Art education, inspiration and encouragement for children and parents in Arlington, VA
My neighbor texted me when he spotted the round lime green balls on the road in late October. I followed his directions driving in my car with my paper bags next to me.
There is something about the scent of fresh walnuts that take me to a special place. I associate these nuts with my father, who said "black walnuts are a delicacy". He'd spend a lot of time peeling the green husks, cracking the outer nut shell to get to the delectable meat inside.
I have tried making walnut ink many ways: with just green husks, with just black husks, boiling for an hour, for twelve hours, making a reduction. My findings are the same no matter how I do it I get the very same brown ink. There is only one way to make it darker and richer in my experience: add the ink to a cast iron pan and turn the heat up for 12-30 minutes. It makes a very dark brown/black ink. Play with timing to get different coloring.
Put your gloves on because all parts of this process will stain your hands for days.
The husks come off easily when a rock is used to press them open. These husks are green and not rotten inside yet. The black rot is okay to boil and use as ink. Black walnuts may have a walnut maggot inside to help it with the decay process. Gross but natural.
Cover the walnuts with water, bring to boil and then simmer. The husks will all turn black.
Painters filters can be found in stores that sell paint for interior/exterior use. I like to use these filters because the holes are more porous. Coffee filters often take away so much of the ingredient that the color suffers.
Walnut Ink samples go here.
Interesting Walnut facts:
Juglone is a toxic chemical contained in Black walnuts that make it a bad companion to be near other plants or near a garden. Do research before considering planting a tree, or a garden near a walnut tree.
Black Walnut is known as one of the finest native North American lumber species.
The nuts can be dried and stored up to a year and my father was right, the nut meat is not like the more common English Walnut. Try it and see how you like it.
I love to hike, meditate, be in nature and make art to feel good. In this post I'll share how art helps our brains. Lately, I'm feeling loss and grief so making art has been really rewarding and important.
The reason art promotes well being is because it helps the brain to be strong, flexible, and produce feel-good chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. Art is known to increase intuition. It also has the effect of heightening awareness.
Art is completely and totally interesting and exciting and so it peaks curiosity and exploration. We all need something we want and can do when we feel bored, sad or powerless.
Art involves using imagination and can be done with simple tools. It's right here at our fingertips, paper and pencil or finger and dirt are all that's needed.
When I taught children I'd ask the class to get so quiet that we could hear the drawings being made. Their little pencils moving on the surface of the paper is an amazing sound. It is the sound of creativity inside their heads flowing out onto the paper.
Whether it's looking at an apple for an hour, or just exploring line, drawing builds mental acuity.
When we feel stuck in life, our thinking can get stuck too. Drawing can help by letting ideas flow out into the sketchbook. Filled with ideas our art is an act of courage because it means taking a risk and making something from nothing. It is our own creating, literally marking time with our imprint.
There are many good, real and researched reasons why art makes us feel good. The fact is that everyone is a creative person and so being engaged creatively is a natural thing. Getting creative again is a matter of choice.
I hope you find this energizing enough to give art a try, go to a gallery or museum and allow yourself to do nothing at all but enjoy the experience.
The crickets are singing outside the open windows as I speak to you this day of the beauty of life within. There are many things we can do, and lists we can make to accomplish this and that, but at the end of the day when we lay our head on the pillow, we only want peace.
Art is like prayer when in the zone, there is peace in the doing because I'm not really "doing" anything, just "being" creative. To find inspiration and encouragement for making art it's necessary to let go of all that I've been thinking and doing, so I can just be. I take one day a week to have a day of rest and I make myself rest. It's work to rest-I have found-because I am so used to doing.
I read a lot, take naps. I fast. I go outside. I pet the cats. Nothing much happens on the outside, but on the inside I become more aware of my always talking mind. And after some time, I just feel like I do right now. The questions, examination and process just get quiet and I enjoy the sound of the refrigerator hum, the crickets, the typing of the key.
After a day like this, all the things I would have done are still there to do, but now I've been thoughtful with those things as they have crossed my mind during my day of rest. I have a different way of seeing those things, I might tackle a project differently, let it go completely. My mind is in newness and so is the world and how I approach it. It's a golden place to start.
Take a day of rest whenever possible. Don't wait until you are so tired you have to take a vacation. You will end up getting more work done by not working. When you go back to work, you will have a new and fresh approach and the work might change in direction. Being creative takes energy, rest is part of the process. Renewing and regenerating within, makes it possible to hear and feel the buzz and hum of flowing in gratitude.
Be thankful for all that is around, under and especially inside. This is the place to begin again.
Animals are naturally good at being in the state of grace.
A stranger will be living alone in my house, sleeping in my bed and cooking meals in my kitchen. This is what happens when a house sitter found on line enters into an agreement based on the ad I placed.
II'm just beginning my explorations into ink and dye making and I'm so excited! What I love about making ink from natural ingredients is that I can find what I need in my yard, the refrigerator, the sidewalk. I'll share two of my favorite resources and a short video here.
I listened with all my body to a NPR broadcast: Elizabeth Layton, a seventy year old,depressed housewife took a drawing class and it changed her life. Layton felt her sadness lift as she used colored pencils to illustrate herself, husband and her everyday life. I remember thinking "There is hope for me."
Susan Ball Faedar has been teaching people about the Japanese culture through textiles. Having just finished her last tour there, she is now free to work on her own art. On my way through Lewisburg I stop to have lunch with my friend. Our time together consists of conversations about the time we have left to get out all the creativity we want to express.
It takes courage to admit to yourself what you really think and feel about what you are capable of. At least that is true for me. When I think about making art, I never just jump up and say oh yeah, let's make a masterpiece right now. I hope that's what will happen, but then there are so many doubts.