Janet Sumner Johnson
About Author Visits Blog Books Events Contact Book Extras


The Art of Trying Something New


06, 2020 |

Filed in:


Good morning all my wonderful friends! I hope you had a fabulous weekend and a terrific holiday break, whatever you may celebrate.

With the new year (not to mention new DECADE), it’s certainly a time of reflection. Looking back over the past ten years, a lot has changed for me. I moved from DC to Missouri, to Oregon, and now Utah. I began taking writing seriously. I signed with an agent. I sold a middle grade book. I broke up with my agent, and signed with another agent. I started writing picture books. I sold a picture book.

But life is way more than just books. I raised three kids from toddlers to teenagers (well, tweenager for the youngest). I struggled with feeling lonely and like a failure. I left my job of 15 years as translator. I watched my mom go through a stroke. I lost my last two grandparents. . . .

Life is full of ups and downs, and stress, and hard things. And while I used to turn to writing to escape it all, writing has become it’s own kind of stress now that I’m published. It took me a while to realize I needed a new creative outlet, but I do.

In the past I’ve done scrap-booking. I’ve played piano and guitar. I had a brief stint at taking violin lessons. I’ve tried wood-carving, cake decorating, toll painting, and even photography. There are so many options. I certainly don’t expect to become a master at any of these, but trying new things brings so much joy. It gets me excited. And just for an hour or two, it takes me away from the hard things of life.

Most recently, I signed up for a lovely webinar titled Watercolors with Jessixa Bagley, through Storytellers Academy. I haven’t gotten to the watercolor part just yet, but it’s been so fun (and humbling) to learn just what goes into an illustration.

Image result for laundry day jessixa bagley

Jessixa is the author/illustrator of many books, but we’ve been using a page from Laundry Day to have something to work on. Isn’t it adorable?
She showed us the process of drawing and the tools to use (and how to use them). She taught us how to transfer a drawing from scratch paper to watercolor paper. And I can’t wait to get to the watercolor part!
Just for fun, I’ll show you some of my attempts. First, to give a frame of reference, this is Jessixa’s original drawing from the book that we were working towards:

Image result for laundry day jessixa bagley

She has us block in the basic shapes using bluelines. Did you know there was a pencil color called “Non-photo Blue”? I did not know this. But it’s a shade that can’t be detected by graphic arts camera film, or can be made to disappear by adjusting the contrast and brightness. Here is my attempt (covered with the mess of my transfer attempts from later on, so just ignore that). Hard to see, yeah?

Once we had the general shapes, we moved to more detailed sketching. I mean, mine could definitely be worse.

Next we used tracing paper to capture the main elements. Tracing is also a time to clean up your lines. Haha! Well, I did try.

And finally, we transferred the image to watercolor paper, and commenced with inking.

These efforts may not look like much, but that was a time-intensive activity! Major concentration involved, and all kinds of new appreciation for what goes into illustration. I haven’t completed the course, but I’ve already learned so much. AND I’ve had fun doing it. Seriously, I highly recommend Jessixa’s class. Check it out at the Storyteller Academy page.

But let’s get real: I’m never going to be an illustrator (because frankly, I don’t intend to put in the time to hone that ability . . . it just doesn’t call to me the way writing does). But trying makes me happy. It relieves my stress. It makes me appreciate illustrators even more . . . and it makes me appreciate writing even more.

If you find yourself in a funk, don’t be afraid to try something new! Maybe it’ll be sketching and watercoloring, like I’ve chosen. Maybe it’ll be dance. Maybe it’ll be gardening or ice sculpting or baking macaroons. Whatever it is, allow yourself to be imperfect and just enjoy the doing. Because the art of trying something new is not about being or becoming an expert. It’s about finding things that bring you joy. And who knows? Maybe you’ll discover something that you do want to become an expert in. 😊

What new things are you trying lately?

Speak up:



, , , , , ,