December 7, 2022

Episode130-Eileen
Mom and I recorded this podcast back at the beginning of September.  But life has been so crazy that I only just managed to edit it this week!  You can watch the video version on my YouTube channel, or you can listen above (or anywhere you get podcasts).

The focus of our conversation is on why keeping a sketchbook matters.  We do wander into chatting about what makes for a successful art practice, as well as how cooking, construction, and yoga are similar to an art practice.  And all of it really boils down to the notion of a “directed practice.”

Episode130-Julie
I thought I would try sharing a transcription of the podcast today.  The transcription is auto-generated so it’s a little bit wonky.  I did my best to edit it for clarity.  Also I say, “like” constantly. 🤦🏻‍♀️  But for those who don’t listen to podcasts, it might be nice to get a bit of the flavor of the conversation.  Let me know if you find the transcription helpful.  It’s a bit time consuming to do, so if you’re into it, let me know that it’s worth the time.

PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

Julie 

Hello and welcome to the “Adventures in Arting” podcast. My name is Julie Fei-Fan Balzer and I am a working artist and mother to a curious toddler. My business, Balzer Designs, is all about helping you to live an artful life through thoughtful art education. On this podcast, together with my super special co-host and my mom, Eileen Hsü-Balzer, we ask questions of each other and our guests while discussing learning, the creative career path, finding balance, looking at art, setting goals, and why being creative matters. Our goal for this podcast is to stimulate your imagination. So hi, Mom.  

Eileen 

Hello.  

Julie 

So we’re back in the saddle again in the studio. We’re here together. You have had a lot of construction going on at your house. It’s a big art project. 

Eileen 

It is a big art project. It started out because a car drove through my porch and then, as they opened it up, there was more and more rot under the porch. 

Julie 

And as always happens with an old house. 

Eileen 

There was a fence that needed attention, and before you know it, this one project has morphed into a gigantic, all-encompassing thing, and I simply brace myself for the endless onslaught of change orders and what, because it’s a big project. 

Julie 

Ball rolling down a hill. 

Eileen 

And a Victorian house. You can’t sort of do part of it because the whole porch is connected. So this is my project. I’m sorry Julie, but I have no time for you anymore ’cause I have to sit there and look through my window at this. 

Julie 

Yeah, it’s a big project. And I think this happens. I mean, everybody who’s renovated a house knows how things snowball. And it just changes and like, you know you uncover one thing. And suddenly everything is rotten and I think this has happened to me multiple times. But I think, you know, art projects are like that too, where you think you have an idea and you’re going somewhere and then you suddenly realize that it’s somewhere else you’re supposed to be. Or you’re in the middle of, you know, making something and things change. And so that actually brings us back to our topic today, which is really about keeping a sketchbook and why that’s an important practice. And I think — the biggest key — I’ll give you the bit of advice at the beginning of the podcast today instead of making you wait till the end. But the biggest thing I hope you take away is going to be the idea that if you want to get better at art — which, I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to get better at art. Everybody wants to get better at art, right? But if you want to get better at it, directed practice is the way to do it. And a sketchbook is a wonderful, essentially free. I mean, I guess you have to pay for the sketchbook. Unless you make it yourself. But then you did pay for the paper. You know what I mean. It’s really a way for you to make yourself get better in a focused way. So I thought we could talk a little bit about directed practice. And sort of what that means as opposed to sort of — I think when people start talking about sketch books, the first thing they start talking about is drawing, and drawing can be a thing that pushes people away and makes them sort of uninterested in pursuing it. 

Eileen 

Well, because they start comparing what they’re drawing to a photograph. Or Michelangelo. What I would say is it, since I don’t keep a sketchbook, but one thing I might compare it to is recipes, cooking and some recipes have a lot of technique involved as well as a lot of equipment, and so the first time you try it, it might not come out like the picture, it might not come out the way you expected it. And again, people take notes. They write notes in the margins of the cookbook or the recipe, they alter things to suit their tastes and I think that’s a sort of same idea, which is you should get more comfortable and make it work for you personally. The more you do it, and if you keep the notes then you won’t keep repeating the same mistakes. 

