I woke in the night not sure if sunrise would find us at war. My heart was breaking, knowing that my friend's newborn may not have milk because the bombing has scared the milk out of the mother. I worried my grand children will not have a green world to live in.
My creative juices felt dried up by these worries. With such horror happening all around, what place has my creativity? I slipped on my robe and tiptoed downstairs for prayer and journaling. This is what came to me:
When Monet was asked what he would do for the war effort in WW1, he answered, "I will paint." And he painted the serenity of his pond, the beauty of his garden.
The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy were Tolkein's way of transmuting the horrors of war.
When my friend Jamila is worried about her family in Syria, she makes beauty with what she has; she crochets over rocks.
Is there some way my stories, illustrations, and paintings can bring people calm, courage, and wisdom? Can my creations help people to live through these times and to hold onto that which is true, that which is good, that which is beautiful? Can stories and images of everyday love, like those of Puuung, help to restore our sanity?
Perhaps when the world is falling apart around us, it is more important than ever to tell stories and to make beauty, to honor everyday love, to give people's minds a place to go to nourish their souls.
Sunflowers sketch in watercolor
by Suzanna Leigh
Painting certainly nourishes MY soul!
It was a blue sky July day in the Canadian Gulf Islands. My beloved and I had just sailed up to Pirate's Cove from Montegue Harbor On Galiano Island, with a perfect wind. We set anchor and went ashore, to walk in a magical madrona forest on De Courcey Island. Madrona drop some of their leaves in July, and the path was carpeted with their golden leaves. The ravens were singing.
We walked in Beauty, embraced in Love, knowing we were just where we were meant to be, doing what we were meant to be doing.
Although my beloved died before the year was out, that day lives forever in my heart. I still feel embraced in love. I still walk in beauty. This painting on silk reminds me.
Painting on silk is quite a process. I use several techniques, including "serti", which I'm told means "fence" in French. The design is first outlined with lines of resist, then painted with dyes. The dye flows up to the resist line--but if there's a break in the "fence" of resist, it escapes into other parts of the design. Where ever the colors have soft edges, there was no resist line.
This painting was done in several layers; first the large areas of color were applied, separated with the resist you can see as white lines. Then the piece was steamed for three hours to set the dyes. By then painting over the entire piece with Presist, I was able to add details with hard edges. Then the piece was steamed again. I don't remember how many times I added details and steamed again; three or four times I think.
Whenever I look at this image, I feel drawn forward into a life of Love, Beauty, and Purpose. I hope you will feel it too. That is why I am offering prints. All prints are protected with uv resistant coating.
11" x 14" mounted on black wood frame (additional frame not needed) .......................$65 plus shipping
11" x 14" matted for 16" x 20" standard frame (frame not included).......................... $35 plus shipping
5" x 7" mounted on black wood frame (additional frame not needed)........$25 plus shipping
5" X 7" matted for 8 x 10" frame (frame not included) .................................$15 plus shipping
I am fascinated by trees. Every time I walk in the woods I come back with dozens of photos, many of which inspire paintings. Lately, it's the roots that fascinate me. Why? Maybe it's because I was unrooted for so much of my life, moving from place to place. Even when I knew Vashon Island was my home, I moved from house to house for several years, until I built my house near the water.
I always wonder who is making a home under those roots. Rabbits? Mice? Racoons? Elves? Tiny mythical creatures?
I'm framing trees for my show at Anu Rana's Healthy Kitchen on Vashon Island, WA. I'm so tired of lugging around heavy watercolor paintings framed the traditional way, with mats, under glass, with metal or wood frames, that I'm trying something new.
I used to buy the frames in pieces, cut my own mats, and buy the glass already cut, then assemble them. Often there would be a hair or piece of dirt under the glass, and I would have to take everything apart, clean, and re-assemble. Then the glass would break in transit or in storage, and I would have to do it all over again. Not to mention the expense, and the glare off the glass when the paintings were hung.
