Henri Matisse is the featured artist in the upcoming issue of Art Together, which means I’ve been reading up on his life and work. I came across this quote and copied it into my journal. I wanted to share it with you, too. Sheer stubbornness and persistence have gotten me through quite a bit.
Last week Angie asked if anyone was interested in talking about their writing process on their blogs, and I thought it sounded interesting. She posted questions and her answers; now it’s my turn to answer the same questions.
What am I working on now?
I have a column due for the next issue of Home/School/Life magazine, and I’m aiming to have Issue Five of Art Together ready in late September or early October. Although the e-zine is oriented on art activities, it involves quite a bit of writing, some of which requires research. It all needs to be written clearly, in what I hope is an engaging style, and edited and proof-read.
I work out my own thoughts/problems in my journal writing. I don’t share that. Some days all I write in my journal is a brief jotting of the day’s events, something I’ve been doing daily for almost two years now. I enjoy looking back on that the most, I think.
My blog writing is mainly sharing about the surface of our lives–art and homeschooling adventures–but I occasionally go deeper.
How does my writing differ from others of its genre?
The obvious answer is that, as a unique individual–as we all are–with a unique background and personal history, my writing is different in the way all writing that comes from a place of honesty is. Nobody else can write exactly what I write.
As for my perspective as it relates to writing about art, I see lots of writing that focuses on setting up crafts for kids to do, or tutorials for adults who want to make art, but very little encouraging adults and kids to experiment together with open-ended art-making from a similar starting point of exploration and adventure. The benefits of stepping back, as an adult, and exploring together with children, rather than taking on the role as holder of knowledge that must be imparted, are huge. That’s always been my style, from before I had my own kids and I was working in what is known as “informal education.” It was instinctual; it felt right. I had no idea it was so outside the norm at the time and is still seen by many as such.
Why do I write what I do?
I write about art, process, and ways to explore both with kids because I feel so strongly that art-making is valuable for adults and kids alike. I write because I want to demystify it all–from art supplies to techniques to terms. I write because too many people seem to be peering through the window of ART, wanting to join in but having no idea how–or lacking confidence because someone, at some point, told them they weren’t artistic or creative. I want to take these folks by the hand, explain things so they don’t feel intimidated, and set them up to play. That’s why I write the zine. I heard from parents who wanted to encourage their kids’ interest in art but felt unsure, and I want to help them not only support their kids but find their own way into exploring their creative side.
But the true and short answer to why I write at all is because I often have no idea what I’m really thinking until I write it out–but that’s also another sort of writing entirely.
How does my writing process work?
I draft in my head, usually. If it’s a column, article, zine segment, or blog post, I typically know what I’m going to write by the time I sit down at the computer. Everything but blog posts generally goes through several drafts of revisions after that. I am most likely to draft in my head in the shower or while I run, although I try not to do that while running because that’s my time to clear my head. I’m not afraid of revising and never have been–I will ruthlessly cut whole swaths of text for the greater good.
Journal writing just happens–with a pen, in a Moleskine hardcover notebook. From head to hand to pen to paper, with no forethought or pre-drafting.
I always feel awkward naming or asking individuals to participate in things like this, so instead–if these questions interest you, I encourage you to take the time to write out your answers. And then if you want to share them, please let me know and I’ll add a link to your post.
I’m still working on the activities in Paint Lab, here and there. I full well know I have a problem focusing on just one area at a time. I’ve given up fighting it; I’ll just embrace it. So lots of things are always half done, and this month in particular it’s felt like I’ve been slogging along, mostly mired in my own head, spinning my wheels. I’ve been doing a lot of reading; dog days indeed. This also accounts for the quiet here. Days have been just sort of slipping by…
Anyway. I did paint lab #4, which involved acrylic glazing medium, a squeegee, and a canvas panel, a while ago.
Then I decided to add a couple of tree-ish things.
I’m not sure about any of it, but these exercises are just that–exercises. Trying things out.
This week I did paint lab #11, “Masking Fluid Exploration,” in my sketchbook. I decided to use that day’s Spoonflower prompt, arrow, as the shape. I’ve done a few of the Spoonflower prompts; I’ve done more in my head, but as I said, August is like quicksand or something. I’m keeping track of them and I will pull them out for inspiration in the future even if I don’t get to them on the day they’re posted.
This was my first experimentation with proper masking fluid. I’ve heard all sorts of horror stories of destroyed paper and so on, but it peeled up easily. My sketchbook contains Strathmore 500 series mixed media paper, and I bought the Utrecht store brand of masking fluid last time we were there. Again, this was, as the lab title says, simply exploration. It will take more of it before I really get a feel for how it can be used beyond the obvious use of maintaining highlights.
I have more things and thoughts to share but we’ll have to see how long it takes given my apparent August torpor.
Two nights ago I sorted out all the kid postcards I’ve received. Here’s a badly lit photo of my living room floor (the cat, of course, had to plop himself in the middle of the action).
