My former roommate did a silly thing. She asked me if she could commission her sister’s wedding gift. Ridiculous, right? I mean, of all people, she knows I’m a psychologist by trade – not to be trusted with such a venture. But she had seen firsthand the few paintings and drawings I did during graduate school when, miracle upon miracle, I managed to remember that I had passions outside of psychology. She has also seen pictures of some of my art from taking classes the past two years. I guess she knew what she was getting herself into.

The Logistics

Here’s something I’ve heard from longtime artists. Commissions are really stressful. Even if people think they don’t have a specific idea in mind, often they get pretty particular once they see the end product. It is much more desirable to have artwork available that people can pick from instead. I was already considering selling some pieces this way to avoid…ya know…stress. But when life hands you an opportunity, you gotta at least consider it.

Fortunately, I know my former roommate well enough that I figured I could trust she’d be happy with whatever direction I settled on. She has always been very complimentary about artwork I’ve done, and she has seen a range of styles and mediums I’ve tried out. In other words, the perfect time to try out this whole ‘selling your artwork’ thing. Eek!

I was given free reign on the style and medium. She had a general framework of wanting something connected to her sister’s wedding and was going to provide pictures from the wedding day. We settled on a general size and price range (based on some research I did looking at similar products online) and discussed a timeline for completing it once I received the photos. And that was that!

Trusting Your Instincts

Keep in mind that art has been a ‘hobby’ for me, just to fill my own walls or to give a gift here and there. It is only very recently that I have started to see my potential as an ‘actual’ artist.

This commission was my first time figuring out the direction to take a piece of art based on the subject matter. Usually, I would start with the medium I wanted to use (like my recent venture into acrylics) and then find something to draw or paint. This time it was all about seeing some photos and choosing my direction from there.

Oh, and then there’s the small detail of not having an art teacher there to help. This time all bets were off.

Based on our discussion, I figured I would be doing a watercolor painting of the bouquet. I was all set to do it. I had even gotten all my watercolors out and had started to wipe away the cobwebs with a little practice (since I’d gotten a little rusty after shifting to acrylics in my art class). Then I got the pictures from the wedding and saw a bouquet of white flowers.

Whelp – so much for watercolors (emphasis on colors)! Granted, you can add a fun background to make it pop, but I just wasn’t feeling watercolor inspiration. Whomp whomp. But wait! Have something fairly monochromatic that you want to add a little dramatic oomph to? Enter charcoal, my old friend.

Some hours later, after becoming charcoal covered from fingertips to shoulder blades (don’t ask me how I managed that one), I had a charcoal drawing of the bouquet. The best part? I’m actually super proud of it. My gut told me where to go and it did not let me down.

Don’t Overthink It

What advice can I give following this experience? Don’t overthink it! I get that this is hysterical coming from me, but it’s the lesson I continually find myself grateful to learn.

You want to do something? Yearning to take it to the next level? When the right opportunity presents itself, go for it! I’m getting better and better about getting out of my head and not worrying about if I’m good enough to do something. In the past, I would have been more stressed about how this would go. Instead, I decided to trust the process. Will it always go as smoothly as this one did? Well…no. But you have to embrace a little risk and stretch yourself to feel that sense of pride and accomplishment. And now it’s got me thinking about where to go next. All pretty exciting if you ask me.

One thing people often guess about me is that I grew up as an innocent goody-two-shoes. I am uncomfortable breaking the rules, even though I believe some rules are really, really dumb. I am convinced that if I step out of line, someone will catch me. Not to mention the guilt or embarrassment I feel when I think I’ve done something wrong – soooooo not worth it. Because of this, there were only two times that I was grounded as a kid. They were both for lying about practicing my violin/singing.

Had I been more compelled to practice when I was growing up, I do wonder where I would be today. It isn’t one of those wistful “if only” thoughts, it was what it was. I was a happy kid, exploring my passions with the steady support of my parents. If ever there was the opportunity, I had it. I just merely did not have the desire at the time to put work into those areas, so my life went a different route. Interestingly, now that I am settled into the adult life, that desire has emerged.

But that means practicing. Bleh.

