I've been wanting to attempt an illustrated letter for quite a while and decided to try it this evening. I learned a lot doing this.
Every line in a drawing is a new experience. There's no "right" place to begin. We just start. Each individual line is a new creation. There's no "right" way to draw anything. Some drawings are "better" than others...but if we're drawing mindfully, they all teach us something, no matter the result.
It's the same with meditation. There is no one right way to meditate. Every moment is new, and if our minds wander--which of course, they always do--we simply draw in a new breath, and begin again.
I made hard-boiled eggs last week and after they cooled this is what I saw. I took a photograph because if ever there was an egg begging for kintsugi, this one was it.
However, I ate the egg in my dinner salad, so no kintsugi took place.
Not sure what kintsugi is? It's the Japanese art of mending broken ceramics using gold in the cracks, resulting in a mended object of striking beauty. Look HERE.
The beauty is in the brokenness.
The instant I saw that egg I wanted to paint it, though I've no idea why. Perhaps I've been thinking about kintsugi recently as I observe so much brokenness surrounding us all.
Compassion can be one way to join our pieces back together, to form a strong bond, and to heal ourselves.
I contemplate this, and then write:
Pick up your broken pieces.
Lovingly place them together.
Add the gold.
Allow time for healing.
And then, look.
So much beauty.
And here is one lovely article I saw on the topic.
A kind neighbor brought these marigolds in a tiny bottle. She collects old bottles and also grows flowers. A wonderful combination.
I could actually have given this post a much longer title. Something like: "Kind Neighbors, Marigolds, and Other Favorite Things." Too long.
Some of my favorite things. The hydrangea in an antique bottle, a book on drawing (recommended), and an old white soapstone I tangled years ago and put into a frame to use as a coaster, after first baking it in the oven to set the paint. Plus, my front porch. Love to sit out and watch the world go by.
Finally, a quick late-night tangle I did last night after watching Amy Kam's weekly Tangle Time. The tile had been given a watercolor wash years ago. I added the tangles (Gneiss, Black Pearl, Crescent Moon, Shattuck), along with colored and chalk pencils and graphite. I threw in some white gellyroll. And I still couldn't sleep--however I didn't wake up this morning until almost nine. Oooh, a lovely sleep after all. Once it actually came.
Or should that be, Rusty AND Tricky? I did some watercolor yesterday and today and wow, was the it ever hard to handle. What a mess! The result is fun but not particularly good--I say that not to put myself down, only to say I can definitely get better with practice. It's been about 3 years since I've done any watercolor practice, and it shows. Did this one in a class by Sam Taylor (@Zenlapse on IG).
I'd gotten a new set of "tropical" colors and couldn't wait to try them out, so I tried them out on this warty fish:
It's just amazing how that darned water can get away from me. Or I would assume something was dry, only to discover it wasn't...so then I'd have one color running into the other. Or I put my hand down to draw something and would feel that sickening wet feeling under my hand--I'd forgotten that part was still sopping wet and now I'd smeared it. Yikes! Hilarious, however.
Watercolor requires patience and plenty of mindfulness. Looks like it's time for me to cultivate both.
I think I'll try doing another fish.
Because watercolor actually moves on the paper, it is the most active of all mediums, almost a performance art.
Here is the start of a mandala, just the beginning linework.
I drew this last night while studying one of Romi Marks' videos. I screwed up the center--but luckily, there are "no mistakes!" in Zentangle® and so I just kept going and did my own thing in the center. And I like the way that came out. I also changed a few things in the next layer.
This is one major thing I learned about drawing since I've begun to draw regularly. In fact once I began drawing in the Zentangle® tradition it was resoundingly, repeatedly, and overtly reinforced.: There are no mistakes--keep going and see what you can make of what is in front of you. 90-95% of the time, not only can you work through whatever is there but you can actually surprise yourself with a good result.
It's the same in meditation. And, I believe, in much of life in general. What about that other 5-10%? Anywhere from "meh, or disappointing," to a genuine catastrophe. But still, those odds sound pretty good to me.
So I persevered and began adding color. Big difference! Encouraged, I drew the outside of the tile and stopped there for a bit, having worn myself out for the day:
And here below is the finished tile. I'm glad I stuck with it.
