Where Are You?

Every day I need to check in. Over the years I’ve wondered if this was a strange thing about myself…this need to check in, to take stock of where I am at a given moment, to breathe in and breathe out, to mark the moment, taking in the sights and scenery around me. Now I’m feeling pretty certain this isn’t strange, it’s really necessary and good. Not just for me, but for us all!

When life gets busy, full to the brim with all good stuff that doesn’t allow much time for checking in, I feel like I need these check-in moments more throughout the day. It’s all too easy to think that just going and going, running through the never ending to-do list without stopping to breathe and mark the moment, is ok for a season. For me, it’s not ok. I’ve got to touch base with where my feet are planted, what my surroundings are at a given moment, breathe into whatever my location is both in body and in spirit. My sketchbook is the best way I know to do this.

Right from the get-go of facing an empty page, I feel myself throttle down a few gears. Empty space. Wow. Just to be able to look at a space that isn’t filled up with stuff for a few moments is helpful. It isn’t scary to face this emptiness…it is welcome and peaceful. I begin to draw what I saw on my walk, or a memory from a day or two ago I don’t want to lose. Slowly, thoughtfully…line and paint working together to drive a stake in the ground as it were:

Here I am, right here, breathing, resting, open and receptive to the peace of this moment.

Sketching in a little book may not be your way of checking in with where you are. It may be sitting with a cup of tea and just resting for a bit, it might be working a few rows of knitting, or perhaps just taking a short walk, considering where your feet are falling and how your heart is beating. However it is you can check in, I hope you are able to carve out a few moments today, tomorrow and ongoing to ask yourself, “Where am I?”

And perhaps you can make a simple sketch of where you are and what’s happening underfoot, pinning and penning a root, an anchor, to steady you for the day ahead.

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

P.S. If you’re in need of any encouragement for this along the way, consider this ebook & video course for inspiration and instruction.

Sketchbook Chat #5: Ordinary Drawings from an Ordinary Life

It is my desire to resume my Sketchbook Chats, so I’m picking up where I left off and offering you the fifth one!

I was out in my backyard drawing the rhododendron bush that is showing off right by our deck. I had planned to video more outside there, but alas, a neighbor began to mow his lawn, so I came indoors to show more sketches, drawings, paintings, all from my sketchbooks over the last several weeks.

I hope you are continuing to draw and sketch your life, finding beauty along the way!

Enjoy!

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

Weaving Through Lent

For several weeks now I’ve been working diligently toward a rather extensive project. I got the idea to create tapestry weavings through the season of Lent culminating on Easter Sunday. As I voiced the idea to my husband, we came up with a way to work together with another artist in our church to bring this installation of woodburnings, poetry and weavings to life.

On Instagram I’ve been posting snippets and sneak peaks of this “secret project” for many weeks. It has not been so secret to our church family as they have enjoyed seeing a new tapestry, poem and woodburning each week through Lent. This week there have been three, making 9 weavings altogether.  All is revealed in this episode of my Knitterly Arts Podcast. We created artworks based on themes taken from Lent and Passion Week, culminating in 9 woodcarvings, 9 weavings, and 12 sonnets and villanelles.

You are able to view this installation by employing the pause button to read the sonnets, view details in the woodburnings and weavings, as well as read my explanations of where I found inspiration for each tapestry.

It is my sincere hope that this artistic offering will encourage and bring joy this Eastertide, despite my amateur my filming skills. :/

***

*Woodburnings created by Asher McClain.

*Poetry written by Randy Edwards. To read more of his poetry (and hear him read it as well!) visit backward mutters.com.

*Tapestry Weavings by Jennifer Edwards (yours truly:).

And the music you will hear in the video is composed and played by our son William Edwards. You can find more of his music on Soundcloud.

***

May you have a beautiful and joy-filled Easter!

An Everyday Outlet

For Day 6 of #drawtheordinary through Lent, I’m to draw a “wall plug”. I should’ve thought about that wording a bit more because what I meant was “an outlet”.  No matter, plug or outlet, they are both ordinary things. (At least they are to those of us fortunate enough to live in parts of the world where electricity is  available.:)

The crazy thing about all this focusing on the ordinary long enough to draw it in our sketchbooks, is that sparks start flying as we do. Each ordinary sketch of an everyday item ignites a world of thought, delight, and sometimes even…transformation.

