Sunday, February 26, 2017

Knotty Business

It has been a long time since I've done a blog post. Life has been busy, full of a myriad of twists and turns. I've spent lots of time tangling in order to stay as calm as possible.

Long before Zentangle, way back in the early 80s, one of the ways I relaxed was to draw Celtic knots. I know, I'm a strange one. The curves and weave of the lines really appeal to me. They've become second nature to me but I know they aren't for many of you. So, as we head into the "Irish" month I want to share a knotting process that really simplifies the process.

Stan has shot 3 videos for me which highlight 3 tangles: Feeling Knotty, Simply Knotty and Extra Knotty. You will find an informal step out and examples below.

Feeling Knotty:

Simply Knotty:

Extra Knotty:

Step Outs

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Rising From The Swamplands

There are lots of different ways of getting lost. Some of them are fun - like "squirrel " moments where we get off course following a new activity or trend. Some of them are caused by seeing something bright and shiny just off the path that we have to check out - I call these "crow mind" moments. Some of them are restoritive like a meandering drive in the country on a Sunday afternoon.

But often the road of life sends us around a curve and we find ourselves in the middle of a swamp full of hungry alligators and no  map to guide us out. There is quicksand to the left, snapping teeth to the right, smelly bog in front and no trail back. I don't know about you but when I hit a patch like this I can get really mired in the muds of despair, especially if the weather is bad and distressing news just keeps on coming. I've had a winter like that. I got a little lost and really blue and I have been struggling to get my bearings back.
I like to learn from my mistakes so this last few weeks, as I began to feel a bit stronger, a bit more able to deal with all the bad news, I've been thinking about what I did wrong and what I did right. I haven't handled things as well as I would have liked but I have handled things. I'm not being hard on myself - I'm just being honest.

What I  Did Wrong

I should have let relatively unimportant things go and found time for my personal art no matter what. I know that the work I do with my hands is good for my soul and that it is often the way that the strength of my faith has the time to wrap around me. When my hands are busy creating I find peace. I should have let housework and busywork go even more than I have. I should have eaten out more and made do with more healthy prepared foods. I should have but I didn't.

And when I wasn't creating I got behind on my comittments to the FB groups I belong to, the very groups that inspire and motivate me. And the more I got behind the harder it got to catch up. I should have forgotten about the missed weeks and just jumped back in where I was. I've done that this week and already I feel better. I've also finished pages that were started in simpler ways than originally planned. Just working in my journals and puddling about with the tools has been good for me.

I took on lots of work this winter and I got trapped in the worry cycle. You know the one. You worry about it, dream about it, fuss over it. Then you finally snap yourself out of it, get the work done and then you think "That wasn't so bad." Worry, overthinking, worst-case-scenario living...I keep trying to give it up. I need to remember how exciting and invigorating the work is for me, how the energy of the students is restorative and inspiring and stop worrying about showing up for class unprepared.

What I Did Right

I swam. When curling ended winter should have. But it didn't. It got grey, it got cold, it got inhospitable outside and I couldn't go for walks. I needed to move. I complained, I kvetched. And then a place became available to swim. So I stretched and swam and I felt better inside and out.

When all other creative work wasn't happening I started a simple little journal that I call my Blues Book. I just used graphite, a micron and a blue Stabilo water soluble pencil in it, at least at first. When I couldn't face colour or collage or all the other fun stuff I usually like to play with, I turned to it each night and just tangled and lettered in a simple way. Looking through it I am pretty happy with where that intuitive work is leading me. But even if the work wasn't any good I learned a few important things. First, to keep working even if it is really simple work. Second, in sharing my work and the feelings behind it, I have touched other lives and helped others find a way forward. Which leads me to the other thing I have done right...

I've shared my feelings with close friends and looked for ways of connecting with people rather than retreating. This is hard for me. I'm one of those bears that likes to go into their cave and suffer in silence. I am blessed with good friends who are good listeners and I am blessed with good friends who are creatives and who are happy to come and play with me even when I am a grouch. Laughter and tea are good therapy especially when mixed with colours and "what if we tried this" moments. And so is being reminded that things will look better tomorrow, or the next day, or the next...

