Doodling Practice

Been awhile since I’ve blogged. A LONG while. But I’m doing this again. I’ve started a “doodling practice” to get me back in gear for massive writing/illustrating this year. It’s been good. It goes on my list of to-do’s every day, and most days I do it.

It started because I bought a lamp. That sounds really stupid, but it is true, at least in part. I’ve been thinking about getting down and dirty with illustrations–in other words, just a blank piece of paper and a felt-tip pen–for some time. No pencil. No software to back me up. Just my Sharpie and me. But I didn’t do it because…because…because. There were lots of “becauses”, because I’m a human and “because” sometimes becomes a way of life. However, I went to Target after Christmas this year–no, not before. I do all my shopping online before. AFTER is when I go and pick up some deals for myself, when the pressure is off. And I saw a lamp.

This lamp sits on the floor, but it’s five and a half feet or so tall, and it curves over my couch, so when I nest down for television or whatever, It provides this soft illumination over me. And the shade is round, but it’s totally blocked in–no visible bulb at all, it is just this round, squatty cylinder of glowing light hanging above me. And you know what I thought when I bought it? I can really DRAW underneath that thing. And it turns out, I can!

So, let me back up to BEFORE Christmas. WAY before Christmas. I’m a photographer, portrait work, families, babies, seniors, the whole deal. I have a Studio, but I do a lot of stuff outside. And my location being Iowa, our BEST, MOST POPULAR season is fall. I shoot all year around, don’t get me wrong. Weddings, Studio stuff, families here and there, seniors, but things really get thick during the second half of the year, and I find myself really swamped from mid-August through December 20th. That’s just my life. No weekends off, very few DAYS off. A seemingly unending stream of people ready for their closeups. Not bitching here. Bills get paid, Christmas gets purchased, I make people happy.

I started to illustrate a project, “Black Cat”, back in July, hoping to get it published before Halloween. Well, fat chance of that. I’m over halfway done with illustrations, but I still have more to do. I simply had to put it aside to do the paying work of looking through my lens. Fair enough.

And I want to get back to it. I hope to over this coming weekend, with this ice storm building up for the Midwest. It WILL be published before Halloween this year. But I felt like I needed to do some RAW work, work that didin’t involve Corel Painter, or scanners, or any of the modern tools of the trade.. Then I saw that LAMP. And I thought of my sketchpads and my pens and I thought, hey, I can do THAT.

So I started to draw. With NO PLAN whatsoever. See, when illustrating, I have a plan. It’s called THE BOOK, and I have to visually solve the problems of THE BOOK. This is just paper and a pen, no pencil because NO ERASING ALLOWED. I have to draw, and if I screw it up, I have to incorporate it into the doodle.

I must fill the page. With SOMETHING. I use either a 6×9 sketchbook or a 9×12, but no larger.

I must finish it within 24 hours, or it IS finished. Boom, it’s over, the ball drops, and onto new things.

So, this is it so far. These are my pieces. I love some of them, and think some of them are cute, and I hate PARTS of all of them, but they are here, and I brought them out with no preconceptions. Some of them are sketches for books and projects I have in the works.  Some of them are random dust bunnies of the mind.  Some of them are just fricken’ weird. But that’s ok.  They are rough and real and not slick. I like that.

And they are making me think.  I’m getting more story ideas.  When I get deeply into shooting with very few breaks and little downtime, I get TOO focused.  Hyperfocus is great for the project at hand, and crappy for big, broad ideas.  But this kind of doodling is making me get those wonderful, mind-blowing big ideas that have me constructing worlds in my head again.  I’m learning  Thank the gods.

And thank you to my lamp.  And my nest on the couch.  This doodling thing is a necessary practice, I think.  Therapeutic.

I’ll post more as I go along.  Do it yourself, post them in the comments. No-holds-barred doodling.  No mistakes.  Just marks on the paper.

To The Kids Who Didn’t Get Ribbons Yesterday At The Corner Conference Art Show

To the kids who didn’t get ribbons yesterday at the Corner Conference Art Show:

It was a tough job. It really was. We wanted to give out more awards. We wanted to encourage more of you. There were WAY MORE good pieces than ribbons to distribute. We want you to know that part of that is due to funding. For some reason that I can’t quite fathom, visual arts (and you can make the same argument around music and performing arts) always get the shaft when it comes to money. Why is it that an activity that develops visual-spatial skills, creative thinking, critical thinking, problem-solving skills, technical expertise, eye-hand coordination, emotional expression, professionalism, courage, and so many other indefinable but vital skills that are applicable to virtually EVERY JOB in the world (whether it is a “creative” job or not) doesn’t receive as much money as other activities? Administrators, I’m just going to leave that question there for YOU to answer, although I do have a pretty good idea. Regardless, that kind of thinking gave us the judging situation we had yesterday. Because of lack of money, fewer pieces could be submitted per school, which means not everyone that wanted to participate, could participate. On top of that, the number of categories were reduced, meaning that abstract art was judged with portraiture, and watercolors were judged with oil paintings. Recognition could not be given where it was deserved simply because there weren’t enough ribbons to go around.

