If I Could Be A Tree

If I could be a tree

I would a willow be

To wave at all I see

And shelter those with me.

***

Or perhaps I’d be an oak

To dangle tire and rope.

In kid-laughter I’d soak

And wear an autumn cloak.

***

But oh a birch to be

In ruffled finery

Graceful limbs so free

A merry dance of three.

-jpe

*********

We personify trees all the time. At least I do…seeing them as beautiful people with personality and history. But couldn’t we tree-ify ourselves? Is that a word? If not, let’s make it one! I like imagining which type of tree I’d like to be and why.

The problem is that I’m hard pressed to land on any one type of tree for long. A month ago I wanted to be an evergreen, tall and enduring through winter’s blast. Last week I wanted to be a cherry tree with explosive fireworks of blossom and color. Yesterday an oak, today a fanciful birch.

These birch trees are fascinating to me. I’m fairly certain that we have River Birches growing in our neighborhood. It puzzled me this week to notice that all of them, with only one exception, had three trunks growing out of one. The exception had two trunks. With a bit of research, I discovered that this is how they are planted…three risomes together in order to keep the height of the tree down a bit. Apparently, left to grow individually, they grow way too tall. Clumping them together, or allowing two other suckers to grow along with the main trunk, helps keep their height under control. But I digress…

Whatever the reason, they look to me like three sisters, or three friends dressed for a party, dancing or laughing together. Their happy coexistence reminds me of the Trinity, of strength in a cord of three strands, of a perfect prime, and the number of children I have.

And how about you? What tree would YOU like to be if you could be a tree? And why is that? I’d love to hear from you and what your tree-ification might be? Well, for today at least!😉💕

P.S. I seem to draw imaginary trees a good bit…like the Yarn Trees and this Steam Tree. It happened as I gazed at my morning coffee and could see the steam rising and curling out of the mug…which got me to thinkin’ that it surely must grow from the bottom, where it is “watered”, or “coffee-ed” and…well, anyway…it’s fun to think about.😃

Drawings Beget Drawings


Perhaps it’s a law of Physics…but it is a reality I’ve noticed time and time again, that when you set your pen to paper and make a drawing, three others are begging to be drawn!

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.😃

 

The Space Between


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.

Continue reading

Discoveries

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!

Focus

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.

Tingle

Our neck of the woods received a wallop of snow last weekend! As if the excitement and delight of SNOW isn’t enough, I’ve also been sensing a familiar tingle, a bit more than I have in previous weeks. It began with sketches showing up in my writing journal. The tingle continued and is now waking me up in the early morning hours. This tingling sensation of wanting to draw  could be described as an itch to make marks, or an overwhelming desire to record the world around me, or to create the fanciful world inside my head, translating it on paper in lines and colors. Much of the time I draw because it is simply in me to draw. But when the Tingle starts happening, I know to take a deep breath and grab hold of whatever drawing tool (or tools) strikes my fancy for the ride!

Here’s how it goes:

* Tingle*

Thoughts of Crayon, Pen, Thick lines, Thin ones

Splashes of Watercolor

*Tingle * Tingle *

Pull out a Danny Gregory book (in this case The Creative License)

Marvel at the drawings. Read only a little…

cuz I gotta go DRAW!!!

*Tingle * Tingle * Tingle *

Draw what it looks like in my head to be drawing…

on the floor

big sketchbook open

crayons, paint, pens

Draw the Tingle, draw what’s in front of me, beside me, and in my head

Aaaaahhhhh…..

ensconced

enveloped

enraptured

Thoughts swirl

I’m thoroughly engrossed

Oh I like that line

and where it doesn’t meet

What a lovely color

and look at that oozle and wazzle!

And shouldn’t i sell this

or develop it into a picture book…

ERRRR <buzzer noise>

Stop right there. THAT is what kills it for me. I just want to draw without ANY thought as to selling. Not now at least. Please Go Away. I just want to stay here on the floor in this delicious frivolity of being an artist, a sketcher, a drawer, a picture maker. Just play.

*Tingle * Tingle * Tingle * Tingle….

And that is where I’m going to camp out for a while… drawing whatever comes into my head or sits in front of me.

Just cuz.

Cuz I gotta draw!

*Tingle*

Process vs. Progress

I am a process girl! Yes, indeed…I love to delve into the methods, the whys and wherefores of making, the steps (or lack of)  to creating, the slow path of stitching, the zen of painting, and the mindfulness of drawing. This is where my writer self gets all excited. To even attempt to put into words what is going on inside my head and heart as I make…ooh yes…lots of good stuff from which to learn and grow. To quote a favorite movie which you will likely laugh at, the Hannah Montana movie: “Ain’t about how fast I get there. Ain’t about what’s waitin’ on the other side. It’s the climb.”

