drawing

The rules of drawing and when to break them

It's so difficult to discern when you should adhere to or shirk your training.  Perhaps this is where that thing called "balance" comes in to play.  I don't know much about balance these days.

The two most valuable things I have learned from drawing:

1. Draw what you see, not what you know.
2. Drawing is a plastic medium (by which every mark made is useful, but never final, and the eraser is a good friend).
There's a fascinating chapter in a book I read for an independent study once, all about the artistic developmental stages we go through as children, putting our world down on paper, with crayons, or colored pencils, or daddy's special pen.  It's about where we put the horizon line and how we plant our trees in that ground.  It's about how we translate what we experience into what we understand.  We draw what we know, as children, not what we see.  This chapter's been on my mind a lot, and I think I'll reread it soon.  It's called "Growth."

Children draw fearlessly, innocently, intuitively.  And then we go to school, learn about rules and how things work.  We lose our intuition, and our world view becomes a collective homogenous world view.  Then some of us go to art school and learn to draw what we see, to erase, to try again.  We learn different kinds of rules.  And then we go out into the world, and find that the rules we learned only sometimes help us express what we're seeing in our minds.

As with all rules, there are exceptions, and times to break them.  Knowing when is impossible.  There are invitations to be less realistic, more stylized, and more final.  Drawing with a pen or carving into a block of wood has that finality.  You have to move decisively because every mark, every cut, is permanent.

Part of a self portrait from 2005, my first relief printmaking class.

And then there's drawing what you know instead of what you see.  I guess you have to be communicating something pretty specific.  You have to know where you're coming from and what you're trying to say.  If you know all that, I think you've earned breaking the rule.

On the drawing board tonight: a bird that I see with feathers that I know.  This fellow will be part of the favorite{red} postcard set.

Send something yellow :: {new postcards}

My love of yellow began one summer when we painted our white kitchen and I set up a drafting table in the corner.  I was 17, and it was the summer before my senior year in high school.  I sat at my table, gazing at the vibrant wall in front of me, and began painting a giant orange poppy in homage to Georgia O'Keefe.  Despite the fact that my mother thought that I was painting a giant tarantula, at first, everything that came out of my fingers, at that table, in front of that yellow wall, seemed good.  This was surprising to me, and mostly to my Very Harsh Inner Critic, who usually managed to turn my best opinions to sludge.  The only thing I could think was that the yellow wall was somehow helping me.  It is, after all, the color of Creativity herself.

In honor of this color, and in celebration of nature waking to spring sunshine, I've made some postcards of my favorite yellow things: sunshine, trumpets, daffodils, birds, bees, and béarnaise sauce.  As a side note, I should mention that the recipe on the béarnaise sauce card is the one tried, tested, and perfected by yours truly and that anyone receiving such a postcard might be glad to know that it's not just a pretty face...it's a real-live, functioning recipe.

Here are the yellow cards.  Next up will be a red postcard set, and since I have fewer favorite things that are red, I might need your help, in the comments section, about what your favorite red things are.




What we do when we don't know what to do :: {new poster and postcards}

 

My daughter just had her second birthday earlier this week.  It's unsettling to think how much she's accomplished in a year compared to how little I have.  Now I know, helping her accomplish all of those things was an accomplishment for both of us, as parents, but nonetheless, I stand humbled and reflect in wonderment at what she's managed to do.

 

I was aided in my self-reflection with two horrendous earaches that lasted the better part of a fortnight which rendered me almost completely deaf.  Actually, rather than say I was deaf, I would say that my hearing was inside out, so while I could not hear Heidi squeal with glee at her birthday cake, I could very much hear my own jaws chomping down on a huge slab of it (okay, two huge slabs).  I'm afraid I got a bit dramatic about the whole deafness thing, and plunged full-force into a Beethoven-like state where all I wanted to do was feverishly work.  I guess the big difference here, aside from the (obvious) real-vs.-temporary deafness, oh, and the genius factor, is that drawing doesn't require hearing at all, where music really, well, does.  
We're also approaching a precipice of uncertainty, with unemployment popping its ghastly face up from around the next bend, so all I can think to do is draw, draw, draw.  And, really, I guess that means I have made progress in the last year -- towards doing more of what I should be doing, and relying on it more to bolster me in times of distress and doubt.  Next on the chopping block is that crippling perfectionism.
If you haven't seen it yet, here's the finished alphabet poster of musical instruments:
An A to Z of Musical Instruments -- available in four color stories.
The next thing I'll be rolling out very soon are some postcards.  They're all about the color yellow and how much I love it right now.  (But of course, we'll do the rest of the rainbow as well!)  Here's a sneak peek:
What?  Béarnaise is yellow!  I'm sure you know someone who would appreciate this postcard.

 

 

 

How to draw with children, for non-majors :: {roasted tomatoes}

In our house, drawing is a team effort.  The grown-ups do the outlines, and Heidi the Toddler colors (read: scribblesveryenthusiastically) inside, outside, and on top of the lines.  It's like an on-demand coloring book.  I used to be the only Outline Draw-er, my theatre-major husband clutching his chest as he exclaimed how he wished he could draw, but alas!, Mama will have to draw the cat.  Again.  It got to the point where I was drawing about 50 cats a day.  Heidi would thrust a crayon in my hand and shout, "MEEEEEOOOOOW!!!!!!" and I would draw a cat for her to scribble upon.  I am incapable of denying her artistic desires.

As it turns out, however, that heart-clutching wish of my husband was easy enough to grant.  I devised a Very Easy way to draw a cat taught him to do it.  And now I will teach you, just in case your 2012 resolutions include drawing more with the children in your life. 

Without further ado....the Very Official Running Snail & Rainbow Way to draw a cat, dog, bunny, owl, and frog (you're more than welcome to right click to download the images, print them out, keep them handy):




Roasted Tomatoes
Adapted, barely, from The Italian Country Table, which, as I've said before, is a book you should own.  Enjoy these when it's not tomato season -- transform a can or two of lowly plum tomatoes into meaty, intense, luxurious, and supremely versatile gems.  As a bonus, these smell almost as good as bacon when they're cooking.  Almost.
Open two cans of plum tomatoes, squeeze them gently, and pry in half with your fingers.  Place close together on a lightly olive-oil-ed baking sheet.  Drizzle with some more olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  If you want to get fancy, you can sprinkle on some fresh or dried herbs, or tuck large slivers of garlic between the tomato halves.  Place in a 300° oven for 1.5-2 hours.  Check after 1.5 hours to make sure your edges are not burning.
Cover with oil and store in the fridge for up to three days, or freeze for up to three months.
Things to do with roasted tomatoes: 
  • Marinate in olive oil with fresh herbs (like rosemary or thyme), garlic, and chilies.  Serve with an antipasto spread.
  • Purée and use as a sandwich spread: think tuna melts, grilled cheeses, hummus and veggie sandwiches. 
  • Purée and use in place of sauce on your next pizza 
  • Toss with whole wheat spaghetti, walnuts and garlic toasted in olive oil, and serve with a generous glop of ricotta on top (this is my favorite).
  • Use in any recipe that calls for sun-dried tomatoes.
  • Stir purée into hummus, cream cheese, or greek yogurt for a great dip.
  • Stir purée into mayo or aioli for another fab sandwich spread.  Try it on a burger.