Thursday, December 31, 2020

Daily art -- it's that time again

Friends, I do a lot for you and ask so little... but every year or so, often at the end of December, I make you read the lecture on daily art.  (Like this one, or this one, or this one.....)  I give this lecture so often because I feel so strongly that daily art -- committing to some action every day according to the rules set at the start -- can make you a better artist and a happier person.

2016 -- daily drawing

I've found that people respond to the lecture in two ways.  One bunch says "OMG, that sounds awful, I could never stick with it, I would get bored doing the same thing every day, I don't know if I could commit to every day, it doesn't sound like fun, it would take too much time, that's just not me."  The other bunch says "what a great idea, I'm going to do it!"  And as time passes, many from the second bunch report back that indeed, they have greatly enjoyed and benefited from their projects.

2018 -- daily map

Just yesterday I had a phone call from an acquaintance whom I had last seen two years ago, a lovely lunch during which we talked about daily art (she does it too) and I got the inspiration to do my daily miniatures.  She wanted to know what I'm going to do for daily art in 2021 and to get my take on her ideas for next year.  I'm going to do calligraphy again next year, but right now I want to talk about you, dear friends, and share some of the things we talked about in that phone call.

2012 -- daily hand stitching

New Year's Day is a great time to start a daily art project, but so is January 4 or January 15 or any other day.  So don't get started until you have given some thought to your rules: the most important part of the endeavor.  If you set rules that are going to be impossible to follow, you will fail.  So don't commit to a daily sketch of the majestic oak tree a mile away if your street sometimes gets iced over and impassable.  Don't commit to a machine-stitched landscape every day if you're planning a vacation to a tropical island.  (As things turned out, I'm kind of sorry I didn't commit to a daily sewing machine project for 2020, since it's been the only year of my adult life where I spent every day in my own house!)  

2010 -- daily photo

If you're worried about the project taking too much time, have a 15-minute-only rule.  If you are afraid of drawing, start with the smallest sketchbook in the store.  You could even have a rule that doesn't require any traditional art-making -- for instance, you could find something tiny and interesting on your daily walk, and take a photo of it, or label it with the date and put it in a box.  You could even commit to throwing something out every day (this time it's me saying OMG, that sounds awful).

2013 -- daily collage

Most important, if you don't think you can stick with a project for a whole year, commit to a month and see what happens.  Take a cue from the growing popularity of alcohol-free January resolutions or one-month introductory memberships to the fitness club.  And if the first month gives you problems, you might want to revise the rules for the second month and give it another try. 

2020 -- daily calligraphy

While daily art is fun, that has not been my primary purpose in doing it for 20 years.  I do daily art because the structure and discipline of such a project helps me make better art in my other work.  And it is immensely satisfying to see the progress that I make from day to day as I explore new twists on what I did last week, try out new tools, riff on familiar themes and discover unexpected things surfacing from my unconscious.  

2019 -- daily miniature

You might get a lot out of such a project too.  If you try it, let me know how it works out, one way or another!

And happy new year, with fervent hopes that it will be much better than this year, for each of us and for the world. 

Monday, December 28, 2020


Bethany G left a comment on my last blog post: "I would LOVE to have you share your Cranberry Orange recipe -- my mother-in-law made it every year for the family and I would dearly love the recipe.  She passed before I asked."

Bethany, I am thrilled to share my recipe, and embarrassed for you to see that there's really no recipe involved.  The secret ingredient, so to speak, is the meat grinder in which it's prepared.  

All you do is take some cranberries, and some oranges, and run them through the grinder on the large aperture.  You mix it all together and add some sugar.  You let it sit in the fridge for a couple of days if  you've had the foresight to make it in advance, or just eat it if you haven't.  That's it!

Always use navel oranges, because they have no seeds. Sometimes I get fancy, carefully peeling off the zest, then taking off and throwing away all the white spongy pith.  The zest and the meat of the orange  go into the grinder.  Sometimes, though, in a hurry, I have just thrown the chunks of orange into the grinder as is.  I suppose the pith makes it a little more bitter, and a little lighter in color, but I have never had anybody spit it out or fail to take seconds.

I can sense the frustration out there.  What proportion of cranberries to oranges, you're saying?  Well, it largely depends on what you have on hand.  If you have bought two 12-ounce bags of cranberries, you might use six oranges.  This year I was delighted to find that they are selling 2-pound bags of cranberries, so I bought two bags and a five-pound bag of oranges and made a huge batch.

