Developing my artsy side

I don’t disagree, but my original suggestion was to keep a journal to record ideas and to have easy access to a creative outlet. You can’t pull your welder out of your purse when you’re waiting for the bus.


This makes me wish I could study under you. You sound like the exception to the rule amongst teachers.


Nothing I disagree with here we will all have our fortes and our challenges but after designing some super cool thing in F360 for the :glowforge: it sure would be great to be able to add an original engraving to it to take it from nice to “oh my god, I love this, how much?”

I think @brooklyntonia is getting me on this, file down the rough spots the best you can (I am making a commitment to doodle all I can) and put the nice side to the front.

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Yea! I’d love to see some of your work, even if it’s just doodles. Stay positive.

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Aww thanks. I subscribe to a student-directed approach. There’s way too much art to teach in a lifetime, much less 12 yrs of school, so I let my students choose what they want to study, set goals for themselves, and hold them accountable for their learning. Who am I to determine what my students at is supposed to be other than meaningful to them.


I counsel my artists, both writers and visual artists, to make a point of noticing and reflecting on whatever it is that lights them up–and if you keep a journal, to specifically reflect on it there.

For instance, do you get excited when you think about using a particular tool or medium? (Are there specific pens you strongly prefer to use, do you like the feel of paint on canvas, watercolor, etc., love the idea of doing bronze sculpture, woodcarving…?) Do you have any art books you particularly love or see artists whose work excites you? Are there genres of creative work you like? (War documentaries, science fiction book covers, Ming dynasty ceramics, Wrestlemania action figures?) What about processes–when you try something new, do you like to start by making very simple things, or do you like to leap in to complex projects that inspire you to learn a whole skillset?

It’s old-school, but when I was in art school, we would spend at least a couple of hours a week looking at magazines and cutting out things that interested us, then putting them into binders. I had binders for surface treatments, light/dark contrast, color combinations, human faces, humor, and line work, just offhand. I still use those binders for inspiration. I also have books like Lark Crafts’ “500” series _(500 Handmade Books, 500 Paper Objects, 500 Pendants, etc.) that I look at and bookmark when I’m chewing on a new project. Seeing how other artists think is enormously inspiring to me.


It’s interesting how you mention pulling magazine images. My high school journals are full of magazine images. It’s where we went for inspiration. I’d spend $20 a piece on fancy art and photography magazines at Borders (RIP) to cut then up and use them for references, inspiration, or to make whole new artworks. Now we have Pinterest boards. My journals have changed significantly because of that shift. I’ll still paste in things I like that happen to be on paper, but my journals are more of a reflection of my inspirations than they ever were in the past, because I can’t cut and paste from the internet. However, when I’m going on a trip or to a convention where I know I’ll want to work in my journal a lot, I have a kit I created that includes a portable printer. That’s how I got that subway picture in my journal from one of my previous posts. I wrote an instructable on my kit and my process if anyone’s interested.


Some day the Bill Gates of 2600 will buy your art notebooks for $30,000,000,000. (I added a few zeros for inflation!)

to @markevans36301

I think the key is obsession and devotion. My sophomore to senior years of high school and first two years of college I took art classes. We had a great teacher who in a three year period of high school took us through just about every medium you could think of. I had some passable sketches, some ok oils, and a couple clay sculptures. Any time since then that I have tried something, it is very difficult. Back then I doodled and sketched and worked on production all the time. When I was doing clay it was a couple hours every day.

When you read up about creativity in writing, the most important recommendation isn’t necessary inspiration, although that is critical. It’s iteration. I have been creatively productive when I have devoted all my free time to a project. John Irving’s book, the Hotel New Hampshire (don’t think it made it into the movie) has the young son get this advice: you have to get obsessed and stay obsessed.

It worked for me with the Glowforge.


The drawing doesn’t have to be good. Much like handwriting your notes - if YOU can read your notes, you’re good.

If putting pen to paper and sketching or diagraming - loose and fast, not tight and precise.

Creativity is not just natural talent. It’s a practiced skill. Much like an athlete who excels at a sport - talent is only a beginning.

I would look at learning the fundamentals of design and design theory. It will help you understand why things work and don’t work - and then you can break the rules once you know why things work or don’t work.

Also, critique. Critique everything. And research how to make a valuable critique. You don’t have to critique outloud - just to yourself is fine. But - it’s also very valuable for other people (if they are ok with it)! Critiquing other stuff, you’ll start to see this works for me because, this doesn’t work for me because…

Don’t critique your own work. Find someone you trust, that knows how to critique and go that route. You will be your own worst critic and make life hell.


I highly encourage carrying a sketchbook and some pens, or at least a sharpie.
(And I suggest pen not pencils, because you need to put stuff down on paper in the moment and not worry about getting it “right” by drawing and erasing a line over and over and over.)

I try to always have at least a sharpie on me… napkins, pizzaboxes, paper plates, take-out menus, grocery store mailers will all have some kind of shapes on them (printed shapes, grease stains, fold marks). I like to play connect the dots with coffee spatter, find the faces in fruits, arm the cheese blobs on the pizza box with a weapon to attack the oil stain from the pepperoni…

One of the problems that I have these days, now that I spend a lot of time sketching on digital surfaces, is the lack of retained failures. Don’t like that line? Just undo instead of incorporating it or turning the page. There is no record of the failures. That is bad. If iterating an idea in a paper sketchbook, I will end up with several pages of doodles and shapes and letters and whatnot. I may not use any of them, but they are still there when I go hunting for inspiration in my stack of old blackbooks. I have often re-discovered shapes that started out as something altogether different and were abandoned.

A friend visited my shop yesterday, and he is an incredible artist… when he gets himself going. He has a hard time getting started on new things, though, because he compares himself to artists with vastly different styles, and then decides that he is “not as good as them” and so why bother at all. I hate that thought process.


I completely agree with not disposing of “mistakes.” I do think a pencil is still a good thing to have on you, but it drives me crazy when my students wad up and throw away what they perceive isn’t good. It’s always easier to correct something you can see than what you’ve thrown away.

Tip: When drawing with a pencil, don’t erase the line you don’t like until you’ve drawn one you do like. If you erase, then attempt again, you’ll end up drawing the same bad line over and over again. With the line you don’t like still on the paper, you can fix what you don’t like about it before destroying it.


I just realized that I have never mentioned one of the kickstarter projects that I backed: the NeoLucida.
It is a drawing aid; a re-imagined camera lucida. It is a very neat tool, but it had some limitations that made it awkward to use in various situations.
To address some of those limitations a new version, NeoLucida XL, was announced on kickstarter, surpassed the funding goals, and is now moving forward. I backed it. They were sharing the kickstarter booth with Maslow at BAMF, so some of you folks may have seen it in action*.

*edit- if anyone did happen to see it at BAMF, I would love to hear what you thought.


The NeoLudia is pretty interesting. Haven’t seen that before. Thanks for sharing.

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Tested did a pretty long video about it recently: