Today is one of those rainy, overcast Chicago Saturdays – the kind that makes the pavement wetly audible and keeps you inside with tea, a top bun, and time for quiet reading. It’s the kind of low-lit, indoor day where I’d rather listen to Petula Clark’s “Downtown” and dream about the city than go there myself.
Anyhow, just a doodle and a song to share today. Wishing you many good times with many good books!
The word ‘pastime’ is no coincidence. I’ve been reflecting, recently, on how creative activities seem to devour the time, sometimes voraciously. I am hoping to rein in the times where I’ve crafted myself into several hours-long states of self-forgetfulness; these zones of suspension are creatively desirable, and are calming in their own way, but (alas) lives aren’t entirely made on trance states. In and around the making, there are bills to pay, dogs to walk, taxes to be done, dishes to clear.
Here is a little doodle of that moment of coming up and out of a knitting session. It’s been a few hours, and someone has just reminded me – oblivious – of the time.
In the real world, the glasses will have slipped much farther down my nose, granny-style. As crafters out there know all too well, maker-time tends to escape the dictates of clock-time. That well-intentioned injunction to work for only “15 more minutes” goes unheeded as the knitting grows and grows and takes on a momentum all of its own (if only I could harness this energy when it’s time for the laundry).
What is your view? Do you regulate or schedule your inner crafter, set times when making is “off-limits” or, on the other hand, allow it days where it has free rein? How do you find the balance between clock-time and maker-time?
My posts have been more doodles and drawings as of late – something about Spring’s arrival has back-burnered the warm woolies and stirred up some hibernating drawing energies. I hope to have more knitting news in the next little bit…like a few new FOs!
I have reflected elsewhere on this blog (exactly when already escapes me!) on my sense that knitting is a medium of love. Like other creative activities, knitting renders tangible those important intangibles. Knit objects have, for me, become quite powerful material tokens of care, community, love, comfort, the pure glee of being alive (and the desire to share and communicate a little bit of that glee).
On that note, I recently drew this hypothetical picture of Andrew and I. It’s quite anatomically correct: witness Andrew’s curvy programmer’s back and my forward-leaning neck from the hours spent crafting, reading, and writing (I really must fix that neck). While he is not a knitter (!), I like to think that we’re two creative partners in crime.
I hope your week is going well and is feeling springlike and full of new energies. 🙂
Nothing too big to report on my end this day, except that I had a hankering to make some little paper sheep – a combo of watercolour paper and Black Magic india ink (I love that stuff). Since teensy sheep call for teensy scissors, I was aided by a quite portable pair of Swiss Army scissors. The little ones that, very much like these sheep, you can put in your pocket.
I’m not yet sure what to do with these sheep or where they’ll find their home; for the time being, I’m letting them explore their new environment on their quite wonky paper feet.
I hope you enjoyed a very Happy Christmas. Bitten hard by the making-bug earlier this month, I decided to try my hand at designing my own holiday greeting cards using the Knitting Panda art work I posted just a few days ago.
Have you ever wanted to draw or design your very own greeting to share with friends and family? If you’re interested, here was my process – a DIY drawing tale in 4 steps, for the curious:
1. Collect and Design. The fun part of this stage is playing around and ‘collecting’ inspiration – ideas, images, and so on, for drawing. I tried to think of the pictures, colours, and themes that might tickle my imagination.
Bears have always been one of my favourite things to draw. I can’t explain why but from the time I took pencil to paper, human-like bears populated my pictures. I grew up in the era of the Berenstein Bears, Care Bears, Paddington, and gummi bears, so this bear-love is probably a product of the 80s.
As you may have also read in past posts, I like to think that the essence of my recent knitting practice lies in expressing care and generosity – towards myself and others – in ordinary ways. Knitting, for me, is a modality of loving; in its form, it can convey the idea that the fabric of life is stitched and held together by the acts of love and generosity we share.
So…. a knitting bear it was. However, I still needed some concrete pictures to make the leap from idea to image. A Google search of “bear knitting” unfortunately gave no direct results. But, when I found the photo below in a 2011 Daily Mail article on how pandas digest bamboo, I knew I had found the reference image I was looking for. To my eyes, this ambidextrous panda was clearly a knitter (and a happy one, at that):
2. Draw. If you’re a drawing amateur, like me, this step is likely to be riven through with all kinds of worries about whether the drawing ‘looks good’ (maybe along with internalized standards about whether it looks ‘real’ or not). When this hits me, I like to think of why children draw, the way they draw, and how I drew as a child: often and copiously, mostly un-selfconsciously, in order to share and tell stories, and out of the simple pleasure of moving messes of lines and colours around. I suspect that the desire to recapture this pleasure is behind the recent interest in adult colouring books (which I haven’t tried yet). When I was 6, my parents also gave me those smelly Mr. Sketch markers. Remember those? These added ‘smell’ to the already long list of reasons to draw.
So, I tried to back-burner my preoccupation with the end product, drew (copying the reference image, but adapting it a little), water-coloured, and inked. It was fun to see Knitting Panda take shape. I’m glad s/he got drawn.
The gist of step 2 is appreciating that your way of drawing and seeing are unique and cannot be produced by anyone else – “that might be a good thing”, you jest, but it can also be an adventure to discover and develop your style and way of seeing things through the materials, colours and subjects that feel right.
