Artist FAQ

What I’m doing is called sketching, or urban sketching. I’d love to talk with you about it but then I’d miss out on time to sketch, so I made this handout for you. Thanks for understanding.

I use watercolor pencils.  I sketch dry and add water later. There are other ways to use watercolor pencils – this is just the way I like to use them.  You can see the finished sketch @betsybeadhead

Yes, I am an artist. Anybody is if they make art. Being creative is part of being a human being.  I also work a full-time job. I don’t get paid to be an artist.  I still make art, because it makes me happy.

You may say “I can’t even draw a straight line.” That is not an excuse to not make art. Get a ruler. Or notice that how little in nature is composed of straight lines. Straight lines are boring anyway.

Nobody’s art looks great at the beginning. It takes years of practice to be good at it. That is not a reason to not make art. If you want to get better at anything, you have to practice it.  Making art is just like learning how to play the piano.  Make a “play date” with yourself – schedule time to make art.

You can get books from the library (subjects: sketching, urban sketching, art journaling) and learn how to do this. You can also take a class for free through the Nashville library system. You can get a free library card even if you don’t live in Davidson County.  You don’t need a card to attend a class.

The fact that you are interested in what I’m doing means you too are an artist. Go make art!

30 habits for happiness

Be kind

Eat well

Exercise

Meditate

Be honest

Dream big

Be patient

Judge less

Smile often

Love yourself

Forgive easily

Show gratitude

Think positively

Drink lots of water

Believe in yourself

Keep an open mind

Put your needs first

Don’t make excuses

Speak well of others

Listen to understand

Choose faith over fear

Make the most of now

Exercise self-discipline

Look on the bright side

Avoid social comparison

See failure as opportunity

Don’t take opinions to heart

Select friends that lift you up

Let go of what can’t be changed

Have a healthy sleeping pattern.

(I didn’t write this. I don’t know who did. But it still needs to be shared.)

New rules, old door.

There was no knocker on this door.

There was no doorbell either.

It was opened by appointment only, so it did no good to just show up – or to be late or early. It was on time or nothing.

It hadn’t always been this way. But she’d read about rules for the queen of England. You couldn’t touch her unless she initiated contact. Not a handshake, not a pat on the back – nothing. She was the one who would reach out first. It seemed like a good rule for everybody – not just monarchs. It would certainly start very instances of sexual harassment.

She’d first thought it was a good idea for just women, but then thought it would be a good rule for everybody. Men had been harassed too. Men had been victims too. And whether the encounter was between people of the opposite sex or the same didn’t matter. Boundaries and consent mattered for everybody, all the time. Even if an interaction had occurred before. Even if you were married, or family. Every time you touch somebody there must be consent.

The guys who acted badly – maybe they had never been taught otherwise. Nobody has said “No, that isn’t right”, so they assume it is OK. This is not blaming women… but how can men know how we feel if we don’t tell them? They do not have the same lived experience. They can’t empathize with being groped, ogled, cat-called. They don’t hear “Hey baby, why don’t you smile?” Or “That dress looks hot” or “while you’re down there” with a smirk and a glance to the crotch to a female coworker who is digging something out of a cabinet at their feet. They don’t hear or experience this, and they are told that having a woman, a “piece” (not a whole, just that part, not a person), is what makes them a man.

It was time for new rules for an old door.

It was time for things to change.

Nobody got through unless she invited them.

Ever.

No matter who they were.

(written early June, 2019)

Give up.

She might as well give up. It worked for finding a husband. Maybe it would work for a friend. This door looked unlikely – more tomb than treasure. But then again, all the likely doors had been dead ends.

Maybe there was something to giving up, after all. Maybe she needed to stop trying to have a friend, or a group of friends. The ones who wanted to hang out with her just wanted her for her ear, or shoulder, or heart. They wanted to lean things on her, weigh her down. But the scales weren’t even. Was it her fault? She never unburdened herself on them. If they were treating her like they wanted to be treated, then maybe she should. But that had often led to ridicule, dismissal, or worse – betrayal. A secret kept was a secret that was safe. It would never sneak around the corner to surprise at inappropriate moments. In the past she’d had to suddenly switch gears, act indifferent instead of shocked that her secret was out. That took away some of the power. The teller would see there was no weight to it – no value in the retelling. It wasn’t a secret that could be used as blackmail. But then she knew she could never talk to that person again, about anything. A person who thought secrets were for leverage wasn’t a person worth keeping around.