I also love progress! I would not be completely happy if I just camped out in the process of making without also seeing that there is progress, a moving along toward a desired end. It actually does matter to me what’s waitin’ on the other side (end product of creating) and it matters to me that I see some kind of moving along a path toward that end. It may be switchbacks, or crazy circuitous roads, but at least there’s a bit of progress. Yes, it’s the climb! But I want the climb to be marked by signs of forward movement, gaining ground, a slow and steady march toward a thing of beauty. Or at least beautiful to me.

The #100Day Project and Tara Leaver’s 7-Day Mini Painting Challenge, are certainly challenging me! Only a week into the daily mark-making sketches in my book, and 5 days into Tara’s Challenge, I am finding way too much chatter in my head and heart as I draw and paint. The voices are far more talkative when I tackle the 10″ x 10″ works on paper for the 7-Day series. I chose to take a similar approach to what I’m doing in the #100Day Project – to make marks on a page in an intuitive manner. I even wrote on the first page of the designated sketchbook for the 100 days: NO THINKING!

Ha!

Here’s a peek into my thoughts as I create these abstract works. I posted this on Instagram (follow me there:) on Day 5. I’m wondering if there is any way to silence them. The voices in my head have a definite cartoon character tone: I approach the paper and mediums with “I think I can I think I can” running through my mind. Then when I’m into it a bit I hear Piglet “Oh d-deary dear, oh deary dear!” At a point of disaster I hear the exclamation when a large shiny ball has been hung on Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree, “YOU KILLED IT!!” Sometime after a lot of head hanging and hand wringing I hear Lucy’s 5-cent positive thinking phrases. After several attempts to run toward the football and kick it, only to feel I have missed it yet again, Eeyore kindly says, “Funny thing about accidents…they don’t happen until they happen.” Rafiki helps me get to the end with “Look harder!” And “Change is good”. As I lay down my brushes and oil pastels I join him in “The past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it.”💗 But my favorite Rafiki mantra I’ll take with me on my way out to walk is “Asante sana squash banana!” Humor and a sense of lightheartedness is always the best remedy. I mean goodness gracious…it IS only paper and paint.

I don’t always hear these voices. There are occasions where I’ve worked so quickly, or in a familiar ,well-worn method, that I’m just in the zone, drawing and painting without banter. It is lovely. But what I’m recognizing this week is that when I’m challenged, stretched out of my comfort zone a bit, committed to creating in a certain category of art, then the chatter begins. But it isn’t a bad thing. It’s actually the pathway to progress. Yes, you heard me say it…the voices of worry, dread, concern, along with their accompanying Keep it up! Keep going! Don’t quit now! (the 5-cent positive Lucy-isms) somehow bring me along to discovering new things in my art. They lead me through to places where I didn’t know existed, or that I could even achieve. What feels like a free-fall into a black ravine, turns out to be a “false flat” where I’m actually going up the climb and not down. The “mistakes”, failed passages, “incorrect” colors can be tunnels leading to new vistas along the way of progress as an artist.

Here are some of the new vistas I’m finding –

  1. What I love in my sketchbook, may not be something I love on larger paper. Hm.
  2. Now get ready for this…brace yourself: I actually do  like a gray mush of paint. Gasp!! What??This has happened numerous times as I work white acrylic into the existing wet watercolor paint. When it turns muddy or gray, I think I’ve ruined it. But after it dries, I see these passages as lovely color and an offset to all the bright colors around it.
  3. I adore many expressions of paint and line. Really.  I swoon over the simplest of pages. (Like that second one up there with just a bit of green watercolor, a black line, and a spot of orangey-pink collage.) But then I also drool over the softer, murky passages of acrylic paint in the watercolor. The latter has a bit more drama or mood. The former is just sheer joy. To me. 🙂

So this is good. So far, so good. In a couple of days Tara’s challenge will be over and I will have 90 more days of the mark-making project I’ve set my hand to. I am still so excited about that! These pages in my sketchbook seem like pure abandon to make marks howsoever I like! I even find myself wishing I could make about ten a day! One of them creates in my head several other ideas. Perhaps I shall. Perhaps I shall also continue making 10″ x 10″ paintings. I like this. A lot.

Thank you for hanging in there with me on this VERY LONG PROCESSING of my recent PROGRESS as a mark-making fool! You really are kind to bear with me for this length of a post! I do hope you are also making progress in your #100DayProject or whatever creative task you have in hand!

Artfully Yours,

Jennifer

 

#100dayproject

(Day 1 page)

The idea of 100 days of sticking to just one way of creating is not appealing to me.  I am skeptical of my ability to hang in there for that long. Also, I seem to thrive on variety, having the freedom to create as ideas come to me, leaping from drawing everyday life, to stitching fragments, to knitting and crocheting and many other things in between. To actually pick ONE and say “I’m gonna stick with this for 100 days!” fills me with doubt and makes my eyes glaze over. At least, this is how I’ve reacted each year the #100dayproject posts have rolled around on Instagram. Nope. Not for me. Thank you.

