Category Archives: Torah Stitch by Stitch
A creative streak comes naturally to me. It shows itself in my home decorating, in my bright colored and stylish clothing, shoes and purses, and all the creative avenues that I’ve partaken in – such as sewing, crocheting knitting macramé, embroidery, cross stitching, cooking and cookbook writing, video blogging and for a very long time, about a lifetime ago, Dollhouseminiatures. During that period of creating I won many ribbons for my miniature projects, mostly from scratch.
Does being creative give you the right to call yourself an artist? Suddenly I have that question in my mind.
Are you a creative, do you call yourself an artist?
Over the past 3 1/2 years, I turn the corner on my creativity. I can give credit to Jennifer. It all started when my daughter fell in love with the art of Romero Brito. Spontaneously, I took out my markers (because as a teacher with experience in primary school education, you always have markers. Teaching students a language requires the use of the philosophy that using art to draw concepts cements the vocabulary). I put together a drawing, trying to emulate his work. One month later, after returning from Sri Lanka, the vision of the palm trees on the beaches of the Indian Ocean were still in my brain. So one day without forethought, I sketched a palm tree. It was lame as it was, but it started the whole ball rolling.
A few months later I went to Italy. As a lone female traveler, I decided to go the safe route and take a six-day workshop with an artist in the north of Tuscany. When a friend Peter saw my Italy sketches, he beamed, asking me if I would draw sketches of the tea making process for his book about Tea in China. Was the Pope Catholic, I thought? I jumped at the opportunity. It gave me a focus for my art because at that point when I was flitting around with Zentangle Art and Mandalas and other topics with no real focus.
Peter designed my first Chinese Chop with the characters that said “LiZhi (my name Lichee in Chinese), Artist”.
Could I call myself an artist then? Well honestly no, I couldn’t, although I continue to use the stamp to this day.
Knowing that I didn’t have enough knowledge and experience about watercolor painting, I attended a weekly Kunming art studio for over a year and got a good grip on how to paint realistic art with watercolors. Learning to see the colors, color mixing, shading, shadows, I tried to learn everything. The owner of the studio offered to do a 2-day art exhibition of all of my paintings and sketches (35 in total) — and it was a huge success. Around that time a friend bought one of my favourite Chinese paintings also.
Could I call myself an artist after that? Crazy as it sounds, no, I knew I still had a lot to learn.
Getting back to teacher art and markers, my proclivity is to small, meticulous details with paper and fine liners and pencils and markers and ink and erasers and rulers in drawings (maybe I should have been an architect, and I do love perspective, which I’m not terribly good at until now). But I still wanted to continue to stretch my skill, watching YouTube and Craftsy videos of artists teaching painting or sketching techniques. Also attending sketching workshops in Florida helped to improve my experience. (Do you see the theme here of travel and art in my life??)
Quite recently I developed an interest in having a more loose style. I spent the morning painting with an artist named Dan Whalen, who goes out with the Toronto Urban Sketchers group, because I really like his freer style of sketching and painting. I knew that if I wanted to try to go out sketching on location again, I would have to have that kind of style too. Why, because you don’t have enough time to finish when you’re out, so you need to be quick, and expressive in your sketching, representing the scene in front of you, all before the rain comes or the sun gets too hot or the shadows move.
Just two weeks ago, I met a lovely Singaporean artist, Beng Choo. She is an experienced artist and we have started the Urban Sketchers Kunming group in Kunming China. We meet every Friday morning and have sketched some wonderful ancient Chinese buildings while dodging the rain and the hot sun.
Then binge watching Ian Fennelly videos has really motivated me. Will I go to the Urban Sketchers Symposium in Hong Kong in April and take a class with Marc Taro Holmes because I’m a 1.5 hour flight away, or to Venice in May for 6 days and learn from Ian? I am considering it all. Because my art has moved away from a very detail-oriented style to towards a more expressive style.
