26 March 2011

This is where I draw the line ———

Well, this is where I drew the line this week, anyway!

(Click on images to embiggen.)

During this week's challenge*, I found myself seeing lines everywhere...

...and reacting emotionally.

I resented the way lines proscribed human contact with the 'natural world.'

I was acutely aware of:
fences, walls, railings, scaffolding, and electricity overheads.

(If you're not familiar with the weekly art challenge-play many Zentangle artists have been indulging in these last 14 weeks, go here to see some of the fun we've been having!)

I think my first tile reflects my initial emotional reaction to the challenge:

Before shading (I love the play of light in this photograph).
"Walking the line : take one."
It is also reminiscent of the airport runways I've seen during the week.
Do you see them?

After I expressed my feelings of being confined by lines (by tangling both feelings and lines), I thought, "There must be another perspective to explore."  I began seeking out lines within nature and, of course, I found them.  These beautiful palm fronds in my friends' back yard, for example.

I felt my animosity toward lines dissolving when confronted by the overwhelming beauty of 'natural' lines.  Lines don't only confine.  They define, they refine, they outline.  They're integral to beauty all around us.  And so I drew a second tile.

This time I used a curved string (sorry, Laura... I realise I've probably 'crossed a line' with such rebellious behaviour) and tangled one of my rare fifteen minute tiles.  The lines that appeared fluidly from the end of my pen were easy, carefree, happy lines (pardon the anthropomorphism).

I remembered to Breathe and to Relax.  
I stopped to Appreciate during the process and suddenly saw that it was done.

I didn't need to add (or say, or feel) more.
It was sufficient.

"Walking the line : take two."

(Definitely a digression from what I think of as my usual 'style'.)

It seems that, after all, most things can be viewed in more than one way.  And I've found that I have always benefited from personal contemplation of life (the universe, and everything) from different perspectives.

I've looked at lines from both sides now,
From up and down,
And still, somehow,
It's line illusions I recall.
I really don't know lines at all.
"Feather Canyons" (out my window on the flight up to Sydney this week).
I even found some incredibly beautiful, man-made lines (both curved and straight) by week's end.

Sydney Opera House : roof line.

Every time you think you know something 
(especially if you are certain of it)... 
Look again!

20 March 2011

Artists for Japan

If you're on Facebook, this is a quick note just to let you know about the Artists for Japan Facebook group.

Artists for Japan is a "...grassroots group of artists shaken by the disaster in Japan and respectful of the honourable way the Japanese people are conducting their clean up. We are posting art on Facebook for auction. The proceeds will go to the Red Cross efforts and the winning bid will get the art. Please join us and upload a piece you would like to donate." [from the Group description, written by Carrie]

This is an honesty based system. Each artist posts a picture of a piece of art they'd like to donate, and then looks after their own mini auction within the group page.  Artists promote their item by sending messages to their Facebook friends, posting it on their Facebook walls, emailing out the link, blogging, and so on.

Buyers make bids in the comment lines for the picture of the item they wish to bid on. Once the auction is over and payment received, the artist goes to the Red Cross page for their country and sends the funds to the tsunami/earthquake relief fund. I'm donating to the Australian Red Cross.

This is the link to see photographs of all the art that's up for auction. There's some absolutely beautiful artwork there. Go take a look! The page was set up by my friend and tangle buddy, Carrie — who I'll probably get to meet in person, because she's considering coming to Whitinsville this October!

The first closing date for the first Artists for Japan auction (we're hoping to have a second round of auctions, since this will be a long term cause) is 4pm PST on Saturday, March 26th (that's 10am Sydney time on Sunday, March 27th).

If you'd like a once-only print (number one of one!)
of the coffee mug insert I drew (in a brand new coffee mug),
my donated auction piece is here (the only two people to
have this mug will be me and the winning bidder). 

It eventually sold for $85 - thank you, Elle!*
I'm so pleased Carrie had this wonderful idea... and I hope to meet her in October! 

