Every Common Bush

morningvespers

Earth is crammed with heaven,

and every common bush afire with God;

but only he who sees takes off his shoes.”

-Elizabeth Barret Browning

I’m waking early these days. I haven’t been able to pinpoint why until this morning. Usually, when I start waking up early, it’s due to worries and cares vying for brain space, feeble attempts to solve each problem. This is not the case lately. I’m awake and alive with a desire or anticipation of something…

lamppostlight

I quietly make my way downstairs, slipper-footed, make a pot of coffee, and assume my position on the floor. This has become my favorite spot for Morning Vespers – a space for listening, praying, pondering, treasuring all that I’ve been given, and all that will be granted today. It is a centering space where I ground myself to what is true, knit the words of Christ into my heart, and draw upon His grace for the day.

roanokedrive

I do, literally, draw. Each morning, at least one simple drawing of something around me, right where I am, here where I live and move and have my being. Ordinary, every day things. I used to think, in my early years as an artist, that I had to find the spectacular to draw. I thought I needed the perfect subject matter, the lighting just-so, a favorable composition. For many years now, it is the common ordinary things of my own small life that become burning bushes. As I begin the day, I re-commit to this practice of looking for the “burning bushes”, taking off my shoes and drawing them (the bushes…and the shoes!), knowing that even here is holy ground.

einsteindraw

I think it is the beginning of Advent that has me up so early with a feeling of anticipation and longing. My temptation is to look for something big to happen, something amazing, something grand. But as I draw the ordinary common-place things of my life, I’m reminded that it is the small and insignificant things that Christ comes to inhabit. It is right here, in small towns, in barns and mangers, in the hearts of ordinary people, shepherds as well as wise men.

frontdoorxmaswreath

Advent is one of my favorite seasons. It really seems like there are burning bushes everywhere – all of earth aflame with God. I want eyes to see these bushes, a heart peeled and looking for them, and hands ready to draw them into my sketchbook and life.

xmastree2016

As I draw, I hear Him calling my name. And like Moses, I answer – Here I am. (Ex. 3:4)

*****

Won’t you join me this Advent, in drawing the common bushes in your life? I’d love to know if you are doing this! And if you are posting your drawings somewhere, let me know so I can walk with you this Advent.

To view these daily drawings, visit me on Instagram.

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

What if….?

all6fplowres

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?

fiberpaintingprep

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!

fiberpalette

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:

day1fp

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

flowervasefp

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?

mamababypearfp

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

silverdapplefiberscape

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

seascapefp

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”.:)

sunrisescapefp

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.

shapesofstitches

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

LovelyBeginning

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.

SilverDappleClouds1

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?

SilverDappleCouds2

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.

SilverDappleClouds3

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.

SilverDappleFini

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.

CloudsCloseUp

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!

SilverDappleClouds4

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!

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!

********

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

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

Painting with Leaf & Flower

StaffordCommission

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.

StaffordCommissionCenter

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?

StaffordCommissionLeft

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.

StaffordComissionRight

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.

StaffordComissionRightcrop

***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.

Charcoal Love

HolidayTrio

I’m working through a batch of commission work, some of which is in charcoal. I love working with charcoal, especially portraiture. It is incredibly fun to watch a face emerge out of the ash on the page and to see personality peer back at you through the values. So much fun!

CloseUpRandyTrio

I realized I never fully shared with you the charcoal piece I created several weeks ago of my husband being a goofy uncle with two of our nieces at Christmas. They love to sit in his lap and laugh with him. The photo I had was the perfect challenge to try bringing to life a fun moment from the holidays.

BrynleyTrio

The easel and charred sticks are calling my name, so I’ll leave you with other close-ups of this three-person portrait.

AddyTrio

And by the way…if you’d like to follow me on my stay-at-home walking/drawing pilgrimage through Lent, I’d welcome your company! Consider joining in! It’s never too late to start a pilgrimage of your own.

UpCloseRandyTrio2

Happy Day to you!  and Buen Camino!

UpCloseAddyTrio

UpCloseBrynleyTrio2