I sat for a bit just looking at the simple rectangle with two receptacles noting that there’s a bit of form and shape where the 3 prongs of a plug go in. Then I notice that these three holes look interestingly like a face…or a house – two eyes and a mouth OR two windows and a door. All of a  sudden I’m wondering –

What’s inside this thing?

How in the world does it hold energy or electricity that is accessed merely by placing metal prongs (or one’s fingers) inside?

What magic lies inside those black shapes? Is it a colony of lightening bolts? A family hanging out waiting patiently (or not) for the time when they’ll be put to use?

And so on and so forth…

The crazy…and wonderful…thing about this 20 second reverie is that by simply turning my focus to an ordinary object, my imagination was ignited. It was as if by focusing in on this everyday, typically unnoticed thing in my home, I had plugged into a source of creativity that led me to magical worlds were families of electric bolts live and move and have their being.

This doesn’t happen every single time I draw something. No, sometimes a wall plug is just that…a wall plug. Or outlet. But it is in the focus and attention to things I wouldn’t normally engage with, that creativity is sparked. I can fan it into flame by drawing it and having a bit of fun imagining what these electric bolt people look like. Perhaps they need me to plug my lamp in so they don’t get too bored. Perhaps that little guy up in the right window reached out and zapped me as I sat staring into their home. I dunno. Could be.

What I do know is that I’ll continue peering into ordinary places, drawing what I see there, knowing that sparks may fly in the process. Do jump in on the fun! You’re never too late to join the Lenten drawing party! You can download all the drawing prompts through Lent or simply find ordinary things to draw each day in your sketchbook.

Buen Camino friends!

-Jennifer

*The drawing journey through Lent is blogged HERE, and Instagrammed HERE.

*Inspiration & Instruction for drawing your life is HERE. 🙂

Remembering

It’s that time of year when I remember.

I don’t do it on purpose. It’s perhaps the imprint of that crazy wilderness pilgrimage to the hospital for three weeks and then home to slowly heal. Four years ago, my body was in decline, losing a battle with ulcerative colitis, and was eventually required to give up a colon or die. I suppose its ok that I do this remembering each year. Especially since the remembering is full of goodness and love and mercy. Yeah…you read that right…and I’m not just speaking in hyperbole here. I know and remember well the discomfort, the pain, the agony of body leading up to surgery as well as after. But alongside all of that, perhaps in equal portions to the yucky, was a goodness I actually find myself longing to return to.

I won’t go into all this goodness today. You can, if interested, read about some of it here and also here. But what characterizes that time in my life are two words – pilgrimage and unplugged. Even as symptoms worsened despite massive medicinal intake, I knew I was on a pilgrimage of some kind. I had never really been much of an observer of Lent, but that reality of walking into a desert was very real and somehow comforting at the time. I knew I was being led somewhere, though I had no inkling of what all would happen in my body. But I was aware of walking a path marked out for me and had an uncanny sense that I was right where I was supposed to be.

By necessity, I had to unplug from everything that made up my normal life. Teaching art to elementary kids eventually had to stop, eating became a struggle, getting things done around the house and for my family rapidly declined and then went away altogether as I entered the bleakest part of my wilderness sojourn. Walking the halls of Forsyth Hospital post-surgery became one of the truest images of a pilgrim’s walk – painful, humiliating, yet necessary and healing.

I’ve taken to drawing a couple of plugs around our house. Or rather…unplugged plugs. I suppose I’m drawn to what they represent – an unplugging from whatever I typically view as a life-giving source, to pull back and reevaluate what exactly it is I’m plugged into for “life” and consider where I might need to be rightly reoriented or plugged in. In some weird way, I know this attraction to unplugged plugs is because Lent is coming up (March 1) which is rather late compared to last year, and even to the year when my own wilderness walk took place in 2013.

It is time. It is time to walk in memory of past pilgrimages, while also marking the current one. It’s time to unplug somehow from what typically feeds me in order to consider more fully the Source of all energy and how I might plug into that.

I’m quite excited about my Lenten pilgrimage this year. Last year, I walked every day, drawing something each day from those walks and posting the reflection on A Pilgrim’s Draw. I’ll be doing something similar this year with a slightly different focus. I’ve already posted the basic trajectory for this drawing pilgrimage on that blog and am inviting folks there and here to join me! This year’s stay-at-home Lenten pilgrimage will be a blend of walking, drawing ordinary things, and reflection on a book I’ve just finished reading titled Liturgy of the Ordinary, by Tish Harrison Warren.