Whatever it is you are pursuing, whatever it is you are seeking, whatever it is you are creating, be careful not to quit too soon.
I was able to spend more time practicing yesterday and working out the rust and kinks from not having tangled much in the past months.
And here on the right is my pre-practice Palrevo "Mini-Me" with instructions and information noted on it:
Palrevo is definitely a high focus tangle, but very rewarding. I completely enjoyed myself. I warmed up by doing the tangles I posted yesterday. It is totally wonderful to be tangling again, now that I have a bit more time.
Every day I make time for meditation practice. I realize I need to make time every day to draw. It's not called "practice" for nothing. It makes all the difference in meditation, and in everything else.
Practice doesn't make perfect. Practice reduces the imperfection.
Sometimes we are dealing with circumstances that beg for a focus on equanimity or calm. (And who doesn't need that these days?)
I've been taking a 3-session class with Alina Smolyansky of Vancouver called Neurographica for Artists. Very, very interesting. Today we did the final class, a Tree of Life with a theme, and my theme was "Calm" or "Equanimity." We had just a small introduction to this method of art and healing, and it was fascinating. While I'm probably not able to take a Basics for Users class right now--just too busy--I intend to at some point. Another wonderful form of art to explore! Eventually.
Equanimity requires some practice, and practice requires time. In order to achieve my own equanimity, I need to cut down on commitments for a while. Otherwise I would have signed right up for her "Basics" class. Thanks, Alina.
Today I took a quick pencil drawing class from a friend who is an excellent artist. I knew it would be intensely focused on working with light-medium-dark values, and value studies are helpful in any form of art.
Not only in representational art, but also in rug hooking and other textile work.
This was a tiring and very fun class and I learned some extremely useful things. One of my other artist friends talks about how drawing is highly physical work, and every time I spend a day drawing, I realize how right she is. It's meditative as well (although not so much when you are learning something for the first time, but with practice it's highly meditative). And at the same time, drawing for several hours straight can be exhausting.
Here is the second drawing from today's class:
This image adorned the cover of my old 1979 calendar, one of the many I bought annually from rubber stamp artist Susan Riecken, who seems to have disappeared; I can't find any online presence for her and the last calendar I was able to get from her was in the early 1990s. After that she closed her Cambridge studio and I couldn't find a trace of her. Here is the actual cover of that calendar:
I completely adored her work. Each calendar was a labor of love. She carved the stamps from erasers and in the early years I *think* she hand-stamped each calendar, though I'm not sure. Pretty soon she had the hand-stamped pages reproduced so that she could produce the calendars in bulk, but that never interfered with the delicious colors or the funky marvelous designs. She was/is an art idol of mine. Wishing her well wherever she is, and hoping she's well and happy and making more art, even if I cannot find her.
About my interpretation/copy of her sunflowers: I knew when I ran across this calendar the other day that I wanted to try making a "stamp-like" design by scratching away on an Art Scratch tile. Using a wooden stylus would, I thought give the same chunky effect as a carved stamp. I think I was right.
I've been feeling the itch to draw a bit again (other than tangles). One thing I know about drawing is that if you don't use it, you lose it. And I haven't used it in months, other than tangling.
This morning as I lay in bed I knew I wanted to sketch something--anything--quickly. So I got out of bed, grabbed a pencil and post-it note, and did a 4-minute sketch of the Buddha that a friend just brought me from her trip to Asia.
This was a straight-from-the-bed-into-a-sketch moment of madness. After all, we each have something we need to do first thing after getting out of bed, right? And I hadn't done that yet. So I guarantee it was very short. And not particularly good. But you gotta start somewhere.
Not a masterpiece, but could be worse after months and months of inactivity with drawing. Perhaps this is the start of something.
I've been participating in the "Gratitangles2018" project, an annual November event centered around the theme of Thanksgiving Day in the United States. I'd include a link to it, but honestly, I don't know who started this or where to find the right link. And I've looked. I don't even know who sent me the list this year.
But in this time when the United States feel less "united" than at any time since the 60s (meaning, the 1860s, when we had the Civil War), I really need to focus on what I can be grateful for...and that is still a lot.
