Roadside Word Picking

pickingwords

New Year’s Eve…I love Eve’s. They feel like that timeless space of hovering right before warp speed takes over. The eve of something begs for preparation, anticipation, reflection… a mindfulness about the next day and all that it will usher in. Christmas Eve feels like that, and so does New Year’s Eve.

The living room Christmas tree, my studio French tree, and all other decorations are down, packed away carefully and the house feels spacious and clear, ready for a New Year. I’m ready too! And excited for what 2017 might have in store. I know, full well, there will be challenges and perhaps even downright difficulties, sad and painful events. But I also know that making will be a huge part of the year ahead, just as it has been this past year and for so many  years of my life. It is what carries me, strengthens me, gives me joy. Creativity is the lens through which I see my life for the beauty that it is. Making things, be it drawings or paintings, knitted or crocheted items and now spinning wool and weaving wall-hangings, sustains me through thick and thin, in plenty and in want. As I make with my hands, it’s as if I’m holding a lifeline, grounding my feet to what is true, good and beautiful. Creativity allows me to take flights of fancy as it tethers and roots me to home and hearth. Living Artfully allows me to see beauty, as well as create it, in everyday, humble circumstances. I need this Artful way of living and I’m thrilled to continue in the New Year!

weavingspring

This week between Christmas and New Year’s I’ve been spending some time pondering. Pondering and writing go hand-in-hand for me and I’ve logged numerous pages as I’ve tried to make sense of and sort through what felt like a jumble of clutter in my creative life. 2016 seemed to end with way too many irons in the fire, an explosion of too  many directions and not enough time or energy to really do any of them well. As I’ve left a pen’s worth of ink on the page, a sorting has occurred. As I’ve pondered the year ahead, a couple of words stand out to me:

SLOW and SIMPLIFY

Both verbs, they go together well, one nourishing the other. In simplifying my life, it is apt to slow me down a bit. As I slow my pace, things will need to simplify naturally. Much of this is challenging me to indeed clear out a few things. But mostly it’s a call to live present in each moment as if it is the only moment, and breathe into it, slowing and simplifying my expectation of accomplishment. This past year I began working on this in my day to day life. I did not master it (I wonder if that’s even possible) and therefore will continue the work of slowing and simplifying, even if it is just one small thing at a time.

spinningwool

The shakedown of all this pondering has left me with a simpler way of seeing all that I do as a creative person. My work as a knit and crochet teacher, the video podcasts, blogging in numerous places, as well as  pattern writing, will all continue but on a lessened scale. My hope is that this will allow me to spend less time on a computer and more time with a sketchbook or fiber in my hands. I’m increasingly drawn to spinning and weaving, which hold in themselves this call to slow down and simplify. It amazes me how I’m drawn to certain kinds of craft which hold an inherent way of living with them. In this, in spending time making, I am more in touch with the beauty around me and I learn how to live my everyday life with grace and wonder.

abstractplay

I do have new ideas I’d like to see unfold in the New Year. But my gut tells me it isn’t now. Later. Perhaps even in the next year. For now, SLOW and SIMPLE is the way forward, relishing life, making with my hands, reminding myself and others that it isn’t about how MUCH you make, but HOW you make it…slow, gentle, and savored.

yummyweaves

All of this talk of SLOW and SIMPLIFY may seem so pie-in-the-sky! Even I myself, have a little scoffer sitting on my shoulder as I type: “Ha! This is gonna last you maybe the next hour, Jen, but wait ’til warp speed hits!” But to this I say that it’s not necessarily about being less busy. Life is full and seems to grow busier with each year. But this is more about a state of mind, a way of being in the midst of the busy-ness. Certainly I will need to pull back on what I say yes to. But I am committed to experiencing all of life with the same attention and slowness I give to drawing, or spinning, the same focus that’s needed for weaving and knitting. To grow in this capacity will be lovely. Yet even in the slowing and simplifying is a need to go slowly with it, simplifying the steps.

pickingwords2017

It all boils down to this: I plan on pulling off the daily path to sit each day and ponder. To draw the landscape around me. To knit the beauty into my heart. To weave wonder and grace into my life and offer it to others. I hope you’ll continue to walk with me here. Let’s savor together the work of our hands and the joy it brings us! Let’s encourage each other to go SLOW, to SIMPLIFY our distracted lives, and to live Artfully each day.

