Thursday, June 17, 2010

Tangled up in Hues

I wanted to see what the Zentangles® would look like using color, so I started "tangling" in an art journal where I had already created backgrounds. The journal is a recycled publisher's catalog -- one of those thin ones with very shiny, slick pages. I gessoed first, then added color with water soluble pastel crayons, blended using baby wipes. I used the shapes on the page as the "strings" or guidelines. It was great fun to do and I'm liking the look of the color in the background.

There still wasn't enough tooth to the surface, so I scanned the tangles and altered them digitally to bring out the shading and sharpen the lines.

Here's a completely different page, one where I kept some of the printing that was in the catalog:

This one was digitally altered, too. I'm still pretty rough at this, but am I ever having fun!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Tangled Up in Zen

The claim of the author of ZENTANGLE® BASICS (Suzanne McNeill, a certified Zentangle teacher) is that Zentangle "turns drawings into artistic design while reducing stress and improving focus." Traditional Zentangle was developed by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas and is used as a learning tool for school children, stress reduction for adults, and it helps develop dexterity. Cool!

I don't know about you, but I can use all the stress reduction and focus improvement I can wrap my frenzied brain (and hands and eyes) around. Not that my life is particularly stressful at the moment. It isn't. But I can create stress for myself out of . . . well . . . anything. And I've got to admit, I have a hard time focusing when the world outside my window is turning greener and greener and greener. Focus on the weeds, I mutter to myself as I'm trying to draft my daily poem. As in PULLING them. Yeah, right.

It's SUMMER in Minnesota! Hallelujah and pass the BBQ ribs. Grilled steak. Corn on the cob. Not to mention the Weed&Feed fertilizer stuff for the yard. And all the gardening equipment. Curse the fact that I was too unfocused to start plants from seed and dropped all that cash at local nurseries . . . yeah, they probably need the $$ given the economy but so do we so maybe next year I'll . . . Ahhhh.

We've already had three sets of spring/summer visitors. Our friends Rose & Rick were here from Illinois, our daughter, Jennifer, popped up from Chicago for a long weekend of art-making and talk (wonderful), and most recently, my friend, Marilyn, made a pilgrimage by train from L.A. It was Marilyn who got me thinking about doing Zentangles (or as they say in the jargon I read: "tangling" -- I love that). As usual, I assumed my interest in it was for HER. You'd love this! I said, sincerely believing myself. Well, actually, I think she would. But it wasn't until after she'd headed back home that I realized the designs looked a lot like doodling I used to do when I was in boring classes in high school and college, and even more like doodling I did later in boring meetings at boring jobs, doodling that I've lost since I don't sit in classes and meetings any more and if I do, I make danged sure they aren't boring ones! So I ordered the book. Okay, okay, I ordered both of McNeill's books (ZENTANGLE BASICS and ZENTANGLE 2). Yeah, all right, I also ordered TOTALLY TANGLED by Sandy Steen Bartholomew. (I am single-handedly trying to right the economy.)

Long story even longer: I am hooked. Took me back a bunch of years. Brought me forward. Yup, it's relaxing. And it's so much fun to do. It's kind of addictive but in a good way. After I did a bunch of the patterns in little squares like they tell you to do, I started venturing out. I filled in a sketch I'd done for one of my "Woman at a Crossroads" mixed media pieces (that's the one above). And, inspired by the cover of Sandy's book, I tangled one of the girls I frequently draw. Here she is.

I'm fairly smitten with her now that she's all patterned up, where before I had been known to wonder out loud as I doodle, Why do I keep drawing these faces???

If you were wondering, no, tangling is NOT the reason I'm not working on a writing project. Tangling is what's keeping me from chewing my nails to the quick as my completed YA novel makes the rounds looking for an editorial home. On that basis alone, I recommend it.

Now, if it were winter (or even fall or early spring), I'd be working on novel # 2 or novel # 3. But did I mention? It's summer in Minnesota, I finished a novel (hallelujah and pass the black-eyed peas) and my agent's doing her magic with it, we counted 26 goslings sailing across the pond with their adoring parents (geese can be annoying, but they are the BEST parents), the red-winged blackbirds must have babies in the reeds because they keep attacking the egrets as they come to fish in the shallows, the weeds in our gardens are waving at me, the deck needs painting, and next month more welcome visitors are coming!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Woman At a Crossroads

Aren't we always? At a crossroads, on a journey, in the flow, at a threshold . . . and hopefully fully present in the right now. Something to aim for anyway. I think I'm "most present" when I'm doing artwork. There's something about standing at the table, letting the materials I'm using drive the decisions about what to do next that makes me feel very grounded and HERE.

