Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Exploring What We See with Seven Year Old

Landen was over the other day when school was closed and came up to the studio to chat.  He was looking around at some of the art on the walls and wanted to see what I was working on.  I showed him how I was playing with portrait sketches and paintings, trying to get closer to what I actually saw. 

He saw the self portrait I'd made by looking at myself in the mirror.  I asked if he'd like to give it a try and he agreed.  We set him up with a stool so he could reach the bathroom mirror and then he set to work.  I could see him initially drawing what he thought a face should look like and then making the transition to what he saw in terms of proportion and relationships.

When he finished, he'd drawn a self portrait that reminded me of Modigliani's work.  We went to the ipad and looked up those images;  he could see the style resemblance, too.

Modigliani"s Boy with Blue Eyes
He was clearly enjoying his success and wanted to draw some other things.  He spied a small carved rhinoceros I have and asked to use that.  We set it up on a box and he labored over that, finally getting discouraged and deciding he'd had enough - but he'd spent about 45 minutes on all the drawings.  The one rhinoceros he'd done had been a  pretty good replica - he'd gotten some critical line in it, but decided it wasn't right and did his own version, without looking as intently.  We talked about how a lot of drawing and painting require you to train your eye to see what is in front of you. And then you can change things around to show some other quality, to bring out your own style.

Being around kids as they explore art is just the most fun!  It deepens your own understanding when you try to explain something; and you relearn how to see through eyes that are less critical.  You enter into a more playful state - which is a wonderful thing!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Birthday Book for Mom

In the second week of Sketchbook Skool we played around with making small books.  I posted the first one that was made from an 8 1/2 by 11" sheet of paper, neatly folded and cut to make 8 pages.  It was perfect for my little caterpillar story. I showed that in an earlier post.
The second kind of book Jill Weber suggested was to use an accordion style folding; it offers a different way of telling a story. I decided to make a little celebration for my mom's upcoming birthday in April.

Our birthdays were always special - never over the top in extravagant gifts or outings; when I was young, finances didn't allow that kind of expenditure. But the generosity was clear in the attention to details. From being sung awake in the morning, to a favorite meal, followed by a sumptuous cake, you knew it was YOUR day.

I won't be able to visit mom for her birthday this year so I thought I'd send the party to her!

The Drink, The Balloons, The Fanfare, The Dance

The Cake, The Jive

The Bow, and the Salutation!

Altogether Now

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Miracles Every Day

February 4 is a particular day for me to recognize miracles all around me.

It is the birthday of my dear Marcus, who turns 11 today.  And it is the birthday of my good friend, Maggie who is 61. Both of these cherished people have had close calls - they might not have been here to celebrate this day.  That they are, feels miraculous.

Marcus with Ethan and Landen
Seven years ago, Marcus was in a near drowning accident.  Medical personnel estimated that he'd been underwater for about 5 minutes.  It was the most terrifying thing I have ever  experienced, with vivid memories of that day - of the fear, and also of the great kindnesses of people I've never seen again. Marcus not only survived; he is a very special child - he has a deep sense of compassion, a sensitivity that sometimes startles me.  Where did he get that wisdom?  And then he flips back into being a normal, funny, silly, moody, energetic kid.

Maggie in Rome
On the 16th of November, a Monday morning, Maggie and I had been planning our Thanksgiving dinner.  She had a big project at school so I didn't expect to hear from her for the rest of the week.  On Friday I received a call from a friend that Maggie had been taken to the hospital late the night before.  She had suffered a stroke, probably on that Monday, with three aneurysms that were leaking into her left brain.  Since she hadn't been found for several days, there were complications and the doctors weren't sure she'd survive. She underwent several surgeries over the next week and friends and family kept vigil. Once the doctors were able to remove the sedation, she gradually began to demonstrate signs of recovery. At this point she is undergoing rehabilitation, but each week brings return of function, progress that we can only marvel at.

Over a long period of time I have come to appreciate that we are constantly surrounded by miracles if we only choose to see them.  Albert Einstein said "There are two ways to live your life: one is as though nothing is a miracle; the other is as though everything is a miracle."  I go for a walk, I look out the window, I spend time in silence - and I feel overwhelmed with gratitude.

Lately, I've been listening to a lot of Peter Mayer's music.  This one feels just right for today.

