Nothing to Prove, Everything to Share

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Just like oozly watercolors on paper, the colorful mind of an artist can turn to mud with the introduction of just one wrong thought. You don’t think of it as a “wrong” color to add in the mix with all the rest. You think “oh I’m just assessing the work”, “I’m just analyzing” or “I’m just being realistic.” But the minute, the absolute second, the tip of your brush touches the paper with thoughts of self, outcomes, worthiness, or value, the brown mud creeps into every color on the page chasing joy right out of the picture.

This happens to me far more often than I’d like to admit. But what also happens, fairly soon after I’ve thrown my hands up in the air crying Uncle, is that help begins to rain down. My hands are then catching the lovely drops of nectar that speak directly to my ailment and soothe my soul.

The first of these drops came a few weeks ago as I was agonizing, for the umpteenth trillionth time, over whether or not to start a video podcast. I won’t bore you with all the artistic angst (and believe me – the angst isn’t artistic at all!) I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and saw a post from my favorite yogi Eoin Finn, which said:

Nothing to Prove. Everything to Share.

The quote was even in the shape of a droplet of water, like dew from heaven. These words leapt off the screen and lodged in my heart so grandly that within 24 hours I had taped and uploaded my first video podcast for sharing my love of knitting and drawing. Eoin had put a hashtag with this quote, #jenniesallen, who has a book coming out soon by this very title: Nothing to Prove. I cannot wait to get my hands (and heart) on this book.

The next gift was a short but profound Good Life Project Riff with Jonathan Fields. I’ve listened to his podcast interviews for years and love hearing from so many voices about the path their creativity takes them. But in his “riffs” (very short podcasts) he jams on a particular subject. In his latest Riff, I was reminded of a truth that sets me free in my creative angst every time! I won’t go into the whole description of Jonathan’s podcast because you will love hearing it straight from him (only 9 minutes!), but I’ll tell you the main gist:

There is no there there.

There is only here now.

Oh how this sets me free from the tyranny of outcomes and plants me firmly where I need to be, fully alive to the moment at hand.

The last gift, though certainly not the least, was discovering this week the work of Michael Nobbs. I had heard of him through Sketchbook Skool for a while, but only a few days ago ventured to his newly revamped website from the Sketchbook Skool Newsletter. After listening to several of his short daily podcasts and reading his writing on Sustainable Creativity, I fell in love with this slow, gentle approach to creative living that Michael embodies.

Michael’s podcasts and writings, timely and inspirational during this week of Art Show preparations, have felt like a comforting hug. With tea in hand, short bursts of work, followed by times of rest, a bit of homely baking and a generous amount of pondering, I will make it to the Art Show and beyond…one small step at a time.

I highly recommend you check out Michael’s beautiful offering! As well as Jonathan Fields and his Good Life Project, Eoin Finn, and Jennie Allen. This season of thankfulness has me abounding in gratitude for all the fellow creatives valiantly sharing their love and messages with us. They enable me to go forth valiantly as well, with nothing whatsoever to prove…

just everything to share.

See you at the Show! 

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****Note on the above sketch: I have taken to drawing jumbles in my home. These are places where lots of STUFF seems to assemble itself into a colorful mess. They are great places to draw!! Drawing the jumbles of my life helps me see that there is beauty in messes. And it also delays the tidying up…:0

What if….?

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What if you could create for just 7 days, a mere week of your life, and at the end of the week have a small series of works that hold together, have taught you a lot, and bring a smile to your face? And what if you didn’t have to go anywhere or pay lots of money in order to have a week like this? And furthermore, what if you didn’t have to clear out your entire life to create some small works of art?

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The last seven days have been an answer to these questions and more as I said Yes to Tara Leaver’s offer to join her in a 7-Day Mini Painting Challenge. Surely I can commit to something like this for one week? Before thinking too much about it, I was pulling out leftover bits of yarn, a couple of crochet hooks and sketching out some thumbnail ideas for the next 7 days.

I’m not going to say that this was easy. In fact, I probably should have thought twice about what it would mean to try to make a small fiber painting each day. Working with stitches and yarn requires far more time than it does in paint and paper! And then to make these paintings in and around a full-schedule and a holiday weekend. But I didn’t think about this. I just dove in. Sometimes it is best  NOT to think. Just begin!

