A few years ago, while I still owned Log Cabin Studios, I made a documentary about a sustainable agriculture farmer. Even though I no longer own the company and have retired, I’m very proud of this year long project and of the farmers who owned this amazing heirloom farm.
I’d like to share the trailer for that documentary. The documentary itself was only available on DVDs and the DVDs are gone, but you can watch the trailer and see how someone out there in the big wide world honors the environment and the resources they’ve created on their farm to make a life for themselves that sustains them.
Plus it was a huge project and still brings me joy to see the video. I’m proud to have done the documentary, to have met the people highlighted in it, and to learn so much from them.
I created sheets of color swatches many years ago. Mine are all for watercolor and the brand of paint I use is Winsor & Newton professional grade. The color swatch sheets always hung on the wall of my studio. Some are purely to show what the color looks like and its name. Others show what color combinations I get when I mix various colors. The swatches show combinations of two colors and of three colors. They may also show the color at full strength and pulled to the side, thinner and thinner, demonstrating its translucency, mixed with water.
Other purposes of the swatches are to show me what a particular color is called, in the event that the name has worn off the tube or the palette. It also lets me see which colors need replacing.
As a side note, this video and others were made when I owned a small film company called Log Cabin Studios. They are also under my birth name, Shelley Wilson, rather than my nickname of Ren. I sold off all of my equipment in order to travel full time. Now my videos are to help students with art. I teach art classes on my travels. It enables me to pass on all I’ve learned about drawing and painting. It brings me great joy to see my students discover their creativity and to see the world around them with new eyes.
This winter I taught “How to Draw”. It was rewarding, fun, and brought many new friends into my life.
If relationships are important to you, then you realize the importance of keeping them healthy. Otherwise, what’s the point? You’re not much different than a hermit or you’re so narcissistic that you expect everyone else to keep them healthy. Not your job, right?
PHASE 1 – LOVE
Take marriage, for example. For some reason, falling in love is like…”a rush”. Finding someone who thinks you’re awesome is a boost to your ego and makes you feel like you are indeed lovable. You’re not a weirdo who has no redeeming qualities. Someone loves you. That boosts your self-worth. Hopefully everyone else in the relationship agrees.
PHASE 2 – MARRIAGE
Now you’re married to that person who thinks you’re Prince or Princess Charming. You’re together a lot more and there’s some positioning and learning that happens. You both might have had little, insignificant things about you that you never shared or divulged. It’s all good, right?
Being together all the time or at least around your work day causes those little insignificant things to come into the light. You’re in love though, so you smile and shrug and love goes on.
People enter into relationships with partners without really being sure who they are themselves. We figure we know enough, since there’s some history there, right? We like to sleep. We enjoy eating three times a day. Our bodies, when we’re kind of young, are excellent and so we don’t need to be concerned about that lasting forever. Well, that’s how we think. Young people feel immortal and like time is of no consequence. It stretches so far out in front of us that we can’t see the end of it and that’s good enough. I, personally, am not saying it’s good enough. I’m saying it because we have this subconscious opinion that it is.
PHASE 1 1/2 – WAIT – WHO AM I?
Knowing yourself is a sliding scale of course. It’s different for each of us. There are factors like how long we wait to enter into a relationship, how much time have we spent just with ourselves, how you were raised, etc. I’ve watched lots of videos about people who are mountain climbers, cyclists, marathon runners, world travelers, book lovers, on-line gamers, and all sorts of things where the person is passionate about whatever it is, and they are comfortable with feeling that way. They expect it to last a very long time. Yes, even the on-line gaming. Hey, if you love doing something and you know you do, you want to keep going. Well, you get the point, don’t you. Knowing yourself is like being in a relationship with yourself and that’s kind of what I’m getting at. You must be in a good relationship with yourself first, before anyone else.
PHASE 3 – KIDS
After you’re married for a while, life sets in. That honeymoon phase dissipates and there are probably more bills to pay than when you were single. The number of bills usually increase from there.
Children come on the scene and a new sort of honeymoon phase begins, except its being crazy in love with these amazing little beings that are the result of the love between you and your partner. Those little beings start school and get into soccer, ballet, scouts, gymnastics, and probably more and probably different things all the time. Puberty arrives for them and they get a little crotchety and their expectations are higher for themselves and their freedom than you’re able to go along with, in all good conscience most likely. Small things get blown out of proportion and seem bigger than they probably are.
