...although that isn't always possible in every case, right? we sometimes don't have a choice to do what we love.
When it is possible, turning toward what we love really helps. This tile, which I think is "ok" but certainly not a favorite, reminded me that it's all right to skip classes when I can see that the finished product doesn't particularly appeal to me. This one didn't, because it's so busy. But I did it anyway, because it's part of the multi-class package from last spring's Artifex Eruditio, a brilliant philanthropic educational experience run by some hugely talented CZTs in Singapore. There must be about twenty classes to choose from. All of them included in the package.
With that number of classes, it's guaranteed I won't be interested in every one. I've skipped a few already that held minimal interest, but I felt I "should" do this one. So I did.
What's great about having done it: it's been weeks since I have drawn anything. I've been busy with a very large punch needle embroidery project (see the last post) and still have far to go. So I've put off all drawing. But today I drew for two hours and enjoyed every moment, even if I'm not particularly attracted to the result.
Which reminds me: Anything worth doing is worth practicing (I'm preaching to myself here). That is true with any skill. I am out of practice with drawing and need to begin again. It's also true with meditation, which fortunately I have been practicing daily--and every meditation is itself a practice of beginning again in every moment.
Two of the big joys in my artistic life are: Drawing and textiles. Oddly, I have trouble doing projects in both media at the same time. It seems I'm "all in" for one but need to postpone the other. I am enjoying every stitch in my current embroidery, but wow, am I missing drawing. And I see the results of being out of practice.
Although I'm not sure how to resolve this dilemma, I am so very happy I spent time drawing today.
Practice doesn't make perfect. Practice reduces the imperfection.
I have more done than this shows, but to make a better photo, I had to cut out some of the parts that are partly-done but mostly-undone. This is the Stone House Runner in progress (from The Old Tattered Flag, links in my previous post), a punchneedle embroidery pattern using cotton Valdani threads. I haven't cleaned this up in any way yet so it's still raggy-looking but it's coming along. It's also the reason I haven't been drawing--I've been obsessed with getting this underway.
It's a pure pleasure to be punching this piece.
(There are a lotta p's in that last sentence, eh?)
Another new project, with all the excitement of a new beginning. This piece is one I've had my eye on making for years, literally...it's called the Stone House Runner and it's also from Old Tattered Flag. Julie, one of the owners, is such a great designer. You can get this as a punch needle embroidery piece OR as a full-sized stunning rug design. At some point, despite wanting to focus on my own designs, I may also want to make this as a rug because it's so beautiful. Here you are just seeing a small part of the entire design. I've put off punching this for 5+ years and now is the time.
Beginning again with projects brings so much excitement. Unless, that is, I have to pull something out and totally re-do something (start over), in which case it can bring another emotion entirely, one that's less fun.
Still, I'm reminded of that most basic instruction in meditation: When the mind wanders, just notice that, and begin again. Without judgement. Oh yes, that's the hardest part: without judgement! Both in meditation and when re-doing a project at work or in a hobby or in art.
And yet, there is always, always something fresh and interesting when we start over/begin again. Always something to learn. As I practice this in both meditation and art, I get enormous pleasure from those learnings. Just as I am with this new piece. It's excitement AND contentment, all rolled into one.
The birds they sing at the break of day...'Start again,' I hear them say.
Why "done but not finished?" Because this is the piece that I'll be using to demonstrate finishing at the class I'm giving a couple of friends on punchneedle embroidery. The punching is done; the finishing will wait for the class.
If you look at this sample, there are some loose threads that have popped up on the front and need to be trimmed. That's one part of finishing a piece. On the back, which can't be seen here, there are many loose ends to trim. And there are two other major finishing techniques waiting to be done--I'll use this sample to demo at the class.
This pattern is GREAT for beginners--not only do you learn to punch, but there's some additional hand embroidery involved (the red petals on the echinacia flower), plus the border is punched using a deeper height on the needle, which gives newbies a chance to see what punching much longer loops will feel like. The design is simple enough for a beginner. This is the Old Tattered Flag's design called Under the Blooms. You can even buy it as a kit with all the threads required. Highly recommended if you want to learn punchneedle embroidery, or if you plan to teach it.
In just a few weeks I'm going to be teaching two good friends how to do punch needle embroidery. They are both ordering kits from The Old Tattered Flag in New York. One has ordered a kit called "Under the Blooms," so I am making up the kit in order to have an actual finished model for them to examine.