Julie 

Yeah, I think that’s. A sketchbook can be many things. I mean, let’s get that started right there, right? There’s the kind of sketchbook that’s like a visual diary. There’s the kind of sketchbook that’s, you know, preparing for a project. There’s the kind of sketchbook that’s like practicing a particular skill. There are a lot of different kinds of sketchbooks. I think what I’m mainly interested in pursuing right now is something that I call a studio notebook, which I just think is an easier way of thinking of a sketchbook ’cause then you’re not focused on the idea that it’s like all drawing. Like Michelangelo. There’s more of an acknowledgement that in a notebook, you write things down. You might have lists. There could be a calendar, there’s, you know, to do’s, there’s sort of like random thoughts. This notebook can also be something that’s ugly, and then it has lined paper or something like that, so it doesn’t have to be this kind of pristine book, and I think all of it gets twisted a million times by seeing on social media people talking about, you know, “I hate all these ugly pages in my sketchbook when I wasn’t very good.” And then you’re looking at these gorgeous, you know, luminous drawings page after page of stuff and you just think, well…. And actually, I think that is a reminder to get back to the house renovation. Like when people show their houses… 

Eileen 

Their whole house doesn’t look like that. 

Julie 

That’s one corner that they cleaned out for you to look at for 5 seconds with really good lighting, dude. I mean, or any of that stuff, you know, people’s real lives aren’t like, constantly filled with all the perfect moments. Like for instance I don’t ever post anything where my toddler is like having a tantrum or a meltdown or anything like that, because I don’t think that kind of stuff should be on social media. But does he? Yeah. He’s a toddler, but if you saw the pictures, you’d think that all he did was like play all day and be pleasant, you know? And I think like that’s the thing about us too. We generally don’t show the things that we really hate, because that’s really hard to do. Most people just don’t want to if you really, really hate it right? 

Eileen 

Sometimes I think about what if there had been social media around when I had little kids. What I would have posted about you? 

Julie 

What would you have posted about us? That we were perfect all the time angels? 

Eileen 

Well, that would have left me with nothing. Well, I just think it’s interesting because from birth these kids today are used to being photographed and they just have a different idea, I think, of their childhood. They have a lot more pictures to look at and a lot of video to look at. 

Julie 

Well, you and I even discuss generationally between us, you know, when I’m on the cusp of a lot of the technology stuff. But you have an expectation of privacy in your life. And I kind of I’m….Like, I mean I have some expectation of privacy, but not a ton, and I think one generation away from me, they’re like: “What’s privacy?” That’s about how you grow up. I remember reading an interview with Anne Hathaway — who I think is similarly aged to me. She may be slightly younger — but she said that she was so glad that she had gone to college in the years before there was social media ’cause she could do all the dumb things she wanted and, you know, people have to break out the film. And you know, develop it in a darkroom in order for any of it to come to life. And I think that’s true. You know, there’s a lot of ways in which you can’t hide.  

So to bring it back briefly to an art conversation: You know, there was a person that I interviewed on this podcast who was a stranger who I just approached on the Internet and said, “Hey, do you want to do an interview?” And one of the things that she said to me, she said. “ I researched you. I went back all the way through every single one of your Instagram posts, back to the very first one that you posted.” Now to be completely fair, I’m pretty sure I joined Instagram in like 2011. So it is 2022. 

Eileen 

So that’s a decade. She has too much spare time. 

Julie 

But you really do see where somebody came from. And like I’m not a celebrity. I don’t like scrub my social media and stuff ’cause I think my very first post was of my ex-husband and I just….I’ve never taken down any of those posts because they’re so buried. Why would anybody? But apparently…. 

Eileen 

Well, even if they did, I mean. 

Julie 

It’s true. It’s not like it’s not part of my history. And I think that’s another thing too, is remembering that people erase things they don’t like from their past. In fact, you sent me an article today, didn’t you, about how now you’re going to be able to. 

Eileen 

UN-text people. The new Apple software that will be available starting Monday. Well, but you can’t erase your text forever. But if you immediately doubt it, there’s a little time lag you can. 

Julie 

Like you pressed it and like and…. 

Eileen 

Get rid of it. 

Julie 

So you can text and I think that Gmail has something like that where you can — like if you hit send but then you had, you know, did something wrong to sort of immediately UN-Send it. 

Eileen 

I just think that one of the things you’re right about is this expectation of privacy also means that I’m very thoughtful, one might say guarded, about anything I put online. Like Instagram and stuff. And it’s private. My thing is private on purpose. I can’t remember the last time I posted anything on Instagram.  

