Happy Year of the Water Rabbit, on the Chinese lunar calendar!
This morning, I finished my first art of the year, “Rabbit and Moon” (working title; I may change it).
It’s about 9 x 12 inches, on paper, mixed media – watercolor, graphite, and ink. The asemic writing in the upper right corner is actually my real, gloriously illegible handwriting, turned on its end. This time I’m quoting Robert Frost, a line from “Mending Wall” (1914):
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding to please the yelping dogs
In the verse containing that line, Frost talks about going out in spring with his neighbor to repair the damage that happens to their boundary wall over the winter, including the vandalism of hunters who knock down the stones to flush out their prey, because “they would have the rabbit out of hiding.” (Click here for the full text, off-site.)
That poem also gives us the famous line, “Good fences make good neighbors.” Frost’s neighbor repeats that saying, and the poet Frost wonders why good neighbors need fences at all. Shouldn’t they be able to rely on their mutual understanding?
Myself, I’m a little on the fence about that (har-har), but I do appreciate that, even though Frost might not like the barrier between people, by mending the wall, he’s evening the odds for the rabbits.
Jumping back from West to East, Chinese astrology says that the Water Rabbit brings in peaceful, patient, and creative energies and encourages us to rely on our inner wisdom and trust our instincts. We should approach this year’s challenges calmly and rationally, and be kind and considerate to each other and to ourselves.
Water Rabbit Year 2023 could turn out to be all about good neighbors – having them and being them. Just remember that the barriers that delineate our personal boundaries are best when everyone finds safety in them – us and the rabbits.
I buy into the old superstition that whatever you find yourself doing on New Year’s Day will set the tone for the whole year to come. So I make sure I spend every New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day doing just want I want to do and nothing else. Generally, this consists of being in my studio, in my pajamas, with a cup of something caffeinated, some music playing, doing creative work.
Which is exactly what I’m doing right now – working on An Alchemy of Dragons. I just took a short break to post this note to my readers and friends.
I made a quick check of the auspices, and it seems my instincts are in track, at least for the start of 2023. See, we’ve all been through a lot of changes – both setbacks and advances – and I’ve had a hell of a time coming up with resolutions, plans, all that sort of thing. So I’ve decided that, for me, 2023 is going to be a year of figuring things out. Analyzing trends. Taking stock of changes and new contexts. Choosing where to go next, and picking how I want to get there.
And it turns out the divinatory signs agree with me.
Numerology says 2023 boils down to the number 7, a number of deep analysis and the search for wisdom, of questioning, examining, thinking things through, making decisions.
In Tarot, the 7th card of the Major Arcana, the Chariot, signifies the force of will joined with action, the path forward, doing our best with what we have, guided by what’s within us.
The 7’s of the Minor suits are similarly suggestive. The 7 of Pentacles is the nervous optimism of the farmer devoting labor now for future goals, setting aside anxieties to nurture his work. The 7 of Swords encourages us to grab opportunities when we find them, while being cautious of distracting blather out in the world. Don’t be shy, but don’t get too tricky at the same time. The 7 of Wands promises success if we stick to our principles and put in the work, no matter how daunting. And the 7 of Cups shows us all the options open to us. The challenge is to think before we choose.
Finally, the Chinese lunar new year on January 22 will usher in the Year of the Rabbit, predicted to start a period of relative calming and growth – a good time to approach our plans with optimism tempered by patience and planning.
Are things guaranteed to be easier? No. But I have a feeling this could be a better year, if we make it so. I feel like 2023 is one of those starting-a-new-chapter kind of years – a chance for us to stock of where the past few years have brought us, what real options we have on hand, and what suits us best in our lives right now.
Personally, I’m looking forward to it.
So in keeping with the holiday, I raise a figurative glass from me to you. Happy New Year!
Merry meet and merry part, I drink to you with all my heart.
And this time, I’m only a little late! Like many other people, I am just winging it wildly this holiday season, and it turns out I am a terrible business person. I should have had all this Yuletide stuff done months ago, so I could share it with you all before actual and literal Christmas Day.
But Christmas, Yule, and all the other winter holidays are really not about business, so rather than leading into the season with various “calls to action” and whatnot, I’m just offering you a gift from me to you.