Here we have the start--the two crows under what will eventually be an echinacea plant. Since students always have a lot of questions about proper spacing and about frames, needles, threads, it'll be useful for them to have something real to inspect and should prompt even more questions. A very good thing. And I am enjoying the process as usual. This particular textile art is totally relaxing.
The people we tend to call Huichol in Mexico (they call themselves Wixåritari, or, The People) have a long history of art. I've admired their beadwork, small glass beads pressed into wax lining the bottoms of gourd-bowls and other objects coated with a thin layer of wax, using bright, bright colors. Check it out at the link above. They work in many media in addition to beadwork--textiles, paintings, et cetera.
This tangle is based on a shape common to their culture and others. We see it in quilting patterns everywhere, and in many other cultural contexts. Mexican CZT Celina Bonilla Martin gave a class using the form as a template. I decided to go with a different colorway and did my own thing.
Tangles included: Printemps, DoDah, Wadical, Umbler, Flux, Ko'oke'o.
What interested me was that most of the way through working on this, it looked like it was going to turn out as an epic failure on my part. It looked horrible. I wish I'd taken photos during the progression. And then I began adding the tangles and it turned around. While it may not be a masterwork on my part, I quite like it now.
How many times have I said that here, and drawn a parallel to daily life? Trying out new things often brings on a feeling of, "Oh my god, this is never going to work," and then somehow it turns out better than expected. And with practice, we just learn more and get better and better. This is certainly not true in all situations in life, but it's the case far more often than not.
The critical mind is always predicting epic failures.
Just ignore it. See what happens instead.
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.
A repeat of yesterday's tile. This is version 2.0 since I gave away the tile I did yesterday as a thank-you gift to a neighbor. I realized I still wanted a version for myself and redid it, enjoying every line.
Tangles: Didot, Rain Dotty, Pringer, Hamadox, Joy-Jirella, Chillin, Emingle. My version of a class by Indica Boyd CZT for Artifex Eruditio Spring '21. Material uses: Green and Black Microns, Gellyroll 10 in white, General's Chalk pencils in white, green, and blue, graphite, Gellyroll Luxue Gold Pearl in green. Drawn on a white Zentala tile with a gray watercolor wash.
In today's version I added substantial green coloring as well as the blue, and experimented a bit with placement of patterns. This was just as much fun as the first one.
Another "learning tile" done very quickly from an Artifex video. This was done fast as a thank-you gift for a friend who made me a lovely dinner. I cannot cook so cannot reciprocate, thus I wanted to draw her something as a way of expressing gratitude.
However, I needed gray-toned paper to work with, and didn't have any. What to do? I grabbed a white tile and threw a gray wash on it. Et voilà--it actually worked! I'll give it to her this evening.
Whew. When it doubt, improvise. Always a big life lesson for me.
The phrase "throwing shade" has an entirely different cultural meaning, but I thought it would be fun to graphically show three versions of the effects of shading a piece of work. A different meaning to the phrase for sure.
He whose face gives no light, shall never become a star.
Everything that we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see.
--Martin Luther King, Jr.
I'm turning into a major fangirl of CZT Emiko Kaneko, who has a fantastic Youtube channel and shares her teaching there. This (above) is my version of one of her lessons after watching one of her free videos.
Here below are a few of the stages this mandala went thru on its way to completion. I photographed as I drew. What a calming experience.
One line at a time.
Enjoy the moment.
Mistakes? What mistakes--a mistake can be addressed and learned from.
Appreciate appreciate appreciate.
Hold the pen (hold things) lightly.
I love the lessons I learn from Zentangle®; they're directly applicable to meditation, to daily life, to just about everything.
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.
Starting a new rug. Some of the work is deceptively tricky but I think I'm getting the hang of it. This is my second try and is an obvious improvement over the first. I'm learning as I go. That's the story of our everyday life, yes? "Learn as you go. " No instruction manual, no do-overs.
Taking each day as it comes. Not so easy to do! And not every day is a masterpiece either, that much is certain. But day by day, moment by moment, we create our lives. Hopefully, we learn as we go.
At least with rug hooking, you get to pull something out and do it over if needed.
"Yesterday I was clever, so I changed the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself." --Rumi
It's hot and humid outside, not my preferred weather. Demotivating.
However, I see the value of "warming up" in other contexts, like when doing any kind of art. Warming up = doing anything mental and/or physical to get oneself going. Even sitting down for only ten minutes when there is supposedly NO TIME. Here's last night's warm-up below, a quick tangle done just before sleep, inspired by the Sunday night Tangle Time with Amy Kam.
