Saying goodbye

Hello friends, I hope you are doing well. I seem to be heading towards a bi-weekly blogging habit. It’s less than I’d like, but I am rolling with it for now.

We (our household) are in the middle of a major life transition. Let’s say it’s one that involves getting rid of/packing up all of our stuff, getting in a car and making a new life in a new place. A move! A big one. A big move that follows on 12 years of accumulated life and memories and things (so. many. things.). This work has taken a bit of the wind out of my blogging sails. If my future posts tend toward moving-related themes, that is why.

Art has been helping me to reflect on the process of moving. I drew this picture in pencils late winter this year. I remember wanting to depict the process of creating something in my mind — to show how shapes and colours move around and turn into an idea. This state of play and possibility is one of my favourite creative experiences; it’s a source of motivation and energy that I don’t find anywhere else (not even in writing).

Returning to the drawing more recently, I noticed some curious details. In the background, there are ‘raw materials’ grounding the image in grey while the colourful forms hover over them, searching (in my mind) for a medium to land on. This speaks true to my experience: when it comes to making, I can’t stably predict what medium I’ll be compelled to try. My interests migrate around a lot, and my different projects can appear disjointed and disconnected. But, this picture helps me to realize that there is one creative impulse and energy that undergirds all of that wandering. I am coming to terms with having been a wanderer for a very long time.

But. There is also the image of the house, the dwelling place. I have been thinking a lot about the creative work of un/re making one’s home, and that helps me find joy in the big task ahead of me. It’s hard to say goodbye to 12 years of things and the memories attached to them, but when I have trouble deciding on what to keep, I ask myself, “What kind of life do I wish to live?” or “What is the most loving version of life that I can envision — for myself and others?” If the object contributes to that vision in some way, then it’s a keeper. Visioning / imagining in a loving way has been central to my process.

Even though many of my craft supplies have had to be down-sized (majorly), my biggest consolation is knowing that creativity abides. Ideas yet-to-be-realized abide. Inspiration abides, as does the quiet little voice inside. There is a freedom in knowing that, whatever needs to be shed for now, there will always be good walks, good friends, and the colours of the world. This sense of what abides allows me to stay in touch with a feeling of abundance through the lean years and scarce periods of the past, and now, the goodbye.

Until next time, wishing you creativity. ๐Ÿ™‚

Flower bed

Hiya. How the time flies. Nearly two weeks have passed in a blink without a post; time to redress that.

I am doing well. How are you? We’re in the full flush of Spring, here. It’s a joy to see all the colours coming back again — everywhere I look, now, there are buds on the bushes, flowering trees in full bloom, fields of dandelions, and flocks of crumb-eating park pigeons and their iridescent head-feathers. After the long and arduous winter, the sight of pigeons and dandelions has been an uplift.

So today’s sketch is just a few Spring thoughts, in picture form, of a small garden enjoying the day. I don’t know what compels me to draw gardens the way I do. The drawings are intuitive and child-like in some ways, and I enjoy their simplicity. Something about picturing the process of coming into bloom feels good and hopeful. Creating these blooms on the page means the garden within is always alive. For the past year, I’ve found myself in the process of being “grounded,” not only by the quarantining we have all entered, but by life events and uncertainties which have compelled me to see things from a new view — not a rarefied bird’s-eye view that looks down at my life from a level of abstraction, but very much an earth- and worm-level view that dwells among the roots and soil and mushrooms. The view of mud and murkiness from which living, in part, draws its force (as I have come to understand it). Psychologist James Hillman writes about the process of “growing down” into the world — taking on roots, commitments, responsibilities, a life — as an alternative to our usual metaphor of “growing up.” I like to think these drawings signal a sense of rootedness and generativity, even in a simple way.

What do the things and images you make teach you / show you? And do we grow down, or do we grow up?

Until next time, may you have a beautiful weekend and bask in the sun.

shawl nostalgia

This one’s a knitting post, looking back.

