Gamut

In a week of drawing trees, one can run the gamut of emotions. From surprise in a Walmart parking lot to needing a hug, to laughing out loud, or standing in silent awe … trees evoke a plethora of thoughts and feelings.

I am not always able to capture the full range of this in any given drawing. But I try. It is in the trying that the real benefit lies. Attempting to draw lines that evoke something of what I felt in that moment allows me to dive into what I’m thinking and to sort through it on paper.

The sketch becomes a kind of visual language, often aided by actual words on the same pages as the drawings. I don’t always add writing to my sketchbook pages, but this particular cheap sketchbook begs for it and I love adding written thoughts to the drawings.

I will soon finish this sketchbook. In anticipation of this, I’ve already purchased another cheap book/journal which has, instead of pale lines, tiny dots. I have tried a sample page at the beginning of the book to see how my favorite sketching media hold up on this paper. I’m especially interested in whether my markers bleed through.

Paper is actually whiter than this!😃

Thankfully the thick paper passes the test and so I’ll be working slightly larger for the next batch of daily tree drawings and all the other random sketches I add in a day.

Perhaps a sketchbook flip-through will be in order when I’ve finished the current book. Fun, eh? But first, I would love to hear from you dear reader…

Last week it came to my attention that some folks who had subscribed to receive my blogs via email, were not actually getting them. I’m afraid this may have been happening for quite some time…months and perhaps even years. Would you be so kind as to try and respond with a comment just so I know that at least some of you are receiving the notification of a new blog post in your email box?

Apple tree in tapestry!

And on that note…in the event that you are just now receiving notice of my blog posts, do scroll back through them. I would like to blog more regularly and knowing that folks are actually receiving them, will help me tremendously!

I would also love to hear what creative work has you excited these days! I am spinning and weaving a bunch along with the daily tree drawings. But I am always dabbling in many other fun and enchanting mediums such as tapestry, crochet, gouache paint, hand stitching and more!

Truly running the gamut of all my favorite creative mediums!

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.

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Trees & Me

It really shouldn’t surprise me. Drawing has always been so much more than simply lines on a page. I forget this phenomenon of conversation between hands and heart, of lines bold and thin drawing out what I need to see or acknowledge. Of course I thought, when I set about to draw a tree a day, that I would simply draw them as I see them out in the yard or neighborhood or elsewhere. But trees have long been a favorite subject of mine for pen and paint. Not only because of their incredible structure and shapes, but because they embody so much meaning, so much life, so much wisdom for living.

Indeed they have lived through so much. The plum tree in our front yard enchanted me the day we moved into our home 17 years ago. But I have watched (through numerous drawings) it’s trunk twist and lean in a direction that I now wonder if it will fall over one day. The front steps’ view from which I drew it’s portrait the other day doesn’t show much of the leaning. I shall draw that another day. Weather, age, and a towering pear tree beside it have forced a reach for the sun and a twist in the trunk like fibers on a spindle.

On my daily walks now I pay more attention to the trees that I have walked beside for so many years and which I have drawn on so many occasions. They are aging even as I am aging. I notice the cut off limbs, the bulbous way a tree grows around a lopping-off, the recent trimmings, the hack jobs where it seems no care has been taken to remove a tree…just severed in half, leaving still a significant portion of the trunk to continue “living”, if it can be called living.


I also notice small trees, the little Charlie Brown ones, the skinny spindly ones that may grow tallish but seem twig-like against their beefier neighbors. One such tree is in our back yard. It is actually a hybrid willow/cherry tree. It really isn’t able to get enough sun being dwarfed by the neighbor’s cypress trees just feet away. Under this sweet little tree we buried our cat Lucy. A rock marks her grave and we imagine her delight in being outdoors resting peacefully beneath a blossomed bower.

Winter trees have always enchanted me with their exposed limbs and revealed structures. You really get to see their shape, asymmetrical Limb patterns, bird nests and other ephemera lodged in their web of branches. No two trees are the same. Each tree is a unique being, much like humans. Their scarred and marred trunks tell stories of life and loss. I need to listen to these stories as they echo my own. Somehow, in drawing trees daily for not even a week yet, I receive comfort and solace for the unfolding stories in my life.

I’m headed out the door now to walk amongst them, to listen and to draw sustenance for the day.

New Year Eyes

”There are eyes in pencils and pens.”

This quote by John Piper, found in a book I’m re-reading for the umpteenth time, echoes down a long hallway of years of drawing and writing. I know this to be true…how I see so much better when I’m wearing my pens. A bic pen for writing daily pages of whatnot, the same pen for sketching random doodles, a fine Sharpie and a bold brush pen for drawing, fat markers and dual-ended colors, and a splash of watercolor here and there all help me see the world more clearly and true-ly.

Today, the last day of 2019, feels like any other day, except for a small flicker of  re-kindled hope. Not a hope that things will improve in the New Year, for so many of the difficulties and burdens of 2019 will go with me into 2020, and may even worsen.  It is rather a hope much like a faint far off sound that tickles my ear to turn towards it.  A sweet note (or is it a voice?) that I’ve heard before so many times…

…count them…draw them…put pen to paper…

…and in doing so, pin them to your heart and mind. So many gifts lay strewn at your feet, all around you, as you walk along the way, no matter how difficult or heavy the course. You need, Jen, to wield your pen in order to see the gifts.

