Sunday, July 23, 2017

Being There



...so, several things have been trying to get my attention lately.  The need for focus, the desire for a deeper, more authentic experience.  For being there. Showing up for my own life. Synchronicity has spoken to my soul, loud and clear.

My re-reading of my last year's rewilding posts and how they got derailed by my tendency to turn everything into work, into a "jobligation" caught my attention.  An inveterate teacher and a lifelong "fixer" (as well as spending a chunk of my life as a caregiver), it's no surprise, but not all that conductive of the end I'm aiming for.  Or mean to aim for, at any rate.

And then this post appeared in my memories, on what inspired you, from our Artist's Journal Workshop blog, and this one, from this blog three years ago today, on the addiction of social media.  (Yes, three.  I keep trying...)

And yet...there is this pull, from both directions.  If something becomes habit, becomes dry, only going through the motions instead of being engaged, fully THERE...is this productive?  On the other hand, this caught my eye in a book I'm reading--the concept that structure, discipline, repeated actions or rituals can keep us going through those dry times, until we can find our focus again.

That last was something I often heard in my church years.  I spent a time in the Third Order of St. Francis 20-some years ago, but found when I needed a more focused, personal spirituality--at least that's how I perceived it--rather than saying the hours with the church, I was no longer welcome as a member of that community.  The discipline, the praying with the church, was paramount--so said my director.

A friend just repeated the concept on a Facebook post, in different words.  Keep going, keep doing it (whatever it is), until you're inspired again.  But does that work?  For you?  Or for me?  I suspect that's a very individual answer.

I want to be present to my life.  Presence has been a goal for many years now...mindfulness.  Being there.

And yes, I have a tendency to read about it rather than DO it, sometimes...believe me it's not the same.

But I recently read a pair of books that made a very big impression on me: Gerald May's The Wisdom of Wilderness, and David Abram's Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology.  May's book was brilliantly written, personal, engaging, and deeply moving to me.  Abram's had a similar theme...being fully ALIVE, in all our senses.

I don't want the days...my journals...my reading, my creating...to be simply going through the motions.

And yet...two years ago I chose "presence" as my word of the year.  Last year at this time, I wrote of re-focusing.  Presence.  Being there.

Perhaps someday I'll actually get there...



Saturday, April 22, 2017

Looks can be deceiving...but the end result as well as process counts!




I have been more into drawing than painting of late...it has a wondrous magic to me, as it did to my old mentor, Ann Zwinger, who talked about pulling the image from the blank page.  When we make one of our trips to one of my earliest heart homes, Bennett Spring State Park, I always seem to spend the bulk of my time filling journal pages, and this trip was no exception.

I'll admit I've been puzzled, though...I haven't been working in color nearly as much these past months, and not entirely sure why.

But as I told J., in part it is simply that I love to draw, always have.  It's simple, immediate, magic.

Hand, drawing instrument, paper.

No "Are my paints wet enough, what colors shall I use, oops--didn't wait long enough for that to dry, damn that's not the color I wanted, my yellow is muddy, I got my hand in my wash, where's that spatter brush NOW, I grabbed the wrong brush, and what the heck is wrong with that brush all of a sudden, anyway, it USED to make a point?!?"

Yes, of course I have recalictrant pens that run out of ink or leak at the worst possible times, and leads that break in my pencil.  But that comprises far fewer problems to hang me up overall, and drawing is indeed so delightfully, satisfyingly immediate.

Drawing instrument, paper, MAGIC.

That's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it...

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I will admit this one is rather simpler than it may look.  My dear friend Pat Southern-Pearce said kindly, "such a light fresh touch..."

Well, sort of...

I had originally just done the slow comtemplative drawing, on the spot, with my Falcon soft extra fine pen that turns out to be sooo dependable.

You can see the bent old sycamore just beyond the table that was my open-air "studio."  (My wee bear Traveller kept me company and encouraged me as I worked.  So did my drum.)


And as much as I love black and white drawings, I decided this one needed a soft spring background.

Way TOO complex and difficult to paint around, though, so I decided to take the chance on liquid mask over the drawing so I could splash in the color all in one go.

When I opened my jar of maskoid, though, I discovered it was so old it had thickened to a gluey texture...so I took a chance and thinned it with a bit of water, in the lid.  Too late to back out now!