Julie 

I’m more careful now than I would have been, like, if I had a kid 10 years ago. I don’t think I’d be as careful as I am now about it, you know. I think that we’ve learned a lot of the ways in which the Internet is great and a lot of ways in which it’s bad. But I do want to say like what I think a sketchbook is or should be in my mind: and it’s sort of like social media history, but without any edits. So you’re able to look back ten years and say like, oh. This is where I was. These are the thoughts that I was having at the time. 

Eileen 

But you’re using it for you. 

Julie 

Yeah, I’m using it for me. I mean, you know, I taught a sketchbook class maybe two years ago, and one of the questions that I thought was really interesting that someone asked me is she said, “uhm, I never see any pictures of your sketchbook online. Why don’t you ever share that? Like how, how is this a thing that you do since I’ve never seen any of it.” And I was like, “hey, it’s really interesting that you think I share everything that I do online, ’cause I don’t.” 

Like, I don’t share my sketchbooks very often. I especially don’t share the note parts of them. Sometimes I’ll share the pictures if I think they’re interesting or worth it. Because I think that’s private. That’s your brain. That’s what you’re thinking of right now. That’s your moment. I’ve had this idea to do this sketchbook class for a while, which I’ve never put together, partially because I’m not sure how I feel about like dragging out the old books ’cause they feel they feel very much like me, like a very personal version of me. 

Eileen 

Very much like let’s all read my diary. Just because some of it is pictures doesn’t mean it’s not your diary. 

Julie 

Yeah, ’cause it’s like my thought process. Listen, we’re all guilty of this. There’s an idea that seems terrible at the time. Or a drawing that’s ugly, or a pink color that you can’t stand and then three years later or three months later, you look at it and you go. “Right!” And so the thing is, if you’re working on like loose papers that you throw away, or you know, you’re gesso-ing over everything to cover it up as you’re working, like you’re not ever keeping that record of where you’ve been.  

I’m working on a new class right now which is kind of a sketch book class, I guess, It’s called “The Carve December Workbook.” And one of the videos I was making this afternoon…I was talking a little bit about this idea of when you’re doing your test prints and stuff, when you’re stamping — I used to have them only on a paper and I was sort of trying to keep them. But then they were just kind of like test prints and I would get rid of them. And sometimes I liked the stamp earlier in the carve and I carved too much and I messed it up. And I was going to make a mental note, which we know where the mental notes go — into the garbage. 

I actually heard an interview with Jay-Z on Fresh Air and he was saying , “Do you know how many rap songs I’ve lost? By thinking that I just had them in my brain. And not, you know, writing them down.” And I was like: That’s it. That’s the thing. Which is if you have this brilliant moment, right? It happens to all of us. When you’re in the shower or laying in bed or in a place where there isn’t a pen. You know how it feels when you can’t remember it later and you’re driving yourself crazy ’cause it was the best idea you ever had. So that’s to me again with sketchbooks. Or write that idea down, and even if you don’t use it now, you might use it later. So even if you don’t use that drawing now, you might use it later.  

But to get back to the carving, like the way that I find it really useful is, I can come back to the design at the point that I liked it and re-carve — not being something my feeling of what it was, but by actually seeing what was or trying to figure out like why I liked it or, you know, any of that kind of stuff. Which sort of gets us back again to the idea of directed practice and what that means. So I’ll just ask you, you’re the smartest person I know.  

Eileen 

Is that sad. 

Julie 

OK, you’re the smartest person I know in real life. In person. I mean, I don’t think you’re the smartest person on the planet, but she’s pretty smart.  

Eileen 

Ah. 

Julie 

So what does directed practice mean to you? 

Eileen 

Let’s go back to the recipe thing. It means getting some something — an idea in your brain that you want to try, but it means not feeling like that the directions and the recipe own you and and working around something so that it expresses what you want. And the same thing goes with clothing. If you are always dressing according to like what is the latest fashion? Too bad for you if you don’t have that kind of model body and that kind of expendable money. And you know the whole thing. I just think all of your life, you’re faced with making your own choices and the directed practice is a way of living where you take in lots of input, but you make selections and you get rid of the things that don’t work for you, don’t interest you, you know, don’t appeal to you, and so you steal some ideas from people. You reject some things from people and you don’t let other people tell you what’s right for you. You know you. You let people tell you, oh, that doesn’t look like a horse that you drew well. Maybe to you it feels like you. You got the essence of horsing. 