My usual modus operandi is to grind up all the berries, then start adding oranges.  Every now and then, stir up the stuff in the bowl and see what color it is.  If it's too dark, add another orange.  The color in the bowl in the photo above looks pretty good (although ideally there would be more visible chunks of orange peel, as in the photo of the relish in jars).  But if it were a little darker, or if it were a little lighter, that would be pretty good too.  

Some years I have thrown in a bit of ginger root.  The grinder would let it go through in bigger chunks than you want, so it needs to be chopped very fine on the cutting board and added to the bowl at the end.

So how much sugar, you ask?  There too, I can't exactly tell you.  Cranberries are very tart, so you need a fair amount.  But some people like more and some like less.  As the sugar infuses into the relish, the taste changes, so I always start with less than I think I might need, and stir well, and then taste again after a few hours in the fridge.  Sometimes I'll add a bit more sugar every day till it's time to eat.  With two pounds of cranberries I would probably start with a half cup of sugar, maybe less.

But what if I don't have a meat grinder, you're fretting?  Then, lady, I don't know what to tell you!

When my sister and I left home to establish our own kitchens, we each grappled with the existential dilemma of how to make cranberry-orange relish without Mom's meat grinder.  We tried various methods, such as zapping in a food processor or chopping with a knife, and while they all tasted fine, the texture wasn't perfect.  Fortunately I inherited the meat grinder when our parents downsized, so for many years I've been making existentially perfect relish and my poor sister has been SOL.  

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Christmas Eve

Even with pandemic canceling our usual big family Christmas dinner, it's a festive afternoon here.  Three pies just out of the oven, making the house smell of spice.  Two jars of cranberry-orange relish, ready to be delivered tomorrow for the socially-distanced-crowdsourced dinner.  (And what a nice coincidence that just when you need two travel containers, here are two empty glass jars ready to be washed out and reused.)

There was a sad moment this morning when we realized that the annual pumpkin has reached the end of the road.  

Not sure if it split open from freezing or because a critter nibbled on it, but it is definitely ready to depart.  I lobbied for it to stay out on the deck through tomorrow, since it will likely stay below freezing the whole time, but I was overruled.  Ken has not-so-fond memories of having to deal with pumpkins beyond their sell-by date that disintegrated into piles of mush, and was determined not to do it again this year.

So good-bye pumpkin, you've been a good friend since September, visible from my seat at the table, glowing in the sunshine in early morning and again when the sun wheels around in late afternoon, giving me joy every time I see it.  Rest in peace.

I've been getting photos of the 2020 ornaments on display in various homes.  Pinned to a quilt, hanging on a doorknob, embraced by a ceramic pig, even one hung on a tree!  

When I retired twenty years ago I brought home a bunch of old office supplies that I had carefully rescued from wastebins and the back shelves of storerooms.  Obsolete stationery, pens left over from long-ago promotional mailings, that sort of thing -- and a big shoebox of old slides.  I knew they would come in handy some day, and this year I used the slide mounts to frame my calligraphed names.  This proves that you should never throw anything out, because there will come a time....

Here's wishing you all a very merry Christmas, or whatever holiday you are celebrating this week.  See you all in the new year -- which WILL BE BETTER!  

Thursday, December 17, 2020

The angels get a new home, and landscaping

One nice thing about holiday traditions is that they can change over the years, with new elements added by chance or by plan.  Two years ago, when Vivian was pretty small, she was learning the names of birds and animals, and for some reason "owl" was early on the list.  One of my friends had given me a little owl made out of kimono silk, and sure enough, Vivian knew that it was an owl, and she wanted to carry it around.  

After we put the Christmas decorations out that year, she was carrying the owl around one day and decided to put it with our three little gnomes, Herman, Sherman and Vermin, who always stand on the window sill.  And it fit so perfectly in the group, thanks to the googly eyes, that now the owl is packed away with the gnomes and comes out with them at Christmas, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that this year Vivian remembered exactly where they go.

When I was about ten years old my godmother gave me a set of little wooden angels, probably made in Germany, who made up an orchestra.  I've been setting them out at Christmas ever since.  As my own children, and now my grandchildren got to the right age they would be in charge of arranging the orchestra.  

Some years the angels have been arrayed on the piano, some years on top of the radio, once or twice on the bar, or this year, on the chest of drawers in the living room.