A total of 98 postcards were made by 21 children from Connecticut, Missouri, Rhode Island, Indiana, Washington state, Virginia, California, and New York. They used collage, markers, stickers, watercolors, stamps, pastels, acrylics, and more. They were creative, they wrote notes to the recipients, they made me smile over and over. Eight adults also made postcards, which I loved to see.
The first batch is getting mailed today. I’m sending them out in groups, in hopes of drawing out the fun of getting mail on the other end. Much better to get your postcards spread out a little instead of all on one day, yes? I didn’t place a limit on how many postcards any one person could send in, but if a child made roughly 6 or more, he or she will most likely get more than one from the same person in return. (It’s math, folks. Had to be done.) But hopefully nobody minds, as all the postcards are fun and fabulous.
Big thanks to all the families who made postcards and bundled them up with stamps and labels and got them in the mail to me, trusting a perfect stranger to sort these works of art and send them on their way. Does it sound too sappy to say that every envelope I received added happiness to my day?
The final two watercolor sketches from last week. I only missed one day, Thursday, so I ended up with six total for the week.
I thought it would be fun to show the process, so I took photos along the way while making the strawberry sketch. I did this one Saturday evening, so the lighting isn’t the best. Before I share all those photos, though, I wanted to let you know that hand-stamped blank cards and lino prints and watercolors are now available in the shop. It took a bit of self-talk (and some encouraging talk by other people) to list the prints and watercolors. It feels different from the other products. They serve no purpose other than to hang on the wall; it’s a public declaration of my belief that my artwork is worthy of offering for sale. That’s not easy to do. (Which I only share because I think it’s better for all of us creative types if we admit when we feel a bit wobbly. Everybody does, you know.)
On to the strawberries.
It takes a while to complete one because of the waiting time in between layers of color. If you add wet watercolors next to (or on top of) wet watercolor, it’ll bleed together. Sometimes that’s exactly what you want. Other times, it’s not, so it needs to dry first. You can see I have the paper taped down to a board (it’s a clipboard). I leave it that way until it dries. It helps keep it from curling too much.
In some ways this makes it a perfect type of painting for me to do. I’m always getting interrupted anyway. However, I’ve also gotten very good at telling the interrupter that I’m drawing/painting and I’ll get to them in a few minutes. All of my kids are old enough for me to be able to do this, generally. And they all respect the process, for the most part.
Tuesday’s sketch was of a flower through a magnifying loupe. I don’t know what kind of flower it is; it’s the sort that would be in the background of an arrangement, just a nondescript spray of yellow, nothing much…until you look at it closely. Then it’s a world of tiny yellow petals, sticky sap, delicate stems.
Wednesday’s sketch is of black-eyed Susans rescued from a local meadow–which is supposed to be open space managed by the town–right before it was mowed right to the ground. I’m so sad about this, and curious–it’s the wrong time of year for meadow mowing for management, so what are they doing? Town hall referred me to the head of the conservation commission, who hasn’t returned my message yet.
These flowers look very different from the ones I bought Sunday, so either I mis-identified those, or they’re a cultivated version as opposed to the wild ones. At any rate, I like these, with their protruding center and drooping petals, better. I loved drawing them.
I didn’t manage a sketch on Thursday. We spent six hours at the beach, some of that time with friends (yay!), and after dinner I went to the market, because it’s much easier to do it with just my 12yo than with all three children. But I have a picture of a feisty blue crab to share with you, found by my 10yo at the salt pond.
I hope your week is ending on a good note! Enjoy the weekend!
I wanted to share some neat things we’ve found in the yard lately. This is one wing from, I’m pretty sure, an io moth.
That’s all I found. I don’t know what happened to the rest of it. Eaten?
This luna moth was hanging out on the screen of our slider one night. I’d never gotten a good look at the underneath bits of a luna moth before. Its legs and body are so…leggy, and fat!
I was hoping it would still be there in the morning so the kids could see more than just this underexposed picture, but it was gone.
This is a super cool plant, and it’s growing in our backyard! What a treat.
It’s Monotropa uniflora, and it’s a plant, not a fungus. It has no chlorophyll, however, so lives in conditions in which it can absorb nutrients right from rotting things in the soil. We have rich soil! My 10yo was impressed that I knew what this was, but it’s the sort of thing, once you learn this, you don’t forget it.
I’ve slowly worked up to being able to run between 3 and 5 miles, no more often than every other day. My mantra since I was cleared to begin running again after the whole shin splint thing has been, Not too far, not too fast, not too often. So I’m not running every day like I was last summer, but it’s okay. I don’t need it every day like I did last summer. I want to make sure it’s there when I do need it, though, which is why I’m not pushing it. Ok, this isn’t totally true. I’m not dogging it, either. I’m incapable of not trying to get faster. I’m not as fast as I was right before I got shin splints, but I’m faster than I was at the same time last summer. I like running. I like what my body can do. I like the feeling of working hard. And I like the head-clearing. I’m too mindful of the benefits of running, though, to push it to the point where I can’t do it again.
