Once upon a time, a long time ago, I shared a post like this on Facebook:
“20__ Pay It Forward: I promise something handmade to the first 5 people who leave a comment here. However, to be eligible, you must re-post this status, offering something handmade to 5 other people. The rules are that it must be handmade by you and it must be sent to your 5 people sometime in 20__”
This is an 11 book edition. Each volume contains a dozen prints of my daily drawings, which are thematically related. It’s been a long time since I did much bookbinding, so I used this edition as a chance to practice rusty skills. So though your book may be imperfect, I hope it will amuse you!
I’ve sent 5 books off to the people who responded to my original post. I will keep one book for myself, which leaves me 5 to give away. If you are interested in receiving one of these books, comment here or send me a message before the morning of Tuesday March 13th. I’ll choose 5 people at random.
I would like the rules of the game to be observed; if you receive one of these books, please then find a way of giving something you made by hand to 5 other people. Obviously I don’t care if it takes you more than a year to do it!
I did a little “process” post a few days ago, and felt like I didn’t really say much of what I wanted to get across. (see 11 February 2018)
So I took photos again during this drawing, whenever I paused between spates of scribble and brush, and I’ll try writing about it again.
I started this blog, not as a showcase for my fabulous talent (lol) but because I had determined that if I really wanted to feel like I was taking time in my life to make art, then I had to take time to make art. Every day. The blog was a way of holding myself accountable. I hoped it might also provide encouragement for other people who were feeling creatively stuck. So it felt important to show all the work, even the stuff I personally thought was weak or lame.
My big block was that I love art-making and have some skills, but I had no idea what I wanted to do with it. I was stymied by choosing subject matter, and was super judgmental about whatever I made. I dismissed drawings that were playful, whimsical or sweet as being trivial, but had no idea how I’d make ‘serious’ art. I’d get a bit bored focusing on observational work, even though I think it’s really good to do occasionally for skill-building. And I do really love a good still life, landscape, portrait, or nature study. I long ago dismissed the idea of trying to make a living in the arts, because I was not able to stand up even to my internal critics. Some of the actual critiques I faced in my few years of formal study stopped me from exploring large format painting, which I still haven’t picked up again, 30 odd years later.
I determined to choose parameters for my daily drawings that would give me enough distance from my internal critics to get around them. I try to get into each drawing session with a clear mind, no preconceptions about what I will produce. I keep a range of materials handy, and try to settle down until I feel an intuitive push toward some material or idea. I try to stay as open as I can during the whole process, working with whatever happens rather than criticizing it when it’s not what I intended or expected.
So with that background, here’s what happened during my drawing time on 2/13/18:
So I’ll call this the drawing for today, put the date on it, and turn it loose on my blog. Sometimes the drawing snaps into focus sooner or later, and I can tell a more coherent story about it, but this is not one of those days. Still, I really believe that nothing is wasted, if you’re paying attention.
Sometimes the drawings that start out the most frustratingly aimless end up going somewhere that I rather enjoy. It can be really hard to hold space open to trust that something worthwhile will emerge. I ought to do plenty of intentional, observational work to expand and refine my drawing/painting “toolkit”, but the point of this daily practice is to not let any deficiencies get in the way of exploring this visual space of dreams and play.
A dear friend of mine, who knows about my fondness for tying sticks together with twine, commissioned me to make a sculpture for her gardens.
My friend gave me a piece of driftwood bark, which you can see on the far right side of the above photo. The other sticks in the picture were potential supports that I didn’t end up using; they were too stubby and I couldn’t configure them to display the bark and keep it up off the ground.
This branch, trimmed and turned upside-down, ended up giving me the base I needed.
Below is my original mock-up of the sculpture. I liked that it resembles a heron standing alert and attentive.
For some time I had my eye on a beautiful root attached to a stump across the street from my house. Last winter, a snowplow knocked the root loose and I was able to collect it. That made the perfect stabilizing base for the bird-like legs, and the whole piece finally came together.I treated the wood with a consolidating finish, which made the bark tougher and put a weather-resistant coating on it. This is my first outdoor piece, so I’ll be keeping an eye on it to see how well it survives.
I’m so grateful to have friends who are willing to support my work, and encourage me to try new ideas and directions!
I’ve started experimenting with ways to display my drawings. I participated in an Art Salon in February, for which I framed three pairs of drawings. I chose paper to edge and set off the drawings, and covered the frames themselves with a contrasting paper. This worked well enough for temporary display purposes, but is not a very durable presentation.