When I finished my very first lace project in 2019, I gained a new appreciation for lace-knitting. The Dinner at the Eiffel Tower Shawl is a good entry-level lace project. By that, I mean that most of the shawl’s lace panels consist of simple yarn-overs (skipped stitches that produce little holes) that repeat across the entire row. Nothing too complex.

Knit up in Berroco Folio, a blend of rayon and superfine alpaca, I remember that I completed the shawl over the course of 3 weeks. I remember that, to avoid mistakes in the lattice lace (the “diamond” areas), I pre-marked the 7-stitch repeated pattern with a piece of yarn at 7-stitch intervals before working all of the actual stitches. It was labour intensive, doing this over 200 or so stitches, row by row, but I learned that dividing my stitches in this way made trouble-shooting problems infinitely easier.

I love the flow state of “mindless knitting” — the kind of knitting that consists of rows and rows with few stops and starts. I learned that lace is quite different. It required my intense attention. The contrast is the difference between getting to cruise on the highway vs. making frequent stops and starts in city traffic. Lace absorbs you. It is a state of being.

When I completed this shawl after having worked at this turtle pace, I was incredibly proud. It marked a “level up” in my knitting skills after years of doing simple stockinette projects and some minor work in cables.

Nowadays, I don’t feel like I’m doing much “leveling up.” I am learning to be content if I feel like I am holding steady, creatively-speaking. Given the current circumstances, I find my knitting (and general creative) bandwidth narrowed. Drawing and art feel fluid, improvisational, and forgivingly open-ended; I draw a little pink cat-person in 20 minutes, and I am happy. The counting, casting on, stitching, and modifying required of garment-knitting surpasses what I feel I’m capable of these days, and I am coming to terms with that hiatus. I’m learning to see it not as a limitation, but an opening onto something new; there is value in taking a break and adapting my media to the constraints of what is possible. But how hard it can be (for myself, and others) to adapt expectations to a new set of circumstances… When these days are over, I’ll keep this wisdom of treading gently (again, on myself and others).

I guess I write this post to acknowledge my knitting nostalgia. It’s not merely nostalgia for a much-loved project, but also a remembering of the maker that I was, and had grown into over years — she had focus and capacities which, now, seem far away and unreachable given today’s atmosphere of ambient uncertainty. Maybe, one day, she’ll see lace glory again. For now, I’m okay with looking back in gratitude that something beautiful was possible.

A favourite moment after completing this project was going to the woods and filming the shawl under the sun on a breezy day. This clip makes me wistful for that summer. I hope you enjoy this moment of lace-calm, set to one of my favourite sunny day tunes. Full song below.

Until next time. ๐ŸŽถ

Outstanding blogger award

The wonderful Helen at CrawCrafts Beasties nominated this blog for an award. Thank you, kindly, Helen, for the nomination! Readers, if you haven’t yet, run (don’t walk) to see her lovable handmade monsters — the Beasties — in action. They are incredible!

So. Part 1 of the award is to answer some quite fun questions, posed by Helen. Part 2 is to nominate outstanding bloggers and ask them some questions of my own. So without further ado, here are some questions and some answers. And then some questions again. ๐Ÿ™‚

Helen’s questions

Coffee or tea? (or no hot beverages at all? ) Ooh, that’s going to be tea for me, and non-caffeinated herbals 96% of the time. I never quite got into regular coffee. When I tell folks that I made it through school without caffeine, I get the disbelief-look. Caffeine tends to have too many side effects for me, so tea always wins.

Where in the world would you most like to visit, and why? When I was a kid, I used to love reading the world atlas. For some reason, the islands in the Pacific always fascinated me the most — just the idea of being surrounded by all of that water and the distance from the land masses of the world. I imagine generations of ocean navigators, long before GPS, building dugout canoes, braving the unknown, watching the stars, and peopling the islands. So, I’d love to tour Polynesia and Hawai’i. In my dreams, I’d travel mainly by water.

What is the most delicious meal youโ€™ve ever eaten, and where did you have it? Speaking of islands, I’ll never forget the first time I had fresh lapu lapu (grouper). I was in the Philippines, in a coastal town named Agoo by the South China Sea. As a hospitality, our host went to the beach, caught us a bright red grouper, and prepared it for us over coals and fire. I have lived in the memory of that meal ever since.