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Even though I had made a couple of  fiber paintings in the past, I still had lots of questions I wanted to explore. Tara’s 7-Day Challenge was actually supposed to require 30 minutes or less, which I could have certainly done with paint, pens or pastels. But I regularly work this way…small increments of time happily drawing and painting, filling sketchbooks with images from my everyday life. For this challenge, I wanted to explore the questions I’ve had banging around in  my  head concerning making these images with a crochet hook and yarn, even if it meant spending more than a half hour each day, which I did, and staying up a couple of days past my usual bedtime to finish them. 🙂

Here are some of the questions I wanted to explore:

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Day 1: What if I used fibers to create the shapes of trees as well as suggesting light falling on the scene?

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Day 2 & 3 (largest fiber painting of the bunch): What if I tried to use varying tones of the same color to indicate volume and how light plays on a still-life subject? Can this be done with flowers?

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Day 5: Can this be done with fruit? And can I make “cast shadows” read as such in fibers?

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Day 4: What if I used the textures of fiber to suggest nature? i.e.. leafy trees, a “smooth” path, etc.

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Day 6: What if I used stitches and color to show the movement of water and sky? Could I also indicate the texture in a waterscape? i.e.. the foamy waves, the fluffy clouds? (Note: the photographs do not show off all the textures of the yarns. I do wish you could see them “in person”.:)

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Day 7: What if I tried to indicate depth in a landscape with things in the foreground and things in the background? Can I successfully portray this to the viewer? (This was explored in each of the landscape fiber paintings!)

Whether or not I successfully achieved all the “what if’s”, (or took two days to complete one painting!) these six paintings make me smile! They still have a bit of work to be done–backing them so they can be wall-hangings and some final embroidered touches here and there.

I know I will create more of these in the future, but for now I’ll just look at the ones I’ve made and smile. When they are fully finished, I may hang them in my home. Or I might exhibit them at my Annual Art Show in November, or offer them on ETSY. I don’t know yet. I’m just enjoying having made them and having many of my questions answered.

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I appreciate all of your positive responses to this little 7-day journey on FB and Instagram! And I’m thankful for Tara Leaver and her wonderful way of inspiring artists to be freed to create, to move through blocks and to offer our work in the world! If you aren’t familiar with Tara’s art and workshops, do check her out! She has a workshop coming up very soon you might want to participate in. She has lots there on her website to encourage you to be the artist you want to be.

OR, in my case, to spend 7-days being just “ONE-OF-THE-57-ARTISTS-THAT-LIVE-INSIDE-OF-YOU”! Thank you Tara!

Artfully Yours,

Jennifer

When Magic Happens

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It happens at various times along the way. Magic that is. Years ago, when I first swiped watercolor on a white page…I drew in my breath and held it as I watched the color move on the paper, blend with other colors. Something special was happening that was just for me. The magic of watercolor has never left me. It’s oozles and wazzles delight me endlessly.

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Then one day, again many years ago, I got out a wooden box filled with Rembrandt soft pastels that my grandmother had given me when I was  child. Holding a stick on its side, I swooshed the pigment on the page, and there it was again…that feeling that magic was afoot. In neither instance did this magical feeling have to do with WHAT I was creating on the paper. In fact, if you saw these early attempts, you would not be particularly impressed as they looked much like what a kindergarten artist might create. I did not care. The magic was in the process of putting color onto paper. Or was it in the seeing of these colors as they went onto paper? Or was it simply the initial discovery of new mediums?

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I have now been actively pursuing art-making for almost 20 years. Wow! That seems like a long time to me. You might think that the magic has worn off, the blush of first love at swiping color on a page might have become ho-hum over the years. It does, in some sense, become a normal state of enjoyment for an artist…surely this is what keeps us coming back to make more art! But there are still moments when our breath is taken away; we stand back in awe or delight at the page or canvas before us, and simply are amazed at the loveliness. It isn’t an arrogance or prideful thing. It is merely showing up to the page every day, being present for magic to happen. Some days you feel it. Some days not.

