My first title for this post was going to be "Miserable Selfies." Because so many selfie-sketches (as opposed to selfie-photos, where everyone is consciously smiling) make the artist look grim. But the fact is, I am so far from miserable it's funny. I'm actually incredibly happy.
Oh yeah? Then why do I look so miserable?
Such a good question...I look at a lot of sketching and visual journal websites and I often notice how totally grumpy everyone looks in their hand-drawn selfies. People who don't draw often see these and complain, "But you look so unhappy! I never see you looking that way."
No, actually, what one usually sees in selfie-sketches is a face devoid of any type of expression at all, and that often makes the artist look entirely miserable--because we just aren't used to seeing others with no expression. Think about taking the subway; you often see expressionless people there, and they can look quite miserable (they might be, on a crowded subway), but in fact, we have no idea about their interior states.
In fact, I was in a state of delight drawing this. Not that you can tell! But it has been months, perhaps over a year, since I've spent more than a minute drawing anything representational. This hardly qualifies as a great piece of art; I'm too out of practice and I don't pretend to be a great artist even when I have been practicing. I know I have a lot to learn. I did this on a post-it with a ballpoint pen, in about 5 minutes. When I finished, I looked at it and felt GREAT. It was so much fun to do! Even if it closely resembles a mug shot.
And it does resemble a mug shot--it appears someone has just slugged me in the jaw and knocked my mouth off-center so that it has settled under one nostril rather than being balanced between the two. (I hope that isn't true in real life) And what happened to the nose, which is also migrating to one side of my face and looks vastly white?
Perhaps the cubists were onto something, when you look at that face. Ha.
I DON'T CARE. The point is, I did it. I drew something and I had so much fun doing it. It felt great.
Practice at selfies does allow one to eventually add expression to the face. (Check out Rembrandt's selfies or Frida Kahlo's selfies to see masters at work.) But you know?...this actually WAS my expression while I was drawing, because I was totally in the present moment, totally focused, totally absorbed, and not thinking of anything else.
So I may look miserable, but I am happy, happy, happy with my tiny drawing. I feel more practice sessions hurtling in my direction.
The daily small painting, a small resource and time commitment, is an exercise in absolute focus for that time period. It's like a meditation, really.
- Gaye Adams
Long ago and far away...or so it seems...I spent an entire day drawing. Ahhhhhhhh...
In reality, it was recently and not that far away. But I have traveled such a distance interior-ly between then and now.
What I am referring to: I had a chance to sit and tangle for an entire day a couple of weeks ago, and experienced all the benefits: the inner silence, the lovely calm focus, the lack of worry about outcome, and the great sense of peace and timelessness.
All these things can also come from meditation, although since meditation (vipassana) invites us to turn towards and become aware of whatever is present, there are frequent times when meditation asks us to sit with difficult feelings or sensations. A very wise process, though sometimes a turbulent one.
The only difference I find between drawing/tangling and classical meditation is the incredible focus that drawing evokes, and how that focus prevents me from being aware of anything else. Sometimes this is more useful than meditation.
Since that one lovely peaceful day of drawing, life has ramped up and things are, at the moment, confusing and unsettled. I am sitting with this in meditation and just observing that.
But clearly there is a place for both practices in my life, meditation and drawing, during times like this. Both feel as precious to me as breathing, and both lead me to clearer perspective and inner peace. Each method works in its own way.
Every day I meditate.
But so far, I have not mastered the practice of daily drawing or tangling. I see the benefits of both, and I always make time for meditation. But too often I do not make time for drawing. Instead I pay bills, or work, run irrelevant errands, or knit while watching television. Or--although this is nearly as beneficial--I work on designing, dyeing for, or hooking my latest rug. Rug hooking is incredibly meditative. But it still doesn't have the effect on me that drawing does, and the past couple of weeks have proved to me how true that is. I frequently feel I want to draw, but tell myself that other tasks are more important.
But are they?
Life is complicated. Drawing, breathing, seeing, following just that one line at a time, is so very simple. Perspective in drawing...perspective in life.
The viewer of art can go into a kind of meditation, a bit of a different sense or feeling.
- Dorthe Eisenhardt
I believe that painting should come through the avenues of meditation rather than the canals of action.
- Mark Tobey
This just in from Loretta Scena, one of the exhibit organizers:
Join us at the T.W. Wood Gallery
46 Barre Street
Montpelier, Vt. 05602
"Exploring the Tarot"
curated by Loretta Scena and Michele Micarelli
Exploring the Tarot offers an opportunity to view a rare collection of hand hooked rugs by 23 artists from across the nation and Canada. Each artist created their interpretation of one tarot card.
