Friday, December 12, 2014

Are video games the new spectator sport?

For those who are looking for it, the news is everywhere: video games are becoming the new spectator sport. The signs have been there for years, although they were subtle in many cases. I saw them in my own family room, with my kids sitting together and watching each other play. I always thought "how boring," and dismissed it, thinking my kids were probably the only weirdos who would sit and watch other people play a video game that they themselves weren't playing.

But when I think about it, how many times did I stand in an arcade, watching an expert player dominate Mortal Combat? (a lot.) If you ever saw the documentary King of Kong, you'll remember groups of people crowding around a Donkey Kong game, holding their breath as competitors beat level after level after level.

Just a couple years ago, I noticed another phenomenon. My kids were watching other people play video games on YouTube. Sometimes they watched to learn how to beat a level in a game they were struggling with. Sometimes, they just watched for fun. With the arcade gone and more players playing at home, YouTube became the place to observe and learn and go back to your Xbox and try again yourself.

But then, my kids weren't satisfied with just observing...they wanted to record themselves playing and share those videos too. New kinds of videos of game play emerged: color commentary! Some videos featured gamers recording their parents or grandparents playing, the ultimate noobs to laugh at. Other videos featured gamers whose funny quips and engaging personalities helped make them into celebrities in the gaming world. My kids started imagining themselves becoming YouTube stars, simply by recording the games they were playing.

I didn't have a name for this new genre of entertainment, but yesterday saw this article about arenas where you can observe video gamers competing. The term, I found out, is esports, and it's becoming huge. Want more evidence? Game developers and even colleges are now awarding scholarships to top gamers, recruited to play on the school's esports team.

"WHAT?!?! Shut the front door!" (This is an exact quote from me, as I forwarded the story link to my teenagers...)

But if you think about it, it makes sense...while kids used to spend hours and hours on the basketball court practicing to make it into the NBA (some still do, for sure), more and more kids are spending time in League of Legends or Minecraft. It logically follows that stars would emerge and systems to reward the best gamers would be created. And, as we do with professional basketball players, we want to watch the best gamers compete and flex their finely tuned hand/eye coordination against each other.

I'm not sure that we'll see our cities' football stadiums converted to gaming stadiums any time soon, but don't count out esports as our future national pastime.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Finding seashells

Life. I don't know why I'm constantly amazed at how it gets in the way of the important work of reflection. November was such a tough month, and also a fantastic month, but the end result was no blog posts. I logged in today because I wanted to write another post, but first I need to write this one.

When I started Tandem Learning in 2008, I used blogging to document my founder journey. Over the years, it has evolved to be less about selling and documenting my professional journey, and more about documenting MY journey. I now write about things that move me, interest me, challenge my thinking and this blog is my documented reflection time, my place and space to dump out the clutter in my brain and try to make sense of it with words and grammar and, sometimes, editing.

I still think of blogging as a release and synthesis, and am shocked that anyone at all reads what I write. Sometimes I write when I'm angry or frustrated or sad and I don't know how else to process my feelings. Sometimes I write when I have an epiphany and need to write it down. Sometimes I write because I'm preparing for a service at USSB and this is my "writing repository," so I post it as a blog post. Sometimes I still use this blog for professional observations, critique and sharing. The key theme for all of my blog posts is reflection and learning. Reflection is how you process and learn, thinking back on situations or emotions and giving them meaning. What am I learning? What does it all mean?

So when a month goes by and I haven't blogged at all, it makes me pause. Am I learning as much without that point of reflection? How am I synthesizing everything that is happening without taking the time to write about it and give it meaning?

More than a month has gone by. In that time, I've experienced major shifts in my professional life, witnessed great achievements from my kids. I've participated in another startup weekend. And in the
world...Measure P was voted down. Ferguson. The Rolling Stone article on campus rape and UVA. GamerGate. Eric Garner. Thanksgiving. My amazing husband turned 40. Maybe it's just been too much to process. Maybe it's too early to reflect. Maybe it's easier when there is so much going on to just be, to let it wash over me and recede like ocean waves, to wait and see what remains washed up on the shore, those bits of shell and beach glass that remain. It's time to pick up and examine those bits, the important things that move me and change me.

I don't know if the storm is over, but it does feel like it's time to reflect and discern meaning. It's time to do the work. It's time to blog again. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Uncanny Valley and #ReneeZellweger

Yesterday the news was filled with photos of Renee Zellweger. Lots of people have weighed in on her new look; my reaction is "live and let live." My only hope for her is that she is happy and ignoring the Internet right now. In my opinion, she is and was always beautiful.

