Author Archives: Penney Knightly

Gesture Portraits 7-9

Continuing with gesture portraits today. Not as happy with the results today as I was yesterday, and I did tend to spend more time than I really wanted to with each of these. The average time was maybe a little less than 10 minutes, and should ideally be this level of competency (or better) in 5 minutes or less. But, I’m sure all of those elements will come together in time. That is why, I am practicing after all!

Lessons learned today for this specific (gesture portrait) practice:

Sharpen that 2B pencil!
It really helps at the beginning of a drawing to make loose, fluid lines.
Sharpen again and again as the drawing continues.

Eyes are involved.
They are just going to take more time to develop.
And this may not be a thing that will advance with this quick-drawing method.
But, first-time placement of the main features of the fact should get easier. This includes eye placement.

Noses are (relatively) easy.
It doesn’t take much to mostly get them right. Little suggestive outlines, and you’re good to go.
The difficulty comes with placement, which I haven’t gotten the hang of, and with showing the uniqueness of the model.

Lips are too easy to make into a cartoon.
Like noses, I imagine if I can plug into them better, I could use some suggestions of line and shading and get some better results.
Right now, I’m still thinking of them as the ideal-model-full-lipped-lips, and I’m having trouble seeing real lips. I am hoping this will adjust.

Pick a model that isn’t wearing heavy makeup, or who isn’t smiling.
In example two from today, of Portrait 8, heavy lipstick and smiling obstructed my effectiveness with this technique.
Heavy makeup changes the lines and the shading, which might make your drawing subject not look human.
Teeth are involved, require time, and delicate placement and shading—not a good feature for this exercise.

Now, onto the portraits and observations.

Portrait 7

Besides it being pretty flat, this is a good start. You can tell my line is a bit tight because of the boxy facial border. The left eye is raised, but the placement is not too bad.

 

Portrait 8

This hairline was tricky! And as you can tell, I didn’t get it. Smiling lines are going to take some time to work out. The lips are overblown and bizarre, part of that is because the model was wearing heavy lipstick, which changes the human-looking characteristics! She also was smiling, and that would have taken time to develop, so I “fixed it” which kind of looks awful. I am happy with ear placement, though. 

 

Portrait 9

Yes! Progress! This looks like a believable face. Eye placement could be slightly better, but the face outline is pretty good. Nose is nice, lip work is getting better. I saved the crazy lines in the hairline and the chin to show you how much I was “measuring by line.” Also, to appreciate how loose (and off the mark) my lines began.

Gesture Portraits 1-6

In an effort to draw more, but keep my barrier of entry low (and the practice and line motion high) I decided I am going to do some gesture portraits.
Gesture, for those who you who are unfamiliar with it, is this: (definition from wiki)

A gesture drawing is a laying in of the action, form, and pose of a model/figure. Typical situations involve an artist drawing a series of poses taken by a model in a short amount of time, often as little as 10 seconds, or as long as 5 minutes. Gesture drawing is often performed as a warm-up for a life drawing session, but is a skill that must be cultivated for its own sake.

In less typical cases the artist may be observing people or animals going about normal activities with no special effort to pause for the artist. For example, drawing from people on the street, performers, athletes, or drawing animals at the zoo.

The key takeaway for my use of the word and technique is: “short amount of time, often as little as 10 seconds, or as long as 5 minutes.”
And that it is a skill performed as a warm-up for a drawing, but should also be cultivated for its own sake.
So, that is what I am going to work on.

These are portraits primarily using the technique of gesture drawing.

If I develop them more, or shade or color them, or it becomes a more fully-realized drawing, great.

Or, if they become the basis or inspiration for a future project, that’s good, too.

In the same way I have been freeing up my poetry, to come up with a few lines at a time (the poetry equivalent of sketching), I thought, “why not get back to drawing in the same way?”

No pressure, not outcome, just semi-daily practice and some fun.
So far, the results have been surprising good, especially, since I’m not measuring or laboring over anything.

I’m just looking at a picture and letting that arm move, with my drawing brain doing what it needs to do.