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

Could It Be?

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Could it be, in these small un-arted hours, beauty is wrought?

Could it be, in dishes and diapers, laundry and lunches, heaven is laid out?

Could it be, in lack and leanness, provision is lavished?

Could it be, in faces – not fancies – that fullness is found?

Could it be, as I embrace the small, my life is enlarged?

Could it be, that ART is happening even when I’m not making it?

Could it be, in all I feel as futile, God is fashioning beauty?

Could it be, the big life I long for is found in the little life I live?

Could it be, the constraints of time and money, unleash creativity?

Could it be, the pain of not making is simply the longing to be near Thee?

Could it be, this passion that seems to leak out a sieve, is actually being sifted, refined, made pure?

Could it be, even if I had all the time, energy, and provision to do my art, to live the big life I long for, that it would not be enough to satisfy or reach said big life and big art?

Could it be, that in me – a common vessel – resides eternity?

Could it be, that this side of heaven, I’m to weave my little thread, even if it’s the same thread as yesterday, or a new one I find along the way?

Could it be, my daily work is to draw a line from everyday things to eternity and back again.

Could it be, that contained in my insignificant, small life, the realms of heaven abide and He lives in grace and truth abounding?

Could it be, that the King of all nations would be born in a barn and sleep in a trough?

Could it be, that the Master Artist comes to create in humble, insignificant lives?

Could it be, the grandest art is made on the littlest scale?

Could it be, that True Beauty is wrought in lack, insignificance, and tedium?

Could it be I have it all wrong – instead of this life being about ME being able to do my art and thereby live my BIG life…that it is rather about CHRIST, the high and holy one, coming to live BIG in my humble and insignificant life?

Could it be, that my insignificant life is transformed into a magnificent one through the humblest of events – a babe in a manger, Emmanuel, God with us.

*****

Retuning my heart this day after Christmas, weary from so much merry-making, wondering where the Beauty is, reclaiming what is true and good. May your days after Christmas be magnificently insignificant as the babe weaves His love into your life.

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

What I Really Want for Christmas

eyestosee

The month of December is filled with distractions.  I’m moving from here to there to yonder with increased speed. Lights and tinsel pulling my eyes from where my feet are planted. To-do lists lengthening with each passing day. Longings abound for more provision, more peace, and an ability to make just the right holiday celebration for my family. On top of all of that, my own desires and wishes for things I don’t allow myself to purchase throughout the year seem to bob to the surface waving gleefully at me.

I recently wrote a letter to Santa and posted it on Instagram. It’s a tongue-in-cheek-though-based-on-truth letter from my inner artist child to whomever might read about the visions of sparkly, colorful batts of wool and glittery drop spindles that dance in my head. It’s true. Having recently dipped my big toe into spinning and weaving, I am now being pulled into a colorful, sparkly world (much like the glitz and glow of Christmas itself!) dreaming of all the supplies for this new-to-me craft. In between all the shopping and wrapping, visions of wool and spindles and looms are prancing in my wee head.

It all gets me to thinking though. What is it I really want for Christmas? A stocking full of bright-colored wool and spindles will likely not bring the provision and peace I long for daily. When I stop and breathe and drop into a space of present-ness, I can experience the ache for those good things which cannot fit into a stocking. Healing, wholeness, rest, and provision…in essence Peace on earth and Goodwill toward men. Yes, this is what I want.

And when I sit in this place long enough, I begin to realize that I actually do have all of these things, in some measure (not in their fullness), right now, right here where I am in life. In the midst of all that is going on in my family, in the lives of loved ones and friends, I can see bits of this healing and provision, some small, some big. The deep things I long for are actually afoot as Christ comes to us daily, Emmanuel with us. I just need eyes to see it.

whatiwantforxmas

This week, as these visions of wool and spindles dance in my head, I’m taking an extra moment to breathe and pull back the distracting curtain of holiday hoopla to really look for the presents that are in many ways already mine in Christ. They are yours too! The thing is…even though woolly batts and spindles are not THE thing, somehow Christ comes to us in and through them, as we make things with our hands. This is not meant as a justification for buying stuff. It is merely a recognition that even in the good things that we want in our stockings, glittery and sparkly though they be,  He comes to us and offers something far more beautiful and amazing – His own self, the Christ child, the babe in the manger.

