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By Hand

I remember when I was at Tyler (School of Art), the big discussion in painting was still the effects that photography had on art.  That was a long time ago; the era before computers, long before digital art was even a consideration.  Computers have touched so many intimate aspects of our life, most of all the way we use our hands.  Last night I sat down to write out some Christmas cards.  The card writing was the most handwritten letter work that I have done all year.  I send so many emails each day but only a handful of hand written cards each year.  I remember when I made and sold handmade greeting cards in the 90s, they sold like hotcakes because email hadn’t caught on and people were still writing things by hand.  Now in the 2000s the cards languish in the boxes I put them in, waiting to be held or touched. I don’t mind at all though because whether they sell or not I’ve created them and I can use them to share with my friends.  The people who buy them tend to be of a certain age and they aren’t shy to tell me they still enjoy writing out cards. I was looking at some beautiful journals yesterday at the bookstore as well.  They seem to still be popular but I wonder for how long? I looked at the moleskins that Hemingway made famous and wondered if I would actual use it.  When I write books, I still hold true to the original idea of the manuscript, I write first by hand and then transcribe it onto the computer.  I don’t have a laptop and sitting wherever I want, handwriting draft after draft is sort of cathartic.  I also like to write articles the same way.  My thoughts just seem to flow better on white, lined paper with pen in hand.  I have even gone so far as to buy an old fashioned fountain pen for writing books but never really got the hang of it, though I may try it again.  I noticed when I looked over the art supplies available to my students, with horror, that there was no pen and ink available for drawing.  I may still buy some for them and teach them, what is becoming an old art form.  Not calligraphy, just drawing in the vein of Durer and Van Gogh, among others.  I still enjoy working with ink very much.  Every day, I look up in the kitchen and can see my sumi-e brush and ink drawings on handmade flower petal paper of my prairie flowers.  I love brush and ink.  Rarely, but on occasion, I will use digital media in my artmaking, mostly to create under-paintings to get things started by using Xerox transfers.  I cover the Xeroxes with Golden tar medium and then make transparent acrylic skins from the prints.  This fall when I went to the Illinois Art Education Association’s annual conference, once again, I did hand printmaking. I hadn’t done that since taking lithography at Tyler.  It was so amazing to watch a master printmaker, in this case a very adept woman, pull prints.  Ours came out interesting but we depended on her strength and know-how to pull them off.  I especially enjoyed the monotypes, out of all of my workshops.  I wonder where printmaking fits into the scheme of things with all of the digital art afoot.  Ironically, our guest speaker was a printmaker specializing in silkscreens, who insisted on doing everything by hand and amused us with stories of how low tech he maintains his studio.  His favorite activity, which he depicts in his prints, is riding a bike and cutting wood. Yesterday, for the first time, I listened to the blogger, who became a TV host, the Pioneer Woman, speaking about her lifestyle, as I packed presents, getting them ready to be mailed.  She still maintains as much of the pioneer spirit and lifestyle as possible living in our times.  I found the simplicity to her approach to living inspirational.  She was on the Cooking Chanel, which I love, because everyone is primarily making everything by hand.  The beautiful hands of Persephone were found on a “Sage Woman” cover and added to this collage which graces the back of my sketchbook.

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