As I continue to draw in my COVID Journal it is changing along with the times and becoming something new. So I have decided to call it The Beautiful Horrific to reflect our horrifying time, and look for the beauty that comes with it. The following are some new pages from the month of June. It has been overwhelming and eye opening.
During my time at home in relative isolation, I created a bound journal from scraps that have been in my studio for up to fifteen years. This Ethiopian binding has quarter sawn wooden covers that were incorrectly made for my edition Gules, and pages of an old atlas that I’ve always thought would come in handy one day. This finally seemed the ideal paper for pages of a journal about a world pandemic.
Eventually, I will fill the book with bats and butterflies cut from maps of China to show the spread of this disease. I began cutting bats and realized pretty quickly that this has to be the last step or it will be very hard to draw on the pages. I want this book to take the form of a travel journal, stuffed with papers or tickets picked up along the way.
My first thoughts began with – where did this begin? A bat, a pangolin?
My next thoughts had to do with what people are doing. I feel there have been so many moments of beauty and thankfulness in the world. This is something I focused on to alleviate the shock and fear. I have been working on linked type, drawn with purely geometrical shapes. I love the negative spaces the letters and numbers create. Even when I was having an off day, I could spend my time drawing text. It felt like a meditation.
I have had some dark moments that couldn’t be denied. I try to keep the politics out of my journal and focus on numbers and facts. Iranians drinking methanol as a cure could not be ignored.
Many hopeful moments include the return of nature. Finding animals in places that are usually occupied by humans and the clearing of smog. These are things that give me great comfort and I hope can continue when the world begins to pick up speed again. I dearly hope that we have evolved in some way from this experience.
Although I am posting the pages in a linear fashion, I haven’t been creating them from beginning to end. I jump from place to place, reflecting on what is happening in a particular area. I date each page so I know when they were finished. There are many pages (and regions) that I have yet to fill.
Working in a random fashion I don’t often get a sense of the whole. It’s nice to see the images all together in this blog to get a feel for what I’m doing.
This is the page that I keep going back to. My home. Where I track the cases and deaths every so often, when I feel like I can face the numbers. The numbers are huge but the individual stories are heartbreaking. The redwing blackbirds are back and active, but this is the strangest spring. Watching and listening to the birds has become a daily pastime.
I’m happy that the last couple of pages are hopeful – blue skies over LA and Hawkbill Turtles migrating to the sea, on a beach that they have all to themselves. One way or another, nature always wins.
Well a lot has happened since my art weekend in early February. We are all dealing with a lockdown due to Covid 19, and while home I am continuing to draw every day. It is one thing that makes me feel good. I’ve also been keeping a journal made with map pages in an Ethiopian binding (to be included in a future post) and creating geometric lettering. I find the measuring and the mindless making of shapes very relaxing. The drawing of the owl above is the first to incorporate this lettering into a composition .
I have been wanting to give the coyote drawings meaning, and although I was moving in a direction my ideas were still unclear, so I let them rest for a while. Now I feel they clearly stand as a pack in support of one another, in contrast to the social isolation of the owl. The hands that I began drawing before coronavirus entered our lives, were suddenly reaching, touching and supporting. We will get to the other side of this and when we do, I plan to do a lot more hugging! We’re in this together.
Every year my husband gives me cash to spend a weekend in a local hotel to make art. Two whole days and nights to myself, to be able to follow my thoughts without interruption and be creative. This year, I spent my time drawing coyotes. I thought about working on another project as well, but I just kept drawing coyotes. I have a vision of hanging them all in a small gallery as if surrounded by a pack.
Since moving to our current home in Evanston, the coyotes in the area have flourished. We used to hear them howl occasionally at night – now we often hear a whole pack yipping and barking, especially when the sirens wail at the firehouse. I love waking up to this sound in the wee hours of the morning. My son and I see them on the golf course, looking lush and happy, feasting on the local rabbits and rodents. People often complain about them on social media (protect your little dogs!) but I feel it’s a good sign that predators have returned and are thriving.
