This post is to try and ascertain whether or not any followers are actually receiving notification via email when I blog.😃
…or spinning lines from wool…
…or weaving between the lines…
…my fascination grows as I go.
More on all of these things coming soon! Just didn’t want you to think my love of yarn had taken a holiday. 😍
You draw the tree and in doing so you notice daffodils are blooming a full month early! And one must, simply MUST draw the daffodils too.
Or you imagine a large Oak tree and in drawing it, mice show up busily making a merry life all around while a friendly Owl watches over them.
On and on each drawing woos and entices you to keep drawing and even to draw the space around you or the people sitting nearby.
This is just the way it is. When you draw, there will be more to draw. And you’ll find yourself so in love with drawing your world, whether real or imagined, that you fall asleep thinking of tomorrow’s tree, or whether you’ll have time for a few more drawings than just the one daily tree drawing.
Like Frost’s poem about swinging on birches…I too would like to go…perhaps by climbing it…but preferably by drawing the birch tree…
…draw the black branches up the snow-white trunk that leads my gaze toward heaven as I keep drawing until my page can bear no more…💕
One could do worse than be a draw-er of trees. It will lead to all kinds of adventures in a sketchbook.😃
There is a delicious space between one’s head and the page. Sometimes I am not so aware of it as I begin to draw. But several drawings of late have me pondering this place where connections are made, lines speak like words, life informs lines, and vice versa.
It is likely something I’ve known all along, but there are times when I am hit with a realization that feels new, like a discovery I haven’t ever uncovered before.
This week’s daily drawings of trees gave fresh insight into the differences between drawing from life ( or even from a photo I’ve taken) and drawing from my imagination.
Some of these tree drawings are purely out of my head, imagined trees which certainly have their source in the many trees I have drawn from life over the years. Whatever comes out of my head is directly shaped by what I’ve drawn before. I have always known that in order to illustrate well, I need to always be drawing directly from life. But here are some of the differences I’ve noticed this week…
Drawings from my imagination tend to have a story to them. I nearly always insert a person or an animal or something which is interacting with the tree.
I also notice that these drawings have a simplified, more straightforward look to them. There are fewer “things” in the drawing, and the line is a bit straighter and defined.
When I draw from life however, the line work has much more character and energy as the actual contour is followed on the page. I love the feeling of caressing what is in front of me as if my pen were actually touching the edges and inner contours of the tree.
The “life” drawings also show more of the tree’s connection to its surroundings. My pen meanders from the tree contours to its neighboring bush or house. The grass on the ground connects with the trunk of the tree unifying them and making the entire piece feel as if the tree could not exist solely on its own. It has to have the earth, the grass, the sky, the clouds and any other objects in its environs in order to fully be itself.
It is this very connection of all that surrounds us as we draw that excites me. I’m reminded that none of us exists merely on our own. If I were to draw you, just you, without anything from your environment, I wouldn’t really be able to tell too much about who you are. But if I drew you in the context of your everyday surroundings, I would get a fuller picture of who you are and what makes you tick.
I strive to do something like this in the imagined tree drawings as well. A tree needs what is around it to tell it’s story, or to tell whatever it is I’m trying to convey in my illustration.
Both approaches to drawing are ever so fun and have their benefits, advantages, and pitfalls. I’m enjoying moving back and forth between imagined trees and actual, in front of me, trees. And even trying to blend a little of both into one drawing such as this one directly above. I drew the actual tree in my neighbors back yard and then added the fantasy elf who I imagine is responsible for Knitting the ivy sweater onto the tree.
Both of these approaches to drawing, and several more, are explored and detailed for you in my new drawing ebook! I’m really thrilled to be able to offer this 64-page PDF titled Discover Your Life Beautiful, One Drawing At A Time for only a few cups of coffee! Check here to read more about it and see if you might enjoy beginning a daily drawing practice. Or perhaps you need some encouragement and fresh ideas for continuing what you already love to do!
If you want to follow my daily postings of the tree drawings then head over to Instagram! I’ll see you next week here with a recap of the week’s drawings of trees, both imagined and from life!
