Thursday 23 March 2017

...starting as I mean to go on

The last couple of days have gone well, in that I've actually managed to set aside time to focus on creative pursuits (the fact that I'm using up annual leave this week and haven't been at work has definitely helped with this). 

On Tuesday I sat down at my desk in the back room and the first thing that caught my eye was a half-opened package containing 6 plain wooden Matryoshka nesting doll sets I bought on a whim from Ebay a few weeks ago. 

I realised when they arrived in the post that I hadn't actually bothered to check the dimensions on the listing - I'd just chosen the shape I liked best and somehow assumed they'd be of a certain size that seemed right in my head. When I measure the gesture my hands instinctively make in the air to demonstrate "how big?", this turns out to be around 6 inches tall for the largest doll, and maybe one inch tall for the smallest.

Unfortunately, the actual size of the dolls is 3 inches tall for the largest, and a microscopic teeny-weeny half an inch for the smallest. It's basically the same size as my little fingernail.

So they've been sitting there ever since, and could easily have been consigned to a "one day" project drawer for the rest of eternity, but I decided that there was no harm in having a play with at least one of them. This isn't about perfection, it's about letting go. 

I started with the biggest doll - I'm not completely crazy - and told myself to just go with the flow and see what happened.

Around three hours later I came up for air.

She's still a work in progress but I'm happy so far:

I sealed the wood with matt Mod Podge and used acrylic paint for the face, and Posca and Gellyroll Moonlight pens to draw the rest. I've used these pens for pebble painting and like the control they provide when working in fine detail on small surfaces. I'm planning to seal with spray varnish as the ink is not very 'flexible' (compared to acrylic paint, for example) so will be liable to chip more easily.

I deliberately didn't look at any pictures of Matryoshkas before I started because I didn't want to get bogged down in "getting it right". I started with her face. I wanted her to have minimal features, a bit like a Waldorf doll - open to interpretation. Haven't decided yet whether to give her a mouth. Her rosy pink cheeks make her look quite friendly, so maybe she doesn't need one. 

I added the simple triangle pattern to frame her face, and then decided to just 'wrap' her head-to-toe in a decorative scarf/shawl using the same colour scheme of dark blue, light blue, white and gold, and starting with a wide border. The winding leaf pattern is a favourite 'doodle' of mine, and I love the way the two tone blue background turned out to echo the leaf shape. After the border got wide enough I drew the circular motif on the back of her head. It just seemed to fit there and I'm continuing to fill the rest of the space with these decorative circles, letting them flow from the pens. 

What I really wanted to 'note-to-self' in this post is just how energised and happy I felt after those three hours. Even if I can't put in that much time very often, it really is worth trying to make the effort.

In other news, I've continued to work on 'Betsy's poncho', for my friend's little girl, using this pattern and several different balls of self-striping sock wool. Will post a picture when it's finished. In the meantime I'm loving the random juxtapositions of colour created by the yarn. So painterly.

Finally, a couple of charity shop finds this afternoon that have potential for future projects, in my head anyway.

Couldn't resist this jolly elephant metal shelf thing - or, more accurately, couldn't resist the set of four identical jolly elephant metal shelf things - there are actually three more scampering along after this one! 

Can't decide whether to leave them in their rather weathered, slightly distressed state, with maybe a lick of varnish to stop them rusting any more, or whether to give them a complete makeover. The perennial "Where are you going to put it/them?" question is still hanging in the air. They could be given individual homes around the house, or even be individually re-homed to worthy elephant-appreciating friends and family. But I also have my eye on a spot of bare wall next to my work desk which might just be big enough for the whole jolly herd...

And then there's this chap - "Funny-Looking Sheep", according to the lady in the shop:

He has been languishing in my favourite shop (the one where I get toys to use with children at work) for weeks. I know because I must have picked him up and put him back half a dozen times, until I finally caved today. He needs a good wash and maybe a few stitches in his shoulders, and he's a bit too stiff and unyielding to be cuddly, but I just like his expression. I'm thinking maybe a long, stripey, Tom-Baker-as-Dr-Who scarf might be just the thing for him. 

Note-to-self - can't keep bringing more things in, need to find a way for things to also go out

Monday 20 March 2017

...going forward instead of in circles

I'm starting this blog because I want to be more actively and mindfully creative - something I find really hard. 

For as long as I can remember I've been good at drawing and painting and making all sorts of arty/crafty things - "good at" in the sense that I can usually turn my hand to just about anything, ranging from knitting and sewing to making hand-cut, painted wooden jigsaws or mobiles or lino-cuts. I'm one of those annoying lucky people who doesn't have to try too hard to get a nice result.

I have drawers and cupboards and storage boxes full of all kinds of materials and tools I have hoarded collected over literally decades, including these water-colour pencils I won in a children's magazine drawing competition 40+ years ago:

Now that two of my three children have flown the nest I even have a room of my own in which to be creative, where most of this stuff is gathered together. 

Starting as I mean to go on (being honest with myself), I should also confess to having an out of control extensive wool stash stored in multiple locations all over the house, including under the bed and under the sofa (vacuum storage bags are a wonderful invention); an old steamer trunk filled with assorted fabrics, and abandoned incomplete projects; a doll collection;  and an entire bookcase given over to knitting and needlecraft books and magazines - enough to stock a small library.

I have a lovely, long-suffering, supportive husband who tolerates all of this and is always encouraging me to make things and proud of whatever I do. Although I have a fairly stressful full-time job, which sometimes involves evening/weekend working, when I'm not at work my time is pretty much my own to do whatever takes my fancy.

My problem is that despite having the means and the opportunity to live a wonderfully fulfilling creative life, somehow, for some unfathomable reason, I don't.

I vegetate. I procrastinate. I slump in front of the telly feeling apathetic and exhausted for days weeks at a time. The road paved with my good intentions is long and winding and getting uncomfortably warm.

I love looking at other people's work (where else did the idea for this blog come from) and often think/say "I could easily do/make something like that". I write optimistic 'notes-to-self' reminders like this one, which is now at least two years old and counting:

When I actually force myself to do something the time flies by and I'm completely absorbed. It feels amazing and energising, and I tell myself "I'm going to do this more often". Then I don't.

The only time I'm really motivated is when I've set out to do/make something for someone else - like these:

Christmas presents for friends
 Or these:
Wedding favours - painted pebbles
Made approx 70!

Repainted doll for a friend's grandchild

Miniature picnic for the repainted doll

Making things for other people is great. I'm not knocking it in the slightest. It's nice to be able to give someone something thoughtful and unique made with love and care, and at least it means I'm not completely inactive. It just doesn't feel enough. I feel I should and could be doing more, and that I'm slowly squandering precious time while my eyesight blurs and my hands get clumsier with age. 

I heard this quote on the radio the other day - Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life” (Pablo Picasso). I pulled over to the side of the road and stopped to write it down, because it struck such a chord in me. Then over the weekend I came across this, and also this, which inspired me and made me want to try start to nurture my creativity in a gentle 'small steps, one day at a time' kind of way. I'm so tired of listening to myself grumbling about my lack of energy and motivation, or allowing my ridiculous perfectionism to keep me paralysed, or feeling disappointed that another day has literally slipped through my fingers.

I know that spending the afternoon writing this is still mostly thinking, not doing, but I'm intending it to mark the start of a new era. After all, nothing ventured, nothing gained. 

Plus there's yoga class tonight, which counts as a positive 'mind, body and spirit' activity in my book, and therefore puts a tick in today's creativity box.