This time I bought wood framing boxes, painted them, and mounted the paintings on the wood surface. It's just as time consuming--more so, since one has to wait for each coat to dry, but I do like the effect.
There are posts and youtube videos to show you how to do this. One suggested a wax medium for the final sealing coat, but this stayed sticky. This time I'm trying Miniwax Polycrylic. So far I like it better.
I confess, I am in love with trees, especially in summer. And the woods! The way the sunlight splashes through the leaves is magical! I've been posting photos and sketches of trees on Instagram daily, reviewing my photos for inspiration and taking new ones, and walking in the sunlit woods with my camera and sketchbook in hand.
I've been exploring using new colors trying to capture the magic of the woods.
The trees seem to have personalities! Mythical creatures abound!
Suddenly, today it all seems pointless. My usual bubbly self has disappeared and I don't want to pick up a brush. I'm grieving. I have been celebrating trees while the most magnificent rain forest on earth is burning.
Is that irony? Or have I been in denial for the past few days?
Or perhaps I'm more in touch with the pulse of the world than I give myself credit for, and my celebration of trees is an important thing to do right now.
With each photo and each sketch, I am saying to the world--and to myself--
Trees are important.
Trees are beautiful.
Trees are to be cherished!"
We see not only with our eyes but with all that we are and all that our culture is.
I did a little painting and asked people what they saw in it. Many saw what I thought I painted--a joyful, playful image of children dancing with trees--but many did not! As I work to illustrate for children, this is very valuable information. Here are some of what people saw:
*"Why is the forest on fire?" The color is "hot, sun-like."
*"Joyful and playful."
*"A weird color."
*"The pink and yellow sky add to the bright energy."
*"Look ghostly", "like monsters."
*"Invite us to join in their warm, deep, soft, free and joyful world..."
*"Need to have more bark color and texture."
*"The tree on the right is scary."
*"Are trying hard but stressed."
*"Faces give more dimension to the children,"
Some people saw hope and joy, others saw sadness and the tragedy of climate change and our disconnect with nature.
So, I definitely need to work on this some more. First I did some experimenting with colors. I did 6 drafts, painted copies on plain copy paper.
I still need to work on the trees and give the child on the left a face, so back to the drawing board!
Your suggestions and comments are always appreciated.
I just posted my first YouTube video! A friend (Scott Gaul) helped me take the video and edit it. Very exciting!
I haven't quite figured out how to load it here. I followed the directions, and nothing happened, so here's the url:
The video is me, reading my first Children's Picture Book, Atom's Monster.
What do you do when you wake up with a monster in your room? When my 4 year old son woke up screaming, "there's a monster in my room!" I told him this story and later made it into a book. He and his little brother modeled for the illustrations! Now the son is a father and has shared the story with his 4 year old son.
When I made the story into a book, I was interested--still am--in ways to overcome fear without violence. We are taught that there are three ways we react to fear: fight, flight, or freeze. I believe there is another way, the hardest way of all: Stand and meet the thing that terrifies you with love, or at least without hatred.
I'm still learning this technique.
I'm working on a new story, The Seagull's Gift, inspired by our many field trips to the beach when I had Suzanna's School. I'm playing with different ways to depict my main character for picture book, Aria. She loves sounds, colors, and feels. She's a bit bossy. Here's my first attempt:
I think, though, that Aria is a bit sassy:
Too sassy? How about this?
What do you think?
Here are some more thoughts on illustrations for the book:
Here are the twins. They may or may not be in this story, but I'm sure we'll see them in a story soon!
It was a typical hot dusty day in the town of Oatman, in about 1978, when I bought these quilt tops from a swap meeter beside the road, Old Route 66. I paid only $25, but to me, they seemed truly precious.
Those hand sewn quilts I got from a swap meeter in Oatman almost 40 years ago--why did I hang on to them for so long?