The dreaded bar chords – your finger becomes the capo.

Why Practicing Sucks

OK, this is where you may start rolling your eyes. This is not a gloat-session, I swear. But I have a theory about myself that is important when talking about practicing. That theory is that I’m spoiled.

I am generally good at a lot of things just naturally. (Unless it’s sports. I have poor depth perception – like as in tested by eye doctors/physicians. So…yeah, not my thing.) I’m not going to lie, it’s pretty great being able to pick things up quickly. However, the drawback is a tendency toward relying too much on natural ability. It results in impatience and trouble tolerating the process that is important for growth and development of additional skills over time.

I often wonder if those who have more natural talent may be at a disadvantage, namely of not having a good ability to grow in a skill. The equation in my mind is this: artistic prowess = talent + the ability to grow it. And I think that the equation comes out the strongest when the two parts are well-balanced. We often believe raw talent is what counts, but if you can’t harness it, then what?

Here’s my problem. I just want to be good at something. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind putting in the time and energy, and I love learning new things. But for me, practicing feels like a shift from learning to sheer repetition. It goes from the excited energy of something new and innovative to the humdrum of a broken record, doing something over and over and over and over and over again until it improves.

Because of this, I have a bad habit of seeing practice as a means to an end. When the bad news (for me) is that it’s ALL meant to be a process. No beginning, no end, just continual learning and evolution. Even when you are crafting/creating a specific item like a scarf or a candle, technically you can always find something to refine – it is a conscious choice to find an end point where you are willing to step away and call it “complete”. UGH.

Trial batches of cookies to test.

Why Practicing is Awesome

In the words of Mike Myers, now let’s put the emPHAsis on the other sylLAble.

Practicing is where the magic happens. Putting in the rote time, trying and trialing over and over, zeroing in on the techniques behind the art. These seemingly mundane tasks allow your brain to process and to click in ways it wouldn’t if you had just focused on creating your end product. There is this cool point where the motor memory and the creative flow finally click and you finally go from repetition to elevation. It’s awesome.

Also think about this. When you are practicing, it’s all process. In other words, there is no such thing as ‘messing up’. EVERYTHING is fair game. How cool is that?? It is one of the only areas of life where there is no pressure to get it right. When you trial something out, you can toy around and not worry if the chords clash or the colors murk. They say that brainstorming in its purest form is when there is no such thing as a bad idea – you are just riffing and coming up with any possibility. Practice is where that happens.

Not convinced? Sigh, me neither – not 100% anyway. But whether it’s psychology or art, performance or creation, the theme holds steady. We have to allow the time and the space to practice, to try, to flub, to refine, to start again.

Busted again.

In my (virtual) group guitar class, the teacher randomly asked if there were any theater nerds present. I really enjoy musical theater – I go to Broadway and traveling performances whenever I can – and took part in a number of plays and musicals throughout childhood. But my true theatrical knowledge stops at highly interested novice. Hearing ‘theater’ and ‘nerd’ in one sentence, I naturally raised my hand and then, after realizing what I had done, quickly shifted into that wobbly hand movement to indicate ‘kind of’. The teacher laughed and asked, “What does that mean?”


Caught in my own hesitation, I explained how I did not want to misrepresent myself as some sort of expert. Fortunately, my guitar class is filled with many positive attitudes and energies. Someone who had created and run a literal theater company joked that if we were creating a measuring stick, perhaps she may also fall short.


Are you a real artist?


There’s a mental block that many of us creative types come across at some point in our lives. I can’t tell you the number of times I or a friend have tiptoed around ownership of a creative identity, whether it be artist, writer, musician, dancer…the list goes on. Admittedly, I do know people who seem more confident in their claims, but it tends to be those who have a career or job in the selected artistic field. And even then, imposter syndrome is a frenemy well-known to many (perhaps most?).

I respect the people who break through the mental block. And I have been toying with how to find my way through it as well. There are people who tell me I’m an artist, musician, or writer. But do I claim it? Not with confidence. And always with modifiers.

”I’m good for a beginner.”

“Yeah, but I’m not a professional.”

“It’s a hobby.”

“I’m pretty good.”