I’m keeping up, so far, with my goal of one watercolor sketch per day this week. By yesterday I was looking forward to drawing time the way I usually look forward to coffee–in other words, a strong yearning with a bit of desperation thrown in. I’ll show you more sketches in a bit. We’re having a busy week–busy doing, seeing, going; meeting with friends; playing and making art. Not so much time for blogging.
I quietly–well, not so quietly anymore, since I’m saying so here–set myself the challenge of making a watercolor sketch every day this week. I’m not sure I’ll make it, as we have a couple of long out-of-the-house days this week, including today, Tuesday. But I’ve completed two in a row, and that’s Something. Here’s the one I did Sunday, of a flower bought from the on-your-honor stand down the road, which I went to in the pouring rain because I wanted some flowers to draw. While I drew and painted, Ghostbusters was on in the background–the rest of the family was watching it. It was a nice way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon.
And this is the one I did Monday morning, while more or less leaving my kids to their own devices. My daughter drew and painted the flowers Monday morning as well, but she was almost done by the time I began. This flower wasn’t purchased; I found Turk’s-cap Lilies growing on the side of road next to the freshwater wetland, on the property that nobody wants to buy because it would be so hard to build on it. I love that wetland! And I was delighted to find these flowers. I snipped just two to take home with me.
These were difficult to draw, and I don’t think my hesitancy did me any favors. I may try this one again.
I am really enjoying my watercolors.
Lots of photos to share this week, some of which are better than others in terms of quality. First up, my daughter’s embroidery from a few weeks ago, that I have neglected to share. She drew on the felt with the nifty disappearing-ink fabric marker and then embroidered over her lines. (We just don’t go in for embroidering other people’s patterns here!)
This is a fairy–the semi-circles on the sides are wings. I love this–she has preserved her own drawing in fabric and floss!! (I helped with the eyes–I did the French knots. But she did the rest herself.) This was completely her idea. I think of all those Pinterest-type projects that have adults transferring kids’ drawings to fabric to embroider or turn into pillows and I look at my daughter’s self-created, self-directed activity with her own drawing that she then embroidered herself, and it’s just perfection. So much better than if I had embroidered it. Her small capable hands did this.
Those wonderful hands of hers also learned how to use the knitting tower this week.
We’ve had this for years and years and neither boy was ever much interested, but, much like her mama, G likes to make things with her hands, and she took to this right away. While she was sitting there finger knitting, I was working on a knotted, beaded ankle bracelet.
This started with making a beachy bracelet out of string while we were at the beach one day, using directions from the book Summer Crafts by Marjorie Galen (a used bookstore find several years ago, and I love it; it also inspired our hot rocks).
After making that one, I made a few more (just to keep my hands busy), and then I wondered if I could add beads. I have a necklace purchased a while ago that looks very similar to this simple knotting, but with beads. So I bought some thin hemp string and got to work. This is the finished anklet (and I’m out of body lotion for my legs, as I’m sure you can tell by this close-up photo).
We’re not done yet! I also finished a baby sweater and hat this week. It’s for one of my husband’s co-workers. Gah it’s so cute!!
The details are on Ravelry. I hardly knit at all these days unless I’m making something as a gift. It was nice to pick up the needles again–this little sweater worked up fast, too. I began it on the second day of the Tour de France, and they’re not done cycling yet.
Finally, yesterday I added “draw and paint sunflowers” on my to-do list. Do you do that–add on the fun things to your list, to give the same importance as the chores? I do. I cleaned the bathrooms yesterday as well, but I made sure drawing and painting was also a priority. My daughter sat next to me and we both quietly looked, drew, and painted for quite some time. Here’s my finished page.
As for listening, I got to hear the most amazing (and at times inane) conversations Tuesday as we sat in traffic on 95. We visited the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, and instead of 90 minutes each way it was at least two hours. That’s a lot of car time! (Thanks, Massachusetts, for the construction.) My boys finished the books they’d brought well before we got anywhere near home, so they began discussing who they’d pick for a multi-universe superhero all-star team (that’s what it sounded like, anyway–both DC and Marvel characters, who would your top 20 be and why?). After a while they exhausted that topic and moved onto discussing which body part they’d willingly give up if necessary. (My practical 12yo said appendix. Mine’s already been removed and I don’t miss it at all.) That conversation quickly veered into the surreal. Four hours of driving with three kids. The things you overhear.
Phew! I’m linking up with Jen again this week. How about you? What are you making? Overhear any good conversations lately?
Another quick announcement post to let you know I’ve completed part one of the week’s planned shop update, listing all the pockets I’ve sewn recently. So currently in stock are some sweet whimsical flowers…
(They’re also available in blues and purples.)
…chickens are back…
…and there are several nautical themed pouches, inspired by my Rhode Island summers.
Part 2 of the update will happen within a few days–I have some hand-printed cards and notebooks to add. But I promise the next post will be about what I’m making and doing, not about what I’m selling. (I’m uncomfortable with the salesperson’s hat on, can you tell??)