What I Want to Know

We all get the blues. What I want to know is what you do when you lose the trail and get stuck. I think we need to talk about this more and be aware that we aren't alone in feeling this way. That would help. I'd like to have a tool kit of ideas to keep handy for when it happens again and to share with you and my students. So lets start the conversation here. Tell me what you do to move forward, to see the world in a rosier hue and leave the blues behind.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

I'm Not Getting Older, I'm Getting Wiser: Lessons Learned While Journalling

For years I have wanted to be a journaler. I've drooled over the journals I've seen in person and spent hours looking at journal posts online. Joining Facebook didn't help. There I kept seeing even more luscious offerings.

And so, midway through 2014, I decided to stop dreaming about journalling, decided to stop saying 'someday'. I signed up for The Documented Life Project. I jumped in with both feet that first week, already 6 months behind but keen to catch up and keep up. I started by getting a gelli plate and printing lots of papers and since it was too late to find a planner like they were using I cut my own pages, bought washi tape and started. I was all jazzed up. The next morning (yes, I know, I pack a great deal into a day) I discovered that washi tape doesn't hold book pages together. It should come with a warning label. It kind of ruined my forward motion. I got some pages done but just couldn't keep up. Couldn't find the time or the energy.

I loved seeing the work that group does but seeing didn't translate to doing for me and I needed to understand why. So I set about thinking about it last fall when I was out on my walks, trying to understand why I couldn't translate my desire to create a journal like the ones I was seeing into action. Here are some things I discovered about myself.

1. I wasn't going to work on a journal if I had to go to my studio and get out everything. My journal time was at night, when I wanted to relax while working. This was why I kept sketchbooks by my comfy chair in the family room. I could pull them out and draw while I watched TV and was sociable. The work in Documented Life was full of layers and stickers and fun stuff. That could not be created in an easy chair.

2. My style was more stripped down and muted than the style in Documented Life. While I was attracted to all the colour and layers of paint and 'stuff' on their pages I had moved past falling in line with the trends and needed to work in my own way. I was uncomfortable posting my work as it was so different. To be clear, this had nothing to do with the people on the site, this was my own problem, my own insecurity holding me back.

3. The FB page for Documented Life was busy, too busy. There was so much to see that it was difficult to stick to my alloted viewing time (you know I like to keep to a schedule). I like to comment and not lurk and it was hard to keep up with it all. I needed a more intimate space to share and communicate in.

Mixed into these observations about that project were things I knew about myself from the past.

1. I find it difficult to feel free in a bound book because of the fear of messing up and because it was uncomfortable to have my hand falling off the side all the time.

2. Most of the books that I had tried journalling in were too large to hold, too heavy to travel with and I hated the paper for one reason or another.

3. I wasn't going to actually do this unless I had some people to 'hold my feet to the fire', to hold me accountable, in a good way. I am one of those people who needs help reaching goals like this. I needed playmates (or fellow inmates).

So I thought about all of  this and came up with an idea - why not start a group of my own! 

I'd set some parameters and post a message and see if I could find a few people who were interested.
I waited for 48 hours, a self imposed cooling off period. It still seemed like a good idea so I decided to post to the CZT FB page first as it would likely be a place where 3 or 4 likeminded souls could be found. How wrong I was. Within hours I had a tsunami of interest. And so Our Tangled Lives was born, a secret group of 150 members who agreed to work on weekly prompts, post at least once a month and be kind and supportive of each other.

And how has the year been? It has been splendid! The group has been a joy to work with and there has been such growth and blossoming that has come from it. A core group of about 40 have kept up in one way or another despite 'life' happening, the support in the group has been amazing and we are cued up for another great year.

And what have I learned?  What rules would I suggest? (Put "as much as possible" in front of these guidelines.)

