Tag Archives: drawing

Perennial Inspiration

I don’t remember exactly when it was I bought Sara Midda’s 1981 book In and Out of the Garden, but it must not have been too long after it came out. Years before I was able to have a garden of my own, that little book has graced my bookshelf in all our many homes, serving as an inspiration and a reminder of the universal beauty and solace to be found in the magic that results from adding seeds to soil.

Scissors Detail 1

Stitching in progress, detail      ©2017 Elizabeth Fram                                                                    The idea of including and concentrating on an area of tone-on-tone cropped up while working on the piece previous to this one.

The main draw for me is Midda’s tiny watercolor images, luminescent and charming. Paired with her hand-lettered text of quotes, historical facts, poetry, and recipes, I have always found a gentle delight in reading and rereading this book that underscores much of the way the world of horticulture captures the imaginations of those of us inclined to garden.

Scissors Detail 2

Detail      ©2017 Elizabeth Fram                                                                  The scissors remain more sketchily defined as a foil to the heavily stitched areas above and below them.

In 1990 she followed up with Sara Midda’s South of France – A Sketchbook, and in 2014 A Bowl of Olives: On Food and Memory was released. I was quick to buy copies of each as soon as I learned it was out, happy to become re-immersed in Midda’s eye for the details that honor the essence of the unsung elements that surround us, things we tend to take for granted but which give such a strong sense of place and moment. All three books are meditations of a sort, quiet picture books with “more”. To some degree I am sure appreciation for her observations have had some lasting sway on my own choice of subjects.

Scissors Detail 3

Detail      ©2017 Elizabeth Fram                                                                  In the end, I think it’s the “conversation” between the diversity of pattern, evident in both the stitching and the stitched-resist pattern, that pulls the piece together, making it whole.

Despite looking, I haven’t had much luck learning more about Sara Midda. There is relatively little information about her on the web other than a few promotional articles and blog posts marking the release of each book. Disappointingly, she doesn’t seem to have ever had a website. So I was thrilled to discover that Danny Gregory* conducted a 40 minute video interview with her on his Sketchbook Club blog last week. How lovely it is to hear her talk about her process and the history of these books. Outwardly quiet and gentle, just like her art, it was one of those rare occasions when all elements seemed to add up.

Scissors Unframed

Divide and Conquer, unframed     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram                  Stitched-resist dye and embroidery on silk

Have you had a similar experience with a book that has had a lasting impact on you? Please fill us in…

*I credit Danny Gregory’s book Everyday Matters and his original blog of the same name as being the instigation behind spurring me to commit to drawing regularly. I have no doubt his welcoming and encouraging approach, pointing out the huge benefits to be gleaned from drawing, regardless of ability or experience, has been one of the main driving forces behind awakening or reinvigorating the desire to draw for thousands of people. If you aren’t familiar with him, check out his site.

Seasonal Change as Incentive

After weeks of chill and rain and oogling other folks’ pictures on Instagram of gardens and trees that have long since come to life, the leaves are finally filling in and spots of color are beginning to bloom on our hill. I think it’s safe to say that, almost five full months into 2017, spring has finally taken root in Vermont.

The external changes of the seasons also tend to have an impact on me internally, so seasonal change-over invariably becomes a time for re-evaluating and rebooting work patterns. While posing the question of whether there are ways to improve isn’t a guarantee of definitive answers, I still think it’s healthy, and invariably productive, to at least take stock of studio habits at several points during the year. Juggling various goals and aspirations is an ongoing process requiring a certain level of flexibility, so there is much to be said for working to build habits that can improve efficiency, leaving time for change.


Stacked     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram                       Though not yet framed, this piece is complete.

If you haven’t already read Charles Duhigg’s 2012 book The Power of Habit – Why We Do What We Do in Life and Businessit’s worth picking up from your library. The case studies he covers, both corporate and individual, are fascinating in their own right, but of course the real value of the book is in understanding the possibilities for applying his findings to our own habits and the ways we might want to change or develop them. What I found most compelling is the importance of belief (that the habit can become fully established) and the necessity of community, even just one other person, in fostering both the essential element of belief and, ultimately, success.

When I decided to recommit myself to drawing at the beginning of 2015, the most helpful advice I received was to incorporate it into my routine as a habit, relying on a self-determined trigger to spur myself into action at a regular time every day. Starting slowly with very short sessions allowed for gradually expanding both the time and scope devoted to each sketch…to the point where now I miss drawing and even feel something of a sense of guilt on the days I can’t fit it in.

Stacked, detail

Stacked, detail      ©2017 Elizabeth Fram                                                   If you compare this to the last shot from last week’s post, you’ll see the predicted changes I couldn’t resist.

