You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘art’ category.

Zentangle-style side

I needed to take a break from knitting, which I’ve been doing so incessantly that it’s causing a repetitive-motion injury,* so I brought these out to work on yesterday for our weekly Craft-and-Check-In time. It’s about time I finished them so I can wear them. Not that I go out an awful lot nowadays, but if hand-decorated maroon high-tops can’t inspire me to get out of the house, what could? I’ll feel like the Doctor. Maybe I’ll put a little Gallifreyan on the tongues as tribute. It’s another beautiful art form. I bet my daughter would be happy to write an appropriate sentiment for me, such as “Can we not do the running thing?” (Update: she has agreed!)

As it is, it has turned out that I’m doing Zentangle kinds of patterns on the inside surface and alebrijes kinds of patterns on the outside surface, privileging Oaxaca by giving it more visibility.

Alebrijes-style side

Day 15 of #100days of making art.

*Also, I’m waiting on a yarn delivery.

I’ve been working on this piece for a few days, since it is small (13×17 cm) but at 10-20 minutes a day, this is what I can do. The final version is in ink marker.

I rather like it just in pencil (below) but I didn’t think the pencil on kraft paper had enough contrast. Funny how the color is completely gone from the photo I took of the pencil version.

My friend J. gave me the beautiful little sketchbook I’m currently using, so I often think of her as I draw in it, and that was the case all during this drawing, which I began on her birthday.

I’ve been doing these off and on for a couple of years, knowing that the spaces at the intersections were important, but not examining why. (“Why” can take me rapidly into left-brained thinking, and part of art for me is getting out of it.) So I think I will explore the why not by thinking, but by drawing. On the next one of these nets, the lines will go right through the intersections, and I’ll see what difference that makes.

Day 6 of #100days of making art

I’ve done numerous variations on these nets, but never with a rupture in the middle. I’ll continue, and probably finish, it tomorrow.

I was flipping through my last bullet journal and saw my hundred-day tracker. “Did I really do art every day for 100 days straight?” I marveled. Pretty much, yep.

Since these mind games seem to be the most effective way to get myself to do the things I really want to do, I’m doing it again. Art every day, if only for ten minutes. Preferably as the first thing I do, during or immediately after breakfast. I hunted around for an interesting shape, and lit on the shadows on this grocery bag.

And it was a very good way to start the day.

The last week of the drawing class we took from Katie Gilmartin was devoted to portraits. First, another profile (my previous one, of Indigo, is a couple of posts back). I’ve drawn a lot of self-portraits over the years in a high school for the arts and then as an art major, but I’ve never drawn a profile, so I took a lot of pictures of myself in profile and drew this.

Like Katie, I find that I begin to fall in love with whatever I draw. Not the person, but the way they look. Drawing myself was healing that way. I snapped the photo, sighed at the incontrovertible evidence that I have a saggier neck than I might prefer, and then set to drawing, and soon that sag was less a violation of societal standards of beauty, and more a lovely curve with delicate shadows that I just had to capture in graphite.

Then, our assignment for the last week was a standard self-portrait.

I got to something like “finished” an hour before class and just could not bear to erase and re-draw my left (picture’s right) eye, even though it is too close in. But I may yet redraw it, and the nose, which is nicely done but a little narrower than in reality. Or just make another drawing.

We are doing portraits now in the drawing class we’re taking. I have drawn a lot of portraits in my life, but this is probably the best.

I’m resisting my self-protective habit of listing what doesn’t work well,and taking Katie’s advice to list what does: the ear, the eye, the shape of the shadows that define the cheek. And it looks like her.

I retrieved this collage from the pieces-in-progress box, where I had filed it just the other day in the course of going through some piles in our home office. (The Onion, as usual, is sardonically accurate; after two weeks of the coronavirus shutdown, our house task list is noticeably whittled down.) I began it, a few years ago, with some playful, purposeless clipping of an old Thomas guide, which I had bought when I moved here in 2003 and which was rendered redundant within a few years, when I got my first smartphone. Redundant for navigation, but a gem in the collage-materials collection.

As soon as I started playing, the similarities between map features like freeways and anatomical drawings of veins and arteries appeared. Also, I kept noticing places that had a strong emotional tug: hospitals where many of our congregation members have been patients, a cemetery where some have been interred, and, snaking their way down page upon page of the book of maps, the railroad tracks where two have died. And just like that, it became a portrait: of a place, of tender moments from a shared history, and of relationships.

It’s complicated. Many of the moments have been sad, even heartbreaking ones. There’s a tremor of trauma running through this landscape. But joy runs through it too, and sometimes in the same places. Finishing this collage helped me integrate them.

Any ideas for a title about the body, loss, place, lives and deaths, finding one’s way . . . ?

When Diane Savona said that she would make me a stole on commission for the 20th anniversary of my ordination, she asked, “What sort of images mean the most to you?”

