Drawcumenting Life

Over ten years ago, when I first began to blog, I was inspired by Alicia Paulson‘s photography of her everyday life. It seems an enchanted life from the viewpoint of her camera lens…walks in the woods, her current stitching projects of all kinds, her home, her cooking. Everyday things, which are indeed beautiful in and of themselves, but made moreso by the art of photography. Her writing was also enjoyable as she chronicled her days, rainy or sunny, chaotic or simple, difficult or restful. I wanted to do the same thing but with sketches and drawings rather than photographs.

I’ve been reconnecting with this love of drawcumenting my days. Not that I had stopped drawing  in a sketchbook, but I was finding an overwhelm with all that I love to create which crowded out the daily practice of looking for, sitting down, and sketching something in my life. Whether it’s the daffodils blooming along our driveway (below), or the end of the day sitting around the living room while husband works at the computer (first one), or sketching a photo of the knitters and crocheters I teach (second sketch), or the loveliness of my daughter as she learns to knit an intricate pattern …this delights me to no end.

I have been in need of some focus. To re-establish what it is that underpins all the creativity, all the mothering, the wife-ing, the teaching, etc. Drawing my life in a sketchbook is how I can see it all for the beauty it is, no matter how hum-drum or exciting it may be. Following a line through my days works to help anchor me and provide insight into what’s going on underneath it all, in and through it all, and sometimes even despite it all.  It is a documentary of sorts, but drawn through a pen, a brush, a sketchbook.

I have just finished an entire sketchbook! I love looking back through it for all that it contains from the date written on the very first page. I am aware that I have jumped around to several other sketchbooks. large and small, for more drawings and sketches of life, but when one is filled up to the very last page, I feel a wistful contentment…herein is a life of love. Go to my Instagram feed to see a very quick flip-through of this sketchbook. The above drawings of knitters around the table and of my husband at the computer are the final two drawings in this book. The video cut off right before these last two sketches.

I have a couple of sketchbooks to choose from to begin another. They are what I call “good sketchbooks”…you know, the more costly kind with paper thick enough for watercolor, pen and all kinds of media. The sketchbook I just finished, with its tons and tons of pages, was very cheap! Same with this brown kraft paper sketchbook. Both bought at Walmart, they contain fairly sturdy paper, but it does buckle and warp, something I don’t mind too much. In fact, a cheap sketchbook can be very freeing! I also loved the really white paper of the first one! White paper makes watercolor sparkle and fineliner pens stark and clear. I’m not terribly crazy about the brown kraft paper, but it’s fun to switch to every now and again. I’m hesitant to start drawing in my Handbook Journal because the paper is cream colored. However, even though I liked the white pages of the cheap book, it was difficult managing the bulk of so many pages not laying flat for a drawing across both pages. That is my favorite way to draw – covering both pages at one go. So I’ve ordered a Stillman and Burn sketchbook because I’ve heard that the pages lay open very flat. We shall see. There are only 26 pages in one sketchbook so that won’t last me very long. I’ll just keep on searching for the perfect sketchbook. If you have a favorite, do share it with me! I am particularly in search of bright white paper, thick enough to handle watercolor, and pages that lay somewhat flat.

I hope you can drawcument your day through the lens of your sketchbook! Draw on my friends…draw on!

Dawdle

“Oh I can waste a minute or two or hundreds…

that’s not a problem for me,” she says with ease.

Not a confession.

Just a statement of truth.

I envy her this. For I cannot dawdle.

Nope.

Not for long anyway.

I sit to stare out this window

to dream and gaze and wonder…

and immediately lines are dancing in my head,

words are forming into lines

pearls on a string

making hay with all

the wonder, the dream, the gaze.

***

It is all a poem, a painting.

Every leaf trembles with meaning.

Every tree and bush offers revel and rhyme.

Every brook sings sweetly of a tune from another land.

I hear it everywhere.

Under my chair, in laughter, in tears.

It perches on the feeder and roams in the woods.

It calls my name always to come play,

to paint and draw and make much.

This is why I have such a hard time wasting any minutes.