I’m realizing more and more that my daily practice of drawing and sketching in a sketchbook is a kind of liturgy. It’s a habit that has formed me and “drawn” me to see beyond the ordinary things, people or places I draw. As Tish writes:

“The often unseen and unsung ways we spend our time are what form us. Our mundane moments…shape us through habit and repetition, moment by passing moment, into people who spend their days and therefore their lives marked by the love of God.” pg. 32.

Wont’ you join me in this daily habit? If you need encouragement to develop and/or keep going in drawing your life in a sketchbook, consider walking through my new ebook and video course. Or just come along with me on a drawing pilgrimage through Lent, which you can read about and follow A Pilgrim’s Draw here and download a PDF of daily drawing prompts for Lent. You may want to unplug from drawing “life” via your iPhone and social media and instead plug into drawing your life in a sketchbook. You might also wish to purchase Warren’s book for reflection over the next 6 weeks or so.

It is likely that you have places you remember, either painful or beautiful (or both!). Let’s walk together the path marked out for us, drawing our ordinary lives, creating beauty from the everyday things around us, and remembering the goodness that’s at hand.

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

Discover Your Life Beautiful…One Drawing At A Time

I can’t believe it! I am so so excited to finally have these 12 lessons to offer to you! Years ago, I wrote a lesson a week on my blog. I called it Draw Your Life Mini Lessons. The response was positive and several asked for the lessons in book form. Though I made a couple of attempts at that, it just didn’t seem like the right container for the lessons. At the beginning of this year, I got the idea to expand the lessons into an ebook and video course. It is now complete and available in my ETSY shop.

The self-guided course is now called Discover Your Life Beautiful, One Drawing At A Time. It is the same 12 Lessons compiled into a 64-page ebook instantly downloaded upon purchase. Each lesson has a password protected video to view which offers more discussion on that Lesson’s topic as well as a look inside my sketchbooks, filled over the last ten years. The course is equal parts inspiration and motivation, tips and techniques, as well as instruction for four different approaches to drawing. As you move through the lessons you will come full circle to Draw Up A Chair and begin again and again.

The course is a comprehensive approach to seeking out and finding beauty in your everyday life. Everything from creative blocks you may experience, to tons of ideas for creating pages in your sketchbook, plus instruction for drawing in such a way that you experience your life more fully.

Of all the creative endeavors I enjoy, this practice of drawing my life is at the center. From this daily habit, I’m enabled to see my life for the beauty that may be out in the open or hidden from view. It takes drawing to uncover it sometimes, and sketching it celebrates the life I’ve been granted.

The overall emphasis in this course is DRAWING AS A PRACTICE, NOT AS A PRODUCT. My desire is that in working through the lessons, you will experience a freedom to drawcument your life without any burden to do so in a certain way or to have a polished product. We find love and beauty in the activity of drawing…not necessarily in the finished sketch.

I offer this course to you for the reasonable price of $45. My hope is that anyone might feel they can begin this life-affirming activity of sketching and drawing their life.

I would love to hear from you as to how it’s going, should you choose to purchase the course and work through the lessons. Whether you are a beginner at sketching or a seasoned artist, you will find something in this course to encourage and inspire you!

Click Here to visit my ETSY shop to purchase.

Enjoy!

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

Drawn To Iron

I do not like to iron. At all.

I seem to be in a place where my heart needs re-orienting. Something is in need of being smoothed out. Yet I tell myself I like the chaotic wrinkles, the jumble of piles of laundry. I’m well aware that I’m speaking in veiled terms here. You’ll just have to go with this.

My husband wears black shirts that need ironing. No starch. Just a simple smoothing out of what the dryer doesn’t do. One shirt comes out of the dryer and is hung up on the rod in our laundry closet. A few days later, a second one. And several days later there’s a forest of black shirts hanging there waiting to be ironed.

My husband is perfectly capable of ironing his shirts himself. And he most often does. He is not waiting around for me to do this for him. For some reason, this morning, I saw those shirts hanging there and I needed to iron them. To sort them out so that they can be used, worn, enjoyed.

