When I was a child, I was pretty proud of my prowess in art. I drew a picture of a cat, perhaps I was 7 years old, and showed it to my grandmother, no doubt expecting praise. Dottie was an accomplished portrait artist, though she dismissed her skill as being “a knack”, and I believe harbored lifelong regrets about not devoting her life to painting. She looked at my ballpoint pen drawing and said “that’s fine, but cats are soft and furry. Can you make your drawing show that?” I remember feeling piqued and frustrated. I came up with another drawing that outlined the cat in zigzag wiggly lines instead of plain straight ones, and figured I had met the challenge adequately. How else do you show fur with a ballpoint pen? (Of course now I have many more answers to that question, but at that time I was ready to be done.)
So this evening, I was coming off a day of work and meetings, and no ideas or ambitions for my daily arting. So I amused myself making a thing of cuteness, and making it look soft and furry, and thinking about painting for my own joy and not to fulfill some ambition. Or perhaps my ambition has always been to experience joy in art and music. So I share these musings with you, and hope that you are finding joy or good satisfaction in at least some of the work and play that occupies your time.
I grew up in Baltimore, a suburban enough area to have lots of trees. I was there for the 1970 emergence of the cicada brood. I had moved away but was able to go visit for a few days during the 1987 emergence. I missed the 2004 one; I had small children and was living in New England, too far north I guess for any broods of cicadas to thrive. It looks like I will miss this year’s emergence as well. My father, who still lives in Baltimore, tells me they have started to come out as of a few days ago.
17 year cicadas are an amazing phenomenon. They sweep you up in the awareness of how small things can be mighty if there are enough of them! It’s amazing to witness something that really doesn’t care about human presence one way or another. They do us no harm, they simply overwhelm their part the world with their sheer numbers. They take care of the reproductive part of their life cycle, and then they die, and that’s it until the next time.
I know this drawing isn’t accurate. For one thing, I gave it too many legs. I was not referring to any pictures but the ones in my dreams and my memories. It felt good to sit with them for a time, and remember where I was 17 years ago, and 17 years before that, and then again another 17 years.
As I expected, life is getting full and busy again. It’s not the frantic busyness that usually afflicts the month of May, but compared to the past year the change is significant. It’s eating into the studio time I was enjoying, and that makes me a little cranky.
This is all by way of explaining why I’m posting an unfinished painting. I only had a couple of hours to work, and part of that was during an online meeting. And now I need to get to the tasks of this day, so I can maybe have a little more time for arting later.
My inner critics are telling me this is not serious, and I am not a real artist. I don’t care. At the end of a not-stellar day, spending a couple hours on this was what settled me down and made me happy.
Make the art that feels right to you, critics be damned.
I am feeling a little sensitive today about whether or not I am a real painter who makes real art. Some of my inner critics managed to manifest in the outer world, where it’s a little harder to tell them to go into another room and shut up so I can contentedly play with my art materials.
I was actually annoyed at taking time to do the daily drawing today. That hasn’t happened too often, but I’ve had an attitude shift since taking February off. I think this is a decent depiction of my irritation.
The mood is compounded by my sense that the bountiful studio time I’ve had during the lockdown year is about to be broken up and broken into by the demands of a re-opening world. I am definitely worried about being able to hold my ground, so that I can keep doing this arty noodling which makes me so happy and content. It also coincides with the warmer weather, when the demands of house projects and garden eat into my art time. Then the days never seem long enough, and the things I want to do or have promised to do begin to crowd and jostle each other, and try to make their voices heard over all the other voices. In my dreams I would have them be a fine chorus singing in harmony, but usually it’s more like a shouting mob.
Well, it’s the end of my month off from the dailies, and I kind of missed them. But I’ve been busy making other art, never fear! I made a ridiculous number of little collages in the past week, which I will share with you here.
The two above are on 9″ x 12″ paper. I love how collage can engage playful intuition. I work on several at the same time, and think that I’m just responding to line and color, but then often find that they have drawn forth a little story or vignette.
This and the ones that follow are all smaller, about 4″ x 5″. They feel like curious little peeks into dreams or half-baked ideas.
I hope you found these enjoyable. I return to daily drawings tomorrow, if all goes as planned! Happy March!
February break continues. I’m not even painting lately, because it’s time for the February collage break. I should be able to post a few of those soon, they’re still in progress.
Meanwhile, here’s another character from the family DnD game. Meet Gertie Sable, a rock gnome with magical abilities. She’s irrepressibly curious and outgoing, and stowed away on the ill-fated voyage with the help of Demanda, who saw her as a potential friend and willing minion.
I really don’t enjoy making art digitally; I already spend too much time sitting at a computer. But for these game tokens, I’ve started filling in the backgrounds with fast and crappy digital brushwork. It’s possible I’ll learn how to use some of these tools just out of convenience!
In the absence of daily drawings, here’s a sample of what I’ve been playing with. These are portraits of characters in my current Dungeons and Dragons campaign. The above, Balance, is a Tiefling mercenary. Below, my character Demanda Cooper, a half orc barbarian, raised by her human mother who was determined that she would be a proper society lady.
There are a lot of people making great renderings of DnD characters, I am rather in awe of the art that’s out there. I present my efforts in the spirit of humble amusement.
It’s actually an update of 13 September 2020, you can go into the archive to see what it looked like when I originally posted it.
I am painting every day still, but it is taking some time to finish things out to my satisfaction. But it’s interesting to me to see what happens when I take the time to push them further. Where is the line between ‘done’ and ‘overworked’? The line between ‘fresh’ and ‘lazy’?
Oh and I’m taking studio time to also do non-painting projects. Maybe I’ll post some of those on the days between finished paintings…stand by!