037:365 Bullseye and iteration!


037:365 Bullseye 037:365 Bullseye (edit)

Today I had a migraine.  Woke up just feeling a little funny, but it hit me as I drove home in the sunny snow.  I had a migraine.  But I got home earlier than usual, and it was beautiful outside, so I sat down right away to draw while I devoured not one but two Paczki, the jelly-donuts served by Polish Catholics in the Detroit area at this time of year to celebrate “fat Tuesday” that have bled into the weeks leading up to Mardi Gras.

Anyway, I drew my picture quickly, and as I thought, decisively.  The one on the left.  Then a few minutes later, despite having photographed it and uploaded it to Flickr already, I found myself adding and changing it.

I’ll leave it to you, the viewer to decide what you think of each.  Clearly the photograph on the left is better, since my hand moved taking the second photo, but you get the idea.

Even drawings are sometimes a journey rather than a destination.

020:365 Greek Key

Greek Key Squiggle 020:365

My rag-rug progresses and I’m so inspired by the process that I’m making sketches for the next one, or for details to go into this one.  I’m not really sure which.  The neat thing about these rugs is that not only are they colorful and textural, but they also have a long history.

As I told you my grandmother used to make braided rag-rugs, and apparently, it is a long tradition not only in America, but also in Scandinavia.  There’s even a Finnish-American Rag Rug Collection at MSU, for which my aunt and I saw a monograph awhile back.  These are woven, rather than crocheted, and as it was the second line of thought I had today, I’ll have to post more about it later.

This morning I got  pulled along the trail of  Shaker rug history.  The Shakers are known for their handicrafts and woodwork, and I’d seen some of these interesting designs before, in the form of  these contemporary items marketed as reproductions of traditional designs.

But in the American Folk Art Museum (New York City) I found these beautiful rugs that bear more relationship to my current projects than the woven Finnish-American rugs because of their radial form and because they are made without a loom.  I love their use of bold colors and the way they emphasize the roundness with triangles and squares.  

Lion Brand Yarn has a pattern using cotton yarn which is inspired by these knitted and crocheted Shaker rugs.  If you want to download the pattern, you might have to sign up for their website, but all the patterns are free.  Yarn is a little less durable and thick than rags, but still quite cozy.

High and Low (Lights)

Today I was in a more graphical mood again, but also wanted to play with different media.  Oil pastel is fun and versatile, but too much of one thing can be detrimental to the development of an idea.

I’m still not sure exactly where this idea in particular is going. I think it is just a reflection of some of my latest design work– a catalog layout, and another book-type layout job.  I spend a lot of time clicking and pointing and dumping images in boxes in InDesign and OmniGraffle the last two weeks.

But a lot can be done with shapes that fit together.  A brick wall, a stone path, tiles.  Some optical illusions.  Puzzles, circuits.

A labyrinth.


Red and white exercise on symmetry and mirroring

This week I was digging through some old image files for one reason and another.  This one stood out as something interesting.

It was done during one of my private lessons while I lived in Madrid.

At the time, most of the drawings from those classes seemed un-interesting.  During classes, I mostly did figural works, both because it made it easier to present ideas to the children, but also because at a certain age (that these students were), students are more interested in plotting ways to draw real things.

But one of the students who was just learning to write was having a problem writing her letters facing the correct direction, and this was a visualization exercise that my mother found for me when I was a similar age, with a similar problem.  I’ve since used it to help students learn to see line and proportion in drawing as well.

Anyway, it’s funny that a drawing done in less than a minute during a class should stand out as something that I want to write about today.

It just goes to show that the values we place on our actions are often misaligned with reality.  Because of the context, and the fact that it wasn’t part of my pure artistic practice, I denigrated this drawing at the time.  But now, years later, I look at it and love the motion of the lines, and the play of positive and negative space.

That isn’t to say that I didn’t see value in it at the time it was made, just not artistic value.  At the time I saw how the series of mirror drawings we did helped the little girl get her “e” facing the correct direction.  I also saw what it could teach for future lessons.

Someone once told me that you never know how important something is at the time you do it, so you should just do things that seem to go in a direction that you want to go.  I guess this drawing is an example of that.

Putting the act of drawing into another context helps reduce self-imposed limitations of what a “good” drawing is.  It creates a separation from the usual process of drawing’s purpose, allowing a re-direction.

Life can be like that too.  Sometimes it’s easier to meet people, or make professional progress, when you are doing something unrelated.  It is easier to meet people, for example, when you go out with the purpose of walking the dog.  People talk to you because you are there with a dog, and they have a dog, and eventually you make friends.  But if you go out to the park (or a café) alone, it’s often harder because you are more intent on the purpose of meeting people, so your behavior can become stilted.  (At least this is true for me, and I suspect it is for many other slightly shy people).

Basically, moving through life with purpose is important, but assuming that the only thing that is being moved is the purpose that moves you is limiting.  I’m trying to remember this lesson right now.  That even if what I’m doing seems small, that in the course of every day life, other things of value ripple out from my actions and influence my life and the lives of others in ways that may not be visible now.


Drawing can teach about the world around you.  Although I can take a picture of Sydney with a camera, and although I learn something about her from it, taking a pastel and sketching her proportions and colors onto a page tells me something else.

One of my art teachers in elementary school insisted that we had to learn to “See” in order to draw better.  And through both persistence and chance, I was able to draw things with relative realism for a child my age.  But it wasn’t until later that I learned to see as my teacher wanted me to.

It was by trying to create a regular pattern and realizing how forms occupied space on the paper as I tried to duplicate the same motifs at differing angles and rotations that I began to be able to “See.”

These exercises taught me a lesson which wasn’t the lesson that I set out to learn, namely to find an application for my artistic aspirations.  In theory I was to have used them to create cool t-shirts or something, and (at that time) t-shirts with symmetrical motifs never materialized.  But by playing so much with patterns I learned to see the objects I was drawing for themselves, for their shapes, and for the space around them in a way that I hadn’t before.

“Seeing” is a strange state to be in.  It allows one to slip above the usual way that we look at the world and see things both literally and figuratively from other angles.

These experiences have shaped much of my life in non-picture-plane ways too.  They have helped me look at the world more critically; to question things that seem a little bit off; and to try to find better solutions to the problems I see for myself and others in the world.

“Seeing” is a skill I would like to share with others, and that desire to share it was what drew me to seek the first Teaching Fellowship in Madrid.

Sometimes the answer is all in how you look at the question.