Lightbulb Moments – Disneyland 2008

June 19, 2011

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In October of 2008 I went to Disneyland with my mom, brother, and husband to celebrate my mom’s 50th birthday. The night before we went I attended a lecture at the library that was given by local artist Lew Lehrman. Like me, he also brings a sketchbook everywhere, but unlike me he is REALLY good.

His sketchbooks were filled with amazing watercolor paintings of things he’d seen on his travels. I was amazed at how he was able to complete so many finished works while on the go. He shared some great secrets on how to set up a portable studio. The thing that stuck with me the most was that he does his initial sketches in pencil, then later fills in the details with pen and watercolor wash. Some of the paintings he even finished later on in the hotel room or on the plane back home.

That blew my mind. Prior to then I had always subconsciously considered it cheating to use pencil or finish sketches at a later time. But if a “real” artist like Lew Lehrman could do it, then so could I.

The next day we went to Disneyland and I began employing the new tricks that I’d learned from Lew. Instead of trying to capture the scenes before me, which is impossible when you are constantly on the move, I created new scenes by sketching different elements at different times. I’d draw my family as we waited in one line, and then add a background later while we were at lunch. I created crowd scenes by sketching random people in different places and putting them together on one page. I added details and shading later as we rode the shuttle or waited at restaurants. Some drawings I completed at night in the hotel and used the photos on my digital camera for reference.

I buzzed with creative excitement the entire time. The resulting sketches were lightbulb drawings–a term I use to describe the products of those moments when I become enlightened by an idea and reach a new skill level. Lightbulb drawings themselves are not always the greatest works of art, but they mean a lot to me because of what they represent.

Those drawings–composed of different elements from different places and times–captured the spirit of the trip a million times more than any completely onsite sketch (or even photo) could have.

That trip and those drawings reignited my passion for sketching, and I have since gone on to enjoy similar creative highs on other vacations, and deepened my exploration of the ideas that first opened up to me on that trip. None of that would have happened had I not attended Lew Lehrman’s lecture.

By the way, Lew does this really cool thing where people send him pictures of their house and he paints them as if they were haunted houses. Check it out: http://www.hauntedstudio.com


  1. […] and my brother at Disneyland. I talked a lot about this and other drawings from that trip in a previous post. In this drawing I committed the sin of mixing moments, resulting in a very unenthusiastic looking […]

  2. […] I did a bunch of little caricatures of people on the subway and it was really fun and definitely a lightbulb experience. It was sort of the kick off of a new style for me, drawing these little portraits of people with […]

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