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And then there are days when the convergence of something new…or at least it feels new…suddenly hits you and you know that magic has happened once again. Its outside of you. It came through you. And it now exists in front of you. This is what happens when I put my favorite creamy pastels over top of random swooshes of watercolor.

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The first magical moment with this happened soon after our daughter’s wedding this summer. I had pulled out this neglected sketchbook from years ago. I had not made many marks in it for various reasons. Two, maybe three pages had a few half-hearted attempts. So with a what-the-heck attitude, I dashed on some random washes of watercolor, page after page, and let them dry.

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As I was into abstraction over the summer, I swiped pastel over top of one of these pages and knew instantly…I was in love! I couldn’t make any more sketches or drawings that day due to its loveliness. I just walked by my drawing table often to gaze at the soft colors dancing around on top of the watercolor. The next day, I turned the page, and worked again in the same manner. Light touch. Gorgeous color. Again…magic!

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On and on, page after page now in this book, some abstract, some representational. This particular one, made last week after being blown away by the cloud formations at the top of our hill on Silver Dapple Lane. You see, the magic begins with inspiration, with beauty seen, with a desire to lasso it onto paper, or free it for interpretation, or something. But after I stepped back from trying to recreate what I saw and felt up on my favorite lane, I knew…

…magic!

It was there on the page.

I held my breath for only a little while, exhaling gratitude all day.

***Magic may also be due to the tea one drinks while painting! The message on this bag of Green Tea set the tone for this painting. Kinda cool!

A ‘Nother Blog…

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I know, I know…another one? Really Jen? Yes, really! This one is a quiet space for sharing the grace I receive through knitting and crocheting. So please visit me there and sign up for posts to drop in your email box, if you like. It’s a “twin blog”…like the second sock you knit. You’ll understand why when you visit:

A Knitter’s Grace.wordpress.com

Another Sketchbook Chat will be coming soon…so stay tuned! 🙂

Thanks, as always, for following this crazy gal’s creative jags. I really do appreciate it!

Happy Easter!

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Happy Easter to all!

There’s a little Easter poem and drawing over on APilgrimsDraw today.

May you and yours enjoy celebrating the Risen Savior!

-Jennifer

Painting with Leaf & Flower

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I’ve been thinking about Carol lately. Wondering if she is out in her butterfly garden getting it ready for spring and a new season of winged visitors. I imagine her deciding to move a plant or two, adding in a few more of this or that, trying something different to attract her favorite species of butterflies. I’ve often thought that master gardeners are artists who instead of pen and paint, create with leaf and flower.

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I am now certain of this as I had the opportunity to create a painting of her garden for her earlier this year. I had the privilege of visiting Carol and her masterful garden in the fall of 2015. The butterfly garden was at its peak, just on the verge of diminishing for the cold season ahead. Cockscomb, zinnia, cleome and numerous other flowering plants rioted the front face of Carol’s home. She probably has a difficult time getting her guests to come indoors as they would surely want to amble around seeing all the gorgeous blooming. How could I paint such beauty?

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I honestly wasn’t sure I was equal to the task. This is a case where the beauty of what one is to capture on canvas seems to overshadow one’s ability to harness it in paint. I took a deep breath, said a little prayer, and dove in.

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She was happy with the results. I could not have been more pleased that she welcomed these paintings into her home with such joy and generosity. And I am tickled with the results as well. Especially that I had a chance to get to know such a wonderful  artist/gardener who lives in my town.

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***These paintings were created as a triptych. The center painting is 24″ x 24″. The side paintings are 18″ x 24″. (This final image is cropped from the right-hand painting.) Acrylic on canvas.

The Real Intent Behind an Art Show

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There are numerous reasons why artists want to have and be a part of Art Shows. One may be a very simple desire to recoup some of the cost that goes into the making of their creations. Another might be to go beyond that and actually make a profit. Some artists may wish to develop a following, extend their list of collectors. Others desire to receive favorable reviews of their technical expertise. But I have a feeling that most artists and creative folks have a desire and intent underlying all these things.

