Category: Reviews

Licorice plant drawing by Carolyn A Pappas

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Licorice plant drawing by Carolyn A Pappas
©2015 Carolyn A Pappas, Licorice Plant. Ink in 7×10 inch Stillman & Birn Epsilon Series sketchbook.
I read this book a few months back and it has really stuck with me, which is rare for a nonfiction book. I am someone who has struggled for years with what Marie Kondo calls “rebound.” My relationship with organization is similar to what some people deal with when yo-yo dieting. I go on a massive cleaning spree and have things under control for about one week, but things quickly fall apart again. Over the past four years or so I have really improved, due to drastically reducing my living space and possessions accordingly. Even still, I continue to struggle, as I have not been able to stick to a long term solution. When my summer term is over, I am going to do a purge and fully implement her method. I will report back on my findings.

This is one of my favorite passages of the book:

If you have read this far, you have probably noticed that in my method your feelings are the standard for decision making. Many people may be puzzled by such vague criteria as “things that give you a thrill of pleasure” or “click point.” The majority of methods give clearly defined numerical goals, such as “Discard anything you haven’t used for two years,” “Seven jackets and ten blouses is the perfect amount,” “Get rid of one thing every time you buy something new.” But I believe this is one reason these methods result in rebound.


Even if these methods temporarily result in a tidy space, automatically following criteria proposed by others and based on their “know-how” will have no lasting effect – unless their criteria happens to match your own standards of what feels right. Only you can know what kind of environment makes you feel happy. The act of picking up and choosing objects is extremely personal. To avoid rebound, you need to create your own tidying method with your own standards. This is precisely why it is so important to identify how you feel about each item you own.


Marie Kondo in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, pg 125-126.

watercolor tests sketchbook

Testing some new paints

I splurged and bought a Winsor & Newton compact paint box and I took it for its first test drive today in my sketchbook, trying out different mixes and seeing how colors look when they are layered over other colors. The photo below was taken with my phone, and the colors don’t appear as vivid as in real life. I’m looking forward to painting some pink roses with the lovely pink peachy colors in this set. Overall, the palette seems very suited to the natureish type of things that I love to paint.

I also had a custom stamp made for myself (1 x 2 inches) which says: “From the Studio of Carolyn A Pappas.” I felt very official with a stamp with my name on it and I’m already thinking of some things to stamp up.

watercolor tests sketchbook
©2015 Carolyn A Pappas, Color Tests (2-22-15). Watercolor and ink in large watercolor moleskine.

Here are some links I have come across recently which interested me and may interest you as well:

  • Take a peek inside the sketchbooks of J.M.W. Turner. I love the urgency in his sketches.
  • Danny Gregory is looking for people to email him their stories of their encounters with their personal monkey (inner negative voice).
  • I read some interviews of designers/freelancers discussing money and how they manage it which I found very interesting. Read them here and here.
hydrangea #inktober

More sketches of blossoms.

I wish I had done more ink drawing in October. I have, however, started going to the gym again after over a five year break, so I am proud of myself in that regard. Already I have noticed a huge improvement in my sleep and clarity of thought.

Below are some more sketches I made in my new gray toned sketchbook. I really like this book because of the soft feel of the cover (almost a silky feeling), the general substantial feel of the book in my hands, and the color of the paper. There is some drag on my fountain pen which I don’t like, but I enjoy the color of the gray ink on the gray paper, so there are tradeoffs. I tried out colored pencils but I would like to do some experiments using black and white colored pencils for drawing.

hydrangea #inktober
©2014 Carolyn A Pappas, Hydrangea (10-30-2014). Ink in 8.5 x 11 gray toned sketchbook.
flower sketch
©2014 Carolyn A Pappas, Yellow Blossoms (9-7-14). Ink and colored pencil in 8.5 x 11 gray toned sketchbook.


Book Review: Living and Sustaining a Creative Life

©2014 Carolyn A Pappas, 3-29-14 Sketchbook. Pen and watercolor in 7 x 10 inch sketchbook.

Living and Sustaining a Creative Life: Essays by 40 Working Artists. Edited by Sharon Louden.

This book is a collection of 40 essays and interviews which are first hand accounts of what it is like to live and work as an artist. I really enjoyed this book because, for the most part, it is really down to earth and the essays were short little nuggets that I could read in one sitting. The various artists are very upfront about their lifestyle and the struggles they have had in earning their income from their art. There are only a few examples of “art speak” and I skipped over these essays.

One of the similarities I see in all these artists (as expected) is that they are disciplined with their time. It seems that the artists with children require the most discipline to get work done while their kids were in school, daycare or being cared for by their partner. Having a supportive and self-sacrificing family also seemed to be crucial to their success.

Besides living in NYC and being a people person, the common trait I noticed in all these artists was the willingness to take a calculated risk, much like any entrepreneur. I fear the unease of not being able to plan on stable income, especially with a child to support, would be too uncomfortable for me to tolerate. This is why I am personally thankful for a full time job with benefits. A number of the artists featured in this book worked side jobs or full time jobs for a long time before becoming successful, and it encouraged me that they still considered themselves artists throughout.