Maybe I’ll do a little blogging (and sketching) again

A few weeks ago I turned off the blog – set it to private – because it felt like the only thing I had to talk about was chronic illness, and that gets pretty exhausting to live, let alone write about. I wonder sometimes if other chronic illness bloggers ever feel that way.

Then, a couple days ago, someone commented on a post! I heard the ding on my iPhone and thought, “Whaaaa? Didn’t I turn the blog off?” But maybe here’s where I talk about ADHD and feeling scatterbrained, because who knows, it’s possible I turned the blog back on without remembering, but there it was, not hidden and getting a comment. And it was nice, too, this note from someone about how my post about dyeing my Macabi skirts helped them out. Yay! I love that I got to be helpful.

Here’s what I’ve been doing lately: painting. Again. I have a watercolor sketchbook. Right now I’m using a Global Art Materials book sized 8.5″ by 5.5″, and it’s just the right size. The cover was an off-white linen, but in honor of my second-ever visit to the Oregon Country Fair recently, I made some adjustments to its cover:

I painted it with Dr. Ph. Martin’s watercolor ink. I love that stuff!

I decided to see if I could make daily sketching and painting a habit, specifically to help with stress, to get into flow on a regular basis, and to just get better at drawing and painting.

I had to get a good basic palette going, so I checked in with the three watercolor painters I like the most, Liz Steel, Kateri Ewing, and Jane Blundell, and I got their lists of basic starter colors. Kateri’s list is just the colors she recommends for her Bluprint class on basic watercolor technique.

I had many of these colors, but I got a few more and created my own palette:

Creating palettes is so much fun, I could do that for hours. If I could, I’d just sit in the Daniel Smith factory all day and create palettes for every purpose. Underwater palettes, forest palettes, desert palettes, sunset palettes, painting dogs palettes, on and on.

My sketchbook is slowly filling up. I have been painting every day, like I planned. I don’t know how long this streak will last and I put zero pressure on myself, because pressure or beating myself up doesn’t help me (does it help anyone?). What helps is gentle reminders, and noticing how happy I feel when I return to the book every day. I usually start in the morning with tea and painting, and end every day with a little more tea and painting. It’s calming, I highly recommend it. I always say that watercolor is like ukulele – you can be a beginner and still make beautiful things happen. No one would mistake my work for a professional’s, but that doesn’t matter. Just putting lovely colors together is a delight, and it lightens the heart and mind. Art is powerful stuff!

Inktober Day 10 – “flow”

This is a relaxing – although time-consuming – drawing. I used a calligraphy pen and my waterproof Carbon ink, and I just drew rough circles, then smaller circles, and finally stippling to fill in the gaps. It’s easy, requiring very little skill (save patience), and the pattern is remarkably beautiful.

There are lots of other things I could have jumped to from there to add depth make it look more realistic, but I didn’t have a lot of time yesterday so I stuck to the basics. I’m also not skilled at that other stuff! Which is fine, I’ll learn, but I didn’t want to experiment on this piece because it’s very time consuming to draw and if I screwed it up (e.g. I tried cross-hatching and didn’t like it), I didn’t want to start over again. I was thinking it’d be a good idea to make one of these and then scan it and copy it, so I can practice different techniques without re-rocking and re-stippling.

So to finish this one for today, I brushed on a bunch of water, and then three colors of Dr. Ph. Martin’s concentrated liquid watercolor. I was hoping it would look a bit like a stream, even without the depth, and I really do like how it turned out. I don’t look at it and see a lot of artistic skill, but it’s definitely relaxing to gaze upon, and I’m calling that a win.

I wasn’t sure if I liked these liquid watercolors at first, but now I love them – I think you just have to find the right places for them. Context is everything. I love how they look here. And so fun to work with! I was wishing my piece was bigger than postcard size so that I could just play with ink all afternoon.

But no, I’m off to an appointment, including a stop by PCC Market so that I can pick up my favorite gluten-free cookie. They’re fairly big, probably the size of my palm, and they’re $1 a cookie. I always get 6 of them, so I can eat two with tea, at night, and revel in my cookie meditation. And then I have 4 days of the week left to pine for the next time I get one (it’s a weekly appointment). Greg was with me last week, and he peered down at me, eyebrows raised, and said, “Six cookies? I thought you used to get five?”

“It’s six now. I have a system.”

He laughed. “Are you sure you need six of them?”

