And then maybe I should mend those holes in my long undies.
More comics and tunes in 2017
Says it right there in ink and watercolor.
Start as I mean to go on.
Actually, I'd be fine if I didn't have to do that much more snow shoveling,
but perhaps I can take that drawing to mean more attention to my house and garden as the season demands --scrubbing the toilet and turning the compost pile and weeding and such. You know.
And really, it is best if I don't make gradiose plans.
My life is already packed with things I like doing --
so many that the best I can hope for is focus and simplification.
Adding a few refinements to my sketchbook diary practice
(ink and watercolor over the pencil and maybe a few more hourly comics),
is probably not an unreasonable dream though,
especially since I started with the ink back in October.
I've also been playing music pretty steadily for the past 11 years, so a little more time every day with my amazing new baritone concertina to strengthen my fingers, learn tunes and help the bellows become more flexible etc. is not out of the question.
Everything in moderation, right?
Looking back at this first entry in my first comic diary (which I didn't even know I was starting),
I see that the problem of competing ideas and projects is a recurring theme.
Funny how every day feels fresh as I'm living it,
every angst brand new,
even as I keep repeating myself.
One of the unexpected delightst of keeping a comic diary for a chunk of time
is the fun of returning to the old images.
Flipping through old Moleskines (I'm on the 9th since 2012),
I often crack myself up.
Important stuff, eh?
Not so entertaining are the wordy journals of my youth which, though sometimes sweet, are not things I enjoy revisiting-- and certainly nothing I'd want anyone else to look at ever ever ever and certainly not out here on the internet.
For decades, these have languished in a box in basment beside worn out boots and term papers I wrote in 1975.
Happily, a week or two later, while burying a couple of unsatisfactory-but-hard-to-get rid of tapestries, I realized that the compost heap (home of many an unfin. proj.), was the perfect home for the journals as well.
In they went, layered with eggshells and apple cores,
Looking at the snow-covered pile this morning (FYI, our winter compost goes in a worm bin in the basement), I felt nothing but satisfaction.
The worms and microbes and spent tomato vines and bits of yarn and corn cobs and ideas and carrot tops and that stupid mean thing I did in 1986 are busily transforming themselves into nourishment for the future while I get on with the essential business of learning a new tune.
How about: Grandma Hold the Candle While I Shave the Chicken's Lip?
Truth to tell, I'm lazy about my garden and may not even get to turning our compost pile for a year or two (too busy drawing comics and weaving and so forth).
My wonderful sister Evelyn R. Swett, however, will enter the the growing season with buckets of black gold.
A glorious gardener, Lyn is particularly passionate about compost
and has just created a little book, Compost Compositions, with some of her amazing photos.
It's almost like getting to look at a bit of her diary without any boring parts.
How cool is that?
Maybe that snow shoveling drawing up at hte top of the page means I might get to be more like her this year!
I can only hope.
Anyone know a tune about compost?
But what does work look like?
And how can you identify a distraction when you meet it?
What are distractions anyway, if not the first tiny steps -
in pursuit of a dream?
Where they begin
and where they go
(if anywhere at all)
is the great mystery.
But the only way to find out, is to begin.
Well, sort of.
I'll probably have to put down the Hepty when the berries start ripening fast.
I don't know what to say about the little tapestries I'm weaving right now.
So I guess I'll just hold on tight and let them go where they will.
Faces have been making me crazy for decades
but I can't seem to stop working with them.
In the past, I've gone for extremes -- a portrait, or almost no features at all.
I am not, by nature, a portraitist so getting
three people 'right' in one tapestry was definitely cause for celebration.
Easier, by far, to skip the features,
especially in small work where less is often more,
though viewers are sometimes confused by this.
"Where is her face?" they ask.
"Sometimes," I reply, "a face distracts from the story."
At other times, emptyness is the point.
This enormous commission relied on specific faces and
I spent months worrying if I would get them right.
On my next body of work, it was a delight
to skip the heads entirely
As I write this and look at these images,
I realize that avoiding the trauma/ drama of getting faces 'right'
was a large factor in my decision to stop accepting commissions.
People wanted to be in their tapestries and they wanted to look like themselves.
Too much pressure for me.
Indeed, it was a tremendous relief to focus on my own ideas
and explore ways in which body posture could portray the mood of the moment,
Studying comics added a new dimension to my work
and I found that simplifying but not eliminating the features
allowed figures to be both general and specific.
And recently, this business of using embroidery on my tapestries
has made faces positively compelling.
With each one, I'm full of curiosity, impatient to see who will show up.
