Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas

I'll be spending tonight and tomorrow with my family for Christmas. We'll eat way too much food, hopefully make a fire and toast marshmallows, and play a ton of games. It should be a wonderful couple of days. I hope wherever you are, you have a very Merry Christmas full of food and family and friends and warmth. Particularly warmth. We could use it this year.

10 Minutes

I have the words "Ten Minutes" on the chalkboard above my bed. These two simple words have changed the way I see myself and life in general. For years I've had big plans of things I'm going to do. Books I'm going to write. Weight I'm going to lose. Skills I'm going to learn. But I always seem to get overwhelmed by how much work it takes to actually achieve these goals. And I always say that if I can't dedicate myself fully to my goal, than it's not worth even trying to achieve anything. In short, I give up. Pretty quickly.

The "10 minutes" idea came into my life after I started learning guitar. My father recommended practicing at least 10 minutes per day. Mostly because my fingers had not developed the strength or calluses needed. But I started thinking about how 10 minutes per day didn't seem like much. I could do that. I can do anything for that amount of time and I know I have at least ten minutes that I could spend each day. Each day I play, at least 10 minutes and most of the time longer. I've also started writing at least 10 minutes per day. Often longer, but at least those few minutes.

And I've realized that breaking my goals into small manageable chunks makes all the difference for me. I don't feel odd about writing when I'm only doing 10 minutes. I don't get self-conscious and stop writing. I don't worry about if the writing is award winning. I just fill those 10 minutes and by the time they are over, I'm normally full tilt into something I've been meaning to write. I've been strength training for at least 10 minutes a day. Everyone can strength train for ten minutes. In fact everyone can dedicated ten minutes to almost anything.

Suddenly things don't seem so insurmountable. I feel like I can achieve all sorts of things, in just 10 minutes per day. And those are minutes that I always feel I have available to spend. If I told myself that I'd be writing for an hour, my mind would say that I don't have that kind of time. I'd talk myself out of it before I even started. But my brain never balks at 10 minutes. I have that kind of time. And using this one little trick, this one little thought, I'm starting to feel better about those goals. Suddenly I might be able to achieve things.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

My New Obsession

Meet my new obsession. I'm not sure what to call him yet. I'm leaning towards Jonsi, after the lead singer/guitarist for Sigur Ros. Mostly because he makes beautiful sounds that make me happy. Well...both of them do.

This past year I decided that I want to learn an instrument. I learned the saxophone when I was in grade school but I hated it. I tried the piano at 12 but when I realized I wasn't going to be the next Chopin, I gave up. Neither instrument was practiced enough. This time I knew I wanted to take my time and learn to play slowly, by practicing consistently. The guitar seemed perfect. My father has played guitar the entire time I've been alive. He started taking lessons shortly before I was born when he was 33. Now at 37 I've decided it's my turn.

When Jeff and I came home from St. Louis after Thanksgiving, I went over and my dad taught me the very basics. I learned how to hold the instrument, how to strum with the pick, how to read TAB, and three basic chords. He sent me home with a lovely guitar, an instruction book, an electronic tuner, and some picks. He also sent me home with the directive to practice. And I've been taking him seriously.

I play every night. At first I could only practice for about ten minutes before my fingers hurt so much I had to stop. I'm learning with nylon strings thankfully (Thanks Dad!) but it still hurt for the first week or so. This week I can play for 40 minutes or more a night. I've developed the calluses I need on my fingers. I'm learning my chords. I'm taking my time with this. And I'm practicing hard and I'm not getting frustrated. Suddenly I'm looking at my favorite songs and wondering what key they are in. I'm excited to practice, even if it's just playing with some finger picking.

But the big thing for me is that I'm learning. I didn't think I could learn an instrument. I had told myself that I just wasn't musically inclined. It feels good to have the discipline to practice everyday and the ability to learn. My chord transitions are smoother today than they were two days ago. I feel good to be taking my time. It may take me years to learn the guitar but I'm okay with the slow pace. It feels good to learn and to try.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Grzegorz Wrobel

I read a lot of art blogs. If I like an artist I'll write down their name and go back eventually to look at the rest of their work. Today I read Parka Blogs (one of the best resources on art books) who did a profile on Polish artist Grzegorz Wrobel. Wrobel is an architect so his paintings are often of buildings and cityscapes. The moment I saw his work, I not only wrote down his name but I went out looking for more of his work. I think I'm in love.

Watercolor is one of the hardest mediums to work in. It's unforgiving of mistakes and there is a certain loss of control you have to accept with it. Colors bleed into each other. That just makes Wrobel's work all the more amazing. These are watercolors. And they are so detailed and precise that I'm left shaking my head as to how lovely they are.

Now normally modern cityscape paintings leave me cold. But these are magical. There is an unearthly quality to them. The soft colors and focus makes everything stand all the more for me. It makes me look a little harder at what would have been an ordinary street scene. His palettes are perfect for the scene he is working on. And the details make the images seem all the more real and unreal at the same time. I was blown away by his work.

As with any artist I write about, I recommend you go out and take a closer look at the rest of the artist's work. I only choose a couple of images that strike me. All of this man's work is magical.

Wrobel's website. Sadly my Polish is not so good.
His Deviant Art site.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Sunset on the Road

Jeff and I headed to St. Louis to see his family for Thanksgiving and on the way down I took these photos of the sunset. I love my camera for these kind of shots.

Of course I couldn't get photos without the dirt on the windows (above fuzziness)

The windshield wipers making an appearance.

But you can see how lovely the colors were.