Tag Archives: sketching

Drawn

draw

[draw] drawn, draw·ing,  noun, verb (used with object)

1.to cause to move in a particular direction by or as if by a pulling force; pull; drag (often followed by along, away, in,out,  or off ).

As you probably know by now from reading this blog over the years, the one steady thing that has been a constant throughout all of my adventures as an artist, a world traveler, and a musician is the fact that I carry around a sketchbook with me.  Pretty much wherever I go, I have a book in my bag, a small set of watercolors and a pen or pencil to write, draw, collect what I see and hear in the world.  This practice began years and years ago, when my kids were really small.  Say what you want about the beauty of motherhood.  It IS beautiful.  But it’s also really, really hard.  Among the few things that kept me somewhat centered during the early years of parenthood (such as a great husband and many many many marathoning miles), the act of drawing in a little book became a habit that was like my anchor in the storm.  Those early drawings are clumsy and poorly rendered.  The really early ones didn’t even include any watercolors!!  And yet, I have them (somewhere around here).  They include tales of camping trips interrupted by pasta ravaging raccoons and over-the-top Halloween costumes made to order for my kids (One year Jack wanted to be a peacock.  And his little sister? Yes, a Princess Peacock.  I swear if I come across those journal entries/ photos I will totally share them).

Slowly, over many years, through many slumps and the crossing of proverbial seas, I began to realize what I had in this seemingly simple practice of sitting and drawing and writing a bit about my life.  I began to do it with a bit more consciousness. I began to find others, people who called themselves Artists, who did a similar thing and seemed to even be making books and teaching classes.  People around me, beyond my awesome family who always thought I could draw anything, began to notice.  I even went to art school.  But not for drawing.  Majoring in sculpture, I was still noted for my copious collecting skills in the form of my sketchbook.  Post art school, I made some Art, but it has been the sketching and journaling that has time and again come to the fore.  This is mainly because, as a mom, it’s the one art form that’s portable (that and embroidery, but that’s for another post, another time.)  All of this time and the many filled books, eventually led to my teaching this process to others wanting to learn it.  Without even realizing it, I had developed a very individual and distinct way of doing this sketch-journal thing.

So fast forward to nowadays.  I teach Keeping an Illuminated Journal in both individual classes and at the local community arts centers.  I co-developed a business centered journaling process with a former student. (That project is tabled right now as we both pursue our individual work, me here in Cincinnati, and Adam in NYC.).  With the support of the Art Academy, I began taking students afield to document the travel experience in a sketchbook.  Through these trips to Taos it was even clearer to me that what I am teaching is more than simple life documentation, or learning to draw things that come across one’s path in life.  This process has a power to draw a person toward their center.  Keeping a journal, and more importantly an illuminated journal (one with drawings or paintings) is an act of meditation which leads to a deeper thinking about life in general.  As a young mama, battling depression and anxiety, I was not only capturing precious bits of my kids’ fleeting childhood, I was actually healing myself.  Keeping these books has been a slow-cooker style of self-guided therapy that has, over the years, taught me much.  I’m much healthier in the head and heart these days and I attribute some of that to merely growing into myself.   Growing into myself has happened in the pages of my sketchbook.  It is there that I can jot down quotes that speak to me at the time, I can mull over the mundane and the difficult, I can draw a dog or a backyard bird and feel calmer for doing so.  It’s like magic really.  And I love sharing this magic.

This summer when I head to Taos with yet another amazing group of students, I will also be filming my segment of the Eco Chic Retreat DVD project slated to be completed this fall.  I am so grateful for this opportunity.  Often, the spiritual side of the classes I teach winds up being an added, unexpected bonus to the fun process of writing and drawing in a journal.  But Eco-Chic’s retreat climate is all about centering oneself in the storm of life through a time of guided nutrition, yoga, painting, meditation and more and of course, keeping a journal.  I’m tremendously excited to talk about how the simple act of making a drawing, writing a haiku poem, or taking note of the day can seriously alter a life.  I don’t make the claim lightly.  I was my first student and I am, finally after all these years, a firm believer in the power of this process.

What drove me to go into writer mode on today’s blog post is the photo below of some of the Eco-Chic family.  This was shared electronically to those of us on the team who couldn’t be there for this particular gathering and when I saw it, my heart just swelled.  These women are doing amazing work in the world.  Each of them is a healer in her own way.  I am humbled to be a part of this project.  But I too am a healer.  And I look forward to sharing my take on  the ‘simple’ act of keeping a sketchbook in the hopes that it will bring healing your way too.