I want eyes to see. Yes, that would be a lovely gift in my stocking this year and every year. A deepening ability to see Him, in and through and beyond all the goodness in my life, as well as in all the pain and hardship too.

A Very Merry Christmas to each and every one of you!!

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

***

“Lord, purge our eyes to see
Within the seed a tree
Within the glowing egg a bird
Within the shroud a butterfly.
Till, taught by such we see
Beyond all creatures, Thee…”

Christina Rossetti, 1830-1894
English poet

Kaleidoscope Living

kaleidoscopes

Some days, all I see is brokenness. Everywhere, in my own life and in the lives of my friends, family, community, state and country…things are broken. Marriages and dreams, health and finances, family ties and good intentions, all have some aspect of brokenness – a tearing of the fabric,  holes of emptiness, or just flat-out broken shards of a once beautiful ceramic or pane. It’s difficult to know what to do with these broken, torn, or hole-ridden bits of our lives. At first they engender shock and disbelief. They lie around our daily landscape, sometimes being swept into corners and under beds, shoved behind closet doors as we hope they might go away or at least go unnoticed.

As a child I had a fascination with and love for kaleidoscopes. Any kind, whether cardboard or metal tubed, offered hours of gazing, turning them slowly, facing the light and marveling at the beauty inside. As an adult I have a small collection of these cylinders – tubes of magic, that I pull out from time to time to remember the colorful designs, new ones at every turn, beauty from bits and baubles.

It may seem horribly simplistic, maybe even offensive, to reduce the broken bits of our lives into thoughts of a childhood toy. But it heartens me, shall I say even strengthens me, to view the brokenness in me and around me in this way.

Left in a heap or hidden from sight, the broken bits accomplish nothing except weeping and gnashing of teeth. Yet hold them together in a cylinder of Love, one might have an opportunity to witness healing and even beauty.

Yet it requires more than merely gathering our brokenness and hurt into our arms. It requires us to move from one end of looking at the heap of broken bits, to the other end, where we can view them through a new lens. We need a lens that takes the broken fragments and transforms them into wonder-filled designs.

We I need to move from gaping at the broken bits, the shrapnel as it were, and walk the narrow path to a new way of seeing. We I need to make the effort to see it all from a different perspective, an eternal one, but one which has its designs firmly rooted here, on earth, in my town, in my own heart.

Once we have this new lens through which to see, we then need to face the Light, letting it penetrate each broken shard to reveal new colors. As our eyes adjust to the brilliance and warmth, we then need to turn, slowly but deliberately, changing how we view one another, our lives, and all our broken places.

As we turn, opening our eyes and hearts to the Light, our new Lens will transform all that is broken. I need to do this each and every day. I need, every day, to re-orient my sight and thus my heart and mind. I must do this for my own health and well-being but also for my children, my friends, and my community. In a very real sense, we need to be Living Kaleidoscopes to everyone we meet, holding out a new way of seeing.

It is not so easy as simply picking up one of my childhood kaleidoscopes. It requires work on my part —

**to refuse to merely gawp and be shocked by the brokenness.

**to make the effort to view life with the Lens of Love.

**to stand fully facing the Light.

**to do the work of turning, changing my perspective, opening my heart  to others, Being the Kaleidoscope.

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

The Anti-Inspiration that Works!

inktoberpansies

I have found some of the most unusual inspirations along the creative path as an artist. I may be the only one who finds freedom and renewed passion in these quirky anti-inspirations, but I’ll share this latest one with you, just in case it helps you too!