Writing is different for me. What I love most about it is the way the characters and the story take over. I sit down to write for an hour and the next thing I know, three hours have passed and I haven't stretched or done my floor exercises, not to mention how I completely forgot about the laundry or the weeding that needed to be done TODAY. You know the feeling -- where time does that weird stretch and contract thing.

Time alters when I'm doing artwork, too. But it's a different experience. Like flying with your feet firmly planted on the ground (or in my case, the concrete floor covered with a too-thin for comfort carpet and -- by my paint table -- two "cow mats" -- yup, what cows stand on in the barn to be milked). Purchased at your local (if you have one) farm supply store, cow mats are about 1/10 of the cost of gel mats and you don't have to worry about spilling paint on them. They're so ugly they benefit from spilled paint. But they WORK.

Am I at a crossroads? I'm not at one of those huge, life-changing ones like friends who are moving or retiring or changing jobs. But still . . . I recently completed one of the young adult novels I've been working on ever since my first book (ESCAPING TORNADO SEASON, HarperCollins) came out. I sent it off to my fabulous agent and now it is out there "looking for love." I have two other YA novels and an adult murder mystery in process but I needed a break after finishing my Jumble story. That's when I'm so glad I have the artwork. Right now it's a series of mixed media collages called "Woman at a crossroads" -- they are on stretched canvas (using vintage maps, acrylic paint, graphite pencil, marker, wire, beads, ribbon, fabric, decorative paper, hand made paper). The one above (20X24") was a birthday gift to my friend of so many years I hesitate to put the number down. Let's just say, since we were 13! On the collage posted below (20X20"), the woman is attached so that she can be turned to face any direction on the compass. I have two others partly completed, not quite ready to be posted.

Of course, daily writing practice goes on regardless. To kick things up a notch, I decided to try drafting a poem a day at the end of my morning journaling. Inspiration: all the people who were doing that to celebrate Poetry Month. I'm a little slow on the uptake, so it took me until April 20th to get going! I'm happy to report that I have 37 drafts waiting to be worked on (yes, some days I wrote more than one). Seeing through the eyes of a poem is a great way to start the day, so my hope is to keep this as a part of my morning routine as long as I can.

Do any of you flip-flop back and forth between writing and visual artwork like I do? I'd love to hear from you about how that works for you and what challenges arise from doing both!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Friday, February 12, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

I've never gotten over my love of valentines, especially ones hand-made with paper hearts and lace. Or how about the decorated shoe boxes made in grade school and left on the corner of our desks, waiting to receive all the cards meant just for us?

In the spirit of those long-ago valentines, here's one of my recent assemblages. It is titled, "Young at Art" and created on 12X12" stretched canvas, using acrylics, paper mesh, vintage crocheted lace, digitally altered vintage photo, wire, beads, branches.

Let this be my valentine to you -- may you always be young at heart and young at art.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Time Travel in the New Year

Happy New Year!

This morning when I wrote down the date in my journal -- my goodness, January 16th! -- I felt as if I'd time-travelled. The move from New Year's Day to the middle of the longest month of winter happened in the blink of an eye. (Hey, not a bad way to move through January in Minnesota.)

One of my favorite books ever is Madeleine L'Engle's Newbery Award winning, A WRINKLE IN TIME. I wish I'd read it when I was a kid (but of course it hadn't been written yet). Still, reading it in my late thirties was magical. How I wanted to be able to climb into that "wrinkle" and travel through time and space with Meg. And I loved Meg because she was so flawed (just like me), yet so lovable (just like . . . me?). I read the book over and over for a few years and then let it gather dust on the shelf. Recently I picked it up as I was clearing books for donation and sat down with it, and there was the magic all over again. A book written in the 1960s that was still so fresh and real and compelling in the 21st century that it could turn my 60-something self into a young teen again. If that isn't time travel what is?

I don't generally make New Year's resolutions, but this year I decided that my routine needed a little shaking up. The one piece of it that works for me (and has worked for me for many years) is my journal writing first thing every morning. So I asked myself -- couldn't I extend that writing time by clearing my morning slate of appointments, you know -- just in case? I'm happy to report that this is working and I am now making excellent progress on two of my young adult novels. Some mornings I go to the art table instead. Some mornings I end up doing both. But all mornings I'm doing something creative and those pesky appointments and tasks and errands can just wait until after lunch!

That's not time travel, but it does shift time in a way that puts my real work first. When I manage to do that, sometimes the whole day becomes one big creative project.