Another idea I had was to make leather-covered frames. So I tried that out on an older drawing, and was pretty pleased with the result:
Just recently, I sold one of my drawings and the buyer asked if I did any framing, so I showed them my earlier attempts. They asked if I could make a leather frame and protect the drawing with glass. Here are some process shots and the result:
structure before leather was applied
backside with hanging hardware
It was fun to apply my bookbinding training and tools to this challenge, and I’m pretty pleased with the result. Though I don’t have any formal training in framing, I believe this is reasonably archivally sound. The drawing only touches acid-free paper on the back and edges, and is suspended away from the glass. It won’t be hard to take apart and remove the picture, should that become necessary. I’m looking forward to getting feedback, and maybe eventually making some more frames for more drawings!
Looking at the work of other watercolor artists, most notably Margaret Parker Brown, I was encouraged to break out my old watercolors. The tubes that were still use-able gave me a limited palette but it included several greens, and enough other colors to make a go of it. (You can check out Margaret’s blog, http://yubagold.wordpress.com/)
These are postcard-sized paintings, done quickly. I’m showing you all that I haven’t already given away, even the one I don’t like so much because it’s too fussy. Because the purpose of this blog has always been to show my art journey, not to prove anything about my putative talents!
I made one other larger watercolor puddle, but am not sure it’s done. If I feel like it, I’ll add it to this post later.
The lake was beautiful, the weather gave me clouds and sun so shadows played on the mountains. I hope you all get a chance to restore yourselves someplace beautiful and inspiring this summer!
In February I hosted a collage party, as I have for several years now. It’s a great excuse to spend a day with friends doing arty stuff. To prepare, I have to really organize my studio and break out old my magazines, calendars, and scraps of decorative paper.
Sometimes it’s hard for me to warm up to making collages in just one session. I don’t have any direction or focus, and spend the day just looking at paper and images, maybe collecting piles, maybe adding to some older pieces. When everyone is gone, over the next few days it’s time to sort through everything and tidy up. That’s when images start landing next to and upon each other. It took me almost 2 weeks to finish the cleanup this time, because I kept finding one more picture I wanted to make.
I think one of the great things about collage is playing with colors and images that appeal to me, working in a very intuitive way. I have very little guiding idea, especially when I start out. Ideas may emerge out of the process, but I hold them pretty loosely and try to stay in playful visual space, which keeps me from getting didactic and overly critical.
They end up feeling like conversations, or jigsaw puzzles with no defined picture or point of completion. It’s a satisfying thing, and in the end my studio is in much better shape than when I started!
Every year since I think 2009, I’ve hosted a collage party sometime in the depths of February. The germ of the idea was an impromptu anti-valentine’s day session around a friend’s kitchen table. Soon after that, I took a workshop on using collaged images to make your own divination/inspiration card deck. My friend and co-conspirator Emily Cavin instigated a followup session, which became an annual event.
I have an embarrassingly large collection of old magazines, calendars and decorative paper scraps. On the chosen day, some friends come over and spend a large chunk of time playing with images and materials. We also chat and share snacks, and admire each other’s work. It’s completely delightful.
Last year we started making a group collage during the party. A piece gets started, and moves around the room from person to person, as many times as it takes until everyone feels they have nothing more to add. Here’s the group collage from this year’s party:
Emily Cavin continued work on her deck of divination cards, and gave me permission to show them here:
I didn’t get much done except the water/snake image at the top. But I’m pretty content with that. It can take me a while to get revved up for collage, if I don’t have a project already going. I spent much of the day just going through images, and collecting piles of stuff. I’ll have to see if it leads to anything else when I go back out to the studio today to tidy up!
The studio stayed relatively tidy this time, due to very considerate friends with ample space to spread out. Here are a couple shots of my workspace and the supplies just for grins – a happy mess.
It is a tremendous gift to share time with friends for creative play. I hope you are able to do something similar from time to time, in whatever medium feeds your spirit.
At last I can report that I’ve been in my studio long enough to work on projects other than the daily drawings. It’s not much, but it’s a step in the direction of shifting the shape of my life.
I trained as a hand bookbinder for a number of years, but have not actively worked at it since my children were small, a couple decades ago (yikes!) One of the reasons I’ve been so happy about actually having dedicated studio space now, is that I hope to get back to doing at least a few book-related projects. It’s taken a while, but here’s some movement in the right direction.
I took in this book to mend an embarrassingly long time ago, and finally finished it. The Sacred Harp is a songbook of music in mostly 4-part harmonies, written in shape notes. It’s at the heart of an active community of people who use their books, often every week. People take notes in the margins, collect information from friends, note songs they love or have led on the end pages. The books basically get loved to death. It’s been a dream of mine to return some of them to active use, and I hoped this project would nudge me in that direction. Now I feel more wary, given how long this poor book sat on my workbench, but there’s still satisfaction in seeing it ready to go back to sings.
Maybe someday I’ll even fix my own copy, which is showing signs of giving up after many years of use. For now, I’m enjoying the sense and the space of clearing an old project off my workbench. It feels like settling an old debt.