It really shouldn’t surprise me. Drawing has always been so much more than simply lines on a page. I forget this phenomenon of conversation between hands and heart, of lines bold and thin drawing out what I need to see or acknowledge. Of course I thought, when I set about to draw a tree a day, that I would simply draw them as I see them out in the yard or neighborhood or elsewhere. But trees have long been a favorite subject of mine for pen and paint. Not only because of their incredible structure and shapes, but because they embody so much meaning, so much life, so much wisdom for living.
Indeed they have lived through so much. The plum tree in our front yard enchanted me the day we moved into our home 17 years ago. But I have watched (through numerous drawings) it’s trunk twist and lean in a direction that I now wonder if it will fall over one day. The front steps’ view from which I drew it’s portrait the other day doesn’t show much of the leaning. I shall draw that another day. Weather, age, and a towering pear tree beside it have forced a reach for the sun and a twist in the trunk like fibers on a spindle.
On my daily walks now I pay more attention to the trees that I have walked beside for so many years and which I have drawn on so many occasions. They are aging even as I am aging. I notice the cut off limbs, the bulbous way a tree grows around a lopping-off, the recent trimmings, the hack jobs where it seems no care has been taken to remove a tree…just severed in half, leaving still a significant portion of the trunk to continue “living”, if it can be called living.
I also notice small trees, the little Charlie Brown ones, the skinny spindly ones that may grow tallish but seem twig-like against their beefier neighbors. One such tree is in our back yard. It is actually a hybrid willow/cherry tree. It really isn’t able to get enough sun being dwarfed by the neighbor’s cypress trees just feet away. Under this sweet little tree we buried our cat Lucy. A rock marks her grave and we imagine her delight in being outdoors resting peacefully beneath a blossomed bower.
Winter trees have always enchanted me with their exposed limbs and revealed structures. You really get to see their shape, asymmetrical Limb patterns, bird nests and other ephemera lodged in their web of branches. No two trees are the same. Each tree is a unique being, much like humans. Their scarred and marred trunks tell stories of life and loss. I need to listen to these stories as they echo my own. Somehow, in drawing trees daily for not even a week yet, I receive comfort and solace for the unfolding stories in my life.
I’m headed out the door now to walk amongst them, to listen and to draw sustenance for the day.
It is a truth, which I’ve experienced numerous times, that when help is needed, help is offered. This happens in a variety of ways, on so many levels in both my personal life and my creative life, which I see more and more are intricately entwined and cannot be separated from one another.
For months now I’ve felt an ever increasing sense of scattered-ness. I have held this open-heartedly as I move through numerous difficulties in life. I even know on some level that the scattered feeling in what I create with my hands is likely due to all that life is granting me to walk through. Here. There. Everywhere. Knit. Spin. Draw. Weave, crochet, embroider. Sketch, tapestry, design. Many mediums, lots of exploration, all of it I adore. The problem is that I do NOT adore feeling stretched thin. I do not like feeling as if it somehow doesn’t add up to anything . I’m not talking about sales. I’m not after notoriety.
All along there has been this tiny little voice saying…things were simpler when you Just Drew. Now to be honest, there has never been a time when the only thing I made were drawings. I have always knitted and crocheted (I’ve added spinning and weaving to the mix) but there have been long stretches of time where sketching and drawing were my Main Squeeze if you will. Spinning wool rivals the act of drawing for processing life. Yet there is an added element of the drawings themselves becoming my teacher in a way that hanks of freshly spun wool doesn’t quite reach. Today’s drawing is an example.
This tree is drawn entirely out of my head. An imagined scene where I started out only wanting to draw a tree (my new daily focus for the next year), then begs to have someone in it, myself, doing what I love to do under the limbs and next to the trunk of a beautiful winter tree. I’m drawing in my daily black and white sketchbook, choosing my thick and thin markers at will, enjoying the process, absorbed in the moment. (Ignore the odd brown stripe there…just the shadow cast by trying it take photos in the early morning dark.🙄)
When all is done, I sit back and look at what I’ve drawn. A whispered, oh my, quietly escapes as I ponder what I’m seeing on the lined pages. The tree has such energy, such vitality and movement within. I stand there, nearly ghost-like in comparison, spinning fibers which have the same energy and twist as the tree. And it is this reality of making drawings and how they teach me that I’m in need of daily. I need to be able to see that there is a beautiful pulsing energy at work in everything. Even in leafless trees.
