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

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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.

Kollage Kick

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I’ve been on a kollage kick lately! I love getting out of my usual drawing mode for excursions in collage. Here’s a process you might like to try sometime:

1. Swipe some watercolor or acrylic around on a blank page in your sketchbook.

2. While that’s drying, choose papers in colors that echo the colors you used to paint with. I enjoy using papers I have leftover from other collage times, leaving edges the way they were cut, or shapes that are already cut a certain way. I save everything from small bits to long skinny pieces, knowing they will come in handy for future collage fun.

3. Assemble an image or just a random abstract composition of shapes as I did here.

ArtasJazzLowRes

****If you want to add words, consider how they might be arranged on the page before gluing the picture pieces down. If you’re just wanting an image, then glue all elements onto the page. I just use Elmer’s glue.

4. This time I tried something that turned out really fun: I took a page from an article about jazz music. I just cut out random words I liked. Then I assembled them into a phrase I liked, adding in other letters from magazines to complete the sentence. This was much like the magnetic words we have on our fridge. We get to assemble them into any kind of poem, prose, joke or riddle we want to. Here’s the phrase I ended up with:

“The music itself is a response…an evolution of what jazzes us!”

This certainly was a page that evolved with all kinds of things that “jazz” me: color, papers, textures, words. It’s a true axiom for visual art as well as for music. We respond on paper, canvas, or instrument, allowing what we love to evolve.

May your day be filled with creative responses to what you love!

The Brothers Zucchini

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In the vast land of Back Yard, two brothers lived next door to each other through the heat and humidity of Summer. Bubba Zucchini had a goal to produce the biggest and best zucchini ever known, while Jake Zucchini made it his mission to outlast them all.

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As Autumn encroached on the land, Jake held his head high even as his limbs hung limp, weary from the toil of the season. Yet Bubba continued to nurture the over two foot long zucchini growing beneath his mammoth wings.

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Preserved here in paint, the legacy of these two brothers will live in infamy, even though Jake has now succumbed to the natural course of things and is flattened to the ground, disappearing into the soil. Bubba is making a valiant attempt to continue sheltering the huge girth of his progeny. Soon, the gigantic zucchini will join the local Fair to compete for the title of Biggest & Best in the Zucchini family, thus making Bubba the proudest papa in the land.

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**Good grief. What stories come floating in on a breeze as I stand washing dishes looking out the window at our backyard. I’m sure this happens to you too! Oh please do say that it does. Surely I’m not the only one. 😉

The Smell of Honeysuckle

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One day recently as I walked near my favorite Lane, I smelled honeysuckle! I could smell it before I could see it. And then, rounding the corner at the top of our neighborhood, there it was…a blanket of white and yellow vining in a tangle of overgrown weeds.

Bliss! You know how it is…

A hush of the scent comes wafting ever so gently on the morning breeze, blue skies dancing as the smell increases until it’s heady fragrance nearly knocks you over! But it’s a curious thing, this honeysuckle. If you go up to it, actually pick a stem of the flowers, they don’t look much like they smell. You expect to see some sultry, large-petaled, bright colored flower to match the fragrance that drew you in. Instead, you find small straw-like flowers in pale shades of white and yellow. And when you put the flower to your nose, hoping to breathe in more of its musky odor, you can barely smell it, causing you to wonder if you have the right patch of flowers.

Honeysuckle fragrance is best from an entire patch of it, rather than a single stem. I like that. It speaks to the whole “we are better together, than just on our own” thing.

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Now…how to paint that smell? I put this challenge to myself, and stood for rather a long time in front of my drawing table. Eventually something came out of my brush. The above is my attempt. Here’s how my thinking went as I tried to paint the smell, without painting what honeysuckle looked like.

*What medium does honeysuckle suggest? The vivid heft of soft pastels? Heavy acrylics? Black & white pen? Watery watercolor? etc. I decided that watercolor was perfect for the ethereal smell of honeysuckle.

*What about the smell is predominant in my mind? Is it the light sweet aroma? Or the strong, heady odor? I decided I think of honeysuckle as being light and sweet with a few punctuations of the strong stuff. So my painting needed to be on the watery side to depict this airy fragrance.  Then have bits of more concentrated color and some splashes to denote the heavier smell.

*What small bits of its physical properties can I include but not describe? The fact that the fragrance wafts from the ground up was something I tried to suggest with the darker greens near the bottom of the page and the slight blue at the top. And the little stamen in the centers of the flowers seemed delightful and significant…so I added a few as “hints” here and there.

So this is how my mind goes with a challenge such as this. The cool thing is that if you posed these questions to many artists, they would come up with totally different paintings. Or even across disciplines, the results would be so varying. Why don’t you try it? Post it on your blog or FB, or Everyday Matters FB and share with us!

CHALLENGE: ??How would you paint, collage, stitch, write, sculpt, etc. the smell of honeysuckle??  (No need to be a professional at this…just have fun with it!) AND>>> let me know you’ve done this, so I can see it and compile them into a post later. 🙂

Mystery Man

MysteryMan

So the point of this rather odd little sketch made completely out of my head, is to ask a question: Who is he?

