February winds have made for a blustery bay this week, but that hasn’t stopped visitors from coming to our fair little coastal town. I’ve been busy conjuring up some “sea-themed” items to offer through artsyletters, especially at my kiosk over in Fordham Market. I wrote a wee bit about this in my author blog post for Poetry Friday last week.
In that post I showed the elements in progress, but above is one of the finished pieces. These are miniatures, made from cradled wood boards into small shadow boxes. I painted them black and covered them with acrylic gloss, then antiqued a self-leveling hanger and attached it to the back.
The featured text came directly from
Gems of Literature, Art, and Music
Choice Selections from the Writings and Musical Productions of the Most Celebrated Authors, From the Earliest Times
compiled by Henry Davenport Northrop, D. D., and published in 1888.
It’s actually a refrain to a song, “The Tar for all Weathers,” by Charles Dibdin (1745-1814). Lucky for me, the refrain appeared a few times, so I made three of these. (I was able to find the author’s name in three spots in the book as well.) I’ve put two of these at Fordham and listed the third in my Etsy shop.
Here are the words:
But sailors were born for all weathers,
Great guns let it blow high or low,
Our duty keeps us to our tethers,
And where the gale drives we must go.
(That line, “Great guns let it blow high or low” has been rattling around in my head since I read it!)
The text is placed atop an original mini-woodcut. I hadn’t done any printmaking in the months since my neck/nerves injury in the fall, and it felt wonderful last week to carve a block or two and roll out the ink (love that smell) and print some images! The ship’s wheel hanging above the text is hand cast from blackened pewter, from a wonderful Etsy shop specializing in antiqued brass.
Here’s another 4″ by 4″ piece with text from a different poem, “At Sea” by John Townsend Trowerbridge:
The text reads:
A heavenly trust my spirit calms,
my soul is filled with light:
The Ocean sings his solemn psalms,
The wild winds chant: I cross my palms
Happy as if to-night
Under the cottage roof again
I heard the soothing summer rain.
This little piece features tiny vintage watch parts – a watch hand and a wheel, as well as a lovely vintage brass decorative element. It was described as a flying mermaid; I’m not sure, but it is some kind of fantastical winged human creature! Fortunately I was able to purchase a few of these, so they will appear in other work, too.
Finally, here is a 6″ by 6″ shadow box/mixed media piece. Again, I made the background by creating a wave-themed woodcut, printing the black image over a block print of mottled blue and green inks. It’s from the same book, CROWN JEWELS, and features a poem by Thomas Lovell Beddoes, “To Sea.” (I’m including a close-up below so you can read the entire poem.) More vintage watch parts on this one – an ornate golden watch hand from France and a tiny wheel which perfectly shows off the decorative illuminated initial “T.” The seahorse is a vintage pin, found by an Etsy dealer in eastern Europe!
Thanks for taking a look. Wishing you smooth sailing the rest of the week and right out of winter into spring…!
Hope you are enjoying a Happy Poetry Month!
Today I have a special treat. Children’s poet and author, sought-after writing teacher, and Poem Farm blog creator Amy Ludwig VanDerwater has embarked on a wonderful project this month that she graciously agreed to let me share here.
Each day in April, Amy has been “Drawing Into Poems” – her daily “drawing/seeing/writing study into poetry.”
“I chose this project because I have always wanted to learn to see better, to understand through seeing, to develop my own sensitivity,” she says in the introductory post here.
(Don’t miss the great books she’s listed as resources on that page. I smiled at a couple of old favorites, THE ZEN OF SEEING by Frederick Franck and DRAWING ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE BRAIN by Betty Edwards. Others I’m putting on my to-read list.)
Here’s a taste of her project.
On April 4th, Amy shared this drawing of a bowl:
On April 5th, she shared a poem inspired by that drawing exercise:
Don’t you love all those associations? And such lovely imagery?
“a dream / of old coyotes / a dream / of sun-warm deer” makes me swoon.
Another favorite of mine from this project is her cemetery sketch from this past Monday (April 15):
I LOVE the lively composition here – so much life for such a “grave” subject, no? And what wonderful reflections, such as the winding thought penned above the arched tombstone, “Always… These tombstones remind me… not to worry…”
I’m enjoying Amy’s reflections in her blog posts, too. Here’s an excerpt from this same day:
“What places make you feel grateful and reflective? It is important for all of us to find places where we can find our quiet selves and just think. Cemeteries slow me down and help me remember what matters most to me. I wish that I could talk with all of the people buried here, learn from them, hear their lessons.”
My mother instilled in me a love of walking through cemeteries, too – sketching, pondering. Amy’s drawings and words help us appreciate such contemplative moments and places.
At just past the mid-way point of this project, I asked Amy what she’s learned so far.
“Halfway through my month of Drawing into Poems, I see that drawing and writing are even more alike than I had imagined,” she says. “There’s that initial flash of love, followed by circling around and around, trying to make clear outside what you see and deeply feel inside. I’m studying shadows now, and roof lines, noticing the silhouette of a milk carton and the way our mother cat’s tail curls around her smallest kitten. I am seeing more because I am looking differently; drawing has opened up another window for me. I plan to keep drawing in my notebooks even after April is over so as not to lose these new eyes.”
Amy’s poetry appears in many publications and acclaimed anthologies. Her first collection for children was released this spring by Clarion Books – FOREST HAS A SONG, illustrated by Robbin Gourley. Led by a girl in spunky red boots, readers explore the woods in 26 poems. From “Song”:
Under giant pines / I hear / a forest chorus / crisp and clear.