My life is needing a bit of sorting out. There’s too much hanging on the rod…mostly in my creative life. I’ve succumbed to the siren song that I can have my cake and eat it too, along with all the cupcakes and pies. Again, veiled generalizations.

What I realize in all this is a need to see. A desire for all of living to be grace. And the best way I know how to connect to this is through the humble act of drawing.

I don’t mean drawings to sell. Or to exhibit in a gallery. Ordinary, everyday sketches of ordinary, everyday things grant me sight that I desperately need. Even sight for the things I don’t like to do. Especially the things I don’t like to do.

I made this page in my sketchbook after I had ironed all the shirts. As I drew the contours of an iron we have had for years, and of plain black shirts that will have a white collar worn with them, I was filled with love. Love for ironing. Can you believe that? It was something about the slow process of smoothing something out and seeing the results.

And love for drawing. This crazy simple daily work of sketching the stuff of life works to melt my heart to what is right beside me and with me all the time – a man of the cloth who works to love and serve his family and congregation.

There is more that I could share, of a smoothing out, a realization of things I have realized numerous times before. That is life, isn’t it? Coming back ’round to what we have surely known before, but have forgotten somehow in the rush of living.

I may need to find a few more things to iron around here (sorry, not taking any ironing commissions! 🙂 …and to draw…

…grace in the stuff of living through the lens of my sketchbook.

The Traffic Can Wait

I sit in a car. A lot.

It is not my favorite thing to do. At all.

On good days I can lay hold of the fact that all this driving around is actually due to great blessing in my life –

*an active, healthy,  involved-in-everything teenager.

*lots of classes in neighboring towns guiding women along their fiber journeys.

*errands to procure necessary provisions for a family.

But most of the time, in-between the grumbling, huffing and occasional involuntary expletive, I’m hunkered down, eyes-to-road, thinking where-to-next?

Unless I stop.

I have drawn before (as in the above drawing), these little aberrations of sight and wonder when I happen to turn my head left, out the driver’s side window and look. I don’t do it on purpose usually. It is often with a sigh and a desire to get off this flippin’ traffic-filled road and get on with the real stuff of life, that I turn my head.

I’m not expecting this. At all. But somehow in the fog of my negative thoughts, as I’m stopped in that never-ending automotive line, I can see…

A lovely meandering line of tracks, leading from underneath the bridge I’m on, up into rolling hills where light is carving out distinct shapes on a winter-hued landscape. How I would love to hop out of the car and go. To get on that train and follow those tracks to other towns, states, see the world a bit.

I’m enchanted by the view beside me, right where I am, even as my reverie is broken both by the formidable cement railing barring my jump onto the train, but also by the honking behind me as the traffic has grown impatient with my imagined train trip.

I get back into gear and lurch froward, smiling at the gift of being forced to stop in the midst of what I loathe, and being offered a view, a spot of beauty along my daily highway.

I need to stop and look more often as I drive.

The traffic will just have to wait.

P.S. I do not sit there in traffic drawing. Although perhaps I should! 🙂  I snap a picture with my phone to draw from later, thus a second gift of insight for the day.

The Verge of Chaos

I sat there in front of a photograph on the wall.

Straddling a cushioned cube at a local hangout spot, I was drawn to draw him. Ruffly shirt, dark eye peering out of stark value shifts. My own eyes tracing the shapes, the connections between shapes, the value shifts, squinting in order to see better.

What shall I use? Emptying my zippered pen/marker/pencil pouch, I didn’t realize I was talking out loud. One of my fellow drawers offered – “Use charcoal! It begs for charcoal!” Yes, I know…but I don’t wanna use charcoal…I feel rebellious.

Now if you met me, your first thought would NOT be – Wow…here’s one rebellious chic! Middle-aged, ordinary mom, dressed in homegrown clothes…quite predictable I’m sure. But today I did not want to choose the predictable. I adore charcoal. It is effortless and magical and allows you to lay in values and adjust transitions on a dime. What I wanted today was ink and water and pen and watercolor. I wanted to see if I could tame something whose primary property is FLOW (charcoal does not flow on its own), and to attempt to wrangle it into something that looked like a portrait. Yes… fountain pen, water brush, watercolor paint.