Why are people reacting so strongly to her change in appearance? I was fascinated by the collective reaction and discussion. It reminded me of the Uncanny Valley, people's simultaneous attraction/revulsion reaction to things that are "almost" human, particularly virtual or robotic representations. Basically, people get creeped out. Check out this article for some examples.

I'm not suggesting that Renee Zellweger doesn't look human, but I am suggesting that she doesn't look like the Renee Zellweger we remember from Bridget Jones or Jerry McGuire. We have an expectation of the visual representation of "Renee Zellweger" and her new appearance looks "almost Renee Zellweger," just as many realistic human robots look "almost human."

It's that violation of our expectations that causes our reaction, that "close but not quite" feeling, causing us to make comparisons of what we're seeing to what we have seen and try to hone in on what is different. It's a tension that we struggle to resolve, and when we can't, we are revulsed, creeped out, angry or sad.

As an immersive learning designer, it's a good reminder that people have a deep, immediate emotional response when their expectations are violated, especially to discrepancy or changes in characters, often in a negative way. As a human being, it's a good reminder to be gentle with each other, and today, to be gentle with Renee Zellweger.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Open and honest questions

On Saturday I attended a retreat on how to ask open and honest questions as part of my ongoing learning and growth as a member of the Worship Committee at USSB. 

It sounds so easy! Open and honest seems like such a natural extension of being a good listener, no? 

Actually, no.

The goal of open and honest questions are to help the person you are listening to deepen their thinking and understanding of the situation they are sharing with you. They are questions in service of the speaker, a gift you can give to help someone better process their thoughts, think differently about a situation, or reach their own epiphany. 

Why are they so difficult? Because we typically ask questions in service of ourselves, the listener. We ask inquiring questions to satisfy our curiosity. We ask diagnostic questions to try to identify the problem and solution ourselves. We ask leading questions to "encourage" the speaker to see our perspective on a situation, or apply our opinions as a possible solution. In short, open and honest questions are difficult because as we listen we are really preparing for what to say next, how to engage in the conversation in a meaningful way but in a way that ultimately serves ourselves. 

Open and honest questions require you to listen deeply to what someone is saying, to hear the themes, and to identify questions in service to the person speaking. For example, after sharing a difficult situation about my children, one of my group members asked, "How would you define your role as a mom in this situation?" That question allowed me to think more deeply about what my responsibility is, and isn't, in relationship to the decisions my kiddo is making. It wasn't a question that gave an opinion or asked for more detail about the situation; it was a question that made me think. 

Open and honest questions are the ones that make you pause when they are asked, a total body response as the question "lands" on you, and the best ones are questions that hit at the core of the answers you yourself need to be able to find.  In that vein, one of the most interesting challenges of open and honest questions is that the questioner shouldn't necessarily expect an immediate response. When someone asks you the question you need to answer, it might actually take awhile. Even if the answer isn't immediate, the work is going on inside. 

How can we incorporate more open and honest questions into training and learning? Isn't this the core of motivation and behavior change? How can we marry open and honest questions with training content to get to not just the what, but also the how and why of change?

Monday, September 22, 2014

My activist heart

I was Worship Associate at the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara yesterday and as part of the service, I not only got to be the voice of Mother Earth (!), but I also delivered this reflection on the tension of wanting to devote your life to making the world a better place and the daily demands of life.
You might not think by looking at me that I am an activist.

In college I worked in inner city schools in Lansing, Michigan to try to prepare the kids they deemed “disadvantaged” to go to college. Later, after grad school, I quit my corporate Training Manager job and helped start a charter school in Philadelphia based on the radical constructivist educational beliefs of Paolo Freire. I’ve participated in pro-choice rallies and I even got to sit in the office of the Deputy Governor of Pennsylvania and explain how the legislation they were passing to heavily regulate women’s health facilities would impact the women of Pennsylvania.  I financially support several grassroots and lobbying organizations that support movements like equality, clean water and climate change.  On Martin Luther King Day, I take my children to work on projects in the community.

I’m proud to be a Unitarian Universalist, in part, because of our history and beliefs rooted in social justice. I am an activist in the deepest part of my being, wanting to change the world, leaving it better than when I came into it.

There’s another side to the story, though. I don’t know what happened to those kids I tutored in Lansing…I graduated before most of them would have ever even applied to college. Two years after helping start Freire Charter School, I had to leave and get a “real job” because I couldn’t afford my student loan payments. That legislation in Pennsylvania passed and many, many clinics that had provided abortion services were forced to close their doors. By that time, I was accepting the job that moved me here to Carpinteria.