1. Work with papers that you love and a format that is appropriate for you.

I worked in small 5.5" x 5.5" monthly journals and these suited me perfectly because I made them myself, with paper I loved. I never had the sense that I was going to ruin the whole book if I tried something unusual and it was a totally portable size. Each book had four folded pages in it so my hand didn't fall off the edge when I was working. I had room for four prompts and a few extra pages to play with. I used papers I had decorated myself, mostly gelli printed, a technique I learned because of all the lush papers in Documented Life. Having them pre-decorated or pre-energized was perfect for me. The colour and pizazz was already there urging me on and I didn't need to go to my studio or find the energy to create the right background. I also used some paste papers, Masterfield papers, graphite blasting etc. The paper I worked on was Arche Text Wove which is my favourite book weight paper because it is a little toothy, takes all kinds of abuse and lays flat afterwards. It also loves pens and pencils of all kinds. I made many different types of books over the year but my favourites were tongue and groove (Fold), interlocking signatures (Books with Girth) and pamphlet stitch. The others included two-sewn-as-one, meander, coptic, accordion, 2 minute book, long stitch variation and origami envelope.

2. Prepare to succeed. Remove as many obstacles as possible.

Prep is key for me. I got out my Xyron and put through lots of collage papers which I kept in a 12"x12" scrapbook box beside my easy chair. I also made up a smaller 5"x7" box which travelled well. Having the adhesive on one side made collage fun. No glue to worry about and you know how much I hate glue! The papers I used most were the deli papers I rolled my excess paint off on during gelli printing and vintage pages from old text books.

3. Work with tools you love and tools that love you.

I put together a selection of pens and pencils etc. in a carrier meant for garden supplies. This stayed by my comfy chair and held pretty much everything I needed to work on my journal pages. The selection changed some over the year. I spent too much on fancy markers early on but found I was rarely reaching for them. They are fun to have and I get them out periodically to play with. When I travelled I took my favourites which included my microns, a few favourite pencils, a core set of Derwent Inktense, a water brush and a Stabilo blue watersoluble pencil. When I was in a buying mood I did invest in a set of Rotring Isograph pens which I love and they don't clog like the old ones! I haven't been brave enough to fly with them yet.

4. Play with friends. This can mean reaching out and making new friends which is scary.

Having the right support group is vital and I got so lucky with this. Truly they are a blessing. We came to the group with all sorts of different backgrounds and expectations but it worked because we were so positive and nurturing with each other. It also worked because we all shared a common language which was tangling. As artists we tend not to be as positive and nurturing of ourselves as we should be. We need our art friends to lift us up. Facebook can be a place to look for the right playmates if you don't have ones that live close to you. The key is to look in the right places and have an idea of what your needs are. Our Tangled Lives wasn't the only secret group I was involved in this year. I have written before about using a private Facebook page to get excellent mentoring and critique from a select group of friends.

5. Take time to assess your goals periodically.

We are going forward with Our Tangled Lives 2016. It has been such a positive experience for me that I wanted to move forward but I did take time to think about what my goals are going forward and how the group fits into all that. Some of our members are choosing not to carry on for a variety of reasons. This is good in its own way. They have looked at the commitment and decided that their lives and creative paths are asking for different things. Assessing where you are and moving forward consciously is good. We are adding new members who are nominated by our current members. I am looking forward to the different strengths and interests that they will bring to the group. There are still a few openings - send me a message if you might be interested.

6. Speak with your own voice.
This has been a mantra for me for years now. It is one of the main tenants of my teaching philosophy. I've written about it, lectured on it, tried to live it. My goal is to teach skills and encourage people to play with their toys as often as possible. My job is not to make something and teach you how to copy it. Never will be. What I am proudest about with Our Tangle Lives is that the work that is posted each week is diverse, personal and alive. Without looking at the name of the poster I can almost always guess who did the work. The members all have voices and they are using them.

7. Get Over Yourself!

The best thing about Facebook and Our Tangled Lives has been the constant posting which has made me much less afraid of posting my work. I only see the flaws and they only see the good stuff, or at least they are polite enough to focus on that! I am feeling more confident, less controlled, less afraid of people seeing my lettering. I know what some of you are thinking and you are right, I should get over myself and enjoy myself!

