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Souvenirs…of Life


This week’s Every Day Matters challenge is to “draw a souvenir from a place you’ve been.” This is a Tibetan Bell. I’ve never been to Tibet. My father bought it for me at a street fair in Jack London Square in Oakland on one of his rare visits from the many places he lived in the U.S. and Canada. I loved the sound of the bell and he was happy to buy it for me.

I’ve been missing him lately–sometimes when I’m drawing I get glimpses of the amazing cartoons he used to be able to draw on command and wish I could talk to him about drawing and art. He and my mother both painted for a few years when I was a kid and both were talented photographers. I highlighted my mother’s paintings from the 50s here a few weeks ago, but all of my father’s paintings were thrown away by his second wife when he left her for his third wife.

Searching my house for souvenirs to draw, I discovered that my only keepsakes represent different periods of my life and the people and pets I’ve loved. And even those are few: my grandmother’s pearls and glass butterdish, a spice jar with hair from long gone cats and dogs, the books my father wrote, my wedding ring in a little box I painted blue, a folder with my sons’ grade school essays and drawings, earings given to me by friends and family.

Of course I have my journals, drawings, photos and paintings–those are keepers of my memories too. But I wonder what it means that I have no souvenirs or tchotchkes from places I’ve been. Maybe just that I don’t like to dust.

Ink and watercolor in WC Moleskine. I know I said that for a week I would stop painting when I was 75% done, but I was too tired again tonight to notice, and so put in the background when I should have stopped. It was a lot prettier with just a shadow and an all white background. I did stop painting the bell before I thought it was done so that’s a little progress. I’ll try again tomorrow.

12 replies on “Souvenirs…of Life”

Jana, you’ve picked a very auspicious souvenir to illustrate, and done it so well. The bell represents wisdom, compassion and emptiness. Ringing the bell summons help from spiritual beings and can also mean transmitting truth and clarity. So, hold that bell in your left hand, and ring it gently and hear what it has to say.


Jana — I too have few ‘real’ keepsakes so I, like you, will need to explore …I too, have my journals …

But I LOVE this bell!! Rich colors and lines !!!! BEAUTIFULLY DONE!


I love the handle — and how nice that you have those keepsakes. I think those things are important but my parents don’t, so I really have nothing from the past except some jewellery from my grandmother.


I love the colors you have used in this! You have added so much detail! It is just beautiful!!! Your story to go along with it is bitter-sweet. I am sorry 2nd with found it “okay” to throw out your fathers work instead of giving it to one of his children, but anger doesn’t very often bring out the best in any of us.


Well, I’m not much for dusting either and am in the process of disposing a lot of the stuff we’ve collected through the years of living and traveling. I have to keep reminding myself that I can still hang on to the memory without the reminder or if that fails, (and I do confess to some “senior” moments), I can take photos of the ones I value. It is the memories that make me feel warm and juicy, not the object.


A great job! I have one of these bells too, given to me by a friend, but you’ve made me look at it again with fresh eyes – thank you. And re the 75% thing – I was taught to draw (I’m not saying I learned!) by a man who said everyone can draw – all you need to know is how to SEE and when to STOP.


The colours of the bell are so intense and I love your commentary, it obviously triggered lots of memories. (I’m with you on the dusting BTW!) I always find it a little puzzling that when I read rules like the 75% rule. Surely every peice of art is different? Just a thought!
BTW, to answer your question, I leave the white bits and draw around them. The whiskers were done that way too but it doesn’t feel very spontanious sometimes even if they look lovely and white :)!


[…] In a recent post I mentioned that sometimes when I’m drawing I’m wistfully reminded of the wonderful cartoony sketches my dad used to do. I remember one time he drew me, all knobby knees and elbows and I loved seeing my image appear–it was like magic! I thought none of his drawings or paintings remained, having been angrily disposed of by his second to last wife (all right, his second wife, but it was all so dramatic and scandalous at a time when divorce was rare and he was moving on to his third and last wife.) […]


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