L-R: Ana Easter, Lourdes Paredes, Jan Haller, Jody McNicholas and Louise Lowry

Pimp my altoid tin

So with the Taos trip only a couple of months away, (check out the countdown here) I am trying to get more on-the-go drawing and watercoloring in to stay current and well exercised in that department.  I have a fascination (ok, obsession) with packing light, especially when it comes to the day to day.  I carry a messenger bag around as a purse of sorts but really it’s filled more with art supplies.  When I go out for a day dedicated to drawing I have no problem taking my travel watercolor set and a wee pencil case with glue, tape, white gouache, pencils, pens, extra brushes of different sizes, etc, along with a sketchbook (or 2) .  But during my regular life, that bag can get a little cumbersome with all of those supplies so I will often leave some supplies at home.  This makes for not enough drawing in the sketchbook, and when the drawing does happen, it lacks the life of spontaneous watercolor.

Enter the teeny weeny altoid tin travel watercolor set…..

There are plenty of sites online that approach the construction of this handmade watercolor set in a variety of ways across a spectrum of complexity.  I have trolled them by the dozens and below is my version of how to make one.  I encourage you to google “altoid watercolor set” and see what comes up as one of the other methods might be more up your alley.  Here goes….

Start with a teeny altoid tin.  If you go with the average sized tin, you might as well stick with the travel set from the art store.  This little thing is just over 2 inches wide at its widest point.  Teeny.

Use some sculpey clay or some other bake-able substance to create little wells that will contain the watercolors.

Bake the wells into the tin per the package directions on the clay.

Once good and cool, paint the interior of your new set with a high gloss rustoleum paint to provide you with a small pallete in the lid of the tin and a water tight place for your paints.

Next, select some tube watercolors to use.  I had a set laying around of medium quality watercolors so I just used them.   These paints will work almost as well as a typical student grade set of the dry paints will, you just might have to work them a little to get them to give up their pigment.  The colors I chose are: Raw Umber, Yellow Ochre, Ultramarine, Crimson, Burnt Sienna, and Sap Green.  Fill the wells.

Stir in a little water to each well and allow to dry.

My on-the-go watercolor set up used to look like this (and will for the Taos trip)

But for the day to day, all I really need is my sketchbook, the altoid w.c. set, a pen or pencil and my Koi watercolor brush (which avoids needing a cup of water to clean my brush).  It’s also good to have a cloth or tissue handy too for switching colors.

What does your on-the-go art supply stash look like?

fruit

Yesterday, with temps in the single digits, a sketchy friend and I decided to move our studios to the warmer climes of the Krohn Conservatory for a bit to draw plant forms and soak up the juicy green-ness and humidity there.  As always, this beautiful jewel in the crown of the Queen City did not disappoint.  We spent an hour or so drawing in the cactus room with thoughts of our upcoming trip to Taos

Upon leaving, I commented on the gorgeous citrus trees, heavy with oranges and lemons, wishing out loud that I might be able to try one of them.  The ladies in the front office overheard and handed me this Ponderosa Lemon to take home saying it had been laying around for a few days and I was welcome to it!  What a lovely gift!  We then got to chatting about some beautiful terrariums on display at the conservatory.  They gave me some tips on getting my own terrarium to grow more successfully.  I have plans to stock up on some charcoal and a new fern or two in the coming days.  Meanwhile I have this fabulous lemon to draw…. (Iris is fairly certain this is a large tennis ball destined to be her play thing.)

In other news, my ice box of a studio space is featured today in Terri Windling‘s lovely blog The Drawing Board as part of her “On My Desk” series.  A number of bloggers have showcased the work spaces of fellow artist/writer bloggers over the years and it’s a fun way to get a peek into each other’s spaces, if only virtually.  Terri is part of a village of artists who live and work in the town of Devon, England.  She and another web-fave of mine, Rima Staines embody the notion of Storyteller for me.  I feel a tremendous kinship with these artists half a world away.  They seem to write about the same concepts that interest and fascinate me… the blessings of an artistic community, the blissful presence of traditional music, the inherent wisdom of dogs.  Although their work is quite different from mine, the notions that drive it run along the same veins that seek truth and mystery in the day to day human experience.

Tomorrow this single-digit cold snap is supposed to break and I will again have the wax pots on…. hopefully to pop a few more works up on the new Etsy Site.  I will, of course, keep you posted.