On drawing blind:

I have a hard time with the starting sometimes. Okay, all the times. Even if I already know what the first step should be. Even if I’ve already started it the day before – next day, same thing. Walk into my studio, and the fear bugs descend and try and keep me from moving. Ever been there? Yes of course you have.

But! We still get shit done, because there are tools to get past this! Starting rituals are great. Little steps you take daily so that starting is just another step, like putting on your running shoes the second you get out of bed (don’t worry, I’m not that disciplined.) My ritual just underwent a fall shift and I’ve added a really brilliant little exercise I recently stumbled into. In my head I call it double-blind contour drawing. blind contour etc_1

BLIND contour drawing has been one of my favourite exercises since forever. With that one, you draw the contours of your subject, without looking at your paper – not once! The trick is pretending your pencil is actually touching the thing in front of you as you move your eyes around it. This is great for loosening up and subjugating your doubt monster, since there’s no option to draw the object the “right”. It’s also a really beautiful way to observe and quiet.

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(I suspect this was a leaf, since I don’t own any birds)

But what’s double-blind contour drawing? The next logical step, of course – close your eyes entirely! Every morning, and sometimes before every new task, I do double-blind contour therapy. I start by choosing the first task to work on for that day, item 1 on my intention list. Then, I locate paper and close my eyes. Instead of following the contours of an object out in the real world, I visualize the project I am starting, just that first little minute part of it, and I draw that. Sometimes I just draw myself making a phone call, or looking pensively at a piece of wood, or whatever the first order of business may be.
double Blind contour blog post_3So, duh, it just ends up being a bunch of squiggledy lines. But, by the time I open my eyes, something miraculous has happened. I have a clearer view of what I’m about to start. I know a little more about where it’s headed. I have already taken the first step, completely risk free. And you know what? The fear is gone, because I tricked some little part of me into believing that this thing I have to do is safe and known – because I’ve already drawn it and absolutely nobody died.
double Blind contour blog post_2

So I offer to you, next time you’re in doubt, put your pencil on your page, close your eyes and imagine what you need to do. Picture the completed task or yourself in the middle of it. Draw that. Be as loose or as detailed as you wish. After a couple minutes open your eyes and laugh at your drawing, then leap into action.

Like me, you will probably end up with a handsome little pile of nonsense drawings, but you might also end up with enough peace to start your day.double Blind contour blog post_1

Timber Timbre

I like trees. They sound nice, feel nice, smell nice, act nice. They help me imagine nice things, like a world where all constructs are as self-sufficient and sturdy. A lot of my thoughts lately surround trees and their penchant for enlightening people.
Yerxa 161

Last weekend was Harvest Jazz and Blues time in my city. The whole downtown turns into a festival. I spent the weekend silk painting and quilting in the midst of torrential rain, happy music-goers, and fire juggling performers.

The piece I created was the first designed in my new shared warehouse studio, Fredericton Makerspace. There I feel full of gumption and efficiency. I tacked paper to the walls and swayed to Crystal Castles, conjuring up these dancing trees.
Dancing tree drawings WM

I’ve found the computer to be a swell friend where decision-making is concerned. I was looking to arrive at the purple/green/gray/brown tones of the bark on scaley spruce trees. I settled my colours, traced the piece onto silk, and then off to Harvest my skills.
Dancing tree drawing - Allison Green - Bottleneck Consensus

Some kindly photographers caught me working away. Talking to the passersby gave me a very romantic view of busking. A surprise to me, many felt my work spoke of female empowerment. That is not such a bad thing to have bleed from my art when I’m not looking.
James Walsh - Allison Green
James Walsh Photography

The musical brouhaha added rhythm to my brush strokes, the painted silk sparkled under incandescence. I already thought it a magical medium but my little alcove of light amplified this.
Emily Elizabeth Photography - Allison Green2Emily Elizabeth Photography

The next day was full of warmth and mud-scent while I quilted bark and ripples. Complete, I am pleased. It is my city at Harvest time; giant trees by the water, compelled to movement by the downtown vibrations.
Timber Timbre Tree Quilt WM - Allison Green - BottleneckConsensus_3

“Timber Timbre” will be up for silent auction at Isaac’s Way from Sept 22nd. Much of the proceeds will go to children’s music lessons. I hope it finds its way to a home full of song.

Walk like a Cretacean.

