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Vacation Still-Life


I just flew back (and boy are my arms tired) from an amazing 2 weeks in Ireland with SO much love and SO much family. And I gotta tell you, it was a WHIRLWIND. Like... part of me isn't even sure it really happened because it all went by so quickly in a swirling blur of happiness and travel logistics.


But it DID happen, and this very special special-assignment is PROOF that it happened. Because it doesn't matter what time of year it is or where you're going, if you're heading out on vacation you're probably going to have that same head-spinning, it's-over-too-soon feeling that I had.


So take this with you. Take this lesson and take this assignment with you as you travel and experience and soak it all in. All you'll need is a piece of paper and something to make marks with. I brought my handy travel-size sketchbook and a pen. That's it.


Picture this: you're on vacation, you've got your paper, you have you pen/pencil/crayon/whatever... and now all you need is time. So stop. Pause. Take a moment out of all the running around and just sit. Sit in one place long enough to set up a little scene. Choose a small number of objects that feel connected to where you are and what you're doing, right in that moment, and just sit with them. And then take a deep breath... and draw.


For me, it was a half-eaten packed of hobnobs, and the teapot and teacup my mom had been using to soothe a sore throat. I sat and stared and stressed for longer than I think I really needed to, because it's been easily over a decade since I did ANY kind of still-life drawing and I was terrified I'd mess it up... but then I reminded myself that this is why I have a sketchbook in the first place... so that I CAN mess it up. I reminded myself that WORST case scenario, I'd end up with some blobs on a piece of paper that I could say were abstract and that NO ONE would ever see. And that THAT would be OK!! And that I had SO MANY BLANK PAGES so that if I didn't get it right the first time, I could try again. And again, and learn from each attempt.


If it helps, there are a couple of art-y thing you can try to help you get over the hump of "I don't think I can do this":


  1. Start with a pencil and just make shapes. Don't get caught up in the details and crinkles and textures, just literally start by making blobs that bear a general resemblance to the objects you're trying to draw. Use that as a way to figure out what size each object is supposed to be and how they're all positioned together.

  2. Just use lines... If you're not feeling super confident (like me) don't worry about shading and details and reflections and all that nonsense. Just make line drawings. Focus on the outlines of things. In stead of worrying about how the heck I was going to draw all of the reflections in that teapot... I just drew lines. And it got the job done.

  3. Start simple and start in the middle. Because you're setting this thing up, YOU get to decide how the objects interact. I put the teapot in the middle because it was the biggest thing and, probably, the easiest thing to get right. Then once I got that down, I was able to base the size and perspective of the teacup on what I'd done in the teapot.


What's Happening: This assignment is NOT about creating perfection. There is NO stress or pressure, here, to make something that perfectly (or even closely) resembles the objects in your still-life setup.

It's really about creating time... Time to pause and reflect. Time to slow down the clock, to stop the racing around and people-pleasing that inevitably happens on vacations. Time to sit and take it all, or at least SOMETHING, in. When I look at the twisted-up packet of hobnobs, I think of how much fun my dad and I had shopping for our favorite UK/Irish junk foods together. When I look at the teapot and teacup, I think of how we all took turns getting sick and how delicious the local honey that my in-laws gave to us was. I think of hot-whiskeys and vacation-netflix-binging. I think of a rare moment in time when two sides of my family were together in my happiest place. Time moves so quickly. And the times you wish would slow down, somehow end up moving the fastest. Vacation Still-Life isn't really about drawing... it's about feeling. It's about remembering. It's about actually living the moments that otherwise just fly by.

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