Here’s how it goes…

My passion for drawing and painting starts to flag, droop, wither, recede. Whatever the description, I tend to first label it as don’t-have-enough-time, or i’ve-drawn-all-this-before, etc. But if I really dig deep and get totally honest with myself, I realize that sometimes lurking behind the flagging passion is an insidious thought that what I do just isn’t special. This thought somehow creeps in (might it be from comparing my art to the reams of other awesome online artists…maybe?) and I begin to look at my drawings and paintings as run-of-the-mill, everyone-else-does-this-and-better, nothing-unique, nuttin’-special.

inktoberwhickerdrive

Yes, there it is folks! Someone who has been painting and drawing for nigh unto 20 years now, still…STILL…has these stupid thoughts running amuck from time to time. The struggle is real. Very real.

On my daily walk a few days ago, as I took a good look at this crazy belief that had snuck into my artist’s heart through the back door, I actually had this thought:

You need to embrace the possibility that you are not unique!

inktobergirls

I stopped walking. I looked around. And wondered where in the world this could have come from. I rolled that phrase over in my head again:

Embrace your UN-uniqueness!

Let go of the demand to be special in the art world.

Be free of the need to stake out artistic territory that is only yours.

Just be YOU. Whatever that is. However it looks on the page. Wherever your pen takes you. Just Draw. And Draw. And Draw!

And the strangest thing happened…I felt light as a feather! I started walking again, faster than I had before all this, running this new, surprising inspiration through the cobwebs of my artsy heart. It swept it out clean!

inktoberinterior

And each day since, I waken to a renewed excitement about lines on a page, wondering where they will take me today. As much as I, as a teacher, might not ever want to say to you that you are not unique, I do think the pressure to BE unique can really get us in a bind. Setting ourselves free from the net of having to be special, allows us to swim with abandon, in any direction we’d like to go!

Try it…embrace your UN-uniqueness…and see what happens!

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

P.S. As always…you can follow these daily #Inktober drawings on my Instagram feed. 🙂

My Trellis

BirthdaySky

There’s been lots of livin’ and therefore lots of drawin’!!

Somehow I thought life would slow down after the wedding, but since it hasn’t, filled to the brim with all good things, I’ve taken to drawing to slow down the moments a bit, to lean into all the goodness jam-packed into my days and weeks.

Even before my birthday last week, I had been drawing, drawing, drawing. Not even stopping long enough to Instagram them all!! Lately it feels as if I cannot get enough of it. Like there isn’t enough paper to catch all the lines and wrangle them into memories. Yet with each drawing, I can sense the haphazard jaunts of living being groomed into something more steady, upright, and ordered. Or at least somewhat ordered.

Marion&MeforTea

Drawing is a trellis for me. Laying down line after line, offers a solid trellis for the color and textures. Scaffolding is another good word for it…a solid form upon which to hang all manner of splashed-on, riotous color. Without a trellis, the vine just takes over. With a trellis, there’s peace, order, structure. I like structure.

ShatleySprings2016

Even without any color added. Just lines. Lots of lines. Line as the ultimate abstraction. I love them. Yes I do. I’m putting lines down every day. Must. Draw. I’m nearly half way finished in a brand new sketchbook I just recently purchased. Fun. Good medicine.

I’ll share more of them soon! In the meantime, I hope you are able to set down a trellis or two in your own sketchbook! Keep ’em flowing…hang onto them…cling to the trellis and you’ll grow a bit more every time.

Fascination & Play

PalmatCienr

I am fascinated by many things. Nature, faces, shapes of objects, fibers, color, line, stitches, light…on and on to where I’m fairly dizzy with delight. This fascination is surely the heart of an artist’s life. Being an artist has less to do with raw talent and more with being fascinated by something and granting oneself the freedom to explore it, try it, dive into it some more, express it. Lately I’ve been fascinated with pastels.

Water&SkyOakIsland2016

I enjoy both oil pastels as well as soft pastels. I love adding oil pastels to line drawings and also drawing with the pastels, then adding watercolor over top for the resist effects. I did a lot of this at the beach a couple of weeks ago and am still playing around with it in my sketchbook.

CienerBirdhouse

But now I’m all jazzed about soft pastels. I tend to rotate through art mediums on a fairly regular basis, but lately I’ve been swiping the buttery, powdery sticks across pages of watercolor washes and having so much fun seeing the effects of layered color! When I fall in fascination love with a different medium all over again, it feels like I could spend whole days strung on end doing nothing but working with that medium. Life rarely allows that.