This is the first year Vivian has been old enough to set out the angels, and I explained that they all have to face the conductor.  She did it that way, and then she noticed the little stitched house that has been sitting on the piano for several months since I finished it.  She thought the angels ought to have it so they could go inside after the music was over.  And she was right -- it's the perfect size (if you put bunk beds inside).

Then a few days later my husband found this little snow-covered tree-on-a-spool hidden on a shelf in the kitchen, where it has sat for years since somebody gave it to me (I wish I could remember who that was...).  He wondered what it was and I said -- it's a tree!  And I put it with the angels too, right by their new house.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

My readers help with calligraphy

Many times when I write about my frustrations with calligraphy (this year's daily art), readers make suggestions.  I've resolved to try out those suggestions before the year ends -- and yes, I've pretty much decided to stick with calligraphy again next year, because I certainly haven't done all I can do with the task.

Vancouver Barbara said "for a real thrill in randomness try very skinny pieces of cedar bark that have the ends smashed.  The "pen" takes over and you get some incredibly beautiful marks."

Not having any cedar bark at hand, I tried this with a strip of paper and decided it was a disaster.

I'll keep trying to find some cedar.

Karen Amelia Brown suggested that I try using a ruling pen, a gizmo with two arms whose distance apart is adjusted with a screw.  (Supposedly the ink stays in between and the outside of the arm stays clean enough to move smoothly against your ruler.)   I vaguely remember my father using a pen like this but I don't think it's in the stash of art stuff that I inherited.  So this experiment will have to wait till I venture out to the art supply store -- probably not in the immediate future.

Mags Ramsay said "using non-dominant hand can bring a fresh approach."  I've known that for a long time but it took her comment to nudge me into actually trying.  I used a fountain pen instead of a dip pen for these experiments because it gave me one less thing to worry about.  I was amazed at how difficult it was to make my left hand do anything I told it to!!  

The black writing in the first sample is nonsense letters; the green writing in the second is actual words in German, but written right-to-left.  The red is English, right-to-left.  For green and red I turned the sketchbook sideways so I didn't have to hold my writing hand on top of the spiral binding (new appreciation for the systemic difficulties that lefties face).  

All seem equally illegible.  I was pleased with the overall appearance -- the writing maintained its character throughout the page, and was reasonably good-looking as a pattern.  But I'm not sure whether I want to continue exploring this approach, since I have so little control over what happens. 

Thank you, readers -- suggestions are always warmly appreciated!  You can check out all my daily calligraphy on my Daily Art Blog.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Ornament time

As I have done for at least 40 years, I'm making ornaments this year.  In the beginning of this project, my work time was focused on coming up with a new idea each year, and in a good year, adding one or two people to the list -- new in-laws, new babies, new friends.  Lately it's a good year when I don't have to take someone off the list, and in this year of pandemic, it's especially heartening that I haven't lost anyone.

My daily art for the last two years has been calligraphy, so it's probably no surprise that I'm writing the names for the ornaments.  I usually just do initials, plus the year, but on the infrequent occasions when I've spelled out full names, I've never done so with a writing implement!  So, a first this year (hard to accomplish when the series has been going on for so long).

I visited my friend Marti last week and was delighted to find that she has hung all the ornaments I've given her over the years in a place of honor, pinned to a beautiful pale green quilt that she made.  This will be year #22 that she's been on the list, a long time and so many shared memories.

I left it too late this year, should have started my ornaments in October as it became apparent how unreliable postal service has become of late.  I got the two international envelopes in the mail a couple of weeks ago, but the US batch won't go till tomorrow morning.  Fingers are crossed for all of them to arrive on time.  Or if they can't get there for Christmas, at least before New Year so the "2020" won't be a lie. 

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Thankful for another Designer DIY!

Our friends at the New York Times haven't given us a Designer DIY for a while, but how nice to save it for Thanksgiving!  And the fancy designer trick this time is -- wait for it -- mending!!  And not just mending, but mending with sashiko stitching.  Never mind that in June they got another famous designer to give us incomprehensible "advice" on how to mend jeans, now they're trying again, except this time we get a jacket for the pictures.  And never mind that in July, in a different section of the paper, they got a guy to teach us how to mend jeans with sashiko. 

I guess there's only so many good ideas that famous designers are able to come up with.

This week's advice comes from Sir Paul Smith, "known for his sharp suits and signature rainbow stripes," and who I suspect hasn't spent a lot of time actually mending anything.  But he did share with us that "In this day and age of excess and more, more, more, I am often reminded of my dear mom who always used to darn socks or elbow tears."  Seems that when Sir Paul would go to Japan in the 1980s he discovered quaintly mended old work garments, and brought samples home, and now wants to help us mend our duds with the same techniques.   

