October + November Highlights

What happened to fall?! 

The past two months went by in a flurry. Work got crazy, then I switched focus to practice writing again, now I’m sick… if you’ve had an insane fall, too, chances are that you missed something fun I did on The Nerd Lady. Here are some highlights from my last two months!

Personal Projects

10 Minutes a Day

I’ve had so many friends tell me they wish they had time to read, create, or do something that would make them feel more fulfilled with life. It’s funny because I’ve got a toddler at home, a new job teaching Pre-AP and AP, and a million other things I have to do. So I try to steal ten minutes every day just for myself. It’s a lifesaver. It’s what keeps me sane. It helps me be a better mom and teacher–and that’s why I think everyone should do it, too.

I started a challenge and a series to encourage people to steal time for themselves. Check out my weekly pep talks here (I took a break the past two weeks because I’ve been sick!): 

STEAMotype

I was officially added to the STEAMotype team! STEAMotype is an amazing #scicomm account and community on Instagram (@STEAMotype). Their mission is “to inspire appreciation of and engagement in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) through art.”

I’ve been actively participating in their challenges and helped host them quite a few times this year. In October, I hosted two challenges: Dinosaur Week and Monster Mash (for Halloween)! This means that I helped construct the art challenge for the week, then I helped find artwork to feature during that week. It’s exhausting, but a lot of fun! Check out @STEAMotype on Instagram if you love seeing STEM mix with the arts!

Writing!

I got really into creativity/business podcasts over the last two months, and they all make you ask yourself what your one true passion is. For me, it’s always been writing. And because it’s NaNoWriMo season, I sort of let myself get swept in by the hype. For my Ten Minutes a Day personal challenge, I’ve taken on the task of learning how to write a novel, plan it, and actually carry out the plan! Much of my creative energy went into learning the craft, and I am loving it! 

Chalkboards

Because I got so deep into developing my other passions — encouraging others to take time for themselves, hosting STEAMotype challenges, and learning how to write fiction — my artwork took on a different focus. Much of my work was practice… and my favorite medium to practice on is chalkboards! I did some fun pieces to help me de-stress during an insane time of year for teachers. 

Featured Work from Other Artists

Buy Your Friend’s Art by @elloisemae

It’s the holiday season. I’ve got to encourage you to support your friends as you shop! Love this piece by Elloise Mae Foster!

Perspective Collective

I have LOVED listening to Scotty Russell’s Perspective Collective podcast! He encourages you to pursue your creative goals with an authentic voice. He just hit 100 episodes. Check out his work here: https://perspective-collective.com/

My Reading Life

Fahrenheit 451

This was my first time reading this book… I know, I know… It’s ridiculous that I’m an English teacher and it took until now for me to read it. I was practically underlining every other line because IT IS SO TRUE. My reality as an English teacher is not simply censorship, but the overall devaluing of books and literature — oftentimes from my own peers. Gah. This book was so good and just what I needed to read. 

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Honestly, I did not think I would enjoy this book. It’s about science, which I love, but I never imagined that I would enjoy reading a whole book about cells. But this story is riveting. And so very, very important. This brings up the controversial issue of human subjects. Henrietta Lacks’s cancer cells were taken from her body without her permission. They ended up being the first “immortal” cell line–cells that could reproduce and survive in lab conditions ad infinitum. Her cells were vital in the formation of the polio vaccine, the HPV vaccine, and countless other medical discoveries. But it was without her permission, and her surviving family still has limited access to healthcare. This book was a page-turner… although I listened to it on audiobook… so an ear-turner?

Dashing Through the Snow

If you know me IRL, you know that I love Christmas. And I love cheesy Christmas stories. I’ve been dying to try a Debbie Macomber book (she is the queen of cheesy Christmas stories, with 4 Hallmark movies to boot). Since I’ve been an on an audiobook kick, I tried it out. The story was ridiculous and cute, but it was pretty much Harold and Kumar 2 with an all-white cast, no hint of politics, and CHRISTMAS. Plot: Girl wants to go home for Christmas, guy has an interview to get to in the same city. Girl finds out she’s on the no-fly list, guy can’t get a seat, and they both travel from San Francisco to Seattle by (the last) rental car together. Hot on their trail is an unreasonable Homeland Security officer who is positive that she is a terrorist with the same name. I don’t think I’m spoiling it by saying everything worked out, and they kissed in the winter. 

Whew! It was a busy season! I’m exhausted just writing this. Thanks for hanging in there and supporting me through this creative journey. Creativity is what keeps me sane, and you’re what keeps me grounded. Thanks, friends!

