November 17, 2016

Remember Where the Power Lies

Lettering by Shannon M. Wilson, 2016

I don't know how other calligraphers choose their warmup words, but for me, when I sit down to practice, many times I just free-associate and see what comes.  The quick brown fox isn't often seen jumping over the lazy dog's back, if you know what I mean.  Oftentimes, I sense God's whispers in these moments and I wonder who is actually choosing the words on the pages before me.

The pre- and post-election mania has been something to behold, hasn't it?  It has affected my appetite, my sleep, my sense of well-being.  It has left me tongue-tied when speaking to my children. And when I take it too far (and arrogantly make predictions), it quickly moves me from a place of peace.  In the midst of all this unrest, and all of this fear and uncertainty, it's easy to get pulled under with it. Until I get out my ink and the words that come are: "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last."  -- Revelation 22:13.  Try writing that fifty times slowly and your breath will return, and hope will fill you, and you will remember that this is not the end of the story.

[I wrote the above on a Borden & Riley marker layout pad with a Zig Brushables brush pen.]

October 27, 2016

DIY Planked Platform Bed (Pottery Barn Knockoff)

As mothers, we serve our children in endless ways, most of which go unnoticed. They only know that by sheer magic they aren't hungry or dirty or cold or lonely for long. Until you build them a bed. That, they notice.  My youngest son had been sleeping on a mattress on the floor for more than a year as I worked on every project except his. (Someday he will learn that the squeaky wheel gets the grease around here and start squeaking.)  But now, a year later,  he is off the ground and sleeping in the "coolest bed in the house" according to my two teenagers who chose to purchase one instead of letting mom make it. (Cough, cough, told you so, cough.)

September 8, 2016

Saying Goodbye to Summer

We said goodbye to summer with a last minute family trip to Stowe, Vermont this weekend. Immersed in the natural beauty and power of 200-foot waterfalls, scenic bike rides, and fabulous food, the five of us were able to connect one last time before the school year scatters us.

May 8, 2016

The Writing of Elizabeth's Song

"Let Go" -- photo by Shannon M. Wilson

Right before the year I lost my voice, I recorded a song that had been hidden away in my files. My life is so full now of art and mothering and (occasionally artful mothering) that sometimes I even forget about the music.   But this Mother's Day I felt compelled to unearth it and share it here.  It's a song about desire, possession, and letting go.  It's about discovering, sometimes painfully, where we as mothers end and God begins, and the gradual turning over of our children.  Here's how the song came about...

I'd been singing and playing the piano FOREVER -- mostly songs others had written.  One afternoon, thoroughly bored and ready for something creatively challenging, I talked to God about my desire to write a song.  A real one -- lyrics, piano, solo cello, string section...the works.   With a chuckle and a great bit of doubt, I prayerfully asked for some divine inspiration because I had no clue where to begin.  I even offered to let Him choose the topic. I immediately had the sense I was supposed to write about John the Baptist.  Seriously?  God, did You suggest that?  Of course I pushed back a bit, because it seemed crazy and I surely must have misunderstood.  But God doesn't mumble and I quickly conceded.  

So......I read everything I could find on John the Baptist and fell in love with the story.  I decided to take some creative liberties with my "assignment" and write about him through the eyes and experience of his mother, Elizabeth.  Elizabeth was a woman who had longed all her life for a child and had nearly given up when God finally answered her prayers.  She bore a powerful, righteous, obedient leader whose purpose required that he listen to and follow his heavenly parent from a very early age. While reading her story I remembered my own difficulty getting pregnant, my multiple miscarriages, and my possessiveness over the heart and life of my firstborn.  I imagined the pull between gratitude and fear Elizabeth must have felt -- and all mothers must feel.  I knew I could write that song.

Elizabeth's Song (Child of Ours)
Music and lyrics by Shannon Martin Wilson

Is it true God?
A child of mine, God? 
Can this fallow womb hold such promise
after years of letting go?
That I might bear a man of God 
whose greatness I can't even know?

He is here, God
A child of mine, God
I guard him fiercely with my arms though it's clear he rests in You
I sing sweetly in his ear at night but he hears a mightier tune.

We share this child
Please share your plan
Will I ever see this child become a man?
Will he hold me as close when he sees who I really am?

Here he is God
This child of ours, God
Teach me how to lead him well, when to push and to go slow
Show me clearly what part I play in the loving and letting go.

Please guide him
This child of yours, God
Your voice is the one he hears when he cries out in the night
Weeping for your children's blindness, while blameless in your sight.

He calls for change, asks us to choose
Says the time is near and the water can make new
Then he baptized the One whose shoe he's not fit to loose.

I saw it all, God
This child of yours, God.
Fulfill the plan You made for him before his life had begun
Humble himself a forerunner
Make the way for the One

He called for change, asked me to choose
Said the time was here and the water made me new.
I saw my child gain his life by loving you.

I can rest now.
It is done.

Copyright 2008 / Shannon Martin Wilson

October 24, 2013

Workshop with Timothy Botts

Exercise in contrast on dark paper -- artwork by Tim Botts
One of the many perks of my move to upstate New York is easy access to art classes in NYC.  As a member of the Society of Scribes, I now can participate in workshops led by internationally recognized artists in the calligraphic arts.  A beautiful train ride alongside the Hudson River takes me from Albany to Manhattan's Penn Station, and a subway takes me to the School of Visual Arts on 21st and 3rd. I have made the trip alone a few times now, and I am happy to report that during my most recent trip I did not even cry [out loud] when I got lost.  I was there for a two-day workshop led by Timothy Botts on creating word pictures through expressive lettering and layering, and it was worth every mode of transportation it took to get there. (Follow the link to see more of his extraordinary artwork.)

I think what impressed me the most was Tim's respect for language. Whether through speaking it out loud, miming, thoughtful reflection on meanings and sounds, dramatic interpretations of phrases (though he denies any acting talent!), or subjective recollections of how he has personally experienced a particular word -- he gives each word its due.  There was no hasty "get it down on paper because my extraordinary lettering skills are enough" with him.  The beauty of these workshops is getting to experience an artists' thoughts before any marks are made on paper.  And in this area, Tim was incredibly generous.  Though he called himself shy, he did not hold back on letting us see inside his head and his heart as he approached each quote.  If nothing else, he has inspired me to pause.

We learned about the fickleness of gouache, the flexibility of the flat brush when lettering large, the secret tricks on enhancing (or hiding) elements with collage and stencils. He demonstrated and then challenged us to use techniques like contrast, weight, animation, distortion to emphasize or downplay words that said something we liked or "liked less" about ourselves through a series of exercises.  We learned how to decide when the background should stop and the lettering begin, and how a quote is effectively expressed through both.

Beautiful example of layering, animation, and contrast -- artwork by Tim Botts
All in all, it was a joyful two days of learning because of Tim's positive and gentle demeanor, and because of the playful and supportive camaraderie that is always present when lettering artists get together to learn.