Illustrations from New York Times Style section

"Lay the garment flat on your working space," cut a patch "of material of your choice" with an inch and a half margin larger than the tear, and "pin the patch into place."  No guidance on how to lay the garment flat if the tear is on the elbow, as suggested by a later illustration, or whether the patch goes on top of the tear or underneath.  Not sure what the hands are doing in the corner of the illustration.

Anyway, you "start to stitch along the first seam of your patch."  Where's that?  More troubling, "make sure that the knot is on the inside of the patch for the first stitch and that it goes through both the garment and transplant patch."  Say again?  Surely they don't mean the knot goes through both the garment and the patch? Surely they mean the needle.  But wait -- if the knot is in between the two layers, how can the needle go through both layers?

Not to worry, the illustration shows you what to do.  Or does it?  Is that a knot in the middle of the patch?  Are we seeing the needle making three grabs and emerging under the left thumb?  What are the left fingers doing?  Looks like they're just underneath the patch and the stitching is going just through the patch.  Where's the jacket?  How do you hold onto the whole jacket while you're stitching the patch?  

Not to worry, the next illustration will clear things up.  Or does it?

Back to the stitching.  "The sashiko stitch can be a simple running stitch and can run horizontal or vertically."  (If you don't know what a running stitch is, maybe you can look it up online.) 

"Leave a slight gap (say, a quarter inch) between the stitches to create a warp and a weft."  Huh??  You might think a guy who has spent 50 years in the rag trade would know that warp and weft live in an entirely different ballpark from hand stitching.  

Skip a half inch and put another row of stitching, repeat till the patch is totally sewed on.  You can use a ruler if you want nice straight lines.  There are lots of sashiko patterns, we're told, and you can find them online. 

Now the beautiful watercolor of the finished project:

Hmmm.  How do you suppose they got the patch on the sleeve?  Especially since the first step is to lay the garment flat on the table?  Instead of those gauzy drawings of hands doing something to something in space, maybe it would help if the drawings showed how to do the tricky parts.  I wonder how many readers will stitch their elbow patch through both layers of the sleeve?

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Plague diary -- thankful in so many ways

Things are getting worse with coronavirus these days, our daily tally of new cases on a steep upward curve, hospitals again filling up and businesses being shut down.  Now the public health people are worried about family gatherings, fearing that Thanksgiving will become a bonanza of superspreader events.  I'm worried, of course, and my sons have organizing a fancy Thanksgiving dinner that will be prepared in our three kitchens, split into portions and delivered to the other houses.  (I'm doing mashed potatoes and cranberry-orange relish.)  

And yet, in so many ways, pandemic life has been good.  No, I can't see the grandchildren as much as I would like, although we sometimes get together for walks.  And no, we can't eat out as much as we would like.  The occasional carry-out is good, but it's usually easier just to cook at home.  

why is one person dressed for winter, one for fall and one for summer?? it's a weird family

But there's a good side.  As others have also noticed, we haven't had a cold all year, because who would we have caught one from?  We've both needed emergency medical intervention, one including an ER trip and overnight hospitalization, the other with four visits worth of dental work, and didn't pick up a single germ.  And lockdown has provided lots of time that I'm trying to make good use of.  I've read many, many books.  I've been making lots of art, and even some progress on cleaning the studio. 

As we contemplate the dire winter ahead and wonder how long it will be before we can receive a vaccine, when the economy will ever recover, whether a whole generation of children will be blighted by their interrupted education, my husband and I have nevertheless thought hard and often about how fortunate we are.  

Fortunate to be retired, so that we don't have to worry about getting sick at work or chained to a zoom screen all day or having our employer go out of business.  Fortunate to have our sons close by, even if we have to be careful about seeing them.  Fortunate that we have plenty of room to be housebound without claustrophobia, and each have our own TV, out of earshot of the other one, and that we each have things that interest us and tasks that we love to do.  Fortunate to have each other, so there's always someone to talk to about matters big and small and to help you up when you fall, literally or figuratively.  And so very fortunate to anticipate a grownup in the White House very soon.

I wish a thankful Thanksgiving to you all, and hope that we'll all be together as internet pals for a long time.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Plague diary -- security theater

I don't know what it's like in your neighborhood, but here the coronavirus is getting closer and scarier every day.  Our governor has put in new lockdown orders, a couple of friends and relatives are awaiting the results of covid tests, and this morning a contact tracer from our local health department called to say a visitor to PYRO Gallery on Saturday just tested positive.

