In December, I didn't have much time for holiday-related creative projects. I was busy with a commissioned pastel painting of an Icelandic seascape, and the linocut illustrations (still not completed) for Dave Bonta's Ice Mountain: An Elegy. J. and I made a trip to central New York to celebrate my father's 92nd birthday, in mid-December. There was a lot of rehearsing and singing with my choir for two Lessons&Carols services, one at the beginning of Advent and one just before Christmas, and of course the music for advent Sundays and the midnight mass on Christmas Eve, but we didn't do a Messiah this year, and that was, frankly, a relief. I managed to bake a couple of batches of cookies, but for the first year in ages didn't make any fruitcakes, better known here as Christmas cakes, at all. I had hoped to make some other gifts, but alas, it didn't happen.
However, during the week before Christmas I made some linocut cards that I wanted to share with you virtually, since I only made twenty or so. This is the third holiday medallion-like image I've made; I guess it's turning into a series. So...Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays to you, dear Readers and Friends!
But through it all, there have been a few drawings. I did this drawing of some quinces at my niece's house in New Hampshire, over Thanksgiving, then the dried-up pomegranate in pencil after I got home:
Yesterday I finally found a box of colored pencils I had misplaced since our move up here, and did a couple more drawings last night:
I like the illustrative quality of this Santa with the subdued background - he was originally a candy box, made of flocked paper, with a tree tucked in his arm and a head that bobs on a spring. He belonged to my maternal grandmother and always came out at Christmas in her home, and now in mine. But I think the persimmons, below, deserve a much bolder treatment than they've received here. However, it was a good opportunity to find out more about working with the pencils.
Often I do better without little pointy things in my hands, although speed of drawing helps a great deal to avoid fussiness. I like the vigor of the pomegranate above, and the spontaneity of this dashed-off, fountain pen sketch of a desktop in my studio, on a sheet of paper that already had a big scribble across it:
As the year draws to a close (uh, no pun intended) I do feel the urge to draw, both for its absorbing and meditative quality that I always find restorative, and because I see commitment to creativity as a radical and hopeful act. Not only does it affirm some of the best qualities of human beings, it speaks to a future with hope. I need to shore up my own defenses against the difficulties to come, but I also want to be doing positive creative things that say, "yes, this is who I am, always have been, and always will be, and nothing can take that away." I will be doing political activism too, sometimes combined with art or writing I'm sure (the first thing is to knit a pink pussy hat for a friend who's going to the Women's March on Washington the day after the inauguration) but I think it is vitally important that we don't allow our deepest selves to become de-railed by anger or fear.
Expressing emotion through art is one way forward, but I think it is more true to myself to continually point toward the tender beauty of the world and its people and the love I feel for them, hoping to encourage deeper thoughtfulness and embody positive emotions, rather than making dark and angry paintings or prints. I'm not talking about putting my head in the sand, or fiddling while Rome burns - not at all. What I'm trying to say is there is harmony, balance, and simplicity around us and within us, even at the worst time and in the worst places: the fact that these qualities exist is a continual encouragement, and we can always cultivate greater ability to find, nurture, and protect them. But I don't know exactly what direction my work, including publication projects, will take as events unfold, and it is part of what I know I'll be facing and exploring in 2017.