I sacrificed an old brush to that stuff, but I figured if it worked, it would be worth it.  I carefully painted over the drawing and almost all the vines and tangled limbs, praying that when I removed it, it wouldn't take my drawing with it!  I let it dry THOROUGHLY before painting over it.

The mask was still thick and clumpy in places...

So far so good...
I mixed loose, light, subtle washes, spattered and sprayed and dripped, in spring colors...which I ALSO let dry very thoroughly, to insure the paper was back to full strength.  Any moisture weakens the paper structure and makes it far more susceptible to tearing.

I tried rubbing the mask off with a finger, but it was old and gummy and did not want to move.  I'd wear off my fingerprints before I could clean the whole drawing...

The search for a rubber cement pickup was on!  Fortunately I found one in a pile of other art supplies and began the long, careful removal of the gummy mask.

Hallelujah, the ink drawing survived!  The Fabriano soft press paper in my little folding journal is strong, well-sized, and up to the task.  Nothing tore!  No wonder I love that paper...


 A bit of additional spatter over the dry drawing/painting and I called it done, with a great, gusty sigh of relief...

So thank you, dear Pat!  Whereas it may look like a light, fresh touch it took a lot of slow, tedious work to get there.!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

New Watercolor Paper to try!

This is the new watercolor paper I've been testing...it will be commercially available in December, but you can get samples to play with right NOW, Legion Paper's new Stonehenge in a variety of weights and surfaces: http://www.legionpaper.com/stonehenge-aqua



I made a couple of small journals to test it with and will be using more! Here's a teaser--I was testing watercolor pencils, ink, colored pencils and granulating colors...I've had a ball.

Plan a blog post to share my experiments soon...

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Focusing...finding our true interests, our gift, our path

...is not always easy.  I have a questing mind, as many creative people do.  I love to explore mediums, subjects, approaches.

Our truest interests, our unique path, can be--and usually IS--plural. 

In the past, there were not so many choices for people, at least those of us of peasant stock.  We worked the farm, or followed our father's trade, or raised our children.  Period.  A few adventurous souls left house and home and "lit out for the territories," or sailed for the New World to escape those limited expectations, or poverty, or oppression both societal, religious and economic, or the Potato Famine.  I'm very grateful my ancestors did just that, though I still have Ireland in my bones two and a half centuries later.

And I am in NO way suggesting that we need to find Our Style or our medium and settle on it, as some galleries will tell you to do "to be taken seriously," or make ourselves into a brand. 

How I paint or draw depending on what interests me, how much time I have, what medium seems to suggest itself, if I'm feeling bold or contemplative, peaceful or angry or excited, what the subject matter is, why I want to capture it!



















No thanks.  I am not a factory--or even, truth be told, particularly driven or focused.  Fine for those who can, and find satisfaction in the process, but--not for me.

I believe that as an artist, I need to be free to expand and explore.  To be inspired--and yes, to inspire.

That IS my path.

And so...I experiment, and try different mediums and approaches and subjects.  I'm always surprised when someone says they recognize my work...to me, it's very different, and influenced by where I am on my path on any given day.

What works for you?  What makes you itch to paint or sketch?  Why do you respond to the things you do?  What has influenced you?  What tool feels like part of our hand?  What colors make your heart sing or express an elemental sadness or capture a special tenderness?  What matters to you?  What makes you feel safe, or loved, playful, nervous, or challenged?  What do you need to get outside of your brain and heart and down onto paper or canvas?

The answers to those questions and a hundred others are signposts on our path.

And paths change, and branch, and have dead ends and interesting side trips and wondrous surprises as well as frustrations along the way.  As long as we keep going, at our own pace, in our own way, we will arrive where we need to...and always, always, it's more about the journey than the destination.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Playing with Papers!

Sometime back I got a variety of papers from Legion Paper, and since I love bookbinding I put them all together under one cover and bound them into a Sampler Journal...check out their Sampler Department for a dizzying array of choices for all kinds of paper needs: http://www.legionpaper.com/samples/

It's quite a big book with multiple signatures...and I left the stickers on the papers so I would remember what I was using!



I'm only partway through this book...maybe 2/3--but I decided (since I'm expecting more papers to test!) that it was time to share my impressions thus far. 