Julie 

Although I did show you my drawing today and tell you it was an orchid and you said it looked like an iris and then I read the caption and realized it was an Iris, so that’s… 

Eileen 

Yeah, that’s a whole lot of crap. That is an entirely different… 

Julie 

Another issue. OK, so I’m going to use a metaphor here, which is, if I said to you: “Tomorrow I am going to do athletics.” Yeah, you’d be like. “OK, right. I I don’t know what that means? But OK.” But if I said to myself, hey, tomorrow I’m going to go for a run, you’d be more like, OK. Well, I know what kind of tools and stuff you need for that.  

Eileen 

And you’ll be back in 5 minutes. 

Julie 

Since you need me to pick you up. 

Eileen 

At the end of the block. 

Julie 

The answer is yes. And the front of the driveway. Ah, so if I said to you in six months I’m going to run a marathon. So I need to start training tomorrow. 

Eileen 

I would accept that. 

Julie 

Wait, but all of those things, what you see is — like “athletics,” is too broad. That’s like saying I’m going to make art tomorrow, right? So you make a smaller plan, I’m going to go for a run. OK, well, even though you were joking. It is like, well, how long is that run? Where are you gonna run? Do you know what? But if I tell you I’m training for marathon in six months, that’s specific, that’s directed, right? So now I know for the next six months I know what I’m practicing for, which is the event is a marathon. I have to teach myself to run 26 miles. And then I also know that, like, there are prescribed formulas like your recipe metaphor for how to train yourself to run. You know that you do. This is how you do this. I know I can look up equipment. I can look at both things. It’s directed instead of just sort of a general idea. It’s kind of like, do you make your resolution, “I’m going to get healthy.” What does that mean? Or do you say like you set yourself a goal? So in art I think it’s the same way, and that’s what your studio notebook or sketchbook is so great for. You say, like, I’m going to paint 10 paintings, a series of 10 paintings, you know, over the next four months. Well, what are they going to be about. What is the content going to be? 

Eileen 

What are they? 

Julie 

How are they linked in a series? What’s the series going to be? That’s when you go to the notebook, so you’re not working it out across 10 expensive canvases. Or all of this time and energy and crying into it? You’re working out in the pages of an inexpensive notebook? Well, here’s what I’m interested in, and here’s how I think it should be. And this is what I think it should look like. And you know. You’re kind of figuring out. What are my techniques? What are my materials? You’re practicing. You’re warming up. You’re getting your muscles stretched. You’re doing the metaphorical art exercises that you would do to get ready for the marathon, which, is finally to get ready to paint those ten paintings. I mean, I think I have told this story before and I’ll tell it again — I have a friend who is a playwright and her husband always brags that she can write a play in six days. And she says to him, “You’re a moron. I don’t write it in six days. The physical writing time. Maybe that I sit down and go.” But she said, “I’ve been thinking and planning and working it out for a year and then I sit down and go.” You know, and I think writers have notebooks. Why don’t artists have notebooks to write? If you think about it like that, which is, you’re getting ready to do your marathon, to write the thing, to do the thing. You know what I mean? And so you’re doing the exercises, the calisthenics. It’s the race training to get you there. That’s what I think directed practice is. 

Eileen 

I just sent you a text today which you probably still haven’t read, so there’s a new book that was just published. By a woman. It’s a mystery murder mystery, and in it she imagines that the detective in it is an artist. Georgia O’Keeffe. She’s very specific ’cause she has knowledge of Georgia O’Keeffe and New Mexico and she feels that an artist would look at the situation differently. What I was interested in, and which is relevant here, is that she keeps all kinds of files. Like she has one whole file that’s all crime stuff. So in a way, she’s keeping notes about things that she might or might not use, but that way she doesn’t have to remember them and she has a place to go. And, I think probably people do this about everything. So everything in life is kind of like writing a research thesis. Because you keep notes. I used to keep — Really, this is dumb — but when I was very young and I started to cook for dinner parties, I used to keep these note cards. I still have them somewhere. When I die you’ll find them, and I would keep the note cards, and on it I would put what I had made and who was there, you know? 

Julie 

So that you wouldn’t repeat a meal to your guests. 

Eileen 

Well, exactly ’cause, imagine that. God. A second spaghetti, no! Uhm, but the thing is that…. 

Julie 

This is what happens when you tell a woman with a Harvard education to spend her days cooking. 

Eileen 

Bad right? But I mean, I have a huge notebook where I put — like in the days when people had business cards — restaurants I liked or you know…. 

