Archive for the ‘Art Everyday’ Category

I’m basically an optimistic positive person. I still find that I need to count my blessings, especially when I’m confused, scared, lonely, or overwhelmed. I think it may just be basic self-care for me. It’s too easy to focus on what’s not right. Doing my little grace notes is a simple way for me to keep my focus on the positive in my life. It also keeps my focus on what I can do, not on where I feel powerless.

Plus, I really like this format. I like the visual. And since space is limited, I need to choose which things to write down. It gets me focused on specifics. It also helps me remember really fun little things that I could’ve easily forgotten about.

Especially on those days when it doesn’t seem like I did anything, it’s especially good to find the highlights or maybe just the one silly thing that lightened my day.

Maybe it’s an ego thing, but I hate to think that I’ve had a day with nothing in it. Also, if the search for something positive to say is really difficult, then maybe I have to be more proactive tomorrow.

It also reminds me that I need a little fun in my life. If I’m working very hard on something, that may not translate into warm fuzzies. I think I need more than accomplishments in my daily life. I need fun and love and family and nature. And sometimes just a nap in the fresh air or a chat with a real person.


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Everyday Grateful

That’s my Instagram hashtag for my Grace Notes. It’s a pretty simple way to keep a gratitude journal/diary and play at the same time.

The tools are pretty simple. All you really need are some sort of paper and some sort of writing implement. And a straight edge is helpful. A really simple kit is a pack of 3 x 5 cards, a fine point marker and a ruler.

Basic supplies – 3 x 5 cards, a marker, and a straight edge.

I use the straight edge to draw a funky grid on the card. This gives me multiple places to write and draw. Then I take a couple of minutes to think about the important things in my day, particularly the good things, the things that make me grateful.

I use a house symbol to signify safety, shelter, and even family. That’s almost always a central part of my card. Sometimes I’ll include a reference to the day, may the sun or a rainbow. I also have areas where I can mention something special from the day.

I’m a birdwatcher, so it might be something like – 1st red-wing of the season. YAY!!!

Here’s a sample Grace Note. You can see more on my Instagram account – @ethelhills.

I’m extremely lucky. I have lots to be grateful for and it’s important to me to keep these in front of me. It helps me keep things in perspective.

Do you already keep a journal, a diary, a separate gratitude journal? Do you think that some sort of gratitude or “count your blessings” practice might be helpful? Maybe you already have a gratitude practice. I’m curious how others handle this. Please share in the comments below.

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The next phase started in late July. I started a slightly different series. These were done on a slightly different playing card, one with 2 opposing corners cut off. When I went to buy more cards, I found these. They seemed like the same size, so I just went ahead. The different shape made me think a bit differently about these. I drew a fairly simple grid that was “off”, just a little bit funky. It’s a format that I’ve experimented with in the past.
This format seemed right for words. The off kilter grid left an uneven border. I filled some of the borders with words. Words of prayer, words of hope, words of love. Some days these were prayers for healing and patience. Other times, it might be a thank you for a particularly lovely day, but more often a general thank you for the blessings we often take for granted – Health, Love, Family, Home.


GraceNotesSample1- Large

They have evolved to be part daily prayer and part gratitude journal.

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By June, I had established a routine. I was doing at least one sketch in my sketchbook and one on my origami covered playing cards. And it occurred to me that it might be good to share these with the world. There were a couple of reasons to do this. First of all, art doesn’t do much if it’s stuck in a drawer and no one sees it. The other reason to share it was to see what others thought.

I also had to get over the equally obvious reasons not to share. First, this work is very different than what I had been working on. Second, I’m just starting, so nothing is polished. Third, it was hard for me to decide how much to share.

The most immediate way seemed to be Instagram. I could take a photo with my phone and then immediately post it to Instagram. It was simple and quick. That meant it was simple to add this additional step to my art making routine. To keep things simple, I haven’t done much editing. I’ve posted daily even when I wasn’t overjoyed with my results. You can catch my feed @ethelhills.

This has another advantage. I quickly added a brief review of my feed when I was done posting my pieces. That’s given me the opportunity to see what other artists and friends have been up to.


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Throughout all of this, I’ve been trying to find a daily art practice that would sustain me during a difficult time in my life.

I figured that it had to be small and portable. After doing some daily sketching and thinking, I came up with an interesting idea. Why not use an unusual surface and size? What about using playing cards? They’re easily available, relatively consistent in terms of size, tiny enough to carry easily and just stiff enough for a very small piece of art.

After several false starts, I came up with the idea of gluing colorful Origami paper over the playing cards. That gave me the color I crave while maintaining the simplicity of the earlier black and white drawings.

Almost 10 years ago, I started doing small landscape collages under similar circumstances. I needed something small that I could work on in small chunks of time.  Sometimes, your art has to fit the time and space available. That’s often when something really interesting happens.


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Back in April I started a very teeny tiny art practice. The intent was something small, doable, and daily. Other than that, I didn’t really have a lot of constraints.
I started with just a page in a small sketchbook. It started out as just that, one page. It didn’t even have to be a piece of art, it could be notes, or questions, or ideas for future projects. Just something about art put down on paper.
I started out with a small 4 x 6 sketchbook, just because it was convenient. And I fell in love with these small sketches and explorations, always working in pencil, which is not my normal media. I think the switch in medium and the use of the sketchbook helped me avoid the trap of immediately worrying about a finished product. These felt like thoughts and ideas, not finished works of art.

But it was a beginning. I had the beginnings of my daily art practice. It was very teeny tiny, but it was a start.


Ethel Hills – Sketchbook Spread



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Life is uncertain. This fact is hammered home all the time. You lose a friend quite suddenly, you experience a natural disaster, a crazy driver misses the bend in the road and drives into your house, you trip doing something you’ve done a hundred times and end up in the Emergency Room with multiple fractures and a whole new set of limitations. Life can change on a dime in a million different ways.

When life gets difficult, my way of dealing with this is to take it one day at a time. (A bit of a cliché, but it works.)

• Take it one day at a time, or one hour, or one minute.
• Stay positive.
• Count my blessings. And there are lots of them.
• Keep art in my life.
• Don’t forget to breathe.
• Get some exercise, outside if possible.

About 4 months ago, I started a very small daily art practice to ensure that I “keep art in my life” during a difficult time. That was the beginning of Art Everyday. I started with getting something in my sketchbook every evening before going to sleep. Sometimes a sketch, sometimes just an idea or a project to consider.


Ethel Hills - Sketchbook Page - 02

Ethel Hills – Sketchbook Spread

Ethel Hills - Sketchbook Page - 01

Ethel Hills – Sketchbook Spread

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