8. Find a formula that works.

This will take trial and error. I've tried lots of things over the years that didn't work. Our Tangled Lives did. How did it work you ask? Here are the basics:

-Members chose their own journal

- There was a prompt each week. For January  I wrote the prompts and they were pretty wordy! I wanted to make sure that everyone had as much info as possible and could move through the jitters they all felt. After that a list went up and  members of the group signed up to do a prompt for one of the remaining weeks. As the year went on and people got more comfortable the prompts got less wordy but never less exciting. We waited with great anticipation for the posting of the prompts each week.

-Members posted their work and we all got to see lovely eye candy.

It was that easy.

Going forward we are going to follow basically the same format. Members want a little more input on paper techniques and tangle ideas and I've tweaked the formula enough to add that without losing the freedom of the prompts.

My journal will be a little different this year. My work tends to be public, my journals passed around in classes and posted online and I am good with that. I was really impressed by the work that Aimee Michaels did this year and I want to try and emulate it in my own way. I am going to keep 4 hand bound coptic books (one for each quarter) in a size no larger than 5" x 7" for my public prompt artwork. In addition I am going to keep a larger journal for writing my thoughts about each prompt and the deeper meaning behind them and this will be mostly kept private. I am going to mix in some solid papers here and there, some Japanese washi, a few pages with flaps, some shapes...a few design challenges for myself.

I know December is a busy month. I hope you can find some time to settle down with yourself and examine what you want for your artistic life in the year ahead. What dream can you make a reality by doing a little planning and preparing?

Monday, November 02, 2015

Following the Bread Crumbs - A Story About Synchronicity

I love it when life opens up paths and I don’t have to fight my way through the brambles and the swamps to find my way. It happens so rarely that I’ve learned to really revel in the feeling of rightness and soar a little on the thermals before the next section of hard slogging and creative despair finds me.

October has been a great month full of lots of creativity, travel, friends and inspiration. There have been more than a few full circle moments and they have left me with a full heart and much gratitude. I’d like to share one of these experiences with you. It is one of those stories that unfolded itself without much help from me, all I had to do was follow the bread crumbs and enjoy the synchronicity.

Bread Crumb One: A few years ago my good friend Ruth Booth sent me a link to a TED Talk by Elizabeth Gilbert and said I had to watch it. I had no idea what a TED Talk was at that point but Ruth knows me really well and I trust her and so I watched it. I loved it! I fell in love with Elizabeth Gilbert that day. I’m a big fan of her way of thinking and talking about creativity. I have re-watched that talk many times and also her second TED Talk. If you haven’t watched these talks, treat yourself.

Bread Crumb Two: Almost two years ago my husband signed me up for Facebook. I was resistant at first but decided that if I set parameters and kept to them that it could be a good thing and it has been. One of the bonuses is that periodically I see a post from Elizabeth Gilbert that makes me say “Yes!” and gives me a little boost.

Bread Crumb Three: My local bookstore chain sends out frequent emails promoting a whole range of things from books to housewares. I rarely read them, but late last spring I happened to notice Elizabeth Gilbert’s name in the subject header of an email so I opened it. They were announcing an event where she would be speaking in late September. I quickly pushed the button to go to the link for tickets and I bought two, one for me and one for Ruth.

Bread Crumb Four: After a long summer of anticipation the big night arrived. On the way in we got a copy of Big Magic, her latest book. Elizabeth spoke well and was very entertaining. She mentioned an author and I jotted down a phonetic spelling of the name (yes, I took notes!). She also mentioned a podcast series that she had created called Magic Lessons. I read the book and enjoyed it and I learned a lot from it. It is easy to read and full of gems and important insights into creativity. I read the part about Brené Brown with great interest and flagged her books on my bookstore website.

