WHAT IF VAN GOGH HAD SURVIVED?
Can I just take one moment to say how much I loved reading THIS POST today? I think we all need to hear this, whether we consider ourselves artists or not. I know I needed to hear it, and my Inner Critic ("the monkey" as he calls it) did too. I love Danny Gregory!
the week in selfies. Eeek!
What a week. I would never have thought to do this if it hadn't been our homework assignment for this week from Sketchbook Skool, but I am so glad I did. It's the "Parade of Selfies."
#'s 1 and 3 look the most like me. #6 fits well into the "Who is THAT?" category. The two Blind Contour ones are simply hilarious. I actually love all of them. More commentary after the photos. (Scroll over each to see what the assignment was.)
So, that #6 Selfie (2nd row, bottom right). Did that today. On the one hand, it looks absolutely nothing like me. There's a lot I got wrong. On the other hand, I can see some resemblance for sure. I actually like it a lot even though I wouldn't call it a "success" by the measure of how much it looks like me. So why do I like it? Because I learned a lot while doing it; I learned a lot about shading, about crosshatching, about watercolor, and just learned a lot also about what can go wrong. I am actually very pleased.
What a week of learning! To be doing this with hundreds of other students, all of us posting things daily, was remarkable. There were the inevitable comparisons and "Oh I wish I could do that" issues, but the big take-aways were 1) how many of us were willing to even try; 2) how many of us posted comments laced with self-criticism, and 3) how many people insisted "this doesn't look anything like me," which may have been true. Or, may not have been true. Finally, 4) how many students hated the assignment, or found it "painful."
I realized in reading the posts how many people truly do not like to look at themselves as they are, warts and all. That made me sad. And my, how self-critical we all are! If we aren't critical about the "art," we're horribly critical about how we look.
I get that, but it too feels sad to me.
Each day I felt like I was rolling out another aspect of myself. My selfies ALL look like me in some way, shape, or form, even if they aren't photographic reflections. I had such fun! It was hard to find the time to do it (partly time, partly fear), but when I finally sat down to work I just had a blast. There was the uncanny sense that I was discovering things about myself every day, as I saw things I had never seen before.
Someone posted a link to Rembrandt's selfies, which are funny and quirky and honest. Ditto with Van Gogh's. There was a big discussion on Rembrandt's nose, and how he handled it when doing selfies. I was curious to notice that no one mentioned Frida Kahlo's self-portraits, which have been the subject of so much discussion in the art world. I will be studying these and other self-portraits carefully. FINALLY I see the value of doing these on a regular basis. Here are just a few points:
I'm exhausted (this took time!) and SO GLAD I did this and I hope I keep it up from time to time.
Now, on to the next week of SBS.
SBS Selfies Day 2
Since I got off to a late start with these, I am trying to make up for lost time. First another quick contour drawing (contour = don't pick up the pencil once you put it down on the page). I am a suspicious looking dame, eh?
...and then a quick sketch from the mirror. Tossed in just a bit of color but didn't have time to do the entire thing. I look even more suspicious here. Or maybe startled? Perhaps I have a profitable future in caricature.
Monkeys: slow and fast
Ah yes, the monkey. To be clear on what I'm talking about, check out Danny Gregory's short piece today--he's writing a book on what he calls "the monkey on our backs" when it comes to doing art. He includes a very brief illustration of his own monkey at work in the post.
In my case, it's monkeys, plural. I appear to have several of them. I don't think I'm that unusual.
So here are two pieces of my Sketchbook Skool (SBS) assignment for last week, called "Fast and Slow." The assignment was: pick something reasonably complex, really LOOK at it and, using watercolor and a big brush, do a FAST DRAWING in one minute or less. Just a fast gesture to get the overall picture.
Can I tell you how long I put this off, how many excuses I made not to try it? I couldn't find my watercolors. I was too tired. I needed to do other things I was responsible for. I wanted to finish the library book that was due in just a few days (actually I had two more weeks). And on and on. Monkey-monkey-monkey. Ugh.
I used a pine cone for a model, so here's my fast drawing.
After doing that, I went out and ran some errands to let the paint dry, then came back and did the slow version, using a brown micron pen and a black micron pen to create a sketch (on top of the watercolor) where I really looked at the pine cone and tried just to record what I could see. I lost track of time so have no idea how long this took but am guessing 30-45 minutes.
The outcome, while not a masterpiece, was really fun and I rather like it. The process was also fun. I'm not quite sure I've grasped the concept of why we did this...I am thinking that it's all about seeing "fast," and then really moving in and seeing "slow," and how both processes can add to really being able to see the object. Once we learn to see it, then drawing it becomes simply a process of copying. Ok, that makes it sound boring, which it isn't--copying very precisely takes one completely out of one's thinking mind and is ridiculously satisfying. It's anything but boring.
Here are photos of: 1) the real pine cone; 2) the "fast" watercolor; 3) the "slow" sketch.
This is only my second try at doing a pine cone. Curiously, I tried doing the exact same thing in a long-ago watercolor class that I took, a three-hour one-shot class. I was horrified by the result, which I was absolutely certain looked more like a turd that a pine cone. I somehow managed NOT to throw it out, though (a fact I can't explain to this day, because I remember being really embarrassed that I had apparently drawn a turd). Years later I found it in an old journal and was really surprised to see that it looked like...a pine cone! And was actually quite good. (It's possible it resembles both pine cone AND turd, but who cares) If I can find it, I'll try to get a picture and post it in here.