The happy outcome that is happening while trying this mindset (with both poetry and drawing): I’m learning to get out of my own way.

Here are 6 gesture portraits. Three I drew a few days ago, and three I drew today.

Portrait 1

Note there are lots of lines. This is my first try. I’m really trying a little too hard here. Also, this pose is tricky in the best of circumstances, so I’m actually pleased with this way this came out, without measuring.

 

Portrait 2

I got looser with Portrait #2, but sacrificing a lot of structure. Still, pretty decent. I’m pleased with the ruffles of the collar being playful and expressive, more than the execution of the face in this attempt.

 

Portrait 3

Once again, too loose. Even though her lips ended up looking like the Joker, her hairline and eye set are remarkably good, especially for a look-and-line, devoid of measuring.

 

Portrait 4

Shading is getting good for a quick-line portrait. I had some watercolors I couldn’t help playing with. You will note the eye set is the issue in this picture. But the nose is decent.

 

Portrait 5

Now some progress is really starting to show. This profile is super difficult, especially without measuring, and even though it still misses the mark, it’s not bad. The eye set is a little odd, but that nose and those lips at that angle are pretty close to what they should ideally be. I like that I get the bun and the skull shape basically correct. (This can be tricky too, as one always wants to shorten the skull shape!) I also like how the lines are loose around the collar, but present. This is my favorite of this exercise so far.

 

Portrait 6

This picture has extra complications due to the glasses. Now I know that glasses change shading, especially under the eyes and cheeks. Even though this drawing has a lopsided chin, and the eyebrows are off, the likeness of the subject in the drawing is actually better than all the other portraits so far.

Keeping the Line Open

Above is a grouping of lines I wrote by hand, in an effort to keep my mind all the more open and receptive to what comes.

I have taken to writing more frequently, and that has been restorative. Instead of straining to make it good, I’ve been trying to make a mindful effort to keep it open. What do I mean by that? By default, I tend to be a tight-little-fist of person. I think you know the type.

When it comes to writing, I have, in the past, wanted completion. I wanted all the images to work, to be what they are when they emerge, need tiny amounts of editing, and set them to roam the earth. I still believe in what I hesitate to call “an organic process” of writing, but I also have adapted my thinking.

What if there could be just a line?
What if it wasn’t a full poem?
What if it could be exactly what it is, and nothing more?

At first, I was uncomfortable with this idea. Of course, I wanted to develop it, to make it several stanzas, to complete the thought more. Could I still be considered as “in a work session” if I only emerged with a line? Why was the idea of ‘not being done’ uncomfortable to me?

I sat with this feeling and explored a little. I realized that I had been forcing a lot of phrases into poems that haven’t had the legs to support itself. By insisting that thoughts be complete, I had made a lot of subpar poetry. This, in itself, isn’t bad, as one needs lots of bad poetry to get to a good poem. But, it was making my words weak, my themes watered down, my time and attention spaced out and distorted, and I began to see a pattern of reviewing my writing—everything was sounding the same, and not in a pleasing way.

I have been reading The Poet’s Companion by Kim Addonizio again, and that has reignited feelings of wanting to create fuller-bodied poems, spending time with them as one would savoring a meal or a fine wine. I feel for me, that means my process needs to slow down, open up, and not be restricted by time or the emotional pressure of finalizing.

I am greatly looking forward to what this shift in mindset brings me. Already, I have gained a peace and pleasure in writing I haven’t felt in a decade.

What do think you could do along this same path? In what way can you open your writing, and let it be enough for the moment?

Much creativity and rewarding exploration to you,

Poetry Journal Excerpt: August 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I did end up writing a few poems in August, which is supremely encouraging. I have been pecking at reading more of The Poet’s Companion. I can’t say that the prompts from that have led to any work, as I have not being doing the prompts! That’s on me, not on the quality of the book. The book is amazing.

I have been reading more contemporary poetry during the day, which does put me in a receptive mood for the poems that are inside of me.
Nicola Mae Goldberg’s “Wisconsin” in Winter Tangerine has really impressed and propelled me.

