Friday, August 31, 2012

a poem on scratch paper

translated into OmniSketch + PicMonkey

When I am better with my penmanship and calligraphy I will do this on actual paper with collage, watercolor, and ink. I'm still struggling with the pen angle and the right pressure to create the thin and thick lines of letters. It's like grade school all over again, but more fun.

The poem was from a random series of phrases as I was testing the flexibility of my dip pen on tiny notepads. It almost seems like a love poem, except that I am not in love. More like I'm borrowing from the memory of being in love (and being ignored). Yes, anything can be inspiration, even the recollection of events that led you into a merry chase to nowhere.

just do

It should not matter where the writing comes from or how the writing is done. The writing could come from a sad memory, or a sentimental musing, or the simply fact that I cleaned the cat's litter this morning. The writing could be done in my journal, handwritten in ink with a vintage fountain pen, or scribbled hastily on a square notepad with a Sharpie, or even typed into my iPhone with the Momento app or typed into my computer with Ommwriter. None of these should matter. Sometimes the writing will catch me at odd times and at odd places. I must simply write.

"How carefully are we willing to listen? How much control are we willing to surrender for the sake of allowing creativity to move through us rather than out trying to flog it forward for agendas of out own?"  - Julia Cameron

I like to imagine myself, beautiful like a dream, sitting by the window and writing. My hair would be in a neat ponytail. My back would be straight. I would be in a pretty vintage dress. My fingers would be ink-stained for effect, folded around a vintage fountain pen. And before me would be pages and pages of beautiful writing, in perfect penmanship. Poems and essays and little stories. With appropriate sketches and drawings in ink and watercolor. So perfect. So admirable.

But in reality, I am in crumpled pajamas or a well-worn shirt and shorts. My hair would be in a messy bun because I just finished keeping the dust in the house at bay. My fingers are wrinkly from washing the dishes. It feels too warm to sit down for any length of time and the clean blank pages of paper only echo a blankness in my mind. My penmanship wavers between okay and confused. My writing churns out snippets of half-hearted poetry, reluctant opinions, and unconvincing stories. My attempts at artful marginalia end up like thoughtless doodles or mediocre sketches.

But none of it should matter, except the simple fact that I write. I make art. Something happens on the page even if it seems not much.

I must keep at it, and then one day it will all come together, fall into place. But I must not think about that yet. I must focus on what is now, what is here. Now I do what I can, write what I can, make art as best as I can. I must not count the days nor measure the hours I have spent nor try to determine if anything has born fruit. Nurture. Cultivate. Savor the surprise when it finally happens.

where i am

"…just start where you are. It's a luxury to be in the mood to write. It's a blessing but it's not a necessity. Writing is like breathing, it's possible to learn to do it well, but the point is to do it no matter what."
- Julia Cameron

I have made up countless rules for myself in order to write. Conditions that I somehow believed to be prerequisites to writing. I have this illusion of a perfect piece of work emerging only when these conditions are met. For instance, the house must be clean and in order so that my own thoughts will be in order. There must be a huge chunk of free time stretched out ahead of me so I will not feel rushed or pressured. I must not be disturbed in any way. The temperature in the room must be just so, not too hot, not too cold. It must be early in the day so I will feel like my writing is fresh like the morning sun. There must not be any work to be done after, no errands, no obligations. Meals must be satisfying but not exhausting nor time-consuming to prepare. Also, the dishes must somehow be magically washed away or else the sight of a full dirty sink will distract from the writing.

Needless to say, trying to meet all of these conditions means that no writing is ever done. Five days would have passed and I would still be planning and preparing to write.

The paper must be smooth. The pen must be perfect. The ink must be an exact shade of turquoise.

Handwritten is better than typing. I should wait until my fingers lose their stiffness from playing too much Assassin's Creed. I must not be sleepy, so it will be better if I lay down for a few minutes and took a nap.

I must finish all the items on my to-do list for the day before I can write. Or else all those to-dos will keep on marching back and forth before me on the blank pages.