May 14th through June 25
NOTE: the Tarot Card Rugs will only be at the gallery through JUNE 25th.
...and a related exhibit with extended dates:
"Discovering the Tarot Card Artists"
An exhibit of hand hooked Rugs at the Gallery
May 14-July 15, 2016
If you live in the U.S. and are interested in rug hooking and/or in the tarot, don't miss this exhibit. For more information and the history of the exhibit, go here.
Don't forget to check the gallery hours by going to their website (at the top of this post).
Ah, the process of finishing a punch-hooked rug! Poking, steaming, pinning, hemming...I did a second steaming last night to uncurl the border. I spent the morning cutting off yarn ends, then poking the motifs to get them to be where they are supposed to be. Then I pinned up the hem (second photo below) and will be starting to stitch it tomorrow. The first photo gives a good preview of what it will look like when it's done. Once I finish the hem, it will get one final good steaming...and that will be it.
I really enjoyed doing this rug. Too bad I have no place to put it! It's 6' x 3'. This is a bad photo on my sketchily-painted studio flooring:
"That's all there is; there isn't anymore."
"The song is ended, but the melody lingers on."
I think I'm astonished that I'm this close to finishing. I began dyeing the yarn for the rug in November; it took about 35-40 individually hand-dyed skeins. I began punching in early February, and am hoping to finish it (the hemming part) this week or next week. I love both punching and traditional rug hooking, but I could never have finished traditionally hooking a rug this size in that amount of time.
This was the original Compass Rose Mandala taught by Kate Lamontagne at Tangle U 16 a week or so ago. We were each given a selection of Prismacolor pencils and Moonlight Gellyroll 06 pens and Microns, along with a cool tool to create a basic mandala.
We all followed the same directions...and sure enough, everyone produced wildly-different pieces. I love that.
These are not "my" colors, but since I got them, I wanted to challenge myself to use them, and am glad that I did.
So naturally I couldn't leave that alone.
Well, I guess I could...and did--the original still looks exactly like the photo above. But I had to try a few experiments.
So I got out my iPhone and here's a slideshow of the results. Same photo run through 1) the mirror app and then 2) an app called Painteresque.
Hover over each photo below for a caption; then click on each photo to biggify it.
I loved working on the original, and then playing with it further. Now...since it's a Compass Rose Mandala, which "direction" is the favorite?
A tile I created while listening to Molly Hollibaugh's meditative instructions:
While I still have projects to finish from that workshop, I am a bit too tired to tackle them so tonight I just did a freehand mandala using an old purple ball point pen and the Rainbow Lead pencil.
...after which I ran it through the mirror app on my iPhone, so here's the same tile mirrored...
...which reminded me of the old Mae West quote that sometimes
"too much of a good thing can be wonderful."
This piece was done quite literally in a moving meditation with 120 other people. You could have heard a pin drop in the room.
And below is another piece I did for a challenge project. I used a white gellyroll pen and a gold metallic pen.
Underneath here, you can see a photo of what a few other participants did with the same challenge--look at the differences. I love that. I wish I had a photo of the entire grouping of these--I'm betting the final collection had at least 60 tiles in it, each one different.
Also known as Portland Maine. I just spent five days there at an art workshop called Tangle U, with 120 tanglers from 6 countries (including Australia and Taiwan). I am exhausted and do not want to leave my house again for a good six months! Not much of a traveler. But this was oh-so-worth-it.
Below is the sole project I finished while there.
I brought home several other projects to finish, and expect to be busy for quite a while. It was great to reconnect with people and get inspired by their work.
But then there was also this. I ran into a convenience store, having let myself get far too thirsty, to reluctantly buy some bottled water (hate buying those plastic bottles) and instead stopped dead in my tracks when I saw:
Such an obvious solution! Why haven't I ever seen this before? Why don't all stores have these, rather than the awful plastic bottles? Of course I bought it immediately.
Best solution is to carry my own reusable bottle, but that's not always possible. This would be my next go-to idea, if I could only find these in my home state.
Spread the word, please.
And now back to catching up on emails and unpacking. OMG, it's good to be home.
I'm a textile artist (traditional rug hooking, punch needle rug hooking, and other textile arts), long-time meditator and coach, focused on learning about the interplay of art, creativity, and mindfulness every day.
NEXT INTRO TO ZENTANGLE CLASS:
No immediate group classes scheduled (I'm always open to hearing about a good venue in the Cambridge-Somerville area). I am always happy to teach 1-1 and/or in a small group in your home.
Come and amaze yourself!
SITES TO WATCH:
Insight Meditation Society
Oxford Rug Hooking School
Zentangle: The Official Site
Green Mountain Rug Hooking
Massachusetts Tarot Society
Skillful Meditation Project