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. 🙂

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.

Until next time. 🎶

Openness to change

My past attempts at writing comics or creating graphic narratives have fallen on a bad habit: I tend to wait until a fully formed idea arrives. I want to see the lead up and the punchline before taking to my inks and pens. This is an understandable preference for certainty, but the result of this is having very few strips or stories to speak of! My aspirations do not match my output.

I had recently heard of an exercise in Ivan Brunetti’s Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice that’s designed to help build comic-writing fluency. I really enjoy Brunetti’s writing on comics; he emphasizes simple forms and shapes, and the first time I saw his work, I had an emotional response that made me nostalgic for all the picture books of childhood. His approach makes crafting comics feel democratic and doable. The challenge he assigns is as follows:

a) invent a character using basic shapes
b) draw them with an object and in a place, performing an action (4 panels)
c) demonstrate the motivation (2 panels) and consequences of the action (2 additional panels), creating a simple wordless narrative (the exact sketchbook exercise can be found here).

Feeling rusty, I decided to try a shortened version of the exercise. The visuals came together quickly. I started with a playful doodle of a juggler using a charcoal pencil. Then a basic set of images came, and I drew them out. The text suggested itself much later on, while editing the images.

The result: An important drawing and writing lesson that I needed to hear about staying open to change — specifically the changes that take place on the page. Strange, I feel like this strip is reflecting on itself, making me an eavesdropper into a third-person conversation. But let us talk about sentient strips another time! Here’s the comic:

Until next time, wishing you creative contentment and openness to the marvelous magic of the blank page!