WINTER HOLIDAY 2010.
To my dear students,
There are not enough “letters” in a bottle of ink to pen the words to thank you all. As students of the craft, we are always seeking to better our techniques, acquire more ideas, learn about new tools all while strengthening friendships with kindred spirits. I have learned and have been inspired by you most of all.
Time is one of the most precious things in this life; who you spend it with and what you do with it is really what life is all about. Thank you for making a commitment of your time to come to class and be a participant. Your weekly questions keep the class fresh and always provide me with new challenges. You have endured the lesson plans and weekly homework assignments with hours of work and it shows. It shows up in the cards you make and give each other, and work that you put out into this world. The creativity you put into your projects is an inspiration.
Thank you for making me a better teacher. You challenge me each week to come up with another way to help you see the “forms” that letters make and I love it. I love it when I show you one thing and the following week you share with the class a multitude of ideas. It has been the sharing that I hope you will always remember about our class. Class time is not always about trying to “get” something, but giving as well. Each time you have shared something of yourself you have enriched us all, and I thank you for that. Also, you have been kind to share your mistakes, for how not to do something has been an equal lesson as well. You have stepped outside your veil of shyness to show up. [applaud]. Thank you.
You have taught me about patience and focus.
As calligraphers, we strive for excellence hoping to make marks that leave us breathless. It may seem like an elusive endeavor much like a rainbow mirage on a moving highway that jumps farther away as you drive closer. Time passes. Never give up, for one day, you notice a uniformity, a rhythm, a natural lilt to the glistening wet ink as it sets up on the pristine paper. A single letter of brilliance made by your human hand. Bravo. Remember, that with continued practice, you are raising your own bar and requiring the rainbow to move ahead.
Notice the things that surround you can spark your imagination and be a source of inspiration. Sharing is better in this short life than metering your knowledge with clenched fists. Stretch yourselves this next year and continue to grow. Love this mark-making journey you are on.
And so, I celebrate you, my dear students, you have been my teacher. [arms outstretched]
May your days be filled with beauty, good health and much love,
Christmas bouquet, watercolor, 4″ x 9″ Arches hot press.
“Eat, Pray, Love” author, Elizabeth Gilbert was being interviewed for her notable book, a New York Times Bestseller. Its her account of her year long journey and the lessons she learned on her spiritual odyssey, written with humor, insight and charm. She spoke unhesitatingly with passion and with a richness of content that I had to record.
I reached for my journal quickly AND BEGAN TO TAKE NOTES:
ENTRANCES are everywhere. Everyday–a sacred space. MEDITATION. Ten minutes of SILENCE is enough. STILLNESS. seeking. journey. Your Inner Voice will tell you the TRUTH. SAY NO to things you don’t want to do or can’t do. A JOLT is a call to ACTION. You don’t have to travel across the world to find yourself. As Dorothy (Wizard of Oz) would say– you always had it in you. I am my best person when I have LESS on my PLATE.
NOTE TAKING: This sketchbook 4″ x 6″. Non-linear layout, here. Emphasis on key words. Watercolors, at the ready, making color notes, quickly melting colors into each other and sometimes catching the wet ink writing (using a Niji waterbrush and small watercolor travel set). Rotating the page at each new note. The page is done like a sketch, all done in the moment, on the spot, not retouching or re-writing later. Because, “later” there are other things to do!
ALWAYS WITH ME. . . A few of my favorite writing tools.
FOUNTAIN PENS. Not just one. A pointed flexible nib for drawing. A fine calligraphic chisel nib –in different millimeter widths. The fountain pen is always ready to go, ink filled. Great for drawing, sketching and writing. The immediacy of writing with wet ink is a treat. I carry them in a leather pen roll for 5 pens. The leather is soft and supple from lots of use, and has a top flap that folds over the pen caps.
THE WATERBRUSH. A plastic barrel that is filled with water with a nylon brush on the end. Made by several brands; Niji, Pentel, and Koi. It’s great for pulling out some color from watercolor pencils or dabbing into a paintbox. And a slight dilution to an inked line is all that is needed to add dimension to a sketch. It’s the most perfect solution for travel sketching — instant water!
PEN HOLDER, PEN NIBS, INK. More time to write? Then individual pen nibs ready to insert into a pen holder, at the ready. Small 2 oz. Nalgene round leakproof plastic containers make the most secure of inkwells for traveling.
WATERCOLOR PENCILS, a definite must. Can be used dry for a spot of color or can be wet with a brush and voilá.
This watercolor of some tools are featured in my book, “Artful Journals” and is a partial representation of a giclée print available for sale.
