Somewhere I read that drawing mandalas is particularly meditative and centering, calming and even spiritual. I don't know about you, but I could use a little more of those things in my life. All doodling, of course, can be meditative because your attention is focused but not entirely spent. When I am doodling, my focus is on the process itself, but because I have no investment in the outcome--I doodle for the pure joy of it--my mind is free to wander or not. I am alert and alive in the moment. The outcome of such a state of mind is a natural explosion of creative thought.
I love the repetitive nature of drawing mandalas. And I love that I'm being creative without working too hard, which makes them perfect for taking advantage of down time, especially when you find yourself stressed or anxious. One design element naturally suggests the next, and you'll find the most difficult decision you'll have to make will be whether to color your mandala or keep it black and white. (I admit, this can be a little difficult for me--to color or not. I used to agonize about it until I realized I can scan my black and white drawings into the computer to use again later. Now I can have black & white and color!) Simply start with a center circle and work your design around the circle. Keep drawing around in gradually larger concentric circles; think of the growth rings of a tree trunk. Keep your designs simple: leaf, flower, triangle, square and circle shapes are perfect. Remember that it is the process of drawing that is important, not whether your mandala is perfectly symmetrical or Pinterest-worthy. If you look closely, you can see lots of imperfections in my drawings, and I'm totally cool with that.
Will you give drawing mandalas a try? What are your favorite doodling elements? I'd love to see what you come up with so come back and share!
I have so much to tell you, so much to show you! Except for this week sinceI've been sick, I've actually been doing a pretty good job getting my butt in the studio each day. Of course, it's never for as long as I'd like, but an hour here, a half an hour there does add up in time if you are consistent with it. Mostly, I've been journaling. More blind contour and other drawings. Flowers are my favorites.
I've also been doing a little sewing. I threw together a little patchwork cushion for my wooden desk chair. Just realized I don't have a picture for you, though. But I do have a few sweet shots from around the studio. Having pretty things around me inspires and motivates me to work.
Typically, I have little notes to myself everywhere. These napkin notes are from a dinner with the kids at the pizza place down the street. We like to people watch and one evening imagined the names and lives of the people nearby. I'm hanging onto these to have the kids write stories for some of the "characters" we discovered.
Another note to self: Love is the thing. You will never regret erring on the side of love. Hope you are all having a love-ly week! What's been keeping you busy lately?
So far this summer, I've had a little free time for either art or blogging, but not both. I've chosen art. Which just means we have a lot of catching up to do! When I'm having trouble finding real time to spend in the studio daily, it helps tremendously to have my sketchbook with me wherever I find myself. You'd be surprised how much you can accomplish in a few minutes here and there. I'm still working on my drawing skills, but thankfully blind contour drawings are perfect for waiting in line or hanging out with friends.
A most unfortunate drawing of my daughter. She's way cuter than this. Really.
We've had such a crazy few weeks! Our septic tank backed up into the cellar flooding everything including all my old photographs, my husband and I celebrated our 19th anniversary, we enjoyed a week with family from out of town, we transformed our back yard into an amazing party venue, and hosted a wedding at our home for dear friends including two wedding parties, and all of this on top of school (we homeschool through the summer), my husband pastoring our church and still working full time as an RN! And did I mention the dog killed one of our chickens on the morning of the wedding? (He even left the head--gulp!--on the back doorstep. He was so proud!)
Sigh. I truly think I could hibernate until fall. But who has time for that? I'll just stick to my drawing and call myself incredibly blessed.
It's time for a new visual journal! I only have 5 or so pages left in my current visual journal, so it is time for making a brand spanking new one. This is my favorite part: collecting and sorting all of the papers and ephemera to be bound together. My last journal was a monster of a book and has ended up lasting me 3 years. From the beginning, I was committed to completely filling it, but three years is waaaaayyy too long to be working in the same book. Too much baggage to carry around. So, as much as I love a thick, meaty journal, this one will be much thinner and easier to finish. Not much feels better than holding that overflowing book in your little hands knowing every single page is covered with words and images from your own mind and imagination. So rewarding, especially for those of us who sometimes have trouble actually finishing a project. It is a major accomplishment. But this next time around, I plan on making it a little easier on myself.