The person taking the gallery shift this afternoon said she would make a point of wiping down all the doorknobs, light switches, furniture and fixtures.  I had a disconnect when I read her message.  A few hours earlier I had read in the New York Times that the public health people now have concluded that there is "little to no evidence that contaminated surfaces can spread the virus."  

In other words, all the ostentatious deep cleaning, all the guys in hazmat suits spraying down airports, all the washing of cans and bottles from the grocery, all the three-day quarantining of mail, probably didn't accomplish much in the way of keeping us safe.  

How does this happen -- the conventional wisdom from March turns out to be mostly wrong in November?  I think there are two elements in play.

First is that in March we knew so little about the coronavirus and how it operates, so we seized upon the few things we could pin down and measure.  Somebody in a lab somewhere determined that a virus particle could live on a surface for days, so it seemed like a no-brainer to splash bleach on all the surfaces you could think of.  Couldn't hurt, right?  And then when later scientific experiments and observations realized that the real danger comes from the airborne particles from sneezing, coughing, singing, yelling and otherwise breathing hard, it's hard to make people forget the terrified response that used to seem like a good idea.

But second, wiping down surfaces quickly became security theater.  You know, like making everybody take their shoes off to get through airport security, even though there never has been another shoe bomber since that one nut job was caught in 2001, even in all the countries of the world where you don't have to take off your shoes.  

It's one thing when those in power deliberately use security theater to put on a show of concern and action, even while they're doing very little about the real dangers.  I'd put taking-off-shoes in that category.  And I'd put some of the hazmat disinfection efforts by businesses in that category as well, as if wiping down the doorknob or the assembly line makes up for failure to have employees keep proper distance, failure to enforce mask wear, or failure to test and trace infections among workers or customers.

But what's really unfortunate is when we use security theater against ourselves.  When we spend lots of time and money on Clorox wipes and think our families are safe because we scrubbed the sink twice since breakfast.  Or the flip side -- when we persuade ourselves that masks don't stop the virus, that it's only security theater; when we persuade ourselves that a big Thanksgiving dinner is OK because we're only inviting our family members, and canceling festivities is only security theater; when we persuade ourselves that God won't let us get sick when we go to church, and online or at-home worship is only security theater.

I know it's hard to keep up with the changing dos and don'ts of the pandemic.  In March they were telling us to scrub the canned tuna but don't bother to wear a mask.  In November they're telling us to wear a mask everywhere but don't bother with the bleach.  It takes time and energy to keep up with the changing advice, and people who don't trust scientists may not follow it anyway.

So as a result, here we are today -- 57 million people sick around the globe, 1.3 million dead, more sick and dead in the United States than in any other country.  I say there's a particular place in hell for those who mislead us into doing the wrong things, or who urge us to do whatever we want, as if there were no pandemic at all. 

Wear your masks, people!  But probably don't bother with the Clorox.  

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Calligraphy update -- coke can pen

I've written before about how in my daily art I have tried to emulate what you might call calligraphy brut -- strokes and letterforms that look like they were written with crude tools by a caveman.  In the summer I tried to accomplish this by using a pen made by cutting and folding a chunk cut from a coke can, but wasn't pleased with the results.  I did other things instead, but in the last several weeks the coke can pen, sitting in my pen-and-pencil cup on the dining room table, has called out to me.

I want to love this pen for its uncontrollability, but it was behaving too well.  It was giving me smooth lines that almost looked like they came from an actual commercial-pointed pen.

This wasn't bad, but it wasn't brut.  I kept trying, but still wasn't getting the results I wanted.  This next writing improved when I whapped the pen against my finger to splatter some ink spots over the page at the end.

And then one day, out of the blue, look what happened about halfway through the writing -- the pen started to stutter on the upstroke and give me some beautiful ripples.  (I'm still surprised at how symmetrical they are -- the pen seemed to fall into the same vibrating rhythm on so many of the lines.)

I loved it!  And have been trying to get the same effect ever since.  Some days the pen stutters and the writing looks totally brut; other days it refuses to cooperate and just gives me smooth lines, like the example below.

I finally deduced that to get the stutter, the two flaps of metal at the tip of the pen have to move independently.  When I run a knife blade in between before writing, to clear out any dried-on ink that might be pasting the two flaps together, the chances of stutter/splatter improve.

But not always.