Bread Crumb Five: I was heading out on a roadtrip in October (driving to Wyoming NY for a yummy, inspiring retreat with fellow CZTs that is hosted by Chris Titus) and downloaded the Magic Lesson Podcasts to listen to in the car. Somehow I loaded them into my podcast list backwards, the last one first - I think the universe had a hand in this. The trip down was frenetic with heavy traffic and high winds. When the traffic eased a little I listened to that last podcast first. I listened to it three times. It was an interview with Brene Brown. She said some really important things in that podcast. She said thing I needed to hear, she said things my students needed to hear, she said things you likely need to hear. On the way home I listened to the whole series from front to back, in the proper order. It is all great stuff but truly, that last one was intended for me. You can find them here or on iTunes and they are free:

Bread Crumb Six: I downloaded Rising Strong by Brené Brown to read on the way to California. I truly can’t say enough good about it. It has changed my thinking on so many topics. It will be a road map for me going forward. It will change the way I create. It will change the way I teach. It will change the way I meet strangers and friends and family each day. I will be buying a hard copy of it so that I can mark it up and love it even more. It is all about how people come back from failures, both large and small, in their daily live and in their creative lives. It talks about shame and empathy and the fear of not measuring up, not ever.

Bread Crumb Seven: I listened to Brené Brown’s TED Talks this weekend. Full circle, back to TED. They are good - not as good as the book - and well worth watching. I’m not sure I would have been ready for them a few years ago. I needed to follow the bread crumbs and walk the path that lead to them.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Faux Eco Printing

Keeping this blog short and sweet! Some day soon I want to write about where ideas come from but there is no time for that this week. This idea came to me while I was on one of the many walks I took over the Thanksgiving weekend. I love walking in the woods with the shoosh, shoosh, shoosh of the fallen leaves under my feet. It is very therapeutic to walk in the woods at any time but particularly in the fall. This year's colour wasn't as spectacular as some but we did get a lovely show of yellows for the weekend and the sun hitting them was nothing short of spectacular.

I'm heading to upstate New York this weekend for a gathering of CZTs from the 'border lands', certified tanglers who mostly come from New York and Ontario but we have some adventurous souls from elsewhere attending too. We are meeting at the home of the fabulous Chris Titus and using her studio space to explore lots of ideas and techniques. We call the get together Camerida. It will be fun filled and I am looking forward to the recharge. I'm teaching blackout poetry and I wanted a technique to use to quickly add leaf interest to the pages. While I was walking I was thinking about leaves and how to teach their shapes and it suddenly occured to me that we could use this simple technique. The minute I got back to the cottage I tried it out and was really happy with the results. Of course I found that others are doing it but it was 'my idea' for a few minutes and it was great fun to make this little video to share it with you. I call it Faux Eco Printing.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Harvest Home

I am a fall person. I was born in October and the scents and flavours of Thanksgiving are an integral part of all my birthday memories. For me a birthday is more about giving thanks and apple crisp than it is about chocolate cake and gifts. And so in gratitude for being given another year of bountiful living, and of Canadian Thanksgiving, which we celebrate next weekend, I am sharing with you the 'how to' of my tangled cornucopia piece.

Just before we get to the 'how-to' part I'd like to give a little historical background on the title of this piece and the subject matter.  Harvest Home is part of the Anglican tradition and celebrates the safe gathering of the crops. The date is movable and in years when significant events happened, like the end of a war, the service was held on a non-autumn date. In 1578 the British sailed into the far north of this continent, to Frobisher Bay, a part of what is now Canada, and held a service of thanksgiving to mark the occasion. As to why we use a cornucopia to mark a feast of plenty, the commonly accepted explanation is that Zeus had a goat as a nursemaid when he was a child and after he broke off her horn while rough housing she was granted food for life.

And now, the how-to...

I started the process by creating a sketch and black line drawing of the piece I wanted to create. I've uploaded it as a free PDF on Moote Points' epatterns page: I encourage you to modify it to reflect the items you generally display with your cornucopia. I'm working on 90lb Arche hot press watercolour paper and I did my line work with a .30 Rotring Isograph technical pen. Although I still use Microns for most of my tangled tiles, I prefer the density of the black ink from the technical pen for my coloured work. These aren't like the ones I remember from the past - I've never cleaned my new ones and after six months I haven't had a clog yet and they lay unused for over a month this summer while I was travelling! There is a seal inside the lid that prevents the drying problems that caused the clogs that you may be familiar with.