From today until December 31st, please feel free to download printable copies of the original line drawings for the four winter cards I painted yesterday. New art! Fresh out of the artist’s brain! All four images are in a single-page pdf file, accessible at the link below. Use them as-is or color them as you like. They are just rough drawings, suitable for tags, bookmarks, or cards. Personal use only, naturally.
Download the winter cards here.
By the way, do you realize we have four new year events running relatively close together this winter? The Winter Solstice on December 21st was the solar new year. January 1st is the calendar new year. The next Perihelion (Earth’s closest orbit point to the Sun) comes on January 4th and may be considered the astronomical new year (I decree). Finally, January 22nd is the lunar new year on the Chinese calendar – Year of the Water Rabbit.
I’m taking this as a sign that this mid-winter is an optimal time for fresh starts and attitude shifts. So maybe next year, I’ll have winter cards ready in time for you to use them. 😉
Meanwhile, please enjoy your holidays and multiple new years. Below are the final paintings of the cards, which should be available as prints and cards next winter. See? I’m not late, I’m early.
And the start of another next-winter project – a Partridge in a Pear Tree. I plan to do the whole Twelve Days, and will offer them next year as prints and perhaps even a book.
All of these small paintings are done in watercolor, pastel, and ink.
Wishing you all happy, merry, and joyous holidays.
Well, darn it. September got ahead of me. October got off the leash entirely. November has been very uncooperative. And now it’s Thanksgiving. Let’s think about what we have to be thankful for.
Fair warning: I’m going to be blunt again because, apparently, that’s my medium. Nothing herein should come as a surprise. 😉
I am deeply grateful that both my sainted mother and myself are healthy, as are my friends and family as of last report. I don’t know how the friends and family have managed it, but Mom and I have done it by draconian measures, which are not being lifted any time soon – home, distance, sanitation, masking, no exceptions ever. Life has been completely insane in the US this year, and the madness continues, I’m sorry to say. But, so far, so good at our house.
I am grateful to almost 80 million of my fellow Americans for making Joe Biden our next President – and equally to the point, Donald Trump NOT our next President – and if anyone out there wants to start muttering about recounts and lawsuits, stow it because I’m not interested. We still have to get that person physically out of the White House, of course, but we did unseat him, so we can check that off our list of things to do, at long last.
And I am grateful for the roof over our heads and the dinner that will be on our table this holiday. Food, shelter, health, and a light at the end of the Trump tunnel – I think those are blessings enough for this hellish year.
Now we are less than two months away from 2021, and I feel a combination of relief and anxiety. The results of the election were like having a crushing weight lifted off my chest. I can breathe, but four years of that tension have left me like a plate of jelly, unable to pull myself together.
I am working on some things, though. First, I’m doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), because when you’re exhausted and brain-fried, the best tonic is trying to crank out 50,000 words in a month. I’m not doing too well, but the month isn’t over so…fingers crossed? I’ll tell you all about it when it’s over. (Spoiler: It’s not going to happen, and I’m okay with that.)
Also, bats and moths are in progress because why not? I like bats and moths. This is an experiment I’ve been mulling a long time, making hard sculptures out of traditional origami. Expect to see more.
I’ve been designing dollhouses and books, putting my garden to bed between rainstorms, rethinking my approaches to social media and time management, and wandering off on artistically esoteric (or esoterically artsy) mind trips which take me far from the madding crowd and which I hope will produce work in the coming year.
But I haven’t really been, you know … productive.
Screw it. We all deserve to give ourselves a break. If 2020 isn’t an excuse for falling short of last New Year’s expectations, then I don’t know what is. I’m thankful just to have made it this far, in a depressingly literal sense. I’m taking the rest of the year off. And I’m giving you all the month of December off, too. There. That’s my gift to you. Just be alive, at home, healthy and safe, and we’ll deal with the rest in January.
In the meantime, you might see some odd posts here as I play around with styles and topics over December. Feedback is always welcome. And below, please enjoy some photos of things I’ve been doing while being unproductive.
That’s it for now. Take care, my friends. Keep well, hang on, and have a small, intimate, safe, and happy holiday with the ones closest to you.
