Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sending My Sketchbook Into the Blue Yonder

The Sketchbook Project: 2011

I've just signed up for the Sketchbook Project. It fell into my frame of attention yesterday, at exactly the right time, and I couldn't help but sign up.

The past few years of mapmaking have been amazing, and I have been so lucky to find a way to earn money doing something I love. But success at self-employment, especially as an artist, brings some dangers, one of which is the pressure to perform. Soon, it feels like every minute of time must be productive - every piece must be good enough to sell. Time for dreaming and sketching gets squeezed and becomes less about dreaming at all and more about planning and performing and producing, even though dreaming made the whole thing possible in the first place.

Don't get me wrong - I am not of the crowd that believes that selling art somehow lessens its value or the artist's purity. I believe art is a valuable and necessary contribution to society, and artists should be compensated appropriately. But signing up for a project where the resulting artwork won't be for sale - and I won't even be keeping it - seems like a perfect exercise in creating art for the joy of creating and sharing that joy.

In this new life of mine, with the arrival of the Mapmaker's Apprentice, my time for planning and performing and producing has been abruptly and drastically cut to pieces. Time for artmaking comes in unpredictable fragments. It's rare that I have the time to work on any large chunk of a project, so if I want to make any art at all, it has to be something I can fit into those little fragments. And after a few months of almost no artmaking, I am wary of jumping right back in where I was. I am very proud of the work I've done, but feel like it's time to step back a bit, and reassess my direction and intention and creativity. Sketching is a beautiful way to do that.

I've put a sketchbook in every room, in my favorite purses and bags, and in the car. And in the process, I'm falling in love with my sketchbooks all over again. My desire to sketch has taken on an intensity that it never had before. My fingers itch for a pen, and my brain is constantly throwing out ideas.

Along comes The Sketchbook Project, and I am sold (and how could I resist, since the two main images are maps). It's open to anyone, so even if you don't think of yourself as an artist, you, too can take part.

Can't wait for my sketchbook to arrive.

The Sketchbook Project Poster: 2011

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Nibs of Steel

How I love the way the Internet brings me in touch with people far and wide - people who share my sense of humor, my hobbies, my interests, no matter how offbeat, obscure or old-fashioned.

A few months ago, Tracy, a fellow Twitterer, sent me a link to a blog post about her new stash of pen nibs. Treasure! And a generous offer. As soon as I realized she was serious about sharing the wealth, I took her up on the offer.

This week, I finally made it to my post office box (it's amazing how an errand I once ran every other day or so has become a monumental undertaking, now that I have a babe in arms), and found the most delightful little package waiting for me.

I spent yesterday afternoon trying the nibs out, while my husband and son spent the day together. It was my first full studio day (not counting snack breaks and lunch for Connor, which required my presence), and the first time I'd done any inking since the little one arrived. Although I've managed to sneak in some watercolor and sketching in little fragments, inking is more of a commitment. A messy commitment. But it was wonderful to put pen to paper again.

Tracy sent a generous handful of nibs, and among them several different types, including the Banker, the Auditor, the Post Office Pen, an Arts & Drafting nib, and one called the Modern Writing nib, which is one of my favorites.

I love this modern world, but I'm also thrilled by the idea of a world in which each profession had its own pen nib.

To my great amusement and delight, they performed to type: the Banker nib was heavy and authoritative, the Post Office Pen precise and straight, the Auditor nib wrote beautifully, but shredded the paper as it went. The Arts and Modern Writing nibs were the smoothest, but I'm also pretty fond of that Post Office Pen.

I look forward to many hours of artmaking with these pens. Thank you so much, Tracy, for sharing your nibs and making my first adventures back in the studio so much fun!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Of Daydreams and Castles

I've curated two treasuries on Etsy this week. Now that we don't have to wait for a treasury to open up and we don't have to worry about our treasuries disappearing, it might be a little harder to get views (and apparently the items disappear when they sell), but it's more fun to make them. Happy treasury hunting!

Early Morning Daydreams