Julie 

OK, so it doesn’t sound weird because you know what I have in my bullet journal? When I used to travel all the time, for cities that I repeatedly went to, like Cleveland, Tampa. 

Eileen 

Oh yeah. 

Julie 

I wrote down restaurants I liked and what I liked about them, so that the next time. I was looking for a place to eat, I didn’t have to remember what it was I had had three months ago, or where I had gone. I could just look at the list. So not crazy. 

Eileen 

Or I keep like, lists of contractors at what they do so that I could, you know, oh, I need a plumber. Oh, I need tiles. I have some place to start. I mean, I think that’s life if you’re if you are a person who doesn’t want to hunt around and make the same mistakes over and over. It’s very useful to keep notes, and that’s directed. 

Julie 

Yeah, that’s exactly it. If you don’t want to keep making the same mistakes over and over. 

Eileen 

That’s it. 

Julie 

Do directed practice. I mean, I think I can’t emphasize that enough. You hit it so succinctly and so perfectly. And that’s what a sketchbook does. It lets you learn from your mistakes. It lets you see where the problems are. It lets you grow. Because as I say, over and over, if you can identify the mistake or the problem? The opportunity? Why you don’t like it? Why it’s a problem? Then you can fix it, right? And so sometimes I find I don’t have perspective, right? Time has become the biggest partner in my art making process as I’ve gotten older…. 

Eileen 

And as you had a child, yeah. 

Julie 

But I’ve learned also like how important it is to let time pass in order to digest things, you know. And so I can look at an old notebook and suddenly be excited with new. And it’s different from looking at Pinterest, which is exciting and is fun. Because instead of being inspired by other people’s ideas, I’m inspired by my own ideas. And I love that. Like letting time get in the mix of it, you know, is great. Like I actually had a funny conversation with Jaime from The Crafter’s Workshop. She asked me if I wanted to design some layered stencils, which is something I had done in my like first or second release, and she said it was too early — like people didn’t get them then. 

Eileen 

That is interesting. 

Julie 

But now everybody is making layered stencils. And I was like, that’s so funny ’cause I actually have no interest in doing layered stencils now. It was something I was very interested in. Then, and everybody was like, what is this? You know. And I just think if I were a smarter business person, it makes sense to revisit that idea. 

Eileen 

It would. 

Julie 

But, you know, I think, your passions are what your passions are. So who knows? I’ll try. I’m going to try to do some layered stencils. We’ll see. Ah, but again, like. That comes back to maybe you’ll… 

Eileen 

Do it in a different way than you did originally, and that will keep it fresh and interesting. 

Julie 

Then the 1st time around, yeah. 

Eileen 

Because what I know about you is you love solving problems. 

Julie 

I do. 

Eileen 

So you’re posing to yourself a problem. How can I do these layered stencils in a way that’s new and exciting to me? And I think because of that challenge you will start. 

Julie 

So I think that I don’t want to do layered stencils like other people are doing them, and I don’t want to do them like I did them, so that that makes it an interesting problem to solve. And speaking of problems, my two-year-old…. 

Eileen 

Here’s a problem. I look so small on this screen. 

Julie 

Where is one and two are smaller. 

Eileen 

I mean I am shorter, but I do look like…. 

Julie 

I mean, it’s perspective. 

Eileen 

I’m on a different scale in my human being, I’m just saying. 

Julie 

Get closer to the camera. 

Eileen 

I’m looking at this screen and I’m thinking darling…. 

Julie 

Here, get closer to….I’m like also much closer to the table. Now do we look more? 

Speaker 

Better, but still. Like the same. 

Julie 

  1. Brobdingnagian again versus Lilliputian. That’s it. It’s so I was can’t even remember what. Else to say. It’s probably not that important you were talking about.

Eileen 

Your two year old I. Mean forget your child. 

Julie 

Oh Oh yeah, my 2 year olds, my 2 year old. 

Eileen 

It’s OK, I understand. 

Julie 

Almost 3 year old I guess. He was — he’s been talking a lot about clues. Like, he likes to follow clues. And it could be a clue. Like the other day we saw some tracks on the sidewalk and I said a vehicle made these and he said vehicles shouldn’t be on the sidewalk. And I said that’s true. 

Eileen 

So right. 