For even while staring out a window

I’m seeing and hearing …

and trying to decipher what I’m to do with all this beauty.

-jpe

*********

I have been making a concerted effort to just sit and stare out a window. Or to sit outside, which is definitely my preference, regardless of the yo-yo weather we are having here in NC. My intention each day is to be aware of where I am, look up, take in the surroundings of what my daily life brings. I’m drawing and sketching more of this in an effort to sink deeply into these moments. Or at least for the time period it takes to draw what I see out the window, or whilst sitting in our living room, or my studio. I’m also coming home from daily walks and sketching something I’ve seen. This is often from memory, but sometimes from a photo. That first drawing was made from a photo I took while walking at Reynolda Gardens last week. Nearly every step was so full of drawable-ness I could scarcely breathe let alone snap a pic with my phone.

All the world alive with loveliness. It is sometimes too much for me. I have to reign it in somehow and just be content with only one drawing, or just a sketch or two. I wish, oh golly how I wish, I could take in all that I see and hear and transpose it into my sketchbook. The doing of these drawings is less about having something to show, and more about grafting into my being all that I see, all that I hear. To somehow tattoo onto my heart and mind these lovely things so that in bleaker times I can remember them. So that when beauty is scarce, my heart is trained to look for, find and record the flowers that are blooming next to the carnage of a dying bush.

Dawdling does not come as easy for me as it does for my dear oldest daughter whose words open the poem. I am drawing inspiration from her and making an effort to dawdle more, to “waste” a few minutes or more (if indeed it is a waste!) by just looking, resting my eyes on what is around me, and holding my hands at bay for a little while before they burst into lines and splattered paint. I know it is not a waste. Not at all. It is the crucial ingredient for an artful life.

I hope you can dawdle a bit today too!

******

For more on dawdling, drawing, seeing our lives, and living with artful eye…

check out…

A practice of drawing your life in a sketchbook.

And…

I Hear It

Wouldn’t you like for me to tell you

the thing your heart has

always wanted to hear?

Wouldn’t you like to hear those words

feel them on your face

rumbling in your belly?

Wouldn’t you want to wake up each morning

to those eternal words

you’re starving to feast upon?

***

Out there we can hear it.

In the raucous birdsong

the breeze of leafing

the earth alive.

***

In here we feel it

under our feet pining and pebbling

where streams gurgle

waterfalls roar.

***

Surrounded by wood and wild flower

breathing the loamy undergrowth

hearing the sound of living…

I hear it.

Don’t you?

***

“I love you”, sing the birds.

“You are loved”, breathe the trees.

“We are loved”, roar the waters.

“All is love”, clap the leaves.

“You are cherished”, whispers everything.

Here.

Now.

Tomorrow.

Forever.

-jpe

Pen & Watercolor sketches made at Reynolda Gardens yesterday.

Faber Castell fineliner pens: Brush Tip, 1.5 , XS .

American Journey watercolors & DaVinci Gouache.

Too Much

If you peeled your eyes away

to give them a break

to rest from so much seeing

to see what might be discovered in reality…

If you pulled your nose back from the glass and stone

from the screen and window

to inhale something new, or just stop breathing the fumes…

If you covered your ears

and stopped listening to tripe, to lies, to bait…

What would you hear?

What would you smell?

What would you see?

Sometimes I feel it – too much seeing.

Sometimes my breathing is labored from so much pressing my nose where it need not be.

Sometimes my ears are tired from so much hearing of what I do not need.

I step back. I close my eyes.

I shut the computer and the phone.

I listen to silence.

Perhaps to song.

And I breathe.

And I create.

And I relax.

********

More and more I’m finding I need periods of respite from online activity. Be it a few hours or even days, this unplugging allows me to rest, to really hear and see what’s going on in my life, to listen to what my pen wants to draw or write. It feels a bit like Spring. Something underneath the surface beginning to stir and waken, yet still waiting to come forth. I’m seeing it on my walks these days…tiny bright green spots coming up from the ground and peeking out the ends of limbs. It’s still very early days here in the South where winter could come roaring back just when the tender blooms think it’s ok to wave at us.