PHASE 4 – AND SO IT GOES…LIFE
We heard our parents talk about it, but we always believe it’ll be better for us. Marriage will be forever. Children will be amazing beings forever and they’ll be happy acquiescing to our expectations for them their entire lives.
NOW! RV LIFE
PHASE 1 – FULL TIME RV LIFE – A RELATIONSHIP, TOO
Really, it is. Stay with me for a few minutes and then see if you agree or disagree.
Whether you’re an expert on YOU or just a novice, you think you know what you want and what you are. Perhaps you see a movie or a video about people who live in RVs. It looks exciting and fun and smart. It’s minimalist living and so you’re not as tied to things and the purchasing and maintaining of it all. Not having all that stuff to take care of frees up a lot of time. Going over every rise or around every corner will take your breath away. What’s better than that?
PHASE 2 – THE DECISION AND THE SEARCH
After maybe a day, a week, a month, or years you decide to make the leap. You’ve done some homework and researched it all. Time to just do it.
Finding, falling in love with, and purchasing that RV is like falling in love with a person and getting married. It’s a two way falling in love. You love that RV and it loves you and is going to change your life. It’ll last forever, too, right?
The beginning of RV life happens somewhere just after you’ve finally sold, donated, or discarded all your possessions. Well, perhaps not all were reallocated. You probably read that it’s a good idea to put some stuff in a storage shed or bin or cubicle somewhere for a year. That gives you time to find out if you did the right thing and it’s worth continuing. If it isn’t, you have your stuff back there somewhere and you have a plan B. If it is the life for you, then you can empty the shed and move on.
All sorts of people embark on full time RV life, whether you’re independently wealthy, retired, a digital nomad, or just plain nomad. Single people, married people, grey haired folks, and young folks might hit the road in some sort of RV.
PHASE 2 – RV LIKE COURTSHIP
The big day has arrived. You post on all your social media accounts that the day is here and you’re heading out. Day One. It’s an amazing day and sort of like a wedding. It probably cost a bit to reach this big day. Maybe a lot of people told you they were jealous and wish they could do it. They’re so excited and happy for you. Some say they could never do that. They couldn’t leave behind family and friends and jobs. A few will question your sanity. You are not deterred. You’ve never been more certain about anything. CHARGE!
PHASE 3 – LIKE A HONEYMOON
You’re behind the wheel of something, be it the RV itself or the thing that pulls it. At last it’s the honeymoon phase. Wonderful things are sure to happen, and everything will be perfect and all expectations will be met and even exceeded.
PHASE 4 – MARRIAGE
Somewhere ahead of you, along the road or on a campsite somewhere in the country, real life happens. Perhaps you have a partner with you. Maybe you have a whole family. Some shuffling about has occurred as everyone found the amount of space they could handle and needed. Clothes have to be thinned out to make room for everyone else’s clothes, too. If you have a pet, they need some space. Nerves calm a bit when they realize that they will indeed still get to eat meals every day. Chores are distributed. Joy is confirmed when fun is had here and there. No one has jumped out of the boat, desperate to return to their stuff.
PHASE 5 – LIFE!
Dishes still must be done. There is no dishwasher probably. Groceries are purchased just like old times. Beds are made. Floors are swept or vacuumed. Showers are taken. Life is happening, mixed in with a walk along the rim of the Grand Canyon, rides in an amusement park, s’mores and hot dogs made over a campfire. You’re making your way. Maybe there are still tears and disappointment or arguments about invaded space, but it’s all worked out and smoothed over.
There are days when you wonder at yourself. What were you thinking when you decided to do this? It’s more expensive than you thought it would be. Your house or apartment didn’t get flat tires or have things fall out of the engine compartment. You didn’t have to lubricate the slide-out on your house. Most assuredly you didn’t have to empty black and grey tanks every few days.
PHASE 6 – HANG IN THERE!
However, you round another corner, and your breath is taken away. You encounter other people like yourself and, after a great evening around a campfire talking and laughing with them, you remember just why you did all this. You figure out that if you buy something for the RV, something has to go. You make concessions and the RV loves you for it.
PHASE 6 – THE PAY-OFF
One day you fly out to visit family for the holidays. You sleep in the guest room and eat, graciously, whatever they cook for you. The bed isn’t what you need, or the room is too hot or cold. The whole thing is mixed in with good stuff. Maybe you begin to wonder if, after being in a house or apartment again without grey and black tanks and without the sound of rain on a thin roof, will you be able to go back to RV life. Again, you wonder. Hm. What have I done?
Time to go back to the campground where your RV has been waiting for your return. You step inside the door and realize that you are home. This small space with its give and take has come to feel like home.
Today, a Tuesday, I’m doing graphics (making seat numbers for today’s concert), teaching an art class, and selling drinks at a concert (same concert). Because I’m an introvert, I’m trying to think of where I can sneak a nap into the schedule. I’d also like to find time to eat. If I eat at the 19th Hole Restaurant like…right now…oh! I’ll be back later.
Yikes! I don’t know if I have more of a “teaching” personality or a “student” personality. I’ve taught lots of classes, but I usually know my students well BEFORE they take my classes. I’ve learned from lots of great teachers for art, but I get soooo nervous when I’m the one teaching. At least in the beginning. Even though I was nervous, I had a wonderful time. It was great getting to meet some new people here from the RV park. Right now, the topics I teach may not appeal to everyone, so I suspect I’ll have different students for different topics. Makes sense, anyhow.
Next class is next Tuesday, 1-3. Topic: Watercolor Pencils
I want people to discover creativity within themselves. If they’re already know they’re creative, I want to open their eyes to new ways of expressing that. If you have never had a chance to make a painted gourd, how would you know that isn’t the thing you’d love. I don’t teach that, but maybe something I do teach will be a new and great creative outlet for someone.
We did a warm up project first. I gave everyone a 4″ x 4″ piece of smooth bristol (a paper that is thicker than regular paper or card stock). They picked out a pen, made a dot in each of the four corners, and then connected the dots with some sort of line…any kind of line they wanted. After that they divided the squarish shape into smaller shapes. The goal was to fill in the smaller shapes with whatever they wanted, as if they were doodling while on the phone. EXCEPT. After a couple of minutes, they had to pass it to the person on their right. Each person’s piece of paper, with their name on the back, was worked on (doodled on) by nearly everyone in the room. After a while, the papers were returned to their owners. I do that so each person ends up getting to see lots of people’s ideas and doodle-techniques, because its right there on their paper. Creativity breeds creativity. Hopefully, a person would look at the other styles and think “Oh! I wonder if I could…”.
We made bookmarks. After all, that was why we were there. I had lots of samples. Yes, a bookmark is some sort of paper, blank or otherwise, that gets put in a book to remind us where we left off. What if its a piece of paper you turned into a bookmark, decorated yourself, and stuck it into a book to give a friend. It would be like a mini-visit. They would know you took time from your busy day to spend a few minutes with just them. Bookmarks have taken on a whole new meaning for me. I was so impressed with what the ladies in my class made. Each one was unique and I got to hear the story behind some of them. What a treat it was.
We learned how to make a page corner marker. I don’t know if that’s the term for it. I can’t find the one I made when teaching the class, but I have the one I made before class to teach myself. The ones we made in class were nicer, because I used printer paper for them and they folded nicely. This one on parchment looks more like a hat. They can be decorated just like regular bookmarks.
It was only about 2:10 after all that and the class was supposed to take two hours, lasting until 3:00. It was okay that it didn’t, but everyone was enjoying chatting as they wrapped up their projects, so I did this one last thing. If anyone was watching, it showed them what can be done with markers, a waterproof-ink pen, and watercolor pencils.
I feel I was well-prepared and had plenty of materials and options for everyone. My wish for them is that they had fun and learned something creative. I certainly learned a lot and enjoyed everyone in the class. I hope I can teach them again. Next lesson – using watercolor pencils.
This journey of mine has been full of surprises. It began as a way to save money and to spend time with family and friends, yet have my own little house with me all the time. Not long after I started (all of last March ago – LOL) I discovered gas prices are big numbers. My first couple of fill-ups were $5.25 a gallon and $6.25 a gallon. Oh my! How could I justify living on the road, stopping at a campground for a month maybe, staying in the desert for a couple weeks, staying in a driveway, and making the trip from one place to the another…on my budget?
My first campground was pretty reasonable. No problem, I thought. However, I soon discovered that, in general, they’ve gone way up in price. In places that are great for winter, the prices for a campsite are as much as a luxury apartment. Places that have great prices are remote and have no internet. Sometimes that’s okay, but I’m still very much in need of internet. Even with two hot spots of my own through AT&T and T-Mobile I still had no internet. Anyways, my new life was just full of such surprises.
The Good News!
I have figured things out pretty well. I got myself into a diesel gas program that gives me nice discounts across the country. I joined organizations that help me get discounts on campsites (maybe not enough to stay at a $1,600 a month campground). I’ve found some great campgrounds along the way. I’ve been treated super well at each and every one.
I’ve discovered that I need to stay at most places longer than I expected. No more moving about the country with short stops in between. The longer stays at campgrounds have more reasonable prices.
Best of All
…is my discovery that there are a few lonely days, but that’s my own fault. I knew that you have to be a friend to make a friend. I felt I was making my best effort to be friendly. I didn’t exactly offer the cashier at the grocery store my phone number, but its almost that easy. At the campground I’m at for the winter, I’m a volunteer in the activity office. What better way to encounter people. Lots of people come in each day, signing up for events and classes. They come in to ask questions about getting propane, having something printed out, where to eat or get a haircut. I’ve met so many great people.
The other thing I do is help out at the events. I might seat people for a concert, sell drinks at the rodeo or a dance, or deliver flyers to the mail room.
I love attending events and hearing people call out my name in greeting.
Even though I keep bills paid and administrative issues attended to, I pretty much live in the moment.
The first class (love the sound of that) is on making bookmarks. Here’s samples of some (just so you’re clear that we’re not bookmarking websites).
You can make your own bookmark to tuck into a book you’re gifting someone. Leave a space to write the name of the book, the author, and favorite things about the book you’re reading or the gifted book receiver is reading.
I have made major changes to my website! Please take some time to look it over.
In the past three years my life has gotten smaller and more compact. I’ve given away, sold, thrown away, and donated nearly everything I own. Yet I’ve never been happier. While my life is small, its also bigger than the wide world because of the people I’ve met, the scenes that take my breath away, the confidence I’ve gained in overcoming obstacles, kindnesses that have been shown to me, and in the friends I’ve made.
As I move into this nomad life, my priorities are changing as I find my purpose and meaning. I’m wanting to accomplish different things. Most important is my desire to share what I’ve learned with others. With you! Its no longer enough to keep it to myself. I don’t just want you to learn how to draw or paint, but more importantly, I want you to learn to do creative things that are just right for you and that let you live in the moment.
I want to help others find out that they can create things that give them delight and purpose. Learning to do some art has so many benefits. The process of learning to draw can help you develop better decision making skills. Betty Edwards, who founded the course called Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain talked about that in her book of the same title. Its so true.
Viktor E. Frankl wrote a book called Man’s Search For Meaning and it has sold more than fifteen million copies worldwide. That’s 15 MILLION. He survived life in a World War II concentration camp. He writes that those, in the camp, who had a purpose/meaning, survived. Purpose they wanted to see a loved one or maybe they had been working on a book before being captured and they wanted to finish it. No matter what the purpose, it was something that kept them from giving up. Having a purpose helps all of us keep going.
Learning is good for you. You’re never too old to learn something new. It can make you feel young.
Taking a class to learn some type of art gets you out around other people who are also wanting to learn how to do something creative. You’re like-minded. You’ve found your own kind!
Learning to do art or even how to write can open your eyes to the world around you in a way you never experienced before. Our world is the ultimate painting. The ultimate sculpture. The ultimate story. Making art yourself, puts you right into that story.
Finally, if you don’t give up too soon, you’ll gain a better feeling about yourself and you’ll feel better in general.
Now that my life is pretty much as simple as it can be, its time to be creative in new ways. I want to create things just because I want to. Here I go. I’m going to make short videos on how to do things. This is a good place to start – tangling.
The above steps are where I started, but I found it so relaxing that I wanted to create more and more. One day I wanted to take it further and that’s how I came to tangle a honey bee.
In the next video, I will take you from your first tangle to a story-tangle, like my honey bee. While you wait, please search for something you want to create. You’ll need to make an outline that only has the barest details. In the honey bee, I outlined the two wings, the basic body shape, the legs and the antennae. See what subject you can outline in prep for the next how-to video.