So, I got that rant off my chest. Now, here is the other part that students who didn’t win need to hear. First of all, it wasn’t YOU that didn’t win. It was a piece. It was a painting, or a photograph, or a sculpture, or what have you that didn’t get a ribbon. The incredible walking piece of humanity that YOU ARE is still there, and should still be creating today, ribbon or not. Every person who created something that is showing at the Sidney High School today created something out of simple raw materials and guts. They took chances. They put themselves out there in a way that most people don’t. I know because I have done it, multiple times. It is a courageous act, putting a handmade piece out there for the edification of the public. The art you create is like your child–it is special and you know the hard work that went into it.

But listen to me, because this is really important–artists throw away dumpsters full of pieces that, for whatever reason, weren’t successful. Not winning, not making a great piece, not achieving the look or the feel that you were going for, not having something turn out–THAT is par for the course in art. It is only after you work and worry and sweat and toil and bleed over pieces beyond end that you will come up with CONSISTENTLY GOOD ART. And after you reach that level, you will still throw away LOTS of pieces. Look at it like this. If you were participating at a track meet yesterday, and normally you win the 400 yard dash by a bunch, but for some reason, you had an off day and lost to four other runners, well, you might be disappointed in your performance. But you’d shrug it off, show up at practice the next day and continue to work hard. You might even work HARDER. Art is the same thing. Show up at practice. And then actually practice. Work harder. The difference between you and that runner is that you get one show a YEAR (funding, Administrators!!!) whereas there might be 15 or more track meets each spring. You don’t have the chance to perform that often.

Now, there is one other thing, and not a small thing. Most people think that with art, you either “got it or you don’t”, in terms of talent. I’m here to tell you, that isn’t necessarily true. Every person who does art is on a path–a creative path. That path IS your practice. We all start on the path with a different skillset, a different way to view the world, different experiences and different goals. We all reach proficiency of certain technical skills at different times on that path. So, yes, there are those students who are completely kicking it in middle school or 9th grade or whatever. There are those who may be born with innate talents you are not. There are those completely rare, magical few who are prodigies. But let me tell you something that is so true, so true: Hard work beats talent if talent doesn’t work. Meaning, you can have all the innate talent in the world, but if you don’t bust your butt and do the work, do the practice, those who DO work hard consistently will achieve more consistent success. So work hard. Really hard. At whatever it is you want to do. Hard work pays off.

Ribbons. In some ways it seems ludicrous to “compete” in art. It really does. But that is the human paradigm in which we find ourselves–humans can wrap their heads around “winning”. But, on the other hand, recognition for exemplary pieces IS important. So we hand out ribbons, and that is fine. But just as important is the show. Every artist should have the chance to show their work. THAT’S what it should be about. What you personally produce, well, not one other person on the face of the earth could make that the way you did. It is as original as your fingerprint. We need more shows, more opportunities to let artists show what they’ve been up to. We need to get student art out in the community. It needs to be as important as winning football and volleyball and every other activity in which our kids participate.

Working with your hands creating something–that very act is a gift to the world. And mark my words: in a world full of shipping containers of imported stuff made on some cookie-cutter assembly line, hand-made items are going to become more and more valuable. Anything that CAN’T be made with a machine, that reflects humanity, that stirs the emotions IS precious, and will be seen that way in the world.

Keep it up, artists. I loved seeing the show yesterday. I’m going to attend again this evening. I’m going to spread the word. You keep doing the work.

Candle Holders and Greeting Cards

Evening all! Today, I’ll be showing you how to make candle holders out of mason jars, tissue paper, and black construction paper!

You’ll also want a hot glue gun and exacto-knife for this!


We started by making a sketch of our design according to the size of our mason jar (the size of the jar doesn’t matter, as long as your image will fit). We then transferred it to black paper, and began cutting it out with the exacto-knife.


Other details revealed themselves along the way…


Once we had everything cut out, we glued our tissue paper to the back (preferably white, but any color will do just fine) of our black paper with a glue stick. Hot glue guns work just as well.


We then retrieved our mason jar, and wrapped everything tightly around it, making sure everything fit (you may want to shorten your paper to make lighting the candle easier. All that matters is that the jar is covered).

Once you’ve got it all around the jar just how you like it, you can go ahead and glue it in place.


This is how it should look all glued together.