There’s this man, who stands on the side of Sedge Garden Rd. near the intersection with Kernersville Rd. He’s there every morning when I take Maddie to school. He’s there every afternoon when she needs to be picked up from after school activities. I began to notice him last Spring. And I’ve seen him there ever since.

He is always holding something up to his mouth or ear that looks like an old cell phone. He’s often talking into it. Sometimes, he has a pipe also. My sketch, all wonky and out of scale, seems to show him looming on the sideline. He actually blends into the wintry surroundings with his woodsy coat and hat. I wonder if others notice him at all.

My imagination takes hold of me…is he an undercover agent recording the comings and goings of a particular person? Is he a granddad who watches his grandkids walk to school and back while talking on the phone with a friend? Is he a writer recording the daily events of cars and passersby at a single intersection? Will my white Mazda 5 wind up in a short story or novel someday? Is he, as my husband suggests, simply listening to a CB radio? Does he live in the side-of-the-road trailers and this is his “front porch”? Does he need to come outside in order for his cell phone to have any reception?

No matter the season, no matter the weather, this guy is there. There’s a part of me that wants to stop and ask him kindly someday what he’s up to. To know his story. To discover the character behind the mystery. But then again, part of me doesn’t. The wondering about it all is just too fun!

Do you have mystery people like this in your neighborhood or town? Kernersville seems to have quite a few. I wrote about (and drew) this guy several years ago. I did actually stop and ask him if I could take his photograph, to which he replied, “Five dollah, five dollah!” So I paid him the $5 and got a few good reference pics for the drawings. There’s also a dancing man at the corner of one of our major intersections. He isn’t so much a mystery (since he’s gotten a good bit of press:) but he’s certainly a character we consider to be Kernersville’s own. All these folks make small town living interesting and delightful.

The Balloon Tree

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I sit outside, in a brief interlude of warmth and peace, gazing up at the winter trees. An idea begins to form…those lines, those lovely lines…they make shapes, hold spaces where shape resides.

The idea I have doesn’t take shape fully yet. I’m searching, thinking about these spaces and the shapes that inhabit them.  I can’t sleep ’cause the formless shape won’t let go. I rise early to search it out on paper. I draw.

The shapes that come out are round inside those lined spaces. I didn’t know ’til now. All these circles, these doodles in the tree, the tree that sits IN the path, with a couple others off the path. Why am I drawing this? I still can’t make it out.

I’m nearing the end of my search, my doodling, and one circle, which has lifted off the tree develops a tail and becomes a balloon. A balloon! Oh! How fun! But I still don’t know it’s significance, or why, or what for.

I paint. White opaque gouache mixing with the watercolor, some light tones, some vibrant. Enjoying the process of searching. I “finish” the doodled page wondering what it is, why I had to get this thing out of my head. Would this just be a searching page with no answer? That’s ok.

I go to rinse the chalky water out of my bucket, I clean dishes leftover from the night before. I wonder, a bit frustrated with myself (once again), why I do so many different types of creative stuff, even different types of drawings and  paintings? Why can’t I stick with just one thing? Just splashy watercolor? Or just pastel? Just portraits? Or just knitting? JUST ONE THING?

And it hits me full force, hands in the sudsy dishwater. It’s my tree. My creative tree. Full of bright colored balloons sitting there waiting for the right breeze to come along and nudge them free. No two balloons exactly alike.  Some have shades that are similar, but each one waits to be loosened from the lines. To rise gently and softly, without fanfare, off into the great beyond.

I’m no longer frustrated with myself. I get it now. It’s all ok, these differing ways of creating. It’s because of my Tree, and I like that tree. And there are many balloons yet to be released. And I can’t wait to see what each of them is going to be.

Thank you for checking in on the Balloons that get nudged out of the Tree. Maybe you have a Balloon Tree too? Please share it with me. 🙂

Dropping Down

 

This moment, right here,

is where i need to be.

Drinking in the lines & curves of the NOW life

which is SO unassuming,

SO simple,

perhaps not even note-worthy.

And yet…in drawing,

i find worth and value

in just BEING.

BEING still,

being focused on here

and not on there.

This dropping-down

of the straw-pen

into the milkshake of my life

is like placing the needle

of the record-player

onto the vinyl disc:

i begin to hear the music…

softly at first…

then stronger as the needle traces the lines

round and round my life

AS IT IS

right now,

in THIS moment.

-jpe

from my daily writing journal. 11.11.2012

Random Acts of Paper: Part 4 (Final)

This last card made me think of “Winken and Blinken and Nod sailing off in a wooden shoe…sailed on a river of crystal light, into a sea of dew.” It’s one of my favorite songs!

Not much going on with the back side of the card. I was “done”. You know, the itch had been scratched. And I put away the bits of papers for another day.

Little forays into creating with different mediums is so much fun. But it isn’t long before I’m longing for the simplicity of a pen and watercolor.

Random Acts of Paper: Part 3

Trees! I have a fascination with Trees! When I finished making this one, I kept thinking “Chicka Chicka Boom! Boom!” which is from a favorite children’s book by that name and features the alphabet climbing a tree.

I really should have photographed this upside down so you could see the little tree on the back of the card. I liked it. This one is titled, “A Wishing Tree”.

Chicka Chicka Boom! Boom!