All the fuss and all the nitpicking for the perfect time to write. Yet all I have to do is to sit down and to write. Ignore everything else. Write as if everything else depended on it. Write for fifteen minutes. Even for five minutes. In five days that would have already been almost half an hour of writing compared to no writing because the windows needed a curtain change.

I have created for myself little superstitions that make writing like some kind of a Holy Grail. I am sabotaging my own path to the creative life I am craving for.

Today I take a burning torch and burn it all away. The rules, the conditions, the excuses. The distractions, the hidden desire for instant perfection, the reluctance to begin for fear of never finishing.

Today I will steal time to write, and to make art, and I will do it every single day from here on. No, I will claim time, for it is the desire of my heart and the calling of my spirit.

Because really, what is it that I dream of, achingly, as I go to bed every night?

To be a writer and an artist, a creator and a crafter.

Then I must live it. Become what I want by doing. To cease all pretense at preparation, to crush every ounce of fear and brew it for courage. To leap into the void of blankness, of possibility, and to make things happen. To make my life happen. To make me happen.


Omnisketch is a new iPad app that I downloaded just today. It caught my eye when I was updating my iPad apps. It only costs $1.99.

Here is my first piece using the app. It feels like drawing in ink or thick watercolor and I like some of the effects and the variety of brushes. But a part of me still feels like "cheating" and I would still prefer to make more art with real paper and pencil and brushes. This app will be very useful though when I am out of the house and have to wait or when I am in a cafe and don't feel like reading or writing. It can also be useful as a drafting page for works that I intend to do with real paper and watercolor.

I've been drawn to a lot of water images lately and maybe it's because I feel like I am lost at sea. I'm looking for the rainbow and the pot of gold. I'm looking for the land that I can call my home. I am looking for the compass that will tell me if I am on course and where my True North lies.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

snail mail project

This is a personal project that is connected to a number of other things that I want to enrich in my life.

First is the nurturing of important relationships and strengthening my personal community of family and friends. There are few things so heart-warming as a well-thought out letter, written by hand, on hand-designed paper and envelope (or perhaps on well-chosen stationery paper) sent and received. The very act itself of letter writing already presupposes time and effort (and money for mailing) taken and spent. We have grown so used to picking the most convenient path (hasty emails, text messages, and worst of all, written text speak) that we have also given up a lot of the meanings and values embedded in things and activities done by hand.

Second is the relearning of those meanings and values. The virtue of patience practiced when waiting for a reply. The careful thought put into the composition of the letter, from the very basics of grammar to proper self-expression and articulation of the message. The recognition of who you actually care enough for to take the time, effort, and money to write to. The value of simply slowing down and making time.

Third is the perfect excuse to make more art. Not to waste all those pretty pens and inks and papers. Also a perfect means to let my art travel to places and be alive and have purpose.

Here are some envelopes I have made to contain unsent letters to former objects of my affection, as well as a repository of old journal entries and old printed emails kept as souvenirs of old almost-love-stories.

Is there still room for old-fashioned mail in your life?

a fledgling pen enthusiast

That's me. Even though I have been naturally drawn to fountain pens and calligraphy pens for years, I have never really taken any serious steps to studying these objects. I just pretty much went by with how I felt or how I liked a particular writing instrument.

I've always had a strong fondness for sharp and thick inks, and have little love for the blandness of ballpoint pens and their inks. My disposable pens are either gel pens or technical pens that are at least 0.5 mm -- pens that write wetly and darkly on white clean pages.

I have a preference for brown inks, possibly inspired by the letters of Sabine to Griffin. I love the sight of ink pooling at the edges of letters and along the fancy loops of words. I love calligraphy writing. I love the flow of thin and thick lines through every stroke.

from Griffin and Sabine by Nick Bantock
I love handwriting. I love hand-written anything. One of my projects this year is to revive snail mail by starting to write letters to people instead of always falling into the default of the convenient e-mail or text message. It will also be a chance for me to showcase my artful envelopes as well as my love for marginalia. Maybe when I become a well-known artist in my own right then those friends will be grateful for my simple-letters-turned-valuable-artwork.

