I am eager to join my friend Jamie Grossman in her Holidays in Ink Challenge, which will run from Tuesday, November 24, 2020 to Saturday, January 2, 2021. In fact I’m so eager that I was all set to start tomorrow, November 1st, until Jamie reminded me that it doesn’t start until two days before Thanksgiving! I have way too many pens of all sorts (if it’s actually possible to have too many pens), and I love experimenting and drawing with inks of various colors. I’m looking forward to sketching familiar subjects with my accustomed methods and also to stretching myself with new subjects, new techniques, and new supplies (what artist doesn’t love the idea of new supplies!).
One thing I very much appreciate about Jamie is her enthusiasm for learning and trying new things; she’s a great example and is also very generous with sharing her ideas and knowledge. She’s always encouraging her friends to grow as artists, without pressuring them to do what she does. In that vein, Jamie has come up with two prompt lists, one of subjects and one of process prompts. There’s no pressure to follow the prompts in any order or even to follow them at all; they are a resource to encourage experimenting and playing with new ideas while doing Holidays in Ink, not a prescription that must be followed.
See below for links to Jamie’s post about Holidays in Ink and for downloadable PDF’s of the prompt lists.
My focus the past few weeks has been to rest, refocus, and continue to develop a workable, helpful rhythm of life, as I mentioned in my post of August 14th. Grief seems to drain me of creative energy, even when I’m not specifically thinking of recent losses, so I’ve been doing a lot of reading the past few weeks since we lost our sweet Petra. Reading often calms my mind so that I can think constructively and, more importantly, seems to renew my energy and motivation for doing things that need to be done (laundry, cooking, etc.) and for creative expression, whether sketching, painting, or writing. I will often think I’m just being lazy or that I have lost all creative ability, but if I then spend a few hours reading, interspersed with a couple walks with Ramble, all of a sudden I find that I’m eager to start sketching or even planning a painting.
I’ve mostly been sketching trees, either with ink, which I love because of its simplicity and the way it lends itself to both bold expression and subtle nuance, or with watercolor and gouache as I attempt to capture fall colors. I’ve also continued to sketch Stephen as he reads in the evenings, and sometimes myself from my reflection in a window as Stephen reads aloud to me.
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, by Harriet A. Jacobs, is both an easy read and a very difficult read. Easy in that it is gripping and hard to put down, especially knowing that it is a true story. Difficult, especially knowing that it’s a true story, because it is very hard to read of the despicable ways people were considered property and were treated with no respect, no regard for their feelings, and with no hope or expectation of relief. Many times the incidents and situations brought me to tears or made me tense with anger. This is history we should be aware of, not merely intellectually, but also on an emotional and social level, of how it affected countless people in our country.
While I was aware of the fact that these abuses had happened, reading this book drove home the horror of what life was like, in particular for slave girls and women. It also made clear that even though some slaveholders were benevolent and genuinely cared for their slaves, they were still lacking in understanding of how the system of slavery dehumanized and endangered anyone who was considered property.
While I am thankful for the decency, support, friendship, and genuine love shown by those who worked hard to free slaves or end the institution of slavery, I am appalled at the fact that slavery existed as an institution and that it remained for so long. This narrative of Jacobs’ life, with all she and others she knew suffered, drives home the inhumanity of any human being thinking they have the right to own another. The fact that so many people who were considered respectable citizens owned slaves, some abusing them horrendously, others acting benevolently but still not emancipating their slaves, starkly demonstrates how deceived one can be about others and even about oneself. I recommend reading this book with an open heart and mind to learn more about a deplorable chapter in our history and also to learn about human nature, both the dreadful and the gracious and forgiving.