Tips for planning a creative day

Pen and Ink Artist Anna Meshejian Draws the Muse Forth

Anna’s remarkably realistic drawings seem to pull plants, animals, and mythical spirits through a trap door and onto the page. Her work fills me with admiration and curiosity. One morning late last summer, I had a virtual tea date with Anna, who graciously agreed to share her creative secrets.

In this article, I’ll share excerpts of our conversation and a sampling of Anna’s pen and ink drawings. Holy smokes, a human drew those with a pen and pencil? Yes, the Anna Meshejian to be exact.  

Pen and Ink Drawing by Anna Meshejian
"Dolorosa" ​​by Anna Meshejian | Pen and Ink Drawing

What Motivates You to Make?

Anna says she’s not in it for the money, in fact, she has yet to put her art on the market. She prefers to chase the inspiration she finds in the woods, and that keeps it fun for her. For me, slotting five minutes of writing into my day feels like an act of rebellion. While I "should" be making money to pay the rent, I carve out time here or there to create. That time gives me satisfaction that I don’t get elsewhere. So when the business-folk or my inner-critic asks, “You’re spending chunks of potentially money-making time on creativity? What's the ROI?!” I rejoice in the folly of the question. Oh America, oh self, please don’t abandon artists or devalue self-expression. And while the result of that dedicated creative time may not be marketable, put up for sale, or even palatable, it is intrinsically valuable, if only to the artist herself.

That said, if any benefactors out there want to back Anna's art, DM me and I'll connect y'all. Sketchbooks aren't free.

Anna Meshejian | Pen and Ink Drawing
"Artemis.Theta.​​Vaca" by Anna Meshejian | Pen and Ink Drawing

The Armchair Biologist

If you’ve scrolled this far down the page, you’ve probably noticed that Anna Meshejian’s work reflects her keen observations from nature. That gift she has is rooted in her childhood. Both her parents are professors and Anna logged many hours in the science lab as a kid, studying specimen jars, collecting pond water and playing in the science department.  By the time she arrived on her college campus she was ready to double major in art and biology, only to change course and graduate with a psychology degree. However, Anna's love of biology is alive and well in her art and in her armchair.

Today Anna spends a lot of time outside and enjoys hiking nearby and far-flung trails of the Mid-Atlantic. Anna says her pen and ink drawings are often inspired by what she sees on her walks. She drew turkey tail mushrooms from memory, which is often how she draws, but she is sure to later check her memory. “It’s easy for the mind to forget some little things that can differentiate a species.”  Anna's attention to detail sets her pieces alive in my mind. She really seems to reflect the essence of the plants, animals and mythical creatures she draws. 

Here's a screenshot of Anna with her turkey tail mushrooms sketch. She must have a photographic memory because she drew these after seeing them on a hike. I don't know about you, but my mind doesn't work like that. It's more like an aging impressionist, a Van Gogh after he cut off his ear, or a Monet nearly blind with cataracts but still pausing to admire the water lilies.

In the Armchair Biologist video, Anna talks about how the light hits the turkey tails and how far apart the stripes need to be, and other considerations of doing the turkeys justice on the page.

Anna Meshejian Armchair Biologist

Behold: Girls' Day

Anna has a ritual that I loved to learn about and think could be the next national holiday, a creative day to reinvigorate your spirit and draw forth the muse. She calls it "Girls' Day," which is a beautiful way to honor her late dog, Ophelia, but also transcends their expeditions. Perhaps "Girls' Day" is a universal day for honoring our creative spirts and the spirits of those we love.

Here's how it works: 

Every six weeks Anna takes a day off from work and uses it to explore nature, to refuel herself and be creative. This is how she is sure to have a day to look forward to, and a time on the calendar to be creative. 

Anna's Checklist for a Creative Day:

  1.  Reserve the day off from work (or whatever your normal routine). Anna reserves her day off every six weeks, because that pattern gels with her professional rhythms and the seasons.
  2. Pre-plan what you'll do. Leading up to your fabulous and fanciful day, jot down notes in your calendar. What sounds like a fun time? What would be a seasonal activity that you would like to do? Planning the day in a detailed manner will prevent indecision and keep you from getting sucked back into the vortex of daily patterns.
  3. Bring a friend. Before Anna’s sweet girl-dog Ophelia passed, they would go hiking together and Anna would look forward to spending “Girls’ Day” with her pup. How can you incorporate a friend or someone you love into the day?
  4. Name Your Day. That's the next step: make this day personal to you and honor it with a name. Make your day sound like an irresistible gift to self. Don't get too hung up on it, though, if "Girls' Day" delights you, go forth with that.
  5. Go with the seasons. Being in the flow of nature is its own medicine. I’m reminded of a friend who once said to me, “I’m not trying to swim upstream,” and I think it’s a beautiful analogy for going with the current of life. Anna chooses creative seasonal activities such as berry foraging or making pawpaw pudding in the fall. 

Owl and Moon Pen and Ink Drawing
"Mister Claw" Pen and Ink Drawing by Anna Meshejian​​

Chronic Doodler

Over the course of our conversation, Anna offered other tips on how she balances her workaday life (she’s a project manager) with her artistic side—and the lines often blur.

Anna says, “I’m a chronic doodler,” to friends and coworkers alike, and she often keeps her pencil busy, drawing while in meetings. I often do this too, but at the end of my meetings I reap a page of hashmarks while Anna emerges with a hand drawn bouquet of marigolds. Anna says that doodling helps her to be present, in the same way knitters channel their busy hands into scarves and beanies.

Don't Badger Me | I'm Following Anna

Traditional Tattoo style pen and ink drawing by Anna Meshejian
"Badger" by Anna Meshejian | Pen and Ink Drawing​​

Badger is one of Anna’s most on-the-nose pieces. He’s a wry fellow drawn in traditional tattoo style with a banner that reads, "Don't badger me." I felt like a weasel when asking Anna about it, mostly because I was cranky from COVID. 

"Do you sometimes think of annoying people and draw them as badgers or potbelly pigs or animals with tusks?"I asked.

Anna laughed it off. She's got too much grace for that line of thought. If her work is any indication, she's keyed in to higher plain, and I'll keep following her pen in hopes I catch a glimpse of it. 

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