Making art has always been a retreat for me. It is not necessarily a place where I am producing or measuring up to something, though I’m always pleased when I cross a threshold of skill or understanding when it happens. It’s ever been, for me, about the process and the exploratory, playful aspect of it. I could take classes and level up my experience much faster, but I prefer the slow path of intuitiveness and figuring something out for myself. Art is one of those things that belongs solely to me, in the quiet of my days surrounded by the hubbub of being mama to six.
For all that, it always surprises me where the muse ends up taking me. I told a friend recently that I felt like a new project was coming on, but couldn’t ‘see’ it yet. I’m still not quite sure what is bubbling to the surface. I had some ideas for new folk florals…but guess what I’ve been doing when I have a few minutes? Drawing portraits. In Procreate-digitally. And boy, does Procreate have a learning curve if you are used to working physically with traditional media! And yet, frustration has ebbed quickly and I’ve been enjoying the process each week. Who knew? Each week I’ve felt like my drawing skills have leveled up, and I’ve been so pleased to sit back from drawing and see more and more that what is in my head is coming out on the ‘paper’.
These three pieces are the last three weeks’ work, usually posted to Insta on Fridays. I need to have a better posting groove for the blog. I keep forgetting to tuck in here. What have you been curious about and exploring lately?
It’s only Wednesday, but it’s already been a WEEK. This quote has been on my mind lately. My husband and I celebrated nineteen years of marriage yesterday. Considering everything we’ve been through, that is quite a feat. Reminding myself to always choose love, to the end of everything.
These are two recent shares from the sketchbook on Insta. The gnomes are from almost a year ago, June 2020, and the house hidden in the trees is from June 2021. It’s very appropriate to put these two side by side in my mind. When I drew the gnome friends, I had very recently been diagnosed. A medicine they were trying me on made my hands shake so badly that I could barely hold the pen correctly, and my hand-eye coordination was frustratingly awful. (I can’t tell you how many things got broken in the early months- my ability to grip, to tell where my hand was, where the object was, and connect the two resulted in a very rough case of butter fingers. Thankfully most of my favorite coffee cups survived! The French press didn’t, though, alas, alack.) If you look closely, you can see that all of the straight and curved lines almost vibrate in tight squiggles. Getting these little guys out on the paper was an incredible fight, and there was a point that I just wanted to throw in the towel and stop, utterly despairing that they’d ever make their way from my head to crawl out on the page. But they made it. Ever since, when I pass these two as I flip through the sketch book, I just feel an incredible sense of accomplishment and hope. They are there, and I am here, and together we somehow figured out the new skills I needed to keep making art.
The house in the trees is a full year later. In somewhat similar fashion, it had been almost six months from my last foray in making art (the folktale pieces I shared here earlier). That week, I had been told that I was having an allergic reaction to one of my medications, and because it wasn’t clear which medication it was (as I had been on all of them for nearly ten months)- I’d have to come off every single one to see which one was causing the reaction. Now, my friends, the medications are what have slowly, slowly been returning me to a more functional state, and as I mentioned above, every addition to the medication regimen were hard fought adjustments. I am just getting to the point that I can conduct my days somewhat normally thanks to these meds. And now I will lose every single one until we figure it out. I remember sitting down to the page- angry, frustrated, feeling betrayed by my body yet again- and quite worried what would happen to me as all the medications made their way out of my system. Would I just crater? Or would I be able to function somewhat? I remember being quite angry that of course I would be hitting the time of year that I’d finally be able to paint and draw more, and of course everything would be flipping upside down again, and fiddlesticks! I just wanted to make art!
As if that wasn’t enough, I think every artist struggles with imposter syndrome and blank-page-itis, and it’s really bad when you’ve been away from the desk for awhile. Do I even know how to do this anymore? was ricocheting around my head. I remembered the gnome friends though, and the lesson they taught me. Just make a mark on the page. Any mark. The rest will come. And it did. Trees appeared, and grass, and then a little yellow cottage informed me it needed to be tucked in between. And there it was.
Now, are either of these my best work? Not particularly. Are they valuable work? Yes! Absolutely priceless. Hard earned lessons, both.
I don’t really like the pat cliché answers anymore, especially when it comes to disability or making art, and I really abhor the whole just try harder, pray harder and you’ll heal attitude, the fake it till you make it, pull yourself up by the bootstraps way of thinking. I really do. I can’t tell you how much hearing any of those attitudes just makes me want to spit nails. Don’t mistake what I’m saying next for this toxic way of looking at life.
Sometimes, sometimes, sometimes…
You just have to start. And start again, and start again. One mark and then two. One step, and then another. One drag of the paintbrush, and then another.
Even when the world is turning upside down, whether that’s your own inner private world or the world at large, spinning on its axis or tilting off of it, its okay to take a deep breath and trust the process. Just one step. And when you’re ready, one step more. Even if it literally feels like swimming through mud. You’ll be amazed at where you end up, and they might just smile up from the page at you and remind you to hope when you need it most.
I have become quite the lackadaisical blogger over the years. I apologize- I spend what little time I have chosen to spend online mostly over on Instagram, though, even there, I have begun to post less and less. I hear blogging is making a comeback, anyhow, though I do chuckle at this- I’d have had to have left blogging to come back to it. Feels strange to be designated so ‘old school’. But I digress.
If you have been following me on the socials at all you will know that I have rapidly stepped back from writing and sharing homeschooling tidbits- and have delved deeply into illustration. There are many reasons for this. I don’t even feel like saying much about it. I only speak of this because I know some have noticed (and asked why) only my art remains on my social media accounts. I archived the rest. I feel perfectly content in this.
I don’t deny that writing is a fundamental part of me- I’ve had people begging for me to write a book for years- but it just is NOT the season. I’m okay with that.
All that to say, a story appeared anyways and wove its way through the last few months, and I’ve been meaning to share it here. There was an illustration prompt for folktales on Instagram in November. I completed two in rapid succession, and then, by force of well, everything, I could only complete a prompt a month. It’s the only paintings or drawings of any kind I’ve accomplished for nearly six months, but I must say, I’m mighty pleased with the outcome. I didn’t realize I was telling the story of my marriage at first. But it happened- and I adored every minute. I can’t wait to hang these on our walls!
There were seven prompts: Birth, Ritual, Courtship, Solstice, Death, Harvest, and Dance. I combined the last two. Captions are copied from Insta.
This week has been all over the place, so I really didn’t play much this week. When I did, though, I’ve been interested in playing around with pattern ideas. I don’t think surface pattern design is anywhere in my future yet, but I like expanding my brain and my hand a completely different direction. I tell ya, if I was a the tattoo type, I’d legit have the pencil floral as a tattoo on my inside forearm. I haven’t finished up the sort of nordic pattern, either- just adding bits and pieces as I have a few minutes here and there.