I want to move toward more full-bodied poems. Poems that say more and have more substance. I have a tendency to rattle off about three to four stanzas and then walk away from a poem. I want my poems to be more like a meal, or an experience, than a flash of light, or a sparse, mysterious vision.

I don’t know if this will mean a change of style or voice, or if this is what experimentation looks like. Is it a desirable idea? Either way, it never hurts to play–and to use an artistic illustration, it might be like breaking out the watercolors when you’ve been used to oil painting. Or maybe making a collage–changing it up altogether. But I feel like I am ready for this, and it feels like a natural transition. So, onward, I will play. (And will share that play.)

Speaking of sharing…here are some excerpts from the writing of August.


 

 

I am still submitting work into the world, so it’s all happening at its own pace. No recent acceptances yet, but there is still the hope.

Wishing you creative experimentation and growth in your own season,

Poetry Journal Excerpt: July, Part II

I am reading through more of Kim Addonizio’s The Poet’s Companion, (PDF version here.)

I am struggling to write. I see her fantastic prompts, and just come up completely blank. The month of August was not very fruitful with writing, but July was. In an effort to encourage myself and others, I will share excerpts from poems from July. These poems are currently in the race for acceptance from literary magazines. I have managed to be fairly regular with submission.

I know the season of poem writing will return in earnest. Even when I’m not writing, my brain is assembling images and thoughts. This is often the case for novelists, and I’ve heard them say that they are always working–always looking for characters and dialogue. I would say I am always working also, but I am looking for that moment which ties to larger themes—in the past, present, or future.

Here are some stanzas from what was rough draft writing in July 2018:

So, onto those next moments…

Wishing you inspiration, and moments of your own from which to write, ♥

Rejections Are Progress

I am still submitting poems, when I have some clarity. A steady little stream of rejections have turned up over the past two weeks. I am encouraged, because the replies to rejections have become more encouraging and slightly personalized. I believe this is due to submitting to the same magazines, multiple times, so they have some familiarity with my name. This, in my mind, comes to multiple great successes.

First, that I am submitting when I’m not really in the best physical or emotional shape–yay, to me, for persevering.
Second, I am becoming familiar with the magazines–that’s good, it means I’m becoming more a part of the community.
Third, the magazines are remembering me!
Fourth, I am seeing a positive outcome after investing in submitting poems over the years–this gives me confidence not just for the acceptance of the poems, but also acceptance of myself as a poet.

Here are some of the rejections I’ve received recently:

This, from The Account:
We appreciate the chance to read this submission. Though there is much to admire in these poems, unfortunately none is quite right for us at this time.

And from YesPoetry:
Sadly your poems do not meet our criteria at this time, but we wish you luck in placing it elsewhere. We encourage you to submit again!

And from THRUSH
We are pleased to have read these new pieces from you; in particular we enjoyed: Back, however, we have decided to pass on inclusion.

***

To Summarize What Was Said: 

“There is much to admire in these poems.” That’s a great compliment!
“We encourage you to submit again!” An invitation to try again. Okay!
“In particular we enjoyed Back.” Feedback on a piece that was liked. Good to know of their sensibilities, and good to know in general.

 


I am very happy with these realizations. I am updating my spreadsheet with rejection notices, but I am smiling as I do so.

Keep on writing, and sharing that writing. I’m rooting for you!

Poetry Journal: Excerpts from July

As I’ve been reading The Poet’s Companion, I have been writing poems. I thought I’d take a moment to share some poetry journal excerpts with you. Re-reading this book has brought up memories and sensations I wasn’t expecting. The first and last time I read it, I was in the middle of abuse and turmoil. Looking over certain passages, reading example poems such as Ellery Aker’s mind-blowing “What I Do,” I have felt old familiar feelings of hurt and unrest. I remember what drew me to poetry in the first place.