This project is far from done. I plan to do something more with the drawings and add text. I also want to make large ceramic discs (or plates?) with more coyote drawings on them. They will be smaller than the life-size drawings, so perhaps they will form a cluster off in the distance.
I have to say, I hate drawing fur. I usually prefer to draw sea life or birds, the textures and forms are so much more interesting, but sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do! This is one project I just have to do to get it out of my head.
Tinkaminks – so named by Ashwin, conceived at Friday Harbour Labs where they had these great paper key chains, and solidified by a fantastic book on Plankton. This is going to be an installation of perhaps a thousand keychain organisms. Today was all about printing Cephalopods, jellyfish, dinoflagellates and acantharians. Plankton contains plants and animals, from single cellular to embryonic and juvenile life forms. It is endlessly fascinating! Today I began printing some Tinkaminks using the most rudimentary printing techniques; carved rubber stamps and stamp pads. Who needs a Vandercook anyway?
Below is the finished drawing, with watercolor, of the octopus at Friday Harbor Labs. His name is Enzyme.The next drawing is a work in progress, a Prismacolor drawing of the octopus named Silence. I was feeling a bit frustrated with it on my last day in Friday Harbor, but now that I am going back to it, I think it’s okay. So I’ll keep plugging away at it.
Inspiration for my next project is below. It’s going to be an installation piece and I’ll give a hint – Plankton. I’m quite excited about it, so much so, that I couldn’t fall asleep the other night, but had to get up and order supplies at 1 a.m.
Meet Arkham, he is a bit larger than the other three octopuses at Friday Harbor Labs and he is a bit bristly. He is the main man in the study being done in Gire Labs, where they are studying navigation and sensing. Because he is a bit darker and moodier, he is more reclusive, but when I manage to take a photo he is quite dramatic. He uses something called papillae in his skin to make the dramatic horn-like bumps.
While here, I have also been given a studio. Ashwin and I spent hours in the studio yesterday, where I draw and he writes in his journal. I knew I would want to do some sketching here, but somehow ‘a place of ones own’ makes all the difference. Now I may want to buy some big paper and go larger! I can’t wait to get back to the studio again today, it’s bright and airy and smells of fresh wood.
In between sketching sessions we go down to the water to scavenge for treasures, the shore is full of driftwood that we take up to the studio. I know I want to draw octopus, but I think I could also get swept into drawing pieces of driftwood, or printing the grain. I’ll just have to come back again for round 2!
How do I love thee, let me count the ways.
On my first night I held a small crab in my fingers and fed it to an octopus – Enzyme aka Slimey (Ashwin’s name for him). He lunged at my hand and wrapped his arms around, I could feel his suckers attached to my skin. It was love at first sight. I am at Friday Harbor Labs where my husband Venkatesh is collaborating with a colleague from University of Washington, studying the way octopuses move and track. In three days I have learned more about Octopuses than I have in my life. They are fascinating to watch and yesterday I went to the lab to draw and take photos. They move so much in the evening, it was hard to sketch, but I took 145 photos! I’m just a little obsessed.
Anyone who has been reading this blog knows that I have been drawing octopuses for a little while, mainly from National Geographic photos. But there is nothing quite like drawing an octopus you are familiar with, from your own photos. I feel that Friday Harbor Labs is full of interesting people doing cool things. It’s such an inspiring environment and I feel very lucky to be here.
Whereas humans have X and Y chromosomes, chickens have Z and W. ZZ for male and ZW for female. The male side has a spur on its leg, a red comb and wattle, a greater mass of breast structure and a heavier bone structure. Split down the middle with brown on one side, gold and white on the other, this is a true male-female chimera.
My newest drawing – isn’t nature amazing? The female blue crab or Sook, has a red claw and the male or Jimmy, has a blue one. The shape on the underside of the shell is also different. This She/He is divided right down the middle – bilateral gynandromorph.
On a side note, it feels so great to finally use these round sheets of paper that I made over ten years ago.