Where Dwellest Thou?O what is it that wanders in the wind? And what is it that whispers in the wood? What is the river singing to the sun? Why this vague pain in every charmed sense, This yearning, keen suspense? Often I’ve seen a garment floating by, fringe of it only; golden brown as it lay On the ripe grasses, fern-green on the ferns, And in the wood, like bluebells’ misty blue Whitened with mountain dew. I laid me low among the mountain grass; I laid me low among the river fern; I hid me in the wood and tried to hold The lovely wonder of it as it passed, And tried to hold it fast. It slipped like sunshine through my eager hands; See, they are dusted as with pollen dust, Soft dust of gold, and soft the sense of touch, Soft as the south wind’s sea-blown evening kiss; But I have only this… This dust of vanished gold upon my hands, This breath of wind blowing upon my hair, Stirring of something near, so near, but far, Glimm’ring through color’s fleeting preciousness– The fringes of a dress. O Wearer of that garment, of its hem, Hardly perceived, can thrill us, what must Thou, Its Weaver and its Wearer, be to see? Master, where dwellest Thou? O tell me now, Where dwellest Thou? The grasses turned their golden heads away, And shyer and more wistful stood the ferns; The little flowers looked up with puzzled eyes; Only the river, who is all my own, Left me not quite alone… But mixed his music with my human cry, Till somewhere from the half-withdrawing wood Sounds of familiar footsteps: Is it Thou? Master, where dwellest Thou? O speak to me. And He said, “Come and see.“ -Amy Carmichael from a collection of her poetry titled, Toward Jerusalem. **May you enjoy this poem today and walk through the day’s moments with an awareness that they are but fringes of His dress.
Brian Rutenberg, in his Studio Visit #18 , quotes a German artist, Walter Sickert, who said, “Drawing is about captivity. Painting is about freedom.” This one little quote has stuck with me and caused all kinds of back & forth in my brain as I consider what’s being said here. I don’t think Rutenberg is in any way pitting the one against the other to somehow say that one is better than another. He is merely putting forth a fundamental difference in the ACTION of or the RESULT of drawing & that of painting.
He says, “I’m really invested in that notion of capturing something and using that as a springboard into the process of abstraction.”
I love that. Brian calls himself a Painter. Every time I hear him say that, I find myself wanting to say…”And I am a Drawer.” Which doesn’t mean that I do not paint…I do and love to paint! But fundamentally I love to capture the Beauty of the world around me whether it be recognizable things, places, people, or events which are inherently lovely OR whether it is something I’ve had to hunt for in the midst of the mundane in life, or even in the painful places of life. I feel it is my job to look for and capture any hint of Beauty by drawing it in my sketchbook or on larger pieces of paper or canvases.
I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE Brian Rutenberg’s drawings of trees (you can see a few of them in the documentaries). They are exquisite. I have done a fair amount of drawing/painting trees and they are some of my favorite works. As I look at his “drawings” of trees, they seem very painterly to me. This distinction between what is considered “drawing” and what is considered “painting” is not a black and white issue to me. I believe one can paint with a pen, a pencil, and with charcoal…mediums that are typically associated with drawing. And I believe one can draw with watercolor, acrylics, and oils…definitely paint substances. Is it merely the presence of line which marks a drawing? Is it the evidence of brushstrokes which denotes a painting? Or is it a massed-in approach (blocking in the large shapes before the smaller ones) which deems a work a painting? Or…what? I’ve settled on it being a fuzzy area and which really doesn’t need to be defined.
But if I go with Sickert’s definition here, I have to say that I am definitely a DRAWER. My eyes are constantly on the lookout for things/people/events/places that I want to capture in my sketchbook or larger papers or canvases. Yet even Sickert’s definition may be fluid. As I capture these moments by drawing them, I experience a sense of freedom. As if, the simple act of drawing (or painting:) sets me free to say “yes” to the moment, to accept where I am, and to fully inhabit the gamut of life’s beauties.
So…was I drawing or painting the first image? How ’bout the tree…did I draw it or paint it? It really doesn’t matter. I was definitely capturing something, whether it was an idea about the tangle of creative thoughts or an assertion of the wisdom and experience of an old tree. In capturing these, I was also freeing them to exist somewhere other than in that space and time AND freeing me to embrace all the wonder that life has to offer. I do enjoy thinking about these things. It seems that Mr. Rutenberg does also.
