Word Winding

attempting to spin cacophony into sanity

Archive for the tag “craft challenge”

Back to the Drawing Board

It all started Sunday when my dear friend Alice, who has always been ridiculously self-deprecating when it comes to her own artsy-craftsy skills, pulled out a self-portrait. And not just any self-portrait. An innovative, emotive, and above all, completely gorgeous close-up of one side of her face, most prominently a spectacular eye, using a variety of materials and some serious skills.

And then she craft challenged Gertrude, Rapunzel, and I. Self portraits. Any medium. Next time we meet.

I was excited, at first. Because the natural high of a craft challenge is a savory thing. And then I realized I was a bit… Scared? Apprehensive? I couldn’t figure out exactly what I was feeling, or why.

I peeled back the surface confusion to discover my own fear of inadequacy, my own seething self-deprecation. This was a call for artistry. I am at home in my musical pond, and have paid frequent visits to the realms adjacent, but have not touched ground in the sacred land of visual fine art.


It’s been about a decade since I last drew something in earnest, something that wasn’t a quick, lopsided cartoon of an animal by child request (as Owlet was prone to suggest during her early-mid crayon period of 2012-13).

Also, I didn’t feel like a worthy subject, which surprised me, because in the past year or so I have finally gotten the hang of honestly loving the beauty I see in the mirror most days. But then, I do not always love the me that is captured in photographs. So that apprehension is entwined in this package as well.

I tried to visualize it. I tried a word-based brainstorm. I even tried a google search of how to brainstorm for a self-portrait. I even drew a cello bridge, thinking perhaps I could hide most of an image of myself behind it.


Ah, there it is. The second leaf.

Hiding under the fear of lacking skill is an irrational panic of impending exposure. A good self-portrait is unflinching. Vulnerable. Utterly without pretense.

Even if everyone around me loved it, I would know whether it was genuine or a gimmick. Whether I had arrived at my core or fudged around the edges.

Oddly, once I figured my own self out, I didn’t feel the need to mull it over any further. Instead, I sat down in front of the mirror, late though it was, and cranked out a passible sketch. Without the weight of it being my “official” self-portrait, it was easy to fall into the zone of assessing shapes and shadows, using a slightly dull number two pencil, my daughter’s sketch pad, and my best composer’s eraser.


Here it is. I grow increasingly dissatisfied with it every time I see it, but at the time was quite happy to be able to approximate my own face.

And it has proven to be addicting. I have drawn something every day since. Here is my second, during which I realized even when I think I am holding very still, I am not:


During my third drawing I learned something amazing. My children will willingly and easily fall asleep. While I draw.

Life-altering news. Mostly Owlet drops off while nursing in less than the time it takes to sing ten lullabies. Platypup is more variable, but often within the time it takes to sing, say, forty lullabies. (Yes. I have counted. But only because they each have a set of bedtime songs I have been singing them almost every night since their early days.) But when they have both napped long or late, it can be any maddening length of time, while I slowly slither from Glenda to Scrooge.

Deciding to try something new, I got up after they had both had their milk, sat at the foot of the bed, comfortably visible, and proceeded to draw. I had to shush Platypup twice (far less than the usual for a long late nap day) and they both settled in and drifted off at some point while I was engrossed in depicting the sleeping face of one-year-old Platypup from a post-birthday-party photo:


It was blissful and will work as long as the days are long (literally — no idea whether this will work in winter if I have to turn on a lamp, but for now, we are golden, and by that point, perhaps Platypup will have dropped his nap and be as easy as Owlet!)

My fourth was Owlet on her third birthday:


And last night I decided to take a break from people and do some ginkgo leaves (and realized I really need to get my own real art supplies and stop this number two pencil business):


It is delightful when things turn out ok, but even in the middle when they are at best seriously awkward and at worst threatening to self-destruct, I am loving the mental jacuzzi this sketchpad provides.

Music still houses my soul. But it is also my livelihood. It is so relaxing to get to be an amateur at something, to have no weight resting on mastery save my own enjoyment.

Here’s a bonus self-portrait, not necessarily the “official” one, either, since a photo seems too easy, but still, one that feels like me:



Unphotographed Moments – Day Four

(This post is part of a series for August 2013 entitled “Unphotographed Moments.” Read the intro to the series here.)

Today’s Unphotographed Moments:

Playing “Slippery Fish” and “Sticky Fish” with Owlet and Platypup during our morning shower. What, you’ve never played such a game? Well, Owlet and I invented “Slippery Fish” not too long ago. You see, it is vital to liberally coat a curly-haired child’s luscious locks in conditioner before brushing and then rinsing in order to have the slightest hope of besting the tangle beastie. A completely unexpected side effect of liberal conditioner usage is a near-inability to pick up the slathered party pre-rinse. Hence, “Slippery Fish,” the game of trying not to drop your dear beloved squirming child on a hard tile shower floor. “Sticky Fish” was a new development today, due to Platypup’s presence. A 14-month-old’s hair is not generally in need of conditioning, but he is still quite anxious to be included in any picking up that might be going on. Needless to say, lacking in conditioner, he is rather sticky by comparison.

Owlet being her usual gloweringly shy self at a friend’s baby shower. She actually ate her plate of food under my chair — not a high dining chair, either, but a low-slung deck chair. At exactly the time we got ready to leave, she was finally warmed up enough to want to stay and play. Um, yeah, sorry, kiddo.

Platypup viewing what may be his first balloons (souvenirs from the baby shower) with maniacal joy. He demanded that the three balloons be separated, then took one and was frustrated by how hard it was for a person of modest wingspan to hold the ribbon with one hand and hit the balloon with the other. My solution, which was to tie it to an anchor so he wouldn’t keep losing it to the ceiling, was swiftly and forcefully rejected. When I finally managed to untie it he delightedly continued his game. Also, we have learned that three balloons is exactly the minimum required for two children to play with amiably.

Two squeal-inducing new babies at a parents’ group park gathering! Both were accompanied not just by clearly awesome moms but by dads who were inseparably wrapped up in their tiny offspring.

At the above gathering, Platypup roaming free-range in his usual way, playing with wood chips here, eating a little sand there, climbing, sliding, toddling after the big kids some but mostly involved in his own sweet play. Or not so sweet, as when he found a dirty fork and used it as a shovel (ok) and then persistently wanted to “share” it with me (less ok).

Rapunzel’s three year old son crowing like a rooster on top of a play structure swinging Owlet’s duck backpack (an object he covets; an obsession she tolerates quite nicely) with unbridled glee. Her five year old son wrapped peacefully around a climbing web’s central post like a pirate around a mast.


Today’s one-shot photo:


So this is actually a wonderful story. Thor and I were discussing ways not to be jackassish to one another (something we are prone to in the wee hours of the morning or the cold dregs of night) when he had a lovely idea.

Wait, you need more back story first.

I have some crafty crafty friends who enjoy issuing “craft challenges” to one another in the form of wacky objects that become stunning works of art.

Ok, so Thor’s brilliant idea was to issue a craft challenge to me: create an object for one of us to hand to the other as an unrefusable request to stop being a jerk.

And then he went and acquired work on the evening I was to brainstorm said craft challenge, leaving me with barely time to mention the challenge in passing to my crafty crafty friends before departing.

So of course they took it upon themselves to create the perfect item: our very own Purple People Eater (or in our case, Anger Eater) complete with peace sign and dove wings.

Here’s what we looked like upon viewing it for the first time:


Isn’t it lovely? Who could be grumpy with such a creation in front of them?

Not us.

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