My poor, demented bunny was supposed to look like this adorable one. But, he's kind of endearing in his own way. In an attempt to improve my drawing skills, I've been experimenting with blind contour drawings. They are tons of fun and are supposed to train you to see with your eyes instead of your brain. (My brain thinks it doesn't know how to draw a bunny, but my eye says, what bunny? You just draw this line, then a curve, then a circle here, and pretty soon you have a bunny!) The best part is that it frees me from the self-imposed obligation to draw perfectly. A blind contour drawing isn't supposed to look exactly like anything. And often something pretty crazy turns up so you get to laugh at yourself, too. Being able to laugh at yourself is a necessary ingredient for art and for life in general.
Blindly is the only way I'd even attempt to draw a person at this stage. Poor Craig and Eddie. They are actually really good looking guys. You might be surprised to learn that both of Craig's eyes are actually on his face IRL. And those are dreadlocks, not worms coming out of his head. But, hey! I'm learning here.
Strictly speaking, these are more like semi-blind contour drawings. In a regular blind contour, you never take your eyes off of your subject or lift your pen from the paper. Here, I've done a section at a time then stopped to evaluate how far off the mark I've come. I restart with my pen where it should be, but once that pen starts moving, all I see is my subject, and it is harder to make your hand to draw a 4 inch line curving down to the left midway toward 5 o'clock than you'd think.
This one, I am most proud of. I had to say a little prayer before attempting to draw Giraffey, my daughter's most honored and beloved stuffie that has been with her since her first Christmas. I could just imagine the nightmares Maisey would have after seeing my bad drawing of a demented giraffe, but she turned out lovely! Except for the extra circle on her head which will eventually become a crown of flowers. Oh, and the blue dots that bled through another drawing onto her head. But, her lovable giraffey-ness has been preserved though, I think. Thank God.
Before you criticize me for storing baguettes in dirty water, those are paint brushes, thankyouverymuch.
If you think you could do better (I agree, I'm sure you could!!), why not take a stab at it and send me a pic or a link to your blind contour experiment. I'd love to share it here with my next round of drawings! Seriously, try it! If art is good therapy, blind contour drawing is the yummy orange syrupy cold medicine you used to fake a cough to get your mom to give to you. Or was that just me?
In an effort to get back to creating something every day, I've started keeping a pattern journal. I love patterns. Floral, geometric, black & white, simple, intricate--they all intrigue me. My thinking was simply to reproduce a pattern (rather than creating my own) in marker and pen each day and hopefully learn a little something about color and shape in the process.
Working on patterns has been "my time". Time for me to shut everything (and everyone) out for a little while and just focus on creating in a way that is easy and fun. And leaves me eager to come back tomorrow for the next round. On days when I have a little more time, I chose a pattern to reproduce that is more detailed. On days when I am pressed for time, I chose a simpler one. I don't worry about reproducing the pattern perfectly. I don't use rulers or covet straight lines. I've been surprised at how much I enjoy the process. And right now for me, that's the point.
Things I've learned so far:
~Copying a pattern, even a small one (my journal is only about 4x6 in.), takes more time than I thought. The simplest patterns take me about an hour. But I am not hurrying and I allow myself to thoroughly enjoy the process regardless of how long it takes.
~Because the patterns take a little longer than I initially thought to reproduce, I try to do a pattern every couple of days instead of every single day as I originally intended. But if I can eventually commit to a pattern a day, it seems the best way to get the most out of the process.
~Although I love the simplicity of working with markers, the limited color palette is always disappointing. But it does require me to think about color combinations more deeply. How to simplify a palette, how colors work together, etc.