Not entirely unproductive. This new work returned from exhibition this week and will be available in the shop soon. The moth is an origami-based paper sculpture colored with acrylic paint and mounted on a collage of hand-tinted vintage images.
When not in the gallery… Luna Moth atop my desk with Call Me Ishmael, Woman Found and Studied, and random inspirational bits.
Bats and Moths!
Did I mention…
We had a snow storm in October. It didn’t last long, though.
Well, the holiday season is officially upon us, and in the midst of life’s battles, I have to admit I have a lot to be thankful for. We have our health at my house (knock wood). I enjoy my work, my town, my friends. There are birds outside my window and cats sleeping on my bed. What more can anyone want?
Later, I’ll rant about all the things that are off the rails, going wrong, just plain nuts, and utterly intolerable, but that’s not what this weekend is for. Today, it’s about feasting and merriment, football, parades, and King Kong. You know, the traditions.
I finished rebuilding my blue sketchbook into an autumn book for sketching, journaling, and collecting field specimens, all the leaves, twigs, feathers, etc., I tend to pick up. I was inspired by the “junk journal” phenomenon, which is a great way to find beauty and function out of detritus. Even these gussied-up pocket inserts are part of my sketchbook practice, as I used them to work out experiments in paper building and collaging with natural botanicals. The binding is my favorite tetsuyoso style. Superficially, it resembles Coptic stitch, but this is in fact a very old binding from Japan. It lacks the external knots of Coptic, maintains neater tension with less fuss, and is flexible and resilient. Traditionally, the covers would be pasted on, but I adapted the Coptic method of sewing the covers on for a totally adhesive-free binding.
It might seem a little odd to make such a fancy thing just to sketch and brainstorm in, but kind of the point of being an artist is to get our thoughts outside of our heads, to make everything be an expression of how we see the world, to unify the inside and outside realities. So I think the book where I work out the kinks in my creativity should be a product of my creativity. This is what I came up with.
And I made the pie this year. It came out fancy, too. 😉
Happy holiday, all. Enjoy. Relax. Express yourself.
As mentioned in my last entry, I was sick through much of October and had just over one week to try to complete four weeks of projects. I did better than I thought I would, and I’ve decided to cheat slightly by extending the spooky season to the end of this weekend, to finish a few things and tie off those loose ends.
Completed in October proper, two zine-type books:
– “Masquerade,” featured last week, a book about masks, disguises, and false fronts. The hand-typed text is taken from dictionary clippings and famous quotes, and the illustrations are paper collage.
– “On the Emergence of Ghosts,” a mini collection of monotype prints. These are some of my favorites from a recent printmaking session. I first made the Rorschach-like blot prints with ultramarine blue acrylic paint on sketch paper. Then, before the paint was fully dry, I took a ghost print from the blot by laying over another piece of paper and folding and pressing it again.
Still progress from October:
– “Cemetery Dance,” a zine on a memento mori theme with quotes from Shakespeare.
– Mini mask cards, just some small toys.
– Die Fledermaus Crown, a piece of wearable art. This was my big project for the month, and I’m amazed I was able to get it about 80% done in a week. I wanted something wearable for Halloween, but I’ve been a little off masks; I need to think about them some more. Then the words “bat” and “crown” popped into my head. The first-draft idea was Dracula-esque, then it evolved into a kind of naturalist ode to bats, but you know what? It’s a bat crown. It’s neither possible nor appropriate for such a thing to be dark or quiet or serious. So it ended up inspired by the frilly, fizzy, champagne-popping operetta Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss, the Viennese Waltz King. I figure it will be just as appropriate for New Year, which is when most opera companies perform Die Fledermaus. Maybe I’ll do a series of opera crowns. The Magic Flute is starting to suggest itself.
In any event, the crown still needs a little construction. The stars, moon, and moths need to be added. And it needs color because, yes, it’s going to be in color. But I decided it looks mad enough to share.
If I can finish these by end of Sunday, I will call October a technical success and take a few days off.
