Every year, instead of making a resolution, I choose a word and let that word infuse my whole year. This concept came to me from Ali Edwards. She’s the creator of the on-line class One Little Word. You can read for days about this project here. I’ve had a word for the past five years: focus, unruffled, dare, effort, and one I cannot remember because I didn’t document it at all. This year my word is: MAKE. It is an action-packed, externally-focused, see-results kind of word (unlike focus, unruffled, and dare). It is an extension of 2014: effort. I really tried to find a word that embodied the create-more-than-I-consume mantra. Make is just simpler. So, I intend to make something creative or make progress on something artful every day, including a weekly prize-type thing. “Thing” is a vague description, I know, but I want these prizes to be varied. I also plan to make nutritious meals. I cook now, but I want to include new foods that we haven’t tried. I want to USE my cookbooks (or pass them on if they don’t inspire). I want to make gorgeous salads for myself at lunch, and I think the key to this is Sunday preparation and a heavy-duty mandolin. This year, I also want to make connections with other makers. By nature, I am introspective, and thrive on solitude. As a result of all my making things, I plan to share them here, and on Instagram (which is instant gratification for all). I hope I can strike up more on-line conversations and inspiration.
In a dual effort to create & connect, I am taking an on-line art class called Sketchbookery. Sketchbookery, taught by Mary Ann Moss, is a class about cannon-balling into a set of watercolors. It’s a class about looking at the things that surround us all. It’s a class about making spectacular mistakes—for me, anyhow, I won’t speak for the group. Mary Ann guides you though the building of a sketchbook or two, and the filling of those sketchbooks with watercolor drawings of a wild variety of things, all at one’s own pace. I made my sketchbook from an old Good Housekeeping Cookbook. I gutted the book, and will use the book block in another project. The three folios are made up of heavy watercolor paper and illustration board, and stitched to the reconfigured spine.
I covered the frontispiece with decorative feather paper, and drew a graphic frame for the introduction page. It was the first time in many months that I water-colored anything, and it should have been easier. I simply didn’t make enough of the color, and while I was mixing and testing a new batch, it dried splotchy. I blotted a puddle with a paper towel, and it left an impression that I liked. But in all, it needs something. More color, perhaps.
Then I dove in to the prompts and drawing portion of the class. The frame, truth be told, was painted first even though the starting prompts were blind contour focused. I needed to *just start* somewhere, thus a frame was born. Then I drew and painted an old Smith Corona typewriter that I use all the time. I always think of that Williams Morris adage: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” This old typewrite nails both categories. I even had a pan of silver paint in a vintage set so the chrome bits are done up right. Mary Ann often titles and/or journals on her pages, and her fonts and journaling was what initially drew me to her style. Besides, I think in words first, so everything needs a bit of text on it. I will forever journal on the page, since the story behind the Useful Thing is as much a treat as the painting of it.
Mary Ann’s class is chock full of videos with demonstrations and live-action sketch-painting. There are special guests (cats, Pam Garrison, mid-century chairs). But I’m going to be vague about the assignments because I think you should take the class, if it interests you. (Take a peek at the class trailer here). But do not feel like you must be a competent sketch artist; you’ll have great fun even in the trying, and to paraphrase Mary Ann, “Perfection is no fun.”
Letting go of perfection is hard work, though! And it’s probably my chief struggle with any art form. Since I love to create, I muster along. My sketchbook challenges thus far include shadows. Shadows are such a simple thing, in theory. They lend gravity to each fork, each leaf, each old car. I used neutral tint grey to establish the shadow under the pin cushion below. I have a Faber Castell brush pen in grey that works for shadowing. Mary Ann uses blue grey paint, which lends a virtuous shadow. My real problem is when I start a drawing, and then move locations or wait till later, shadows (and glares) have moved. Ah, the passage of time, and the call of children… Part of my real challenge is letting go of making it perfect, and/or rapid-capture of the shadow and highlight. Yet, part of the joy is really looking, and noticing the curves and soft edges of a mid-day shadow.
I also struggle with replicating symmetry. What my hand did on the left curve of a fork is not what it mirrored on the right, even after drawing nine forks! I woe the day when I challenge myself to draw a vase, or a set of curvy hips, (or—dare I even suggest it– a portrait!!).
Lastly, I wish I had made the entire book out of watercolor paper. Since I’m just learning and playing, it doesn’t matter much, but it would be one less variable if the paper were uniform. You’ll note that I’m not fretting here about my drawing skills. They are representational, they are my style, and they may–or may not—improve with practice. No matter, because I absolutely love getting lost in a drawing.
I’m finding small successes, too. I adore being able to sketch nearly anything, nearly anywhere. The portability of it allows for me to be creative on the go: from an airplane seat! from my driver’s seat! to a park bench! I like the effect of drawing with a black 0.3 pen, then coloring in with paint. And I appreciate Mary Ann’s suggestion of fancy alphabets to title and label one’s sketches. I will continue to MAKE brave and daring representations (or spectacular mistakes) of Beautiful & Useful Things.
PS: at time of press, I just finished this pineapple. Said pineapple was drawn and painted whilst supervising a homework session with my 5th and 3rd grade boys. Also while enjoying a mug of green tea…into which I accidently dipped my paintbrush! Oh, the perils of watercolor painting at the dining room table!