I want to be an activist, I want to stand up for my liberal beliefs, I want to make the world better, and yet the demands of daily life: my financial obligations, the things I want to be able to provide to my children and the things that simply bring me joy…these things are in constant competition with this feeling that I can, and should, make a difference.

I feel this most acutely when I see the phenomenal work and effort of others. Becca Claassen, one of our own congregation, has dedicated her time, energy…her life…to her passion: protecting our water in Santa Barbara county and working against climate change. I cannot tell you how much I admire her and the work that she is doing, standing up for what she believes in. Her passion and commitment is inspiring as an example of living our principles.
Watching Becca and others who live their values makes me deeply consider if I’m practicing what I preach. We all have our unique passions that drive us, and mine is gender equality. As a woman in the tech and gaming industries, I’ve faced more bias, discrimination and harassment than even those closest to me will probably ever know. I’m not alone and gender discrimination in the workplace is just the tip of the iceberg. Recent public conversations about street harassment, rape culture in schools and college campuses and the heightened focus on domestic violence prompted by arrests and indictments of NFL players, fuel my passion to work toward gender equality. When I see the work of Wendy Davis in Texas, I long to join the cause that seeks to make this country, this world, just as safe and full of opportunity for my daughters as it is for my sons.

There is a tension. I’m not in a position that I could quit my job and dedicate my time to gender equality, even if that’s where my activist heart is. I have bills and kids and a house to take care of and commitments to honor to my family and to myself.

What can I do? For me, the sentiment “Think global, act local” rings true. Maybe today isn’t my day to change the world in a big, public way. Maybe there will never be that day. But today is the day that I can teach my children about gender bias and discrimination. It IS the day that I can raise issues in my workplace that level the playing field. It IS the day I can write blog posts, post articles via social media. It IS the day that I can offer financial support to those who are dedicating their lives to the causes I believe in. It IS the day that I can jump in when I can, to march in a rally or make canvasing calls.

Today is the day that I have shared my passions with all of you. Maybe you are a passionate feminist too…maybe there are ways we can work together and support each other. Maybe today is the day that you share what you’re passionate about with someone after the service and you make a connection that leads to action that really does make the world better.

Maybe I don’t have to be an army of one to change the world. Maybe we are the army already.

Friday, September 19, 2014

My littlest teacher

My youngest daughter, Sallie Rose, is 8 years old today.

Have you ever met someone who, as soon as you talk to them, warms your heart? Who when they listen to you, really listens and understands? Who knows just when you need a hug, or a word of encouragement? Who has an infectious and totally unselfconscious giggle? Who is wise, insightful and mature beyond her years?

I gave birth to one of those people. I wasn't sure I wanted more children after I had settled in with my two older boys (funny, now that we have six...) and I was pretty sure I was a "boy-mom." As we like to say, she snuck in there. I cried when I found out at my first ultrasound that she was a girl; I didn't think I'd know how to raise a girl.

It didn't matter what I thought I knew, or what I didn't know...Sallie has taught me. She has a heart so big it can't be contained in her little body and you can sense it whenever you are near her. She makes life better for everyone around her. I admire her strength and wisdom and most of all, her radiating love.

We find many teachers in our lives and learn different things from these people that help us grow and evolve. My daughter has been one of my greatest teachers. She gives me strength and perspective and courage.

Happy birthday, Sallie Rose. And no, you don't have to ride in your booster seat anymore :)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Immerse yourself in learning at #DevLearn 2014

It's almost DevLearn season! A few weeks ago, I wrote a reflection on why I go to DevLearn each year that was posted by the eLearning Guild, "Something New."

DevLearn 2013
This will be my 7th DevLearn in a row. Wow. My first year, in 2008, my fledgling company Tandem Learning attended as a new vendor. The conference was in San Jose and we had a booth out in the hallway, showing off 3D immersive environments for learning and our demo of a Virtual Territory for pharma sales training. We also hosted a wine reception, and it was there that I met many of the people in the learning industry that I call friends today. 

Over the years, I ran ARGs at DevLearn, hosted the Emerging Tech stage for a couple years, did pre-conference sessions, concurrent sessions, and even did the closing Ignite! keynote wearing a fabulous fascinator (the conference had moved to Vegas by then and I wanted to channel my inner showgirl).
DevLearn 2009: Dr Strangelearn ARG
I'm particularly excited about DevLearn this year. While there are lots of reasons, not least of which are getting to see Neil Tyson Degrasse keynote and the new location at the Bellagio, the main reason I'm excited about DevLearn 2014 is because this is the first year I'll be attending as an author. It was a long road to publishing my first book, Immersive Learning, and I'm really proud and excited to share the key themes of the book at DevLearn this year. 

