Dog Days—IX: Working on Stonehenge Paper and Stopping the Negative Thoughts in Your Head

August 2, 2011

110711Lab Left: Practice dog sketch using a Pentel Pocket Brush Pen and gouache, on Stonehenge. (Handmade 8 x 8 inch journal.)

Since we are going to be working on Stonehenge paper at the "Paws on Grand" pet sketching, I thought I should spend some time working on Stonehenge with the pens I might want to use. Since I was ready to start a new journal I inaugurated it with this sketch of a lab. For me it is notable because I didn't get fussy with the pen and left more work for the gouache washes.

In past journals I've made with this paper I have had problems with Stonehenge delaminating at the glue seams between signatures, but so far (at this writing I'm half way through the journal) it is holding nicely.

I love working with the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen on this paper. The light washes of gouache will give me a way to quickly add some color if I decide to go this way with the pet sketches on August 7.

On June 29th of this year I wrote about another dog series, working in series and serendipity. A reader, Denise, wrote in to thank me for the helpful reminder to stop the negative thoughts in her head or to stop focusing on the negative. I wanted to bring my comments up into the blog, because I've meant to mention my "circuit-breaker" before.

110712Greyhound Right: A practice sketch of a greyhound, using the same approach.

The person we listen to the most is ourselves. One of the things I always encourage my students to do is to find a way to turn off the negative thoughts. They stop us from doing anything we might care about.

A mentor, who knew my propensity to think in terms of "if this, than that…to infinity" once suggested that I create a "circuit-breaker" for myself to turn off the chatter. (Negative, positive, any kind of chatter; there's a lot going on up there.)

I went with "stop it Roz." And boy does it work like a charm. I use it to this day.

In fact I use it many mornings when, exhausted, I try to talk myself out of going for my bike ride. "Stop it Roz," and I get on my bike and go. I use it on a bike ride when I start to dawdle and need to snap back to it. And it works again. (Sometimes I get so good at it that I can use it when it's 85 degrees F. and 94 percent humidity and still keep peddling—and I'm a cold weather person!)

It's so very handy for so many things, in all areas of life. It isn't flip. It seems so. But when we talk to our brains it is powerful stuff. So I make a point of talking to my brain about useful stuff which will create more of what I need, which is greater productivity. (See my post on J. M. W. Turner.)

There is something humorous about a grown woman standing in the middle of Micheal's saying "stop it Roz" to remind herself to focus and not be distracted by little bright sparkly things.

And it works equally well when it's late and I'm tired and I start worrying about the ones I love. You get the idea. It pushes me on to the next step, which is productive and based in the present moment.

Living with dogs, I should say, is a great way to cultivate this type of attitude. They live in the present moment and it is wonderful to see. And our own behavior becomes silly by comparison. Even in times of great sadness and stress having a way to snap into something productive can keep us afloat.

Working in a series is a great way to practice turning off the negative talk or the other distractions we might have when we work. It's a great way to focus ourselves in the present with the work right in front of us.

As you get deeper and deeper into the series, even if the pieces are not going as you would hope, you build so much momentum that you don't have time to talk negatively with yourself, you're simply interested in the next piece and what you can learn. You're simply interested in being in that present moment of learning.

Sometimes what you learn is "I don't want to go there again," because the work, after an honest assessment is not where you want to head. But more often you learn, "Wow, that's where I want to go." And if you've defined where you want to go you've given yourself another gift. Don't let negative self-talk and lack of focus take that away from you.

    • Miss T
    • August 2, 2011

    Roz, more wonderful sketches. And I love your “circuit breaker.” I definitely need one of those! Thanks for such a great and helpful post.

    • Linda
    • August 2, 2011

    Roz, Thank you I need this so. With teaching yourself and me being the worst on myself these words do me well, I to talk to myself and will have this one in my conversations often. I will go on and I will do this on this art path of mine. These words are huge for someone like me,
    Have a great day love the dog sketches so,

  1. Reply

    You always seem to come up with the appropriate words at the right time, as if you were speaking directly to me! You are an excellent teacher and great inspiration to those of us who do not have your iron self-discipline yet.
    I’m not sure what you do for book sales though; every time I see a book I think I might like, I check your blog to see if you have covered the subject, and the book store invariably misses out, lol!
    Thank you!

  2. Reply

    Creating a circuit-breaker now. Wish I’d heard of this idea before, as I, too, can do the “if-this-then-that” thing until it completely paralyzes me. Thank you.
    Also, I was happy to catch up with the Turner post.
    So yay on you twice — a third time for a lovely dog sketch.

  3. Reply

    Karen, glad that the post was helpful. And that you enjoyed the Turner post (it’s one of my favorites as it mentions Turner and TV in the same post! Oh, and game boy skills!)


  4. Reply

    Caroline, glad that the post arrived at an appropriate time. I don’t have iron self-discipline, however, just a penchant for working out what works and repeating it so that I can be most productive.

    Glad too that you find the blog in general helpful!

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