There is Perfection in Imperfection

"Seasons of learning - Ink and Water Color Pencil Drawing"

I am a Renaissance woman in more ways than one.  The past 3 years and in particular the past twelve months have been explosive and I’ve discovered things about myself that I had no idea were a part of me.

One of the most interesting discoveries has been the fact that I’m an artist in addition to being a writer, a business woman, and most importantly a mom.  I’ve been posting pictures of my projects and experiences throughout the year.

It still boggles my mind to think that I dipped my toe into the proverbial water and took a drawing class less than a year ago. Since then I’ve taken 3 more drawing classes, a print making workshop, and I learned how to make paper.

In the past months I’ve discovered that I have a passion for working in ink.  For anyone who knows me, this is completely counter – intuitive.  I’m a perfectionist, if there’s a chance that it won’t turn out right; I’m more inclined to not even start than to make a mistake.  So ink, particularly on my hand made paper seems like it would be an unlikely creative outlet.

Earlier this fall, I combined various things that I’d learned and I created my very first book.

""- ibeth's first book - ink and water color pencils"- ibeth's first book - ink and water color pencils"

This started out as a drawing and turned into something quite different – I changed course along the way a few times – the biggest being that I cut all of the edges off of the cover and made the edges of the ‘book’ uneven and well – like the edge of a forest.

I finished my last class of the year a few weeks ago.  As our last project Anne had us create an abstract drawing using a most unusual approach.  The process will be a separate post, but the outcome was quite intriguing.

Abstract Drawing Ink and Water Color Pencil

True to form, I didn’t finish it during class time and it took me more than a few sessions to complete this drawing in ink, water color pencil, and a bit of white charcoal. I can’t describe it, but this drawing unlocked something within me.

A few weeks ago, I started drawing a trilogy.  Only I didn’t know it at the time.  I sifted through my stack of hand-made paper from the summer.  I held a thin piece of paper made from flax up to the light.

I saw crinkles and creases. I also saw trees and teardrops. It was as if my pen had a mind of it’s own as I began to trace along the creases and crevices to create patterns and mystique.

"Seasons of learning - Ink and Water Color Pencil Drawing"

After I finished it I sorted through my paper and found another piece with similar imperfections.  Too thin to write on, too many creases to be of value, but just right to create on.

"emerging from the woods - ink and water color pencil drawing"

I found one more piece of perfectly imperfect paper in my stack, refreshed my paintbrush water and let my imagination do the work.

"ink and water color pencil on flax paper"

Who would have imagined that I had exactly three pieces of paper that were equal in their imperfections and in their potential for beauty?

You Can’t Always Erase a Mistake, but You Can Find a Way to Blend it In

Pine Cone in CharcoalA few weeks ago I wrote about my experience in drawing a pine cone and how difficult it was to make the shape transform from the outline of a soft rose into the hard but delicate shells that protect the inside of a pine cone.

As often happens with me lately, I took the original experience one step further.  I decided to draw a companion to the pine cone and replace the candle sconces in the living room (the ones that Christian can’t stand) with the unlikely mates, a pine cone and a rose.

I bought roses to celebrate my new outlook on life and my recently discovered talents.  One of the pink roses was just starting to open and in my eyes was the same shape as the pine cone.  I tried to prop it so it would match the angle and proportions of the pine cone.  After a couple of hours decided it was fun, but it was “take one.”  I couldn’t get the proportions quite the way I wanted them to be so I called it a night but not over.

take one_first rose

I didn’t get around to “take two” for a few weeks, life and other priorities called.  But today after a long and productive day of hard work, my porch and the beautiful weather called my name and my easel.

I won’t reveal what, but I will reveal the fact that I was almost done with the drawing, I goofed big time.  It was a mistake that was bad enough that, in a previous place and time, I would have been in tears and I’d have tossed the whole thing out.

Tonight, I took a step back and looked at the tools on my table.  One of them was an eraser, “Ah ha!” I thought.

The only problem was that using the eraser only made the charcoal smudge more and the mistake seem even worse.  I took a deep breath and held a tiny piece of charcoal between my fingers, a pencil in the other hand, and the eraser within easy reach on the table.

a roseThe tool I used the most to ‘fix’ the mistake was the eraser, but as it turned out, I didn’t use it to erase.  I used it to blend, and what seemed to be a mistake, became part of the beauty.




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Its a Matter of Perspective

A few weeks ago I used the word petrified to describe how I felt on the first day of my drawing class, perched on the edge of my stool and facing an easel and an 18 x 24 sheet of blank drawing paper armed with very sharp and never before used pencil.  Over the course of a few weeks my feelings faded from petrified to slightly scared and much to my surprise I felt confidence poking its head through the cracks in the wall of my self-doubt.

Two sessions of six remained.  Anne passed out copies of a black and white picture of five misaligned and crooked farm buildings, lots of shadows, and a very daunting tree.

“Ok ladies, for our final project we’re going to build on what you’ve done and learned in the previous classes to draw these buildings.  I took this picture a couple of weeks ago and I thought it would be a great lesson in perspective,” she said.

I’m fairly certain I heard a collective “Gulp,” from the class.

She didn’t miss a beat, “The main focus of the lesson is to get the perspective correct so everything looks right and then we’ll have some fun by mixing in the use of ink along with the pencil.  But the main focus is the perspective.  If that’s wrong it doesn’t matter how good the shading or texturing is, the whole thing looks off.”

Anne went on to explain the concept of linear perspective used by the very famous Leonardo Da Vinci.  I listened carefully as she described the process of drawing the horizon line, identifying the vanishing points, the point on the horizon that lines up with the edge of the object, and using a ruler to draw guidelines to align the edges and corners of the buildings.

“In fact, each building could have its own vanishing point, but that would just be crazy.  This is an artist’s rendition, not an architectural drawing so we’re only going to use two points,” she said.

I figured out where the horizon line should go, scoped out and marked the vanishing points, and bravely drew my first line from the corner of the first building on the left to the tiny dot on the skyline.   After three hours I had barely sketched the outline of the buildings on the left, used my eraser more than my pencil, and the sting of tears bumped in frustration against the inside of my eyelids.

Relentless in her encouragement Anne put her hand on my shoulder and said, “You can draw Beth, you will get this.  Take it home and take your time, we’ll work on it more during the next class.”

A long time ago my daughter Katie got it in her head that you had to be able to write your name or you wouldn’t get into kindergarten.  Determined not to let the letter “K” get in the way of her future she spent countless hours tracing every “K” she could find until she figured it out.  I understood what she must have felt like as I watched video after video about drawing perspective on YouTube, tried to apply what I learned, failed, and tried again.

I have no idea what it was, but something clicked and I finished the buildings on the left, then on the right, my lines were solid and strong. I completed the entire line drawing, including the outline of the trees, in time for the final class.

“That’s terrific, great work! Now take your pencils and start shading and then use the pens and experiment with ink,” Anne said.

“Really?  Ink…? I’m not so sure I’m ready for that.”

Smiling Anne leaned in and made one tiny stroke with ink on a tree along the horizon, “There you go, see how awesome that’s going to look?”

I grinned like a four-year-old who had just mastered the letter “K.”

There was no going back now. I had two choices.  I could abandon it or embrace it and see how far I could go.  I smiled to myself, thought about Katie and her “K” and knew that there was only one choice and I also realized that the stakes really weren’t all that high.   The worst thing that might happen is that the drawing wouldn’t turn out and I would be disappointed, but I would have learned a lot.

It took a month of Monday morning open studio sessions and more than a few in home sessions, late night tweaks, and surprisingly no tears to finish.  I thought it was going to be an experience in drawing and the use of different mediums, it was, but it turned out to be much bigger lesson than that.

It seems easier to quit than it does to finish, especially when it’s new and it feels completely out of your reach; but what you can learn is worth the risk.  It’s hard to ask for help and it’s even more difficult to accept it, but the rewards are tremendous.  And maybe most importantly, mistakes aren’t fatal and something doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.

A Rose by Any Other Name

I never realized until recently how similar a rose and a pine cone are.  On the surface, if you think about it, they share a comparable shape.  They have ‘petals,’ but yet one is soft and her lines are subtle and the other is hard and his lines are defined.  Both are beautiful, and when you look at them from a certain perspective they belong together.

The lesson in my drawing class this week was to draw a pine cone; it took work and guidance for it to take shape.  The focus of the lesson was to create the shape (not draw it).  In essence, use a piece of charcoal to create the foundation of the sketch and then pull out the lights and add back in the darks to draw the object; a method to bring life to black and white. (Who knew that an eraser is a way to help create and not just a way to hide mistakes.)

My beautiful instructor provided me with encouragement, support, and experience which helped me turn my rose into a pine cone, and an equally beautiful shape.