How is it that this work can keep grabbing me?
ps. NEXT WEEK is my stop on the ATA Blog Tour, so I will post a day later than usual, on Wednesday the 27th, as Wednesdays are blog tour days.
Be sure to stop by Elizabeth Buckley's tomorrow and see what she has to say
My life is terrific and given half a chance I could wax verbose about the amazingness of
food, friends, fire, family, a roof, ice cubes, music, warm clothing, ideas, you...
but I won't because I would get really sappy in short order
and nobody wants that.
And anyway, there are two things I'm particularly grateful for at this moment and I don't want to bore you before I get to them:
information and time.
It hasn't always been like that.
At least the time part.
In my early 20s when I was a caretaker on a ranch in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness,
I got up at 4 AM, even when we didn't have hunters, to spin yards of yarn before the other work began.
Clearing trails for the Forest Service a few years later, my pulaski, shovel, sleeping bag and freeze dried food shared backpack space with elaborate knitting projects. Every break meant I could take off my hard hat
for 15 heavenly minutes and give myself to hand spun wool, sweat smearing the graphite on my graph paper charts.
Neither job was particularly yarn friendly, (nor ice cube friendly but that is a subject for another day). But I had a prized copy of
Knitting Without Tears and from its pages understood that I had a right to my obsession with this work and these materials, and for that I am forever grateful.
Other life changing volumes have shown up over the decades,
some arriving unwanted and uninvited to rock my world.
I was embarrassed to check Understanding Comics out of the library when it leapt off the shelf into my hand. What would the librarians think of me? What would I think of myself?
Thanks to Scott McCloud, however, I think I'm the kind of person who reads, weaves, draws
and (apparently, though this is still too new to confirm), embroiders comics.
I'm only a little bit shy about it.
Other books awash in ideas have also insisted on being in my life,
though it turned out I couldn't read or learn from them
until I started to write the darned things myself.
Why, suddenly, was it imperative, that I spend a bazillion hours tap tap tapping at a keyboard, pouring over Strunk and White and other books on word smithing, only to discover that instead of publishing any of my novels in a conventional way, I must spend four more years weaving a teeny tiny part of one of them into 14 tapestries? Whose idea was that? And when did I agree that such a thing would be worth the time? Is chasing ideas as important as chasing elk out of a hay field?
I haven't the foggiest idea.
But since my job is to chase ideas
and I never know what an idea will demand,
it behooves me to give them some time at the start.
Some are seductive. Others scare the crap out of me.
The best ones usually are scary, or embarrassing, or both at once
and it is imperative to be polite, be they well-groomed or grubby,
essential to offer them tea and cookies if I have them,
and beyond important to not be irritated when the less cheerful ones refuse to go away.
One of the things that keeps my irritation in check ("no, I do not have time for you right now, thank you so much for coming by, but really...."), is the potential for learning tidbits of technique.
The thrill of exploring a new skill, or adding a twist to one I think I've already mastered,
of finding new books or blogs or websites,
of opening myself up to possibility
(including the possibly of being mediocre, or even pretty bad at whatever it is),
is beyond anything I can describe in words.
It's particularly great when it all turns out well.
It's particularly useful, when it doesn't.
Even if I am sure I won't use the information or idea for a while, if ever,
it pays to be polite and listen for as long as I can stand it.
A person just never knows when or how something that has been sitting around for ages,
or shows up out of the blue,
will be exactly what she wants.
All of which is a rather long-winded wind-up to an exciting and unexpected free Christmas present (complete with prizes), the thing I intended to talk about today:
The ATA Blog tour.
Janna Maria Vallee of Vancouver Yarn and chair of the upcoming American Tapestry Alliance's Tapestry Unlimited: International, Unjuried Small Format Exhibition
has created a blog tour with six instructors sharing tapestry techniques.
Click on the links above (or Vancouver Yarn link below) for more details and to see the fabulous promotional video.
The Blog Tour Line-Up
December 23rd: Vancouver Yarn
December 30th: Rebecca Mezoff
January 6th: Terry Olson
January 13th: Mirrix Looms
January 20th: Elizabeth Buckley
January 27th: Sarah Swett
I will be focusing on value in tapestry, a topic dear to my heart and of tremendous importance in most of my tapestry work to date, and though I haven't the least idea what I will actually say when the time comes, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to share some stuff I've learned that might be of use to someone. And if, while talking about grey scales and such, I happen accidentally go on about the bliss of a tensioned loom, finger picking or wool warp, please know I can't help it.
You can sign up below to receive weekly updates on the tour
(this is separate from my mailing list)
Now, what is it I'm supposed to do with all these lovely little skeins?
Sarah C Swett