“I definitely need six. Besides, we’re moving, I won’t have access to these cookies anymore. You’re lucky I’m not getting 14 so I can have two every day.”

He shook his head. “We’re not moving for a few months, you can’t use that excuse yet.”

I stopped in the middle of the aisle, and pointed the cookie bag at him. “No man gets to determine the need factor in my cookie schedule,” I said.

He was smart, he yielded to my faultless logic.

 

Inktober Day 9 – “precious”

Today’s word is “precious”, so I went from a reference photo to see if I could draw a decent image of my sweet Finn as a puppy. In the photo he’s sitting in our neighbor’s yard, under a shower of little white flowers, next to the sidewalk.

My zing factor is medium high, which is pretty good. I’ll take it. That green is special to me, I’ve got one half-pan of that stuff and I horde it – this is a mistake, I either need to mix my own or just buy more. Because that green needs to be on everything, all the time.

One of the things I’m really loving about this project is that all my Inktober pieces are in one little book. I’ll have this little book forever. I’ll always remember this month, this crazy month with all the pain and all the packing up and getting rid of things for the move.

A big clue to me that I needed to start drawing again was this: I love to look back on my old art, but I rarely look back on my diaries. For years, years, I have written like a fiend in a diary or journal. Since I was eight years old or so. And it’s rare for me to look back on them. Maybe once a year do I read them. And when I do, oh, they’re so cringe-inducing.

Looking back on drawings and watercolor sketches I did years ago is a completely different experience. I spend long minutes gazing at one piece, remembering where I was, what the day felt like, what I was thinking at the time. None of that is telegraphed to any other viewer, but I know. The effect is powerful, and moving to me. It’s stronger than with most photos, too. Just the most basic drawings will bring this heavy wave of memory. They don’t have to be “good”. Realizing this was a major reason I decided to start drawing again, even though my past experience with it had been so hard (I had very poor art self-esteem).

Inktober Day 8 – “star”

Things I enjoyed about this:

  • It was fun to mix the colors. I started with the red by itself (Rose Madder from Daniel Smith, mixed with Arctic Fire, because SPARKLES!), and then I just kept adding colors to the rose to make the rest of the colors. A little yellow to get the orange, more yellow to get the yellow, then blue to get the green, then more blue to get the blue, and then more rose to get the purple. Mixing colors is relaxing.
  • I love stars, in general. So yay stars!
  • I used gold ink for the middle, which I applied with a brush. It was fun to paint with what felt like liquid gold. Hi! I’m five. Glitter is still the bomb.

That happy little zing I get from some little pieces of art I do, it wasn’t there with this one. This was more a nice shrug. The Shrug of Niceness. That’s okay! I love the zing, I want more of the zing, the zing is what drives the desire to get better. But if I only made art for the zing, I’d never make art. It helps to know that the zing comes every x times I do art. It’s the intermittent reinforcement that keeps me going. I got a big zing from the one I did yesterday. I still get the zing when I look at it.

And the important thing is that no matter whether the zing is there that day or not, I always feel better off, emotionally, for having made art. However imperfect, however novice, however un-zingy. It’s healing just to use the paints, just to scrape that nib of ink across the paper.

People keep asking me how I’m doing, and it’s hard not to just say, “I’m in pain all the time!“, with the same urgency I’d feel if my answer were, “There’s a tiger right behind me!” Pain can bring with it such urgency. It’s hard to explain how distracting it is, to someone who only gets sore when they workout (ahhhh, workouts, I remember those), or if they stand for hours (I’m in pain when I’m standing, and it gets worse and worse until I have to sit down, usually after about five minutes).

People think it’s just no big deal, but it’s such a big deal. Chronic pain is so exhausting. Mentally, physically. Shoulders, spine, and hips always flaring like fire, always creaky and stiff. What I’m sure must be gravel in my low back. I want to break out of this shell like a caterpillar from a cocoon. Leave it all behind. No, that isn’t suicidal ideation (I promise – I have good support), it’s what I almost literally wish I could do. Somehow crack the shell off and crawl out with a fresh spine, fresh nerves. If I were a good enough artist, I’d draw that.

Oh! I did take some turmeric today, after my friend Elaine suggested it. I’ll give that a few days and see if it works.

Okay, that’s enough about pain. FOR TODAY, muhahaha. You know I’ll talk about it tomorrow.