16 March 2011

NonDom - The Movie

Laura set us a great challenge (using our non-dominant hand!).  So this whole tile, from start to finish was done with my left hand.

"NonDom" (click on images to enlarge)
Familiar tools.

Unfamiliar tool.

Due to nerve damage, my left thumb is in a splint...
Yep, great timing, Laura
This is what the string looked like at the beginning.

(Click on image to enlarge.)
And, rather than writing one of my usual long blog posts, I decided to show you what happened this week.  So, this is me, tangling left handed:

To me, this just goes to show that, as Rick and Maria say,  

"Anything is possible... one stroke at a time."

For some truly inspirational ambidextrous art, most calligraphers have to go no further than our bookshelves, to find one of Arthur Baker's books:

And one of his beautiful bi-directional alphabets!

Footnote: I'm Celebrating three months of blogging!

Coming up this weekend: Artwork from some of our Tuesday Tanglers!

12 March 2011

Less than rhapsodic in blue

It's true, I was less than rhapped with my effort this week for Laura's weekly challenge (which is why I'm only posting it now, although I finished it days ago). But, in the interest of learning a more Zen attitude to my artwork, I've decided to post it anyway.

This piece is in the back of my journal. The fact that I started it there shows how confident I was not feeling about this artistic challenge!  Perhaps, next time I'm not feeling confident, I should start at the front of my art journal anyway [soft smile].

"Blue By You" (click to enlarge).
I am listening to music as I write today (as I usually do).  This week Norah Jones is singing "The Grass is Blue" and I am thinking, as she sings, of the backwards world we're living in these days.

Last night I watched the earth become sea in Japan.  It seems not that long ago I was sitting waiting and watching the waters rise — touching base with friends and family in Queensland, Australia.  And of course, in Christchurch, New Zealand (just across the pond from Tasmania), the earth beneath their feet betrayed them.  Norah sings in agreement from my speakers:
"Rivers flow backwards,
Valleys are high.
Mountains are level,
Truth is a lie."
"How much can a heart
and a troubled mind take?
Where is that fine line
before it all breaks?"
No wonder some of us are feeling blue... even those of us who have only seen these events unfold from the comfort and safety of our living rooms.  My heart caught in my throat last night as I saw the tidal waves washing across the land and realised there were people in there too. I had to stop watching the coverage — instead sending out email messages to those I knew in the area and waiting to hear back from them.

So what do we do with these feelings of sadness — at times overwhelming?  We do what we can, from a practical standpoint, and then –I believe– we make the time to stop, reflect on the impermanence of life in general, and then ask ourselves:
"What am I doing with this life of mine?"
"Am I making the world a better place, for my part in it?"
And these are questions, of course, that we should continue to ask ourselves... ever changing, growing, and becoming the Best we can be.  While recognising (and this is vitally important) that – on some days – our Best may seem more or less than we usually 'expect' from ourselves, and that's okay too.

So, if all I am able to do on this day is bring joy to one person by showing them their previously untapped artistic creativity, I will do it with Passion... with Love... and with Heart & Soul.

And, contrary to the lyrics of the song, I will always know in my heart that – even when it is beauty restricted to a 3.5" square canvas – Truth will always be Truth. So I will follow my heart, be True to my Self and live that Truth without compromise... for as long as I have to live it.

What does tragedy remind us?  What does all this death and destruction have to tell us?  Paradoxically, it tells us about Life.  It reminds us that we are safe and that Life is precious and full of meaning. Reminded of Living True, I photographed these trees at the meditation Centre I was at this time last week.

(Click to enlarge.)
I found myself looking up often during the course.  The trees grew so strong and tall in that beautiful place (another place of truth: of Dhamma).  I didn't speak for the duration of the course (that was easy).  I also didn't draw (that was very hard!).  But when I returned, I remembered watching the sunrise touch the tree tops early one morning at the Centre, and almost feeling the push of those trees to reach back to the sun.