As usual, I am most interested in papers that would work well in a journal, with a variety of mediums: fountain pen as well as disposables, graphite pencil, colored pencil, watercolor pencil, and of course, watercolor. 

I generally enjoy a cold-press or its equivalent, but sometimes hot press and a bit of rough as well.  I look for a pleasing surface that not only looks but FEELS good with these varied choices--I prefer a tough surface that will take some punishment, too.  It's a lot to expect from a paper, but some of these really stand out.  I'll be ordering more for my next bookbinding marathon!

Some of these papers are not meant for watercolor, but pleased me mightily by working just fine for that medium.  Loved them...

Other papers are lovely for the purpose for which they were intended, but for the way I work, not so much.  A soft surface drives me crazy with its tendency to drag both pens and pencil points, as well as absorbing watercolor too readily.  I think they're likely perfect for printmaking, but not for my needs.

So...here are my findings so far, in no particular order or ranking--they're just how the ended up bound into the book, sorry.

Saunders Waterford was quite nice with a variety of mediums...it's a watercolor paper, with a slightly soft surface but very nice with ink as well.

For some reason colors dried lighter on the Waterford than I put them down...that often happens with a paper with a lot of sizing, but this was more than I'm used to.

On the other hand, these brush tests worked beautifully on the Waterford.  I'd give it a big thumbs up and remember to mix my washes stronger.

I adore Drawing Bristol, I just do--always have.  For a variety of mediums.  WANT MORE.

I use Stonehenge a lot when I'm binding books, mostly because I love the Kraft paper tan (this isn't it though...it's darker and warmer.)  I was disappointed to find ink feathering more than I expected, so I'll be careful how I use it.

It's delightful with dry mediums. though!  Stonehenge stays in my arsenal.

Somerset Velvet--not for me.  Too soft, pens and colored pencils tend to drag on it. 

Arturo Cover on the other hand is wonderfully versatile!  LOTS of thumbs up, and I definitely want more.

I really didn't expect the Arturo Cover to work this well with juicy watercolor, but it performed like a champ.  Love!

More Somerset Velvet.  Nope.  Not for me.  Way too soft.

I had three weights of Multimedia Aquarelle and loved all three!  Great, bright, strong paper, handled pretty much any medium I threw at it, including a fine pen.

This is the lightweight 90 lb. Multimedia Aquarelle...I deliberately made a wet, juicy wash to see how much it would buckle.  Absolutely minimal!  The thinner, lighter paper would allow more pages and more signatures in a journal.  Thumbs up!

Yep, I'm in love...brush testing on this page, pleased with how true the colors remained, too.

MORE Multimedia Aquarelle.  Must.  Have.  Gorgeous stuff, and truly multi-media.

Folio, nope.  Probably as its name suggests, a printing paper.  It took pen okay but not all that exciting.

Folio is definitely NOT pleasing with watercolor, the wet pigment soaks in and looks gray.

Lanaquarelle, on the other hand--YUM.  Same colors on this paper as on the Folio were much more vivid.

Lovely with all these mediums, too.  Ordering more...

Ink wanted to feather on the Folio, especially if the pen writes rather wet/juicy.

Sorbet text is quite lightweight, and comes in rich color...fun for light washes, a dryish application of gouache, or colored pencil, though.

This is Arches Cover, not their watercolor paper, but--I wasn't thrilled with it for ink, either, it felt a bit soft.  (But then I don't like their watercolor paper...)  It DID work well with a different pen, and as always that makes a huge difference.


Again, ink wants to feather some on Coventry Rag...not high on my list.

So overall, for me...not Arches Cover, Coventry Rag, Folio, or Somerset Velvet, but the others have definite possibilities for my artist's-journal keeping self!  (As they say, YMMV.)


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And this from Legion Paper's website...they're good folks and very helpful: 
 

"It is our mission to continue to travel the world in search of the most intriguing and best performing papers - from delicate handmade papers that reveal striking texture and color with every sheet to the most technologically advanced digital printing papers produced today.

Following [on their page] are just some of the mills that we represent.  In addition to these, we have over 40 other mills all over the world with whom we work on a regular basis to have papers made to our, and our customers', specifications."

If any of these interest you as much as they did me, go to the Legion Paper link, above, and then to the specific paper you want to know more about.  On each paper's page there's a "where to buy" link in the bottom right hand corner! 

Going there now...wheeee!

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