Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Call Me Artist

We've been in Quartzsite for about three and a half months. This is the longest stretch of time we've spent in any one place since we embarked on our RVing journey, which is coming up on two years. Usually we are ready to get moving again within two weeks, but not this time. Maybe its just the mentality of knowing that we intend to spend five months here, or maybe its because we have friends here. For me, I think its because I have more with which to occupy myself. Something that interests me greatly.

I enjoy the outdoors, but I've come to the conclusion that I'm pretty much an indoor person. I have no problem going for days without stepping outside The Beast—as long as I have something to occupy my mind. I read a lot but I can't do that day in and day out. I have my photography, which I do when we have (new) places to see. Being in the desert, there are tons of cactus plants to photograph, but the photos all come out looking the same. I came to the conclusion months ago that reading and photography weren't as fulfilling to me as I once thought they might. And it galls me to admit that. But photography is still huge in my picture. No pun intended.

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I have taken up pyrography, which is woodburning. It turns out I'm good at it and I can spend hours on end working on projects. When some people think of woodburning, they think of signs personalized for people to put outside their homes—like our's would say "The Cooks" or "Welcome to The Beast" or some such thing. Nope. Not that. I'll tell you my story:

How did I get into woodburning? I think it was one evening last September that Rob and I watched a 'Treehouse Masters' episode on Animal Planet. The episode featured a pyrographer who was commissioned to create an artwork for the treehouse. When I saw what she could do by burning wood I turned to Rob and said "I've got to try that!" Just like that. It stayed on my mind. I mentioned it to several people. I did some research and discovered a world of amazing, talented artists and a medium that was heretofore unknown to me. I was surprisingly unintimidated. I learned about the types of tools pyrographers use and decided I'd start with the least expensive option.

It was the last week of October when we arrived in Ventura to spend a week visiting our daughter Kristie and her family. I asked Kristie to accompany me to Michael's to check out what they had. I found the inexpensive woodburning kit I'd learned about online and chose some small pieces of wood meant for decorating or other crafts. Then I found a few patterns online and burned a simple Christmas piece. I thought, okay, I handled that alright. It was too easy. I decided to expand a little bit to see what more I could do with the burner. I downloaded a more complicated pattern. After we got here to Quartzsite, Rob bought some wood to build a game board to play 'Corn Hole.' He had bits wood leftover so I used a piece of it to burn my second project instead of using the 'good' wood I bought at Michael's—just in case I failed miserably. My second project was a dragon. It turned out so well that I felt more confident and have continued to increase each project's difficulty.

I bought books on the subject written by two different pyrography artists. Each with their own styles, they offer tips, techniques and projects from which to practice them. I also learned about the better woodburning systems that would allow me to do more, and all their lessons were tailored to the better systems.

I had an occasion to email all my daughters about something—I don't remember what—and in it I decided to write a note letting them know what I've been doing and how much I love it. Rob started asking me questions that led me to believe that maybe, just maybe, he was considering getting me the better, and expensive, woodburning system for Christmas—even though it was clearly not in the budget. A girl can dream, though, right? Never in my wildest dreams did I suspect my daughters were behind it. I was in the middle of a project when Rob dropped a box next to me and told me to open it. "What is it?" "Just open it." Which I did after, to Rob, an agonizing few minutes. "My Razertip? It's not in the budget!" "I didn't have anything the to do with it! Its from your daughters." I was speechless. A Christmas gift of the system I'd begun to lust after from all five daughters. "How did they know?" "I don't know but they knew about it." I didn't remember mentioning it until I looked back at the email and there it was in backlit splendor. I can't begin to say how much I appreciate this gift, and being that its from my girls has made it that much more special. I only hoped that I'd be worthy of it.

When I burned the lion, which you'll see, I was still using the old burner. A friend saw the lion while I was working on it and asked if I'd do something from a photo. She had a favorite cellphone picture of her daughter that she'd like done. My first commission? Cool. I told her I'd probably not start it for a couple of months because I wanted to get more technique down before I tried anything like—gasp—a person. Doing fur is one thing with the low-end burner, shading skin is another. Believe me. Then the Christmas gift arrived and I had hope that I'd be able to burn Nonda's daughter even sooner. And I did. To get ready, I worked on patterns from my books to learn the techniques each artist offered; and, I practiced using the new 'pens' until I felt confident enough to give it a try. I had to make sure that each time I touch a nib to wood, I was getting a consistent effect. Nonda was pleased with the results, as was I. 

In photography, the study of light and zones, the gradation from light to dark, act as a foundation for the work I now do, which is simply sepia tones on wood rather than the black and white of a photograph—but its done from my hand rather than my eye.

Who would have thought I could do this? Who could have known this is where I'd be led. Not I. I do meditation and before we bought our motorhome, my mantra had been "when an opportunity presents itself, I will recognize that opportunity and I will act upon it." Next thing I knew, we were RVing full-time after first talking about it 30 years before. I've felt for a long time that there's something I'm meant to do. I just didn't know what. So, last summer my mantra became "show me what I'm meant to do that is a gift to myself as well as to others." For one who could've only wished she could sketch or paint or watercolor, providence called and, without really knowing it, I recognized, at the soul level, the medium that now allows me to express my creative side like no other. When I watched that show and felt the excitement and motivation to try pyrography, I had no clue that it was my soul speaking to me. It was only after I discovered I was good at it and that I can possibly become great at it that I realized the Universe/Soul/Higher Self/God conspired to fulfill my needs, maybe my destiny. Why? Because I was open to it.

So when it happens to you, when that moment comes and your first thought is I've got to try that, do that, be that, don't brush it off, don't forget it, don't think you can't. For any reason. It is your highest self speaking to you. It is opportunity knocking. Just turn the knob, open the door, walk through, and don't look back.

The new woodburning system. Considered the best on the market at this time.

My very first project. The color is done with watercolor pencils and water.

Project number two. The Dragon on solid pine. About 5 x 7.

Number 3. Howling Wolf on 5 x 7 Baltic Birch.

Number 4. Husky on 5 x 7 Baltic Birch. I'd like to do this on about 20 x 30.

Number 5. Wolf on 5 x 7 Baltic Birch.

Number 6. Polar Bear with acrylic paint and watercolor on 5 x 7 Baltic Birch.

Number 7. Wolf by Birch Tree on 12 x 12 Baltic Birch plywood.

Number 8. The Lion on natural Basswood. Approx. 8 x 12.

Number 9. Gold Panning. This scene was taken from a sketch done by the famous western artist, Charles W. Russell. Approx. 7 x 11.

Number 10. Buffalo in Snow from a photo by Jeff Wendorff. 5 x 7 Baltic Birch.

Number 11. Tiger done with nothing but straight lines. One of the lessons I did to learn technique. 10 x 10 Baltic Birch.

Number 12. Dream Catcher on 12 x 14 Baltic Birch. Another lesson to learn technique.

Number 13. My first commissioned work. Erin and Puppy. This was about 40 hours of work.

1 comment:

  1. An inspiration come true . . . and unbelievably beautiful.