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Being Drawn In

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This past weekend, I stood in silence. Staring at a small selection of drawing supplies. I had wanted to buy some artist pens. Mine had dried out. Mine that I bought eight years ago, to illustrate an archaeological dog burial.

Clearly, it was time for some new drawing tools. But there were no pens to choose from there.

I almost walked away.

But I kept looking.  Maybe I missed something.

Maybe… I could buy some pencils.

My inner critic’s voice began, “We have boxes and boxes of pencils at home.”

“Yeah, but not pencils for drawing.”

“How can a pencil NOT be for drawing.”


I looked again.

I was almost in tears with the thought of buying them.

(Treating myself to art supplies can be a pretty intense experience.)

A small “artist pencil kit” caught my eye.

Three pencils, a kneaded eraser, two graphite sticks, and a woodless pencil.


And cue the critic:

“You’re going to spend almost ten dollars on something you don’t even need? Something that the kids are going to break, the dog is going to eat, and you are going to lose!?”

“Yes, Yes I am. Because I want to draw. Because I need to draw. AND it comes with a tin case.”

So now, I have a brand new set of pencils to entice me when I get that little whisper of a sense that I might like to draw.

Brand new drawing pencils

Brand new drawing pencils

And how glad I am. For I got that sense tonight, when I couldn’t sleep.

I started thinking about leaves.


This all started late last week when I was walking down the road with my two boys. We took the back alley on the way to the bakery. I had spent most of the week feeling under the weather and was quite unaware of the autumnal changes taking place outside. Lesson one in complementary colors

“Wait! Wait! Kids! Come here!” I called out. They must have thought I found a frog or a grasshopper, because they sure came back quick.

“Do you see how the color of the leaves is so yellow? And it makes the back of that building seem more purple than it ever has before?”

My oldest, interested and sure it must be some kind of magic, replied “Yeah, I do! What’s that about, Mom?”

“What colors make purple?” I ask.

After a little thought and some guessing, he came up with “Blue and Red”

“Yes! Is there any yellow in purple?”

“No….” (He says it in a voice that shows that thinks he might be getting tricked.)

“And that is why the yellow and purple make each other stand out so well!”

And thus began our seasonally appropriate lesson on colors.

IMG_0334And several stops on the way to the bakery.


IMG_0336 And a trip to the park. IMG_0349And some lessons on photography.


And a photo session that became what my son called the “Color Catch”




And left me thinking of leaves and trees.

And thinking of times when I was learning my leaves and trees.


And so, here comes that whisper.


It’s caught on something.

Draw leaves.

It’s drawn to a time.

A time when I took certain routes around the campus of Southern Illinois University, just to visit certain trees.

I may have been dating a forestry major.

But to tell the truth, I was in love with the trees.

So I started thinking about my beloved tulip poplar.

Just outside the Liberal Arts building.

I’d visit it everyday.

I miss the unique blossoms and the strange seed pods.

But I remember the leaf shape so well.

A few image searches left me longing.

Wondering how that tree is now.

Leaf Study Tulip PoplarAnd drawing the shape and uncovering the vein pattern.

I was suddenly grateful that I was treated myself to those pencils this weekend.

I needed them, for not just any pencil would do.

Memories of my wonder that exists in leaves continued to grow.

I thought of sweet gum.

This spectacular tree can have any range and combination of colors at any time in the fall.

It was a childhood favorite of mine. 750px-American_Sweetgum_Liquidambar_styraciflua_Fruit_Context_2500px

We had one at the house where my dad lived. Each fall, I would collect the funny round, poky, seed capsules and deposit them in hoards in the backyard. I loved them. 800px-Sweetgum_Seed_closeup

Come spring when my dad mowed the yard and found those caches of prickly seed capsules… well he didn’t like it so much then. But, I bet it would give him a big laugh now.

And so, I gave my try at playing with pencil shading the beautiful leaf shape and delicate intricacies of the seed capsules.

And was quite pleased with the process. Sweet Gum

And quite delighted to rediscover the joy of being drawn into to nature, one smooth graphite stroke at a time.

On Art and Writing (Part 3: The Breakthrough)

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On Art and Writing (Part 3: The Breakthrough)

Last week,

I had a meltdown.

I was writing.

I was working on a contracted project.

All the thoughts, frustrations, guilt, and grief of my decision to leave my previous work came and grabbed hold of me.

My writing became paralyzed.

I threw my hands up and went to bed.

Anxiety took over.

I couldn’t breath.

I couldn’t hold still.

I tried to quiet myself.


A little nudge came from within-

“Draw” it said.


I got brave,

I emerged from the covers.

I found my pastels.

I couldn’t find my sketchbook right away,

So I used some brown wrapping paper I use for shipping books.

A few strokes here and there,

With what ever colors felt right.

Out came a duck with a little bird by its side.


Then a chickadee on its nest.

Photo on 2-23-13 at 10.51 PM

It was magical!


I ran out of paper!

But, oh-

I just had to share the bliss in rediscovering the therapy of creativity.

When I was done,

I was relieved, as if I had cried a million tears.”

A dear friend replies,

You did it.

You faced the fears head on,

Acknowledged them,

Gave them respect,

And then used your tools,

And the power of of using creativity instead of your brain to deal with them.”


I explore how to get to that point of artistic expression,

Without the meltdown.

This morning,

I visited some of my work from long ago and far away.

Cow skull, vine charcoal and white conte. RP 2002-2003.

Cow skull, vine charcoal and white conte. 2003-2004.

I had drawings of figures, still life, paper bags, bones.

Figure drawing. Pencil, watercolor, and charcoal. RP 2001-2002.

Figure drawing. Pencil, watercolor, and charcoal. 2001-2002.

Coat on Chair. Still life. Pencil and watercolor. RP 2001-2002.

Coat on Chair. Still life. Pencil and watercolor. 2001-2002.

Paper bag study. Conte. RP 2002-2003.

Paper bag study. Conte. 2002-2003.

The Axis. Graphite. RP 2003-2004.

Partial skeleton. Graphite. 2003-2004.

I had drawings that smelled of years of storage.

Assorted treed landscapes. Colored pencil. 1999-2000.

Assorted treed landscapes. Colored pencil. 1999-2000.

I had drawings that expressed multiple versions of me.

Neglected and forgotten.

Versions of myself that visit in dreams.

Like forgotten lovers of long ago.

“Why are you here now?” I ask.

“Only to be here now.” They reply.


I hope for a day to continue,

Being an artist,

Knowing what I am capable of.

Embracing all versions of myself,

A being of creative expression.