Thursday, November 30, 2017

Introducing: “The Daily Office” in Pictures

Introducing: “The Daily Office” in Pictures
How I Used The Book of Common Prayer to Inspire Art and Devotion

What Is This Project?
For some time, I have thought about completing one piece of visual art  for every page of The Book of Common Prayer for the Episcopal Church in the USA.

My inspiration came from the wonderful book by Matt Kish, Moby-Dick in Pictures:  One Drawing for Every Page.  

I’m drawn to the Book of Common Prayer’s language and wise liturgies.   “Liturgy” refers to the order of church services, but technically translates as “the work of the people.”  I love that!  Member churches of the worldwide Anglican Communion have done this “work”--prayed the prayers and practiced these rituals--in various forms since 1549.  

I hoped the BCP could inspire my own thought and art into new directions.  In turn, I hoped that my work might inspire users of the BCP to work with the text in new ways.

How Did It Work?
But, oh, the sheer number of pages (1001)!!  Wow!  Daunting.   I couldn’t really imagine pulling off that many pieces of art.  How would I manage my time and my tools and my motivation and… and… and…

Then one day, the answer came.  The BCP’s attraction to me as a guide for spiritual contemplation lies, in part, in how it helps me focus.  In the middle of life’s chaotic messes, the BCP helps me settle.  I needed to bring a similar focus to the art project.

First, I decided to work with only a small section of the BCP: “The Daily Office,” which includes prayers for particular times each day:  Morning, Noonday, Evening, and Compline. This comes from the ancient tradition of religious communities praying “the hours.”  It is a discreet section of the BCP, starting with the title page on page 35 and ending on page 146--111 pages in total.  

Second, I focused my artistic approach.   I decided to use only one medium--watercolor--and only one size of paper (2.5 x 3.5 inches).  I used only one brush, one brush pen, one palette knife, and very few other tools.  I limited my palette to about two dozen colors.   I used only one approach (abstraction).  While I did not plan on pursuing landscapes, you’ll find that most of the paintings turned out that way.  I suppose that came from my personal connections with nature and spirit.

Third, I made it orderly.  I would consider each page in order from first to last.  I would only start and complete 111 pieces--no discards.  If I finished one and it didn’t fit the page at hand, I could use it on another page, but I could not throw it away.  Every painting had some value, and part of my practice involved finding and honoring that.

I completed each painting the same way:  practicing a form of lectio divina.  I read the page and let the words sink in, noting what phrase stuck out to me.  I sat quietly with that phrase, not analyzing.  Then I responded, not through words, but through color and form on paper.

What Will Be on This Blog?
For 111 days (beginning on Advent One on December 3, 2017 until just before Palm Sunday on March 25, 2018), I’m going to share these paintings in order. I will include the page number and phrase that inspired the art.  Any particular edition of the BCP shares the same page numbers across all versions, so it is easy to read more of the related text if you wish.

I used the most recent (1979) edition of The Book of Common Prayer for the Episcopal Church in the USA.  

You Can Do It Too!
I found the process meditative, insightful, and peaceful.  I would recommend it to anyone, using The Book of Common Prayer, or any other text which you find to contain wisdom.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

A Little Sketch I Found

Found this little single sheet drawing from a couple of months ago... 

I'd been doing some initial sketching of ideas for a graphic memoir.

This is my mental image of one gung-ho sheriff's deputy I once saw tearing through a local state park.  Ripping up the trails.  Spewing exhaust.  Making a lot of machine noise in woods that should be safe from that sort of thing.

But then again, in my mind, those woods should have been safe from all kinds of things that they simply were not safe from.   Which is (or will be) the point of the memoir.  

Anyhow, I rather like this little cartoon.