Thank you, once again, Brian.
And here’s a quote by Edgar Degas I came across recently…good stuff to think about:
I came across this quote on Ian Sideaway’s fabulous drawing blog:
In case you do not know who Cennino Cennini is (like me), click here to familiarize yourself with this artist from the 14th-15th centuries. It is incredibly amazing to me that we live in a world where the voices of artists who have gone before can still be heard.
I am also encouraged by knowing and drawing with artists who have been at it for years longer than I have. My friend Susette (drawn above and here: second drawing; and here: second drawing again) is just such a person whose life-long love of and commitment to drawing has continued to inspire many in our area to draw together. I first joined up with the Drawing Circle she started years ago in Winston-Salem. I had two young children then and it was my getaway day on Saturdays to draw with them in the morning. Sometimes I brought my kids for us all to draw. Many of these artists still have their drawings of my kids and of my third child, when she was born and brought in her car carrier to Drawing Circle. Susette has now begun another group on Tuesdays where I’ve been drawing at Barnhill’s Bookstore. I’ve loved reconnecting with her and the folks who draw on Tuesdays.
Encouragement to draw can be gleaned from so many inspiring people!
Something about my little beach drawrings made me think of Maurice Prendergast, an artist I’ve admired for years. This was only after the fact, not something I was aware of while drawing at the beach. But it made me google him and read more about him as an artist when I found THIS!
You simply must download this for yourself! You’ll love it! A peek into one of his very own sketchbooks, circa 1920-23.
In Brian Rutenberg’s Studio Visit #16, he begins the talk recounting some casual banter between friends over dinner one evening. The subject was “limitations”, which he says “Every artist has” and that he is continually inventorying his. I nearly fell out of my chair when I heard him say this, wondering what, if any, limitations to being the artist he wants to be, he might have.
It was incredibly encouraging to hear an artist of his stature speak of limitations. Though his list of limitations has largely to do with ways in which he would like to expand artistically, I nevertheless found it amazing that he often goes through the ways in which he feels limited and yet finds a sense of “spaciousness and comfort” there.
What I find myself listing as limitations in my art is largely in the categories of station in life (ie. motherhood), resources, and opportunities (living in a small town as opposed to an art mecca such as NY). Nevertheless, I was encouraged and inspired by Brian to think of these boundaries or limitations as places where I actually can find freedom and “permission”.
He says, “Because perhaps it’s the intensification, the concentration of those limits, that give our work its truth and its humanity and its vigor…and content. It’s that continual longing to break from those inescapable things, those limits, to get better, that I’ll never be good enough, that it’s the longing to get better, the longing to speak more clearly, more directly, with less, that keeps me going. It’s very comforting, these notions.”
To say that his words were encouraging would fall short of the affirmation I received on hearing that all artists struggle with, or are at least cognizant of, limitations. And then, to be inspired to think of these limitations as places of “spaciousness, comfort, and permission” is something I’m carrying with me every day as I go about all the motherly and household duties, as I go about teaching art to young children, and the myriad of other things that seem to come between me and being the artist I long to be. He goes on to say:
“So for me it’s not the question, “Are there limitations?” The question for me is, ‘Do I inhabit my limitations?’ And I think that’s the really important point: one must utterly inhabit their work.”
These final words on this subject were incredibly centering for me. I now have this wonderful call to INHABIT my limitations each and every day. To embrace them, and to create works in my sketchbook that continue to grow out of those limitations. I may not be working on huge canvases and exhibiting them in galleries and shows, but I have the same call to create art and I must inhabit the life I have in order to create works which contain even a grain of “truth, humanity, vigor and content”.
Thank you Brian Rutenberg.
I’ve recently discovered an artist whose work and words I’m eating up these days. To say that his paintings are delicious would be correct…the color, movement, and draw-you-in composings on canvas are breathtaking. His words are equally inspiring.
