"What we see depends mainly on what we look for." ~Sir John Lubbock

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Friday, January 27, 2012

A Dash of Calabash

A dear friend of my late grandmother's is a children's writer/illustrator. The illustrations and story of one of his books, "The Calabash Cat" was inspired by a calabash engraved gourd he received during his travels. The book in turn has inspired hundreds of students--young and old--to try their hand at their own calabash inspired drawings.

The Calabash, or gourd engravings, originating in Chad are typically designs featuring animals with another animal inside them, embellished with "Zentangle" like designs within and around. In some drawings I found several animals within a larger animal, but I'm not sure if that is a regional thing, something directly related to a particular historical narration or story, or simply different artistic interpretations of calabash art. Either way, I love the style, it offers such visual stories, etchings combining animals that seem to have leaped right into another animal, blending two (or more) creature spirits into a lively illustrated story.

Inspired by the Calabash Cat, I was further
prompted by a paint chip I came across
named "CALABASH” in the hue of native
squash (gourd)!
I was inspired and eager to try my first "calabash" drawing. I chose an octopus because they’d been on my mind, and because it left room for error with so many flowing lines. Once drawn, and after a few mistakes, the bird nearly emerged on its own, so I followed through with a few extra details, keeping it crisp with contrast so as not to lose the image. Finally I filled in the surrounding “water” with a simple, repeating pattern in an effort to show movement.

How about a little creative doodling inspired by CALABASH style art? Even if you are not comfortable free-handing an animal, trace a simple silhouette or just go for your best attempt! You really cannot mess this one up. Grab your black ink pens, smooth drawing paper and start doodling. Fill mistakes with black ink, creating new designs and spaces (shhh…top secret art tip for covering up mistakes!). How many animals will speak through you?

See/hear “The Calabash Cat” by James Rumford here www.youtube.com/watch?v=B5cRVSvvASg
Calabash Octopus drawing:

1 comment:

  1. Aloha, e Michelle,

    I am so glad that I came across your blog page just now. I love your octopus! Here's to your grandmother, who inspired so many to be creative.

    Aloha, Jim (James Rumford)