Saturday, November 5, 2011

Focus is wherever we find it

M. Kelly for Rubbermoon

Two new chair stamps are part of my in-the-works collection for Rubbermoon. Keeping them company will be the phrase, "When in doubt, sit. Sit and Color." It all comes down to the point of a pencil.

Unlike writing, which usually gives me a stiff neck when I use the computer, which I mostly do, coloring, drawing and eraser carving send my mind and body to different rooms. Bickering children, they need to be separated to chill out.

When first creating samples for the stamp company, I worked with fine-tip brush markers. Coloring the images went quickly and shading was possible thanks to Marvy's extensive palette. It was a peaceful occupation, quieting thought, slowing heart rate.

When I switched to pencils because the colors were even more plentiful, the shading and layering possibilities more abundant, I smoothed out like a freshly ironed shirt. Later I realized this must be a meditative state, as everything beyond the tip of the sharpened pencil faded, caught the next bus out of town.

The doodling aspect of drawing produces the same effect. It feels like giving the Big Thoughts mind a paid holiday. All is reduced to one non-thought. Yes, the mind roams and rambles but doesn't latch on to anything, doesn't go dig up the bone it buried yesterday near the azaleas. Without its feet touching the ground, it muses upon the memory of the garden, recalls the verses of "Oh, Sussanah" and sees the forgotten, unforgettable drawer where it left the yellow, leather-bound journal five years ago.

I've been doing that kind of coloring for more than 17 years. To achieve a state even distantly resembling real peace demanded incorporating other philosophies, becoming more intentional about disengaging from my fret-prone self. I have learned that a spiritual practice take unanticipated forms.

As the mania, my slavish devotion to the cult of the color pencil, has held steady for all these years, through personal and world changes never imagined, I think we have what my sister would call A Keeper. For today, I sharpen the pencils by hand, though that color-core-chewing, battery-operated model has not be abandoned. There is even contemplative satisfaction to be found in turning the pencil just enough, while knowing the job will have to be done again in a few minutes. In the days when I wanted to believe that self-help books were my path to enlightenment, there was one, unread, called Chop Wood, Carry Water. At least its title helped put small, ordinary tasks in a greater context.

36 comments:

Antares Cryptos said...

Delightful art.

I can only say that I am intensely grateful for the so-called "zone" of creating.

When the right hemisphere is engaged, everything else seems irrelevant. Sharpening a pencil by hand is part of the ritual.

As to the "cult of colored pencil"...
*secret handshake*

Penelope said...

I'm a newbie (or a renewbie) but yes, yes, yes.

(Antares, I tried various ways, and failed, to make a comment stick to you post this morning. :-()

Antares Cryptos said...

Penelope, it might be because your blogger profile is private.
Try signing in as anonymous or name/url without signing in to Google first.
Comments about paper books are always welcome.

Hope that helps.

Marylinn, my apologies but did not know how to respond without temporarily taking over your comment section.

Penelope said...

Marylinn, add to that my aopology for doing it fist, but ditto. A, am off to try again.

Jan Hennings said...

so cute and FOCUS is one of my favorite words :) I wanted to hop in and say thanks for joining me on the blog hop today :)

Isabel Doyle said...

Marylinn

Love your drawings/colourings-in/stamps. I found the same holiday-of-mind when I was able to paint.

I think the need to find a meditative place is universal - think of all the pathways we endorse (or make illegal): prayer, yoga, running, music practise, drugs ...

Best wishes Isabel x

JeannetteLS said...

Writing longhand can put me there, but primarily painting. And the thing about all of this is that I think the right brain meditative zone work then feeds the left brain prose writing--and the other way around. My sister liked to sharpen her pencils with a knife, slowly before every sketching session. It was a ritual of preparation, she called it.

I always enjoy blog-hopping to your blog. I missed it this week when I had no power, no phone, nada here. I stayed with someone else--I mention that because she gets into that zone cropping her photos on the computer. She sits back, fully relaxed, her hand extended by the mouse. Picture after picture, while she sings.

Erin in Morro Bay said...

Yes,yes,yes! The other world, zone, groove - call it what you will - that glorious space we inhabit when we create art and become one with the art. There's nothing like it, is there?
Erin

Melissa Green said...

Ah, that delicious dream state, Marylinn, where the rest of the world fades away, the mind quietens and the focus on the paper is so fierce, I'm surprised it doesn't burst into flames. But things inside that dream state are too peaceful for that to ever happen. It is glorious and makes one never want to be banished from it. xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Antares - Thank you. Over the years I've learned that hand-sharpening (a) is part of the ritual and (b) helps the pencils last longer. "Returns secret handshake." And other things seem irrelevant a lot of the time.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Penelope - Hello and thank you. Glad to see you here.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Antares - You are welcome to engage in any dialog here, no apologies necessary. It is the band's bulletin board. There's a happy thought.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Penelope - Feel free to drop messages here, trusting they will be found and answered.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Jan - Thank you for visiting. Where would we be without focus? Doesn't bear thinking about. And thank you for sharing your ideas on the blog hop. Now there's an event that required focus.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Isabel - Thank you. Without our thinking-free zones, we would drown in reality or our worries about it. I hope your painting is something that awaits your return; just an absence, a temporary state. My best to you. xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Jeanette - That snow storm really left its mark. I'm sorry you've been without the needed modern conveniences this long, but it sounds as though there were gifts in staying elsewhere. I have yet to reach the point of relaxed singing when cropping photos but at least it doesn't make my brain ache. To reach the meditative state while writing longhand, my words would be gibberish. But the painting I can see. I've known other artists to sharpen their pencils with a knife. It does seem closer to the process, like grinding pigments for paint. I would only put myself in peril and probably alarm my son. xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Erin - No, there's nothing like it, which is why, if one could somehow survive without needing to tend to real life, art could easily become everything. xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Melissa - Exactly, finding that state where we and all that is - I will say it - Divine merge, or we become aware of the merging which may go on always without our noticing. Bursting into flames, but only in the best sense, does seem possible. xo