The next step was putting some base colour onto the drawing. In the past I tangled my pieces and then coloured them. What I found was that my line work became faded looking and that I often needed to go over it again. Now I put the vast majority of the colour work down first and only make minor tweaks after I tangle. I started with Inktense Pencils which are ideal because the colour becomes permanent and immovable after it is wetted with a brush. I start with an undercoat of yellow on my leaves and on some of the fruits and vegetables. Once the yellow is dry and start to add the other colours. The yellow underneath gives real life and vitality to the leaves in particular.

In this case I couldn't get the richness I wanted on the cornucopia so I took out my QoR watercolour pallette and added some intense golds and rich red browns. I used Nickel Azo Yellow and Quinacridone Gold. It was one of those beautiful high autumn days so I made full advantage of it and worked on the patio with lots of natural light and garden inspiration.

I had my husband make a video of the process so you could see how I work. In addition to painting the cornucopia I also demonstrated how I added some feeling of volume to the grapes with a fuschia Inktense pencil.

Once everything was dry I started to tangle and just had fun with the linework. I used mainly basic official tangles that I teach in my beginner's classes. I know there are many fancy tangles but I find that I turn to the basics over and over again and they make working on these projects so much more meditative and soothing.

Once the tangling was finished I used my inktense pencils to pull up a bit of shading and add some depth.

Now that the artwork is done I can use this to print cards and to create a background for placecards.

Have a happy and bountiful Thanksgiving whether yours is now or in November!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Tale Behind the Tale

This story begins a little more than 30 years ago. I was laying on a beach in St. Lucia, the sun burning into my skin, my mind drifting. A bird appeared in the tree beside me, cocked his head and started a conversation with me. He introduced me to an earnest man on a mission and a young girl who didn't know how to sail. They weren't real of course, but they stayed with me when I got back from holiday and I used them, and the place I met them, to teach a lesson on geography and mapping. I kept the map, filing it with my teaching notes for that unit. I thought about the bird, and the man, and the girl from time to time.

I was a different person back then. I was teaching public school, taking post graduate classes, fast tracking towards a role in education leadership. There wasn't a lot of time for hobbies but I was active in calligraphy, and quilting. My husband was fully engaged in building a successful career and he traveled a lot and I went with him as much as I could. The places I went started to work themselves into the story of the bird and the man and the girl. Not the complete places, but landforms I saw, trees, odd characters, phrases, expressions.  The story lived in my imagination, it never got transferred to paper. And then we plunged into parenthood and the river of life got more complicated and I forgot all about the bird, and the man, and the girl.

When we realized that the river of life was too deep and too turbulent and that we were in danger of drowning, we decided to make some changes. I quit teaching and, drawing on all I had learned from an intensive calligraphy course with Reggie Ezell, I started a calligraphy business specializing in invitation work. I lasted about a year at that but along the way I found work teaching in rubber stamp stores and for local calligraphy guilds. I designed a line of rubber stamps and taught more and further afield. And then in 2001 I published my first book, Simply Bound. Suddenly I was a writer!

One day in the midst of all of this I decided to clean out my filing cabinets to make room for current work. I hadn't had my teaching files open in years and the temptation was to just chuck it all without looking at it. The map I'd made so many years before caught my eye. I took it out to look at it and the story of the bird, and the man, and the girl came back to me. For the first time, I wrote it down. Just the story of how they met on the beach and how he taught her to sail and she introduced him to her father, the king. Not much more than that. There was no time for fiction, I had 'real' books to write.

When I took my creativity coaching training we were required to set creativity goals for ourselves. I realized then that I wanted to do more creative writing and not just focus on professional writing. A goal requires action and so I found myself a writing group and allowed myself some time to write just for the sake of writing. Not much time, just a little. Fiction writing seemed frivolous, did not pay its way like professional writing did. The story I'd begun in my head twenty years before started to grow, and grow. The world it was set in became more visible to me. It had its own flora and fauna, its own culture and craft, its own stories and legends. I began to write these other stories down, to enjoy the act of creating legend and myth. I didn't talk about it in public because as Robert Heinlein said "Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards."
Last year I decided to own my fiction writing in public. I started to talk about it openly. I chose to refocus my work days, to give this other world a larger portion of my attention. I'm going to be 60 in 2016 and I set a goal of finishing the story of the bird, the man and the girl before that big day. Of course the first book has turned into a trilogy while I wasn't paying attention and there is a sizable collection of accompanying myths compiling themselves into another volume and then there are conversations flowing around by the curators-in-my-head who are talking about building an exhibit of the artifacts I am drawn to create that come from this new world. I can't keep this simple. I'm going to have an exhibit ready to be shown at the time of the release of the books. All the roads I've ever taken, all the books I've ever read, all the skills I've ever acquired, seem to have been leading to this project. Which brings us to Fendrich.....