This morning I noticed I didn't want to meditate. Not. At. All. So I applied the warm-up idea to meditation, telling myself that I only had to sit for ten minutes. And reminding myself that I could look right at the resistance the whole time if I wanted to, and that everyone has resistance at times. I did, and of course discovered that I easily meditated for my entire usual time (way longer than ten minutes) and enjoyed it.
Yep, warming up...I may not like it when the weather does it, but it's pretty darned handy for the arts and for meditation.
After warming up today, I did this:
I'm not sure it's finished yet. Probably is.
This was my second try at drawing Tisoooh (see my first attempt HERE) and I could not believe how much easier it was. So much easier! I want to continue to explore.
Thanks to my friend Susie Ng in Thailand, who actually tried the same video I described in my previous post about it and then went good-crazy into experimenting with Tisoooh on her own. You can see her amazing results HERE (scroll down until you find them but prepare for a visual feast along the way). Susie is a phenomenal artist, as you'll see!
So it started out this way...
I'm still "blobbing." A great way to try out various watercolors and watercolor techniques. These are Yatsumoto metallic watercolors. Very subtle unless you really load your brush.
There was a teeny bit of Inktense Watercolor Pencil tangling going on in the upper left quadrant.
...and ended up that way:
This is all I'm capable of today. The night before last I had only 2 hours of sleep, who knows why. All day today I've been dealing with credit card fraud in a major way. It's taken hours to straighten things out. And I made a major blooper with some friends that also took quite a while to straighten out (assuming I even did get it straightened out).
Isn't this just how life is--some days great, some days awful. (I could re-write that sentence substituting "hours" or "minutes" for the word "days" and it would be equally true.)
There is nothing else to be done but to respond to each moment in the moment. And what a challenge it can be to respond skillfully.
So all I can do is work on a few small blobs. In fact, I am a blob myself today. Neither happy or unhappy, but still just a blob. Sometimes ya gotta go with the flow--even when the flow is temporarily blocked and becomes blob-like.
Here was how I started out, after watching a really fun video on IG TV by Yvonne West, CZT < @ywestart > which I thoroughly recommend.
My blobs before I tangled them. The video was fun to watch and if ever you don't feel energetic enough to tackle a full tangle, this is a terrific exercise for experimenting with watercolor in a low risk way.
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.
No idea how this happened. A friend and I were fooling around daubing several types of metallic paint on a variety of Zentangle® tiles a few months back. I've no idea what specific paint we were trying out here or even what I did.
The tile sat around with the paint scattered on it for weeks, and then I picked it up today and inserted a few scribbles. It was fun, although I'm not sure I made it better and may have made it worse. Just experimenting!
A quote from one of my most beloved poets.
Early Morning, My Birthday
by Mary Oliver
The snails on the pink sleds of their bodies are moving among the morning glories.
The spider is asleep among the red thumbs of the raspberries.
What shall I do, what shall I do?
The rain is slow.
The little birds are alive in it.
Even the beetles.
The green leaves lap it up.
What shall I do, what shall I do?
The wasp sits on the porch of her paper castle.
The blue heron floats out of the clouds.
The fish leap, all rainbow and mouth, from the dark water.
This morning the water lilies are no less lovely, I think, than the lilies of Monet.
And I do not want anymore to be useful, to be docile, to lead children out of the fields into the text
of civility to teach them that they are (they are not) better than the grass.
Waking up early this morning I could hear rain pounding down. It's a lovely soothing sound under normal circumstances, but clearly something is very out of whack when half the continent is in a drought of emergency proportions and the other half is experiencing unending rain. If we could only share and balance...but we have interfered too much already.
I like this tile very much and am enjoying having made it. It's my interpretation of what Amy Kam was suggesting in her wonderful meditative Sunday night "Tangle Time," now on Eventbrite every week; and yet, the cloudiness and darkness reminded me of our recent storms and weather issues.
There is a balance between taking "right action," based on a true understanding and wisdom, to correct an issue such as climate change, and rushing in to "fix things" with no clear understanding of what we are doing. Or acting out of some form of individualistic greed.
It is the same in meditation. First, see the thing as it is. Take time to be curious. To understand, to experience. Only then will wisdom come, and be accompanied by right action.
I needed this reminder.