And how about the friends who ghosted her on social media? No use trying to private message or request friendship again. Any person who would leave without explaining wasn’t worth the time.

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. What is the same true with friends?

(Written late May, 2019)

Safe house

All the missing people were here, on the other side of this door. Well maybe not this exact door, but one like it in shape or color, if not style.

They all came here eventually, either on their own or with a guide. But even that wasn’t guaranteed. Guides could only come here once and then they had to disappear too.

There were plenty of robin’s-egg blue doors, and plenty of others that were arched. Not all of these were part of churches, but many were. Churches were the best place for secrets, after all.

Perhaps it had started with confessions, where deep sins were revealed and had to be hidden away. It wouldn’t do to have anything escape the confessional. Then word would get out and nobody would come. Without confessions, the church might as well cease to exist. Those relieved of their burdens were often so grateful that they tithed more. It wasn’t a one-to-one correlation, you understand. It wasn’t as if the priest said “say 20 Hail Mary’s and put $200 in the offering plate” but it worked that way anyway.

But there were plenty of other lost people who came through doors like these. People who’d lost their way in the world. People who didn’t fit in. People who were unwanted, or who just felt that way.

Children weren’t allowed, at least not in this kind of sanctuary. There was a sort of asylum for them, there had to be. Plenty enough children went missing over the years, so there had to be places for them. But this place was permanent. This place was no turning back. This place was more serious, more forever than marriage. There were vows here too, legal documents to sign here too, but there was no change of heart when things got tough. To be more accurate, hearts could change but the situation wouldn’t. No matter how much you begged or pleaded or cried, you could never go back through the doors into the real world. This was your world now.

Plenty came who were turned aside, deftly but firmly informed that there was no such place here. They left, confused, still searching. Perhaps they would find a different clue, overhear a different snatch of conversation. Perhaps they would locate another safe house entrance. Those who were turned aside were fleeing problems – money, love, drugs, either too much or not enough. They wouldn’t last here, wouldn’t be able to knuckle down and get to the business of really living this new life. They would be the first to want to leave and the last to settle down when they finally were made to understand there was no going back.

This new life was more permanent than marriage, more permanent than a tattoo. Both of those could be erased.

Sensory Issues books

Does life feel a bit too much? You aren’t alone.

Cain, Susan.  Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking.

Heller, Sharon   Too Loud, too bright, too fast, too tight: what to do if you are sensory defensive in an overstimulating world

Kranowitz, Carol Stock – The Out-of-Sync Child: Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Processing Disorder 

NurrieStearns, Mary.    Yoga for anxiety: meditations and practices for calming the body and mind

Simone, Rudy.  Asperger’s on the job: must-have advice for people with Asperger’s or high functioning autism, and their employers, educators, and advocates

Willey, Liane Holliday.   Pretending to be normal: living with Asperger’s syndrome

Zeff, Ted.   The highly sensitive person’s survival guide: essential skills for living well in an overstimulating world 

Short and Strange volume 2 is now available!

The link to the print version.
The link to the Kindle version.

This is a collection of 21 stories that were written from December 17th, 2017 to October 15th, 2019. They are all based on unusual black and white photos that I found. Some themes will become apparent – monkeys, alligators, names, citizenship. Who is “in” and who is “out”? What is “normal” – and who decides?The photo is the basis of every story. I select pictures that are odd, that seem to have a backstory. Yet, none exists. The human brain needs completion to feel at rest, even if the completion to the narrative isn’t necessarily true. So I write what the picture tells me to write. It is a little like being a detective, and a lot like being an artist. What would you create with limited ingredients or information? Sometimes a limit can be helpful. It forces you to focus on what you have. These stories might disturb you. They might make you think. Both can be useful. It is up to you to decide. These were initially posted on my blog, betsybeadhead.com. Many have been polished up for this book. If there is a difference between the version on my blog and the one here, the printed version is preferred.