I've been writing and drawing, trying to get to the bones of their meaning for me, remembering that hot dusty spring day--I think it was spring--when my neighbor was clearing out his grief when his wife died by selling the pieces of her life.
I tried painting the quilts before I sent them home.
That didn't come out well.
I tried drawing them as they might have looked in the old steamer trunk where I found them.
.Still no good.
When I touched them, there was something about the maker in every stitch, something that spoke to me over the years. Something that gave me hope that my chaotic life with young children and a stoner prospector life mate could someday have some order.
I tried to draw that. Twice.
I'm still not satisfied, but I think--I THINK--I like the bottom one best. What do you think? Any suggestions? I'm a big girl; you can tear these apart with ideas about what would make the images work better.
For 400 years the Alati family textile and clothing store served customers in the world famous La Medina Souq (Market) in Aleppo. Then the bombing started. Iad and his pregnant wife Safa fled with their baby to Turkey as their store was reduced to rubble.
In Turkey, Iad (pronounced Ee-ad) did whatever work he could find while Safa learned to speak enough Turkish to translate for refugees needing medical help. Eventually, Iad was able to open a clothing and textile store in Istanbul, with a long time friend. Still, at that time their refugee status prevented them getting passports for the children, or even green cards in Turkey. The UN helped them to get the paperwork they needed to come to the U.S. They arrived in Chicago the day before the president closed U.S. boarders to all Syrians
They arrived speaking not a word of English. Once again, they had to start over. “We did it in Turkey,” Iad said. “We can do it again.”
Today, with Safa’s eye for fashion and Iad’s contacts in Turkey, along with experience in the restaurant business Iad has picked up along the way, Safa and Iad are in business again. Safa sells Women’s fashions from Turkey. Iad makes Baklava from his family’s traditional recipe and cooks dinners for up to 100 people. Their vision is to have a clothing store and restaurant together, the Alati Souq reborn in America!
Last Saturday, I hosted the Alati Souq for a trunk show in my home.
We served Turkish tea in little Turkish Tea glasses, sampled Iad's Baklava, Yalangi (grape leaves stuffed with vegetables), and Fatayir (pastry stuffed with cheese), and tried on Safa's scarves and sweaters imported from Turkey.
Iad brought their two little girls, Juju (6) and Huda (7). The loving natures of both the children and their parents enveloped us all. When it was over, Juju gave me many hugs while we put things away, and Huda wrote me love notes with first grade spellings.
When I walked into the living room 2 days later, I could still feel the love and excitement of the event, like the fragrance of jasmine perfuming my home.
How can I explain the way this family has become a part of my family, and the joy it brings me?
Two of my favorite people are Safa Jneidi an Iad Alati, a Syrian couple with two delightful little girls. This is their story:
For 400 years the Alati family textile and clothing store served customers in the world famous La Medina Souq in Aleppo. Then the bombing started. Iad Alati and his pregnant wife Safa Jnedi fled with their baby to Turkey as their store was reduced to rubble.
In Turkey, Iad did whatever work he could find while Safa learned to speak enough Turkish to translate for refugees needing medical help. Eventually, Iad was able to open a clothing and textile store in Istanbul, with a long time friend. Still, at that time their refugee status prevented them getting passports for the children, or even green cards in Turkey. The UN helped them to get the paperwork they needed to come to the U.S. They arrived in Chicago the day before the president closed U.S. boarders to all Syrians.
They arrived speaking not a word of English. Once again, they had to start over. “We did it in Turkey,” Iad said. “We can do it again.”
Today, Iad and Safa can be seen with their food cart--Iad's Syrian Grill-- serving delicious Syrian gyros, yalangi food wrapped in grape leaves), and grilled meats on the streets of Vashon, WA. Their dream of having their own food truck is becoming a reality, the next step on the way to having their own restaurant.
Here are two bouquets for Iad and Safa, to celebrate Iad's Syrian Grill in America!
Inspired by the places where land meets water, and by stories.