Brian Rutenberg lives and works in New York City. His work is about as far on the other end of my own artistic offerings as one might be. He has an art degree while I have a French degree. He was a Fulbright Scholar and has made his living from his art whereas I have raised kids and worked small odd part-time jobs while my art-making has been stashed in-between every-which-way. He works in oils on HUGE canvases and currently I work in a sketchbook. He works in abstraction, with his drawings in charcoal being representational; I draw representationally with forays into abstraction.
We do have a few things in common though: born in the same year, southern upbringing, family people (he is married with two children; my husband and I are raising three). But the largest common denominator is a love for articulating all-things-art. And this is what I want to share with you…my reactions and responses to a few of the ideas and thoughts he presents in his marvelous Documentaries.
There are 18 of these 10-minute videos of Brian speaking to us about his work. I’ve watched them all, eagerly absorbing and mulling over the concepts he espouses and describes so eloquently. You really must watch these. I suggest watching only one or two and then spend a few days thinking about them and letting the ideas seep into your way of creating.
I have also been making more of these Improvisational Drawings (as I’m calling them:). I’ve started numbering them with ID (stands for Improvisational Drawing) and then a number. I’ve also taken to writing about each of them on the back, or on a sheet of paper placed in an envelope I glue on the back. I enjoy creating the words that speak to how the drawing evolved, any thoughts as to why, and specifics about approach, or underlying ideas. The drawings themselves are in no way an attempt to replicate Rutenberg. The thing I’m going for is to consider the elements surrounding the drawings, the making of them, the impetus behind them…like Rutenberg, as he so wonderfully communicates in his Documentaries.
My next post will be responding to one aspect of one of his talks. In the meantime, see if you can watch a few of his documentaries. It will be time well spent!
I was recently loaned the video titled Between the Folds, A PBS Independent Lens movie. I fell in love…again.
When I was a child I had several origami books (which I wish I could find!) and spent hours folding and folding and trying to figure out the diagrams for creating all kinds of animals, boxes, people, etc. I have continued to enjoy origami as an adult, buying a book here and there to share with my kids. Currently in my art classes at school, I’m teaching tesselations. To my delight, I discovered in this film that Origami is a kind of 3-Dimensional tesselation! How cool is that!
I was enrapt from the beginning of this video to the end as it expounded all the heights to which origami is currently taken. An exquisite art form, a way to teach geometry and other mathematical subjects, a practical problem-solver for industry, as well as huge scientific strides being made through Origami. If you can get your hands on the full, hour long video, PLEASE DO SO! It is hugely inspiring!!!!
But here are links to a couple of mini segments from the film:
My favorite origami artist in the video whose work is breathtaking and whose personality is equally delightful! I’m sad to see he is deceased…what a wonderful artist!
The above photo is of all our creations this past weekend. Maddie, Catherine, and myself made lots of cool things from butterflies to swans to boxes, to a person and on and on. This is too much fun! You should go pick up an Origami book and some square papers (I’ve often seen very inexpensive books with papers in the Bargain section of Barnes n Nobles) and you will have so much fun!!
Sometimes I think I must be as crazy as Eric Joisel about art…sure wish I could say, as he does in the video for his excuse, “…but, of course, I am French!”
**To be noted: the first three letters of Eric Joisel’s last name, are the French word for Joy. He indeed brought a lot of joy into the world through his art!
I have long admired the reportage (pronounced re-por-TAJ [french]) illustrators of Studio 1482! I love the whole concept behind drawings made at an event to “report” on the happenings there. This video is a MUST SEE about my favorite reportage artist, Veronica Lawlor.
I do consider what I’m doing in most, if not all, of my drawings, to be a “reportage” of my world. It might be reporting and describing what goes on in my home (such as endless laundry), yard, or neighborhood. It might be reportage of events or trips, such as our recent trip to Michigan, or a day trip to Stoneville with a friend. My life events are much more rural and domestic than that of Veronica Lawlor’s, but they are just as “draw worthy”!
Your “world” is draw-worthy too! Even the smallest bits and baubles you might draw are mini-stories about you and what you experience. I do love to draw my kids…the breakfast of a nine year old is never lonely (always a friend-or two or three-sitting there keeping her company); lazy summer days playing Wii games, like Harvest Moon; and teen boy searching the internet for Black Ops tips (on the XBox, no less).