~Quilt patterns are my favorite and my best.
~I cannot draw a straight line to save my life.
If you'd like to try your very own pattern journal, start with a small blank notebook (I used one I already had on hand). Begin collecting patterns from books, magazines or online to copy. Remember patterns are found everywhere--literally! Visual patterns simply repeat certain design elements, whether flowers or triangles, and can be regular or chaotic, symmetrical or mathematic. Consider patterns in clothing and other textiles, advertisements, architecture, nature, and art. Check out my Patterns Pinterest board and soon you will have way more than you need to fill an entire book. Better yet, you may begin to "see" patterns everywhere you look.
The advantage of a simple project like this, besides cultivating daily art practice, is that it challenges you to "see" what's around you and what you are drawing more actively. Plus, you can begin to notice what aspects of certain types of patterns or color combinations you are naturally drawn to for use in your own artwork. Your pattern journal will be a repository of ideas for backgrounds, detailing and other mark making for future projects. Best of all, it is just another place to explore and enjoy the process of art making without the fear or intimidation that often comes with creating an original work of art.
Does this sound like something you'd like to try? Please share! I'd love to see what patterns you come up with.
Some journal pages, either finished or nearly so.
I went through a brief period wanting to draw my surroundings. Until I got bored with my surroundings. Then I attempted drawing flowers from the seed catalog that had just come in the mail. I quickly got bored with that too.
A beautiful envelope and gift from a dear friend. The advantage of having such a huge journal is that it can hold everything. This one is, quite literally, bursting at the seams. I may have to rebind the whole thing once it's done. (Yeah, like that's going to happen.)
Have you noticed that when listening to Pandora, you can read lots of cool information about your music, including song lyrics, the most perfectly written bios, and--my favorite--"features of this track"? I get all kinds of giddy just wondering just what exactly "repetitive melodic phrasing," "acoustic sonority," or "extensive vamping" actually mean. If I knew, it wouldn't be half as exciting. I'm content just to roll the words around on my tongue.
I used to think facing a blank canvas was hard. But you know what is really hard, as in suffocating every creative or original thought that you might possibly have? A blank blog post. Especially when your blog has already been languishing away with barely a once-a-month post for the past year or more, the blank screen can be paralyzing. And it's not like I haven't tried. I've written and rewritten this post in my head a hundred times but never made it to the computer. Some of the problem is just not having the time I'm used to to blog and search the internet for new inspiration. But mostly, it is just facing that Blank Screen, getting back into the swing of writing, creating, and sharing. I want to do it. I need to do it. I'm not ready to let go of my blogging past. I do occasionally have ideas worth sharing, but it takes a lot more motivation than I seem to have had lately.
So I've been waiting around for the perfect get-back-to-blogging idea to pop into my brain. A segway from the spotty blog post past to the happy blogging-is-second-nature-to-me-now future I envision. Then it occurred to me, I tell myself and everyone else not to be intimidated by the blank canvas. Not to worry about the outcome, but to just jump into it and trust the process. Get some color on the page and just have fun. And it's darned good advice. So I decided (for lack of a better idea) to apply that to blogging. I'm just going to jump back into it and try to have fun with it again! Don't judge me too harshly if you notice my eyes are closed.
So, here are some journal pages I've worked on since I last shared in, oh, October 2012 or so. Most are as complete as they ever will be. Some may have a few things added here and there eventually. Did anyone else get hooked on that show Lie to Me? Not the best show on earth, but I loved it. Especially learning tricks to discerning when someone's lying or not. An awesome skill to have. Must research microexpressions when I have a chance.
Whew! Am I ever glad that's over with! They say taking that first step is half the work. Honestly, it felt like the 3 hours I just spent editing photos was at least 2/3 of the work--but whatever! With that weight lifted, I feel like nothing can stop me now! Right after I take a nap. I'm exhausted.