the Curious Penguin investigates Yarn

Today the Curious Penguin, feeling decidedly hungry after eating only dog food and Mrs. Marlow’s goldfish, investigated the Suspicious Looking Basket in the living-room.

It looked like a fisherman’s basket, but it only had soft knotty stuff that tasted dry. IMG_6266

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the Curious Penguin discovers Books

I love books. I love warm colors. I’ve got a few art projects in the long-term works, but my penguin pet is just too much fun not to take a break for sometimes!

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Questing for beauty: social media

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I never could figure the whole social media thing out.  I had a business. I sold stuff. Okay. I’m supposed to start a Twitter account? Why? What am I going to do with it? Oh, a Facebook account too? And a Pinterest one? Instagram? Really? I can’t keep up with my personal correspondence, how am I supposed to post on fifteen social media sites every single day?

Well…..yeah. I haven’t figured all that out yet. But I’ve learned a few things.

1. I am a producer. My work is to make things to enrich people’s lives and make their work more valuable. I can’t give if I haven’t received. If I’m not filling my mind with good things and thinking on that which is true and noble and beautiful, I won’t have much to offer others.

2. I don’t have follow the rules.  I am not in a season of life where I can devote my whole workday to art and the promotion of said art. That’s okay. I have important work that can’t be charted by how diligent I am on Twitter.

3. I don’t need to follow everybody to get exposure. Maybe that works…..for other people. But I’m not going to worry about that. This is where the “quality, not quantity” thing comes in. What does 2k followers do for for either me or them if neither of us have anything in common? It’s better to follow a handful of people that inspire you and that share your passions than to follow a million random people. Don’t fish for clients. Attract them.

The bottom line is: don’t kill yourself if you’re not doing everything ‘just right’. I’m not full-time with my illustration (far from it: it’s more of a hobby at this point, not a business), but there are really only a few key rules that I’ve learned from studying this: quality content and consistency. If you can put out your 90% best quality and show up consistently, you don’t need to worry about all the rules that, if you try to follow them all, will run you ragged.

Follow beauty. Seek beauty. Create beauty.

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The Curious Penguin discovers Paint

About halfway through the designing process of this piece, I realized that it was strongly reminiscent of Captain Cook, the pet of Mr. Popper in the delightful storybook “Mr. Popper’s Penguins”. Don’t you agree?

I think I’ll be revisiting this little fellow. Adélie penguins are so adorable.

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Beauty or productivity? Or both?

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My little moss garden

The past few days I was listening to a talk  called The Joy of Food by Chef Francis Foucachon. I listened to this beautiful, thoughtful presentation while trying to juggle at least five different online ‘projects’ at once. Research this. Post about that. Oh, but first I must look this up! Oh man, I forgot to do that. Did I check this off my list? Oh, I’d better write this down before I forget it. Hey, that’s right, I need to do that too.

In the background of my random, disjointed ‘productivity’, Monsieur Foucachon was talking about the blessing of food and a dedicated meal time for family and friends to gather for an unrushed time to savor food and fellowship.

I paused the DVD and sat silent for a moment. That’s…..that’s honestly beautiful. I thought. I want to live like that. I never wanted to run from one activity to another. As a child I was a member of a slow-paced family (by American standards), but we still did our fair share of rushing to activities a few times a week. Staying at home every day would garner very little protest from me. I love home and building a home-culture— Someday I want to create a  warm, welcoming sanctuary for my family to grow and for us to practice quiet, relationally warm hospitality.

And yet, even in my quiet introvertedness, I feel torn and rushed. I see the unending list of things I would like to learn and accomplish and study and pursue, and I feel as if I am being caught up in a whirlwind and I must sink to the floor and cover my head to hide from it all.

How do I balance it to have the productive life I believe is so important, and yet not be so rushed to be productive that I run past the beauty of life?  Is savoring beauty, after all, a form of productivity? If I lay down a project I’ve set aside an hour to work on to stare in wonder at a sunset shining through the woodlands, setting weeds and vines aglow with a magical brilliance, is it  a good use of my time? I think it is. So I then it would follow that…..

Spending hours on crafting a beautiful meal served on attractive dishes and taking the time to set the table tastefully, even going outside for fifteen minutes to pick leaves and twigs for a centerpiece;

Lying on my bed reading to a small child who interrupted my studies;

Drawing a little scene on an envelope which needs to be mailed that morning;

Organizing the washroom decor to be more symmetrical and tasteful;

Instead of  mindlessly eating  in front of the laptop while I work, sitting down at the table and appreciating my meal– the colors, aroma, flavor, and texture;

These are not ‘distractions’ from my ‘real life’, my ‘productivity’, but rather  crucial elements to creating a life of thankful beauty instead of a life of chaos.

This is a seed-thought. It pleads to be pondered. The subject of beauty itself is something that calls for study. And I mean to study it.

[image: a piece of beauty I created for a friend this week]Madisons Talent_0003

The process of a portrait

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So, some of you know that I draw illustrated portraits.

This particular one was made for a couple who have been married over twenty years. It’s so beautiful to see his tender, protective love for his wife, and her faithful care for him and their children.

I’m going to give you a peek into my process of creating this portrait.IMG_9512.JPG

The first thing I did was to gather a number of photos of Mr. C. and Mrs. J. from different angles and lighting. I wanted to see their physical characteristics as well as their mannerisms (I already knew them in person, so I didn’t have to interview the client about their personalities– otherwise I would have spent some time getting a feel for that aspect of this couple as well).

I then took some time to sketch out a basic idea of how I wanted the couple posed, and what colors I wanted to use in their clothing/hair color/accessories.

I chose bright, happy colors for Mrs. J. because she’s an animated lady who doesn’t let much stop her. The colors I sorted through for Mr. C. were more quiet and subdue, to reflect his strong but quiet character. As you can see in the image, I played around with different color combinations before I finally settled on the theme of primary colors.

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I then started drawing the portrait on my watercolor paper. I tried to make sure my lines were dark enough to see, but not so dark that I couldn’t erase them entirely– because in this stage of the portrait, there is a lot of erasing and fixing and re-drawing until it’s just right.

This is the hardest (and longest) stage.

Once I’d gotten the sketch to a point where I was satisfied, I started adding color.

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(often working by the light of a desk lamp. Good for seeing details: bad for taking pictures. Oh well.)

More color was added: then shading. I used watercolor paints, which I’m still learning to use. They’re fun, though. I’m going to have a hard time returning to watercolor pencils.

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Finally, I worked out the border. I did several test-borders before settling on this one. I chose colors that harmonized with the portrait, as well as ones that held significance (the strongest being red to symbolize their love in marriage, and yellow to symbolize their friendship).

And that’s that. I actually forgot to sign the piece before I shipped it off. But oh well. I was happy with it.

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An adventure in piggery

I was lying awake a few nights ago, and I had this idea….

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For a book….

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about a pig.

Now, a book isn’t made in a week. So this is only the very seed of a long adventure, if indeed this proves to be an adventure worth taking.

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But hey.

Right now I’m having fun drawing pigs.