And yet…simmering on the back burner the last few days was a question. Could I find anything I might even remotely like to do for 100 days? Something that feels free, varied and allows for leaps within one vein of making? Awake unusually late last night, a flash of brilliance (or madness) tickled my fancy till I was standing at my drawing table making marks in a brand new sketchbook. (Queue up the Hallelujah Chorus here.:)

At one minute until midnight on the first day of the #100dayproject, I posted a rather poorly lit photo of the first entry (see first image above).  I had recently purchased a random sketchbook with 132 pages of Mixed-Media paper perfect for housing all 100 days. I had only filled the first page with a tulip sketch, testing the paper for its ability to withstand watercolor, colored pencil, marker and oil pastels. I loved the 7″ x 9″ pages and their thick 120 lb. feel. The slick paper allows a lovely hand to swooshing pastels around. I knew this would be perfect for the next 100 days of expressive, intuitive, mark-making pages. Here are some of my own self-imposed guidelines:

  1. Non-objective, intuitive, abstract works. As scribbly and child-like as I want to make them.
  2. Any media, any combination including watercolor, acrylic, pencils (both water media and wax), oil pastels, soft pastels, grease pencils, charcoal, collage (both painted papers and found papers), markers, pens, fine liners, ink, bamboo sticks, calligraphy pens, etc, etc.
  3. Must work quickly without thinking. I love working like this, without critiquing as I go. The only thought allowed will be, “what do I want to put down next?”
  4. Only one per day in this book. But I can, if I want to and if time allows, create more mark-making works in other sketchbooks or on canvas.
  5. Space on the left hand side to stamp the date, write the number for each of the 100 days, and any thoughts on the process for that day I’d like to record. Love this last piece of the process.

I could hardly get to sleep I was so excited about this adventure. I’ll post many of them on Instagram but perhaps not every day. I might just post them in groups of four or a weeks worth of them at a time. We shall see. My aim is to create each one first thing in the day as part of my morning practice of reflection. Simple, short and oh so sweet!

(Day 2 page)

I’m also considering beginning Tara Leaver’s 7-Day Challenge along these same lines. Tara is a wonderful abstract artist I follow and whose teaching and work has been very inspiring and helpful to me. I love receiving her newsletters filled with such helpful advice and encouragement for the artistic path. I look forward to reading what she has to say every week! A 7-Day Challenge is far less intimidating than 100 Days!  I did this challenge two years ago but used Freeform Crochet as the method of creating small fiber paintings. It was a super way to explore all that yarn and stitches can do in creating images. For this year’s 7-Day Challenge, I’d like to create the same mark-making works I’m doing for the #100DayProject but on slightly larger paper or on mini canvases. I haven’t decided which yet. But I need to decide soon since The Challenge  begins tomorrow! What in the world has gotten into me?? A 7-Day Challenge AND a 100 Day Project? Good Grief. I must surely be crazy!

Crazy about art, crazy about color, lines, shapes and marks on a page! Wish me luck! Better yet…join me in one (or both) of these ventures! It will be fun, probably challenging at times, but rewarding to have a nearly filled sketchbook with pages and pages of merry marks!

Here’s to the next 7 Days and on to 100!!

Truly…I think I need to get my head examined.

*****

If you are interested in Tara’s 7-Day Challenge, be sure to read the highlighted post above. There you will find a free downloadable worksheet designed to help you pinpoint what you’d like to try for the 7 Days. We can do anything for 7 Days, can’t we? It’s the 100 that feels a bit daunting. But I’m giving it a go! <3

 

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. 🙂

Pensieve Paintings

WeatherAbstract

Some day, and maybe someday quite soon, I want to paint really big abstract paintings. Yeah, this is nothing new. I have wanted to do this for many years. All kinds of reasons blocks rise up when I go to actually make these little ones on a larger scale…i don’t have time, no one would want to buy such a thing, i don’t have room for big canvases, translating watercolor on paper to acrylic on canvas will not work, where will I store them, yada yada yada, blah blah blah.

OvertheMoon

There’s nothing like a huge undertaking, like a wedding, or making one’s mother-of-the-bride dress, to heighten your sense of desire for realizing other dreams. Some day. Yes. Some day soon. After the wedding. Before autumn arrives. Yes.

Dreamscape

Until then, I will continue using my sketchbook as a pensieve…a place to deposit the ideas that swirl around in my head, the color I see in the skies, the land, the world out there as well as in here. They are not meant to “be” anything, to represent any particular place or event or even subject. Just color, worked quickly so that my analytical brain can’t break in and take over.

OneFineDayAbstract

Until the day when I can sling paint on a large scale, I will make page after page of these small ones. Sometimes I fit two on a 9″ x 11″ sketchbook page. Sometimes, in smaller sketchbooks, there is only one per page, or per spread. Different papers, different applications of the paint. Add some pencil here or there, or not. Totally free. Simple and easy. So satisfying. Just for me.