“Just keep in mind that…”

What’s It Take?

What does it take to be a REAL artist? Does it require…

  • Making money off your craft?
  • Creating something of your own rather than a copy/rendition of someone else’s work?
  • Spending a certain amount of your time and energy on that art?
  • Reaching a certain level of competence / skill?

In the words of a middle school debater, “Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines an artist as ‘a person who creates art using conscious skill and creative imagination.’”

Good news is it looks like money ain’t got nothing to do with it. This dictionary definition allows a lot more leeway for embracing the inner artist than we often allow ourselves. It does not suggest that a certain production quota or level of success is necessary. All we need is to create through imagination and skill.

Bad news is…the picture is still pretty murky. What reaches an adequate level of skill and imagination is at least somewhat in the eye of the beholder. Who decides the measuring stick that should be used to determine skill level? After all, the more you learn a skill, the more you realize how much you don’t know. That makes it hard not to keep adjusting the measuring stick, placing true “skill” further and further out of reach.

Perhaps even worse news, if I care about setting an operational definition to measure ‘artist’ by (and I’m a psychologist, so I can’t help but want to do this)…I can’t keep using the excuse that it’s not my career or that I don’t have enough of my time going toward my art for it to count. It seems pretty clear now that I need to stop my sidestepping. Guess it is finally time to pull the trigger. Bring it on, impostor syndrome, I’m calling myself an artist! (Eek!)


So. I am a planner. I like structure and organization. You know what makes me happy? Lists. Charts. Layouts. I’ll make them, remake them, stare at them. (I’m not weird, you’re weird.) Sadly, this does not play out in my housekeeping, but other than that it’s a pretty helpful trait that is only occasionally debilitating. 

Based on my love for all things structured, what is the first type of art medium I tried? Watercolors. That’s right, the uncontrollable doggy drool of the painting world. *facepalm* 

Flashback to art class circa 2019. It was my first day with watercolors. I remember dividing a paper into squares, trying out different watercolor techniques and textures, and then hearing my teacher say one of the most horrifying things I’ve ever heard. It went something like: “Watercolors have a mind of their own. It’s about working with the watercolors rather than trying to force them to do what you want.” 

Uh, excuse me, what now? I’m sorry, I think you have me mistaken for someone a bit more enlightened. I am not here to be one with the watercolors, I’m here to make them bow down to my superior, artistic prowess. 


Practice, Practice, Practice 

Early into starting my art class, I decided I would make artwork for all the members of our wedding party. I found some cute little watercolor pictures of succulents and cacti and decided it’d be a great focus for class. Well there’s nothing like a deadline to bring on the productivity. 

I’d work on two to three paintings at a time. Why? – you might ask. Because there is nothing worse than getting one part of a watercolor perfect only to start painting the section right next to it. Almost inevitably, you will realize the first section was not completely dry. Now you have a big ol’ brown blob spilling over your paperblending seamlessly with your tears of despair. To avoid this, I’d complete a few watercolor paintings at a time, both in class and then a few at home during the week. Then I’d come back to class for some edits on the ones from home and do a few more. This went on for about 1-2 months. 

Doing so many paintings in quick succession really gave me a crash course in watercolor and learning a number of techniques quicklyGiven the small size of the paintings, I felt free to experiment. Worst case? I spent an hour or two on something I didn’t like, could crumple it up, and do another. 


Wouldn’t you know it, I really enjoy watercolors. Take that, organizational neuroses! There is just something about watching the colors spread and morph on a page that I find incredibly soothing. I’d even call it mesmerizing. See, watercolors are like a dance. With time you learn the necessary choreography, working both quickly to maneuver and blend the watery paint and slowly to prevent oversaturation and muddled colors. Not to mention there is an added bonus for my environmental sideit’s easy to minimize waste with watercolor paints because if the paint dries out you just ADD WATER (duh) – meaning far less paint down the drain! 

If you think you don’t like watercolors because they are so…well…watery, then I suggest trying the watercolors that come in tubes. The amount of water you add to the paint seems to be more adaptable, making it easier to get darker colors (i.e., add less water). A cool trick my teacher taught me to help you really work on getting the colors dark is to take a picture of your painting in black and white. See below how a picture I thought was nearly finished definitely needed more pizazz. 