Try sitting and drawing stuff while it’s happening. If figures are daunting, just choose something in the event or scene that would remind of you of that moment. Maybe it’s a clock on the wall, or a vase of flowers you just picked from your yard. Perhaps you’re at a concert or an outdoor event…draw something there to remember the fun you’re having…draw the sign of the event, or the ticket, or a person(s) you’re with. Splash color around, or not. Keep a sketchbook just for these “reportage” drawings.
Like Veronica says, “It (reportage drawing) makes me more involved in the world, because I want to know what’s going on, because I want to be there, if something’s happening I want to be a a part of it. It makes me more curious, it makes me more engaged.”
There are certain folks whom I think are pros at recognizing and recording the unexpected and unforecasted lovelies in life. In the drawing world, Danny Gregory is one of my favorites who continues, through his books, to inspire me to chronicle the little things of my world in images. Alicia Paulson of Posie Gets Cozy is another who chronicles the simple beauties of everyday life through photography. I have visited her blog for a couple of years now and I always enjoy seeing the lovelies in her life, both big and small. Another gal who inspires me to see the loveliness of every day, is Lucy of Attic 24. She has a rainbow palette with which she both views the world and infuses into her world. Everything from the socks she putters around the house in, to her Little People’s artwork, to buttons, to papers, to decorating, to baking, and of course, to crochet. You can’t help but be infected with the colors! Infection it is…in such a good way…bright, bold color to cheer up the dreariest of winter days. You really must visit her slice of the world in England!
So the other day, when I needed a pouch for some 3 x 5 cards, I pulled out all my leftovers whose colors were in Lucy’s palette. Bits of Noro, Lamb’s pride, etc. Simple single crochet, a button I made a year or so ago, and voila! Instant joy! The pouch sits with my daily writing journal (which is also littered with line drawings) and greets me each morning with its sunny colorfulness.
Isn’t it funny how we affect each other like this? Even though I’ve never met her in person, her creativity impacts mine. And my creativity impacts others. And your creativity impacts those around you. I continue to think about snowflakes and their individual uniqueness. Part of what makes up our uniqueness is what we find ourselves fascinated by. Snowflake Bentley was fascinated with snowflakes. I’m so glad he was, because we have all benefitted from his fascination. We have been enriched by his individuality. Our individual uniqueness is MORE beautiful in community with others. So share your unique creativity with others…share what fascinates you…either through blogging or exhibiting or teaching or just showing it to a friend…it is infectious and you may never know what an impact it will have!
…or two. I tell ya, I honestly feel crazy sometimes when I think about how I would like to draw or paint something. Pastels? Pens? Watercolor? Crayons? Charcoal? My mind races around the many materials at hand and often I end up doing multiple versions. This is charcoal and pastel from the same photo of Gracie that I did the pen and Caran D’Ache version in the previous post. And here is yet another approach with marker and Caran D’Ache :
Each is done very quickly…a sketch. Sometimes I just want to see how each medium would turn out. Sometimes I’m actually searching for a certain “look”. If I were commissioned to do a portrait–charcoal and pastel are my favorites. But for sketching and exploring, anything goes.
I have to confess: I have this nagging thought in the back of my head that says I should have one main medium as an artist. The voice tells me that no serious artist bounces back and forth from this to that to the other…but rather has a medium he/she employs for sketching and then a medium he/she employs for “paintings”. Case in point–Wolf Kahn. I’ve been re-reading his book of pastels (which I totally recommend). He seems to sketch/paint with pastels, and then when making larger works, he uses oils. Straightforward. No fuss. No quandary about which medium to play with next. Even his sketches as a whole have an overall continuity in their execution, and this is easily carried over to his large oil paintings. My stuff? It seems all over the place.
But I have to wonder…perhaps many mediums IS my medium. Maybe I shouldn’t try forcing myself to “settle down” to one medium. (Indeed it seems a lot of the fun would be taken away.) Perhaps Mr. Kahn actually uses multiple approaches much of the time and the books and exhibits merely assemble works that are within one vein only. Then again, maybe not. But I am encouraged by a particular quote in his book. He says, “I have tried to avoid looking for a single style, trusting instead that every work will by necessity exhibit Kahn-ish elements; after all, I made each of them.”
I think I’ll trust this to be true for all of us!