Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Imagination Ink

Once a month, I meet with a small group at work to discuss art and other creative endeavors. Originally, the group began because I was inspired by the works of Keri Smith, a self-proclaimed guerrilla artist. I was particularly drawn to her recent publication of her Wreck This Journal project and thought it would be fun to complete the journal with other people at work. Smith challenges people to create outside of the box -- her journal forces the participant to reach outside of his/her comfort zone and create art out of destruction, not perfection. It's liberation from the idea that art is perfect and clean. She teaches you that the messy process of destroying is just as essential in experiencing the creative process as it is to produce a perfectly presentable end product.

That idea seemed very appealing to me. I had been in a creative rut, and I knew that my job had a lot to do with it. My job lacks opportunities to be creative, and it takes up most of my time. The monotony of sitting in front of a computer all day can be draining. I knew I couldn't be the only one who felt this way. So imagine my happiness when I sent out the initial invitation to people to participate in the project and they said yes! We began meeting in January during our lunch break, and although our small group only meets once a month, the break in the work day is just enough to replenish my energy until we meet again. Aside from the journal project, we also participate in other creative activities. We've already held a photo challenge outing, and we are in the works of organizing a painting party.

During this month's meeting, I brought in my shodo set to share with the group. Shodo is the art of Japanese calligraphy. (I briefly took classes while teaching in Okinawa.) I thought it would be a good to way to do something creative at our meetings since our interest in the journal project seemed to be waning.

Lise and Life

Lise practicing the Kanji Life (Inochi)

Amanda and Love

Amanda practicing the Kanji Love (Ai)

I found some great templates online to use as guides. Everyone took a stab at creating the flowing, dark characters on their crisp, white papers. Though not an easy art to master, I thought everyone did a great job of creating their own kanji. I had not used my shodo set in such a long time, so it was nice to dust it off and use it again.

Alfonso and Love

Alfonso and the Kanji Love (Ai)

Shannon and Happiness

Shannon and the Kanji Happiness (Sachi)

Kelly and Happiness

Kelly and the Kanji Happiness (Sachi)

I'm already thinking of ways to try to incorporate elements of shodo in future drawings that I do. The activity even inspired some of the other group members to bring in similar activities to the next meeting.

I can't wait to see what we do next month!


"Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes.
Art is knowing which ones to keep."

-Scott Adams

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Art Lessons

I am a firm believer that anyone can draw.

"Oh, no, Diana. You are mistaken. You haven't seen me draw. I can't even draw a straight line."
That may be, but like any other activity, whether it is a game or a sport, art can be achieved if one is given proper guidance and participates in it often.

I think it's funny that drawing is one of those activities that so few think they can do. Many give up before they have even tried. People fear being judged by the lines they scribble on paper. Some people cop out and stick to the safety of stick figures. But if one really has the desire and the interest to learn to draw, I think it's possible to become the artist you want to be.

Over Easter, I spent time teaching my nieces and nephews how to draw. Like so many others, they were hesitant at first, but when I told them I could teach them, they were willing to try. They were like little sponges, absorbing everything I instructed them to do. Here are some of the things we drew together:

Emily's Squirrel

Emily's Squirrel

Emily's Easter Bunny

Emily's Easter Bunny

Jack's Alligator

Jack's Alligator

Charlie's Penguin

Charlie's Penguin

Once we finished our "lessons," we combined our efforts to draw an underwater scene. For the first time, I didn't given them any instruction on how to draw their sea creatures. And look at what they created!

Underwater Scene

What impressed me most about this was that the fear of drawing was gone. They just put pen to paper and voila! Magic.

Nothing makes me happier than drawing and creating art... but teaching the gift to others... Well, it's right up there with sheer bliss.


"The essence of drawing is the line exploring space."
- Andy Goldsworthy

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Art as a Gift

Sometimes when I am with someone, I see my relationship with that person through pictures in my head. I imagine what picture I can create to capture the moment or the feeling I am have when I am with that person. In my head, I can see the picture and can envision the look on the person's face when I give him or her the art I have created. I often gave such gifts to my friends and former boyfriends as a token of my affection for them. But I have found that as I have gotten older, my visions have not been coming to fruition due to lack of motivation, forgetfulness, or other commitments in my life.

Since embracing art again, I have been determined not to lose these precious visions. I had such a vision when I walked into my friend Shannon's office. Her office is bright and cherry and she has pictures of her dogs, Buddy and Bailey, proudly on display. She affectionately refers to them as "the boys." And I have gotten to know them better since carpooling with Shannon last year and walking with her and her dogs after work two to three times a week. Each of these dogs has a unique personality despite the fact that they come from the same litter. Seeing her affection for these animals made me want to create a portrait of them for her. Not only are they precious, but I knew Shannon would appreciate the gesture.

I could see the layout of the portrait in my head. I would display the boys as they look now and also display them as puppies. What mother could resist seeing her boys as the puppies they once were and the doggies they have become?

These are Shannon's Boys

These are the boys how they look today.

These are Shannon's Boys as Puppies

These are the boys as young pups. How cute!

So I began the process of creating an ink drawing of my envisioned layout. As I worked the pen to paper, I began to accept the limitations of my hands to produce the exact vision in my head. But despite this limitation, I am always surprised by the product that is produced. I tried to make sure to capture the shape of their noses and the expressiveness of their eyes and the personality that is uniquely theirs.

In the end, I produced this bare bones layout, adding a quote that Shannon was particularly fond of by George Eliot:

These are Shannon's Boys in Black and White

Then I began the process of adding color. I typically like to use water color pencils to establish a base color. I usually follow up with regular color pencils to enhance the base color, using shading techniques. Here is the end result of my efforts:

Shannon's Boys in Color

I think the boys will approve of the tribute. What do you think?




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