Ignite! Closing keynote 2011
There's a few ways you can join me in exploring immersive design at DevLearn this year. First I'm hosting a concurrent session on Thurs, Oct 30th at 10:30 am to share real-world examples of how organizations are using immersive learning to improve performance. If you're attending DevLearn, I hope to see you there!

If you REALLY want to immerse yourself in immersive learning, please join me on Tuesday, October 28th for a full-day pre-conference workshop. We'll spend the day digging in to the immersive design process and you'll leave with an actionable design document. You'll learn how to do a thorough analysis which is critical and serves as the basis for your design, we'll walk through how to make decisions on theme, character development, storyline structure, feedback and scoring. 
We'll explore all of the different technologies available to deliver your immersive training. I'm really excited about this session, and hope you'll join me!

Other places I'll be at DevLearn? Look for me signing books on Thursday after my concurrent session (time tentatively set for 12:30pm) and maybe even a Morning Buzz session? Otherwise, I'll be attending sessions and looking forward to opportunities to connect with all of the brilliant people congregating at DevLearn this year. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

#draw21days Day 18: Cardboard doodles

Despite my solo-parenting weekend, I'm actually finding quite a bit of time to catch up on my drawing. As I'm getting to the end of the challenges, I'm starting to wonder what's next and how I can keep this practice going. I've never thought of myself as an artist, but I'm starting to not be able to picture NOT drawing. Maybe it's time for some art lessons? Maybe I should check out the other courses on :)

Last night I was checking in with the littlest Pagano and my husband before their bedtime. The little guy was describing his "invisible friend" who lives in California while he's away. His name is Burn and he has a fiery tail and likes to give you sunburns. Doesn't sound like a very nice guy, but I decided to try to draw what he might looks like for my Day 18 challenge. Here's Burn:

I still had a lot of cardboard left and time to kill while I worked with my 6th grader on math homework, so I also drew Burn's nemesis, Cooly McFishy.

I've also decided that I'm not that excited by doodling, but at least this was a chance for me to practice the graphical/cartoon style that I've been struggling with.

I did like working on the thicker cardboard as opposed to paper, and working with pen instead of pencil was a little unnerving...I'm still not that confident! But at least I'm taking chances!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

#draw21days Day 16: Drawing design & Day 17: Window to the soul

I'm back in it!

After getting past the dinosaurs on Day 15, I broke out my new sketch pad and pencils and worked on the next two challenges this morning.

Day 16's challenge is to draw an iconic image of an owl, using photo references to guide your drawing. Graphical style drawings are not my strong suit, or at least I don't feel super confident in those drawings. I took a couple passes to try to get more "logo-like" but I also wanted to take my new pencils for a spin, so I still did some shading.


This is one that I might come back to and try to get more graphical, but I do like how my owls turned out.

Day 17...eyes! Yay!

I used to doodle eyes constantly, so the biggest challenge with this challenge was not falling into my old doodling patterns. The challenge was to do 2 drawings, 1 realistic and 1 graphical. I used a photo of John and I as a reference and drew John's left eye. I really like how it turned out.

Coming off the realistic eye, I had to do a couple "in between" drawings before I got more graphical. One of the things I was thinking of was how difficult being a cartoonist would be for me, as I really struggle with simplicity and consistency of shapes. This is definitely something to work on!

A few more challenges to go...I'm already wondering what to do once the 21 challenges are complete.

Friday, September 12, 2014

#draw21days: Day 15: Boxing Dinosaurs

It's been well over 21 days, but I'm not giving up on the drawing challenge! I could tell you all about how busy I've been (true), but the abbreviated story is: :)

Tonight my house is full of teenagers and I'm down a spouse, so while I chaperone, I'm drawing. 

AND! I got myself actual drawing supplies! Nice art pencils, colored pencils, and an honest to goodness sketch pad. I don't think they will help my drawing skills much, but since I've really started to like drawing, I wanted to get some supplies better than whatever I could scrounge from my kids' school supplies.

A confession: I haven't wanted to do the Day 15 Challenge. Like, I REALLY didn't want to do it. I don't even know why. I don't have anything against dinosaurs, and it didn't seem that hard. Still, every time I thought about completing the challenge, I'd think, "no." I even considered just skipping it and going on to the next challenge, but I'm stubborn and wanted to do the challenge in order. 