So I’m committing to drawing a tree every day. I have always loved trees, loved painting and drawing them, love sitting with them, wishing I could hear them speak, and sometimes imagining that I actually can. I’ll post my tree sketches on Instagram and write about the process every now and then here. Join me if you can. And maybe commit to a focus like this as well. This doesn’t feel like pressure to me. It actually feels like freedom…to have one focus, even in the midst of making and doing so much else.
So what was it that helped me? As numerous friends are sending up prayers on my behalf, I take it as no small thing that I came home yesterday from teaching to grab lunch before heading off again. As I ate, I opened You Tube (yes, prayers CAN lead us to You Tube!😂) and I saw a Recommended for You video titled The Drawing Advice That Changed My Life. I’m a skeptic with hyperbole but wanted to see what this was all about. I watched it three times. Took notes. Wrote in my journal for half an hour before leaving for an appointment. Focus. I long for it. I’ve been feeling dehydrated for want of hay and water and not knowing which one to go for next. Donkey brain no more (you’ll have to watch the video to understand this😃). I’m off to draw a tree.
”There are eyes in pencils and pens.”
This quote by John Piper, found in a book I’m re-reading for the umpteenth time, echoes down a long hallway of years of drawing and writing. I know this to be true…how I see so much better when I’m wearing my pens. A bic pen for writing daily pages of whatnot, the same pen for sketching random doodles, a fine Sharpie and a bold brush pen for drawing, fat markers and dual-ended colors, and a splash of watercolor here and there all help me see the world more clearly and true-ly.
Today, the last day of 2019, feels like any other day, except for a small flicker of re-kindled hope. Not a hope that things will improve in the New Year, for so many of the difficulties and burdens of 2019 will go with me into 2020, and may even worsen. It is rather a hope much like a faint far off sound that tickles my ear to turn towards it. A sweet note (or is it a voice?) that I’ve heard before so many times…
…count them…draw them…put pen to paper…
…and in doing so, pin them to your heart and mind. So many gifts lay strewn at your feet, all around you, as you walk along the way, no matter how difficult or heavy the course. You need, Jen, to wield your pen in order to see the gifts.
Ok. I will. And what shall I pen and pin down with laser focus? What shall I count and list and name and draw into my heart?
Gifts. “Not gifts I want, but gifts I already have.”
-Ann Voskamp. 1,000 Gifts. Pg. 45.
I know this. Yet I forget what I already know…that gifts abound all around me every single day. This past year has brought gifts that I’d rather not have received, the painful difficult kind that has a way of overshadowing the lovely and joyful gifts.
As 2020 rolls in, I want to light a candle in those shadows, to peer down the end of my pens and see the gifts lovingly placed along parched paths. There will be too many gifts to name them all, much less draw them all. But I will catch as many as I’m able, whispering thank you for each of them.
Ann Voskamp speaks of having her “hunt pen in hand”. I am holding mine firmly as I close out 2019 and jump into 2020. This pen with eyes may also have wings…I will need both for the year ahead!
In the middle of November I started to draw what was happening in my head. Well, it wasn’t only in my head. Some of the ideas that flutter around in my head come through my hands, or at least get started to see if they want to be fully birthed. Not all of the ideas mind you. My brain is a veritable factory of creative ideas which one person cannot possibly bring into being. I must be choosy.
I do love to have the time to sit and ponder each of them, like rolling a river pebble over in my fingers gazing at all sides and wondering if I have what that particular idea requires, or whether it should wait a while or perhaps be tossed back into the vast idea pond. Spinning wool is a lovely place to ponder and mull and work through the idea backlog.
