May Day — the first of May — is an old-fashioned holiday of sorts, a time for merry-making and dancing around the Maypole. Which would be fun, except that I don’t know anyone who has a Maypole.
When I was a little girl, Mayday was also the time for May-baskets, which were often referred to as posies, since they were filled with flowers and hung on doorknobs. Original traditions included hopeful lovers hanging them on the door of their beloved — and sometimes finding other May baskets already hanging there. For my generation, the idea of making and delivering May baskets was mostly to bring joy to people who might otherwise be forgotten. We made our baskets, plucked flowers, and left them on the doorstep of people like Hazel Elmore, the old woman who lived alone in a big, big house, or Mrs. Fraas, the widow who had no family.
Before I wander any farther along this nostalgic pathway, let me stop short and get to the point of this post. Today is May Day. I’m not dancing around any Maypoles. I’m not sharing May baskets with anyone — although maybe I should.
What I am doing is celebrating nature and all her glory. I’m loving our beautiful weather and the opportunity to get out and hike along the trails again. It’s great to get outside, draw and paint in my new hand-made “nature journal”, and take photographs of things I see on my walks.
And now, I’ve added a new dimension to the idea of “nature art”. It’s called bringing the outside in, and it’s definitely interesting.
This morning I gathered up quite a few goodies: a wildflower, a “gumball” — one of those stickers from a sweet gum tree — an old walnut shell, a broken pecan shell, a rock, and a selection of twigs ranging from very thin to very thick. These were my art tools for the morning, all used with Dr. Phil Martin’s Black Star Waterproof India Ink.
It was interesting.
Although I’ve threatened for a long time to do something like this, today was my first real attempt. Oh, there was the time last year when Madox and I made paint from dirt and used sticks to paint, but this was a bit more involved.
The project was suggested by UK artist Helen Wells, so I followed along with her suggestions. I first made several small squares of watercolor paper, and then I practiced simple mark-making with different “tools”. I didn’t use them all. I tried three of the twigs, the rock, and the pecan. Of them, I enjoyed the pecan most. It had deep holes in it which made perfect reservoirs for ink. I “filled” it, then poured the ink onto the page and moved it around. I then added a bit of color with an earthy-red hue from my gansai set.
Here are a few of my other creations. These are messy, but they were fun to do.
Another valuable lesson I’ve learned lately is that messy art is good. It can be fun. It holds its own sort of excitement and unexpectedness. It’s important that we explore creative possibilities, and this sort of “nature art” definitely does that!
What I’m learning most of all is that art — or any other creative act — isn’t about results. It’s much more about process, about doing, about playing with possibilities. These are creative traits that actually go far beyond the boundaries of art. What we learn by playing can help us in other areas. We become more adept at problem solving, more versatile in our approach, more willing to take necessary risks.
Happy May Day to each and every one of you! Maybe life bring you beautiful flowers, lots of sticks, twigs, nuts, and berries, and may you make many glorious messes.