I have gotten caught up in poetry as “a work” and an academic achievement in recent years, but The Poet’s Companion kindly reminds me that truth and vulnerability are where the beauty is. It reminds me that writing about experiences and observations are about articulating a shared human experience. Being brought back to these Greater Truths about writing is a little scary, but in a good way, as if I’m about to find out who I really am, after all this time, uncovered.

Here are some stanza selections from July 2018. Most of these poems are out in the submission process right now, which I why I can’t share the entire poem. They are where they should be, doing their poem job.

Wishing you creative vulnerability,

 

 

 



Reasons for Poetry & What Inspires

I’ve been devoting time to writing poetry. The morning works for me, so does early evening before bed. This may not be the case for other poets.

Some people write poetry as a academic exercise. Others because they want to do something ‘spiritual’ or mindful, and tap into what they feel, and sense. I have no objection to this, I think writing poetry, and any way you can get the practice into your life, is a wonderful thing. For me, poetry writing has not been optional. I’m very much in the I-do-this-to-survive / confessional / more-like-Anne-Sexton part of the spectrum.

Here is a list of what causes me to write poems. It’s usually fueled by some kind of intensity—but that can take many forms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dreams
I usually have dreams that I can write easily into a poem. My dreams tend to be highly symbolic. Very often I’ve written dreams in full description, and that’s been enough for a complete poem. Sometimes, it is a dominating color in a dream, or a theme. There is a treasure of image, sound, emotion, and downright psychological awareness from dream material. If you haven’t taken the time to explore your own psyche in this way with poems, I recommend it.

Emotions
The typical teenager pouring their heart out onto the page, feeling forcefully, isn’t a archetype without reason. Emotions can be a huge source of energy and used successfully as writing material. They can be used to connect you to potential readers, they can help you experiment with the language, they can strengthen your sensitivity and enable you. Joy, sadness, loss, grief, all aspects of the human condition can be described with the words of your choosing.

Limitations
I deal with several mental illnesses, which are mostly managed. But they do have periods where they creep in or takeover my life. Writing enables me to use language to expel my thoughts. Sometimes, I use poems as a therapist. Or I use poems to make metaphor from what seems intangible. Using poetry to label difficult sensations, during times of trial can really aid in grounding and perspective. You might feel improved after writing out your pain, or at least feel legitimized—because the mark of your reality has now morphed into an art.

Memories 
Our brains are amazing and keep so many details. Special memories or persistent memories are good writing material. I have also used poetry as a sort of journaling, to keep a feeling or memory intact—say a special day with someone. Maybe you really want to remember seeing the beach for the first time, for example. It can used as a time capsule, keeping your experience alive with a word picture.

If you’re seeking something to write about, try thinking over some of the things I’ve mentioned. Maybe an experience, a dream, or a feeling can open you up to a field of language you never knew lived inside.

 

 

Wanting to Write While Submitting?

I’m returning to writing, and getting back to submitting. It’s a dichotomy—because when you take time to write you feel like you should be submitting, and when you’re submitting, you feel as if you should be writing! Of course, both are necessary, so there really is no internal conflict. Not really. Sometimes, emotionally, it does seem like a bit much.

I like to write a little when I feel that urge to write while I’m submitting. Even if it’s just a image or a stanza, it feels better emotionally. I don’t know if other poets encounter this. It’s a situation I bump into frequently, so I try to manage as best I can. I want my writing time, and my submitting time to be exclusive and focused. If that means I have to break between one or the other to meet a small need, in a small way, I’m willing to do it. Sounds counter-intuitive, but it has worked for me so far.

Here are some questions to ask yourself if you’re feeling pulled—into writing while you’re submitting, or submitting while you’re writing!

Are you being inspired by seeing your writing? Or inspired by putting together a submission?
These are feel-good hormones, and excitement. This is good! We want to keep these momentum-feelings!

Do you have coffee, is your blood sugar stabilized, and are you relatively unstressed?
It’s no surprise if you haven’t eaten, or haven’t had your own-personal-stabilizer, or are emotionally or physically compromised, you’re going to have difficulty focusing.

Do you have other things on your mind?
Housework, your job, other anxieties, health issues…can all contribute to distractibility.