The real trick to watercolors is that it’s all about the beauty of layering colorGranted, there’s annoyingly little opportunity for coverups. But you know what? Coverups are overrated. Let me tell you, I’m now working with acrylics and nothing sucks worse than doing something really well just to realize you’ll paint over it later and have to do it again. Watercolor is the opposite: everything shows. I find it oddly freeing. As long as you’re willing to bend and flex, you find another way to make the picture happen even when it seems to be taking a turn for the worse. Many times, it ends up taking you down a new, interesting path and morphs the picture into something better than you were initially able to conjure up. And isn’t that just a wonderful analogy for life? 

Well what do you know, looks like I found watercolor enlightenment. 

Final Christmas post! Man – I am WORN OUT from holiday baking and crafting. Does anyone else get exhausted just from being themselves? I’m sure there’s some life-altering epiphanies I could have about that, but we’ll save those for the new year. 

Anyway, this is a craft I worked on for about a yearIt is another example of not being able to find what I wanted, so I made it myself. I call it my nerd advent calendar. I am very proud of this thing, so I’m just gonna post a bunch of pictures of it. Hopefully, others find it fun, too! 

Basic Layout 

First, I have the basic layout for the start of December. After that you can see the end result you get on Christmas Eve. I actually have one more removable item I need to come up with, but 23 out of 24 done ain’t bad! 

In case it’s easier to read this way, I have typed out the poem: 

‘Twas the night before Christmas 

When all through the mansion 

Not a superhero was stirring 

Across the multiverse expansion. 


Infinity stones were hidden 

By the chimney with care, 

In hopes that of Thanos 

No one had to beware. 


Santas from DC to Star Wars 

Brought in plenty of loot, 

That they gathered underneath 

The ornamented Groot. 


On the roof was Saint-3PO 

Who called reindeers by name, 

“On, R2! On, DeLorean! 

Speeds of 88 miles we must gain!” 


Batman and Deadpool were seen 

Off rolling their eyes 

Preferring to this celebration 

A violent demise. 


All the while Picard observed 

As the holiday sage, 

Saying, “Merry Christmas to all, 

And to all…engage!” 


Top Row: 

  • Ghostbuster Winston scanning presents for ghosts 
  • C3PO riding in his Saint-3PO sleigh 
  • Reindeer R2D2 
  • Back to the Future DeLorean as Rudolph 
  • Snowman Captain America 
  • Stay Puft Marshmallow Man hiding behind some trees 

Middle Row: 

  • Groot ornamented like a Christmas tree 
  • Presents including a Katana stuffed animal 
  • Spiderman placing the star over Groot 
  • Professor X using his psychokinetic powers to place his present under Groot 
  • Stark banner from Game of Thrones 
  • Storm lighting up the fireplace 
  • Robin, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman’s stockings 
  • A gingerbread man wearing Thanos’ infinity gauntlet 
  • Deadpool breaking the 4th wall 

Bottom Row: 

  • Wolverine defending himself against… 
  • Harley Quinn while standing underneath… 
  • Mistletoe being hung by… 
  • The Joker who is springing from a gift box trap set by… 
  • Thanos 
  • Gamora trying to stop Thanos 
  • Captain Janeway and… 
  • Captain Picard beaming down to observe 21st century Christmas traditions 


  • Santa Batwoman rappelling with Christmas gifts 
  • Ghostbuster Egon enjoying a candy cane 
  • Santa Batman rappelling 
  • Catwoman hitching a ride with Batman 

And that’s all, folks! Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go pretend that it’s socially acceptable to leave all my Christmas decorations up until February. 


IT’S DECEMBER! Time to trick myself into thinking I live in a Central Texas Winter Wonderland.  

Y’all, I have a problem.

I was desperately trying to find inspirational fall and Halloween crafts to do. I mostly just found myself in the kitchen making and baking yummy foods. However, once Thanksgiving passed, I have been struggling to STOP crafting. I think it’s because of my stubborn vow to make sure COVID doesn’t rid me of my holiday cheer. 

