in a different composition.

The white space at the bottom was for a bit of writing, probably the Ray Bradbury “stuff your eyes with wonder” quote.

This version is not sufficient to catch a dream, but I’m happy to keep trying!

Early preparations for the Camino

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I think that for most people, a countdown of 17 days would not be labelled “early preparations”, but I remind you dear reader, that I am the queen of procrastination, and as such this is positively premature as far as I’m concerned.

I’ve spent the weekend watching some camino videos on the various internet video platforms.

My favourite is from Andrew Suzuki, concise, helpful and entertaining. The thoughts overall are “pack light” and remember that Spain is not a third world country and you will probably be able to pick stuff up along the way.

Jaén has a tiny outdoors shop “Campingmania” near San Ildefonso.

I’ve got a ridiculously low budget for doing the whole thing – this summer probably has to come in under €1000, and I’ll be sharing my purchases and expenses here, partly to keep myself in check. I agree that probably some time spent crawling the internet and online ordering could have saved me some cash, but I prefer to support local shops (and er, I haven’t really left myself that much time…).

I’m using my sketchbook to help me plan!

I do have some good quality gear from other adventures to kick me off (phew):

1. 1 pair TIVA walking sandals (broken-in in India 🙂 )

I’ve added this link because they’ve got quite a nice Instagram photo competition on the go for the photographers out there 🙂

2. Goretex Waterproof

3. Trusty Sigg waterbottle

and today I added to this:

4. Ferrino 36l backpack  €86

5. Ferrino XL travel towel €22

Additionally, I’m going to get a whistle, light, hat, knife and walking poles. I’ll get to my local pharmacy as well to stock up on some first aid items :-).

I don’t think I need much else, equipment-wise, but any thoughts from seasoned walkers would be interesting.

I’ll have my Spanish mobile with me, rather than my computer, and I’ve downloaded wordpress to my mobile. I doubt I’ll be posting lengthy reflections, but hopefully I’ll get some pictures up!

Sketchy Behaviour Homework

The great thing about our drawing group is the incentive to bring new work each week!

This was my lengthier attempt at drawing a photo of Nikita. It’s perhaps a bit clearer from this one why I said previously that Nikita had done “a bit of modelling before” 😉

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Sketchy Behaviour Inaugural Meeting

4 people with sketchbooks in the corner of one of Jaén’s central cafes.

One confused waitress.

Some interested onlookers.

I do draw outdoors in parks and cafes, but a larger (even very small) group does attract more attention in small town Spain.

It was a modest start, and very clear that we had all done quite a bit of drawing in our own way. I sat, as the model, for some warm up and Nikita (image below) sat more professionally having “done a bit of modelling in the past”. It turns out she’s a real pro: she can drink tea without moving her face :-). This isn’t the best likeness of her but she is pretty photogenic!

Two of the sketchers had mainly drawn from photographs before and understandably the busy moving cafe environment was all a bit much.

A really nice part of the experience, is sitting with friends quietly while everyone is engrossed in an activity (that isn’t playing crazy birds).

It’s off to a positive start and I think everyone went home itching to draw more!

I think a key element of this is sharing the work, and although it sounds silly, having other people appreciate what you have done!

 

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