CienerLot

Yesterday, however, I had the delight to draw and paint for an entire morning, a whole four hours, with a friend at our Ciener Botanical Gardens. Easel, pastels, numerous sketchbooks previously prepped with watercolor, sunscreen, water bottle, a snack and friendship…I could not ask for any thing better.

FavLilyCiener

Whenever I do get chunks of time to draw like this, the delight, sense of play and lightheartedness is transformative. Maintaining this lighthearted sense of play is a bit more difficult as I can easily get drawn in to the woes of life or even just the pull to “be serious” about my art and really DO something with it. The minute I head down this road, art making becomes heavier and my fascination wanes.

TopotheHillClouds

I love keeping it light and free and fun! There will be time for the more serious end of art production later. Not now…I’ve gotta go draw the clouds up at the top of the hill!:)

I hope your weekend has room for fascination and wonder and play!

 

Drawing to See

Railing

I was railing at no one and everything, howling at the just-up sun, grappling with the ongoing sense that my life is out of control (even though it isn’t). I know this song and dance. I’ve heard it many times before. I’ve railed so many times in my life now that it sounds like an irritating whine, a bothersome drone of “woe is me, I can’t seem to do all I need and want to do”, like some melodramatic housewife with the back of her hand to her forehead, wilting into a heap. Ugh.

I knew what to do. Draw. Just draw. Just sit down and draw what’s right in front of me. I  took  myself out on the back deck after a very early run to the grocery store (cuz I can’t seem to fit it all in ya know) and I sat with pens in hand poised over the blank Moleskine page.

That railing. Goodness. Such an obstruction to my view. Do I ignore it and draw as if it isn’t there? No. It’s too in-your-face. Gotta just go with it. It is unmovable and I’ll just have to work with it somehow… Thicker brush tip pen for the railing. Thinner Sharpie fine-liner for everything else. Here I am. All here. Lost in lines. the weight of all my attention begins to fall…into this chair, this sketchbook, my surroundings, the birch tree, the neighbor’s truck and car, the street, the leaves, my foot and the mailboxes. Heart rate has slowed. Following a line does this to me. It takes the spun-up flurry of broad, generalized, and often grossly exaggerated thoughts and brings it down to here, now. Right at this moment all is well! Really…all is well and good. And the next and foreseeable moments are all good too. Where does that railing in me come from?

And then I see it. Right on the page, directly in front of me. The railing to our deck. What once was a nuisance, an obstruction, prison bars keeping me from seeing the view, has now become a framework through which the view has structure and meaning. The railing sits there now as a solid boundary designed to protect and guard me from falling to injury. What once I wanted gone is now transformed into part of the landscape, a resting place for the eye as I look at my dashed off sketch. So much free-flowing leafage and vegetation anchored by the solidity of a deck railing.

This is the beauty of drawing. It anchors my jangly and driven thoughts. Provides a framework for all the free-flow of living, protects and guards me from bolting off into the world without a safety net.

If you are railing today…DRAW! If there’s a railing in your way…DRAW!

Find a railing of some sort somewhere and sit near it, draw through it, around it, over it and consider the possibility that the obstructions in your life might just have a beauty of their own if you could only see it and surrender to it (that’s the hard part!). It’s crazy that, for me, it takes drawing it to make me see the railing of my life as necessary anchors and protection rather than prison-box obstruction.

Draw to be able to see what cannot be seen with just your eyes.

Draw to see beyond and through the railings!

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If you’re interested in developing further an ability to see life with an artful eye, this little Primer is a place to start. 🙂

All My Attention

BeachAdirondacks

Every drawing tells a story. It doesn’t matter whether it is abstract or representational, detailed or dashed off, unfinished or complete…it speaks of life in that moment, what was going on either in the artist’s physical world or in their feelings and thoughts. More often than not, it encompasses both.

CaptureLucy

I often feel like Irene, in the Princess and the Goblin, whose been given a near invisible thread to take with her into the world outside the castle and to follow where it leads so that she might be led back home. Life has a way of calling me out of my comfort zones regularly, which in turn creates a storm of thoughts and feelings that are not easily sorted out. The very best way I have to quiet the storm and be led through it (even good storms such as a wedding!) is to follow the lines of whatever is around me, pinning them down on paper as I can, catching them by the tail, and following them home.