In the interest of sharing that cheer, I’ll try to take enough of a break from my crafting and celebrating to give you a few blog posts about what I’m up to. Before I start, I just want to note that I personally celebrate a lot of secular Christmas traditions smattered with some nostalgic Christian Christmas songs and memories. But many of my wonderful friends and family celebrate Hannukah, winter solstice, or other holidays. This is just to say that I recognize my holiday cheer is not one size fits all – and I’d love to see what other celebrations are going on! 

Pine Wreaths 

Nothing says Winter Wonderland and Christmas to me like the smell and look of pine trees. Needless to say, a wreath was high on the list of projects for this year. 

Early on in life, my mom picked up on a trait of mine that was relevant for this craft: I tend to take a project and learn it just well enough to sort of figure it out in my own way. Sometimes this gets me into trouble. It’s smart to learn to do something the right way firstmastering the fundamentals, and then riff off of that to make it your own. Sometimes it takes me longer to get a basic project figured out because I try to adapt it before fully grasping it. On the bright side, I am able to be a bit more financially and environmentally frugal because I can adjust a project to fit the materials I have without buying something special just to use once or twice. 

Fortunately, my riffing worked well for my first ever pine wreath! I’ve made one or two branch wreaths and fake vine wreaths, but this was the first time making one of the wonderfully pine-scented versions. I had a friend give me a few pointers in addition to looking up instructions online – and it turned out great! 

What I riffed off of:  

What I did:  

  1. I got free pine tree trimmings from the place we bought our Christmas tree. They emphatically told me to take as much as I wanted. My understanding is most places are eager to get rid of the trimmings, so no cost – yippee!  
  2. Cut the trimmings into smaller, more evenly sized piecescut mine into pieces that split in 3-5 directions. (As you can see from the picture, I needed a bit of space to spread everything out.)

  1. I started by overlapping 2/3 to 3/4 of Trimming onto Trimming A, angling it so it would eventually be a circle. I then cut the needed length of wire and twisted the wire around the firmest part of the overlapping trimmings. Then I overlapped Trimming C onto Trimming B and so on. After a while, I got the hang of it to the point that I’d add a few trimmings before adding a wire that connected 3-4 trimmings at one time. 
  2. A few people have asked how I got my wreath so full and – well – monstrous. The answer? Dumb luck. As I thought I was getting near the end, I found the connections between a number of trimmings to be flimsy and the form was a bit awkward in shape and visually underwhelming, so I ended up creating a smaller, more compact wreath by overlapping it onto itself. This ended up making my wreath much more solid and substantial. 
  3. I added more, smaller trimmings where needed (1) to even out the wreath and (2) to wedge into the wire bindings where any trimmings were still a bit loose. 
  4. I ran out of wire just as I finished the wreath. Only problem? The monstrosity that it was, I was not convinced my wreath would hold its shape over time, especially once I lifted it up to hang on a door. Womp wompFortunately, I had plenty of twine for gardening. I flipped the wreath over and wrapped the twine tightly around all of the foundational twigs/branches until I had gone fully around the wreath. This actually worked really well! 

  1. flipped the wreath back around, held it up, and rotated it until I found my preferred “top”. Then I cut another strand of twine and tied it to the back so it would hang like a picture frame.  
  1. I hung it on the door and pruned it in a few places to balance out the shape – and voila! Wreath. 

I will say this. Do not question the price of wreaths. Those bitches take time and skill! If you have the patience for it, it does feel really good to get to the final product. And you get to smell all piney fresh the rest of the day. If not, I hear ya – just buy one of those beauties from someone local. 

One random tidbit to round out this post. I took the rest of the little cut trimmings and put them in jars and vases of water around the house. A nice way to get as much of that wintry scent and feel as you can. (This would be a great way to go if you don’t have the patience for building a wreath.) Happy wreathing! 

Patience sucks 

Waiting for the right time of year for a project. Waiting to plant the seedlings or buy the plants until there is a place to grow themWaiting for the sourdough starter to rise. Waiting to taste the food I made before saying it will taste like crapWaiting until I’m over 75% through a painting or drawing before telling my art teacher it’s crap. Waiting until I’ve practiced a song more than a few times before…thinking it’s crap.  