Do you have space and sufficient time?
Feeling like you have to fit in submitting or writing, feeling pressure, can lead to ineffective time usage. Or mistakes made while submitting, or poor quality-time writing.

What if you are meeting all your needs and everything is ideal?

As in you’re: 1) chemically balanced, 2) have plenty of time, 3) have plenty of space, 4) have focus, and you are still fighting with wanting to write while you’re submitting, or submitting while you’re writing?

Then, meet both needs, of course! But do it in a small, one-at-a-time focused way!

If you want to write, but you’re in a submitting session
Take a break from your writing session, and submit to one magazine.
Or read about a magazine you want to submit to.
This shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes.
You still want to devote 90% percent of your time and attention to writing.

If you’re submitting but you get that fire to write
Take a break from submitting!
Write a line, or a stanza, or an idea for a poem.
Or write an entire poem.
You shouldn’t devote more than 15 minutes to this.
Hopefully, meeting your poem need should free you up to focus on submitting.

Yes, self-discipline does come into play. I’m not saying it’s always going to work out that you can both submit and write. But you can honor yourself and your time, when that itch wants to be scratched.

Sometimes, devoting just a little attention can go a long way towards complete satisfaction and fulfillment, and better clarity and performance with the main task you’re setting out to perform.

Wishing you concentration and effective creative time,

Reuniting with Poetry with Kim Addonizio

I am back to writing poetry, and that feels wonderful! I purchased some books which have re-inspired me. I know I’ve mentioned Kim Addonizio’s The Poet’s Companion before, but now I have it in ebook format, so I get to explore it all again.

This book is solid. If you’re planning on getting back into writing poetry, want to read some great examples of poetry, want to learn, or just to read and be inspired, this is your book!

Happily, I also found a more recent poetry-encouragement / education book by her, which I am looking forward to savoring Ordinary Genius: A Guide for the Poet Within.

*Don’t know who Kim Addonizio is?
Here’s a sample poem from The Poetry Foundation titled, “First Poem for You.”

Wishing you well today, and I hope you are finding some inspiration, too.

 

 

 

Swallowtail + Succulent (image)

Sharing a happy picture of a swallowtail and a succulent! I was lucky enough to get this picture on a walk.

(Showing going outside has more benefits that one originally anticipates.)

Also, I’m working on submitting poetry out today! What are you working on? ♥

The Year (and counting) of The Medical Mystery

It’s been months since I’ve done much of anything creative. I’ve worked at keeping it alive in my heart, even if I haven’t had time, energy, or inclination. The past year has been medically strange. What I thought was going to be a straightforward diagnosis has led to a year without an answer. I’ve experienced progressive and sporadic symptoms of what I feared was a neurological problem.

My hands and head sometimes shake, my muscles twitch, and my legs lack the stamina and feeling they used to have. My hands have been numb for weeks at a time while doing something as simple as holding a pen. Yet, I have muscle strength and there doesn’t seem to be any urgent problem. I’ve been to three specialist doctors besides my GP, and have performed easily a dozen tests. Potential diagnoses that have been posited include: conversion disorder, essential tremor, small fiber neuropathy, and fibromyalgia.

I had months in which I couldn’t stop researching, trying to figure out something. Does someone else have this? Is there some piece of the puzzle I am missing? Can I figure this out by myself? What do I need to have in mind so I know what tests the doctors should be running? I have developed a greater sense of insight regarding people who don’t have answers for their medical symptoms, and for people dealing with a life-changing diagnosis.

My body going haywire opened me up emotionally. I wrote pages and pages in my journal about my feelings, my worries, running through the logic of what the diagnosis could be. I admit, I was in despair and spinning psychologically, running every possible scenario.

One day, after being exasperated and realizing I was actually stressing myself out and causing my symptoms to worsen, I stopped. I stopped exerting energy toward a problem I couldn’t solve myself. There was no amount of reading on the internet, or putting my symptoms into a spreadsheet, and hyper-focusing that had made my life better. My happiness, and my creative energies were empty, because I had been obsessing about my health for so long. I forgot how to be myself. I forgot what I really cared about, and what I used to spend my time doing.