"Tall and True" (click to enlarge).

Stand Tall and Live True!
Live with Courage and Zeal and Compassion!

In other news, the Australian Calligraphy Society's book, WordsWork, is now available from John Neal Books.  (The artists are published alphabetically, but I like to think my ZIA calligraphy is on page one three times over – page 111. [smiles])

02 March 2011

Motorways, megabite, meditation, monotangle

If you've come to see my entry for The Diva's Weekly Challenge this week, look no further than the first photograph (well, there's more tangly goodness further down, so you may want to scroll on through).  If, on the other hand, you'd like to be further entertained by the weirdness that is my life (and hear the explanation for the alliterative title of this post), then read on...

This is how my day started... on the motorway (yes folks, in this town, more than one lane travelling in the same direction is what passes for a motorway).

As my choice of photograph above may suggest, I was quite stressed at the beginning of this week.  I had so many things to do, I didn't know where to start.  So, on Sunday, I decided to create a 'tasks list' and then prioritise things.  It took most of the day to get the list sorted out — there were almost 100 items on it (just under 100 actually, or my head may have exploded).  I narrowed down what had to be done in the next couple of days, then yesterday (Monday) I spent 13 hours "doing."

It was, however, clear to me that I wasn't becoming less stressed in the process, even though my list was down to 87 tasks by the end of the day.  (No, I was not slacking off... as I was crossing of the tasks I was remembering still more!)

The List (somehow it has now achieved capital letter, double underline status in my mind) currently stands at 83.  Unfortunately "write blog" wasn't one of my Listed tasks.  Nor was "tangle The Diva's Challenge" (drat), nor was eat chocolate cake.  Bear with me, I must digress a moment or two.  No, I really must, and this is the awesome reason why —

Chocolate Mud Cake!
My week was cheered considerably today by the Tuesday Tanglers (it's tomorrow already today in Australia, remember? okay... now keep reading [grin]).  Every Tuesday, as you may or may not have heard, our local tangle family gets together and whiles away the hours tangling at a local café.  Today, however, was even more special, for it was a Tuesday Tangler Birthday.  Yep – this is where the chocolate comes into play (and the mega bite – see how I did that?).  That chocolaty goodness made a rainy, grey day and rather stressful week, suddenly brighter and more relaxing... oh, and tangling... and, of course, the company of good friends too.  Yep – it was mostly the company (and the laughter... let's not forget the laughter!).

So, what to do about my (not permanently reduced) stress levels? Well, tangle – obviously – though there was some tangling already on my List (from now on I'm not taking on tangling that comes with deadlines, it's incredibly un-Zen).  No, the only possible response to having so much to do and not enough time to do it, was to decide to spend four days doing almost nothing.

Illogical?  It may seem so, but I realised that, as soon as I find myself thinking, "I've got too much to do!!" [add a tone of mild panic as you read that sentence for full effect], it's time for me to stop Doing — and switch to Just Being.  So I applied to attend a meditation retreat.
  • no speaking (people always think that's the difficult part, but it's fantastic)
  • getting up at 4:00am every morning (I'll admit that's not fun)
  • and meditating for twelve hours a day
It's wonderful.  (Honestly! ...I've done it before.)

I doubt I'd have come to this (now seemingly obvious) decision this time last year.  I'll put that down to the effect of Zentangle on my (clearly improved) thought processes.  (Sandy's "Yoga For Your Brain" descriptor is clearly spot on.)

I'll tell you how I go with the meditation when I return (to computers, to traffic, to The List)... but for now I'll conclude with the final "M"... this week's Challenge #11Monotangle!