This was my own version of another fun composition from Amy Kam of The Peaceful Pen. The big central diagonal attention-grabbing tangle was new to me. A sparkly watercolor pre-coat on the tile made it challenging to draw.
And here's a quote that applies equally to tangling and to meditation.
Learn to poke around. Take your time. Go slow. Get down on your hands and knees and dig around. Sit in one place for an hour at a time and let the world come to you.
(John Bates - A Northwoods Companion, Spring/Summer issue, 1997.
Today more than a hundred CZTs from around the globe gathered online with CZTs in Singapore to do an hour-long meditative tile on behalf of those who have suffered from Covid-19.
These were the same CZTs who last year donated $10K US and this year donated $12K US to Covid relief efforts as a result of their two very successful and well-run schools for tanglers.
What I loved about doing it, though, was that 3 or 4 different CZTs from the other side of the globe led us all through an hour-long meditation in which, as we drew, we focused our compassionate attention on anyone who has suffered from Covid. They did a superb job leading the meditation. I so admire the structure they've created to support humanitarian efforts. Thanks!
And now for the tiny treasure. Yesterday I went to my local bead-and-jewelry-repair shop to get my watch battery replaced. While waiting, I spotted this wooden box, which is no more than about 1 1/2" square. With what appears to be a tangled Turtle on top.
In fact the box is so small I had to take a picture and enlarge the photo in order to see the fine detail on the turtle, which just blew me away. The top of the box slides off so smoothly it's just a marvel of craftsmanship. It's so small that I cannot imagine what to put inside.
This continent was originally called Turtle Island by the First Nations People, and I still call it that. I am very fond of turtles and simply couldn't resist this tiny masterpiece.
And this leads us right back to the meditative nature of the turtle:
Take a walk with a turtle. And behold the world in pause.
Looking for peace is like looking for a turtle with a mustache: You won't be able to find it. But when your heart is ready, peace will come looking for you.
Turtles always strike me as devastatingly serious. If turtles could talk, I'd believe everything they said.
Here she is, the icon.
But since nothing is sacred these days...
She apparently was photographed attending a party shortly after posing for Leonardo.
This is her "riotous party smile."
Uh-oh. I know this is a sacrilege, right?
But what fun to try.
Romi Marks had a wonderful workshop called "Zenovating the Mona Lisa," and since I'm in full-on learning-and-practice mode I wanted to take it. My motivation actually was learning to tangle on photographs, especially on photographs with a lot of dark areas in them. I want to try this out on pictures that I've taken, and I knew there were tips I needed to learn first. Romi is a marvellous teacher and I learned a lot doing this. Next I want to try some of my own photos to see what I can do.
So many art opportunities, so little time.
And then, of course, after the party Mona needs to relax. I'm sure you've all seen this meme going around, depicting what Mona has been getting up to at the Louvre since it's been closed due to the pandemic. Wish I could find the original source to give this the right attribution but so far it's been shared so many times I don't know who came up with it.
A little alarm now and then keeps life from stagnation.
Is there such a thing as perfection? Does it even matter? The closest thing I see to perfection is in Nature. I took this picture on the 15th of June, standing in my street looking west around 9.20 pm. That perfect crescent moon, the stunning clouds, the clear air, the silhouettes of the trees. That's about as good as it gets for me.
My camera isn't perfect (though I love it!) nor are my photographic skills, so the crescent is "glistening" and a bit fuzzy rather than sharp. But as with all imperfections, I love it anyway.
I will never be a perfect meditator; I don't believe there is such a thing, nor is it necessary. But as with the moon above, I love it anyway.
As Ryokan says:
The thief left it behind:
at my window.
This was my interpretation of a well-done class by Vandana Krishna, CZT in Bengaluru, India, as a part of the Artifex series I mentioned in the last post. While I'm not sure my version actually looks like a magnifying glass, I really enjoyed the process.
On a night when--for no obvious reason--I simply could not get to sleep, working on this tangle was relaxing, fun, and absorbing. I have occasional bouts of sleeplessness, and am so glad to have drawing to occupy me when it strikes.
Here's how it looked when I finished the linework, and then on the right is how it looks after adding some color and shading. There's currently a big boo-boo in the center of the tangle (I'll probably fix it at some point), which I left in place for now. You can see it in the large version--a misplaced black line.
In my next life I will try to commit more errors.
(Jorge Luis Borges)
"There are no mistakes in Zentangle."
(Maria Thomas and Rick Roberts, Zentangle® creators)
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