I need to step back, listen to the silence of so much growth. I need to keep watch over the tender shoots…breathing, creating, and relaxing into the change of seasons.

I’ll Tell You

What happens when so much making comes tumbling out of you that you shy to share it?

What do you do when so many ideas beg and need to be birthed, small, tiny, insignificant ideas yet they must be born?

What if you feel so alive with all the making, the knitting, the poeming, the crafting, the drawing, the writing of stories that, surely you are living in miniature and illustration?

What then?

I’ll tell you.

You let it tumble out.

You do not share it. Not yet.

You birth the ideas as far as they will go no matter how small and insignificant they seem.

You knit, you poem, you draw and craft, you illustrate and write.

You live in your stories for your stories help you understand your story and thereby help you to live…

Tumbling…

Making…

Loving…

Alive.

-jpe

To Sit With What Is :: A New Year’s Surrender

There is something delicious about standing at the edge of a new year! It feels like starting a brand new sketchbook (oh the possibilities!), or casting on a new fair isle project (the colors, designs and so many knits & purls to look forward to!), or setting out fabric scraps with an eye to what could be collaged and stitched into a lovely fragment. It is also encouraging to look back over the year, scroll back through one’s Instagram feed, and see the making, remember the incredible times of drawing, knitting, stitching, writing. Closing out a year and turning my face to another is wonderful indeed!

It is also overwhelming. The above photograph is a current picture of the many ways my creative head and heart walk through life. The older I become the more I realize this is how I deal with life, this is how I work through all that life brings to me, the pretty and the painful and everything in between. If I  gaze out into 2018 for too long, I want to walk a step or two backwards, look away and just sit down. I think I can certainly do that for a moment, for a day at least. Perhaps even for good.

Last year I began the year with the words Slow & Simplify. I wanted them to guide me, to define or focus my intention about moving through the year. It was lovely to carry those words with me, even in the midst of not-at-all slow times and ever-so-not simple ones. There were places in the year, more than I would have liked, that I wished I had not chosen those words, for it seemed that Life was out to contradict them in every way possible. But towards the end of 2017, even in those crazy final two months filled with holidaying, I came to realize a secret to being slow and simple in life…and that is to sit with what is. I’m pretty certain I’ve heard this phrase from Susan Piver whose meditation guidance has helped me so very much over the last few years. I resumed this practice late in the autumn and it continues to root me in my personal life and in my creative life. To sit with what is is not a giving up of dreams and goals. It is not a curl up under the covers, pull the wool over one’s eyes way of life. Rather it is a strong-backed, head up, soft-bellied breathing into whatever is going on in one’s life. It is a way of sitting down and facing whatever is in one’s lap at the moment. For me, this helps me both with what is in my lap in life at the moment AND what is in my lap creatively. Is life going at warp speed at the moment? Ok, sit with that. Be all there breathing into the blur. Is life complicated and confusing? Ok then…sit with that and breathe space into the craziness.

I don’t know how this strikes you. You may not be like me. In fact, I hope you are not. You see, my default setting in life is to feel that I should and ought to be doing, being, making, creating something other than what I’m currently doing, being, making, or creating. Call it driven, call it striving, call it restlessness, call it passion, curiosity, or creative. It is hardwired into my being for reasons I may not fully comprehend. But there it is. Always striving to reach the next goal, check off the next thing on my to-do list, be everything I need to be for excellence in my personal life and in my work as an artist. That last sentence sounds exhausting. Even in a desire for Slow & Simple, it can become a measuring stick that beats me over the head when life isn’t either of them. To sit with what is, allows me to sink into my life, accepting it, breathing into it prayerfully, whether it is slow or busy, whether it is simple or complicated, whether it is pretty or painful, whether it seems productive or not, whether I am accomplishing anything or just running in circles. To sit with what is, allows me to be ok with whatever is in my lap at the moment, be it a sketchbook, or some knitting, or embroidery, or my writing journal. Any feelings of guilt, should-be, oughtta-be, wanna-be , can be let go of, breathing into the creative goodness at hand. Even when I’m being hounded by the be-better, do-more, do-other thoughts, I can just sit with that, breathe space around it, acknowledging that it is there, a part of who I am, but not something I have to give full attention to. It can just sit there, beside me, while I continue breathing, living, creating.