3. Copy. I had to outsource this step of the DIY. I scanned my water-colour image, and sent it to the local business-supply store/copier’s. Surprisingly, my batch of greeting cards (single-sided 5 X 7″ matte prints) were ready to take home that very day at little over 50 ¢ per card. The copies aren’t perfect (the colour is less saturated than the original), but they did their job of spreading holiday cheer. There are many copying alternatives; I went with the simplest and most affordable (short of printing them at home).
4. Share. Off the little pandas went, into the mail slots and taped to presents, (bear)ing their glad tidings. If this panda brings a smile or two, then I’m happy.
There’s nothing like the glee of seeing your design go from daydream, to doodle, to hot-off-the-press copies. I’m excited to try this again for the next occasion.
This was drawn on the occasion of my good friend Daniela’s birthday last year. Daniela has an excellent and quite marvelous French writing blog at http://dumitrasauca.wordpress.com/
where you can read her beautiful poetry and short fiction. She is an extremely talented and up-and-coming young writer! Happy Friday, folks.
When I draw foliage and other leafy things, I’m forced to attend not only to the positive light space, but to the dark shadow-parts in between. My eye endlessly enjoys all of the little intermingling darks and lights which the technical pen can make.
Goodbye is often another way of saying “Thank You.”
I finished my year of anthropological fieldwork in Switzerland 2 weeks ago. The weeks leading up to my departure on November 14th were a flurry of farewells and goodbyes, often in the form of cakes, pies, and last suppers. In some cases, I was counting down the minutes as I ran to the homes of friends just to see them one last time and, more importantly, thank them for opening their houses and hearts to a meek anthropologist. I’m learning that farewell-time is one in which an often latent world of social ties suddenly comes out of the woodwork, like a sudden sprouting—all of the not-always-evident relationships and even the loosely held links (in addition to the long-standing friendships) suddenly revive and become visible again.
The farewell compels this flowering; it’s a reminder of temporariness, and is a period of recognition and acknowledgment. I left my field wishing I could carry all of the lovely people and their sweetness back home with me, but I overlooked that “home” had now stretched its boundaries. It only took a year (!), and I can only hope and resolve that the things I learned and gleaned will somehow carry over and translate into a new life.
In spite of the goodbye flurry–or because of it–I was able to get some drawing in (less blogging). Here are 3 of the handmade thank yous I made for friends and family. The time spent drawing into the wee hours of the morning helped me to make the imminent goodbyes more than just an ache in the chest.
Heart in paper. A first stab (or snip) at Scherenschnitte, the intricate Swiss
art of paper-cutting (with which I fell deeply in love).
More on this in a later post.
Merci, watercolour butterfly.
I'm finally learning to love technical pens.
This is a card in Farsi with a bolbol (nightingale).
Kheili mamnoon: Thank you very much.
I was on the phone with my father the other day, and we were talking about old movies and TV shows from his childhood. Laughingly, he told me to watch the film “Flower Drum Song,” where I discovered the strident Nancy Kwan. This is her portrait, drawn from a Chinese movie poster for “The World of Suzie Wong” (which I haven’t yet seen, but which strikes me as an earlier version of Pretty Woman set in Hong Kong).
After staying up late one night to read a biography of Dürer, feasting my eyes upon his dazzlingly detailed etchings, I was inspired to try my hand at using lines and cross-hatching for shadows instead of my usual heaps of diluted black ink. I discovered that working this way to get gradations, you quickly enter a mental thicket. The lines become a forest that gets denser and denser the farther you go into it. This is an alluring place that is easier to enter than to exit. Get what I’m saying?
This drawing combines technical pens, gouache, watercolour, india ink, and a little elbow grease.
I drew this bird a while ago. Missing out on sunlight in the thick of Swiss autumn, I had it in mind to make an image for myself that I could hang on my wall and look at to be reminded of sunnier, happier climes.
The end product ended up looking awkward and spooky. This toucan appears to know something that the rest of us don’t. He is Sam’s darker and less-loved sibling.
How very appropriate for Halloween! So, instead of vultures, owls, crows, and ravens, I propose my vaguely sinister Halloween toucan.
More ink practice with darks and lights. Shadowing in comics is, I’m finding, one of the most challenging things to do. There’s a level of committing to the ink that takes a lot of trust. You can tell when a line has been demurely laid down, or not.
I have a feeling I should start studying Ingmar Bergman film-stills…
I wonder if, in all of their ambitious hurry to colonize and reproduce, bacteria ever feel the need to find love. Does their unicellular existence make them immune to infatuation? Do the logics of binary fission keep them from longing? (Would they, in effect, be falling in love with endless versions of themselves?) And if people could reproduce by splitting in two, would we still need each other?
While they don’t rely on each other to multiply, I like to imagine that the precarity of bacterial existence makes some sense of connectedness one of the few sources of pleasure in an otherwise uncertain and short life. Maybe it begins with a furtive glance from across the colony… followed by cellular fireworks.
I write this on the verge of some growing tummy trouble. I’m counting on my immune system to take care of the thing, but in the meantime, I like the image of a micro-drama unfolding—bacteria mingling and rushing to meet their special someones in the little time they have left.