If you are trying to make regular time for a new element in your creative practice, check out Ingrid Sundberg’s video, a step-by-step outline about building an early morning writing habit. While Sundberg’s recommendations are geared toward writing, her method is very similar to what was recommended to me for committing to daily drawing, and can easily be adjusted to fit whatever habit you may want to develop. Both approaches coincide with the core of what Charles Duhigg suggests in The Power of Habit.

Is there something that you’ve been wanting to build into a new habit? If so, take advantage of the change in season and give it a shot.

Words to Draw By

One can travel this world and see nothing. To achieve understanding it is necessary not to see many things, but to look hard at what you do see.     ~ Georgio Morandi

In the Sink

In the Sink      ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

Drawing is rather like playing chess: your mind races ahead of the moves that you eventually make.     ~ David Hockney


Kitchen Tools     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

Drawing is not what one sees, but what one can make others see.     ~Edgar Degas

Wine Sugar Cookie Jar

Wine, Sugar Bowl, Cookie Jar      ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

I have learned that what I have not drawn, I have never really seen.     ~ Frederick Franck


Well, almost. I still have to stretch and frame this piece, but for all intents and purposes it is complete.

It Isn’t That Simple     ©2016 Elizabeth Fram

With the holidays fast approaching, there hasn’t been much time for writing and I’m scrambling to fit in everything that needs to be done. A quick drawing session at the end of the day is the best remedy I know for slowing down and relaxing into the moment.

Napping     ©2016 Elizabeth Fram                                                Soluble ink and waterbrush

I’m sure your schedule runneth over as well. However, in an effort to bring some cheer, I’d like to share Alexander Unger’s claymation short  that I found on Colossal. (Turn your volume up so you get the full effect). I hope that it will give you an enjoyable mini-break in the midst of all your festive preparations. If it makes you smile and forget your to-do list even briefly, I will have been successful.

It Isn’t That Simple     ©2016 Elizabeth Fram

Enjoy the special moments of the days ahead.

Back to the Drawing Board

Not much for you to read this busy week — instead I’m relying mostly on images to share my thoughts and progression.


I’ve continued to explore along the theme of positive and negative, but have stepped briefly away from painting on silk, reverting instead to pencil on Dura-Lar.



I felt like I needed to move back a bit, trusting that it would ultimately help to push me forward.


In doing so, the complexity of color is removed in favor of value alone.



I like the way the translucency of the Dura-Lar facilitates the idea of positive vs negative in terms of depth, but by using layers that are so obviously flat.


It’s another way to elicit the visual shift between image and surface that I find so fascinating.


Relaxed Presence

This week I came across a very enlightening short interview between James Fallows of The Atlantic and longtime tech executive, Linda Stone. I think you might enjoy it:  “The Art of Staying Focused in a Distracting World”.

Desk Cup

Desk Cup     ©2015 Elizabeth Fram

It resonated with me as I am forever trying to navigate my way through constant distractions. I fully own that I rely increasingly on technology to achieve my goals, but I’m not necessarily happy about it. Reading this piece drilled home yet another reason that I am so grateful to be able to spend a portion of each day thinking about and making art.

Lola Nap

Lola Nap     ©2015 Elizabeth Fram

Even though Stone doesn’t specifically refer to art-making in her theory, I think the process of creation falls within the same framework as the other skills she does mention. It too allows and encourages one to be fully engaged, while at the same time promoting a deep sense of relaxation.

April Woods

April Woods     ©2015 Elizabeth Fram

I made a promise to myself last January that I would try to draw every day. As the weeks have turned into months, I’ve come to realize that this daily practice, usually anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes, not only gives me a chance to work on and improve my capabilities, but quite unexpectedly has turned out to be what one might term something akin to a form of yoga.


Hands: blind contour drawing     ©2015 Elizabeth Fram

By approaching this exercise as a “practice”, there is no pressure to come out with a polished finished product. The reward is in merely showing up. While paying close attention to the physical details of whatever I’m drawing (in yoga terms, being “mindful”), an interesting by-product is that the process is incredibly restful and restorative. I’m reaping benefits on a number of levels.  For instance, I am making new discoveries in the reciprocity of mark-making between my drawings and my textile work. I am seeing improvement and gaining confidence in my draughtsmanship; unsuccessful attempts don’t discourage me because I know I’ll be back at it the next day. I get a true sense of accomplishment in knowing that I am following through on my New Year’s promise.  And finally, my time spent drawing is an oasis that has no bearing on how the rest of my day turned out — in the studio or otherwise… it just is.


Pepper     ©2015 Elizabeth Fram

That’s a pretty satisfactory return on a very modest investment. I encourage you to try it.