How are you doing this week? We’re all hiking through the woods together towards the end of the year. This last stretch is equal parts lovely – because we spend time with people we love, and harried – because the To-Do list is three stories tall. I’m a squirrel, searching for a magical nut-of-balance between the two extremes.
I hope you’re sneaking mini-opportunities to doodle on the back of opened envelopes, and jot down post-it note art-ideas to tackle in the new year. Did you add art supplies to your wish list? Have you picked a workshop to take, or an online video course to schedule with a friend so you can launch 2018 with Creative Shahzam!? I hope so.
To Your Health
Art-making close to the holidays can be scarce, but even if you have ten minutes while chatting on the phone, keep your sketchpad handy. The satisfying reverberation of a pen or pencil tip skipping across white paper – even the back of a utility bill – can lower blood pressure, slow heart rate and inspire a deep sigh in your body’s limbic system.
If you’re wrapping presents, cleaning the house, or boxing gifts to ship – anything that doesn’t involve words, like writing or list-making would – try listening to an audiobook or a podcast. If you choose one that grabs your attention, you’ll find your body a bit more relaxed after listening, because the brain is busy digesting information or a story, which over-rides and quiets tendencies for worrying, fretting and stomping through stressors.
Dont Throw it Away
The first couple of prints from a collagraph are often a little “sketchy” looking, because the inked plate hasn’t yet collected enough pigments in the recessed linework. You can see a couple of skipped, white areas in the linear elements around the foxes cowl and tail in the photo above.
The beauty of adding other media to your prints is the opportunity to repair those not-quite-right areas with pigments. In this case, I used a drybrush application of watercolor (below). The kozo paper has no sizing, so the pigment bleeds through the back, and seeps past the brush-marks if wet pigments are applied. After the watercolor was dry, I added shear layers of colored pencil.
How to Make a Collagraph
Here’s a tutorial video on making a collagraph plate from scrap mat board, and printing it without a press. Gather your supplies, and give it a try. One of the best things about printing simple linear designs like this little fox is the option to apply all sorts of other pigments to the print, for a mixed media, open edition. Every print gets to be different from the other.
The Thomas Fire
This week, the Thomas Fire ripped through our town, and many communities around us. Nine days in, and the fire is 25% contained after clawing through 237,000 acres of wildland, and almost a thousand houses. Several of our friends lost their homes. We were evacuated for six days. Water had to be boiled before consuming, electricity was out for a week, and the air was thick with acrid smoke. When the evacuation order was lifted, we found our house sooty but unscathed. The hillside behind us, and 12 of our neighbors weren’t so lucky.
The boot prints on our back patio, and every garden hose pulled straight, tell a story of firefighters risking their lives as the fire roared down the hill to our backyard. Anonymous firefighters I’ll never meet saved our house, and the homes of our neighbors, with just a few feet between burnt shrubs and our back door.
Almost 8000 firefighters from all over the country are here. I can’t think about the gratitude I feel without welling up. Total strangers raced towards a raging, dangerous fire on a Monday night, while their families were at home decorating Christmas trees, to save mine and my neighbor’s houses. That is a character trait of courage and deep generosity to emulate. #thankyoufirstresponders
I’ll be wearing a cape of deeply felt gratitude in the coming days (and a respirator). My friends weren’t so lucky, and a walk through my neighborhood to see concrete slab and a chimney where a family home once stood is a gut punch of perspective. Our little town is okay because of the kindness of strangers. We will harness the same good spirit to lift up the folks who had losses, until everyone is well on their way to new beginnings, and turning setbacks into comebacks.
Thanks for stopping by and I’ll see you in the next post –
Life is a series of experiences, each of which makes us bigger, even though it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and griefs which we endure help us in our marching onward.
~ Henry Ford