I wrote the Tale of Fendrich the Three Feathered a couple of years ago. I needed a back story for a character's name and one night in a dream Fendrich appeared to me. Not the whole story, just his face and his long hair with three feather growing amidst it. So I sat down to write about him and his tale began to take shape over the weeks and months that followed. That was Step One.

Step Two was deciding that I needed to develop a new alphabet. If I was going to write out his tale for the museum exhibit I want to have, it seemed important to have the work reference the culture that humans have evolved but that it also be different. There are sound reasons for this within the books but I'll choose to talk about that another time. I am forever grateful to Randy Hassan, Ewan Clayton, Georgia Angelopolous and Ruth Booth for agreeing to be my sounding boards during this process. They were generous enough to give of their time and expertise in ways that both encouraged and challenged me during the process. After much work and experimentation I came up with a monoline alphabet that would be rendered in graphite. It is legible, readible, but not easily so.

Step Three was to choose materials. I work on Japanese paper as much as I can and I found a paper that worked well with graphite and was also a little rough and more organic. The lettering is done in graphite, specifically a Palomino pencil, the one with the charcoal grey paint. The initial caps were used sparingly and are based on the alphabet I designed stirred together with crude versions of Celtic motifs. The caps and decoration are done with chalk pastels. The graphite and the ingredients for the chalk colours are things that have been used by artists since the beginning of recorded time on Earth.

Step Four was to do the writing. It took some time. I'm at the point where I can only do half hour stretches at my slanted desk. I really enjoyed working with the letters, getting into the rhythm of them, seeing them flow out and build the text blocks on each page. After I finished the basic text, I went back and designed the intial caps and did the work on them.

Step Five was binding. I had many different ideas for the binding as I worked on the book. Originally I had thought of wooden boards with the soutache bird attached. It became clear as I worked on the book that the bird was going to be too much, not appropriate for the lettering,  and would have to be used in a different way. The research I did into thin wooden board covers wasn't encouraging and I had visions of warping and cracking. I happened upon a roll of white rawhide that looked like crude, thick parchment. It was rolled tightly and wouldn't lay flat but I was told I could wet it and stretch it to get a flat piece again. I got lucky. Letting it relax over time and then placing it under weights for a week seemed to do the trick. I cut it and waited to see if it would roll up again and it didn't. The stitching is a bit different than a traditional binding but also very similar. I have used tacketing to hold each signature to vellum strips and then the strips are attached to the cover. The case is not in keeping with the simple book inside. I played off the fact that when medieval books were rebound in earlier days an elaborate and jeweled cover was created that was not in keeping with the original work. I went with that as my inspiration using more sophisticated papers (although still Japanese) and incorporating my jewelled, soutache bird motif on the cover.

Step Six is the hardest. I'll be honest, it scares me to death. Letting people read my legend is hard. With the novels there is more time to develop plots and settings. With a legend you don't have that luxury and it has to read like a tale that could be told around a campfire by a bard or to a child at bedtime.  I am writing in a genre that used to be called fantasy, but nowadays it apparently is called speculative fiction. Think the gengre of C.S. Lewis and Narnia, Tolkien and The Hobbit, Ursula Le Guin and The Wizard of those books. Reading speculative fiction and science fiction requires a willing suspension of disbelief. You just need to jump in and accept that the world is different and go along for the ride. Which makes it pretty much like being an artist... If you want to read the Tale of Fendrich the Three Feathered you will find it at It is free for now!

So this is the tale of how I got where I am today. I've told you a little bit about how a seed once planted can grow and flourish even after years of neglect. What seed do you need to tend to? What dream do you need to remember and follow? Get off the internet and get to it!