Now, all you have left to do is put your candle in and light it. My advice is to turn the mason jar horizontal to light the candle.

This should be your end result:


They really do make a great spooky decoration!



Enjoy, everyone!



Now, we’ll be moving on to personalized Halloween greeting cards, because anyone who sends greeting cards without this beautiful face on it cannot properly enjoy Halloween!



Or, perhaps, you’d enjoy some spoooooooky Jack-O-Lanterns!


With me sneaking in there for good measure, of course.

Or…..OR…. wait for it….


BAM! A mixture of the two! A Kitty-Kat-Jack-O-Lantern! Halloween is HERE, baby!

Well, that’s all for now. Be back soon with more Halloween chills and thrills! Soda Pop out!


Today we’ll be doing two different types of rubbings. For your first one, you’ll need:

– Crayons

– White (or colored, but I prefer white) paper

– Autumn leaves from right outside your front door

– Glue


Once you have all of these things gathered, you may begin. It’s fairly straight forward. I’ll be you’ve done it before.




Very simply indeed. Just place your gathered leaves under your paper, and color over it. Don’t draw too hard, or your leaf will turn out very muddy and undefined.



Instead of just slapping our drawings on the fridge, we took it one step further…

Cut 'em out...

Cut ’em out…

We cut out our leaves, glued them to black paper, and even wrote haikus to go with our masterpieces.




Two more haikus...

Two more haikus…

I love a "creative mess"!

I love a “creative mess”!

Finally, we felt ready to display them!

Your next rubbing is going to be a bit different. Exchange your white paper for black paper, and your crayons for chalk or chalk pastels!

We’ve posted templates for your to follow here:


Ievil pumpkin

Save me to your computer!

Save me to your computer!

Download me!

Download me!

sad pumpkin


Go ahead and download these babies, cut them out, and then you can proceed with your colorful creations!

Start slow but HAVE FUN!

Start slow but HAVE FUN!

Place your cut-out on top of the black paper you have at the ready, and use your chalk pastels to make a rubbing all away the outside of the white paper!

Getting into it a little bit...

Getting into it a little bit…


Getting some color in there...

Getting some color in there…

And rub…

I think I'm having FUN!

I think I’m having FUN!

And rub!


Soon you’ll have gorgeous silhouettes to display anywhere you like. This kids will love the chalky, creative mess they get to make, and they will LOVE the results of their hard work.

Lots of shapes to try...

Lots of shapes to try…

You can use your patterns as often and as long as you like.


One small tip for your finished pieces: Take them outside and spray them will cheap (definitely don’t buy the expensive stuff for this) hairspray. It’ll help all the chalk stick to the paper, and protect against smudging.

Until next time, Happy Halloween from your friendly resident black cat! – Soda Pop

How to Draw Soda Pop

Now this, THIS, may be the most important skill I pass on all month, dear humans. This particular art is tricky and elusive and absolutely PARAMOUNT in enjoying your Halloween experience.


how to draw soda pop



Yes, the day you have been waiting for has finally arrived! You’ll finally unlock the secrets to drawing a cat as handsome and poised as I! Just download the instructions and go for it! I know it will be the best part of your day!

My human is telling me to tone it down. Poor thing doesn’t understand the finer things like you and I.

Enjoy, folks! Until next time! – Soda Pop

Halloween Trading Cards

Morning, all! Soda Pop here!

Today we’ll be making Halloween trading cards! For this activity you’ll be needing:

– Colored Construction Paper

– Scissors

– Markers, crayons, paint, or whatever creative tools you’d like!




Your trading cards should be around 1 1/2 inch x 3 inches. This is where your scissors/paper trimmers come in.

Once you’ve got your cards down to size, have at it!

Our medium for these cards...

Our medium for these cards…


Anything Halloween related is acceptable! Jack-O-Lanterns, witches, and graveyards! Draw them all! The focus of this activity is not to focus on being perfect! These are tiny glimpses of what Halloween is all about!




Use markers or paint, glue new paper on to create a spooky collage. Go absolutely NUTS!


The important this is, everyone will have an excellent time! – Soda Pop


We’ve got a great treats here for you all today! This is Soda Pop, your resident spooky black cat with all the Halloween crafts and activities you could ask for!

Why no start off the day with some fun with autumn leaves?


For this project, good for any Saturday or Sunday spent with the little ones (or for some fall fun in the classroom), you’ll need wax paper, some glitter or sequins, wax (any variety wiill do. My advice is to go cheap), a small crock pot or other device to keep your wax hot and melted, and, of course, lots of beautiful fall leaves!

Go out on a leaf hunt! I’ve discovered with my humans, that finding these colorful treasures is half the fun! Besides, humans do need their daily dose of exercise. Taking the adorable child-humans on a walk will help keep them calm for what’s coming up next.

