Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Anchors and Sails

The idea of anchors and sails popped into my head this morning in relation to my artistic process. What makes these images a good metaphor for artists?

Anchors are those artistic practices we engage in daily. Whether we journal, draw, stitch, carve or throw pots on a wheel, practice builds an instinctual connection with our tools and subject. Draw a tree over and over; with each enounter the eye will see more clearly and the hand will respond more intuitively.

Our awareness grows through attention and repetition.

This year I'm making a commitment to a six-month correspondence course with Laurie Doctor to help refine my own work with language imagery. One of the anchors for this study is choosing one language to work with over the next six months. I chose Etruscan and learning about this language is an added bonus (more about that another time):

Each day I prop up a sample of Etruscan writing in front of me, open a sketchbook and take a pencil in hand. Then, without looking at the page, I draw the letters onto it.

Although I've only been doing this exercise for three days, I am noticing that every day the practice evolves and I engage in it more mindfully. The act of drawing blind opens me to feel my movements, see each individual shape and consider the relationships in spacing and lines.

Shutting off one sense intensifies others amazingly quickly. In this case it particularly increases my awareness of my movements (flowing or constricted,spontaneous or deliberate,calm or impatient). Even after engaging in this practice for only three days, my senses and concentration on the forms and shapes are heightening, much as I grow more aware of an object in a blind contour drawing exercise.

An intuitive urging led me to contact Laurie about working with her; some part of me sensed a need for a structure to my investigations that I hadn't been able to create for myself. Laurie's immediate response with a very limited set of variables and daily practices is informing me in new ways. It fills me with excitement and anticipation for how this study is going to translate to my body of work.

Even as I anchor myself to repeating this practice each day, I feel sails unfurling and billowing.

What holds us steady in one place is intricately connected to what propels us forward.

"Seeds of Change",42"w x 44"h, silk habotai, monoprinted, layered, stitched.

This piece, almost complete, relates well to my growing understanding of the merits of repetition. The elements repeat -- and yet they are also unique and individual.

What used to repel me about repetition -- the idea of sameness -- now engages me, because the smallest variations stand out and draw the eye.


  1. fun is learning something new that increases my in my book, you're having big fun! looking forward to seeing how this unfolds for you!

  2. Jeanne, for some reason, when I try to read your blog in Google Reader I get the Feedburner blog instead.... very weird. It's a pain because I'm missing lots of your posts!

  3. Liz and all, I inadvertently removed the feedblitz HTML code from my template a week ago, realized the problem and restored it on Sunday. You may need to resubscribe on my site. If that doesn't work, please e-mail me. I sure will try to figure out how to fix it so you will get the e-mailed posts -- I'm not too tech-savvy, so please bear with me!

  4. Hi Jeanne, being married to a sailor, the concept of 'anchors and sails' is one that I have used before as an analogy for life, balance and including reflection as well as excitement in what we do. Unless one is in stormy waters well above one's head, usually the anchor is not down at the same time that the sails are up - but that sure leads to different images! Thanks for the post - you can see I am abuzz with my own take on your words.