I guess if you're in love with accidental effects, as I most definitely am, you have to embrace the fact that they're accidental, for heaven's sake, and they don't always come when you call.  

Meanwhile, I'm continuing to use the pen most days and hope for brut.

You can check out all my daily calligraphy here.

Friday, November 13, 2020

For my tombstone

Last night I received one of the strangest and loveliest compliments I've ever heard.

My beloved daughter-in-law, after coming over loaded with groceries, cooking and serving dinner, and cleaning up the kitchen, said to me "I love coming over here.  It kind of reminds me of my grandmother's house.  It smells so good, like... like a house full of neatly folded textiles!"

We laughed at the weirdness of the simile, and yet I thought what a wonderful way to sum up my life! The rest of my house is a jumble, a game of musical mess, with piles of stuff moved from one place to another as I need to clear off this table or that counter -- but my textiles are always neatly folded.  

What character flaw has made me compulsive about the sheets and towels and sweaters and fabric and so laissez-faire about everything else?  

I don't know, but there it is.  Maybe that should go on my tombstone -- HER TEXTILES WERE ALWAYS NEATLY FOLDED.  You could be remembered for worse.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Plague diary -- ordering online

One of the huge economic changes of the pandemic has been a shift to ordering online instead of going to the store in person, and people who follow this sort of thing for a living expect that we'll never go back to the olden ways.  Not that remote shopping wasn't a big deal even before the coronavirus, but it has skyrocketed this year.  Just one statistic: Amazon Prime Day sales were up 45% over last year.  

I know there's a generational gap in here somewhere; my children are totally comfortable with buying things sight unseen, whereas my husband and I hardly ever think to do so unless we've first tried brick-and-mortar.  I like to feel the goods, try on the shoes, find the reddest pepper.  But even I am getting more willing to get with the 21st century.  Especially when it comes with free shipping.   

But there's a big downside, namely all the damn packaging.

Here's a box that arrived last week (after we encountered empty shelves at the local big box).

You might expect it to be chock full of big things...

...but no, here's what was inside.  And that's not the worst of it -- when you get down to the actual products, here's all it was:

So will we run out of landfills before we all succumb to coronavirus?


Sunday, November 1, 2020

Plague diary -- election day

So many things are different this plague year, especially the election.  And many of the changes are for the better.  In Kentucky, for the first time we've been having early voting for weeks, including on weekends and late into the evening, and mail-in ballots for anyone who has reason to avoid going in person.  Thankfully, we've been spared the meanness of lawsuits trying to block any forms of alternative voting that have plagued so many other states.

But whether it occurs in a school gymnasium, a church basement, somebody's garage or your own dining room table, it all comes down to the ballot.  We Americans have a chance again this week to exercise the ultimate right of citizenship -- no, not the right to bear arms or the right to low taxes or the right to drink maskless in a bar any damn time you want -- the right to vote.

I was looking through some of my files of found poetry and came upon this one made two years ago.  I think it's still relevant, maybe more now than ever.  If you haven't done so already, vote.  The future awaits your choice.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Ideas from the blue


A long time ago I made a little doodle on the side of a larger piece of paper.  I think I was trying a large round pen nib to see what kind of line it would make, and drew the U-shaped curve.  Then at some later point I think I had another pen in hand, sketched the surrounding box and made a "stem" for the "wineglass."  The piece of paper nestled in with my piles of clippings, and I kept running across it every now and then.

Earlier this month I decided the little doodle was striking some kind of chord with me, because every time I came across it, I carefully put it back onto a pile instead of into the wastebasket.  So I did my daily calligraphy based on the doodle.  

And then I did it again, and again and again.  The "wineglass" changed shapes and orientations and colors, and occasionally morphed into a dumbbell with two curves in the box instead of one. The boxes escaped from the grid to stand alone. The pale washes that I had been using in other calligraphy appeared.  

It's hard for me to articulate why this little doodle makes me so happy.  And it's turning out to be hard to use it in a satisfying way on the large page of a sketchbook instead of the tiny one-off version that I've kept so long.

I don't know if I'm done with this motif or not.  I'm not even sure I like this series of experiments.  Are they losing their spontaneity as I do them over and over?

I've done this in the past, made something that seemed great the first time around but never as good again, no matter now many times I revisit it.  Maybe that's because I love to work improvisationally, without the safety net of sketching or a lot of planning ahead.  So when I come back and do the same motif again, it seems constrained and artificial rather than serendipitous.  What do you think?  Have you had a similar experience?