Remember that you can find me on Instagram @nerdladydraws to see what I’m up to. I’m also working on upping my Facebook presence… so if you want to find me there, click here

Now, time to get deep into my favorite time of the year: Christmas!  Happy December, and stay nerdy, my friends! 

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DIY Chalkboard Canvas in 6 Easy Steps

just sold

In the winter of 2012, I was in my second year of living alone–my family and fiance were 300 miles away in Dallas while I was working in Lubbock–and at the height of a stressful year of wedding planning. By that time, I had learned to love living alone, but I still craved time with my loved ones. Maybe it was the wedding DIY bug, but that was the year I starting crafting for the home. When the Christmas season started, I discovered Hallmark Christmas and brought out my acrylic paints. Probably in the middle of my fifteenth cheesy romantic comedy, I created this:

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I was so proud of this. It didn’t turn out exactly the way I wanted it to–I wanted a faux chalkboard look, but I didn’t know how to pull it off–but I was still happy with this thing that I created. I’ve brought it out every year as a reminder of my years alone, of the time that I was juggling so much but still embracing the Christmas spirit.

This year, I finally decided to take the art of handlettering seriously and learn how to do it. I started in May, and I can confidently say that I have moved from a beginner level to an intermediate one. Let’s just say that means I’m good enough to cringe when I brought out my Christmas decorations this year.

I decided to put my new skills to use with revamping my old Christmas canvases. I’m really happy with how this one turned out, so I wanted to share with you!

Supplies:

  • Pencil
  • Chalk
  • Handheld pencil sharpener
  • Black acrylic paint (or, a black canvas)
  • White paint pen
  • Canvas
  • Kleenex

Estimated Cost: Under $15. I had all of these items at home already, so it was really cheap.

Step 1: Sketch!

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I went through several iterations of the layout and font here, practicing and experimenting with letter shapes.

I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to do pencil sketching. This was a crucial step that I missed in my 2012 canvas: I assumed my mental picture would translate well on canvas without prior planning. However, sketching helps me see how my hand shapes letters, and how the letters fall into place. It lets me play with layouts and learn what works and what doesn’t.

Step 2: I see a canvas and I want to paint it black.

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You can skip this step if you want–most craft stores have black canvases now. However, I’m cheap and I happened to have a couple of plain canvases in my craft closet. I used about three coats of acrylic paint to completely black out the canvas. I prefer acrylic for crafts like this because it’s cheap, opaque, and versatile.

Step 3: Sketch with chalk.

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Wait for it… in the final step, you can see how I changed this design at the last minute. Again, this is why sketching with erasable media is SO IMPORTANT!

I chose to sketch with blue chalk because it would blend into black well when I rubbed it off. Sketching with chalk allows you to make mistakes–because even if you sketch on paper, you don’t really know how it will end up until you put it to the right scale! For this piece, I ended up doing some last minute changes once I saw how the words filled up the canvas.

Pro Tip: Use a pencil sharpener to sharpen your chalk! It is so much easier to draw with when it’s got a sharper tip!

Step 5: Use a paint pen to paint over the finalized design.

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Again, this step is up to you. I’ve seen perfectionists use a tiny brush to paint in with acrylic paint, and more practical artists use a paint pen. I wanted clean lines, so I chose a paint pen. I used the Sharpie oil-based white pen because 1) I had it already, and 2) my Craftsmart paint pen (Michael’s store brand) was not bold enough on the black canvas. I noticed that the Sharpie pen picked up some of the black paint and blue chalk as I wrote, making it come out duller. To make up for this, I had to wipe it off on another surface every few letters. I also went over the letters 2-3 times to get it as bright as I wanted it.

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I used a stool as my table so I wouldn’t press down too hard on the canvas.

Warning: Oil-based pens can be–well–oily. Watch your hands as you write and give the paint enough time to dry before you attempt to do overlapping lines.

Step 6: Use a tissue to gently rub away the chalk.

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After the paint has dried, use a Kleenex to rub away the chalk. I found that a soft, circular motion was the right amount of gentle and abrasive. This gives the piece a nice, chalky finish to complete the faux chalkboard effect.

Step 7: Display, Brag, Revel in Your Amazingness!

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Show all your friends your awesome skills. I’m going to use this technique to polish up another piece. Follow me on Instagram @nerdladydraws to see how it turns out!

If you tried this technique, let me know how it turned out! If you know a better technique, share it in the comments!