Yesterday, Day 23 of the project, one of my least favorite tangles came up: Jonqal. I've never liked it and never ever tried it. However, I'd committed myself, so I put on some meditative music and gave it a try last night. Result:
Here's the thing: I still don't like it, but I'm glad I tried it. And I admit I like the result better than I expected. Even though mine is far from perfect (perfection is not what Zentangle® is about, anyway!) and doesn't look like the "classic" version. [See the "classic" images HERE.]
It will never be a go-to tangle, but I'm glad I gave it a try. Lesson learned! I'm thankful that I made the effort to attempt it, and the attempt was the major part of the lesson. I want to try more things in life, whether I think I'll like them or not. I also noticed that the process of doing this was just as relaxing as it is with all of the other tangles that I so strongly prefer. It got me to the same place, even if it's not--like the sketch at the top of today's post--any type of masterpiece.
It isn't about the masterpieces. It's all about the work.
It's now day 24 and I tried out a tangle I've only done once before. Click HERE to see my one-and-only previous try at it. I supersized it that time, and really like the effect. Today, though, I did the more classic version. It wasn't half as easy as the supersized one, and I messed up in places, but I like the result anyway:
was the inspiration for this:
At ZenAgain this week we experimented with tangling that was inspired by other people's work. This sea creature above is inspired by the work of Ernst Haeckel, and was it ever fun to draw.
Below is a mosaic of the class's work with this assignment. We were each given some General's Chalk Pencils to use--we each received different colors and were required to work with whatever colors we got. Once again, you can see that all of them were similar, and yet, each is distinctly different.
This was only one small portion of a much larger table with these tiles displayed.
Maria Thomas, one of the founders of Zentangle®, has a remarkable poster with her own version of Haeckel's sea creature on a portion of it. See her poster below. I believe this is for sale but am not certain. (UPDATE: Yup, it's for sale at the Zentangle® website.)
And finally, below, is a photo of a book about Haeckel's beautiful work (the master himself). There are many books available about him.
A few years back, I was fortunate enough to get a copy of C.G. Jung's The Red Book. It is a gigantic, larger-than-coffee-table volume. I just acquired a music stand/lectern-type piece of cherry furniture on which I can finally display it and have begun looking through it. It is inspirational--just for the paintings, and I haven't even started to read yet. One of the paintings inspired me to do this sun-and-moon linework on a Zentangle® tile.
It's my second entry this week for Diva's Challenge #368, in which she asked us to focus on straight lines (see yesterday's post for the first version). It is so relaxing.
This is the original tile, without the rosy-glow added by the filter. I like them both.
The essence of drawing is the line exploring space.
My friend Susie from Thailand and I were discussing images of Buddha and agreeing that one doesn't have to be religious or have any belief in Buddhism to enjoy the wonderful art inspired by his history. The art on its own is peaceful. She commented on this after seeing the white-clay Buddha in my previous post (July 20th).
I drew the picture above several years ago, probably around the time I bought that small white ceramic tile. It represents the "old" in the title of this post.
It's true--just looking at images of Buddha always makes me feel calmer, and I remember feeling that way when I drew this. As a long-time meditation practitioner, I'm interested in Buddhism for its psychological value--it is a truly wonderful way to challenge our own thoughts, and to learn kindness. I'm happy the West has finally discovered the wisdom of Buddhist thought, and at the same time, I never think of Buddhism as a religion and do not believe that the Buddha ever intended it would become a "religion" with all the attendant dogma.
Far from it.
After digging out that drawing today, I thought I'd spend some time tangling, trying out a tangle called Zonked, by Barbara Finwall. Susie had just done her version of Zonked (see the 3rd tile down in her post) which I loved, and she inspired me. While testing it out, I added Hanny Waldburger's tangle Namaste, in honor of of Buddha. This represents the "new" in today's post title. Here is the result.
If you are also a fan of Buddha-heads, you may want to check out Virginia Peck's lovely art here.
And now, it's time for me to go meditate.
...during which, I promptly fell completely asleep. Which suggested to me I needed to wake up and keep tangling. First I finished the meditation, then I did this. While not my greatest result, I like it on several levels.