In my quest to learn all I can, and with an art school within a 5-minute walk from my home, I just began a 10-week course, ‘Song Dynasty Chinese Painting on Silk’, which uses traditional Chinese black ink and painting techniques but with Kuretake watercolour paints. The process is very slow and detailed, with many steps so far. I have only learned how to paint the outlines on silk with ink and how to mount and stretch the silk onto a wooden frame. My teacher, Peng, says it takes 10 2-hour classes to complete, but that I am a fast learner!!!!
[Starting in 960 and ending in 1279, the Song Dynasty consisted of the Northern Song (960-1127) and the Southern Song (1127-1279). With a prosperous economy and radiant culture, this period was considered as another period of ‘golden age’ after the glorious Tang Dynasty (618 – 907).]
My first painting will be a copy of a Song Dynasty painting of crab apple flowers and my background is a soft beige colour, not this dark, boring colour.
Do I have the right to call myself an artist now? Have l earned that right yet? I guess the answer is I have to feel it in my heart, and my heart tells me that I am able to represent the feelings I have when I do art so much better than when I first embarked on my art journey a time ago. Stay tuned for more on the answer!
On a rare and beautiful weather winter’s day in downtown Toronto, Arlene and I made our way to deliver our stitched canvas panels to Temma Gentiles, the visionary and tireless volunteer of the project, TorahStitchByStitch.org. We met this great fabric artist and had a lovely chat, telling her how we came to do the stitching and what it meant to us.
It was wonderful to meet the genius behind the project, who works tirelessly to make everything run like clockwork. There’s so many stages to the project that require thousands of emails every month. Everything from seeking out volunteer stitchers, preparing and sending out the kits, assigning helpers to give a hand during the stitching phase, binding all the finished panels, and preparing and printing a book that documents all the stitcher’s works. With many events in the planning stage to display the works, this project is coming around the corner to the finish line!
I received this email message from one of the volunteers and excitedly found out that, YES! my panel has been accepted: “Just a quick note to thank you for your completed canvas. We are glad that you enjoyed this stitching project and found it so meaningful.
Your canvas is quite lovely and the lettering is strong and vivid. The border and the pastiche at the bottom add to it’s beauty. Yasher koach!”
You can see recent events, scanned panels and slide shows by clicking on these links to the website:
http://torahstitchbystitch.org/events-activity/summer-2017-collection/ and http://torahstitchbystitch.org/events-activity/previous-slide-shows/
Contact TorahStitchByStitch.org to volunteer to stitch a panel.
As you can tell, I am beaming with pride to be a part of this great stitching of the Torah scriptures and look forward to seeing it all hanging on a wall in some auspicious place!
I chose to do the stitching because the connection to Judaism and wonderfully creative project appealed to me so greatly. It felt like important work and really enticed me to want to complete this.
My illumination has some deep significance for me because of my connection to China through educational consulting and Chinese food cookbook writing. I chose to depict a Chinese gold yuanbao (pronounced ‘you-an bao’) which is an ancient form of gold or silver currency used until the 19th century in China because I did the stitching while I was in China and my verses refer to the retribution that was paid in many forms, with a lot of silver and gold.
I am proud of this work – that my stitching can be part of a larger global community of people who did this project together. I feel blessed that I was able to be included and my heart was touched by the feelings that it evoked in me about my treasured religion.
To say I am overjoyed would be an understatement. Almost 2 months to the day from when I started (August 6, 2017), I have completed my stitching. On September 16, 2017 I finished the script. Today, October 4, 2017, I finished the border and my illumination too.
Because I’m in China while doing this, I stitched a “yuanbao”, which is boat-like shaped silver or gold ingot currency used in Imperial China. Since the illuminations are limited to 5 colour choices and grey or silver isn’t one of them, I decided to keep it simple and make it gold using the allowed gold thread. I found the shape I liked, used an app to graph out the shape and went to work again!
The result is something to be proud of, while being very enjoyable to do! Thanks to the www.torahstitchbystitch.org organization for sharing this opportunity with me.