Still life with spice grinder, embroidered cloth, and two walnuts. pen on paper. November 4, 2014.
I sat down after dinner, wanting to draw a little, but feeling tired from a long day and rather uninspired. Looking around for some objects to arrange, this small brass spice grinder caught my eye. I felt it needed something soft with it, a cloth, but nothing too elaborate. I pulled out a simple embroidered white linen napkin. Now, what else? The bowl of nuts on the sideboard offered two wrinkly but substantial walnuts.
For some reason, this subject or my mood didn't lend themselves to the simple line drawings I've been doing lately, and I found myself working more methodically, with more detail, maybe because I was tired and not feeling very playful or light. As a result, it's not a very good drawing, but the artistic merit isn't what interests me about it.
It wasn't until this morning that I realized this is actually a portrait of my parents in-law: the solid brass spice grinder with its Arabic inscription reminding me of my father-in-law; the fine, delicate cloth with Armenian embroidery is one of a set that I received from my mother-in-law, and the two walnuts -- separate, tightly enclosed in their shells, but definitely related and creating a bridge between the other objects -- are a comment on their personalities and their relationship. The walnuts are the most interesting choice here, to me, since their symbolism didn't occur to me at all at the time.
It doesn't really matter if we're working realistically or abstractly, or in whatever medium: the subconscious will be involved if we are at all open to allowing it. I've been thinking a lot about the family I married into, especially after being in Florida, and it's fascinating to see how this was expressed without my thinking about it intellectually, just by allowing myself to follow out spontaneous instincts in the choosing and arranging of some objects. Probably, being somewhat fatigued and aimless actually helped with that. Jung believed in this kind of exploration and wrote a lot about it, art therapy uses these principles, but I'm more apt to think about my dreams, or to notice what comes up in meditation, than to use drawing or art as a way of understanding my own subconscious mind.