Julie 

And he said let’s follow them and see where they go. I said OK and then he said maybe it’s a clue. And we sort of…the conversation petered out when he couldn’t say a clue for what. But anyway, I think at the end he wanted to see the vehicle that had been on the sidewalk. Ah, but so I think that. 

Eileen 

Makes sense? It’s why you follow animal tracks and…. 

Julie 

Right. You’re interested in seeing it and if it was a vehicle? He wants to follow it. Uh, so I think that a sketchbook is, sort of that, it’s clues. It’s like tracks that you leave for yourself, bread crumbs that you leave for yourself so that you’re not starting over. There was a teacher who told me something that has stayed with me for a couple years, which is, She said before she leaves the studio — Every day she leaves herself a note. About exactly what she’s thinking like right at this moment. And then the first thing she does when she comes into the studio the next day is she reads the note from the night before. 

Eileen 

A lot of mine would just say hungry. 

Julie 

Well, and it might be a repeat in the morning, but I think about what that does for her she was expressing is it allows her to like pick up where she left off, because then she doesn’t have to noodle it over or think about it when she goes with her family and does whatever, right? Because that time is free, because she knows that her brain has been left in the studio, ready to go. And she can just look at it and be like, oh I wanted to do blah, blah, blah, blah. I was thinking about. why X doesn’t work? Or I need to change the water or whatever. 

Eileen 

That will work for some, and for other people who need to be in the zone and working for like 5 hours in a row, it might not work. But I mean…. 

Julie 

But it’s an idea. 

Eileen 

Yeah. 

Julie 

Again, about leaving yourself a clue. It’s kind of like you’re saying about writing in the margins of the recipe. Or for Harry Potter fans, you know when he finds the Half Blood Prince’s book — I’m probably getting this wrong — Anyway, he finds the recipe book for the spells, and it has the writing in the margins that fixes all the spells, and so suddenly he’s amazing at spells because he’s using somebody’s handwritten notes in the margin to help him. Because they’ve already figured it out. And I think like that’s sort of the idea here, which is you’re leaving yourself that note in the margin, you’re leaving yourself some kind of clue. So even when people give handouts or anything like I take copious notes, which to me are my notes in the margins. So even if I have like a finished project or something. Then I want to write about it. So even with like sketches that I do in my sketchbook, I’ll often write a lot about the process I used or why I liked it, ’cause I will remember tomorrow or maybe 2 weeks from now, but I won’t two years from now. And then 10 years from now. And I want these books to be useful to me, OK? 

So one of the reasons I’ve switched over from using an art journal to a sketchbook ’cause people often say like what’s the difference? And I think sometimes there’s not a huge difference. For a lot. For me, there is. For me, my art journal was always a place to like plan, explore, yes. But everything I wrote about was just diary entry. 

Eileen 

Julie 

I never like — and it wasn’t really directed practice. It was like practice and it was fun and I learned a lot. And I think our journals are fantastic, and I still do mine occasionally. But I have found since I started a really regular sketchbook practice that the sketchbook is such good space for learning that I just can’t give it up right now. I just get so much back from those notes and emerging after. 

Eileen 

Why do you have to give it up? You don’t have to.  

Julie 

I don’t have to give it up. So there. Uhm, so yeah, I really, I’m a huge fan of it. So if you wanted to start a directed practice. How would you start it? What a good question. Thanks for asking, Mom. Ah, so if you wanted to start it, what I would say is think about a goal you have. Let’s go back to the marathon metaphor. Whatever that goal is, I want to understand this. 

Eileen 

Either way, we are the two least likely people to run a marathon. 

Julie 

It’s true. I want to, you know, understand the color wheel, or I want to, you know. And then it’s the old joke about eating an elephant bite by bite. Break it down. What are the steps you’re going to have to take? This is something I do with my coaching clients all the time, and you’re getting it for free, which is we talk about what their goal is and then we back it down. Well, if you want to do this by January 1st, then how do we figure out, you know, how we’re going to do it? And then are you aware that this means you’re going to have to create 2 pieces of art every day from now until then? And then most people are like, “oh, I didn’t realize that.” I was like, OK, well then lets set a different goal or lets change the timeline. 

Eileen 

That’s why I came here. I was just saying of construction ’cause my house is currently a morass of destruction and construction. 

Julie 

Pile of rubble. 

Eileen 

That’s the whole thing. I mean, you have to get a permit, but before that you have to get an architect to draw up a design. You know that I mean? And then you do the steps and how long is it going to take for this to get delivered? It’s going to take twice as long as you thought and how much is it going to cost? It’s going to take four times as much as you thought. I mean, everything requires a certain degree of mental organization for you to do it. 

