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Return to the Zoo: Balance Regained with a Private Sketch Out

June 9, 2010

Remembering to breathe.


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Above: Puffins and penguins sketched at the Como Zoo in St. Paul. Staedtler Pigment liner and Daniel Smith Watercolors in a 6.5 inch square journal.

Whatever disruptions present themselves, whether it's remodeling tasks, a spouse's illness, or pressing work deadlines, it's always a great idea to seek balance. Even if the disruption is a pleasant one like house guests you need to take time to reconnect with something that grounds you and sets you on a steady course for getting back to work, to your regular life.

It used to be that I had to look no more than 3 to 6 feet to find a subject to draw, and so slip back into balance. Now with no dogs in the house I have to make a more conscious effort to get back on track. Conscious effort is always a good thing.

After two very busy weeks I slipped away last Thursday to Como Zoo to sketch the puffins, penguins, and anything else that caught my fancy. I always start with the puffins because these birds remind me about everything I love about negative space, muscularity, and quickness. Seeing them gives me a dose of wonder that I can live off of for weeks (but I never leave it that long until I return).

Find what moves you to a state of wonder and happiness. Find what allows you the grace to shake off all the interruptions, the discombobulations, and the stress. If you are a gardener it might be outside your door. If you live with an animal it might be on the rug at your feet. Maybe it's your sleeping child or spouse. Maybe it isn't even something to draw but a walk in the brisk evening air. Whatever it is, find that thing which allows you to breath again, in a great gulp and then gently.

And you will find that the happy memories intensify, and the deadlines and stress…? Well you really do have time now, in your calmness.

To get through any day you need quick ways to regain balance. That's a topic for another day. But for large disruptions and struggles and stress, find something in which you can immerse yourself and come out refreshed—I recommend your journal, a favorite pen, and a beloved subject.

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