So here it is. I drew dinosaurs in boxes, and one having tea. The T-Rex is sitting at my 8th grader's request, who told me as I was finishing up the brontosaurus that he always pictures T-Rexs sitting (he doesn't know why).

Now that I've broken the Day 15 barrier, I'm hoping the rest of the 21 days come more easily. 


Monday, September 8, 2014

Learning by trying

Even though I wrote a book on immersive learning, one of the main premises of which is that failure is an excellent and meaningful way to learn, I still hate failing. Hate it.

I mean, come on, who likes failing? We like to win. We like to do well. We want praise and accolades and admiration, not a side-long glance that screams "do better next time" or being dismissed or worse, pitied.  Failing sucks, the consequences of failing suck, and all the "we learn the most from our mistakes" reassurances in the world don't really soothe the sting of failure. 

At the same time, we know on some level that it's true. We DO learn a lot when we fail. It makes us reflect, take stock. It makes us really look at and question our own behaviors. It makes us re-evaluate our decisions. Failure is without a doubt a teachable moment. 

I'm not talking about passive failure here. It doesn't count if you didn't actually try or if you quit. Failure without effort only teaches you that if you don't try, you can't succeed. Quitting is a completely different dynamic than failing and influenced by a number of things...quitting is a teachable moment on it's own and should supercede the associated failure. 

I'm talking about good old-fashioned "I gave it my all and it still wasn't good enough" failure. I've had a few of these in my life, as most of us have. Some of these failures taught me things about myself, some have taught me things about others, some about human nature. Some of the lessons were tough ones. 

I'm in the reflection phase of a big failure right now. This time it wasn't a personal failure; this was a process failure, a failure of a system...specifically, the legal system. 

I firmly believe you have to do what's right, even when you know you're up against the odds, even with high cost and high risk. When you know you're doing what's right, it makes the decision to try easy even if the task isn't easy. Sometimes you just have to tell the truth, even when no one believes you and even when it doesn't make things better. Sometimes you just have to jump in, try, and do your best.

This summer, my family made a decision to trust the legal system and confront a terrible situation. We knew what we were doing was right. We knew we'd have to listen to lies and that ultimately, someone who doesn't know us or anything about the situation would make a judgment. We lost. And it sucked. I want to wallow. I want to fight back. I want to scream at the universe and shake my fist in anger. I don't understand how liars win. I've spent so much time thinking about what we could have done differently. The truth is, we did our best. 

So what am I learning from this failure? I've dealt with liars and manipulators before, so charming and convincing that they were able to maintain their lies for years, hurting everyone around them. I've believed lies with all of my heart. Each time I finally realized the truth in those situations, I'd swear that I'd never be duped again. But never is a mighty long time and one thing I know I don't want to learn is to become so cynical and distrusting that I close myself off to hope, love and wonder. 

I'm seeing a similar situation here in Santa Barbara county. My dear friend Becca Claassen is fighting to make fracking illegal and she is up against the oil companies who have more money, more resources and some really charming lawyers. She's fighting against their lies; she's fight for what's right. She's fought hard and got Measure P on the ballot for November to let the voters choose. I'm so proud of her. It's hard to face the opposition every day, especially ones who have the advantage. It's hard going into a situation knowing that the odds are against you. It's hard to try when failure is likely. Even though we want to believe the David vs Goliath stories, the reason why that story is so compelling is that it's rare. 

The hard truth, the one I haven't wanted to accept, is that there are people out there who lie. Worse, a lot of those liars are so convincing that other people believe them. And truly horrifying is that people will lie to their own advantage, even when it hurts everyone around them and the people they love most. This doesn't mean that we shouldn't tell the truth. This doesn't mean that we shouldn't try, shouldn't stand up for ourselves, shouldn't do what we know is right. Even if David had been defeated, he was still better than Goliath. 

Sometimes it's not even about telling the truth or triumphing over lies. Last May, my then 6th grader Jackson participated in the Santa Barbara Math Super Bowl. Saying this kid loves math is an understatement, and it was his last year of being able to participate. The previous year, he had went with his team but didn't receive any awards. This year he was confident and excited; he had been practicing extensively for the entire year in preparation. During the awards ceremony, as they listed the 6th-1st place winners first in 4th grade, then 5th grade, and finally the 6th graders, my anxiety was growing. What if he didn't get an award? How would he feel about the effort he had put in? What would the lesson be if he had done his best and it wasn't good enough? As the names were read, I could feel his anxiety too. I'm proud to say our nervousness was for nothing; he ended up winning with a perfect score, the last name read. But it could have gone the other way, and what if it had? He would have been crushed and defeated and sad and angry. I'm sure he would have looked back on his efforts all year and questioned if he should have tried at all if the end result wasn't a victory medal around his neck. Some of his teammates, and surely most of the kids in that conference hall, had to face that reflection. I hope they learned from their efforts, not just from the end result. 