I broke out a new Moleskine journal [hmm... I may have to see someone for these alliterative tendencies] for this challenge: creating a Zentangle (or ZIA) using just a single tangle.  People have indicated that they enjoy reading my 'process' postings, so here's how it went:
  1. I decided to use a tangle I've never tangled before.  For some reason I'm drawn [pun intended] to shiny, new tangles for these challenges (hey, why not add a little danger to make it interesting?!)  My rules were: no practising, no test run, study the steps, close the book, and pen to paper.  So I found Etcher in Sandy's aforementioned new book, and I was off and running.  ("Hey – why go simple when I can make it more fun by searching for something tricky?" writes the lady with The List.) 
  2. I drew it small... medium... large... with and without a dark background... and then sat back to 'appreciate.'  I was thinking as I tangled (usually a bad sign), "This tangle shall not defeat me. It shall not."  (I suspect my subconscious mantra was, "This List shall not defeat me. It shall not.")  It wasn't a horrible effort, but it looked a bit stressed (surprise, surprise!) – and it didn't 'sing' to me.

  3. So I turned the page and had another go.  This time (after the chocolate cake) I was feeling a little more mellow (I think it probably shows).  I ambled around the tile in a rather uncharacteristically aimless manner (for me).  So I was off to a happy start.
  4. Unfortunately it was at about this point that I suddenly declared, "Oh dear, those look like little ears!"  (If you're like me, it's incredibly difficult to 'unsee' things once you've seen them.)

    (extreme close-up)
  5. Melissa and I looked at them and then, as giggles ensued, I pointed to the one, odd, spiky variant I'd drawn and I dubbed him, "cactus man."  To reinforce his new title, I turned his dots into a smiley face (with a mouth), which only served to encourage the giggling.  Our fellow café patrons probably considered moving quietly away at this point, so they wouldn't attract the attention of the 'clearly-unhinged' women at the corner table. 

    Meet Cactus Man (or possibly Cactus Boy – he's quite small):

    (extreme close-up)
  6. What to do?  (I said this out loud as soon as my composure was somewhat regained.)  Melissa advised (as I have said to many other students in the past), "Keep on tangling, and see what happens."  She also made me promise to photograph both Cactus Boy and the 'ears' before I covered them with anything [drat].
  7. I drew a few circles (you can see the ones I started with at the base of each shape), and I was suddenly thinking circles.  So, without further ado I filled an 'ear' with circles, et voilà!  (That's Cactus Boy with the arrow — transformed. Click here to read hilarious poem by Mel, in loving memory of Cactus Boy.)

    (extreme close-up)
  8. I added yet more circle fillings, and here, finally was my Monotangle of choice!  There's no shading, but that seemed right for this one.  There's also a blank 'tile' waiting next to it on the page.  I shall wait to fill that one until I get home from meditating.

I did not surgically remove the first page of my journal (though I considered it briefly).  It will serve to remind me, every time I open my journal, of this week's invaluable lesson —  

It's More Important To Be than it is to Do!

♫♪♫ Do, Be, Do, Be, Do
...sorry, couldn't resist one more giggle for the day [grin]

Another wonderfully playful Challenge this week – thanks Laura for your great, Play-Encouraging words (great timing!) – and, by the end of it all (now about 3:00am as I put my blog, and myself, to bed), I'm feeling rather more relaxed than I was sitting in a traffic jam this morning. 

Hobart: a lovely little city — where two lanes of slow moving traffic
is called 'Peak Hour' (even though it's more like 40 minutes).

Once I leave for the meditation retreat, I will be offline for a while.
No email, no Fbook, no blogging, not a telephone, not even a pen
and paper (that last part is a truly scary prospect).

So, until I return,
Be Happy — Be Here Now!

Coming up next time :  our latest Ensemble prints will be back from the printer, and I'll post the photographs!
A timely point of interest : if you're ever reading my blog and wondering what time it is where I am (you know, in case you wanted to drop by for a cuppa), there is now a helpful "Local Time" clock to the side below the search box.  Also, for local tanglers, if you're wondering when the next Weekly Challenge might be going live (Monday mornings in Diva Land), a little further down is a "Diva Challenge Local Time" clock.