So this is my intention for 2018. To walk into the year bravely, courageously, and creatively opening my hands to whatever comes, whatever falls in my lap. To sit with it, breathe into it, and prayerfully let go of the striving and drivenness that may come with it.  I will resist and let go of the inevitable desire to make “sitting with what is” my new measuring stick. Thanks be to God that there is now no condemnation for those who live in His love and grace. That’s where I want to be…sitting with what is true, good and beautiful.

Thank you so very much to all of you who continue to visit with me here, who read my words, who purchase and enjoy my art-making in all its various forms. You are so appreciated!! Here’s to 2018…a New Year filled with many stitches, sketches and inspirations!!

Happy New Year!

Artfully Yours,

Jennifer

Advent

I have received word that my dear friend, Marion Gagan Kovach, has gone home to be with her Savior. The following Reflection was written just this morning, knowing that He might be coming for her very soon. While I am bereft, already feeling lost without my friend’s presence here, I wholeheartedly affirm the words of this Reflection and rejoice that she is no longer suffering.

***************

A dear friend of mine is at this moment struggling for breath in a cancer ICU. We typically think of the celebration of Advent as a happy and lighthearted time. It is not always so. Though I have known and been friends with her for 30+ years, I feel as if I’ve known her all my life. She and I both were dancers in our young girl years and I imagine we would have been BFF’s in dance class, working our plies, tandus, and pirouettes together. She has been valiantly battling esophageal cancer for 2 1/2 years, and it has been my privilege to walk alongside her, trying to keep in touch as best we can through it all.

We speak of Advent as an anticipation of Christ’s coming to us as a babe in a manger. Indeed it is just this. But we sometimes miss the fact that He comes to us in a multiplicity of ways. The entire Christmas story is rife with numerous ways God comes to His people: an Angel of the Lord comes to Mary to bring her the news that God is going to come to her, overshadow her, and birth in her His only Son. An army of God’s messengers come to the Shepherds in the field to announce the birth of Christ. God comes to Joseph in a dream to allay his fears and give instruction for the path ahead. God comes to the Three Kings in a dream to tell them to travel another way. In fact, the entirety of the Scriptures is an unfolding of all the ways God has come to us. Not the other way ’round.

I astonish myself with how I know this to be true, that the King of Heaven comes to His children, but I live as if I’m the one who has to reach, grasp, and work my way to God. There is not a single story in the Bible where people have successfully gotten themselves together, cleaned up their act, been nice enough, smart enough, wise enough, to achieve the status “made it to heaven.” In fact, usually their efforts to earn salvation or God’s approval go horribly wrong. But God…

He comes to us in Advent as a baby, because that is what we are…helpless, vulnerable, dependent babes. He does ALL the work of coming to save His own. He alone rescues. He alone provides. He alone comforts. He alone grants faith, grace, and mercy. He also comes to us in our death. We do not travel that lonely dreadful path alone. Soon He will reach out His hand to my friend and say those precious words…“Talitha, koum”. He will take her by the hand and say “Dear little one, get up and go with me into eternity! Breathe freely, plie, tandu and pirouette to your heart’s content! ” Yes, even in death, He comes to His own. Emmanuel. God. With. Us.

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

******

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.

Isaiah 9:2

A Jolly July!

July is here!!

And I’m super excited about this month for lots of reasons. There will be celebrations – the Fourth, our daughter’s half-birthday, and my own birthday at the end of the month. There will be travels – we are driving to Arkansas to pick up our son who is performing with Opera in the Ozarks; and I hope to travel to Virginia to visit with a childhood friend. I’m planning on drawing and sketching my way through the month, knitting up some pretty things, and stitching my drawings onto collaged fabric fragments (my recent obsession:).

To start off my birthday month with a bang, I’m offering a little present to you, Hobbit-style! For anything and everything in my ETSY shop, you may use the discount code HAPPYBIRTHDAY to receive 50% off the price! No, I haven’t gone nuts! Well, maybe I have…I’m setting my intention for this month to be a a jolly one, a true Christmas in July sort of celebration from the beginning to the end.