One of my recent joys was discovering my grandfather's old Speedball textbook as I was clearing clutter a couple of weeks ago.

And we have heard it said that the Universe supports our heart's desire especially when we set ourselves to move towards it. In the same manner I stumbled upon this book which will help inspire me in my calligraphy and marginalia artwork.

Meanwhile here are my small attempts at beautiful writing.

Practice makes perfect, but I am not even aiming for perfection. Just maybe a few notches above ordinary.

Currently I have a very humble pen collection:
1) a silver Waterman, my most expensive at about Php 2,800 if I remember correctly
2) a Rotring Art Pen, 1.5mm
3) a set of Sheaffer calligraphy pens, with fine, medium, and broad nibs
4) a white Lamy Safari, my newest purchase, with a medium nib. I also purchased a broad nib for variation
5) a dip pen that was gifted to me last year, with a very fine nib that scratches noisily on paper. I think it's semi-flex. I like how it writes though even if it's scratchy.

I hope to have a few more. I'm on the lookout for pens with flexible nibs. Most modern pens are said to have un-flexible nibs so there's a lot of advice to hunt for vintage ones. Brand-new pens with flexible nibs do exist but I believe they would cost me my fingers and possibly even both hands so there would be no sense in having them afterwards. It's going to be a tough hunt but I remain optimistic.

What passion bug has bitten you lately?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

the past few days

I've been both busy and sick, hence the scarcity of blog posts.
Today I had homemade bread for breakfast. I baked it last night. It's a no-knead bread recipe. Next time I will try a kneady one. This one is pretty good, it's crusty on the outside and soft on the inside. It's denser than a regular bread but it has a full bready flavor.
I re-organized almost everything in my home to make space for new and better things. Also the activity helped me focus on positive forward movements instead of dwelling on what seems to be tight corners that render one immovable. 
More re-organizing. I also got a fresh set of old LPs from the new stock we have acquired for selling in the shop.
My cat Mogget kept an eye on me for most of the time.
Will post more snippets later. Gotta go now. Have a good day! :)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

project : recipe journal

I love cooking, and I'm trying to be good at baking as well. One of the most joyful things about living on my own is having my own kitchen and being able to design and stock it the way I want to cook.

I have a growing bookshelf of cookbooks and I am also subscribed to a number of cooking sites. I also pounce on second-hand food magazines. On my own I have adapted, re-invented, created, redefined many recipes. I have also come to know myself better on the kinds of food I enjoy and the kinds I could live without.

I have accumulated many recipes through the years, some I've tried, some I haven't, some have become standard favorites and specialties. Thing is, I never really put them together in one place and in the process I have lost some. I also have recipes handed down by my grandmother and my aunt.

So I feel it's time to put them all together in a recipe journal, plus my musings on food and eating. Weaving my love for food and cooking into an artful activity is one great way to spend a few happy hours.

Friday, August 10, 2012

random thoughts

This little piece is a combination of ink and watercolor on Moleskine.

I really love Merida's (from the film Brave) hair. I miss my big wavy hair from when I was younger. Now my hair just falls straight with suggestions of a few waves.

I am intending to revive snail mailing and I have started asking for people's snail mail addresses. I realized that I do not know anyone's snail mail address.

"and so to bed" is a phrase from one of the short essays from A Gardener's Bedbook which got me started recently on a path of gardens and exploring botanical art and also, in some strange connection, medieval letter art and calligraphy including illuminative art.

My grandmother has been sick and I will be visiting her today to cheer her up.

I've been on a slump for the past 2-3 days and mostly I was doing my best to crawl out uphill on a slippery slope to avoid the pits of sadness. I suspect I was gravely affected by the stresses from work and also the storms that raged through and flooded the city. I was relatively safe and comfortable through it all but the news of the devastations, including the death of animals that could not be saved, were really saddening.

On a brighter note, the sun is out this morning.