10″ x 10″, US$55.00 (plus shipping)
MOVING DAYS. . . Packing up a studio full of “stuff” (17 years worth of stuff) and movin’ onwards and up. Editing. Evaluating. Sorting. Sifting. What do I need? What will I keep? What will I donate and share? Toss behind, let go, and move on to make room in my life for new adventures and creations of art. As they say, “you have to take your foot off 1st base to get to 2nd, and so forth.” Clear the tables, “Leap and the net will appear”(another saying scribbled in my journal). This has been my summer; more light, longer days and knowing that “somewhere over the rainbow” I know that by getting rid of these things, I will have more room in my life for more _______ (fill in the blank).
We are always moving somewhere, this is life’s journey.
Pen and Ink drawing done with a Namiki fountain pen, extra-fine needlepoint, super-flex nib, black ink.
Fountain pen nib re-ground by Greg at www.gregminuskin.com (the best!)
McCLOUD, MT. SHASTA, CALIFORNIA. June 24, 25 and 26, 2010.
A SKETCHBOOK JOURNALING WORKSHOP. You will learn techniques with pen and ink sketches, watercolors used creatively, and building textural layers for journal pages. Learn to incorporate your own writings onto your sketchbook compositions. Lots of tricks with old tools, based on examples, step-by-step exercises.
For more info. contact Claudia Ellis at www.BrownDogGallery.com 307 Pine Street, McCloud, CA
. McCloud, California. elev. 3,291 ft. An historic logging town from the turn of the century, at the skirt of Mt. Shasta, northern California. Always draped with a cascade of glaciers, this mountain (elev.14,161 ft.) provides a most spectacular sight at each minute of nature’s light and forever moving cloud formations. Claudia & Jim Ellis own Brown Dog Gallery in the center of the town’s historic district which displays the art of Claudia and other renown artists. Art and Gifts beautifully handmade and created with such craftsmanship in an interior setting that transforms you to loose all sense of time. Gorgeous old plank floors in a two-story clapboard, tall Victorian windows with a view of the mountain (of course). Workshop upstairs in an refined eclectic art haven that looks down upon a full flower-field garden. Whew!.
The Shasta Sunset Dinner Train. In my sketchbook from the summer before.
You know, I always like to paint my food. One must paint quickly while the food remains hot! The night moon makes the mountain “glow”.
p.s. the train is for sale.
For Japanese, NEW YEAR is one of the most important celebrations of the year, a festive occasion. Traditionally the house must be cleaned of the clutter and dust of the past year to start the New Year afresh. Preparation of food for New Year’s occupies much of the time with traditional dishes symbolic of good health and wealth and giving thanks for the past and expressing hope for a greater, happier new year.
My mother starts the preparations right after Christmas, getting the house ready for New Year’s day. Relatives and friends drop by all day on New Year’s day and feast on all the traditional Japanese foods and an eclectic assortment of other cuisines. Football games on tv play in the background, the fireplace full-on blazing and the house fills with laughter and voices.
MOCHI is a special kind of steamed rice, pounded and shaped into small, round buns. KAGAMI MOCHI, a symbolic Japanese presentation in every home displays a leaf-stemmed mandarin orange atop double stacked mochi rice cakes. It’s overall meaning is one of hope for a brighter and happier New Year. The kelp embellishment is a symbol of joy because the word is found in “yorokobu” (to be glad). The mandarin orange means “generation to generation” and its color symbolizes a prosperous future.
My mother makes a couple of different kinds of sushi as well. MAKI-SUSHI shown here. I paint while she works on the table in front of me. First she puts a beautiful shiny blue-black sheet of seaweed onto a bamboo mat. (I use these kind of mats for storing my paintbrushes). Next hot fluffy rice with a mixture of vinegar & rice wine is spread with a large wooden flat spoon. Then 5 or 7 cooked items of: carrots, shiitake mushrooms, spinach, cooked egg, “kampio”-dried squash, eel, and dried shrimp are layered like a multi-colored ribbon onto the rice. She then rolls the whole kaboodle with the aid of the bamboo mat. Somehow the “food ribbon” is perfectly centered in the rice roll.
Now, the best part is about to happen. Sometimes the sushi logs are wrapped in waxed paper and ready themselves to be cut neatly with a very sharp knife into these perfect “tires”. When one is standing nearby, the “end cuts” don’t make it on to beautiful vintage Japanese china platters. They’re delicious!!!
Back to the story of the “kagami mochi” (shown above). The origin of the kagami mochi offering is based on Amerasu-omikami’s (sun-goddess) hiding in the cave of Ama-no-Iwato. With the sun-goddess in hiding, the world became dark and prayers for her reappearance were made to a mirror, which symbolized the goddess. The kagami mochi represents the mirror and is a symbol of hope for a bright and happy New Year. So, TO MY DEAR FRIENDS IN ALL THE WORLD, HAPPY NEW YEAR, and loads of PROSPERITY as well.