Quick to say:  I have friends who are police officers and officers of the Michigan DEQ and so on.  This is not meant to represent any of them.  Or even most such officers.  In fact, I only saw this person ripping up the trails once, and for all I know, he was in a rush to save a life.  But this is the impression it made on me then.  And it stuck with me.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Practicing Nonfiction Comics with an Interview

A few months ago I took a terrific class online at the Sequential Artists Workshop called "Nonfiction Comics," taught by Jess Ruliffson.

The course focused on how to take research materials and turn them into effective graphic storytelling.

The course was structured on many exercises in a way I found ingenious:  we  worked for the entire multi-week class with this NPR interview between Emil Ferris and Terry Gross.

You might think that would get boring.  But no!  Each time we did a different exercise, we looked at a different part of the interview in a different way. 

And the challenge was real:  how do you take verbal notes, and figure out how to render it in a verbal and visual medium?  What can be drawn?  What needs to stay verbal?  HOW do you draw what can be drawn?  What do you cut?  And many other questions more sophisticated than these.

An early assignment had us take just one quote and try to render it in the context of the larger story.  In at least two different ways.

Here are my attempts:

I see now how I actually added words that were not from the story in each of my scenarios.  Sheesh.

This was a terrific class and I intend to go back through the exercises again, maybe even with the same article.

In particular, the notion of working one source piece over and over was a terrific approach (at least for me as a student!) to learn more about what comics can do--and what I still need to learn about how this art form works!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Messing Around with Comics and Inspiration

I have recently discovered the work of comics artist Liniers.  Here is his Twitter feed.

I am in love.

Check out Macanudo.
Written and Drawn By Henrietta
The Wet Balloon
Goodnight, Planet.

Holy cow.  Such lovely books in drawing and content.

This is how I want to draw.

I copied him for a bunch of pages, but I'm just tossing in one page of that, and another of a comic I did with his work in mind.

Mt work doesn't look much like his.  But it inspired me!

If you are fan of Calvin and Hobbes, check Liniers' work out.  You'll be delighted!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

More Work on a Memoir Comic

More work from a few months ago, thinking about a graphic memoir.

Really, this is just thinking on paper.  Just working out what I can and can't draw, how I want it to look.  Not final sketches.  Not even close to final sketches.  Just seeing what I can do, what I like on the page.

 I'm working from an essay I published a long time ago--trying to spot what is visual and can be drawn and thinking about what words need to stay.

I'm actually wondering if that is a bad idea--starting from an essay I wrote a long time ago.  I wonder if maybe I should start from scratch, rethink the event and what it means to me now.  I imagine new things will come up.

I really like the map and diagram pages.   I'm still thinking about diagrams and maps and other interesting ways to use verbal and visual for storytelling.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

First Sketches for A Memoir Comic

On my back burner to do list is making a comic about something that happened to me in while walking in the woods some years ago.

Starting in a few days I'm going to be taking a Graphic Memoir Intensive class online with Tom Hart through the Sequential Artists Workshop.

These are some messy scribbles of preliminary sketches I made a few months ago.  I already know I won't do the comic this way, but they are valuable because they helped me start to locate the important images.

I'm thinking about composition, framing, the notion of using a diagram model, or a map model for some information.  

It's messy.  But it's a start.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Comic: Pets and Getting a New Roof

Getting a new roof is a noisy proposition.

Not everyone likes it.  Especially my dog, Nik.

The puppy, Veto, thought it was all fascinating.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Collaging and Journal About The Dogs

Last spring I began to foster a puppy, Veto.

It has been fun watching my older male, Nik, mentor him.

I journaled about this in a sketchbook where I had a prepared background.

The process here was to sketch Nik on a separate piece of paper and cut him out.  I collaged him to the left page of the spread.  Next I colored the rest of the cut piece of paper with a yellow acrylic marker.  Finally I collaged that piece--with the empty dog shape-- onto the right half of the spread.

I hadn't planned what I was going to write, but the empty shape helped me capture my thoughts.

I don't usually do this sort of thing in my sketchbook, so it was fun!  Collage is something I hope to do more with some day.