Little crock pot....

Little crock pot….

Once all the spoils are collected, take your leaves home and heat your wax up in your little crock pot. Once it is all inspected, go through your leaves. Pick out only the most vibrant colored, and any leaf too crispy or old is to be avoided. Now, you’re ready to dip in wax!


This wax will keep your leaves beautiful for several weeks, good enough for decoration, making creative pieces of art, or anything else you can come up with! My mom is a photographer, and she uses these leaves as props for babies, or as hair accessories for seniors and little girls.

Once you’ve dipped your leaf in wax, place it on the wax paper you’ve set out. Then quickly, before it dries, begin the REAL fun.





Now, this is not necessarily a requirement. Keep some natural looking leaves too. This will, however, be a hit with any little ones you happen to be working with. In this feline’s opinion, well worth the mess.

Lastly, decorate, use them to embellish crayon masterpieces, or create fun pictures of kids in the leaves. Whatever you do, go wild!

Until next time, Happy Halloween, folks! – Soda Pop

Cat Sugar Skulls

What a day its been! Halloween movies galore! Nothing better to get in the right spirit!

Today, we start off with Sugar Skulls. CAT sugar skulls to be exact.

I’ve always been fascinated with the traditions of other cultures, especially where Halloween is concerned. Mexico’s Day of the Dead is no exception.


Here is a template for you all to follow. Go absolutely nuts with markers, crayons, paint, or anything else you can think to use to create your colorful masterpiece!


This is what my assistant-human came up with when I asked her to give you all some inspiration. Not as well as I would do had I been blessed with thumbs, but over all, not bad at all. There is talk of creating a mask and making me wear it, which will absolutely NOT be happening. The cowboy, skeleton, and fairy princess was enough, thank you. For more information on THAT particular instance of humiliation at my humans’ hands, check out “I Hate Halloween” on Amazon or right here at

Have a ball, go crazy, and send us your results! -Soda Pop

Puppets, Coloring Pages, and More!

Evening, everyone! Soda Pop here! We’ve got four days worth of wonderful Halloween activities here! Let’s get started!

spider wtich cp


To start off, we’ve got a new witch to color today. She’s got spiders all over, spooky warts, and spells that will knock your socks off (I should know, being an expert on witches and all.) The only thing she’s missing is a little color. That’s were you folks come in. Give this lovely lady some spark!



Next up, we have kitty cat puppets! They do look awfully handsome if I do say so myself! For this project, you’ll need felt, scissors, and some colorful paint!

Here’s a pattern to start you off!


They’re incredibly fun and easy to make!









And, as I mentioned before, incredibly handsome!



Next up, we have a spooky Halloween word search. I am a huge fan of word searches, crosswords, and puzzles, and I hope you’ll enjoy it as well. I’ll post the answers for you tomorrow!

Soda (1)


Last but not least, we’ve got Black Cat Masks for everyone! A pattern ready to print is below!

Save it and print it!

Save it and print it!


You’ll need scissors, glitter, paint, buttons, ribbons, or anything else you’d like to use to decorate your masks!

Glue is awesome.

Glue is awesome.


Set up with some newspaper under your work station, and have at it!

These masks make me wanna be a showgirl...

These masks make me wanna be a showgirl…


I must put one of these on the cat....

I must put one of these on the cat….


Alright folks, enjoy your night and happy 13th Day of Halloween! We’re almost halfway through, folks! Good night!

A black cat dressed as cat.

A black cat dressed as a…black cat.

Cat Wreathes, Cutouts, and Potato Stamps

Evening, all! My profound apologies for not being around the last few days. Cat lives are busier than you might believe – especially for black cats during their favorite month. Therefore, as compensation I present you with three different spooky activities in one night. Let’s get started!

First of all, we have a lovely print out for you to use to create your very own (insert drum roll here) …… CAT WREATHE!!!



Isn’t it beautiful? Isn’t it so incredibly Halloween-like and spooky? My human says it’s unnerving, but she doesn’t understand this sort of thing. You all think it’s wonderful, right?

Here’s the print-out for you!

Soda wreath large


After all, nothing could be more in the Halloween spirit than dozens of pictures of moi, your favorite Halloween cat!

Next on the list are great patterns for Halloween cutouts!

13oct_4950 copy


Stick ’em on your windows, on your walls, or any place that strikes your fancy! It’s a wonderful activity for kids, parents, and teachers of all ages! Print these patterns off and give it a whirl!






Last but not least, we have potato stamps! This is a really great activity for the little ones! Just be sure to set down newspaper first!







Parental supervision is definitely required here, folks, but kids will have a great time, and it’s a wonderful activity for the classroom! Enjoy! See you tomorrow! – Soda Pop