Most people do not know that I enjoy soft-block carving and printing. Years ago I carved stamps of different sizes of this 7-petaled, “CREATIVITY”, Adinkra symbol. I used my stamps this month to finish up a sketchbook I titled Ebb and Flow. It needed to be mailed by February 15th to the project organizers and I was very happy to have the pressure of this hard deadline to motivate me to do something creative as I have not been feeling well for several weeks. I will spare you all the details, but I caught a horrible cold on top of a recurring nerve pain in my lower back. These and other issues have kept me home bound (aka “hibernation mode”) for most of this winter, however I am proud to say I have been using my alone-time constructively.
In addition to working on the Sketchbook Project (which I will briefly outline further down this page) I have spent an inordinate amount of time decluttering and sorting through all of my art supplies. For example, every sheet of paper, art tool, and bottle of paint I owned was inspected. Every pen was tested and deemed worthy or unworthy of continuing to stay in my collection.
Every ink pad was pressed to determine if its foam had disintegrated or its saturation of ink needed to be reapplied. If I could repurpose something I did, if I could recycle it, it was placed in the appropriate bin in my basement. I even wrapped up all of the old, dried out pens to mail to “Pen Guy Art“; an artist who uses dead pens to create his work. (I am glad they will be reused and I will not be making my global footprint larger.)
Over an hour was spent cleaning oil pastels I have had for decades, some of the craypas are older than me; they belonged to my grandfather. I learned online I could remove migrated colors by rubbing them with corn meal. It worked fairly well to remove the surface grime and I finished them off by rubbing them lightly with a paper towel infused with a little oil. It was an oddly satisfying exercise. I did it in silence and practiced being totally in the moment. A nice relaxed activity – mindfulness.
The decluttering process and re-evaluation of my tools and art supplies put me in the perfect mindset to finish my sketchbook and to create some new works of art! I am ready now to revisit other creative projects that have lain dormant for a long time.
EBB & FLOW: The main event for me this month has been the completion of my sketchbook titled “Ebb and Flow” which I created for the Vol. 15 exhibit of “The Sketchbook Project” sponsored by the Brooklyn Art Library. There are no real rules other than avoiding the use of art materials that might cause pages to stick together unintentionally. I looked at the blank pages for many months waiting for an idea on what to draw.
Ultimately I decided not to “draw” much on the pages at all. Instead I filled them using watercolor, collage, and my hand carved block prints. Inspired by Hilma af Klint’s “The Ten Largest” I decided to create an abstract journey from creation to the return to source. The only text I included is the title.
MY PROCESS: Here is a little glimpse into my planning notes – another notebook I used to flesh out my watercolor layouts and collage ideas. The first image is a filtered example of “clustering” that I did on the idea of “FLOW”. You can see that word is in the center. [I learned this technique many, many, many, years ago from a book called “Writing the Natural Way” by Gabriele Rico; it is an excellent tool for writing, creating, and introspection. Click on the word “clustering” to read about the steps involved.]
Based on the aspects of flow that came to me during this writing/brainstorming exercise, I mapped out the different stages of the book. You can see the final map in the second image. I made a lot of changes during the book’s creation so my map got very messy (messy in a good way–smile).
Another decision I based on my clustering was the color palette. I pulled out all the watercolor pans and used them as reference when selecting images for the collages. After images were selected I decided how to arrange them on each page and mapped out where I needed to background paint first. The downside of this sketchbook was that the quality of the paper was most suitable for drawing, NOT for watercolor paints. I caused a lot of buckling with this choice. I used watercolors because I did not want finished pages to stick together, that happens sometimes with acrylic paints.
In addition to the collage images (that I cut with tiny little scissors while I wore some magnifying eyeglasses) I added hand carved stamps. If you look closely at the center of the largest, teal-colored, “creativity” image in this photo, you will see that I cut a circular portal to suggest the travel from one stage of life to the next. Some of the pages are connected using this idea of dimensional travel.
FINAL PAGES: Life is a series of forward movement and times of rest and retreat – Flow and Ebb – Ebb and Flow. I created each set of pages based on separate concepts (natural-earth/elements and spiritual). As the energy of life passes through the stages its form changes shape from stars to spirals to wedges, but the essence of life remains the same, always in the moment with past recalled and future imagined. Instead of describing in detail what each page and stage means to me, I would rather let them speak to you directly. Perhaps they will say something different to you – here they are. I have created a GALLERY view, so you need only click on the cover image and then you easily can scroll through the sketchbook by clicking the arrows.
Links for more information:
The Sketchbook Project — Brooklyn Art Library – Main Information page about the project
Brooklyn Art Library – Facebook page
UPDATE February 28, 2022 – “The moving trailer that was transporting the entire Sketchbook Project collection from Brooklyn to St. Pete, Florida, caught fire while driving through Baltimore….we estimate we may have lost around 7,000 books of the collection and most of our supplies that helped us operate as an organization.”
(Click on the update link for the full report and request for donations.)
My heart was not prepared for this. Other artists seem to have a stronger character about losing their book(s) to a fire. I wish I could be more like them. So now I am waiting along with everyone else for some sort of notification about the status of my sketchbook. In light of what is going on in the world, intellectually I know this is a small sacrifice. Nevertheless, art is my escape, my solace, and in this case my attempt to leave something behind that my descendants might see and feel connected to me. (Holding back a tear.)