Finding beauty

I am going to try to pay attention to the spring. I am going to look around at all the flowers, and look up at the hectic trees. I am going to close my eyes and listen.

– Anne Lamott

I’m taking an introductory six-week art class on Finding Beauty, taught by the beautiful soul, artist and therapist Maris Gilbert.

During this six week session, Maris will lead a small group in exploring a range of techniques (i.e. contour drawing, negative space, color & composition, etc.) and media (watercolors, pencil, oil pastels, etc.). Each 90 minute session will include an introduction to a specific technique, plus studio time in the shop using the subject/focus of your preference (i.e. you’ll choose to draw/convey something you consider beautiful using the instructed technique). Each week will also include a chance to connect and share individual work with the class.

More info on the class can be found here.

So far we have learned about:

  • Gesture, contour and blind drawing techniques
  • Using negative space to see objects differently and draw them
  • See light and dark, using shadow and white charcoal to give objects dimension

Last night Maris introduced our class to watercolor, but I missed it, so –

Today I wanted to take a few minutes’ break from my computer–I’ve been having no end of back, neck and arm issues, so I’m trying to be more diligent about regular breaks from that posture, no matter how much work I have to do–to put some of what I’ve learned to paper.

This still life of objects

that I had purchased and put together for my Havana-themed Stella & Dot party last Sunday afternoon offered some inspiration.

still life

I first looked at the objects, individually and together. I began to take in their beauty, their form and their detail. I observed how the light coming through our living room windows shines off of the objects, in early afternoon on this late March overcast day.

I began by gesturing their shapes

as Maris taught us, using big wide sweeping pencil shapes (mostly circles) to capture their essence. Just their essence.

Then I went back in with a heavier sharper pencil to add some detail. I looked again, and I added some more.


My next step was to add some shadow.

To convey light and dark, I noticed where the light made areas of the objects the brightest, and I used darker pencil to make other areas appear darker by contrast.

Finally, I got my colored pencils out–

in Canada we call them pencil crayons; sometimes I forget and call them that here in Minnesota and people look at me blankly until I figure out what I’ve done

–and began to add color.

I noticed that I was craving the addition of color, which is not always the case when I draw, but today it was, probably because I missed the watercolor adventure last night.

I used lighter shades on the brighter areas and darker, heavier color where it was meant to convey more shadow.

colored pencil

I think that I managed to create some dimensionality, and captured the essence of the object grouping.

Of course it could always be better: This I know.

But I also know that it truly doesn’t matter. Not on a soul-level.

And I haven’t done this type of art, not really in any consistent way, since I was in high school.

So I’m satisfied with the result

even though I am related to this talented person–actually he’s my father–whose gifts could make even an accomplished artist intimidated.

If one wanted to be.

Instead one (in fact, me) wants to be free and playful and grateful and discovery-filled.

Believe you me

I celebrate others’ natural gifts and what their many many years of practice has given them the capacity to do, and I recognize that the results are different than mine,  “better” in many valid ways.

But I truly choose gratitude and contentment for where I am now, in this moment. And I am happy, becausefinding beauty

I’m finding beauty, everywhere. In everything.

Where will you find beauty this spring? Will you pay attention to it? Will you look around and look up and close your eyes and listen, until it seeps into your soul?

with love



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One Response to Finding beauty

  1. Laura March 27, 2015 at 6:19 am #

    Beautiful, Rachel! So beautiful in words and drawing!

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