Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Photo to Sketch, Bringing Italy Home

A week or two ago, I posted this photo on Instagram; it was taken in Tivoli, Italy, at the beginning of the year. Something about the way the mortar/stucco exterior is falling away to reveal the patterns and textures and colours that comprise this retaining wall, . .

After I posted it, I started thinking about ways I could express it on paper, as a sketch, with my limited skills (another attempt to integrate my travels, to bring them into my life here, at home). Trying to catch the beautifully messy ordering of this array of random bricks seemed to ask for more precision than I can master, but I started wondering if I could be more abstract, give myself permission just to play, maybe try blowing up one small section. I wasn't sure, and so I stalled for a few days.

Finally, I attempted a tentative rendering, in pencil, of a small central section of the photo. If you enlarge the photo below and peer carefully, you can see those faint pencil lines.  I thought I'd made a good start, but I wasn't sure I had the heart to keep adding careful little brick after careful little brick, so I left the sketchbook open on our dining table for most of another week, scooting it out of the way when we wanted to eat there. . . .

And then yesterday afternoon -- perhaps because I'd had such success with my bread that morning (see my IG photos; I'll share recipe and process here soon), so that I was okay risking sketch failure -- I began playing. First, I got out my watercolours, all the tubes plus the little travel box/palette of solid pans, and started trying to mix colours. Might be time for me to take another class, but I think I learned a thing or two just puddling colours together on a white saucer at that table. 

As I was mucking the colours together, I loosened up about my goals -- the sketchbook is thick, has huge pages (11"x14"), and I've barely tiptoed into it. I started thinking perhaps I could try a week or two of different responses to that photo. And maybe I'll share some with you along the way, or maybe I won't, and maybe I'll abandon the whole idea as one commitment too many.

But for twenty or thirty minutes yesterday afternoon, I let myself play.  And it was glorious. . . .

Have you played, lately? At what? Is the possibility of failure or foolishness a factor, something you have to push away? Or do you prefer to play at things you do well? (There are arguments for both, I'd say -- I was often warned against "spreading myself too thin," and often see myself as Jack (Jill!) of all trades, Master of None).


18 comments:

  1. Who says we have to be the master of some...or all?
    You're thinking creatively; you're stamping; you're mixing paints and dreaming of how to do it better....or how to refine it. All signs of a strong artistic leaning to me. Spread yourself thin, I say. Explore it all. Or watch others explore it all.
    Looks lovely to me; looks like creation is happening. That's what makes the world go 'round for me.

    A. in London

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    1. Thanks, A. for the encouragement. And to reply here to a comment you left elsewhere, I do hope those olives are still at the Tate and that they live up to the hype I've built ;-)

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  2. I have not been playing...dabbling perhaps...and bravo for you to be exploring your inner artist. We are our own worst critics so to be able to silence that voice is a true gift...keep on playing Frances!

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    1. Dabbling is good too! And I think we can define playing loosely -- it might encompass the kind of "walking with camera" you do very well. Blogging can be play as well, right?

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  3. Since I've started thinking about this whole Growth Mindset programme at school, I've become aware of the restrictions that I or "my voices" have placed on my creativity. I quite enjoy the sketches that you've posted. So many of those old axioms were very negative...probably to discourage us from "over-reaching" or "stepping out of place". Mastery may come with perseverance but who says that mastery is necessary?

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    1. I never commented on your Growth Mindset post but have continued to think about it -- and I must say that I'd modify your self-assessment of having had a Fixed Mindset -- I'd say yours might be a blend of both, as you've Grown within your perceived strengths. But I do relate to that Fixed idea of what it is we're good at, and I guess that by "playing" I'm giving myself permission to grow out of that . . . And your last sentence! YES!!! Who says so?!

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  4. I like it-you have to pursue your passion.....who's here to judge the others?
    I've made some watercolous for my sea apartement-I'm not talented,I have no overview skills...I just wanted to play
    Madame,I think a lot about your post about Growth Mindset...
    Dottoressa

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    1. I think we deserve big pats on our back for going ahead and playing even when we don't see ourselves as having the talent, right? I'd love to see your wataercolours.

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  5. I think the playing has paid off - love the results. As a matter of fact, I am off playing today, in the snow. As we rarely get such falls, I shall bundle up and go off and enjoy a walk as I did when I was a child. Some things never change. And I am all for playing - we forget that play is how we learn when young and how we continue to learn when older. All pressures off, just noodling and pootling, trying this and that, no worries about getting it right or being on time or coming up to expectations. Playing as we age should be something we do more. Mostly, we have got the hard shit out of the way by now and know how to cope/deal with stuff. That is why I write. I am just playing with words. Tig! You're it!

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    1. Oh, snow can be such a trigger for child-like play, can't it? More so if it's relatively rare -- I'm not sure Winnipeggers or Montréalais feel so playful November through April. . . ;-)

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    2. @nohatnogloves the snow just now is rather special, isn't it? However I'm cursing it as well because I can't get back north from the Central Bellt because no trains are running in Scotland, and driving isn't an option either. I head off these grumpy thoughts by watching the children in our street sledging and building snowmen, and I'm so happy for them that they will have these snowy, schools-closed days to remember for the rest of their lives.

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    3. We have been marooned in our Scottish holiday cottage for four days now , two feet of snow & a tricky mile from the main road . We scuttle out on a walk each day & had great fun playing in the four feet drifts this morning . The dogs think it is great fun . So let’s all play on .
      Wendy from York

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  6. I think your “playing” is quite beautiful & I love how you’ve incorporated word into your drawing. Very fitting for a wordsmith :)

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  7. The corollary for me is making my goals, bit by bit, into things that are under my control. So, your goal is to take out your art stuff as much as makes you happy:) rather than get to a certain outcome. Activities vs. aims. Just a thought. I'm no expert in zen, for sure.

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  8. Yesss! The happy news is that, if you can make it a joyful practice, you get better and better, because you're painting and drawing often (in my experience the key the progress).

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  9. Interesting! I am so impressed by your artistic playing. No point me trying - anything I draw looks like a demented teabag. Below a certain very low level of basic accomplishment pleasure tends to be outweighed by frustration, or at least it is for me.
    What I'm finding hard at the moment is that I've embarked on a new career with the aim of enjoying it, and I'm having to fend off falling back into the serious, often self-doubting attitudes I had in my previous career, where I always felt like a square peg in a round hole. So a good reminder to 'play' more.

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  10. Thank you for sharing! I am impressed. And no, I have not played enough lately and I can tell. It seems to affect my entire demeanor. Embrace the joy.

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  11. When I saw the wall of bricks, I was reminded of a library, with books stacked on shelves in a variety of ways. I admire your artistic play. For now, I play with my camera, and sometimes fabric. I plan to retire in a couple of years and look forward to more time to play.

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we?

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