I’ve been goofing off lately. Trust me, it’s not like I don’t have plenty of things to do, emails to write, deadlines to meet and commitments to keep. I’ve just been distracted. But, it’s not really my fault, you see… it’s the people I’ve been hanging out with lately. They’ve been influencing me. They’re silly and they’re making me act silly.
It all started a few months ago when I bought this book called Drawing Lab. I discovered it in a copy of Cloth, Paper, Scissors, my new favorite magazine, and web site, by the way, to stare at lately. Now, the thing is, I don’t really draw that often. I make sketches for my book illustrations and sometimes for my art, but I’m pretty lousy at keeping a sketchbook even though I completely like the idea of doing so, and I often feel like I have a creative block when it comes to “drawing” stuff; it’s like I can never think of anything to draw. And, of course, since I never went to fartsy-art-school, I really don’t have that art school kind of drawing– you know the kind that actually looks like people and animals and fruit and stuff? My drawings look pretty much the same now as they did when I was about 9 years old except now I’m way more critical of them, which is not a good thing, I know, but I’m confessing to you here, my friends. So, since I preach creativity and I work with kids– and kids love to draw (well, up to a certain age, probably until they start to believe that they can’t, maybe somewhere around 10 years old, and maybe a topic for another blog), I thought this looked like a great book to try to rev up my drawing skills, or at least my drawing confidence. You know, call out my inner nine year old, the one who loved to draw and didn’t care if it looked any old which way. I bought the book because it looked fun. It looked kooky. And, most importantly, it looked easy. One drawing a week? No sweat.
It’s written and illustrated by Carla Sonheim. And, truthfully, she’s the reason it is so easy, and so fun. I only know Carla in a virtual way at this point, but I could tell, after paging through this book and trawling through her web site and blog, that she is a kindred spirit. Go learn about this creativity queen (or “Squeen,” as she is known) and you will see what I am talking about. So, when she recently offered up the third installment of a class she calls “The Art of Silliness,” I knew I was gonna be IN it!
So, I’m nearly a full week into the course and I have to tell you it is so, so much more than just drawing, but I’m getting ahead of myself! The course is $25 and is a month long deal (but you can still join now and catch up), with a silly, daily email that includes some silly anecdotal silliness and a link to the day’s silly worksheet which is sent to you as a jpg. Your job, as a silly student, is to do the silly worksheet every day and then post it onto the group’s silly Flickr page. There’s totally no stress, you don’t have to do the worksheets every day, or even at all if you don’t want to. And, you could even participate but not post to Flickr if you didn’t want to do that. But, it’s on this Flickr page where the magic of the project starts to take hold.
I’m going to admit that I wasn’t sure what to expect when it all started. And I’m going to admit that I felt a little ho-hum about it after the first worksheet came to me (no offense, Carla). I have a lot of other work-related stuff going on right now, but I also have a really negative attitude about “worksheets” likely as a result of the way they’ve been institutionalized in our schools and used as a replacement for inspired, creative, critical thinking and doing (perhaps yet another blog topic). My first Silly worksheet was, I have to admit, really pretty lame. The next day, however, I checked into the group Flickr site and realized something really cool: there was a vibrant community of people here, all of us taking a moment out of our day to play, to draw, to do something silly and then share it with each other. I imagined this group of people, scattered across the country, even other countries, sitting at tables with markers, crayons and pencils, hunched over drawings with their hippocampi all lit up, and I felt like we were all a part of a silly, creative whole, like a big artistic machine. I saw other people’s work, many of whom were in their third round of Carla’s course, and I was delighted, amused and inspired. Within just a day, people began commenting back and forth, looking at each other’s stuff, being influenced by it and injecting the creativity of others into their own work– which, by the way, often went outside the literal and metaphorical boundaries of the “worksheet.” Within just a day, a creative community was born. I’d have to step up my game.
Some highlights from the week include dressed up dogs, a Squeen self-portrait, a bleefleepered bride, and, wow, check this out… a Brazilian shoe party for Barbie. Because there is always something on the site that someone else has done in an awesome way, my drawings got better as the week progressed. Today I made a shout out to everyone, through my worksheet, and asked them to tell me who they are and why they are playing this silly game. (I’d already done my worksheet for the day, so I used the test file Carla sent us before the class officially started, which is why it is marked 3.0.)
And, do you know that out of all the people who responded to my question not one of them works as an artist?! I think that this might be the best part of it all. Now, 44 people read my question but only 6 people commented. This is important to mention because here you have an environment that lets people participate anonymously and lurk, which can be very liberating for those who have a closeted creative urge. You can see their comments below my posting, but, regardless of who’s who, the common themes in the responses are finding time for the self, participating in an activity that is not “graded” or evaluated for “rightness,” and being inspired by, and sharing with, others, combating the sadness and stress of their lives, and having FUN. I would venture to guess that if we all filled out a form that outlined our social, cultural, religious and political outlooks, we’d be all over the board; we’d be different in so many ways, maybe in ways that were very personal and hot-buttoned, but here we come together and do something quirky and beautiful and inspiring. I told Carla that I thought she wasn’t just holding an online drawing class but that she was actually contributing to the betterment of the world! This may sound a little bit like hyperbole considering the whole silliness factor but, if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ll know there’s more than a little data out there in the smart circles of visionaries to support my silly claims.
I asked Carla what she thought about what I thought and she said, “We are all learning from each other through the artwork and posts that are being displayed at the flickr site. Sometimes we learn that being a “good drawer” isn’t the point… some of the best posts/worksheets have been those that weren’t necessarily incredibly skilled at drawing, but they were COMMUNICATING their ideas through drawing, and it was fun, funny and awesome.” She admitted to being emotional about the contributions she sees, which tells me what many artists know: if and when we can get people to enjoy and love the seed of creativity that is in our kooky, silly brain, the return is truly thousandfold. Art inspires art. I bet Carla would tell me that she thinks she gets more out of this than anyone. And, she should, you know, she’s the Squeen.
So, we’re here, in the Land of Silly, making up words, dreaming up creatures, singing Happy Birthday for no reason at all and drawing like, well, like nine-year-olds, each and every day! When I was asked by someone, but, what’s the point, I just conjured up Creative Girl…
Her reply was, “What’s the POINT of these poogy projects? CREATIVITY doesn’t need a point, you big zerp! But it will help you be happier, get smarter, have more friends, and LIVE longer. Especially if you eat bragula and exercise regularly. So don’t be a total bleefleeper about it… just join in the FUN!” You could join us, you know, the Super Silly Us. And it’s not because we think we’re better than you, we just know we’re having more fun.
TRY THIS WEEK: Draw something. Anywhere. Anytime. You did it once upon a time, try it again.