Jackalopes from the Southwest Desert pose with winter banner as the brisk north wind whips tumbleweed like giant popcorn balls through the desertscape. I capture the scene with pen and ink. Banner with pinecone motif.
A handmade Christmas card for a friend’s sister in the military by special request.
Wishing everyone in our armed forces a safe return and Season’s Best to All!
My mom and I drove to Sacramento to visit Sherry, a very good family friend. Mom did some shopping and returned with packages and a handful of brilliantly colored leaves. Capture them, I must. Sherry working on a Hello Kitty hook rug and mom sorting out strands of embroidery threads on white hole-punched cards, I paint and write. We clink glasses of hot apple cider, eat fresh persimmons and crunch on homemade M&M cookies. The afternoon glows and is forever recorded in my mind and there on the pages.
GIFTS OF THE GARDEN: “THE GREATEST GIFT OF THE GARDEN IS THE RESTORATION OF THE FIVE SENSES”. “All the windows of my heart I open to the day”- John Greenleaf Whittier. SIGHT: Absorb the colors in mass, squint and blur the edges, put your eyes close-up to a flower so that if fills up the whole frame of your vision. And then pull away slowly until the flower comes first into focus. Absorb. Close your eyes and
LISTEN. There may be distant chirps from a bird, a whirr of a bumblebee in flight or just peaceful silence. Listen to the sound of moving water or the music rain makes. Crush an herbal leaf and smell the AROMA. Make a memory of all the different flowers, grasses and herbs; sweet, pungent, aromatic, eucalyptus smells. Fingertips FEEL textures of velvet petals. Leaves and branches smooth, grainy, coarse, cool, taking in the quality of each. Allow the pores of your skin to catch a breeze and FEEL the temperature of the sunshine and the shade. And in the end enjoy the fruits of the garden. Pluck a warm ripe tomato and TASTE its sweetness. Nectar from honeysuckle and fruits and vegetables that ripen in each season. “Plants give us oxygen for the lungs and for the soul”– Linda Solegato.
In the end, it’s all a metaphor, this garden. . . IS LIFE.
Journaling on the Run. . . PACK ONLY THE ESSENTIALS. A sketching pencil (a dark watercolor wash pencil is also water soluble when a wet brush touches it), eraser, pencil sharpener (learn to sharpen with an exacto knife), Niji waterbrush and/or paint brush, micron 01 black pigma marker (it’s waterproof so you can paint over it), your favorite writing pen (mine is a fountain pen), small craft scissor, glue stick, a few watercolor pencils, a small travel watercolor box, a couple sheets of paper towels, and a small container of water in a plastic bottle. Include a few loose sheets of good art paper that can be bound into a book later and keep adding drawings and paintings to blank pages in your sketchbook. Don’t hold back. Date your work. Watch your progression, record your events. Draw what you see and notice how the world opens your eyes to see more. The eye caresses each shape your pencil tracts. Zone in on color and notice how nature puts one color up against another, amazing!
I’ve added a large colorful cloth napkin to my pack. It is there to pick up a water spill, serve as a napkin, or sit upon. It’s the extra barrier between the ground and the ants, and me sketching. A baggie of nuts to munch, water to drink, sunglasses and a visor also help. Grab your bag and go with it everywhere.
Get to know what YOUR essentials are. For nature treks I add binoculars, compass, wildflower and bird identification books.
postscript: You can always have more of your stuff in other bags that are in the car!
QUEEN OF HEARTS . . . Feeling, Passionate, Risk-taking, Accepting and Dedicated. Do what you love. Be true to yourself. Go out into the world. Travel light. Know what is essential in this world that moves you, that makes you tick, that motivates you.Pack your tangible essentials in your travel bag (Thoreau light) and know that what is most important is in your heart.
Sol+stice derives from a combination of Latin words meaning “sun”+”to stand still.” As the days lengthen, the sun rises higher and higher until it seems to stand still in the sky.
Three days after the solstice marks a Midsummer’s Day. Soft summer grasses dotted with miniature daisies, blue petaled flowers and goldfields wait to be cut. Is it true that on the eve of a midsummer’s night brings a dream? with magic?
Straw hat and sunglasses for painting with and hiking. Looking at the Sun shimmer while lying on the cool grass and looking up through the trees. Strawberries juicy sweet and cold watermelon. Sweet natural water quenches a thirst and the rush of a waterfall crowns the heart of a hike. A wardrobe of shorts and tee-shirts. Longer days of warm light means more time to paint and play. Standing still with eyes closed and feeling the waft of a breeze on a sweated brow. Barefoot in the grass and dining alfresco. The sound of tinkling ice in a glass of lemonade. New starry constellations to tract in the midnight indigo sky. Falling asleep under the fragrance of Midnight Blooming Jasmine and of course Ice Cream. SUMMER Continue reading