Friday, November 21, 2014

Coming along with a little tree of life

Every time I look at the ribbon on my banner, I want to make something else with a dark background, so now I am having obsessive fun with this little tree of life drawing. The black has no intentional symbolism. I just love the way color shows up against it.

I am also loving this hare.

Friday, November 14, 2014

"...and all the flowers looked up at Him, and all the stars looked down." (G.K. Chesterton)

It's cold outside and quiet this morning. It's not bitterly cold, but crisply cold with a sweet, clean smell. The sky is overcast and the wind is gentle with occasional gusts, stirring the dry brown leaves in a faint clatter on the ground. I know because I just put my head out the window. But now I am sitting on the floor with my back to the radiator, colored pencils around me, looking with mixed feelings at my Madonna and Child.

I have a wise friend, an artist and a teacher, who says that when a piece of art is finished but you wish you could change it, that just means you are still an artist. You have more ideas and you are not done making things. As I look at my little picture, improving it (or maybe just changing it) in my mind, I take those words to heart.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A new-to-me illustrator, Julie Paschkis

I am in love. I am high on an illustrator I just discovered today. Her name is Julie Paschkis. She's been around awhile doing children's books and other work, but I've been too busy enjoying the various golden ages of illustration to notice. What other wonders have I been missing?

Here is a link to her blog and another to her website. I recommend that you click on that blog link for a delightful post about why she doesn't use the computer to modify her work. In case you don't take my excellent advice, I am going to copy a poem that she included in her post so you can read it here. I am high from the poem too.

Lastly, here is a link to a video interview. She talks about her process and shows lots of wonderful images. 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The beginning of a Madonna and Child

I restarted a drawing I've been thinking about for over a year.

 Last fall the image flashed into my mind as I thought about G, K. Chesterton's pretty poem, "A Christmas Carol," especially the last stanza:

The Christ-child stood at Mary's knee,
His hair was like a Crown,
And all the flowers looked up at Him,
And all the stars looked down.

(I posted the whole poem last Christmas Eve.)

I looked at lots of Madonnas last year and made a lot of sketches, but I never felt like I got a handle on what I wanted. Now I'm just going for it. I thought through the composition then went right to good paper so I wouldn't be overwhelmed with possibilities. There are a few things I'm not sure about--what kind of border to make and whether or not to hand-letter lines from the poem. (Hand lettering scares me.) I also don't think the Child's face is quite right, but I'm going to start adding color where I know what I'm doing.

As I was looking at Madonna and Child pictures I found this by Cicely Mary Barker, who is best known for her flower fairies. (I found it on Pinterest but it was linked back to Encore Editions where I couldn't actually find it.)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Contentment and discontentment and a finished drawing

With my littlest kids getting kind of big--seven and almost five, I take a lot more showers than I did for awhile. I always felt on call, always felt like someone was going to need me any minute, so taking a slow shower when I didn't really really "need" one, just to gently refresh myself, contemplate life and design things in the steam on the door didn't happen much. I was taking that kind of shower a few days ago, when my seven-year-old boy yelled outside the bathroom door "Mama, does disc----" He paused. I thought he was going to say something about a DVD, but he went on "--contentment cause trouble?"

"Yes." I said. I was surprised and amused, proud of my insightful little boy.

"Yesssss!!!!" he shouted and pounded back to the kitchen.

I was no longer so proud.  I realized he was probably using my "yes" to bolster his side of an argument with his feisty little sister. He had probably been lecturing her and meeting resistance.  I finished up quickly, expecting yelling and accusations to invade my sanctuary, but it didn't happen. They were painting watercolors, and I suppose they were enjoying their work enough to drop the argument.

Here's a picture of the contented pair that Lucy took last month. 

I've been thinking some about contentment since then. "Godliness with contentment is great gain," said St. Paul, and "In every situation I have learned how to be content." Yet, ungodliness with contentment is not gain, and neither is the lazy acceptance of bad stuff you can make better. One thing I am not content with is my energy level, which is affected by sensitivities to all the pretty smelling stuff people use to get clean and beautiful. Careful eating has made a big difference, but I spend a lot of time cooking, and I don't have much of an energy margin. Going to a party with lots of clean and shiny people or making a big grocery shopping trip takes a toll on my energy, which cuts right into my art time which makes me sad. I once overheard my four year old singing a little jingle she made up: "She was mad and sad because her aeroplane was running out of gas." My little creativity aeroplane often sits wistfully in the runway, while I sadly watch all the gas going into the cooking-healthy-all-from-scratch-meals-for-picky-people-with-special-dietary-needs and going-to-the-grocery-store jumbo-jet. And I'm not really content with that if I can do anything about it.

This week one solution has been to do art in the morning before kids are up. Instead of jumping quickly into housekeeping stuff to get it over with but wearing out early in the day, I wake up more slowly and take advantage of that dreamy, nighttime kind of intelligence before it dissipates in the morning light. I am excited about how well this schedule is working for me and have high hopes for increased artistic productivity.

I was able to finish this piece in a few days. I still want to do an all new design on bigger paper with powerful rolling waves that feel like much more than a border and (maybe) trees that curve into each other's space, but I'm glad I didn't just drop this version. Though I'm not in love with it, I learned and got good ideas from going on. Maybe some day I'll like it or have more ideas to improve it. Thank you Margaret, Janice and Linda for encouraging me to finish in your comments on my last post.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

My "work in progress" goes kaput

There will be no more work on this piece. The problem with taking an idea to good paper--expensive, beautiful paper--is that it's really hard to admit that you have a made a foundational mistake. I kept seeing that the water and the trees were out of scale, but I kept hoping that I could fix it with color, which is embarrassingly stupid. I was deceiving myself, almost. I actually knew it wasn't working before I got onto the good paper, but I didn't want to admit it. I think I need to grow in courage to face the pain of letting go of something irretrievably flawed and to persevere until the problem is solved. This seems very different from being a perfectionist.

The border of waves needs to be about twice as big as it is, so I'll try it again on some really big Stonehenge paper I have--not as good as Arches, but plenty fine.

Does anyone else make these kinds of mistakes?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A bright fall morning

As we tilt away from the sun, the angle of light makes the whole day like morning or evening. There is no glaring noonday, shadows always stretch to the north, and all day long leaves catch the rays like stained glass. 

I went out this morning to have fun taking pictures, and it felt so good tromping around in the weeds that I wondered if I should just do it all day--Sunday being my resting day and all. Then I wondered why I didn't just go for a walk or sit in the sun without a camera--why didn't I just take some time to be instead of doing, why didn't I just look around me with nothing between my eyes and nature but my glasses. My answer right then was that I didn't want to.

But a more complete answer came a few hours later, while dreaming in the shower, using up the hot water. Looking around me to take pictures as well as I can (which I know is not very well) and putting my appreciation into words and typing them out allows me to engage more fully and appreciate more deeply. Some kind of creative shaping of what I see gives me a deeper experience of the beauty of creation that I can gain no other way. It's how artists have their cake and eat it too--share it even.

I also took a picture of some charms I really have to get into my shop, which means I have to take individual pictures of them next week. These are designs I created in wax which have been cast in lead-free pewter.