Today is unplanned chore day. Because I have been lethargic and sluggish and sad I have not been productive much. But today I am feeling better so I need to clean up.

A fresh round of clutter-clearing is so far the best remedy for combatting dark clouds over one's own head.

A trip to the supermarket and the second-hand bookstore always cheers me up.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

slowed down sunday

I have deliberately made myself slow down today as I caught myself getting all hyper and tense and stressed out about all the things that remain undone or unfinished.

I went out to see Brave in the movie theater with my suster, after which we had coffee and pastries al fresco -- just a few feet from the sidewalk where the rain poured incessantly.

I also ran some light errands while in the mall but always reminding myself to breathe and not act like I'm being chased by hell hounds.

I got myself a pencil case to organize my fountain pens, calligraphy pens, ink cartridges, Sharpies (in all colors), and drawing pencils. That way I can have a more portable art journaling set of tools.

I also ended up buying this lovely notebook that felt like an old library book and which therefore brought nostalgic feelings. So beautifully old-fashioned.

How's your Sunday going?

favorite magazines

I am not exactly sure what this will say about me but, in the course of many years these are my favorite magazines these days. I haven't really purchased magazines to read for years, I often just purchase old issues from second-hand bookstores for clipping and collage. When I was much younger I went through the phase of reading Vogue and Cosmopolitan and Glamour, and an occasional InStyle, plus lots and lots of travel magazines that sometimes got me feeling sad and stuck and longing. But lately I'm discovering fresh and interesting reading materials, not to mention very useful tips, tricks, and lessons, in magazines. If ever I did indulge once in a while, I got a National Geographic (yes, it's rather geeky, I've been told).

Thanks to the advent of the iPad and other digital readers, magazines have become more affordable (and more tree-friendly) in digital format. I get mine through Zinio and the Apple Newsstand.

Country Living UK won over House & Garden and Homes & Garden. It's my top favorite now because everything is simply readable and relatable (even if I don't live in the UK and instead live in a tropical third-world country). It's about living with nature and savoring simple joys. I also have a very soft spot for England ever since I was a child, for reasons I could not exactly explain. Maybe I was a princess or a happy peasant there in one of my past lives. I love the section Simple Pleasures : Thing To Make, Cakes To Bake, places To Go, Lessons To Learn. Also the section on Country In The City.

Next I love Saveur. It's a food magazine that is more than just recipes and expensive restaurants. It writes about food culture and history and instead of making me feel how much I'm missing and how out of the cool trendy food loop I am, it makes me feel how rich life is and teaches me to see ordinary food in a fresh light. This magazine is about food and gives delicious food for thought.

Next I love Real Simple because of all the practical and very useful information. And the thing is, whatever they teach is applicable regardless of where I live. Again, like Saveur, it does not make me feel inadequate, instead it empowers me to make the best of what I have. This magazine also deals with real-life daily-life concerns and offers possible paths for resolution.

Next is Mollie Makes. This one makes me dream and drool with all the projects and simply bursts with creative ideas.

Last but not the least I like Better Homes And Gardens. It's like Real Simple with a lot more pictures, and again, the practical applications of the articles are much appreciated.

I look for old issues in second-hand book and magazine shops. Sometimes I like the paper version so I can cut out the pictures I like and use them in my collage art or in my journal as part of my wish list. But seriously, I love the prices of the digital versions. They cost less than half if I bought the paper version brand new.

National Geographic is an established favorite so that one's still around. I alternate between buying digital and paper depending on whether there are nice unfolding maps inside. :D

What are your favorite magazines?

letter exchange

Don't get me started on the pains of the work I have just had to deal with (and which isn't totally over yet). But yes, because of that work I haven't had much writing or art to show for the rest of July.

Let me just share from yesterday though a letter exchange between my sister and me. She made me this:

And as a token of thanks I made her this:

My sister's work though is more sale-worthy. She can make them made-to-order. My M will be framed and put up on my planned art wall.

What have you been up to? Is it weird to say I actually missed writing here and talking with you?