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!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Learn something new

I've worked at for over 2 years and I'm ashamed to say that I've spent very little time learning on our site. I've spent lots of time on our site for work, and as Director of Product Management for our Enterprise products, I've spent lots of time talking to all kinds of people about how they use or would like to use in their organizations. You'd think that I'd be a power user, but the truth is, once I log off my computer at the end of the work day, I usually don't log back in, even though I really want to take ALL of the photography classes and my pivot table knowledge in Excel could use some refreshing.

I've been thinking about how immersive learning design applies to me expanding my other design skills. I wrote a whole book on immersive design and still I struggle just like everyone else to find the motivation to jump in an practice a new skill consistently to improve my performance. I have two skills I want to master by the end of this year. First, I want to be able to play my Evelyn Evelyn ukelele from Amanda Palmer (as shown in the awesome birthday package I received a few years ago...).

Second, I want to learn how to improve my drawing skills. Ever since I hand drew wireframes for a new feature flow, my team has been making comments about my now legendary lack of drawing skills. And my newest addiction with the French Girls app has made me even more interested in pushing myself to grow in my ability to draw.

So, applying my immersive design expertise, I'm going to tackle these two goals in the context of immersive learning.

My ukelele playing is going to improve with a simple design that's a tiered system of practice/performance with the ultimate goal of playing my husband, John, a song of his choice for his 40th birthday this November. I'm still working out the performance schedule, but stepping stones include a song for our trip to Yosemite this month, a song for my daughter's birthday in September, a song for our dear friends' wedding in October, a song for DevLearn at the end of October, all leading up to a song for John's birthday. I'll keep you posted with progress!

My drawing is getting jump-started this month with a design challenge through It starts today, and I'm looking forward to posting my progress. If you're interested in improving your drawing skills too, draw along with me! I'd love the company, and it would be great to have some peer pressure to complete the challenge every day. You can sign up for the challenge here:

I've already completed today's drawing challenge, "draw a cat." So far, so good...

If immersive learning is learning by doing, then let's do this!

Killing me with delight

Below is my reflection shared as part of the service on August 3rd at the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara.
I'd like to share a poem that was introduced to me by Nancy Edmondson at a recent retreat for the Worship Committee at USSB.
by Mary Oliver
Every day
      I see or hear
                  that more or less
kills me
      with delight,
            that leaves me
                  like a needle
in the haystack
      of light.
            It was what I was born for –
                  to look, to listen,
to lose myself
      inside this soft world –
            to instruct myself
                  over and over
in joy,
      and acclamation.
            Nor am I talking
                  about the exceptional,
the fearful, the dreadful,
      the very extravagant –
            but of the ordinary,
                  the common, the very drab,
the daily presentations.
      Oh, good scholar,
            I say to myself,
                  how can you help
but grow wise
      with such teachings
            as these –
                  the untrimmable light
of the world,
      the ocean’s shine,
            the prayers that are made
                  out of grass?
- See more at:

During the retreat, we reflected on what kills us with delight. I knew right away what I would share.

This summer, my 12 year old's voice changed. One day he was a sweet soprano, and the next day he sounded like Bowser from  Sha-na-na. "Hey mom." I'd make him repeat it, just so I could hear it and reconcile this grown man's voice with my first baby's face. "Hey mom," he'd say again, humoring me. 

It killed me to hear it. It killed me with delight, this incongruous sound coming from that same boy who's first word was "hi!" which inevitably made every stranger he greeted melt. This new deep voice would stop me in my tracks and make me giggle. He knew it, and would repeat whatever I asked him to, giggling with me. Laughing together at the wonder of life, growing up and recognizing that while he's always going to be my first baby, he's not a baby anymore. 

This month's theme is transcendence. It's such a big word, transcendence. And there are multiple meanings. It's original definition was that God is outside of and beyond the world, as opposed to being in and part of the world. Later, Immanuel Kant defined transcendence as that which lies beyond what our faculty of knowledge can legitimately know. Most of his philosophical thinking was focused on the relationship between our knowledge of self and our knowledge of objects. For example, how do we assign characteristics to new objects we encounter without having previous knowledge of those objects? This is the basic plotline of many a horror movie...we encounter aliens for the first time with an expectation that they are friendly, only to be horribly horribly wrong. And then there is the modern colloquial definition of transcendence, a feeling of going outside of yourself, a mystical sense of the universe.

Such a big idea, and yet, it's often quite little events, little moments, when we feel that sense that there is something bigger than us. It might be standing in the never ending ebb and flow of the waves on the beach when I realize that I am small, and weak, and powerless to stop their relentless motion. It may be as I'm standing in the middle of a crowd, looking across at people all with their own stories and hopes and fears that are probably not so different than my own, that I feel like I am one small piece of a puzzle so big I can't grasp it's size or meaning. It might be looking up at the stars and wondering if anyone else is out there. It might be examining a spider's intricate web and marveling at the beauty of it's form and function. It might be examining the wings of a ladybug that my daughter caught that don't seem capable of carrying it's hard-coated body. It is definitely hearing my son's newly deep voice, and realizing that just as he is changing, so am is everyone. It is bigger than me and it is miraculous. 

You'd think that feeling small or insignificant or mystified would elicit negative feelings, fear or anxiety. But it's really quite the opposite, isn't it? When I feel transcendence, I am killed with delight. I feel hope and connection and a faith in a power much bigger than me and bigger than my capacity to understand it. I feel it when I hear my son's newly deep voice. I feel it every Sunday, here with you. Transcendence makes me feel the compassion of the universe and my fellow travelers in it. I appreciate our shared human experience and our unique roads on the journey. I feel wonder. I feel love. Maybe I am small and insignificant, but I am also important and able to do good.

Perhaps you feel it too. Perhaps you feel it here. So today, as we finish singing Call out a Blessing, you know that the little squeeze you give to my hand? That squeeze is going to kill me with delight.