It's (not) complicated

I’m writing this post on Day 24 of my 30-Day Art Challenge.


On the one hand, I’ve loved this challenge. Ever since my octopus, it’s been one doodly preoccupation after another.


On the other hand, the challenge has made me feel under pressure every day to produce my own art (versus art I’ve promised and/or been paid to do), whether or not that was the right place for me to focus my energy.


That last part – the whether or not it’s the right place for me to focus my energy part- is new. It occurred to me yesterday evening when, after spending a pretty great day with my now unquestionably on-the-mend mom, I was stressing out about taking my dog for a walk. It was late; the day was disappearing and there were lots of things, including (and especially) my 30-day-challenge, that I hadn’t gotten to.

Then Lexi put her head in my lap and it hit me: making new, original, unrequested art is important, but it is not necessarily, the most important thing for me to do on any given day.


Challenge or no challenge, sometimes the most important thing for me to do is to be there for my mom or a brokenhearted friend, to deal with The Boy’s sudden college crisis or find my way through the jungle that is our new health insurance, to work on my new (cool, coming soon) web pages, illustrate a wonderful writer’s children’s book, or create a new graphic for an inspiring group of women.


I guess what I’m trying to say here is sometimes life beckons us off our plotted course, and when it does, we need the freedom to go off-road.

July, as it turns out, has been a very off-road kind of month.


Still, there have been quiet times (usually late at night or early in the morning), and when they’ve come, I’ve found myself back at the art table, lost in the soft, scratchy sounds of my pencils and pens making their way across the waiting page.


I have a week left in my 30-day challenge. I’m going to spend it slipping into my art whenever I can, whenever it doesn’t feel like a stress-filled obligation, whenever it feels grounding and expansive and soul-filling, which is, of course, how it’s supposed to feel, how it does feel, when I stop making it more complicated than it is.


See you on the other side!



p.s. This challenge has resulted in new art in the shop. Have a look!

p.p.s. I share a lot of stuff on Facebook. If we’re not already friends there, send me a friend request.



  1. Terri on July 25, 2014 at 6:45 am

    There you have it. Your very own Get Out of Jail Free card. It is such a wise lesson, the one of taking off handcuffs we put on ourselves. Our good intentions, lines we draw in the sand to help us stay on a self proclaimed track, only work as long as they are fulfilling and healthy for us. Realizing there may come a point when you need to relax on a self induced timeframe is, as you have discovered, a very okay thing to do. YOU are an awesome woman. Doodle yourself another card to keep incase something like this comes up again. 😉

    • j on July 25, 2014 at 7:05 am

      Oh, I am so going to doodle a “get out of jail free” card now. : )

      I have several friends who say they rarely do challenges like this and when they do, they don’t announce it for this very reason; the pressure takes the joy out of it. I have two friends who say they even find themselves rebelling against the (totally voluntary) plan, because, yes, I guess it feels like handcuffs.

      I get that, but I’ve done some great challenges where I was super productive, or I managed to change a habit, or I learned something new and essential about myself. The key is, as you point out, knowing when the plan isn’t serving me anymore and being okay with letting it go.

  2. Karin on July 25, 2014 at 6:56 am

    I literally gasped when I saw the butterfly. It’s soooo BEAUTIFUL.
    I also appreciated how in between the butterfly in-progress pictures, you demonstrate your own unraveling (much like how the caterpillar comes out of the cocoon), and before you know it, the butterfly is complete, as well as your own realization that everything comes in its own time.

    I know I’ve had my time constraints–between work, roller derby, and being sick yesterday (boo), I’ve worried if I was going to have enough written. When I first took this on, I wondered “How on Earth am I going to come up with 31 new & impressive poems to share?” Then once I stopped worrying, the writing came and flowed. I won’t say they’re all the best, but they’re better than what I’ve done in a while. AND I actually finished one of my journals this month. So it’s a win-win no matter what.

    You do what’s best for you, and let everything else fall into place. <3

    • j on July 25, 2014 at 7:10 am

      I experienced something similar last night. I’d intended to sit down and watch a movie with Chad, but I found myself reaching for my Moleskine and pencil, not because I was worried or stressed about getting to it, but because I wasn’t. Funny how that works.