There was only a moment’s hesitation before setting my fountain pen to paper. Just enough time to choose where to start my line…on the page as well as the face…right here, I think. Then it was off to the races. Well, the tortoise race of following the contours of invisible lines were values meet. Not drawing a nose, just the shapes, where I see them. No pencil first, just gut and years of experience guiding me.

When all was said and done, or at least when I declared that the sketchbook paper couldn’t take anymore paint, that the flow I had been wrangling and taming was on that lovely verge of flowing right off the page, when I sat back and felt that it could stop in this most interesting place…I knew…

…I knew that it was not correct.

I will not go into all the ways this drawing (painting, sketch, whatever you want to call it) does not “match” the photograph, does not exhibit “correct” values or transitions, does not have perfectly measured shapes. What I will say, is that it delights me. This sketch, based purely on itself and not on any standard or pre-existing image, is exactly what I had set out for –

Unpredictable, full of flow and splash and texture, all within certain quasi-delineated bounds that give the overall impression of a face. Yes. This.

This is why I love to draw. As I peer into another’s face, a landscape, a jumble mess on my desk, I get a glimpse of my own self, of my world, of life. I could care less whether anyone else likes it, or think it’s “good” or not. In fact, I want to care less and less what I myself deem it to be.

What I want is to keep on peering into things, drawing them in unpredictable ways, trying new approaches, and so somehow to live the whole of my life in that chaotic flow, trying to wrangle it within invisible bounds so that beauty can emerge. I want to care less about whether the values are correct, the shapes perfectly measured. I definitely do not want my life to match someone else’s.

I must follow where I am led…riding on pools of watercolor as it flows, blooms, and splatters in unpredictable ways. Following  an invisible line that only my Maker draws out for me. This way of living delights me. Scares me. But fascinates me and keeps me coming back to the pages of my sketchbook.

Curbed Beauty

For weeks on end I marvel and enjoy in my living room a gazillion branches shooting out in a most pleasing shape, draped with twinkly  lights and sparkly ornaments. I never once consider the base, the foundation, the structure from which all these balsam branches emanate. Well, maybe once, as my son lifted the tree and I guided the spike from the stand into the pre-drilled hole at the bottom.

It isn’t until our lovely Christmas tree lies bare, de-frocked of its adornments, and drying on its side at the curb right in front of our house, that I can see its real beauty. For many days, as I passed by it on my walks, I winced at the lonesome heap. But this day, rounding the corner into our cul-de-sac, something drew me to look at our tree from a different perspective. What I saw made me draw in breath, hold it for a few seconds and slowly exhale…wow.

I don’t know that I can articulate what I saw gazing from drill-hole-end down the trunk, yet up and through the gazillion branches. It was as if I peered into a telescope and glimpsed another world, more mesmerizing than the tinseled one I had fancied for weeks in my living room. It was like falling into a wonderland of realization where I could actually, finally, if momentarily, see the real beauty behind the external fanfare. I was able to to see what my heart longs for —

–something solid that anchors the myriad of spokes shooting out in every direction…lines woven in an intricate dance held secure by a strong, immovable, straight core.

It is a mere 13 days since the beginning of a New Year and already it feels like SLOW & SIMPLIFY have become HASTEN & MULTIPLY. The lovely slow days of snow perhaps gave a wrenching contrast to the pace of my normal life. I typically stand viewing the gazillion beautiful branches of this creative life I’ve been granted with immense gratitude and an equal part overwhelm.

I realize as I’m on my knees at the curb gazing into our Christmas tree, that it is precisely the fact that I’m often fixated on all the adorned branches which gives me this overwhelming feeling and a sense of go-go-get-done. In these few seconds (perhaps minutes?), my heart-rate slows, and my focus narrows as I gaze into the solid core, the trunk, the vine from which all the branches emanate. Even now, as I write, I’m understanding this phenomenon more and am heartened to move forward in my day with a solidity in my soul:

It may not be a slow day and I doubt it will be simple, speaking in terms of all the branches. But I carry at my core the Tree of Life, the Balm of Gilead, the bright Morning Star, the River of Gladness, the One who makes all things new.

I want to stay here on my knees just a moment longer peering into these things, gaining strength and solidity. But I must away and join in the intricate dance of so many branches.

Perhaps I’ll carry my drawing with me to steady me along that way.

Artfully yours,

Jennifer