When I started Tandem Learning in 2008, the odds were against me succeeding. I knew it, but I felt like we could be successful and more importantly that I had to try. There were ups and downs and successes and failures, and ultimately with our acquisition 4 years later, I closed that chapter thankful for the journey. And I got a tattoo, a modified quote from Teddy Roosevelt

if she fails, at least she fails while daring greatly

We have to try. We have to risk failure. We have to know, on some deep level, that life is a marathon, not a sprint. We have to know that we can lose a battle and still win the war. We have to learn that sometimes, it's the trying, not the failure or success, that defines a person. It is in the trying and risking that we learn, not just in the success or failure. It's in the trying that we learn who we are.

Friday, August 29, 2014

#draw21days Days 9-14: Catching up

I knew when I started the 21-Day Drawing Challenge that my vacation was going to fall smack-dab in the middle of it. I also knew that I had planned my vacation with no cell service and no wifi for a reason. Still, I figured drawing was a perfect way to fill some low-tech time on the ranch, and that's just what I did.

Yes there were some challenges: I had to work in fits and starts, since I needed to go into town to get a signal to view the challenges I'd missed. I didn't have the ability to print anything, or take any reference sheets with me...basically, I had to try to improvise if there was anything I needed to remember to help guide me in the challenge.

I actually went into vacation a couple days behind, so I felt good that I could catch up and keep going. In fact, I did better on vacation than I've done since our return...returning to life, work and school starting have thrown me off my drawing tempo. Still, I'm plugging along!

Day 9: Man-made drawing

I had to draw 2 of 4: a house, an espresso machine, an airplane or headphones. I was NOT SURE about this challenge, but I finally decided on headphones and an airplane. I started with the headphones, and they were tough. I found myself revising quite a bit, trying to get the right angles and perspectives. I added some shading to help me see if I had gotten the angles right.

After I was pretty happy with the headphones, I moved on to the airplane. I found this one much, much easier, and I liked the straight lines.

After completing the drawing, the kids did an appraisal and raved about how good they looked. It reminded me of my 7th grade drafting class, and how much more comfortable I am trying to represent reality than being more creative. It's probably why I write nonfiction not fiction. It's probably why I like teaching and giving presentations, not storytelling and acting. Since I'm really trying to do this challenge to push myself to be more creative, I'm going to try to stay away from mechanical drawing for awhile, just to keep me out of my comfort zone!

Day 10: Doodle sheet

This is what I'm talking about! Doodles! I don't know about you, but I love to doodle. I don't think I'm a particularly interesting doodler, but I enjoy it. The only issue with today's challenge is that I had SO MUCH WHITE SPACE. I was trying to fill the entire sheet and I really only can draw so many flowers before I get bored. I started soliciting ideas from John and the kids, "what should I draw?" So some of the items on here were by request, like the bunny, roasting marshmallows and the waterfall. A lot was inspired by our vacation and things I was seeing, including the shooting star, the horse, the dogs and chickens and the bat.

Day 11: Drawing a monster

The Day 11 challenge was to make up a new monster! I approached today with no idea what I was going to draw. I started with a bunch of eyes and worked my way down. I think it ended up being some sort of swamp creature with a pot belly. Too many little kids eaten this week, I guess :)

I liked going into this with no idea what I was drawing. I also tried my hand at feet for the first time...even if they were flippered feet. All in all, really liked this challenge. And I loved my daughter's vampoodle drawing!

Day 12: Metaphorical or literal approach

When I finally got the wifi working in town and saw the video for this challenge, I kinda panicked. What's the opposite of mechanical drawings? Drawing something that isn't even a thing!

Anguish, hope, curiosity and mystery. I tried not to go TOO obvious, but this one definitely pushed me to think. Even though it's a little cliche, I love how "curiosity" turned out. In terms of metaphorical, though, I like my drawing for mystery. I don't really know what's behind that door, but I don't think I want to find out.