I did the above piece last night just before bed, using CZT Sadelle Wiltshire's Creative Calm Circle video for what she called a "Flora Vine" piece. It's a variation of the tangle Verdigogh. So calming. I went straight to sleep afterwards. The repetitive nature of the drawing here allows for genuine mindfulness. I'll be trying this again!
Just drawing repetitive lines is soooooooo relaxing. Any excuse to just do some linework and I can feel my breathing slow, my focus deepen, and the world falls away.
A good thing to know about in these troubled times.
At the museum, a troubled woman destroys a sand painting meticulously created over days by Tibetan monks. The monks are not disturbed. The work is a meditation. They simply begin again.
After doing my regular meditation this morning, I watched a recent "Creative Calm Circle" led by Sadelle Wiltshire of Vermont. As I've mentioned before on this blog, Sadelle specializes in meditative arts. This particular exercise was another continuous line drawing--the task was to NOT lift the pen from the page, and meditatively draw a tree. I really enjoyed it. In all, I think I lifted my pen up no more than 4 or 5 times while drawing steadily for about 25 minutes.
I didn't choose a real tree; this is an imaginary one. But the lightning scar comes from my childhood--there was a wonderful huge old oak tree in my front yard and it had survived being struck by lightning twice. It had a large lightning scar down the front of its skyscraping trunk. Sadly, the tree was removed about 20 years ago, but it lives forever in my memory as "The Survivor Tree." I loved that tree and its wisdom. When I was a child and troubled, it always comforted me.
The tree I drew today is not an oak. And the tree from my childhood did not have any vines on it. So without trying to recreate any particular tree, I added the lightning scar simply as a grateful memory in this drawing.
Continuous line work gives me the chance to let go and not worry about something "looking right." There's plenty wrong with the look of this one, but I just don't care. It was relaxing, meditative, and poignant to draw. Thanks, Sadelle!
A few years ago I was fortunate enough to go to a hook-in in Vermont and met Dana Psoinas from New York, one of the most extraordinary rug hookers and artists today. I had already been mesmerized by her "Guardian" rug in a photograph, and suddenly, there was the real thing, right in front of me on the floor in Shelburne Vermont.
And there was Dana herself. A more talented and nicer person you just cannot find. She specializes in rugs that tell stories, usually stories from fairy tales or myths.
I was star-struck. We hit it off and have corresponded occasionally since then. Lucky me.
I am still star-struck by her work, and so will you be. Read on!
She recently showed me three drawings she has done--freehand, mind you!--on linen, to sell as patterns for other rug hookers. One of them is at the top of this post, and the rest are below, along with a sketch she hasn't yet drawn on foundation.
More information about Dana and her process is at the end of this post.
She sold these through her Etsy site--but please be aware that these patterns are NOT FOR SALE now. They were/are one-of-a-kind. She is busy with her own rug making and does not stock or sell patterns all the time. There is a wonderful photo of her finished Guardian Rug on her Etsy site--please have a look to see just how phenomenal her rug hooking is. She works in 2-, 3-, and 4-cuts to achieve her extraordinary rugs.
Check her site from time to time in case she does post something to sell...who knows, you may get lucky!
If you wonder about her creative process and want to know a bit more about her, you can check this recently-written blog post with more photographs of her rugs. Enjoy.
With thanks to Dana for letting me post this!
In reading one of the Zentangle® blogs, I just spotted the most amazing photographs on--of all things--manufacturing pencils. They are in an article written for New York Times.
These amazing art photos were taken at the General Pencil Company (We who tangle love their pencils. And according to the Zentangle blog, the owner of the company is now a Certified Zentangle Teacher, which delighted me).
I cannot show the photos because of course they are copyrighted, but you won't believe how beautiful they are. Check them out HERE.
(Thank you to the Zentangle folks for publicizing this.)
Indeed I have not posted in a while. I'm in the final frenzy of unpacking, having moved late last March and then having had to wait/wait/wait for a post-move broken bone to heal. Now I'm crazed to be done. The end is in sight! Once I'm finished, I will actually get to put pictures on my walls. I miss my pictures very much.
No art at all is going on while I'm in this phase. But today I attended a free 1-hour "Creative Calm Online Circle" by my buddy Sadelle Wiltshire (well done, Sadelle!) and she led us through this meditative "continuous line exercise." The above is the wonky but fun result. Continuous line drawing is exactly what it sounds like: you never lift your pen off the page; you just meander along with pen on paper and see where the line takes you. It's not Zentangle®. It's not supposed to "look like" anything...just see where the pen goes. It's a very old art "warm-up" technique. Fun and calming. I did a second one in about three minutes, below:
I welcomed any chance to do something calming today, as yesterday a neighbor slipped and fell on black ice near my house and cracked his head (he's fine--no concussion or real damage). He spent hours in the ER and it must have been scary. It was scary just to hear about it. I'm glad he's ok.
Then this morning I discovered my credit card had fraudulent charges on it, and had to cancel that. Immediately after that unpleasantness, I tuned into the online Creative Calm Circle; it was just what I needed.
Need some relaxation?
Aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh...doesn't that feel better?
By which I mean to say, this is simply a sketchy practice piece for a free-form, unplanned knot.
I have "knot" been practicing.
Although my holidays were quiet-by-design, my last two weeks have been non-stop guests. Wonderful guests and I was thrilled to have them.
But I haven't had the headspace to draw, tangle, or write and am feeling rusty. Looking forward to starting up again.
Ahhhh! BOOKBINDING Again:
I did manage to sneak away for one day, last Sunday, in order to take a beginning bookbinder class with Peter Cangialosi. He's an excellent teacher and I completely enjoyed myself. Even more impressive: every student (5 of us) left with a handmade bound book. Here's mine:
This is a very small book, but it is a book. I am delighted.
January is apparently "bookbinding" time someplace in my mind. Last year on MLK weekend I did (and blogged about) a prior workshop on bookbinding with Nancy Shepherd in Vermont. We took the whole weekend and began by learning to make paper for the covers; then we used a more sophisticated open binding than the one I learned last Sunday.
However, the day after that 2017 workshop with Nancy I formally "closed" on (legally bought) my new house. ALL the info I had acquired from her flew right out of my head as I entered the whirlwind of finalizing the sale, packing up my apartment of 40 years, and relocating.
What was special about Sunday's workshop was that it was one day and much simpler...but it jump-started my memories of a year ago and I began to recall what I had learned in the more complex 2017 workshop with Nancy. I have progressed from not being able to retrieve anything I learned from her, to remembering at least 90% of it, and I am confident that I can recover the rest. Hurrah! Thank you, Peter.
In Peter's beginner's workshop, everyone finished wonderful books. Many were prettier than mine. He kept things super-simple and was endlessly patient with our million questions.
Here is a slideshow of all five completed books. I can't wait to try my hand at this again. I look forward to being able to make my own sketchbooks.
Two additional views of my book. You can see the simple exposed smyth stitch binding in the photo to the left, and in view below you can see how flat it lies when open. If I use better quality paper for my next book, it would be perfect for sketching.
Uh-oh, there may be yet another obsession coming on...
Yes, I did it. I bought a hand drill. No big deal, you say? Then you don't know me well. I'm a disaster with hand tools. If you live anywhere in the northeastern United States, it might be time to consider moving away. You don't want to be around when I turn this thing on.
YouTube, here I come. I'm determined to learn how to use this.
More material that fits neatly into the "no-fail, no-learn" category: The Zentangle® folks put out a Project Pack recently that included lots of new goodies to try. New white Gellyroll pens from Sakura. New black apprentice tiles, new black triangular tiles (called 3-Zs). Plus a new tangle and some experimental techniques. And some very fine videos.
Along with everyone else, I've been experimenting. Here are a couple of initial results.
More to come from that Project Pack.
Last but not least today. I am pretty chuffed about this one. It has been eluding me for well over a week. I think I tried it a good 4 times and couldn't figure it out (and it looks soooooo simple!), but I kept looking at it and thinking about it. Today I decided to tackle it again--on crappy copy paper, but I was thinking there was a good possibility I'd fail again.
But no. I succeeded! I really failed my way to success with this one.
Now, of course, I wish I had used better paper. But succeeding came as a total surprise!
Just to make sure I got it, I tried it again on a tiny scale a couple of hours later--and once again, failed. But I know I *am* getting it and will continue to practice until I feel I've got a good handle on this. If I was able to do it once, I know I can do it again.
Two very quick drafts. I'm continuing to practice drawing Celtic Knots. These were done on incredibly cheap blue scratch paper. This first one I actually did not intend to ink--I thought I would do a quick pencil draft (and did), but then decided to spend the time inking it. This was freehand and done in a rush.
In the draft below, I used a technique from a YouTube video to create a classic border. Since this was my first attempt, I used the same super-cheap blue scratch paper. This one took longer only because it had so many knots, but I still thought I would leave it just as pencil practice. And just as in the other case, I decided to take the time to ink it in. There's something so irresistible about "correcting" the sloppy pencil lines. Once again, this was drafted very fast.
While this is far-from-perfect (see the spots of white where I've corrected some "blobby" lines, not to mention the different sizes of lines), I notice that the eye tends to smooth things out and make it look better than it actually is. That's ok with me!
In the spirit of "Progress, Not Perfection," I am viewing sloppy progress as being better than no progress at all.
Here is my third "practice knot," done quickly in one of my journals. The lines are wonky but given how quickly I did it I'm pleased. I copied this from a handout I got from my friend (and teacher of drawing knots) Sadelle Witshire. The fact that it's a direct copy may not sound like much, but it's the first time I actually figured out (from looking at a finished knot) what the actual steps for drawing should be. That felt like a solid accomplishment!
I've been busy at home, continuing to unpack and sort things out. I treated the guest room wall to a new hand-painted mirror from the Sawmill River Arts Gallery, a wonderful artist owned spot.
And in sorting some things out in the basement, I located a long-lost, large quantity of linen for rug hooking--many, many yards. I'd bought a whole roll of this with a friend and we split the roll. Probably at least five years ago.
And then, oddly, we each proceeded to lose the linen. It disappeared in each of our houses, and no matter how hard we searched, we couldn't find it. How do you lose a huge amount of linen? But we did, and eventually we began to wonder if the idea that we had ever bought it and split the purchase was some form of folie a deux.
However, I found mine last week. We have proof! And better yet, I can now use it. Hurrah!
And finally, I'm happy to be reading this: Reckless Daughter, a Joni Mitchell biography, a loan from our excellent library that I've been waiting for.
A pretty good few days here.
You know, I'm not much of a fan of drawing hearts. I like seeing them when others draw them, but somehow I am just not attracted to doing it myself.
But in trying to learn to draw knots, I was asked to do just that--draw a simple heart border and convert it to Celtic interlaced knots. And when I finished, I was most definitely thinking about hearts--our globally connected hearts--and how much pain the world is in today. The focus required to draw interconnecting bands on knots reminds me of how we forget every day that we are dependent on each other to survive, and dependent on each other's love and kindness. We forget and forget and forget.
I want to remember.
There was another school shooting in the US today. My heart breaks, and continues to break, because of these repetitive, mindless, violent, deadly shootings, the innocent victims, and their families.
It felt very right to be drawing hearts, and connecting them.
Here's what I ended up with:
Certainly the calligraphy isn't great because this is just a practice draft, but I am happy with the final result.
Here was where I began (Step One in pencil), and below that, here's what it looked like inked in (Step Two).:
I've been taking a fabulous SkillShare Course on Celtic Knots offered by Sadelle Wiltshire, of whom I am a fangirl. She makes wonderful art you can see on her webpages, HERE or HERE.
Interlaced. Interconnected. We are. We must be. When will we learn to remember?
"Having a soft heart in a cruel world is courage, not weakness."
I'm a textile artist (traditional rug hooking, punch needle rug hooking, and other textile arts), a long-time meditator, a certified meditation teacher and coach, and focused on learning about the interplay of art, creativity, and mindfulness every day.
SITES TO WATCH:
Insight Meditation Society
Oxford Rug Hooking School
Zentangle: The Official Site
Green Mountain Rug Hooking
Massachusetts Tarot Society