Die Fledermaus Crown in progress
On the Emergence of Ghosts
Milkweed pods from the garden
A stormy day over the Tobin Bridge, with cormorant in foreground
Sunlight through a maple leaf
The same sunlight on a little black cat, Junior Studio Assistant, Scipio
Welcome to the new and improved, shiny and fresh Jen Fries Arts website for 2019. Naturally, it’s still in progress, with more to come throughout January. But it is open for reading, viewing, and commenting as of this first day of the new year.
What has changed?
Pages: You’ll notice some of my pages are gone. This is only temporary as content is being updated with better images and new projects. Look for more pages coming soon as well, including online projects.
Navigating: All of the information about me is now found under the Home tab in the site menu, including About, Contact, and the Dedication to my late founding partner, Gomez Addams. There’s also a spiffy new FAQ page, since so much of what I do makes hardly any sense. Feel free to send me questions. If they are asked frequently enough, they’ll get added to the page.
Site Title: “Instant Elixir Cures All” is only temporarily out of sight. It is evolving into the name/title/imprimatur of a new venture. Follow and/or visit often to keep up to date.
Update Schedule: I’m shooting for an update every ten days or so this year. I know I don’t have an excellent record that way, but the times they are a-changing and so, hopefully, will my habits. It’s the new year, people – resolutions and all that.
Exciting Plans: I am fairly champing at the bit for the work on my calendar this year, including:
Writing: I will integrate my writing with my artwork in this site. Look for books, challenges, and prompts, as well as illustrated projects.
That Dollhouse I Was Building All Last Year: Is finally becoming something. I’m so up about this one. Wait till you see what I’m doing. Look for progress reports as we go.
Learning and Sharing: I was stretching my wings a bit in 2018, and I’m eager to share in 2019 what I’ve been learning about printmaking, wildlife spotting, and home-made art supplies.
And so much more…
Please enjoy the new site. As I say, it’s under construction, so if you find any errors, broken links, etc., please let me know. One thing I know isn’t working at the moment is the email account, but please use the Blog comments to chat, correct, or critique, until that gets fixed.
Thanks, everyone. I wish you all the best. Let’s have fun this year. I think we deserve it.
Hi, all. I hope all my friends and readers enjoyed the holiday. We were cozy and small at home, and I had great fun making the decorations for our little live tree this year.
The paper stars were made using a delightful little origami model. Click this link for a tutorial from Jo Nakashima on Youtube. I dusted them with a hint of metallic gold acrylic paint – which doesn’t show in the photos but gives the stars a bright glow in the light, in person . I then strung them on simple red cord to make a garland. They are so much fun to make, I will definitely see what more I can do with them.
The paper mushrooms, though, are my success story for the season. I managed to make papier mache with thin, translucent layers of crumpled tissue paper. In the past, I’ve gotten good results with other types of paper, but this month, nothing wanted to work but the plain white tissue paper. It gave the best shapes, but of course was way to flimsy. So I spent a total of about three days lightly and carefully brushing the shaped mushrooms with a very dilute paste of water, PVA glue and wheat flour to stiffen them without tearing or dissolving the tissue. I then painted them, mixing the paint with more of the paste for added stiffness. I am very pleased with the results.
The bases are a last-minute improvisation. The mushrooms themselves were made without bases, but I wanted them standing. Can you guess what I have holding them up?
The display in front of our kitchen window brings a hint of a winter forest into our home. Soon, the decorations will be put away, the cats will get their toy squirrel back, and our little dwarf Alberta Spruce will go back outdoors in the cold where it likes to be. And then a new year will begin, with a new look for this site, new projects from my studio, and lots of plans.
I wish you and yours great happiness and growth in 2019!
I am spending this week making holiday decorations. There will be more paper bows like the first ones I made last year, plus paper mushrooms to make a “forest floor” around our tree and paper stars to twinkle above it and amongst its boughs. I’m having lots of fun playing with paper forms and surface treatments.
Also this week, I am working behind the scenes on an overhaul of this website. The new look will be brighter and livelier, with better organization. It will go well with some big projects coming up in 2019, including new books, dollhouses, toys, more of my Cities series of collages, and lots of art and writing experiments.
It’s been a crazy and distracted year, but I feel excited about the holidays and the new year. I’m ready to buckle down and get to work.
By the way, the new background image for winter is my own photo of white pines in Charlestown, at the Lower Mystic estuary.