      Hopping over to see your words right now. xo

      • Karin on July 25, 2014 at 7:30 am

        Thank you! Your comments always make my day 🙂

        • j on July 25, 2014 at 12:58 pm

          Thank you back! I forgot to mention how delighted I was by your noticing how I interspersed the developing butterfly with my own little epiphany. It’s exactly how I wanted this post to be read.

      • Della Monk on July 25, 2014 at 8:01 am

        It’s that whole, beautiful, but hard to hang on to “Art of Allowing” process. Once we get over our resistance, once we let things go, they manifest pretty quickly. Funny how that works…:)

        • j on July 25, 2014 at 10:16 am

          In a similar vein, I was just talking to a friend about the scarcity mindset and how, when you’re operating from it, stuff really does dry up – opportunities, money, happiness, ideas, creative energy. You’d think we’d remember that better and stay in a place of trust, but my friend and I were both saying how it’s a lesson we learn over and over again.

  3. Pam on July 25, 2014 at 7:36 am

    Love the butterfly! Letting oneself off the hook is an invaluable skill (though some of us use it like it’s our only tool. Ahem. Not naming names, you understand.)

    I haven’t rebelled against my 30-day challenge (yet.) Some days I satisfy the requirement of working on a postcard with very little work, however. 😉 I have had a couple of nights when it was hard to fall asleep because I was mulling over what to do next on a postcard. Good news/bad news! I am enjoying the mixture of just starting with some colors & seeing what happens and being seized by an idea and trying to make it happen that this challenge has sparked.

    Enjoy the rest of the 30 days! xo

    • j on July 25, 2014 at 10:21 am

      Actually, you’ve been a great example to me. Even the name of your challenge – 30 Day Postcard Challenge – was wonderfully open in terms of how many postcards get produced and what you might do on each day.

      I love the idea of the challenges because they remind me of the thing I want to do (or habit I want to change), but being less rigid about how the challenge unfolds will be the goal next time.

      And your postcards have been fantastic!

  4. lunajune on July 25, 2014 at 7:43 am

    It’s friday… and I know it is because your wonderful post came ♫♥
    I know that look only a dog can give you to remind you just how in the moment you can be
    with them on a walk.

    thank you for the inspiration to find the time to be creative this month, playing with lots of things in between an emotional roller coaster it’s been a good thing

    great description of the butterfly, and the sharing of your process creating yours :~)

    glad your mom in on the mend

    I went looking for my pastels to play with yesterday after a morning at Michael’s Craft Store but in the end wound up cleaning the livingroom and making more room to do art today :~)

    • j on July 25, 2014 at 10:23 am

      Making space is essential to the creative process (and sometimes can be its own creative process)! Be sure and let me know if you post any of your creations!

  5. jbb on July 25, 2014 at 8:04 am

    Exactly what I need to hear today, j, thank you! My summer has been so off road, I need 4-wheel drive shoes (preferably ones that my puppy doesn’t chew to bits). Now that summer is half-over and nothing is accomplished and school is looming, I’m feeling more stressed by the minute. I absolutely love seeing your art process, too – the metamorphosis from blank page to beautiful butterfly is amazing! Thank you so much for sharing – words and pictures – in your wonderful way today. <3

    • j on July 25, 2014 at 10:27 am

      Well nothing can pull you off road (more delightfully) than a new puppy! I have to say that new puppydom is decidedly more wonderful than any of the things demanding my attention these days, but I know it’s no less stressful when you look at what you’d planned to do during this time.

      Do what you can, breathe, and play with your new little girl. She’s exceptionally good for your soul.

  6. julia on July 25, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    I’m here – reading, listening, admiring – spilling over with love for you and your wise-ness. I thought about you and your butterflies while on top of a beautiful, small-ish peak this morning. I didn’t see any butterflies but I saw dragonflies all over the place. One nearly ran right into my forehead. Thinking about you and your butterflies helped me to remember to stay where I was, to breathe in all that fresh air, to feel the ground beneath me…

    I love you, J. Thank you for helping me remember what matters. You are a rock star warrior of what matters.

