Monday, January 14, 2013

Artist Date::Oh Deer!

Hello! It's Lesley Riley, one of the new kids here at the Sketchbook Challenge. Many thanks to Sue Bleiweiss for inviting me to be a part of this amazing group and talented artists. Little did I know, when I interviewed Sue on my Art & Soul Radio show, that months later I would actually be stepping up the the challenge.

For years I have been telling people that I don't keep a journal or a sketchbook. Unpacking box after box of books after moving this August, I discovered that I have been keeping some form of diary/sketchbook/journal most of my life....just not on a regular or continual basis.

a portion of my journal collection
Needless to say, I was quite surprised and thrilled to have over 40 years of books to wander through. It was an Artist Date in itself, exploring who I was, what and changed and what had remained constant over the years. 

When I heard Traci Bunker's theme for this month, Artist Dates, I was at a bit of a loss. Don't get me wrong - I'm a huge fan of Artist Dates and have the calendars to prove it. No, the problem was that I never want to leave my studio. 

For the first time in my life I have a space to call my own and the uninterrupted time to spend in it. My history of sporadic journal keeping was partly (mostly?) due to the fact that I have 6 children. They are grown now, with the youngest just off to college. But for the last four year I was also the primary caretaker for my 91 year old blind father. I never had the time to sketch, ruminate, journal or collate my dreams, visions, observation or ideas. It was enough just to keep up with the business of being an artist, instructor, author, etc, etc. 

Now it's just my husband and I, here on this gorgeous, peaceful, horse farm in the Maryland countryside. I am in heaven/paradise and I never want to leave. My days are my own. My time is uninterrupted. 

So here's what I did. I went on an Artist Date here on the farm last weekend with my husband. The snow had melted, the ground was still firm (no mud!), and the temperature was bearable. We climbed the hill and ventured into the woods for an afternoon walk. 

It turned out to be a scavenger hunt! We found several discarded items of an unknown age. This land has been farmed continuously since the 1700s. Deer roam freely. Hunters hunt. Not for sport but for food and the keep the deer population at bay.

I hope some of you don't take offensive at what follows, but I found it to be quite beautiful. I was reminded of Georgia O'Keeffe and her skull paintings. My sensibilities have changed so much since I have moved to the farm after a lifetime as a city girl. I see how the rhythm and flow of life here revolves around the animals and the land. 
Georgia O'Keeffe

This is what I want to record. This is what I have to share with you. I feel such a shift in my art. As I open my eyes to this new landscape I feel a new sense of wonder. I am like a child again.

found object - deer skull

finished spread





I first did a contour drawing of the skull and the rusty old axe we found with my Stabilo Aquarellable pencil. I added watercolor to pop the images and soften the drawn lines. In some areas I went back in to "adjust" my drawing but wanted to keep it somewhat loose - a sketch vs. a study. The same day I did the sketch I chanced upon these deer plates inspired by 12/13th century Bulgarian ceramics. I took it as a sign and included them in my sketchbook. You never know where inspiration may come from or take you.

Now here's what really drew me in. Being a quilter, I am quite familiar with the zigzag stitch. My eye was immediately drawn to this line between the 2 skull plates. A young buck, his skull was not yet fused. This patterning and the quality of the line made this skull a must have addition to my cabinet of curiosities.  I've seen this line before - aerial views of rivers as I fly across the land. Nature does repeat herself!





I laid the axe on the page and traced the outline. I found a scrap of embossed wallpaper that had been rusted with paint and patina (patina.com) and glued that on the sketch. The grip was wrapped with tape so I added black washi tape to mimic it.


a little fun with an iPhone app

21 comments:

  1. Lovely. This just goes to show you that an artist date can be as complex or simple as you like, just as long as it inspires. I love that you saw similarity between the fissures in the skull and a zig zag stitch. I'd never thought of that before and now my mind is off wandering! My favorite image in this post though, is your iPhone pic. I love the simplicity and restrained palette. :-)

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    1. Thanks, Kristin. I love spreading inspiration and learning to see things from new perspectives.

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  2. You've proved that an artist date can be anything and anywhere you want it to be. Exploring and discovery. Your drawing is beautiful. Love how you created the ax using the washi tape and wallpaper! Your find of the skull is thrilling and a wonderful way to celebrate the life of that animal. I saw a similar skull in an LL Bean store many years ago and was entranced by that very same wavy line. I drew it then in a sketchbook and revisit it. It is magical and full of inspiration. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thanks, Cynthia. I can't just draw. I have to layer and collage. I love dimension and texture.

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  3. I love walking in the woods, finding little bits of nature's bounty. I always come home with a bag full of leaves, bones, moss and wood. I really liked your pages Lesley! Your attention to detail was obvious. Glad that you're getting some "me" (or "you" actually) time!

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    1. Thanks for the attention to detail comment, Carol. I'm a detail junkie! Doesn't it come with the territory?

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  4. I have a shelf with bits of shells and fossils and a huge thorn from a swamp locust tree...I can totally see the appeal in that awesome deer skull! I think I need to go take a walk....when the weather gets a little better!

    I think I live near you!:) Are you getting a lot of takers for your illustrated quotes project!

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    1. Hi Delores. Yes the quote book project is running full steam ahead. I'd love to have you contribute. Shoot me an email - details on my website.

      How close of a neighbor?

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  5. What jewels. Don't you just sit in awe of some of the things that you've done, but had completly forgotten until you see them again months or even years later. I've enjoyed the tour through your imagination. Oh yeah, and thanks for the links

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    1. Thanks, Carol. You're welcome inside of my imagination anytime.

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  6. Very nice! I'm still working on catching up with the new year. I really need a date with myself and my sketchbook. A few of them actually!

    I love what you did with your pages!

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    1. It's hard when you are juggling so much. Especially after a move!

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  7. Beautiful Lesley! Thank you so much for continuing to share your artful-journey. It is so inspiring and gives me such hope-

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  8. Welcome Leslie, so glad you have joined us! I love your post and sketch, its beautiful. The deer skull is amazing! What an awesome inspiration for sketching and journaling. I love to imagine what the deers story was, might make for some fun journaling.

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    1. It's such a tiny skull, like you would imagine an adolescent deer on his way to becoming a buck. I am learning about and observing up close and personal so much wildlife here on the farm. My first was a hawk! He made his presence known shortly after I moved in.

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  9. Lesley, I love how you used several techniques to record your impressions: photography, drawing, words. This adds to the rich feel of the spread.

    While nature is a major source of inspiration for me, I will be heading to the city for my next artist date. It's the last few days of the Impressionists exhibit in Montreal. I can't wait to see it!

    Enjoy your farm oasis.

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  10. How wonderful a find. I have a basket of antlers, bone pieces and bits that is up top of a cabinet. This inspires me to pull them out for a bit of sketch warmup when I venture back into the studio this weekend after Alaska adventures! Where, I took some moose antler photos at the museum btw.

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    1. Moose antlers! I bet they're huge. I hope you post your sketches on your blog, Susie.

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  11. I have been using the line you noticed on the skull in my work regularly over the last months, and like you I also noticed it in the landscape and have one such image in my sketchbook.

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