Julie 

Well, it’s also like if I told you, for your construction budget, you need to have some wiggle room, a contingency fund, ’cause stuff happens. Don’t plan it out to the dollar. Like understand that everybody would be like “duh” contingency fund. But if I tell you about your art goal, you have to have some sort of contingency fund. And usually that’s a fund of time in which you’re not so full throttle that if you get sick, if your child gets sick, if your parent gets sick, if your partner gets sick, if your house burns down, if you get busy at work, if you know you, whatever happens that you suddenly…your part is completely derailed and there’s no way to rescue it. So it’s like how can you build in those pockets? It’s like one of the things I will say to my coaching clients sometimes. I’ll say, like, realistically this is not a “I’m here to impress you.” I think a personal trainer would say the same thing, right? How many? How many days a week are you going to do this, and for how long are you going to do it? If you say to me I only want to do this twice a week and I’m going to spend an hour on it. Fine, I can work with that. But if you tell me you’re going to do five days a week, six hours a day, we will make a plan based on that. And then when you don’t do it, it will completely fall off the rails and you’ll feel like a failure. Or when actually you just need to be realistic with yourself. About how much time you’re willing to give. 

Eileen 

Right. 

Julie 

To it, you know. And I think a lot of us want to feel like. I’m all in this. Because, you know, we’re in this sort of emerging culture in which I think the most popular, like, social media feeds, are ones that are solely dedicated to a single idea. For endless hours, right? Partially because I think we admire people’s tenacity and sticking to it. 

Eileen 

Well, also, I know what I’m going to get. If I want to see eyebrows, I’ll go to the eyebrows. The eyebrow lady. I have two eyebrows, in case you were wondering.  

Julie 

Uh, so I think that. You just have to remember that. You can just do something for a little bit. I do think that a regular art practice is more important than like a binge artpractice. So if you were like, I’m going to spend 2 hours every week, one hour on Mondays and one hour on Thursdays, and I’m going to do this artpractice, I would say “bravo.” If you’re like, I’m just going to do it. Whenever I have some time. I will be like, well, that’s where we get into a little bit of a problem, right? It’s even if you do 6 hours one day and then no hours for two weeks, it’s sort of not as good as having the regular practice, right? You want that sinus rhythm of your heart right in your art practice so it’s actually kind of regular. 

Eileen 

Well, actually, they say that the reinforcement that you get from doing it regularly helps you learn. 

Julie 

And also just the fact that you keep showing up. I think that showing up is a really difficult thing to do for all of us in many aspects of our lives. And so I do, I do think that just the showing up is such the key. I mean, every time I’ve gone to a yoga class with a, like, grumpy face and a slouchy, you know, back. And then I finished the yoga class and I’m like: “Ah, I’m a temple of amazing glory, right?” So I think the same is true. You just have to get your ****. In their inner meeting, do it, and then, so that the time isn’t wasted, think about.  

But in the yoga class, if you’re there and the person is like. OK, just do whatever your body feels. Like, and I’m going to sit here and you’re going to sit there and I’ll see you later. Like I would nap on the floor, right? I’m probably not getting any better or anything. I mean, maybe I’m chilling out and relaxing and that’s great. So the same thing is true when you come in for your hour of practice to do in your sketchbook or in your art space, which is what’s your goal? What are the, you know, just in yoga class where you hold different positions? What are the exercises you’re going to do? What are the things you’re working towards? And yoga? Am I working towards being able to balance on my feet better? Balanced on one side than the other, most people. So am I, you know, learning to balance better, you know, on my non-dominant foot. And that’s my goal. So I hold those poses longer, and I really think about it. And I really, you know, push, push, push and I make that a goal that I’m chasing and the same thing. Can be true in your art practice. What is that thing? That you want to get better at and you just keep chasing it. Small or big, right until you get there and figuring out the ways that you can do it. So maybe while I’m brushing my teeth. I stand on that non dominant foot. 

Eileen 

Oh, that says one of the things that’s recommended. 

Julie 

Right. Just to slowly sort of get it in and it’s not really a change. So maybe if you’re trying to get better at, like, colors. Maybe like the last thing you do before you fall asleep is you think about, like, you know, colors that are interesting to you today and what you might — what are some combinations you might think of? So that it’s just there as part of your daily life, but at times that you’re not actively in the art practice. And then you go to your notebook and you write some of this down and I think that’s part of what helps us get follow up. 

