I have been captivated by Helen Cann’s book Hand Drawn Maps. My kids and I each take it in turns – I bring it to bed to look at before I go to sleep, someone grabs it to look at before breakfast and all day it lives next to the couch until we decide it’s time to draw something.
In the midst of trying to do everything all at once – which is how a normal morning feels – I end up walking circles in my kitchen, picking things up and putting them back down. Starting three tasks all at once, but leaving each for something that seems more urgent, or at least, more efficient. Scheduling my own days adds to the chaos in my head, because there are few hard deadlines beyond the bodily needs of the family. And all of the rolling deadlines that I set in head.
And so, this is a map that I seem to follow frequently, trying to move in all directions at once. It’s exhausting, but a hard cycle to break. I have learned better ways to quiet my head, but then I go and forget them for long stretches. I painted this with love and humor for my struggle. And, maybe if I adjust my compass and plot a better course, I will find a more direct path through this chaotic land.
I have found myself captivated by the markers of flow – and it’s cousin, relaxation. It’s something I find in my own creative practice – some days I do simple work that I can ease into, especially when I am seeking calm. But then inspiration strikes (after my mind has had a chance to process) and I am in flow, finding shapes and fabrics and sketch out ideas for a story cloth. Those are both moments that are dear to me – and I can find one without the other (or, at least, not in my stitching).
Reading: Finding Flow by Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi. And wondering what he thinks of smartphones – the ever present cure for boredom. In 1997, he writes “But if one also counts the long-term effects of generations addicted to passive entertainment, the rosy picture will look grim indeed.” Though, in some ways smartphones allow instant access to software that could be supporting a flow moment, but how often does mindless scrolling get in the way of my own projects and flow moments? Earlier, he wrote “what matters is the dosage. Passive leisure becomes a problem with yen a person uses it as the principal – or the only – strategy to fill up free time.”
My watercolor travel kit started with watercolor crayons, but this summer (a summer in which I am home ALL THE TIME) I fantasized about travel and improved my portable watercolor kit. You know, so I am ready for whenever I get to travel again.
Eye shadow palettes make really good watercolor palettes – the little wells are already there, they just need to be cleaned out and filled up with tube watercolors. I had some trouble finding ones that were on their way to the dump, but over the summer I did manage to collect 3. The smaller to went to my kids (with hot glue used to make smaller compartments as needed). The bigger, glorious 32-well compact, is now mine and I love it. I don’t even have enough colors to fill it all! I started with a Sakura Koi set of 18 tube watercolors, so I mixed some together and left some wells empty for future expansion.
Want to make one?
Once I found an makeup compact that I wanted to use for paints, I started by emptying whatever makeup was left (these were all used) and washing it with soap. I had to use q-tips to clean out the corners when I left the metal pans in place. The one that I removed the metal pans from needed the glue removed.
Once dry, I laid out my watercolor tubes and filled each well. A toothpick helps for stirring the wet paint and ensuring it spreads to the corners.
After filling up each well, I left it to dry for 24 hours. Once it’s completely dry, it’s ready to use!
Watercolors have always seemed to mysterious to me. I certainly used them often enough as a kid, but always felt like there was a secret I just never understood. I even took a watercolor painting class in college becasuse I was sure that a college professor would certainly tell me the long hidden secrets. But they just talked about them like paints and colors, and I left the class still feeling like I was missing something. I mean, they never turn out like I expected, but once in a while, I would make something that looked ethereal and otherworldly. And I had no idea how I had done it.
And so, as a parent, I pulled out the watercolors and played another with my kids. I suppose it was when I started using watercolor crayons that I felt like I had some semblance of control over where the colors when on the page. I added the color with the crayon, then manipulated the colors with water. That made sense. It obeyed the laws of gravity, too.
And now I have dipped my toe in again and it feels less mysterious and more playful. I don’t alwasy know how the color will move, but I have made peace with that and just like to watch it move on the page, or see if I can catch the colors of the trees by mixing in a little more blue, or maybe it’s purple?
Curious about upcycling an old eye shadow palatte into a travel watercolor kit? Read more here.
I was inspired by City Lab’s Map My Neighborhood project, so I sat down to think about my own house. It had just snowed again that morning, so we had the fire going and it was feeling more like winter than spring. But later we let the sheep out to graze and the lambs were running around chasing each other, and I was drinking my 4th cup of coffee, and this is what I drew.