Tag Archives: drawing

Two Inch Square Book


Still Life, Pen and ink, 2″ x 2″ Laura Wythe

It was a gift from another student in a drawing class. A tiny hand made book with blank pages of handmade paper, and the cover a Guatemalan weave. What a joy! I knew I’d fill this book from the first page to the last, and I did.

For years, I took the bus. That’s a study in waiting, taking busses in my city. The two inch square book was a perfect fit for any sized purse or pocket. I carried a Staedtler pigment liner, 0.3 which never bled on the rough porous paper, or ran out. While waiting for the bus, a friend, at the doctor’s, or on a lunch break, I’d sketch.


Waiting at the Market, Pen and ink, 2″ x 2″ Laura Wythe

It took a year to fill the book. I found that the ink bled through the pages, so I used every second page as an opportunity to the connect the dots and get abstract.

And the scenes or objects I sketched quickly took on a stylized look, inspired by wood block prints.


Deck chairs on Bruce Street, Pen and ink on handmade paper, 2″ x 2″ Laura Wythe


Sketch diary made in Guatemala, 2 inches square, 2011-2012, Laura Wythe

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Song of experience

A lot of my life is spent wondering. And I wonder at my mom, how she manages living deeper and deeper in dementia. A while ago, her older sister, who also had dementia, passed away.

I wondered how a person with dementia would respond to the news that a loved one had died. I wondered how dementia might have affected the sisters in the first place. Would they still have a relationship, each in their own world?

This playful drawing came after writing a short bit of fiction about this. Sometimes drawing helps with the wondering where words fail.

Sketches for the garden gate for Song of Experience by Laura Wythe

The style of the drawing is based on  William Blake’s work and this poem:


I went to the Garden of Love,
And saw what I never had seen;
A Chapel was built in the midst,
Where I used to play on the green.

And the gates of this Chapel were shut,
And ‘Thou shalt not’ writ over the door;
So I turned to the Garden of Love
That so many sweet flowers bore.

And I saw it was filled with graves,
And tombstones where flowers should be;
And priests in black gowns were walking their rounds,
And binding with briars my joys and desires.


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The Buddhist Boys

6 luohans on the first floor of the ROM, the Asian culture galleries.

I only went to Toronto for the day, and and only had a few hours to spend with the boys.  To make the most of the trip, I decided to get into a Buddhist frame of mind so that I might draw these fellows with more understanding.

My friends, Dan and Pam, recommended reading J. Macey’s Active Hope and I started it a few weeks ago.  Honestly,  it’s a tough read.  Over the weekend I listened to Pema Chodron’s Bodhisattva Mind.   From this small immersion, I got the message to stay in the present and be open.  Easy.

The boys are  a group of six monks carved in sandstone from the Song Dynasty (1000-1200 AD).  The religious term for them is luohan.  The ROM blurb didn’t explain much about them but from my bit of research, they were a kind of spiritual warrior for the Buddhist faith at a time when it was experiencing persecution in China.  These luohan continue a communion that started a millennium ago.  So cool.

The luohan aren’t boys, I discovered, but strong men in many senses.  Calmness is under appreciated in our culture.  As I drew them, I felt the power of it.  They were centred, unique, compassionate, yet there was muscle under the cloth.  These boys could walk, and sitting still, I imagine, wasn’t a passive activity for them either.

Luohan with a dragon at his foot, ROM.

What surprised me as I drew, was that I began to see monks through  the sculptor’s eyes.  Each man was a model to be cajoled into a pose and flattered into an attitude which would serve both personal vanity and the cause of  religious teachings.  The sculptor may have been a monk himself (sorry, have to assume “he”); he would have had to answer to an abbot of sorts, to the traditions of his craft and religion, if he could separate these.

From the dates, it’s likely that more than one sculptor would been involved in portraying this group, yet the style and details are incredibly consistent.  The stone blocks had their own grain and inclusions.  Not perfect or painted over.  So the execution was very important.  Imagine sanding the heads and faces, the lips and brows, so smoothly–polishing into the stone to bring out the flesh.  The tension between body and spirit.

I would date the Buddhist Boys at the ROM again, but will confess my crush may have shifted to the artists who created them.



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My Date with the Buddhist Boys at the ROM

While London is a culturally active city, Toronto has the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Royal Ontario Museum.

I find it’s worth taking the train to spend an entire day at either place.  The ROM is my target for this visit.  The last time I was there, I didn’t sketch much but wandered the endless collections until I felt the vertigo and had to get off the ride.

My mission this time has focus.  Find the Buddhist boys.

Baran Mong’s sketches from the Royal Ontario Museum, July 2011.

In the World Culture Asian galleries, there are a couple of collections of Buddhist statures.  whether standing tall or seated with a round belly, they are painted, gilded, jeweled.  Then there’s a group of what looks like plain, unembellished limestone monks.

Another artist, Baran Mong, has also found the boys and included one among his really spirited sketches.

My impression of them from my last trip was that they were very hungry souls, and that the artist had rounded out their faces, which to me, didn’t match the thinness of their bodies beneath the robes.  While the statues might have been commissioned as propaganda (I’ll try to find out more), the artist shows an exceptional compassion for his models.   Maybe even love.

What delights me is that they’re real men, young and quite frankly, thin and not so perfectly spiritual as The Buddha.  Imagine your meditation or yoga group carved in stone.  Then imagine sitting before the that group, each a singular expression captured in stone, and meditating on that — 500 to a 1000 years later.



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A Mother’s Day Story

Swan, pencil

When I became pregnant, my world shifted and tilted back towards art.   I picked up my pencils and took the lead. I knew where I was headed.

Swans at night, pencil and Mylar film

Stratford Park

June, July and August were spent in the park in Stratford, Ontario.  I walked the river everyday, sometimes at six in the morning because the baby inside me loved walking as much as I did.  Her dad framed up the pictures, and on weekends I set up my display of drawings and sold a few, then made a few more.

Over the past week, I’ve come to see how strongly the park figured in my pregnancy.   The river and huge, gnarly black willows, the swans and couples who walked hand  in hand.  The regular early morning walkers and the Sunday theatre-goers.   All summer long, the beauty filled me.

It’s been interesting to pull together the pictures from that time.  The physical skill of drawing is one thing; making decisions about composition and design is another.  What can’t be taught, or forced, is hitting a deep feeling so truly that it can be seen on the page.  Only one drawing came out as beautifully as my daughter did that summer.



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