As I've mentioned in previous posts, I've been in intensive learning mode--taking a course on sketching and watercolor. I've been failing regularly in my attempts. And I'm also learning a lot. You can see previous entries on this experience HERE (the start of the series), HERE (scroll down to the bottom to see that one), HERE, and HERE.
It seems I can only do one thing at a time, though, so no tangling has been happening. I look forward to getting back to that. I am able to knit in the evenings, so I've been making Knitted Knockers (soft knitted prostheses for breast cancer survivors) and will soon have about 60 of them to ship out for distribution. Today I went to the local yarn shop and picked up these yarns for future Knockers: [If you knit, I hope you will seriously consider making Knockers for women who need them post surgery.]
I have also been unpacking and the kitchen is nearly ready. Given that I do not know how to cook, how ready does it need to be? Well, once I get back to rug hooking, it needs to be ready for me to dye yarn and wool. Today I moved my "dye chest" into the kitchen, and more equipment will come. I'm very encouraged about this.
Here are my most recent drawings and watercolors. I hesitate to even term these "watercolors" as I'm truly struggling with the waterbrush and trying to resist going back to regular brushes.
Let me begin with a photo of the actual roses I was trying to capture, in their vase. Both roses were well-past their prime and beginning to die by the time I finally got to start drawing them.
Here is my teacher's comment on this painting--and I agree with it:
"In this version, the vase became the focal point, rather than the rose. Another really lovely drawing and color, but I think what is missing is the whites of the page and the lights on the flower. Well done!"
The final compliment was kind of her, but the analysis about the vase becoming the focal point is exactly right.
Before I saw her comment, though, I had decided to go back and try to add to this with another layer of color, to better shade it...
The teacher hasn't commented on this drawing yet.
I was so frustrated working on it. Once again I had the sense that the paint got away from me despite my best efforts.
And yet...it's overworked, but I think it's also stronger.
More importantly, every time I try this, and fail in epic fashion as I have so far, I do learn something.
In fact, I am chronicling this in public all because I so strongly believe that we often learn best by failing. Certainly we can choose to resist learning from failures, but usually the lessons are so "loud and clear," they can lead to real success if we can heed them.
Or so I hope! Ha.
Which brings me to one of my all-time favorite quotes:
"Success consists of going from failure to failure, without lost of enthusiasm."
Some simple warm-ups and practices from the online course I'm taking. I have a long way to go but I'm having fun and quite like a few of these.
And finally, because I can't resist: we are seeing some autumnal colors arriving very late in the season. Here is the tiny tree out my front window. It was green as recently as 48 hours ago, and then suddenly...
This is a photo of a spirit rock. No, it doesn't refer to the remarkable meditation center in California. But it certainly it relates to meditation. A dear friend made it, covering the tiny stone with her hand-netting and adding those tiny beads She gave it to me as a housewarming gift. Both of us know that doing this kind of work is highly meditative--it's why I'm so drawn to art at this point in my life, along with a daily meditation practice.
Stones have always held a lot of symbolism for me, especially river rocks with their smooth round shapes and heft. They are symbols of wholeness, endurance, and comfort.
I will enjoy this sweet gift for a long time. It is so lovely to connect with much-valued old friends.
"A rugged stone grows smooth from hand to hand."
"Our lives are unique stones in the mosaic of human experience--priceless and irreplaceable."
--Henri J.M. Nouwen
Meanwhile, I cannot decide if I'm enjoying the "sketching and watercolor" course or not. I'm a bit puzzled by why I'm having so much trouble with the watercolor and specifically with the brush (watercolor brush). If it weren't the 2nd brush I've tried--with similar issues--I'd say the brush is leaking. Too much water swishing around, and you can see it's leaking outside the bounds of the apple (yes, apple...not a tomato) above. I could go on and on, but I won't. Let's just say I haven't had this experience before, not that I've had much experience at all. I'll keep going with this and see what happens. It's tough not to just grab my colored pencils, though.
In watercolor, if you are not in trouble, then you're in trouble.
In watercolour, particularly, it's almost always better to chuck than fix.
--Joe Joseph P. Blodgett
...Really? Guess I'll find out.
This is my first try at an assignment to sketch and paint some fruit for Jane LaFazio's course. I think it's going to be a lot of fun.
Hey, I can only get better, right?
That just has to be true. This is not my best work, to put it mildly. Ha. i assume I'll improve with practice.
After all, Oscar Wilde said: "Bad art is better than no art at all." Thank you, Oscar.
Needing new walking shoes that were not clogs, I realized I didn't want to buy something boring. I wanted to break out of my usual conservative wear.
I met that goal, with this new pair.
Of course, the result may terrify you. It did me. At first.
Then I decided to get over the terror and wear them, and now I quite like them.
Not to mention how much they distract everyone I meet.
Just to be sure you realize the full effect, here is a larger photo of just one of the pair. By showing only one shoe, I hope to avoid inducing a seizure in any viewer who may be extra sensitive to something so strobe-alicious. You may want to wear sunglasses for this larger view. NOTE: I am not responsible for any side effects you may incur by looking at this photo.
Finally, on a somewhat calmer note...
There is a "gem craze" going on in the Zentangle® community at the moment. Since I've been focused elsewhere (mainly on dyeing yarn for my upcoming rug), I've been ignoring it but today I completely hit a wall and could not tolerate dyeing even one more skein of yarn. I just had to clean up the incredible mess and disorganization in my kitchen.
So I did.
And then I sat down and tried drawing gems.
After which I had a little iPhone fun with that same photo.
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.
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.
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.
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:
My next Beginning Zentangle® class is not yet scheduled--stay tuned.
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