Day 13: Tell a visual story

This one was coming up on the end of our vacation. Every day of vacation, I sat on the porch and looked out at the land. Some days there were bison roaming, sometimes there were wild horses grazing around, and often I just watched the kids riding on the ATVs. My 7 year old daughter was particularly fun to watch, as she refused to tie her long hair back and it would fly behind her, whipping in the wind.

I don't know if this day's drawing is as good of a story to anyone else as it was to me: the story of our vacation.

Day 14: Reality is boring, so distort it

Another tough one, and tougher because I didn't have the reference page easily accessible. I ended up putting this one off until we were back from vacation, and even then had a hard time really getting into it. While the reference picture looks like Alfred Hitchcock walking in the rain, I ended up channeling Singin' in the Rain, but after the rain had stopped. My guy looks less like the reference pic and more like a friend of mine, but I won't call him out (just in case I'm the only one who sees it!).

I've been stuck this week on getting the reference sheet for Day 15, but I'm confident that with only 6 days left to complete, I've got this. More posts to come!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

#draw21days : Day 8: Light Source

When you take on a 21-day challenge, you have no idea what events external to the challenge itself might transpire that make completing the challenge...challenging. Going into these 21 days, I didn't anticipate mourning the death of Robin Williams, sitting with my own experiences with depression, the shock and horror of the events transpiring in Ferguson, hasn't been an easy week.

And yet, here I am, completing my 8th day of learning something new. Appropriately, the 8th day challenge was about shading and light, with a varying light source. With everything swirling in my head, it was hard to focus on the light source. I found myself struggling to complete the challenge, but I kept at it. Here's the result.

It seems appropriate, given the last couple dark days, that I should practice focusing on sources of light. I'll take this timely metaphor, thanks :)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

#draw21days Day 7: What do you like?

Today's challenge's timing was interesting, since I just came off of drawing a mermaid for the cubism challenge. I decided to draw another mermaid, this time in a more cartoon style. I struggled with her arms, and I'm still not sure I like her face, but I like the sand dollar top and the shading on her tail scales turned out quite nice. Not bad for a lunchtime drawing break!

I'm thinking I should really try to draw more mermaids in different styles, as inspiration for my next tattoo...maybe a pirate mermaid?

#draw21days Day 5: Iteration & Day 6: Cubism

Doubling down on blogging the 21-Day Drawing Challenge for days 5 & 6!

I knew Day 5 was going to be a challenge when I heard the word "iteration"...I have been spending a lot of time on my drawings and the thought of drawing them again and again seemed daunting. And it was.

I decided to draw a skull, mostly because I tried to draw a shark and it was such a train wreck that I didn't think I could bear to keep reiterating on it. My first skull wasn't much better.

Nor was my second.

But my third skull was a definite improvement, and I began to feel a little hopeful that I could do this.

I then decided to try something completely different and make a skull form from smaller drawings. I think this idea is pretty cool and I was optimistic about the end result.

But try as I might to get excited about it, I kept going back to my third drawing and making improvements, adding shading, and eventually I just focused on making that skull the best I could.

The end result is good, but the issue I had overall was time. I just didn't have enough to dedicate to the amount of work I wanted to do with this drawing. At some point I just called it "good enough," but I do wonder if, with a lot more time, I could have improved on the skull a lot more. Maybe this is a good one to come back to?

Day 6 proved a lot easier: cubism! I LOVE this style, and when I saw one of the options was "sea creature," it was pretty much done that I was going to draw a mermaid. Mind you, although I love this style, I don't think I've ever drawn anything cubistic, so I wasn't sure how it would turn out. I had particular difficulty figuring out her hands, and I ended up adding an oyster with a pearl for her to hold as a solution. I love her hair and I think her tail turned out quite well.

This may have inspired me to try to draw my own mermaid tattoo...

Friday, August 8, 2014

#draw21days Day 4: Give yourself a high five

Late in blogging, but I actually did complete the Day 4 challenge yesterday. The goal was to draw your non-dominant hand in 5 different styles, of your own choosing. I wasn't exactly sure how to approach this, or how to start, so I've noticed that my default is to go for realistic first.

I actually started in pen, too, which is a little bold for me, since I still don't feel very confident in approaching these challenges, but it was the closest thing handy and I didn't even think about it until after I had started drawing, so I just went with it.

My wedding ring is awesome, but it doesn't lend itself to being drawn easily :)

After my first drawing, I thought I'd try a more cartoon approach, but it turned out a little more witchy than cartoonish. I like the spiky nails and I liked approaching my knuckles with triangles. I gave up the pen for this one and for all the drawings there after; pencil makes me feel safer.

