Sunday, August 28, 2016

Wild Patience

Not sure where this quote came from. I had it jotted down in one of my journals and decided it would be perfect for a butterfly exploration. We planted a butterfly bush in the meditation garden and it has had many beautiful butterflies. One visitor was a Great Spangled Frittilary. I had never seen one before and wanted to paint it immediately. I did not have one in my specimen collection so I sort of created a composite butterfly based on a Comma Butterfly in my collection, a Painted Lady and my memory of the Great Spangled Frittilary. That is the beauty of The Enchanted Meadow. Our creatures don't have to be entirely real, but they do help to hone skills and develop keen observation skils. Since the Birmingham workshop launch of The Enchanted Meadow, I have had multiple requests to teach it at various guilds. I will keep you posted! I have been thrilled with student work too. I have received emails from students who have put Pandas in their Enchanted Meadow as well as a gorgeous chickadee. So exciting to see that enthusiasm for painted miniatures is contagious. My email inbox continues to be full. Lots of questions from various artists and new students to the calligraphic world. The new students seem to be captivated through all of the calligraphic art they see on instagram. I see this as a mixed blessing. There are lots of wonderful posts. There are lots of different styles to explore and so many different opinions of what is right and what is wrong. No shortages of opinions, including my own. Some great advice out there and some not so great. What I do see is a trend to create quickly and post instantly. My advice to students who have worked through the basics and are getting bored of just exploring a single word or group of letters is to start to develop a portfolio of completed artwork. You are never too young in your journey to do this. You will develop an eye for compostion and skills at working on larger pieces. I waited far too long in my journey to do this, thinking that my skills weren't worthy to be put on a piece of proper art paper. Let me assure you, this couldn't be further than the truth. Invest in some quality paper and work on a finished piece that intriques you. Learn the lesson that it has to teach, sign it, date it and then do another one. Develop a sense of awareness of all the things that can go right or terribly wrong on a piece of artwork and keep notes on your process. Dig deeper, challenge yourself and constantly explore. There is fine line between exploring subjects that are just a bit too difficult for your skill level and those that are too easy and will not challenge you. Find that balance and give it a try. The worse thing that can happen is that you don't like what you create. Just move on to the next project after learning the lessons of the previous one. I know I say this a lot, but I seem to have a lot of people feeling " stalled" or hitting a plateau. This is one way forward. We all hit those plateaus and we all feel stalled now and then. The only way I know to get through that is to keep showing up at your work space and trying something one day at a time. This painted butterfly piece taught me so much and challenges me to try another and another. I hope those who read this blog post find some encouragement to try a larger piece. Branch out from just practicing your favourite script and work on a finished composition. See what happens! Be wildy patient with yourself as you try new things and work through ideas. There is no race and no finish line that I have ever seen or heard of. Just more to explore! Happy exploring!!!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Living In Wonder

Right now I find time for botanical art work here and there. I would love to immerse myself in the process much more deeply, but I have so many other commitments to take care of. Lots of upcoming travel dates and lots of commission work. Not complaining....just trying to manage my time more effectively! The botanical art journey has been wonderful so far. Intriguing and mesermerizing. It has awakened my sense of awareness and a deep appreciation for the beauty that surrounds me. It has changed me. I am now impossibly difficult to walk with! I stop and look at leaves on the ground, crab apples that are slowly ripening or a grasshopper that is resting. Grocery stores and farmer's markets are equally distracting! I am not looking at produce now to consume, but to draw! It's really quite fun. I want to see everything. I want to take it all in. I have such a deep respect for those botanical artists who can capture every detail and still draw me inward for a closer look at what they are illustrating. The process is captivating. Some people just don't get it at all and think I should just take a photograph. That comment just totally misses the point. What I am learning in the world of botanical art confirms the process that I go through as a pointed pen artist. It is total immersion with your subject. When I look at a leaf, I am not trying to recreate every detail like a photograph would. I am trying to understand the subject. Trying to really see all the different colours in a single green leaf. Look at the veining patterns. Try to see every colour and shape that is represented. It is fascinating. It is endless. I can safely say that I am hooked! These studies help inform my calligraphic work. They help me appreciate the skills I have with a pointed pen and help me to see how much more there is to learn. Every day is an adventure and a challenge. Every day is filled with wonder. Pictures in this blog post are from my sketchbook and from my garden. Enjoy each day and each season as it comes and goes!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Enchanted Meadow Workshop

I started illumination classes in 2005. I was taught by an absolute master of the medium Debbie Thompson Wilson. I think her soul resides in the Medieval era. We learned more than just how to copy a medieval miniature. We learned about the meanings behind the minatures and the humour that was often embedded secretly within. I was captivated by the techniques and the subject matter. In 2011 I started to launch out with my own studies. I was not content to take an exisiting miniature and recreate it on vellum or paper. I wanted to combine my own ideas and perhaps some of my Victorian influences. As a result of those studies, I produces a series of miniatures called The Enchanted Meadow.
I did not keep an accurate photo record of those miniatures. Most of them ended up in the hands of dear friends over the years. I didn't make them to reproduce or to sell, I made them to share with others. I can't even remember where they all went, but there are a few owls, several rabbits, a squirrel, a butterfly and a fox in the hands of precious friends and family members. They have become the guardians of their miniature and I hope they still enjoy them. I have kept one or two over the years. The Gift Bearer started in my precious journal and then became my Christmas card one year.
This weekend, after years of study, and three years of trying to figure out how to teach this workshop over one or two days, The Enchanted Meadow will be launched at the Birmingham Calligraphy Guild. Birmingham seems to be my launching ground. Dana Jacobson first brought me there to teach in 2011. I was one of several teachers invited to teach pointed pen techniques over a one year study period. It was an honour to be part of that experience and such a talented group of calligraphers. It was my first guild teaching experience after my launch into the teaching world at the International Calligraphy Conference in Boston of 2010. In 2012 at the Birmingham calligraphy guild, Held Pens were launched. Chris's first designs were produced for that guild. I taughed my Enchanted Letters workshop for the first time in Birmingham and met lifetime friends at that guild. Packing right now is an adventure and I am taking a break to update the blog.
This class will go into the techniques for designing foliate scroll work as well as painting a charming little meadow creature. My head has been in books, vellum scraps, paint palettes and sable brushes for weeks as I put on final touches to this class.
I usually have an iron clad schedule for delivering a workshop but this one is a little harder to plan for. There is a bit of learning curve with the dry brush technique needed to develop the fur or feathers of the meadow creatures. I think I will be on a bit of an adventure as I teach it but I am so excited to launch this class. Painted miniatures, calligraphy, flourishing and now botanical studies are much needed times of slowing down for me. All of these studies force me to take time to really observe and notice what I am doing. It is a welcome practice in an age that seems to be speed driven. There is a definite balancing act that is needed these days in my studio, home, computer and studies. Still looking for a routine where I can work steadily on projects that need to be accomplished while staying in that student/explorer mode. I know that many of you are struggling with that same balancing act. I am right there with you and know what you are going through. At times it can be overwhelming. I find that those are times I need to "check out" for a time, go offline, and quiet down with a leisurely walk or a book on the backyard swing. This is a principle I will be sharing at the workshop this weekend. Painted miniatures require slow and deliberate techniques. They require a calming of the mind and the soul. I am looking forward to launching not only the techniques for painting the minatures but the thought process behind them. Happy painting everyone!!!