That's one time the monkey managed to utterly convince me that I'd never learn to draw. I am so thankful that I kept that old sketch, and could look at it more objectively years later. Monkey mind, monkey mind--something most of us need to firmly ignore when we try to create. So right now, I'm going to go off and do a bit of mindfulness meditation, which always helps with monkeys, slow or fast.
In the words of the Great Julia Child: “I have trouble with toast. Toast is very difficult. You have to watch it all the time or it burns up.”
<Why did I not listen...>
I'm now working on the second semester of Sketchbook Skool (yes, that is how they spell it and it's referred to as "SBS"), which I highly recommend. It's the "anti-stuffy, anti-pretentious art school," more like having a collection of coaches to help you learn to sketch.
But, ya gotta sit down and do it.
...as I learned (AGAIN) today. This is an ongoing life lesson for me. How about you?
I spent most of the day avoiding the SBS assignment, which was simply to draw a piece of toast. The assignment came out on Friday; people have been posting their toast(s) on the SBS Facebook page and of course, looking at all the fantastic drawings just made me want to EAT toast. Which I did.
I kept telling myself that this was an exercise in seeing, which is so necessary for any kind of drawing; it was, in fact, an assignment to promote seeing. I was telling myself it should be easy. Right. So why was I procrastinating all day today?
Finally I got down to it. Well, of course it was difficult. Quite a bit harder than I'd anticipated. It was all about fear. And I suspect it was made more difficult when I tried to rush it. Drawing does not work that way.
As usually happens when I draw, things--including me--began to slow down. Time began to slow down. I forgot I was trying to draw toast, and simply saw all the crinkles, holes and texture. And despite my self-criticism during the process, and many moments of not having any idea what in the world to do next, I did get a result. Perhaps not the result I was looking for, LOL! Is this a picture of moldy potatoes? Or a bagel without the hole? Is it really looking like toast?
All I can say is, *I* was toast at the end, very tired. But also happy.
I'm aware of how often I procrastinate in life, not just with things that scare me, but also with things I have an aversion to (I'd name them but there simply isn't enough room to mention all the things I'm postponing).
I always feel better when I begin. I always feel better when I am in the middle. And even if the end doesn't quite match my expectations, I most definitely always feel better when I'm done.
I have a lot to learn from art.
Two Quotes on Procrastination by that prolific writer, Anonymous:
“Someday is not a day of the week.”
"Warning: dates on this calendar are closer than they appear."
Around 2 pm today I was standing outside in the lovely sunshine; a bicycle whizzed past and I noticed the cyclist was wearing a singlet, shorts and running shoes--with a Boston Marathon number on the front and a Boston Marathon medal dangling on the singlet above the number. A marathon runner going home!
This person flashed past me so quickly that I did not even have time to notice whether it was a male or female. Doesn't matter. I was thrilled to know that our race went so well this year, after last year's tragedy (and the subsequent triumph of the survivors).
"We own this finish line," Joe Biden said, and it's true. I was impressed that anyone could run 26.2 miles and then get on a bicycle and pedal home. You'd have to shovel me onto a front loader a mile into the marathon, never mind cycling afterward! These athletes have courage, resilience, and stamina.
Congratulations to the runners, the survivors, those who lost loved ones last year, and all the first responders who worked so hard to make this year's marathon a remarkable event.
Seemingly unrelated (but not!): I am just starting to work with colored pencils and here's a first attempt (on paper entirely unsuited to this medium). A lot to learn, and so much pleasure ahead in the learning.
When we draw, paint, act, write, photograph, hook, knit...name your medium...I'm always struck by how often we are disappointed when whatever we produce doesn't fit the original image in our heads. It doesn't "measure up." This is so common. Certainly I experience it, and I hear it all the time from others. What is this tendency to disappointment?...when often, when we let the product sit for a few days, we go back and see something in it that is uniquely ours, and which stands very well on its own.
Does the above photo look exactly like the apple I drew it from? No. Could it have been better drawn? You bet. But it's a start and I like it now that I've let it sit awhile. And with this record of it, I can watch myself improve over time--IF I practice.
I wonder if there are disappointed marathon runners today, people who didn't finish or didn't finish in the time they'd hoped for. If so, I want you to know that no matter how far or how fast you ran, you are my heroes. You prepared. You showed up. You worked it. And if it didn't turn out exactly as you expected, so what? You did something uniquely yours, and you inspired so many others.
And to that anonymous marathoner and cyclist who flashed past me this afternoon: Be proud! I sure was when I saw you.
Beginning (a daily exercise)
It's not that I expect to be writing in here every day; I don't. I do hope to start each day, and each moment, with beginner's mind. Fresh mind. Naive mind. Creative mind.
Recently I enrolled in Danny Gregory and Koosje Koene's online Sketchbook Skool. Other life events prevented me from starting the course until two weeks after it formally opened, but I'm determined to begin anyway. I'll go at my own pace and see what happens.
The first thing I noticed was how "comparison mind" came up immediately. So many people had already posted, and posted wonderful, beautiful things...I'll never be able to do that! Comparison mind. Unhelpful. So I'll look sometimes and enjoy, but I'm not going to compare.
Instead, I'll just post this recent drawing of a doorway. I do love looking at doorways...they are so evocative. Where do they lead? What will happen if I open this door?
And finally, here is a post by Danny Gregory on beginning, and on how the monkey-mind wants to stop us from beginning, from risking, from trying new things.
And now I have begun.
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