In the time to come, there are more tests. I will seek answers. There will still be visits to doctors. This mystery ailment will continue to occupy some space in my life. But it doesn’t have to be my life. Maybe it’s a big thing, maybe it’s small. Maybe it’s physical, maybe it’s mental. I don’t know. I don’t have control of that outcome. I do have control about my time, my resources, and what I think about. I choose to think about poetry, writing, and drawing. While spending what functionality I have on what builds me up and makes it all bearable and worthwhile.


With extra doses of love and insight,

Why My Creative Goal Failed

I posted toward the end of December, rather hastily, that I would draw and write a poem-a-day until the remainder of the year. In celebration of the arrival of 2018, and to spur myself onto productivity greatness, I declared my intentions to Facebook and social media. I was met with enthusiasm and encouragement, while dopamine-dumping and happy-feeling, was not enough to keep me motivated. In fact, a few days later, on DAY FOUR, I FAILED.

Why did I fail, you might ask?

I failed because I stopped. I stopped creating. I stopped working toward my declared goal. I just, plain, didn’t do it. There are many reasons for this. Here is a list of some of the reasons, most of them I discovered in hindsight, after thinking about WHY I didn’t do what I said I was going to do. Let this be a lesson, to myself and others for the future.

  1. I neglected to consider my timing. Nearing the end of the year, with lots to do, what made me think adding pressure to an already pressured time of year was the answer?
  2. I didn’t monitor my resources. How was I feeling? What was going on in my life? What other things were taking up my attention?
  3. I set unrealistic standards. Performing two creative endeavors each day? TWO?
  4. I made it too complicated. Requiring that I do two creative things in a set period of time = not brilliant.
  5. I put a time limit on it. Ever enjoy playing a timed quest in a video game? Or had to meet that school paper deadline? Um, why did I do that to myself?
  6. I gave into perceived peer pressure. The drive for the New Year, Facebook Friends posting their creations, art and inspiration for 2018 abounded, and I bit that poisoned apple. Hard.
  7. I was doing opposing activities. Art-making and word-making do not go together for me. I know this. Why did I think I could do right brain work and left brain at the same time?
  8. I failed to self-assess.  Asking questions such as: How has my mental health been lately? Or my physical condition? What could distract me from this work?
  9. I didn’t look at my creative track record. Have I created anything lately? How did it go? How has my creative health been? I haven’t created in a long while. Why is that?
  10. I wasn’t invested. I declared an activity without thinking. I was riding on enthusiasm of the possibility of productivity, not being rooted in the reality of it.
  11. I didn’t plan. All too often, I have to remind myself that inspiration is great, but as I age it is not not not how I get creative work done. Set aside time. Focus. Make it work. Anything else is wasteful.

So, what does this come down to? Basically, I woefully neglected to care for myself as a person living my life, AND as a creative person.

They are two separate jobs. But, they feed into each other, demanding the same resources, and the same time. And the same mind, body, heart.

Do yourself a favor, and before you jump into the next big activity, ask yourself some real questions:

How are you? ♥
How are you feeling? ♥
And, What Makes the Most Sense for Me Right Now? ♥


Take care of yourself!
Best wishes for you this year, with hope and happiness,

 

Poem and Picture A Day: Day 1

My new challenge up until the beginning of the new year is to draw a small drawing, and write a small poem a day. There will be no quality-judgment on my part, just producing and seeing what I can come up with in tiny, 30-minute maximum work segments.

Day One: Female Portrait and Dream Poem

Gold Man Review, Issue 7

My poem “I Want to Know the Ending,” was recently published in Gold Man Review, a yearly print publication! Whoo hoo!

The publication is available for purchase on Amazon.

There is also a little extra surge of happiness from seeing it in print. It looks great, and working with Gold Man Review, and the editor, has been a pleasure.

So excited to see this year end on such a positive publishing note. Can’t wait for 2018.

 

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