Eileen 

I’ve often wondered when they say last thing before you go to sleep, how you know it’s just before you’re going to go to sleep? 

Julie 

Well, for me it’s because the lights are out and I’m lying there. That’s the clue. I don’t know. 

Eileen 

You know what I mean? 

Julie 

I know, I know. 

Eileen 

I could do it in the bed, but I could be there for three hours. So do I wait until the three hours are up? 

Julie 

Well, maybe it would help you. So this is actually. I know this sounds crazy, but sometimes when I have trouble sleeping when I have insomnia. Yeah, the thing that actually helps me is to do some directed practice in my brain. 

Eileen 

Julie 

And I have found that when I think about like what is the art project that I want to do next? Or I’m trying to work out the technical whatever of some sort of art project, or I start thinking through a list of supplies that, you know, for whatever, I fall asleep pretty quickly. And it almost always kicks me. I know not everybody works the same way, but it’s somehow. I think because art…making art is a pleasure thing for me and is not necessarily the business of art. Which, to be completely frank, is what I spend 79% of my day doing is the business of art. Not actually the making of the art. And so I think because the making of the art is a Pleasure Center, for me, it’s like, it puts me in a good brain space to fall asleep. 

Eileen 

It also may call on a different part. 

Julie 

Of your brain, yeah. 

Eileen 

So the, you know, the non-analytical the right brained part. Whatever you want to call it, and so you’re ready to sleep. Because you aren’t doing the very specific, you know, you’re not running the statistics. 

Julie 

And it’s distressing to me because I think. like, I worry about my business and I worry about the choices I’m making. And I worry about if I’ve gotten everything done and I worry and I worry and I worry and I worry, but I’m not worried about making. You know, I just want to do it, so I think that that’s relaxing, OK? So we’re probably at a good point to wrap up unless you have any other thoughts. Or advice for people? 

Eileen 

I have no advice. 

Julie 

That’s a lie if I ever heard a lie.. 

Eileen 

I’m a blank slate. 

I’m an empty vessel. 

Julie 

Fill me, OK!? 

So a couple things to know about a monthly membership. There are three different tiers. You can be a Member, A Maker, or a Super Learner? There’s all sorts of exciting perks at every level. The Artful Holiday class is still available to purchase if you want. It’s packed with tons and tons and tons and tons and tons of techniques. I kept lamenting to Mom: I probably should have made it a year-long class. Got just too much content in it. 

Eileen 

I also think people got deceived by the Artful Holiday title and they thought they would be making Christmas decorations or something. It’s a technique class, not a project class that involves…. 

Julie 

Well, it is a project class, but it’s not all making like tampon faries. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, you know.  

And then Design Boot Camp is coming up in 2023. There are only two spots left in the daytime one, and the night time class has some more space. So if you’re interested in, well, if you’re interested in getting better, which is what we’ve been talking about today, right, ’cause Design Boot Camp is an opportunity to grow. If you’re not getting the results you want, if you want to refine your personal style. If you don’t know how to tell when your work is done. If you struggle with decision making during the art process, if you’re looking for an art mentor. If you’re seeking camaraderie from other artists, if you want to understand the structure of artwork and the secret language of artists, any of that. If you’re ready to work really, really hard, then Design Boot Camp is for you. And I’ll say that the second round of Design Boot Camp, oh, or the second level, I guess a design bootcamp is also starting up in 2 weeks for people who’ve been through boot camp, level one. And that one, we really do focus a lot more on a sketchbook practice and that kind of stuff. But I would say. Uhm, the feedback I always get from people on this class is that it’s life changing. It completely and totally obliterates any idea that you had before about what an art practice is as well, and that it just allows you to make the art that you want. And don’t we all want that? OK, so you can’t find Mom anywhere online because privacy, as we discussed before, but you can. Find me at Juliebalzer.com or on Instagram as Balzer Designs. If you like, take class with me or sign up for private coaching, I’d love to hear from you and if you’d like to help the show, you can leave a review or mention us on social media. Tell your next door neighbor. Whatever it is, all of those things help other people find the show. If you’re watching this video on YouTube, I hope you’ll give us a thumbs up and subscribe. And thanks so much for listening and subscribing. We’ll see you the next time on the Adventures in Arting podcast.

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