Bujo + a Budding Moon

Happy Friday. I hope you’ve enjoyed a good week. We are coming out of our nth blizzard here in the Midwest. Just 10 days ago, some of the sights in our neck of the woods included…

frosty rooftops and cars buried in snow

…an ice cascade stuck to a drain pipe, three stories high

… and an icy new look for our local park’s field house.

This week, in contrast, has seen us enter into a slow thaw. The thaw has its own qualities which I’ve been trying to observe. It’s a transitional time of drippy icicles (caution above!), slick sidewalks, muddied snow, and sock-soaking pavement pools of dark grey meltwater — a time both quiet and swishy, full of subtle movement. The windows come open to let in new light and new air, and in the mornings, prattles of birds (yes, inventing my own plural noun) commingle with the sound of shovel-scrapes. A few afternoons ago, that fearsome three story ice column came crashing down (we heard and felt it from a distance away). The sky is softening and blue-ening (verb?) again. Out of the ice comes a brightness.

Funnily, I think that the bullet journal spread that I drew a few weeks ago for this week captures the feeling above — not the usual confetti-throw of florals that I’ve enjoyed drawing all winter, but a slow bloom out of the greys and ice. I hope that you, too, are enjoying a bloom, in whatever form yours is taking.

And while we’re on this theme: As I’ve noted in the Saturday 27th slot above, we’re expecting a Full Moon tomorrow. It’s the first full moon of the lunar calendar — February’s Snow Moon (aptly named) or, in Chinese, the “Budding Moon.” It signals that a new cycle of inception and renewal is quietly brewing, and is on its way. I hope you can catch a glimpse of it! 🌕

Wishing you possibility and new energies!

The cats are alright

Just a sketchbook comic today. I speak for myself when I say that, after a near year of lots of bad (TV) news, hints of good news have come to feel strange and unfamiliar. While the news has started reporting some promising developments, it’s been murky trying to envision a horizon out of the current collective moment. I find myself still processing the last year, gingerly trying to move forward in a sort of tenuous way…

I’m coming to terms with the shakiness. I take comfort in art, friends, fiber, books, blogging, imagination, and… these cats!

Wishing you a good week, and much good news. Until next time.

Happy Lunar New Year

Lunar New Year is upon us! This is the year of the Ox — a symbol in the lunar calendar associated with strength, diligence, hard work, and reliability (no plow skills needed). Oxen energies are expressed each time we plan a course of action; apply consistent effort, whatever our pace; and evince a little bit of “stubbornness” (let us say, perseverance) in adhering to a vision or idea. This is, in other words, the year for planting our feet on long-harbored dreams and making them come into fruition — the year that expended elbow grease will be likely to pay off (one hopes!). As per the lunar zodiac, this year also appears to favour restoration, replenishment, and recovery in their various senses, but will also be a time to carry the responsibilities that accompany the rewards. I like to treat the zodiac not as a firm set of predictions, but as an open-ended starting point for orienting action and energy (I read the I Ching in a similar way).

So. In that spirit, I wish you Oxen energies as you continue, this year, to bring into being the things in your heart!

Ok. Art-wise, my heart has been a flowery place. I recently did a simple still life drawing. More imagined flowers, in pencils, drawn in January. I see them as clowny and happy and pretty.

I treated myself to a new set of pencils in January, and I enjoy them: the scratchy texture isn’t 100% coverage on the page, but penciled space holds movement and line in a way that makes me feel like I show up in the picture. And in comparison to the fluidity and flow of paint, pencils require a little bit of elbow grease — a little push, from the inside out, to make things happen. I recently finished another picture that involved penciling the surface of an 11 x 14″ page — and I did feel like a little ox, bearing the colours across the paper, slowly over several days, until the whole thing was covered. Pencils, simply, are good for my soul.

Ok. Wishing you the creative mirth of flowers, and auspicious beginnings! 🐂 🌸

Welcome, February

After the blink of January, February is upon us. Chicago received its second blizzard in a single week, and we are now under even bigger snow drifts and slushy puddles. Remember the 6 foot snowperson from the previous post? Well, an even bigger sibling has presented itself in the very same park. This one stands a little over 7 feet tall and is staying fashionable in a green scarf. At that height, this must have been a group effort.

We are also in the thick of a February deep freeze, starting today. Today the low is -14C, and the weekend will see us at a low of -19C at some point with the temps sticking around all of next week, if the forecast is correct. Well. Let’s see how our daily conditioning stroll goes. It is the period for soups, space heaters, wool, and chai. When I get alarmed at cold weather, I remind myself that, growing up in Canada, these temperatures were normal! I was a kid whose commute to high school took over an hour, with a lot of waiting in bus stops and open-air train stations in -15C weather… Here in Chicago, some train stations and bus stops are equipped with overhead heat lamps. Heat lamps. Torontonians knew no such luxury).

On the art front, I have been keeping busy, and bullet journaling my way through the week, finding myself strangely productive. I owe this, in part, to the start of February — new energies abound and the Lunar New Year is approaching. I also like to think that the colours in this week’s theme helped things along a bit. For this first week of February, I went with something festive and ferny-flowery (again).

Against the strong inclination to hibernate, the colours are keeping me awake and focused. 🙂

I hope you are staying safe, well, and warm. Giant Snowman and Snow Flamingo send their greetings. Until next time. 🦩⛄

Floral portrait

Happy Friday. I hope your week has been going well. As well as possible. 🙂 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. 🌺


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