My third drawing I decided to try my hand (pun intended) at pointillism. It turned out looking a little furry, but I think an interesting look and feel.

For my 4th drawing, I went back to continuous line drawings from earlier this week and I think the end result was quite nice...maybe I AM making some progress after all!

My last hand is drawn only using geometric shapes, even my ring! It looks like a robot hand, which is pretty cool.

All in all, a fun challenge today. Something I noted afterwards was that I drew all of my hands in the same position and from the same perspective. I felt like I could have played with my hand position a lot more and made a fist or something cool. I also would like to spend more time with each one, but drawing five different drawings seemed daunting time-wise. I don't want to skimp on focus and effort, but it definitely was a challenge to find the time to do all of those drawings in one already busy day.

On to day 5...

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

#draw21days Day 3: Draw what you see

I was so busy this morning that I didn't see that the Day 3 challenge was up until John texted me his drawing...I should not have looked!

I have a painting by my favorite artist, Kandinsky, hanging in our bedroom. What I love about it is that while the shapes are familiar, everyone sees something different in the piece, just like everyone sees something different in clouds passing overhead.

That was the basis of today's challenge: given a starting image of abstract lines, draw what you see in the picture.

As soon as I saw he had sent me his drawing, I closed my messages and got to work on my challenge, not wanting to be influenced by what he had seen.

Today, I decided to add some color, but unfortunately was limited to the sharpies and highlighters at the office. Still, I'm glad that I did because it helped me to define my drawings. The first thing I saw was the woman at the top. I wasn't sure if she was wearing a dress or jumpsuit, but as I started to try to define a dress, I saw the cat next to her, which helped me see the jumpsuit. I had noticed the dinosaur feet at the bottom, with the tail and the head, and saw Dino from the Flintstones. As I tried to fill out the scene, I noticed a lot of leaf patterns, so I filled those in, as well as the ground.

After I finished, I went back to look at John's...he had seen the circus! Thankfully, no clowns :)

Today seemed much easier, relative to yesterday, but almost too easy. I found that I didn't feel like I was defining shapes more than drawing. Maybe that was emphasized by my feeling like I was coloring in a kid's coloring book, which I love to do, but had never considered part of drawing. This is one I might try doing again.

For more info on the 21 Day Drawing Challenge, click here:

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

#draw21days Challenge Day 2: Continuous Line Drawings

The Day 2 challenge posted and I feel like I'm in way over my head, after taking great pride in my cat drawing yesterday. The challenge today was "continuous line drawings" and we needed to draw 4 of them: a smiling face, a hand holding a soda bottle, a man riding a unicycle, and a running dog.

My first question was: how do I draw a continuous line drawing? Are there rules? If I pick up my pencil, do I lose? Can I go back over previous lines? Is it just a matter of not taking my pencil off the paper? What if I really screw up? Can I go back and erase the mistake and pick up where I left off, or do I need to start all over again?

Clearly I'm a perfectionist and not used to this loosey-goosey direction of "draw a continuous line drawing."

I'm stressed. But I did the drawings, so there's that at least.

First, I started with the smiling face:

I was not sure what the heck I was doing, so I kept it REALLY simple. It's not bad, but it kinda looks like some kind of free icon. 

Next I drew the hand holding a soda bottle. This one was really hard, and I did erase the bottle a few times and start over because I couldn't get the size perspective quite right. I did decide to do some shading (without lifting my pencil, since I was so concerned with doing it "right"), and I decided with this drawing that it was ok to go back over lines I'd already drawn as long as I didn't lift my pencil. Makin' up my own rules ;)

I was a little more confident going into the man riding a unicycle and a little less concerned about how to add detail once I gave myself permission to draw over previous lines. He looks a little like elastic man, but I am pretty proud of my glasses/eyes/nose/mouth combo, as well as the tire treads. This one was hard, but I enjoyed trying to figure out the little details (even though his arms and shoulders need some work!). 

The last drawing I completed was the running dog. I looked up some images on Google of dogs running for inspiration, and I picked a little dog that looks a lot like one of our dogs, Sherlock. I decided to try shading again, to get the feeling of fur. I liked drawing this one the most, even though I was not at all sure how to capture the idea of motion.

So there you have it! Day 2 is on the books. I'll be interested to see everyone else's drawings, how they interpreted "continuous line" and hear what challenges they faced. I'm already looking forward to tomorrow's challenge!

If you're interested in joining the 21 Day Drawing Challenge, check out the Facebook page for more info!