Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What is Your Pencil?

Self Portrait in pen and ink (c)2011 Dora Sislian Themelis

With the excitement of the spring holidays dying down I was finally able to get back to reading some of the latest resistance beating books for artists. The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp is an easy read, if only I could sit and read it.

Still in the second chapter and I think I understand the ideas she's trying to convey. Trying to make art-making a habit by finding the right switch to flip is a valid point. Some artists' brains click on with certain actions or stimuli. Blasting rock music, lighting a candle, cleaning the studio might do the trick for some. I have yet to figure out what mine is.

Tharp suggests avoiding certain things as part of the creative ritual. Things like not multitasking, watching movies, adding up numbers (Right brain/left brain?), and playing background music. I guess these can be distractions to creativity. There are things that could keep me from painting for sure. I am easily distracted by a great number of things.

Living without some kind of distraction though is too monastic. I like a good distraction now and then. But keeping a comfortable environment helps. Clean, with loved items, surrounded by comfortable colors helps to keep my brain in my head.

Being prepared is the big one for me, and it seems, for most artists. That's where the question came in: Where is your pencil? Better yet: What is your pencil?

What is your tool to keep creating? Figure that out and don't be caught without it! Tharp relays a story of someone who, as a kid, wanted a famous person's signature, but when asked for his pencil, didn't have one. No tickey, no shirtey! After that this guy was never without a pencil. You just never know when you will need one.

"Pick your pencil and never leave home without it" says Tharp. Be prepared! Make something be a part of the ritual to create, whether it is a pencil and pad in my purse, or a camera in your pocket.

Ideas fly by my brain so much of the time. If and when I get a good one, and I'm not prepared- it's bye bye. While I was waiting in the doctor's office I whipped out my rapidograph and sketchpad to doodle my shoe.

I knew where my pencil was.


  1. I like that you sketched your lap and slipper. I have to get in the habit of taking my craft/creativity where ever I go.

  2. Love your sketch! My pencil is usually a radiograph, or I also like the retractable sharpie. My small camera is also in the purse- prepared, but not always remembering to draw!

  3. Great post, Dora. I carry my camera and pen and paper all the time. I've sketched people in the doctor's office and written a poem about the sketch. I hate when I lose an idea. I get alot of ideas just as I am waking up so have to be quick to mull them over and pick the good ones. My dreamlife is quite intersting at times.

  4. Dora, I try to always have my camera with me. I have been caught without it and always regret it. I am so inspired by the shapes of the clouds and color combinations of flowers in a landscape. Great post!

    Daniel MacGregor

  5. I've got the same book, and haven't gotten very far. I'm going to get it out now and start again!
    Love the sketch!!

  6. Great sketch! I love contour drawings, they have so much life in them. More, more, more! Connie :)

  7. Ever since I found that teeny sketchpad I feel as if I am still in the loop. Tucked into my purse with the rapidograph I feel armed and ready! If I have a week of non-art related activities I can still keep my "mojo" working!

    Thanks to all of you readers for commenting. That really keeps me going too!


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