Somewhere along my journey I realized glee and wonder are not merely childish, but the mark of a well-nourished adult. In fact, the word “silly” originally meant happy or blessed. In our world of logic and profound detachment, this is a fact we would do well to remember.
Dinosaur dress process_7But fear not, it is plenty easy to turn up the wonder in your life. Paying attention, shutting up for a while in your head and just paying attention, that’s all it takes. Bright clothing helps too.
Dinosaur dress process_5In honour of silliness, and also dinosaurs (which fill me full of wonder every time), I have created a spring jumper. It started with a line sketch, and then a tesselation. These are very fun very meticulous patterns where all the negative space is filled with motif, no spaces between them. Think Escher with his birds and fish.

Then I sent it off to Spoonflower and they printed me a couple yards on cotton. Nothing more satisfying than having something you made on a computer arrive in the mail. Talk about the future.

I designed this little dress jumper, half inspired by Margaery’s dress, and half inspired by tattered caveman clothing.
Dinosaur dress process_1Mocked it up first, which I can’t recommend enough, especially in the case of special fabric. I’m not supposed to use pretty fabric on a sample but I couldn’t help myself. Everything was mostly okay but there were some changes to be made to the hip shape.

I sewed it all up with a co-ordinating cotton lining. It was a little tricky figuring out how to sew this up correctly. A lot of pinning and unpinning, and stogging of pieces inside other pieces. But it all came together nicely and I will never again forget how to line a jumper. If you need help let me know!
Dinosaur dress process_3Along the bottom I followed the line of the pattern to get that jaggedy caveman feel. Boning was fed in all along the collar so it would have some substance. The result is pretty pleasing and even a little joyous.

Photo credit: Drew Gilbert
Photo credit: Drew Gilbert

And, suprise! It’s completely reversible. The inside looks like one of them rocket pops from my childhood.

Photo credit: Drew Gilbert
Photo credit: Drew Gilbert

Spring fashion advice: find yourself a pretty dress, and don’t listen to anyone else’s idea of pretty.

Photo credit: Drew Gilbert
Photo credit: Drew Gilbert

But for the record, dinosaurs are the prettiest.

Nesting monsters.

I am smack dab in the middle of a few different projects right now so I’ve decided to look backwards for this week. Last semester I had an excellent teacher/class combo: Myth, Magic, and the Human Form with Denise Richard. This course was set up to encourage independant historical research on a project-specific basis.

There were four projects: a mask, a talisman, an apron, and an effigy. For the latter the expectation was to create a self-portrait effigy with some nod to an existing doll-type. I have always been enamoured of Russian nesting dolls. After much research (especially this lovely article) I set out on that path.

I tried using gum paper, but it became apparent that it didn’t work well with my fingers, small objects, or time constraints. I moved on to a technique this same teacher had shown me a couple years ago for making this custom dress form:
You wrap yourself in plastic wrap and have someone lay down several rolls of packing tape over your body. It is a very dizzying project for at least one of you, but at the end you are cut free and what’s left is a you-shaped plastic torso.Monster Nesting Dolls Process - Allison GreenTo use this method on my nesting dolls, I first made a tiny newsprint form, only a couple inches long. I squished it around until it look like a stomach, an organ which has a lot of meaning for me. Then I wrapped it in red cotton (which took the place of the plastic wrap), and strapped on the packing tape. This gave me my smallest doll shell. I put more newsprint over the top of that, then cotton, and so forth for a total of five more layers.Monster Nesting Dolls Process - Allison Green_1It was a dense and satisfying little package by the time I was done.
I chopped up the back with scissors and pulled off the shells one at a time. After taping the back split up again (and filling the smallest one with stones) I was left with five functional and durable red nesting dolls.Monster Nesting Dolls Process - Allison Green_2But the red was just for the guts and I wanted to be able to paint the surface. I covered each piece in cotton muslin, découpage-style. Around this time I started getting really nervous about painting them. Something I really liked about the quality of the surface, they were fun to squeeze and manhandle. I didn’t want to ruin it.
Monster Nesting Dolls - Allison Green_7I pressed forward and painted the surface with gouache very slowly, just putting lines where they fell. Meaning came out of them as I suspected it might. While they do have a curious monster quality, to me they are mourning dolls, and each represents a different facet of mourning as I’ve experienced it.Monster Nesting Dolls - Allison Green_5I won’t get into any sensitive elaborations, you can read into each one as you will. I suspect in the future I will make more lighthearted versions of these guys. As it stands I do not anymore find these upsetting as I had expected. I got all that out in the making and now they seem to symbolize release. They are called The Procession, both for the funeral rite, and for the act of moving onward.
Monster Nesting Dolls - Allison Green_4 Monster Nesting Dolls - Allison Green_3 Monster Nesting Dolls - Allison Green_2 Monster Nesting Dolls - Allison Green_1 Monster Nesting Dolls - Allison GreenMonster Nesting Dolls - Allison Green_6