RandyRelaxing

Bringing the full weight of all my attention to particular moments is what drawing affords me. Even knitting doesn’t quite rival this focus of mind and quieting of jumpy thoughts. I can still ruminate to beat the band whilst knitting and crocheting. (Unless of course I’m learning a new stitch pattern or following a chart, but even that is not the same.)

ToughGetGoing

I look back through this Moleskin and I can see so much that has happened in the past few months. Though there are no actual wedding drawings, I see and remember little moments leading up to it and beyond…that thread that reminds me I have a rope, a life-line, leading me in and through life’s big events as well as small ones.

bloom

I finally got around to reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic several weeks ago. The one thing that has stuck with me is a phrase she mentioned once or twice. “So here’s the part where I…” She recounts that after so many years of living this creative life, she now recognizes the patterns of her emotional and mental landscape that are repeated time and time again. This SO resonated with me! “So here’s the part where I get so busy I can hardly think straight let alone feel focused in my art.” “So here’s the part where I’m humming along with creative juices flowing daily.” “So here’s the part where I haven’t been able to create much and now that I can, I’m so backlogged with ideas I’m flailing around making anything and everything that comes to mind.” etc. etc.

JustUsThree

It is helpful in the midst of it all, to realize these patterns and that a thread runs through all of it, leading me out to a wide open space where I will regain a sense of harmony and direction in what I want to make. Drawing leads me through. Drawing makes all the jumpy thoughts and questions bed down for a time, allowing a sense of calm to flood back in.

MorningTea&Reading

I’ll keep following the line. I feel it already bringing me through the overgrown brush, the frenzied forest of life, and I know it will lead me out into that spacious place which may not be home yet, but a place to hang my hat for a time.

CienerAtLast

I sincerely hope that you too can follow a line today, pin it to paper, catch it by the tail and hang on for dear life, bringing the full weight of all your attention to small moments.  In so doing, your sketchbook will be a full, beautiful and rich account of the journey.

Be All Here

Sky&OceanOakIsland2016

I sat on the edge of the steps leading down to the ocean from our beach house. Saying goodbye is always hard. A week of family, fun, rest, relaxing, walking, reading, drawing and knitting…hard to top that.

I drank in the gorgeous sky above the water, trying to notice and take in everything about it so I could take it back with me, remember it, paint it when I returned home. It is how I could transition from this lovely week back to my everyday life. Even though I’d been drawing and painting it all week, I felt I had only just begun to capture the force, the movement, the textures and colors of the ocean and its ever-changing sky.

Water&SkyOakIsland2016

My intent this week was to make marks. I have a tendency to become seized with a love for a particular medium and I’m compelled to use it as much as possible over a period of time. For this week it was oil pastel and watercolor. An exciting and whimsical combination. Yet when I got home, I wanted just watercolor for the first image above. Just paint to depict how the ocean’s waves mirrored the sky’s clouds. Just a brush to sweep and flood the sky and water with the colors that reflect off of each other.

Sun&WavesOakIsland2016

There are too many qualities in the sky and ocean that make it necessary to limit oneself to just a few of them for depicting in paint and crayon. Color. Texture. Movement. This week was less about shape or perspective. Impressions. Emotion. Joy. Freedom. That’s what I was after. For my sketchbooks, as well as for my life.

I’m back at home, filled with gratitude in my heart and with numerous drawings in my sketchbooks. It is as if each one was drawing out of me the weariness that had accumulated over the past months. Each mark, sketch, swoosh of color unleashing burdens, yet harnessing peace, drawing all the color and light into myself, ready for what life has in store for the rest of the summer.

*****

P.S. I’m always hopeful that you will find drawing to be as immensely poignant and helpful to you as it is to me. I am renewed in my desire to draw daily as a way to bring my full attention to the life I have. I need this. We all need this. So I’m planning future blog posts on this topic, to encourage you, inspire you to draw, take up your brush and dip into the ocean of your life to see the beauty that lies therein.

You might enjoy this little video I made from a beach trip a few years ago. Same house, family, and fun.

Artfully yours,

Jennifer