Blog / 2020 / An Exquisite Tension

January 1, 2020

“There’s the drawing you are trying to make and the drawing that is actually being made—and you can’t see it until you forget what you were trying to do.”

- Lynda Barry

When I first came across this quote in Lynda Barry’s book Syllabus, this was my reaction:

DUH! Barry must be writing for amateurs or people who haven’t made art in a while, because lifelong creatives know how to do this intuitively, right?

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I only know how to let go of the art I think I want to make in order to make the art I am actually making because I’ve worked at it my entire life.

process of painting an echidna, wildlife art, colorful and dynamic

And I’m still working on it! Every day, in every frame of this GIF and in all the moments in between. With every single brushstroke, I am letting go.

There’s an exquisite tension to art-making. You must be able to visualize what the finished painting will look like at least a little bit, otherwise you’ll have trouble finding the courage to make a mark. At the same time, you must hold that vision lightly and let it evolve so that you don’t miss all the good stuff that can happen when hand meets brush meets paint meets support.

It’s a lot like life really. If you don’t have an inkling of who you want to be, it’s hard to engage with the world. But if you’re too focused on who you think you are, you fail to actually be who you are.

This is why I love painting. (And Lynda Barry’s brilliant brain.)

echidna, wildlife art, colorful and dynamic
Gwenn Seemel
E Is for Echidna
acrylic on panel
14 x 14 inches

The first names embedded in this ABC book image are Eartha, Eben, Ed, Elaine, Eleanor, Electra, Eli, Elijah, Elise, Elizabeth, Ella, Eloise, Elolo, Emilia, Emily, Emma, Erika, Erin, Ernest, Esperanza, Ethan, Eugénie, Evan, Everly, Evlyn, and Ezra.

The original painting is for sale for $1500 plus shipping. If you want prints or other pretty items with this image, check out my Redbubble shop! The full book will be available later this year.

echidna, wildlife art, colorful and dynamic
detail of E Is for Echidna

Here’s what I’ve been reading since my last alphabet book update:

  • Everything Is Horrible and Wonderful by Stephanie Wittels Wachs

    Written by a grieving sister, this memoir delves into the aftermath of an overdose and touches on the way fame impacts both a life and a death. I found the book mostly interesting, but, as a childfree person, I was bothered by the author’s obsession with her brother’s potential future children. As she put it on a couple of occasions in the book, her sibling’s drug use deprived her parents of grandchildren. Maybe that’s a feeling I can’t understand as someone who has chosen not to have kids, but it reads as if her brother’s life wasn’t in itself enough for her, and that saddens me.

  • The Other F Word edited by Angie Manfredi

    This isn’t the first collection of essays by fat activists that I’ve ever read, but it is the first in a while and it made me very happy. It’s full of truth, beauty, and humor as well as excellent recommendations for further reading/watching. An especially fun part of this collection is that Jes Baker, one of the contributors, cites Rachele Cateyes as one of her first inspirations!

  • Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson

    Reading this YA novel set in Portland while I was visiting family in Oregon was a special treat! This book would be an excellent way to get white tweens and teens to start acknowledging racism and talking about it. And, when I think about it, I know plenty of adults who would benefit from reading it as well.

  • Still Lives by Maria Hummel

    I need to stop reading books just because one of the characters is an artist. Thrillers like this one are not my thing, even if there is art talk sprinkled in with the murder.

  • The Minority Report and Other Stories by Philip K Dick

    I hate the way this author depicts women, but these stories are excellent meditations on the world we humans have built for ourselves and on what we might do differently. I’d still say that Octavia Butler’s Blood Child and Other Stories is my favorite collection of short stories, but Dick’s book is good too.


June 24, 2020

Baby Sees ABCs is out and available here! You can see all the illustrations from the book in this online gallery.

Maybe this post made you think of something you want to share with me? Or perhaps you have a question about my art? I’d love to hear from you!


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