Singing its praises are the most respected names in the field of children’s poetry as well as teachers in the trenches. You might also be interested in seeing the art for this book develop – Amy includes a page on her website which chronicles Robbin Gourley’s beautiful illustrations as they progressed.
Now, I know you want to click over to Amy’s blog and check out all the art and reflections thus far this month. And aren’t you thankful we still have a couple more weeks to go in April? :0)
Gracious thanks to Amy for visiting today and sharing her inspiring work!
**First, congratulations to Jo, whose name was randomly picked from last week’s commenters to receive a pack of notecards.** :0)
Today we have a lively treat. Melanie Hall is an artist, illustrator and teacher from New York’s Hudson River Valley. Her 25 children’s books have garnered many awards including the Parents’ Choice Award for an outstanding picture book and the Sydney Taylor Notable Book for 2011, as well as favorable reviews from the New York Times Book Review. Her work, often described as sophisticated and whimsical, has been exhibited at the Original Art Show at the Society of Illustrators (NY) and in many galleries. She teaches graduate courses in children’s book illustration at Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania, as well as professional workshops.
I met Melanie at the 2011 Highlights Founders Workshop for Advanced Illustrators at Boyds Mills, Pennsylvania, led by an esteemed team of amazing illustrators: Melanie, Lindsay Barrett George, Eric Rohman, Floyd Cooper, and Suzanne Bloom.
The Highlights workshops are tremendous. Little cabins to create and relax in are heavenly, and the new “Barn” is a terrific facility for group gatherings. The natural setting is rejuvenating. But the best thing about these workshops is the faculty. I cornered Melanie toward the end of the workshop to discuss her poetry book projects, since poetry is my first love and I’d love to illustrate my own poems. She kindly looked at my work and offered helpful insights. What struck me most about Melanie was not just her expertise and her ability to articulate concepts, but the joy that emanates from her work and her person. She looked at a couple of pieces I’d made and said, “You had fun creating that, didn’t you?” She challenged us to make the kind of work we took joy in, which reflected our personalities.
One of my favorite books Melanie has illustrated is EVERY SECOND SOMETHING HAPPENS – POEMS FOR THE MIND AND SENSES (selected by Christine San José and Bill Johnson.) I had the good fortune to meet Bill Johnson at the Highlights Founders “Poetry for All” workshop this past May. Melanie was a guest presenter there, and it was wonderful to catch up with her and hear about her process of illustrating poetry. Her collages, paintings, and drawings reflect the variety of voices in EVERY SECOND…, which includes the work of renowned poets and also poems from children. (See my blog post for more about the book.) And, drumroll…. I’m offering a copy to one lucky commenter randomly selected this week! (See details below.)
Melanie kindly offered to drop by here today and answer a few questions about herself and her art.
Welcome, Melanie! Tell us a little bit about your background. Were you one of those kids who doodled your way through class?
Yup. The girls asked me to draw horses for them in grade school. No one else could figure out how to draw them. They thought it was cool the way the images just came out of my pencil. I did, too.
How and when did you decide to pursue art as a career?
When I was a senior in high school, I decided to go to art school. Dad was not happy. He said I would “starve in a garret.” He was very proud of me when I became an editorial illustrator and did annual reports and magazine and newspaper illustrations.
What is it about mixed media that you particularly enjoy?
I love being surprised how things turn out. It’s not always what I intended, because the right side of the brain is a genius , and if I just get out of the way, my images become inventive, freer, exciting and filled with spirit.
You wear many hats berets – artist, illustrator, teacher. How do you balance the different requirements for each of these pursuits? (Do you need time away from people in order to create, or do you need to get away from the studio to be with other people?)
Great question. I have to carve up my time to pursue all my interests. Sometimes it means that I work on several different projects in one day: in the morning I’ll do one thing, and then after lunch I’ll do something else, and then at the end of the day I’ll reward myself with personal art.
I used to think it was nutty of me, but I realized it works for me!
In my notes from one of your workshops , I wrote that you said, “What turns my buttons on is to play.” How do you free yourself to play when approaching a new work?
I arrange some of my favorite pieces of artwork near my drawing table to look at while I’m working so I can get back into that frame of mind.
I also love to look at the masters of both fine art and illustration. For instance, I’ll look at a book of Toulouse Lautrec’s posters or a Martin and Alice Provensen picturebook.
So I guess it’s visual inspiration that gets me going.
Do you have favorite sources of inspiration?
From time to time, I need to spend the day at a museum to feast my eyes and breathe in that incredible atmosphere; the Metropolitan is one of my favorites. That’s where you’ll find me every year on my birthday to celebrate life.
What are the tools you can’t live without – the items you use over and over again in your studio?
My electric eraser, my“Black Warrior” pencil, and Arches 140 lb. hot press watercolor paper with the wonderful deckled edge.
(I love that deckled edge, too!) Looking ahead, are there any works-in-progress or plans floating out there you’d like to share with us?
Yes, I am writing and illustrating a picture book. I’m on Revision # 6. Each version is better than the one that came before.
Thank you for playing along, Melanie!
To read more about the Highlights Illustrators workshop from last year, here’s my blog post about it.
To be entered to win a copy of EVERY SECOND SOMETHING HAPPENS, please leave a comment below by midnight EST Monday, Oct. 22. Do you have a favorite way to “play” to free up your creative side? One lucky art lover will be randomly selected and notified next week.