How about you?  What quietly or outrageously wondrous things are you experiencing?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Tiny Books

This week in Sketchbook Skool we are making tiny books.  The teacher, Jill Weber, is an illustrator with a well established career in book illustration and makes the most intriguing little books for fun.  She showed us two different small books to try: an accordion book, using a long strip of paper and just folding it into many sections; and this other little book that I tried first, where I used an 8 1/2" by 11" sheet of paper and by folding and cutting, ended up with 8 pages to tell my story.

I chose this second one to start with. The tricky part is finding the right papers for these. You want it sturdy enough to handle the medium you will use, to be durable - and still to be able to take the folding.  I will have to play with this more.

I used a high quality office paper - but it buckled with my water colors.
And while these are meant to be done fairly quickly, I admit it took me most of my day!  But it was fun.
 I am happy to know how to make these because they would make sweet little gifts for friends and family.

Here's my little story.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Sketching is Contagious

Here's another thing I learned when I started carrying around a sketchbook with me.  People like to see what you're finding so interesting that you want to draw it.  I've been journaling for a long time - there would be curiousity about that, too, but then folks would be disappointed when they saw there were no pictures on my pages. Once I started adding little drawings, I'd find that others would be inspired - "Oh, I should do something like that, too."  The fact that my drawings are less than professional might actually give them more license to give it a go.

One of the sweetest instances of this happened when one of our grandsons was staying with us for a while.  He was six.  One evening he was eating before he left to go to a t-ball practice.  I sat at the table with him to keep him company and he also set up his  stuffed animal friends around him.  I decided to sketch him.  He loved the picture and the attention.

The next evening as I was preparing dinner, he said "Don't look!"  and I stayed in the kitchen until he told me I could come out.  When he did call me, he proudly showed me his drawing. I was blown away by it.  He had captured so many elements around him - the cabinet behind him with the stemmed glasses and little figurines, the vase of spring flowers, the lamp, the spiral bound sketchbook on the table. He'd spent over half an hour laboring with the details. I had the feeling that he was claiming the space as his own - a place where he felt at home.  He continues to love to draw, to illustrate the stories that come from his imagination.

What is your experience with sketching or journaling?  Have you done any illustrated journaling? - I know a number of people who love to keep this kind of record of their trips, in particular.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sketching Your Days

I first signed up for Sketchbook Skool in the spring of 2014.  I wanted to get better at drawing. I struggle with proportion, with getting my eye to see relationships as easily as my mind does and then getting my hand to follow! The course was one still offered, entitled Beginnings. Each week for six weeks, there was  a new teacher with new lessons and styles to check out. It turned out to be a great deal for under $100! In addition to the instruction and demos from the teachers,  there is a huge community of class members who write in and show their own progress, struggles, and output.  Some are really experienced and do beautiful work.  Some are absolute beginners and are admirable for jumping in to something new and putting it out there.

I learned a quite a bit. What was even more important than learning techniques was coming to understand what a practice like sketching can do for you.

Here is one lesson from Danny Gregory: sketching something as simple as your breakfast can be meditative, can settle you in to your day.  And the funny thing - when I look at this sketch, I remember that morning clearly almost two years later!  I remember being in my daughter's apartment, waiting for grandsons to wake up.  I can see the light coming through the windows, almost hear and smell the soft spring rain.  Now my drawing wouldn't conjure that for you - you'd only see that I had a well balanced breakfast - some toast and cheese and clementine slices and coffee in my favorite Laura Keller mug. But I am there in that morning, waiting for my sweet ducks to join me.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Hand lettering Fun

Once again I'm participating in Sketchbook Skool.  It's the perfect time of year to jump into these classes that offer so much inspiration and technique, taught by a wonderful variety of artists. The classes go for six weeks online, each week a new set of lessons taught by a different teacher.
This past week taught by Koosje Koene, one of the founders of the school.

The lessons were on hand lettering.  We were encouraged to play with different fonts, think about lettering with composition in mind.  The final lesson was to choose a word or quote and to use hand lettering to give it meaning or impact - or just design.

I decided to use a quote from Annie Dillard's novel, The Maytrees.  I love her characters and there are several quotes from this book that have become part of my view of the world. Here is the one I chose:

And the next line is "She rolled down the dunes."

And what about you?  What are you doing for yourself this winter? What quotes do you find inspiring, challenging, fun?