Radish King said...

That moon is stunning and your colors perfect. I love fine color pencils. I have seem some incredible art done with them (like your moon and chair). You can do so much with them! I used to go sit in on classes at Daniel Smith Artist Supplies when the color pencil people came by. Just amazing.
xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Rebecca - Thank you. Color pencils, yes, fine ones, are among my desert island essentials, if it ever comes to that. I have a book or so of the kind of art you described...you'd never guess the medium, some of it absolutely photographic. I love layering the colors, then going back and erasing bits. xo

Jayne said...

I am a doodler. That's pretty much where my art begins and ends. But I love it when I'm there--that zone is very different from the writing zone, which can be pure hell sometimes. Maybe I'm relaxed with my silly doodling because I'm not thinking about perfectionism. Hmm...

Your stamps are lovingly whimsical--make me smile-- and inspire me to, maybe, reach beyond the doodle. :)

diane lewis said...

Hi Marylinn,
I am so excited about your new images and cannot wait to get my hands on them. I, too, can get lost when I am using my colored pencils, my favorite medium and your images just seem to call for pencil work. Will send you some pieces when I complete them.
Love your blog ~ makes me smile!
diane

Kerry O'Gorman said...

Yes, getting lost in your work is a true sign that you love what you do. Quite often time is of no essence when I'm involved in a piece and as far as I'm concerned I could float away all day needle felting...but then Griffin reminds me it's time for a walk and I'm brought down to earth again...sigh! A good earth though!Love the moon stamp.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Jayne - Thank you. My drawing began with doodling...the margins of every piece of paper, usually while on the phone, even at work. Doodling is a fine place to begin. I can't imagine being in that free-floating state while writing. It can be joy-filled and satisfying but the mind, at least in my case, still needs to participate. xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Diane - Thank you. Your pencil work is stunning...I recall in particular the samples Debra shared of your pockets. You took that project to a new level. Because color pencils are my favorite, the designs almost demand coloring...I can't wait to see how you interpret the new images. I'm excited too. xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Kerry - Thank you. We need reminders to come back to earth, else I will sit until too stiff to move. I used to carve stamps in the middle of the night and hours would pass, I wouldn't feel sleepy. Aren't we fortunate, all of us who have found something we love so much that time becomes meaningless? xo

grrl + dog said...

The beloved alpha state,
the frequency of brain wave that we achieve while doing the things we love..

SO marvy are your color pencil of choice?

Marylinn Kelly said...

Denise - Denise - Actually, Marvy were the brush-point pens, the place I started, Le Plume (I think). My basic pencil choice is Prismacolor, the type they now call Premiere Soft Core. I also work with other brands that are soft and can be blended, shaded. xo

Yvette said...

I do the same, Marylinn. But I call it zoning out. :) Colored pencils are not only fun to work with, they are fun to look at, scattered in a drawer - as mine often are. Rainbows in a drawer.

I like this cult.

Love your designs.

susan t. landry said...

last night, i was testing a number of different origami instructions for a friend...and i immediately went to that place...
folding the paper.
just so.

wonderful post, marylinn. you are an inspiration.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Yvette - Thank you. I think we could remove the stigma of a "cult" if we keep at it. This morning I noticed (yet again) what an art-supply fool I am, holding a handful of pencils, brushes and pens and feeling like I had a bouquet of roses. Rainbows in a drawer, indeed. xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Susan - Thanks you and you've reminded me, folding the paper. Just so. The only way I learn origami is by doing it over and over...finger memory, and focus. xo

Antares Cryptos said...

@Marylinn, just noticed a previous comment that you left and replied.
I take the same approach to the commenting section.

"Bouquet of art supplies". I like that image.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Antares - It is our community, wherever we congregate. It it does feel like a bouquet. Simply gazing at the pens, pencils, brushes, etc., is almost, almost, as good as playing with them. I am easily amused. :)

RachelVB said...

It's amazing to slow down every so often. This reminds me of french pressing coffee - waiting for it to steep and the same patience with sharpening your pencils.
I think creatives need multiple outlets. One that pushes them and one that relaxes them. Passions and hobbies and other avenues to wander down when one road is being difficult.
xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Rachel - The yin and yang, pushes and slows down. Yet, one seems to come from the other. A great excitement to get to a project which will involve coloring or doodling or whatever becomes still and dreamy once the process is under way. Setting down anything that gets us stuck and coming back after a mental holiday. xo