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I cannot speak for every artist. But as for me, my real intent in having an Art Show is so that you might see what I see. Regardless of whether you walk out of the show with anything in your hands, my desire is that you might get a glimpse of the beauty, joy and wonder that has been found in living an everyday life in an everyday town. Sharing what I make is not about “See what I can do”, but rather “See what I have seen”, and “Revel in the beauty that’s right under our feet.”

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(detail of larger Freeform Crochet Landscape)

Art Shows, museums, exhibits and galleries are meant to be reminders to us all that no matter how bleak life may seem, beauty still exists! If you find yourself fearful in the aftermath of the Paris tragedy, weighed down with personal concerns, heavy hearted with unwelcome news…go find an art showing somewhere. Spend some time taking in how that artist sees his/her world. Let that art speak to you and remind you of what is true, good, and wise. You just might leave with a lighter step, a brighter countenance, and hope for what lies ahead.

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You Are Invited!

Jennifer Edwards

Annual Art Show & Book Signing

Saturday, November 21, 2015

4-7 pm

Southwinds Gallery

West Mountain Street. Kernersville, NC

*21 New Paintings *2 Embroidered Line Drawings *Freeform Crochet Landscape *New Card Sets *Book Signing *and more!

An Artful Life Primer

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The topic of this book began to take shape soon after my sickness and surgery in 2013. It was June. I’d been doing a lot of thinking, knitting and drawing as I continued to heal, grow stronger and get used to life without a colon. I stood at the sink washing dishes in the beach house where my husband’s family goes for a week of vacation every year. As I washed dishes, the thought came into my head that I no longer wanted an Art Career. Numerous and varied attempts to find my niche seemed to fall flat and be frustrated by life’s demands. It occurred to me there, with suds and dirty dishes in hand, that what I really wanted was an Artful Life.

An Artful Life, to me, meant that ALL of life would be infused with creativity. Or at least with an eye for seeing the beauty in it, no matter what came my way. An Art Career could be, and was, constantly interrupted by domestic duties and often sidelined by health crises. An Artful Life, on the other hand, would be possible, if I lived all of life as opportunity for seeing beauty and listening to what it had to say to me. I realized there at the sink, that I had already been doing this for many years. I had somehow learned to use my pen and knitting needles to draw the beauty out of my circumstances and knit it into my heart.

After a second, and then a third surgery to deal with issues arising from the first one, I began to pen a very basic outline of what I was doing to live this Artful Life. I realized I had been developing a practice, a daily habit, of showing up to the page, the sketchbook, the wools & cottons, and working out what I encountered in life. It didn’t matter if life was boring or repetitive, exciting or painful…ALL of it could be scoured for beauty. Creating something, ANYTHING, in and through life’s days became a vehicle for seeing, capturing, releasing the beauty that I was convinced was there.

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This little book is all about my practice of creativity. It is very simple, perhaps too simple, in its straightforward three-fold approach. But I wrote this with you in mind. I want you, no matter your creative background or dependence on rulers for a straight line ;), to be able to engage in a practice of living artfully. Indeed, this practice doesn’t even require that you know how to draw or knit! Simple acts of creation are all that is needed. It will change you. That’s fairly bold to say. To practice creativity on a daily, or multi-days-a-weekly basis will transform you in astonishing ways.

Beauty comes to us in many forms and surprising packages. We need to train our eyes to see it, our hands to capture it, and our hearts to be transformed by it. Beauty is everywhere, in everything we do and experience. Even in washing dirty dishes.

An Artful Life Primer: Practicing Creativity to See, to Listen, and to be Transformed

Available on Amazon

CGM, JDRF & a WALK

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(quick sketch with Bic pen)

Many of you know the hero who lives in our home. You’ve read about her diagnosis six years ago, the ups and downs of living with Type 1 Diabetes, her bravery and courage in the face of the daily challenges of managing the disease, and the Walk we look forward to each year rallying friends and family to support our hero and all the heroes of juvenile diabetes.

Since the age of 7, Maddie has become intimately acquainted with the discoveries and helps JDRF has brought about to make living with T1D possible. Blood sugar testing devices, insulin, shots and a pump. These are all the weapons with which our hero fights back the debilitating effects of out-of-control blood sugars. Her ongoing commitment to use these fools not only enables her to LIVE, but to live well and healthy. We are grateful beyond words for her and for JDRF.