What have you made that youโ€™re most proud of, and why? It would have to be my little doe dolls. I made them in 2018 and hadn’t sewn a thing in over a decade. But, one day, I found myself making a paper pattern and hand-sewing little deer — one a bit sad and under the weather, and another one to comfort it. I made them during a challenging period in my life; sewing them put me back in touch with a sense of joy, love, and strength. I learned that creating things was a powerful form of self-care. ๐Ÿ™‚ You can read about my thoughts on that here.

Whatโ€™s your plan for today? It’s been a busy week. Rest!


More Outstanding Bloggers

Ok. I hope those answers didn’t put you to sleep. Time for nominees. The authors of the following blogs get an Outstanding Blogger Award because they not only produce beautiful content and images in their chosen media, but these bloggers also pair their beautiful work with thoughtful and uplifting writing that makes me reflect on the creative life. Creative blogs at their finest and very much to be read and enjoyed.

Cognition and Crochet

D’Nali

fabrications

Placid Painting

the quiet photographer

Woolly Wednesday

Yochet Crochet

My Questions for You

If you’d like to accept the nomination, here’s the drill (no pressure bloggers, this is only if you happen on this post and are up for it!):

In a post, answer the questions below, linking this nomination page. Nominate up to 10 Outstanding bloggers of your own, and create up to 10 new questions for them. Here are my Q’s.

  1. What are 3 creative tools or supplies that you can’t live without these days?
  2. When did you first start working with your art or craft medium? Why did you choose it?
  3. If you had all the resources you needed, what would your dream project be?
  4. What is your favourite season, and why?
  5. Name a place that inspires you to create.

Ok. I’ll plan to be back next week with some new artwork! Until then.

Floral portrait

Happy Friday. I hope your week has been going well. As well as possible. ๐Ÿ™‚ We are, in Chicago, plunged into a good few inches of snow. It came down in a blizzard last Monday & Tuesday; it is so much snow that we spotted a near 6 foot snowman in our neighborhood!

In all this Winter, I cannot help but dream, a little bit, of floral things and the return of Spring.

Last month, I decided to try another (self?) portrait of sorts — something to bring up the botanical things in my mind and set them under a full moon in that late-dusk time of day so conducive to colours and their imagination.

I chose to work in gouache/acrylic for the saturated pigment, and pencils for texture. When working with gouache, I like to use Scotch tape to create a frame around my work. It helps me to bound my space and design (and lifting the tape off at the end to see a straight edge is neat).

Some thoughts on mixing paints + pigments

The skill I wanted to practice with this painting was mixing pigments. I discovered that you can layer pencils to produce interesting things! I also learned that objects that are “conceptually” green need not always show up as green. But the main lesson learned: gouache can be mixed with acrylic, since they are both water-based. I have a tube of Winsor & Newton acrylic in Titanium White, and have been using it to lighten my gouache. The resulting paint shows up really smooth and opaque with great coverage. It’s a very forgiving and layerable paint that allowed me to repaint areas of the face over many times as I was figuring the picture out.

Note that mixing gouache with acrylic does change paint texture: once dried, the gouache-acrylic hybrid isn’t as matte as gouache alone; it has a slight sheen and shine compared to the velvet-y light-eating surface of gouache. I’m ok with that, but have heard that shine is less conducive to producing good scans for reprints (so there’s that to consider). For now, my acrylic-gouache hybrid is saving me the trouble of running to the art store, as I go through those tiny tubes fast.

After about 4 days of relaxed-pace work, the portrait was done.

This portrait reminds me of the good things in store. We are, after all, only 2 months away from Spring.

Wherever you are, I hope that you are finding some solace in the beauty of Winter. For now, the flowers are living in my dreams, but a little green is on its way.

Until next time. ๐ŸŒบ


Painting timeline (for reference, by day)

  1. Pencils + composition
  2. Gouache (background + portrait)
  3. More gouache and pencils (mid-ground)
  4. Last of the gouache details, fussing, then declaring done