Hm. Seeing a theme. 

I cannot count how many times I have almost given up on a drawing or painting because of how terrible the work-in-progress looked. Most of the time, you know what my art teacher says? “Keep going! This is how it’s supposed to look right now.” Bleh. 

Not to sound like I’m bragging, but I tend to be good at things pretty quickly. I sometimes wonder if, despite the obvious benefits, this has set me up to really struggle with being patient enough to get the most out of the creativity process. 


Now don’t get me wrong, I have had plenty of projects not work out. In fact, I’m currently realizing I’ll have to re-cardboard and mulch a whole section of my native garden bed because I didn’t get it right the first time and annoying little grass babies are popping up everywhere. But I have also had plenty of things that I knew weren’t working out that did. You won’t know which is which unless you allow yourself to be open to the failuresIn fact, you often won’t even make it to the successes without the failures. 

Expecting perfection from the start is a recipe for creative disaster. It’s the Catch-22. We often lose focus on the fact that the only way to actually fail at creativity is to refuse to allow ourselves to fail. But man is it hard to say, “Woo! Let’s do it! Failure? I LOVE failure! Gimme some failure!”  

In the interest of encouraging others to embrace the ugly side of creating, I am going to show you the progression of my first charcoal portrait. With each step, I’ll also give you a peek inside my mind at the time. 

“OK, this isn’t so scary.” 

Ooooooo, clothes and hair are actually really fun!” 

“Wait. What the @$&(%, I’m further along. How does it look less like him than when I started?!” 

%^&@%^# piece of %#*, I’m going to throw you in the %#^ @&#*% trash – UGH! It’s the $^(*# North. Winter is coming. Jon Snow doesn’t really need lips, does he? They’ll just freeze off anyway. 

“Guess he’s looking OK. My teacher was right, the beard does make a big difference! …Lips still suck…I just won’t look at them. 

“Hm. Don’t think his hair is going to look right in the picture. But at least it looks kind of like him!” 

“Sweet, got the hang of the hair.” 


“Whoa, it looks like Jon Snow! But…maybe only I think it looks like Jon Snow…” Proceeds to show it to a few people who think it looks like Jon Snow. “HEY, EVERYBODY, LOOK WHAT I DID!” 

Let me tell you, this portrait was quite the rollercoaster ride, but it was very, very worth it in the end. If I had stopped halfway through, things would have never come back around. You know what else is cool? In going through my different art pictures to find what to use for this postI got to see how even the steps I went through to get to an end portrait changed and improved moving on from this first one.

Don’t Give Up 

Still not entirely convinced? Let’s go even uglier. Here is an art project that “failed”. 


Clearly, I felt real good about this one. I got SO mad and took it out on the painting – I loved how the background of this painting was looking and then just destroyed it when trying to paint in some flowers. Honestly, this is likely a big reason why I have so many unfinished projects lying around. The fear of messing it up. 

As much as I’d love to avoid sharing this one, it’s one of the most important. This is when I stepped back and decided that I was not allowed to get mad at myself for struggling with art when I had not taken an art class in 20 years. That was the day I finally registered for my adult art class where I had the success I showed above. 

That bread that looks too flat? Often still tastes great. (Is it too hard? No such thing – make it into croutons or bread pudding!) 

That chord you can’t get right? Smooths out with time if you practice. 

That part you wrote that you don’t like? Will get you to the best parts later. 

That plant you’ve killed 4 times? You learned something each time that will help with the next plant. (Damn you, lavender, I shall get you to grow someday!) 

Don’t be fooled by what sounds like this incredibly mature adult before you. I am terrible at this. I yell, I snap, I sulk, heck I even consider throwing things. OK, maybe I’ve thrown a few things. But it’s always wimpy stuff like wads of paper and guitar picks. Then I pause, take a few deep breaths, maybe I take a break for a bit, and then I do the next step. I’m often not happy about it in the moment. I often think it’s a waste of timeLater, I’m always glad that I did it. 

So this was all my long-winded way of saying…Keep going – you got this! (And try not to throw anything.)