The difficulty is that I’m forever attaching a weighty criteria to the ideas. Is this meaningful enough? Does it have an artistic flair? Is it original? Or is it someone else’s idea that I think I can do my version of? Will I have to purchase other tools or items to make this? How much time will be involved? Is it do-able within the framework of my life? Will I have to leave hearth and home for a week in order to see this idea come to fruition?
The heaviest weight I put on creating something is that big word Art with a capital A. I have an ongoing love-hate relationship with this word and for many years have preferred to remove the consideration of whether I’m producing Art, off the table. I really just want to be delighted, and if what I’m making delights me, then it shouldn’t matter whether it is deemed Art by me or by anyone else.
So I sit there at my wheel, or stand twirling a spindle, enrapt in delight as I do so, and I’m thinking of all these other things I “should” be devoting my time to. I kept drawing the little illustrations off and on over the past few weeks in hopes of getting somewhere. It dawned on me recently, as it has done numerous times before, that what I’m holding in my hands is more often than not, THE THING I’m to be doing. Whew. Such freedom and Joy! Just look at the final drawing in my little story and that happy smile on the idea bulb’s face! “Finally! She’s got it!”
Here in the midst of our busy holiday making, I hope you can find some time to be delighted. It doesn’t matter if you are making world-changing Art, or just spinning some fluff into string. Stay in the de-Light as long as you can, eschewing those pesky thoughts that you should surely be doing something else more weighty and monumental. Pay attention to what you find yourself paying attention to (Jessica Abel’s thoughts here).
Deep dive into what’s right there in your hands to make and bring to life. It is likely the Big Idea 💡 you’ve been after all along.❤️
Whether I like it or not, life has a set-in-stone structure to it. We must sleep, eat, get dressed, keep our homes relatively clean, work, keep up the cars and yards, spend time with family and friends, care for one another and perhaps numerous other things depending on your particular needs and lifestyle. I am forever finding great comfort in this structure or railing against it with all I’ve got.
The warp strings on a loom speak to me of this ongoing structure in my life. Once a loom is warped, be it a floor loom, rigid heddle loom or a small frame loom, it doesn’t change throughout the entirety of the weaving. With the exception of supplemental warps one might add in for effect, typically the warp threads stay put in whatever pattern they were set in the beginning. Such is life, both frustrating and beautiful.
I seem to be a bit obsessed with warps lately. Recent weavings on my Saori floor loom, a rigid heddle and now working tapestry on a smaller loom, I find myself enjoying the regularity and structure of those vertical lines around which to build something lovely. I even caught myself noticing the fences in and around our neighborhood and thinking I could weave something cool in and through the fence slats. Strange perhaps. But cool to think about.
The fascinating bit of all of this is that in weaving, the warp cannot stand alone. Without the weft, it would fall apart and become just string again. In painting you lay colors onto the surface of a piece of paper. This paper, or canvas, holds its structure no matter what you paint on it. But in weaving, the “support” becomes something solid only once you add the colors and textures of the weft. Without the regular and methodical over-under work in and around these established structures, there would be no real substance, no beauty, nothing really to hold. It is the addition of wool, cotton, ribbon, wool locks, sari silks, etc, that holds the warp together in a cohesive work, whether it be for cloth or tapestry.
It is a painfully beautiful thing to watch a life unfold. Whether it’s my own life, or that of loved ones, we are all weaving over and under, in and through established structures of life and living, beliefs and choices, and the inevitable hardships and suffering that come our way. Each of our woven lives are unique and hold a preciousness and beauty to them that we often cannot see at all.
In classic tapestry weaving, one often weaves with the backside facing. I weave with the front facing me so that I can better understand what to weave next and exactly where the yarns need to go. But in life, I only see the backside of the tapestry … it looks like a crazy mish mosh of loose ends.
One day I’ll see it from the front side. For now, I must trust that as I work alongside my Maker in the over-under of daily life, something beautiful is underway. And I can take comfort in the structure of the warp, even though their taut regularity may be maddening at times. They are guidelines, guard rails…a path through… so that I can continue to weave.