Wow. Where do I start? Even more difficult, where do I stop? I started scribbling in my notebook, which is my way of breaking through Questions Too Big To Answer, and came up with this list:

Burning bush: this became an important image for me in the process of writing a sermon to be delivered to colleagues on one of the great challenges of this work: How to stay present to people at the most painful, intense moments of their lives, and not just shrivel up and float away on the breeze. The best I have come up with, then or since, is that there is something deeply invigorating about entering fully into such moments: that (as I said then) it is in the places of pain and risk that we find the strength and solace to withstand the brokenness of the world, and even be transformed for the better by it. And the burning bush is of course an image from my cradle religion, and was even, it occurs to me now, the logo of Conservative Judaism as I was growing up (or was it the Jewish Theological Seminary, the movement’s rabbinical school?), with the accompanying phrase in Hebrew and English: ” . . . and the bush was not consumed.”

Spirals: these are, essentially, my personal yin/yang, a reminder of balance, because of the way they combine two kinds of motion: forward motion (in the way they move outward, or in the case of a helix like in DNA, onward), and cyclical/repetitive motion (in the way they circle around). In a spiral, one comes around again and again to the same place, but not quite the same place. Which is how life is, I think. I try to communicate this kind of balance to the folks in my congregation: stillness and progress, tradition and change, being and becoming.

Decay/erosion: for several years now, as followers of this blog know, I’ve been drawing and photographing decay. Layers of walls in Oaxaca exposing hundreds, or even millions, of years of change; the patterns left by insects burrowing in wood; wrinkles on faces; etc. I find erosion very beautiful for the way it reveals time and history, and there’s a tension between that beauty and the way our culture (over)values youth and novelty. A big part of my ministry is helping people perceive the beauty in the ordinary or despised.

20200302_1302092977917199306574100.jpg

Sun, stone, seed (monoprint, 2018). The lack of centering comes from having to snap the photo of it while it’s attached to the stairway wall. 😉

Seeds/stones: I’m moved and intrigued by how closely many seeds resemble stones. There is so little difference between them, and all the difference in the world. And then there is the way seeds have to split open, essentially die in one form, in order to become more than a stone and actually grow. Whereas stones are just . . . nonliving. (No shade on stones. They’re pretty cool in their own right; note the title of my blog.) I don’t quite know what is so meaningful to me about this image of the seed in the act of sprouting, but it keeps popping up in my own work, as much as I cringe and worry that it is a cliché. There is something there about the way life and death are intertwined that keeps troubling and inspiring me, especially as I get older and try to come to terms with the reality that I am going to die. Also, an early and dear memory of mine is planting the family garden with my dad, and I always got to plant the beans, which are satisfyingly fast and visible in their process; you can often see the remnants of the seed still stuck to the first shoot as it emerges from the crack in the ground.

That’s what I told Diane, and after a bit of further dialogue between us, and many, many iterations that she worked through and recounted to some extent on her blog, she has now finished the design phase. She added so much. Mexico is in there now, and my wife and daughter, and the subtle suggestion of a rainbow, and the subtler suggestion of bees, and a water lily leaf (a.k.a. lotus–despite the fact that I never even got around to saying what was important to me about Buddhism), and roots finding their way through brick- and stonework to the sources of life. I’m so excited to see how it will be further transformed by her stitching.

 

As I was tracing, my brilliant daughter asked me why I didn’t just print out the photo.

!?

Because then I could just sandwich carbon paper between the printed version and the linoleum in order to transfer it. No need to trace it and turn it over, as I’d planned.

?!

As long as I didn’t mind the image being reversed, my brilliant wife added.

!!

The printout is fine, and I don’t mind the image being reversed. I am set to show up tomorrow and transfer it to the lino. The tracing was fun and not difficult, but yeesh. It’s a good thing I have people around to point out the obvious.

The linocut class we signed up for as a family months ago is now one day away, and we’re all finishing up our drawings. Remember how my plan was a triptych showing three stages of seedpod decay? Well, I decided against seedpods for a few reasons. I couldn’t find the fresh seedpods; I didn’t document the decay as it happened; and frankly, I don’t find them much more visually interesting now than I did when they were closer to fresh. So I decided to print leaves: one freshly fallen, one more desiccated, and then one worn down to almost a skeleton.

20200221_233545 (2)
bw rotated

I collected and drew the leaves earlier this week, but when I did sketches of
the skeletal leaf, I realized that a print of it alone would take me the five hours of the workshop–at least. And it conveys the point without the earlier stages. So I am now working on tracing the version on the left from my computer screen onto tracing paper. (I’m holding the stem with a fishbone tweezer to keep my hand out of the shot.) I’m probably going to render it in black and white, no grayscale, so the print will look more like the version on the right.

Whether I can transfer the tracing to carbon paper and then onto the linoleum, carve it, and print it satisfactorily, all in five hours, is doubtful, but I’ll give it a go. I really want to work on the delicacy of my carving, and this fits the bill.

Enter your e-mail address to receive e-mail notifications of new posts on Sermons in Stones

Follow me on Twitter

Links I like

%d bloggers like this: