Under Construction and Enjoying the Mess

I am always amazed by the way that things happen in life when you least expect them and how often they come at just the right time. A few weeks ago a friend of mine reached out and asked me to do a painting for her inspired by one of my drawings and her anthem, Bob Marley’s song Three Little Birds.

tree of hope

The funny thing is that although I knew the lyrics well, I realized that I had no idea what the title of the song was.

At any rate the reintroduction to the song and the reminder that although everything doesn’t always turn out the way we plan, every little thing will be alright. During the cold and cloudy winter days, this project has given me something bright and positive to focus on and the song has become my anthem for 2015.

It’s also presented an opportunity for me to spread my artistic wings in more than a few ways.

My friend is planning on putting the piece over her fireplace and wants a piece that is 24 x 36. My original tree fits is 6 x 8 and is in a vertical space, not a horizontal one so I’m not quite sure how I’m going to make that work, but one challenge at a time.

The first challenge was to figure out how to draw the birds. I requested and received a few pictures of birdies that she liked and I’ve been doing some experimenting. I accidentally put four little red birds on the branch in the first drawing because I was so excited when the birds I’d been practicing on the side actually turned out well. 🙂 Four birds also filled the space better, so it’s all good.tree of hope with birds_v1 w color

In the second practice session, I successfully incorporated the three birds, although they got a little lost among all of the bubbles so I’m re-thinking the colors a bit to make sure they pop.

3 little birds in living color

The second challenge was the size. For the past two years I haven’t created anything that is larger than 8 1/2 x 11 and the majority of my drawings are 6 x 8 or 7 x 10. I get very intimidated when I think about filling all of the white space, not to mention the challenges associated with making something look both “real” and big. Granted this isn’t a drawing based on realism, but it’s still necessary to properly translate the idea which can be more difficult in a larger space, at least for me.

As luck would have it, I started a new art class on January 15th and in just two sessions I’ve already gained more confidence in drawing “big.” This past week, while the other students drew and painted the complex relationships between the objects on the table,

still life

I drew the vase and then the bowl.

Vase and Bowl

 

Three years ago, I would have considered this to be an abysmal failure but I’ve learned to focus on where I’m at in the process and to consider the progress in my own work and not how it compares to others.

In many ways I’m as thrilled with this piece as I’ve ever been with any finished drawing. In my mind, both objects look more “real” and recognizable than any of my previous attempts at capturing a still life on paper. It’s also giving me the confidence I need to fill a much larger canvas.

When my instructor sees that I’m getting frustrated by the multiple lines and mess on my paper, he reminds me that part of art (and life) is about making a mess while we’re learning. If you think about it, in order to grow as people, it means we’re sort of “under construction” throughout life, and sometimes it’s messy.

The third challenge was the medium. Ink and color pencils have been my mainstay for quite a while now, but neither is appropriate for such a large piece. Acrylic paint is the medium I keep coming back to.

Coincidentally, the online art journaling class I’m taking has a new home and the instructor launched an updated version of the lessons.The introduction included information and thoughts about the importance of quality paper in art.

It made me stop and think.

In the spirit of starting anew and with the acknowledgement that we deserve our canvas, whatever form it takes, to be of quality, I ordered a new journal for the class. It seemed appropriate to carry the “everything is going to be alright” theme through on the cover of my new art journal.

It was also a good way to play a little with paints before I tackle a large painting.

2_3 Little Birds art Journal cover_in color_final

The back cover was the perfect place to try another version of three little birds on for size.

3 little birds journal_back cover final

The paints I used are fine for crafts and journals, but not for a full size painting, so my next stop on this journey is the art supply store for proper paints and a canvas or two.

All of these independent projects have  been a great way to experiment with mixing mediums and learning how they play nicely together (or not).

It’s also been an excellent way for me to discover and play with elements such as the Three Little Birds that will be an important part of the painting that I will be starting in the next week or so.

I’m very happy with the way both the individual drawings and the journal cover turned out; it sets a great tone to start filling the pages in between with the assignments from the lessons. It’s going to be interesting to figure out when and how to work on things for my “in real life” class, my online class, and the larger painting project that this has all been a part of.

Who knew that one little doodle would turn into a giant construction zone? 🙂

 

Serendipity

Drum with music notes - Ink Drawing

Have you ever heard of Horace Walpole? Neither had I until this morning after Googling the origin/definition of the word serendipity. It turns out it was coined by Horatio Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford in 1754.

It’s interesting that a word that means fortunate happenstance was defined by a man described as an English art historian, man of letters, antiquarian and Whig politician.

Serendipity is one of my all-time favorite words and I’m often reminded of how many of my experiences and opportunities are nothing I could have orchestrated. It boggles my mind to think about how everything that happens in life becomes intertwined.

One event, often-times an unpleasant or unwanted one, can result in an outcome that is better than we could have imagined and it exposes us to new ideas, people, and possibilities.

A few years ago my chiropractor had to close the doors on his practice. I was devastated and had no idea how I was ever going to find someone to take his place and provide the same type of care and support.

Location was the only criteria I used to choose a new doctor from the list of recommendations. Since I knew nothing about any of them and I have a track record of getting lost in unfamiliar areas, it made the most sense to pick the one closest to my house.

Enter serendipity

I’ve now been seeing her for almost 3 years and it’s become increasingly clear that she isn’t a doctor you go to see because your back hurts, she’s a person you see because you want to live a full life and understand what it means to accept who you are and how to tap into your potential. She understands a lot about how the mind, the body, and the universe are intertwined.

Her teaching and healing practices have introduced me to many new ideas and techniques. Among my favorites are  NET (neural emotional technique), the teachings of Louise Hay, and drum circles.

She hosts a drum circle the second Friday of the month and it’s an event I do my best not to miss. Never in a million years did I think that I would be comfortable sitting among a group of strangers while playing a drum or another type of percussion instrument, but I am.

Drum with music notes - Ink Drawing

Last night the group was an equal mix of regulars and newbies which is always fun. Sometimes the music we make is more orchestra-like and the sets ebb and flow with a sense of purpose and beauty.

Other times, like last night, the beat is more primal and the sounds of each individual drum are more prevalent. The music may have been a little more off-beat but still beautiful in its own unique way.

The leader of the drum circle ends each evening with a meditation. His gentle words guide our imaginations to beautiful beaches, mountains, forests, and other beautiful places where the night skies are always filled with stars and the days are sunny, warm, and breezy.

Last night we took flight and drifted peacefully over a meadow reaching down to touch the softness of the multicolored petals of the flowers below us.

Ink Flower with multi-colored petals

It’s strange to think that I might have missed out on these experiences if not for an unexpected and undesired disruption. Serendipity is all around us; it’s a matter of being open to new possibilities.

Yellow – Fall’s Hidden Treasure

Fall is my second favorite season, summer will always be my first. What can I say? I love the warmth of the sun. I do have to admit that the cooler temperatures of fall make long walks and bike rides along the towpath even more enjoyable.

This year the reds and oranges have been especially vibrant, and for the first time ever I noticed the beauty in the color yellow as well.

I also discovered that sometimes the leaves that have fallen to the ground are as beautiful as the leaves still clinging to the branch. This blanket of gold and subtle accents of green covering the grass took my breath away.

hidden beauty inspiration

I have no doubt that the drivers of the cars passing me wondered why I was taking pictures of the ground, but I couldn’t help myself. I saw more than fallen leaves, I saw the hidden beauty.

The image inspired me to draw.

hidden beauty

I decided to call it “Hidden Beauty.”

#Inktober Favorites

It turns out that no-shave November is preceded by #inktober, a month-long challenge to do an ink drawing every day. It’s intent is to motivate artists to draw on a regular basis and as a way to improve one’s technique.

Even the best artists get better the more they practice and play with their favorite medium or experiment with a new one.

I started the challenge late. I was too busy working on my Fall watercolor garden to even notice that there was a challenge underway. Once I came up for air I realized that many of my artist friends on Google+ were  posting wonderful ink drawings on a daily basis. Their masterpieces ranged from simple sketches to elaborate doodles.

There’s no way I’ll complete the goal of creating something every day, but that’s OK. It was fun to get my pens out and see what I could come up with. Here are a few of my favorites:

A black and white flower garden was my first entry. It’s kind of whimsical and fun.

inktober flower garden

Sometimes inspiration comes from the strangest places and in this case I was inspired to keep it simple just like the pattern on my dinnerware. It’s amazing what your mind can come up with when you let it wander while emptying the dishwasher.
flower outline
We’ve had more than a few beautiful Fall days here in Pennsylvania I took this somewhat fuzzy picture of a cute little tree in my neighborhood.
Autumn Treee
It inspired me to pull out the Prismacolor markers and create a very bright and all ink interpretation of it.
inktober_10_17_2014
I remember the night I made the following entry well.  I’d spent at least an hour wasting time and paper trying to draw something other than a flower or a tree. In all honesty I’d given up on an #inktober entry for tonight.

I signed onto Facebook and what showed up in my feed? A picture of a beautiful African Daisy – posted by one of my friends.

I was instantly inspired and motivated to draw. Pretty sure I’ve never even used these ink colors before. Hopefully I did her photo some justice.
inktober_10_19_2014
This entry started out being very whimsical  with light lines and little shading
it ended up being a bit intense – interesting…
inktober_10_20_2014
After a long but good day, a bubble bath by candle light not only helped me unwind but was also fuel for creativity. Believe it or not, this was inspired by shadows cast on the wall of my bathroom by the flames from three votive candles.
inktober_10_24_2014

 Feeling a little transitional lately – maybe those feelings inspired this entry. My version of a “tree of seasons.”

tree of seasons
Last but not least, my favorite. I picked up this little gem on my walk the other day – it served as some inspiration .Hydraenga

I believe it’s from a Hydrangea tree/plant – it was so strange to find this one lone piece lying on the grass at my feet.

I couldn’t resist bringing it home.
inktober_10_27_2014
Now to decide how to complete the final four days of #inktober. 🙂

Be Kind to Yourself…YOU Deserve it!

Be Kind to Yourself by Beth Browning

One of the things I’ve been working to change in my life over the past few years is to end the negative self talk. We all do it and we shouldn’t. One night last week I found myself slipping down that path and decided to address it head on and through art.

While writing in my journal, the phrase, “be kind to yourself, you deserve it” started running through my head like a broken record and inspired me to grab a watercolor tablet and an assortment of my ink pens.

Be Kind to Yourself In black ink

The funny thing is that the very first version had a “writo” and I misspelled yourself . 🙂

The Y reminded me of a tree trunk and trees are a symbols for knowledge and life which seemed appropriate.  The “B” lent itself to a rainbow.

Be Kind to Yourself with a tree and a rainbow

The tree needed some additional color and life. At this point I was torn and wondering if I should have left it in black and white. In the end I think the color makes the tree “pop.”

Be Kind to YourselfWhile I was looking for inspiration for the butterfly one thing led to another and I stumbled onto one of my own posts while searching for pictures of butterflies.

A couple of years ago I tried my hand at colored pencils and drew an interpretation of Snapdragons and butterflies. It was a piece inspired by my grandmother’s gardens and my favorite flower. This became the inspiration for the butterfly.

white butterfly set free

The butterfly took on a completely unique and somewhat abstract look.

Be Kind to yourself

I decided to do the background in watercolor, which is a first for me. I’ve used watercolor pencils before, but not watercolor paint. I learned a few lessons here about how ink and watercolors do (or don’t play nicely together). In other words, it’s a good idea to do to the background first so the ink doesn’t bleed. It’s also wise to place a piece of paper between your hand and the lettering while working on the lettering to prevent smudging.

In spite of some smudges and ink bleeds I carried on and brought the piece to near completion. I’m more than a little in love with how the butterfly turned out.

Be Kind to yourself with color background

The smudging and bleeding got worse before it got better and my beautiful piece of artwork became an experiment in working with the imperfections created by my inexperience. I have to admit that I came close to tossing it out.

It’s far from perfect, but I think it’s beautiful and I’m glad I completed it.

Be Kind to Yourself by Beth Browning

I’m going to set it aside for now and work on the next lesson in my Doodle Arts class but I’m fairly certain I will revisit this and create a new version.

In the meantime, this version is on the mantle of my fireplace as a daily reminder to “be kind to myself.”

It’s been an Artistic Winter, but – Is it Spring Yet?

Holy buckets I’m tired of winter!

I will say that this winter has been very good for one aspect of my life. The long winter nights have been conducive to spending quality time with my ink journal. I’ve also joined a couple of artist’s groups on Facebook which has turned out to be both fun and inspiring.

I’ve met some great people and it’s fun to sign onto Facebook and see the latest ink journal entries, doodle art, and mixed media pieces. There are so many amazing artists in the world, it boggles my mind.

When I started drawing in my ink journal, I called each entry a ‘doodle.’ What I didn’t know or appreciate at the time is that doodles aren’t just the shapes someone draws on the edges of a notebook while they’re waiting for a boring meeting to end. Doodling is an art form and an excellent way for me to relax.

I learned about an online class called “Doodle Arts and Lettering” through one of my new Facebook groups. On a whim I registered, bought the supplies, and started the lessons.

Each lesson includes an extra doodle assignment at the end, the first one was to draw nature, specifically leaf inspired doodles.

leaf inspired black and white doodles

The drawings for each lesson will be completed in a journal. I’m using a small journal with watercolor paper. The assignment to create cover art was a little intimidating, but I’m pleased with how my cover turned out.

cover art_first journal_February 2014

I’m in love with the white ink that spells out the sentiment for the class, which is to “Let it Flow.”

An interesting and unexpected outcome of participating in the online groups is an increased feeling of confidence in my own artwork. It’s freed me to try new colors and combine techniques and to use real life as inspiration.

five daisies

Five white daisies morphed into four brightly colored abstract sunflowers bursting out of a green and blue background and framed by swirling purple curly cues. I guess that’s what one would call an interpretation. 🙂

dancing flowers_3

The bright yellow, blue, and purple sunflower bursts pop out of the background and remind me of creativity and ideas bursting out of an imaginative mind.

Participation in the groups and the online class has fueled my courage and my imagination to go beyond drawing flowers and experiment with new ideas.

This drawing started out as 4 wavy swooshes and it somehow turned into a psychedelic serpent or snake.

swirling serpent

I’m guessing it’s not what most people would expect to be on the page behind the “Let it Flow” cover, but it is and I think that’s quite cool.

Another interesting thing about keeping an ink journal is that I can’t wrinkle up and toss aside the drawings I start and don’t like. They stay in the pages of my journal and more than one of them have turned into pieces of art.

A failed attempt at a rose turned into a vivid blue sunflower bursting with life.

burst of life

An abandoned flower peeking out from the corner of the page gave life to ribbons of color and light.

Bursts of Color and Life

Last night, after a particularly stressful day, I created this hypnotic web of colors out of an “X’d” out center of circles. I’m not sure if it represents emerging from the eye of a storm or feeling like I’m caught in a web.

eye of the storm

It reminds one of my friends of the “Wheel of Fortune.” I like that image, maybe if I give it a big enough spin, my winter of flat tires, power outages, and car repairs will end and the Spring will be full of prosperity and joy.

Here’s to Spring!

The Art of Meditation through Ink

Several months ago I was at Michael’s looking for inexpensive writing journals for my sometimes daily stream of consciousness. I found a few, one of which was clearly oriented around sketching and painting rather than writing.

Sketch, draw, live, express- Sketch book cover

I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it, but at $2.00 the price was right and I figured the inspiration would find it’s way to me when the time was right. The unlined pages of the journal intimidated me for months.

My only experience with drawing outside of a classroom setting was after I learned how to make handmade paper. The pieces of handmade paper turned into tiny canvases and the imperfections in the paper were the foundation of many beautiful abstract pieces.

I started using only black ink and sketching things that were familiar and felt comfortable  to draw. For whatever reason I drew trees, trees, and more trees.

tree drawing on handmade flax paper

I don’t know what prompted me, but I was inspired to add color to the drawings and the trees took on the colors of fall through the use of watercolor pencils.

tunnel into fall

Even the most “perfect” pieces of paper were full of wrinkles, creases, and uneven textures.  The veins and arteries that ran through each page were the foundation for the shapes that emerged from my pens.

abstract ink drawing on handmade paper

The drawings quickly became more about the process then the outcome. The world and my worries disappeared for a few hours each night while I put pen to paper. The colors, shapes, and possibilities mesmerized and comforted me. It was a sad day when I ran out of handmade paper. (one of these days I’m going to make more)

For a variety of reasons my creative self went into hiding after I completed my last ink drawing on handmade paper in March. Then one night in September an image came to my imagination so strongly I had no choice but to try and release it onto paper.

tulip ink drawing

I was so thrilled with how my flower turned out that I stopped drawing again. I know that makes no sense, but it’s what happens to me sometimes. When I create something beautiful it makes me wonder if it was just a fluke and I talk myself out of trying to create something new just in case it was.

The funny thing about my ink journal is that there are no dates and the entries are completed in anything but a chronological order. I’ve even given myself permission to do the unthinkable and use an abandoned entry as the beginning of a new piece.

a work in progress_0

The outcome was surprising.Bursts of Color and Life

The backside of each drawing is almost if not equally as beautiful as the front; an unexpected and delightful bonus.

Sunflowers in Winter

Sunflowers in Winter - The Reverse Side

The recurring theme throughout the journal is sunflowers. I’m not entirely certain if I continue to draw sunflowers because I know how, or because they were the subject of my first drawing, or because they are a symbol of happiness. Maybe it’s a combination of all three.

I don’t suppose it really matters.

The Gift of Life - Ink Drawing of a Sunflower in Bright Inks

My ink journal is not a place where I create masterpieces or finished works of art. It’s a place where I let my mind wander and rest at the same time. It’s where I express myself without words with my medium of choice – ink. It is how I meditate through art.

I can’t wait to see how my latest meditation piece turns out.

hearts and tears_3

The Beautiful Unknown

"Abstract ink drawings on handmade paper - embrace the unknown"

Sometimes we can panic and fear about the unknown, when all we really have to do is to fully believe everything is working absolutely perfectly for us.  Our job is to let go and allow amazing experiences in to our lives.” [Dr. Ann Quinn]

I don’t know about you, but this is sometimes easier said than done. Yet I know based on my experiences, that the less I try and orchestrate things that I’m uncertain about, they nearly always turns out better than I could have possibly imagined.  In fact often-times the outcome wasn’t even in my imagination and is completely unexpected.

It’s a lesson that I seem to need to learn repeatedly and be reminded of often.  I guess it’s human nature to have doubts and to worry that ‘this time’ things might not turn out for the best.

A few months ago, I started drawing on my hand-made paper in ink.  It started with a handful of drawings of trees and sunflowers, just in ink.  As my confidence grew, I began to add watercolor pencil into the mix of drawings. This evolved into a trilogy of drawings inspired by the perfection or the beauty within our imperfections.  This set included not only ink and water color pencil, but landscape color pens as well.

Each phase of my exploration in drawing has come with an unexpected lesson in life and a bit of self discovery.  I truly love working in black and white, there’s something about the contrast and lack of color that is romantic and somewhat mysterious.  Ink seems to have become my medium of choice (at least for now), and it was a little strange for me to feel drawn toward adding color.

My latest discovery was a set of brightly colored pens that are a wonderful compliment to the softer landscape colors.  The contrast between black and the vibrant pink, blue, green, and purple is amazing.  As luck would have it, I had three more pieces of handmade flax paper that were each uniquely different, but similar enough to inspire another trilogy.

It became an evening escape and the best word I can use to describe the way the kaleidoscope of colors and shapes emerged is unexpected.

Each of the drawings starts with a blank piece of hand made paper created from flax.  I use the creases and pieces of fiber, the curves and the crinkles as  guides for my imagination.

The first drawing has a bit of a hot air balloon feel to it.

"abstract ink drawing_hot air baloon"

After one of my friends told me that her daughter saw a mermaid in the second drawing, I decided to name it “Under the Sea.”

"abstract ink drawing_under the sea"

I’m a geek when it comes to my drawing and I love taking pictures of it while it’s in progress.

"Abstract Ink Drawing on Handmade paper - Ribbons of Joy_step 1

After the first night of working on the third piece, I thought, “hmmmmm it’s nice, but there’s no way it’s going to be as pretty as “Under the Sea.” But after the second session I began to wonder.

"abstract ink drawing on handmade flax paper_ribbons of joy_step 2"

Ink is an unusual medium for me to love.  As a perfectionist, it usually feels uncomfortable and even down right scary to know that there’s no opportunity for a do-over.  The fear of the unknown and the potential to make a mistake can be crippling and can even keep us perfectionists from trying.

"abstract ink drawing_ribbons of joy"

With one corner to go, I let it rest for a night while my imagination processed the possibilities.

One of the reasons I’ve enjoyed the process of creating these drawings is that it completely absorbs me and there’s no room for self doubt or ‘real world’ worries.  I simply let myself go and follow wherever my instincts tell me to go.  I really don’t think about which color to use, I feel it.

I finished the final corner and a wave of sadness and a thrill of completion crisscrossed over me.  Sad because I was done and thrilled because it was beautiful.

I found myself reminiscing about how scary it was to even start a drawing just a short time ago. It occurred to me that just like life, each drawing starts with a blank page and even when the artist has an image in mind, the final piece often takes an unintended direction.

The difference between when I let go and trust my instincts and enjoy the process rather than fighting to reproduce a predefined image  is like night and day.  The  parallel to life struck me as uncanny.  When I trust myself and really believe that things are unfolding as they are meant to be.  When I quit trying to control things, and let go of worry and panic the outcome is as amazing as a beautiful piece of art.

“Ribbons of Joy” seemed to be an appropriate title.

"abstract ink drawing_ribbons of joy"

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?