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“As I grew older, I realized that it was much better to insist on the genuine forms of nature, for simplicity is the greatest adornment of art.” — Albrecht Dürer

Dürer, Adam and Eve, copper engraving, 1504. From the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Public domain.

I came upon this quote courtesy of the acrostic puzzles I frequently solve online. I shy away from any absolutes such as “the greatest,” but Dürer’s thought is a good companion for this particular project of drawing a different leaf every day. Immersion in natural beauty is definitely good for my spirit as well as my relationship with other living things. Whether it is simplicity that I’m encountering, I’m not sure. Leaves are stunningly complex, and the complexity is one source of their beauty. But one could also say truly that there is something very simple about them, and there is definitely a simplicity to an art practice that seeks only to reflect what is in nature.



Have I been doing art every day? Yes, but this piece is so slow, and my time with it so short each day, that it’s only half done. I’m really liking it, though.

“Clearing,” work in progress, pencil on paper, 6×9

This sweet face greeted us from the counter at my in-laws’ house this weekend. It also chimed, “Draw me!”

Colored pencil on paper, 6×9″

What caused the blotch on this leaf? I’m pretty sure that whatever it was, it was just pursuing its own nutrition or some other such necessity, not setting out to create beauty. But it is beautiful.

I knew I’d be waiting for an hour or more for a car repair today, so I brought this work-in-progress along. I took a walk and then stopped at a cafe to draw; it is now closed, and I am hoping the car will be ready before they tell me I have to leave.

Both sides are decorated. And the tongue does indeed say “Can we not do the running thing?” in Gallifreyan, thanks to my talented and generous daughter, who wrote it out for me to copy.

As with Klingon, devoted fans took scraps of an on-screen language and developed them. With Doctor Who, someone created a cipher Gallifreyan alphabet; i.e., it corresponds letter to letter with ours.

I’m taking suggestions about what the other tongue might say. Maybe just “Allons-y”, to balance out the spirit of first one?

Day 19, #100days of art.

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 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.

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 . . . ?

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.

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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.

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