    • j on July 25, 2014 at 1:01 pm

      I saw a butterfly this morning out in our back yard too! Almost twinsies… except different creatures and you were on a peak, but still. ; ) We’re not getting many dragonflies this year, probably the drought.

      Love you back, I so enjoyed your recent Soul Talks videos. Can’t wait for more! xo

  7. Nina Badzin on July 25, 2014 at 2:02 pm

    “sometimes life beckons us off our plotted course, and when it does, we need the freedom to go off-road” That is a solid lesson right there. And so true. Have been loving following you along on this.

    • j on July 27, 2014 at 10:31 am

      Thank you, Nina! These 30-day challenges always teach me something… just rarely the thing I thought I was going to learn.

  8. miragi on July 26, 2014 at 5:05 am

    I don’t even know what you said…I am OBSESSED with how absolutely EXQUISITE this butterfly is….and all I could do was observe the pictorial progression of its beauty. Just breathtaking. I ALMOST bought a sketchbook last night….almost. Getting closer!! Maybe next week! 🙂 PS: i feel your pain about muddling through the muck of health insurance. Spent an hour on the phone and online the other day just trying to locate a mammogram provider that would be covered under our insurance. Things would be too smooth and out of Universally chaotic form if this stuff was just simple and its makers practized common sense!!! <3 Seriously, your art makes my heart skip beats!! 🙂 <3

    • j on July 27, 2014 at 10:37 am

      Aw, thank you!

      And, yes! We spent, all-told, probably 2 hours on the phone trying to get some medication covered. In the end, we were right, it should have been covered and we should have paid $19, not the $111 dollars we did pay. But of course, it’s not so simple as proving our case (after 2 hours), now we have to fill out some forms and mail them in, and wait for them to be approved (hoping, of course, that whoever’s job it is to approve such things agrees with all of us who were on the phone – which at one point was me, my husband, the pharmacist, and the Blue Shield representative).

      Drawing butterflies is just so much easier than all of that. ; )

  9. Alarna Rose Gray on July 28, 2014 at 4:51 am

    So beautiful, Judy! I understand the guilt and obligation. Lately life’s been taking me away from the plotted course. But I’m doing my best to let it…sometimes, like you say, the off-road is just as important. If not more.

    • j on July 28, 2014 at 9:52 am

      Yes, sometimes more. I get so focused on accomplishments sometimes that I forget how fleeting the life stuff is. My mom won’t always be here, and neither will Lexi. My friend won’t always be holding my hand as she finds her way through heartbreak and my sons won’t always rely on me the way they do now (which is already not at all the same way they relied on me before). I have to relearn this lesson over and over again. Goals are good for me, but my ability to set and reach them isn’t how I want people to know or remember me.

      It is (always) all about the love.

  10. Lyn Girdler on July 28, 2014 at 7:52 am

    I love the progression of this post. Reading and watching the image evolve as your courage did in acknowledging what was important to you. I’m glad you’re on this challenge…it means more delightful art for us!

    • j on July 28, 2014 at 9:54 am

      Thank you, Lyn! It was intentional, the dual evolutions of me and my butterfly. : )

  11. Annie Neugebauer (@AnnieNeugebauer) on August 4, 2014 at 7:57 am

    Again, I love seeing your doodles progress! And this is a great lesson you’ve learned. It’s one I’ve had to learn and relearn several times as an artist, too.

  12. j on August 4, 2014 at 10:03 am

    Thank you, Annie. xo

  13. lunajune on August 9, 2014 at 6:44 am

    best thing about joining you with this challenge is that it inspired me to not only
    be creative again, but to expand it, every card I made this past month is gone
    mailed away, and being open again to the creative flow. I went to a play last weekend and
    had to doodle all over the program because the set my nephew constructed grabbed me and kept filling my head with ideas I didn’t want to loose.

    thank you

    • j on August 9, 2014 at 7:58 am

      Yay! I couldn’t ask for a better outcome than that. Actually, that’s what I liked best about the challenge too – the way I just kept thinking of more and more stuff to make. I started a list, because I had more ideas than time to bring them to life. : )

Leave a Comment