Saturday, May 26, 2012
Home from another wonderful retreat ...
At midnight the day before we left, I was literally sitting in my studio without a clue what I would take with me to work on. Having just finished two sketchbooks for the Sketchbook Project, and a few other big projects, my head was unusually empty of inspiration and ideas. I've learned in times like those to go lay down on the bed with a notebook nearby and breathe deep for a few minutes - imagining the future stretching out like a prairie road in front of me and see what looks like it might be coming over the horizon. A half hour later I had near-enough to a brainwave to start packing ... and things went much faster after that.
And (of course) what happens is that when I get there and start seeing what everyone else is up to, the creative gears start turning. I spent the first evening bringing the Gypsy King to life. I discovered him on the "freebie" table with just enough paint in just enough places that he wasn't a blank slate, so to speak. His hair was already half orange/half blue, his eyes were drawn on and he had a heart. Somehow the presence of these merest of markings were enough to set me going. Throw in my recent readings on the history of Gypsies and Travelers, and I soon enough found his character taking shape and colour. I wish I'd had the smarts to take a before picture, but you'll just have to take my word for it that he was nothing like he is now.
In lieu of paints, I used sharpies and caran d'ache crayons to add all the colour and pattern. That's the funny thing about *not* having a plan ... if you don't have a plan, you can't not be following it, if you catch my drift. But I quickly discovered that drawing on a soft muslin doll with hard crayons is not so easy, and this led me serendipitously to a new way to use caran d'ache crayons like watercolours by scribbling a "puddle" of colour on glossy card and using a wet paintbrush to soak up the pigment and paint the muslin. Not only did I get the full range of colours I already had, but by scribbling two colours together, I could really control the palette. I went on to use this technique to do some "real watercolours" later during the weekend (which I'll share in another post) and I have the unplanned Gypsy King to thank for it.
After having spent a few good hours bringing him to life, he looked a little bored when I perched him on the windowsill behind me ~ yes, I know, he's not real ~ but I still felt compelled to give him something to keep him occupied while I continued on with my creative weekend, so I tore out some pages from an old stamp catalog and made him a book filled with postage stamps of places he can dream of visiting. And once he had a book, the reading table was the logical place to be. Happily, he also joins a growing list of "interesting things I didn't know I was going to make when I got there". I love these retreats. I wish everyone in the world could go off and do what we go off and do ~ be creative, supportive and spontaneous. It's really amazing what comes out of it.