In this last year, Maddie has added to her arsenal of Type 1 weaponry. she now wears on her body not one, but two insets–one for her insulin pump and now another for a CGM. The Continuous Glucose Monitor, shows us the trends in her blood sugar levels as it continually gauges them via the interstitial tissue. The monitor also sounds an alarm when her blood sugars hit levels either too high or too low, thus alerting her to test her blood sugar and make the necessary adjustment to bring her blood sugars back to a healthier level.

It was Maddie who wanted this new device. Over the last couple of years, she had noticed (as well as Randy and I, her parents) that she was not able to feel when her blood sugars were low until they got down to a scary level. She used to be able to feel it when her blood sugars were in the 70’s and 60’s. Now she sometimes hasn’t a clue until her blood sugars are in the 40’s! We were impressed and amazed that a 13-year-old would want yet another device to wear, keep up with, and manage.

She truly is a hero. Our hero. By saying that, I do not mean that she is impervious to discouragement and frustration. This is how I define a hero:

One who continues fighting the good fight, day in and day out, in the face of challenges of all kinds–discouragement, frustration, discomfort, and even others’ misunderstandings.

On November 7th we Walk in support of our hero and on behalf of all the other brave and courageous families and children affected by Type 1 Diabetes. We invite you to join us! Your contribution to JDRF will continue the ongoing research to create better tools for managing T1D and for finding a Cure! So many wonderful things are on the horizon! We appreciate any support you can offer!!

Click here to make a donation to JDRF in Maddie’s honor

and/or sign up to walk with us on November 7th.

Dreamy Poncho Revisited

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Several years ago I designed this poncho from leftover yarns in my stash. It is one of my favorite things to wear when the temperatures turn cool and is often a conversation starter. Sometime last year I started a second one using all greens and have just recently finished it. While it is still too warm here to wear, it sits on Genevieve (my dress form) waiting for the day to be taken out for a twirl.

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It is  truly a dream to knit from beginning to end. I love to play with color and this gave me the opportunity to see what could be done with one color. I had no idea I had so many variations of green yarns! Even the variegated greens offered delightful pops of blues and other colors here and there to add a little spice. You are never bored with this knit! Every color and texture provides a new vista as you work the simple stitches.

I love wearing this both ways:

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As a poncho, with points down the front and back. (Please disregard the NON-matching skirt Genevieve is wearing!)

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Or as a cape (or wrap). The collar adds just enough drama to the simple construction and finishes it off nicely at the neck.

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For this version of the poncho/cape, I changed a few things. The original pattern was written with this in mind, so I didn’t have to make many changes at all to the pattern. I just added the new photos, and a few extra tips to make the knitting it up even simpler. Here’s what I did differently in this version than in the first one:

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The original version had only garter and stockinette stitching alternated back and forth or to suit the type of yarn used. This made for very quick knitting, especially since you are using size 11 needles.  But for this version I wanted to add a variety of stitch patterns, especially when I worked with the smoother yarns. So I randomly chose garter, seed, stockinette, basketweave, two-color rib and so on to add interest and texture in the body of the poncho.

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The original version had edges knitted in stockinette. This allowed the edges to roll and I do love rolled edges! But for this one, I decided to work the edges in garter stitch so that they would lay flat.

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The original version was laced up (one of my favorite features of this design!) using organza ribbon. This version has grosgrain ribbon for the laced up front. You could certainly use buttons or any other closure here, but I really like the added detail and color you can achieve with the laced up look.

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From now until the end of September, I’m offering this pattern for $1.00 off its regular price to those who purchase the pattern through my ETSY shop. If I knew how to offer a discount on  Ravelry I would certainly do it. But for those of you who see this offer here on my blog or via Instagram, you can use the code DREAMYKNIT to receive $1.00 off!

And I would LOVE to see a photo of your Dreamy Poncho once you’ve knitted it! I know of a couple of them that are in the making right now and I can’t wait to see their versions. I’ll share them with you when I receive their pic!

For now…may all your Knitterly Dreams come true!