I do hope you will avail yourself of this once-in-a-blue-moon offer!! For cheap as chips, you can enhance your sketching and drawing practice by purchasing the Discover Your Life Beautiful, One Drawing At A Time ebook & video course. For pennies you can knit or crochet a lovely shawl or sweater, wrap or scarf. So go ahead and indulge! Use the above discount code when you check out. From now until the 31st of July! Enjoy!

I just returned from the Ocean’s Edge and I’m refueled and ready for this Jolly month. If you’d like to read all about the week by the Ocean and see some stitcherly goodness, plus drawings and sketches, visit The Silver Dapple, a new blog dedicated to an exciting medium as I stitch my drawings onto collaged fabric fragments. It’s slow stitching, but all the more savory in its slowness.

To catch all the drawings, watercolors, knitting and crocheting, stitching and whatever else strikes my fancy, do follow me on Instagram as that is where I tend to hang out the most. Above all, I hope you have a Jolly July making things with your hands! Indoors, outdoors, on the road or at home, may your month be an Artful one!

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

Befriending Curiosity

Do you ever look around your studio and scratching your head, wonder…What am I doing here? Not because you have a temporary lapse of memory as to your location (which happens to me on occasion ;/), but because the things you are making are new and different in some way.

I find myself scratching my head a lot. Have done so for lo these many years. The flip-flopping around from drawing to knitting, painting to crochet, realism to abstraction, weaving to embroidery…fairly makes my head spin sometimes. It is a very real struggle that brings not a little consternation to this artist’s heart.

I was listening to a podcast recently whose topic was completely unrelated to art. The person interviewed was talking about “befriending endings”. That phrase sounded lovely to me, a true way to affirm life and it’s many beginnings and endings, directions and switch-backs. I’ve been thinking of all the ways this helps me as an artist:

Befriend Interruptions. Befriend new directions. Befriend busyness. Befriend the curiosity to try new things.

This curiosity leads me down some magical paths. I seem to return to a very familiar intersection where creativity meets all manner of mediums. At this intersection a host of questions begin to fill my head… how can I make images with yarn? Can I create abstract drawings that have movement and feeling? How can I translate my drawings into embroidery? Oooohhh…could I even create abstract  embroidered pieces? Or superimpose line drawings that are stitched onto abstractly collaged fabrics?

These and other curiosities light me up and send me off down new paths, or sometimes old paths with a different twist or a more fervent embrace. I seem to feel the need to create fresh blogs for each of these paths. It may seem silly to you dear reader or perhaps it doesn’t matter a hill of beans that I do this. But my need for each new path to have a fresh, uncluttered page seems to defy what my studio looks like, and affords breathing space for all the questions and curiosities I am currently working out.

With the onset of summer, I’ll be camping out on a new blog created especially for my embroidered fragments. You can read more about them here and here and even follow me there if you are curious to see where this path takes me. Perhaps you’d even like to join me in a Summer of Stitching. But I will also be drawing and painting abstracts. I am particularly interested in seeing if I can create abstracts that are based on actual things/objects/places etc. Above you can see the first of its kind and you can check in with numerous others, as well as the embroidery, on Instagram as the summer unfolds. These two things are not mutually exclusive of one another. In fact, I’ve been creating abstract fabric collages and stitching my line drawings atop of them. I recently made a fabric collage based on an abstract sketch from my sketchbook. It is being stitched and embellished with embroidery, beads, stitched drawings, etc. I’m looking forward to seeing how it evolves.

If this is all a bit dizzying to you dear reader, please know that it is for me as well. But I am endlessly curious, and seem to thrive on trying to solve creative riddles and searching for answers to the numerous artistic questions in my head. What is a constant and helps me make sense of it all, is that all roads seem to branch off of and lead me back to my sketchbook. That’s a pretty cool idea –

A sketchbook is an intersection where magical paths await exploration.

Let’s go exploring this summer and befriend curiosity!

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

Yep. That’s me! Sitting at the intersection, sketching the path ahead. 🙂

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.