Ok. I will. And what shall I pen and pin down with laser focus? What shall I count and list and name and draw into my heart?

Gifts. “Not gifts I want, but gifts I already have.”

-Ann Voskamp. 1,000 Gifts. Pg. 45.

I know this. Yet I forget what I already know…that gifts abound all around me every single day. This past year has brought gifts that I’d rather not have received, the painful difficult kind that has a way of overshadowing the lovely and joyful gifts.

As 2020 rolls in, I want to light a candle in those shadows, to peer down the end of my pens and see the gifts lovingly placed along  parched paths. There will be too many gifts to name them all, much less draw them all. But I will catch as many as I’m able, whispering thank you for each of them.

Ann Voskamp speaks of having her “hunt pen in hand”. I am holding mine firmly as I close out 2019 and jump into 2020. This pen with eyes may also have wings…I will need both for the year ahead!

Attention

In the middle of November I started to draw what was happening in my head. Well, it wasn’t only in my head. Some of the ideas that flutter around in my head come through my hands, or at least get started to see if they want to be fully birthed. Not all of the ideas mind you. My brain is a veritable factory of creative ideas which one person cannot possibly bring into being. I must be choosy.

I do love to have the time to sit and ponder each of them, like rolling a river pebble over in my fingers gazing at all sides and wondering if I have what that particular idea requires, or whether it should wait a while or perhaps be tossed back into the vast idea pond. Spinning wool is a lovely place to ponder and mull and work through the idea backlog.

The difficulty is that I’m forever attaching a weighty criteria to the ideas. Is this meaningful enough? Does it have an artistic flair? Is it original? Or is it someone else’s idea that I think I can do my version of? Will I have to purchase other tools or items to make this? How much time will be involved? Is it do-able within the framework of my life? Will I have to leave hearth and home for a week in order to see this idea come to fruition?

The heaviest weight I put on creating something is that big word Art with a capital A. I have an ongoing love-hate relationship with this word and for many years have preferred to remove the consideration of whether I’m producing Art, off the table. I really just want to be delighted, and if what I’m making delights me, then it shouldn’t matter whether it is deemed Art by me or by anyone else.

So I sit there at my wheel, or stand twirling a spindle, enrapt in delight as I do so, and I’m thinking of all these other things I “should” be devoting my time to.  I kept drawing the little illustrations off and on over the past few weeks in hopes of getting somewhere. It dawned on me recently, as it has done numerous times before, that what I’m holding in my hands is more often than not, THE THING I’m to be doing. Whew. Such freedom and Joy! Just look at the final drawing in my little story and that happy smile on the idea bulb’s face! “Finally! She’s got it!”

Here in the midst of our busy holiday making, I hope you can find some time to be delighted. It doesn’t matter if you are making world-changing Art, or just spinning some fluff into string. Stay in the de-Light as long as you can, eschewing those pesky thoughts that you should surely be doing something else more weighty and monumental. Pay attention to what you find yourself paying attention to (Jessica Abel’s thoughts here).

Deep dive into what’s right there in your hands to make and bring to life. It is likely the Big Idea 💡 you’ve been after all along.❤️

Revolution

It takes 365 days for the earth to make one full trip around the sun. That’s 8,760 hours. Or 525,600 minutes. Or 31,536,000 seconds. Small increments, tiny moments, so many ordinary events which create one revolution.

Birthdays remind me of this. One more turning of the years has been made up of many days and minutes lived. There have been more breathtaking, joy-filled days than I can count. There have also been days of heartbreak, fear, and concern. This is living. This is revolution.

I suppose for both the American and the French, their Revolutions were also preceded by numerous days and moments, small yet not insignificant actions suffered and endured, which turned the wheels of decision, adding strength to what would become historic events. A spinning wheel will likely not bring about such history-making. Nor will spindles of all kinds—Turkish, Russian, Tibetan—create monumental, earth-moving events. But they do remind me that it is in the tiny, inconsequential turning of our minutes that a Revolution is achieved.

There are now 54 such revolutions in my life to date. I am grateful for each and every one of them! I am also a bit wary of those to come…the unknown daily turning and spinning on this beautiful planet. What will this year’s spinning bring? My usual hope is that it would bring good and happy things. But a revolution is taking place in my heart where I am hoping more for strength and grace to meet the moments of the coming days.

As I spin, I watch the lovely light-filled fibers twist into a strong line, which will bear the weight of far more than its substance. The resulting yarn may or may not be called upon to carry heavy loads. But if it is…it’s ready and able. Once it is plied with another strand, it’s strength is even greater. And a chord of three strands is not easily broken.

Sitting here at the end of one year’s revolution and the beginning of another, I see sitting on my desk, an exquisite pile of gorgeous hand spun yarns. Rich colors, varied and textured, have been wrangled into skeins of yarn ready for making into something else. They are not the final result, even though I do think they could be set in a frame and hung on a wall, just to look at and admire in hank form. But they beg to be fashioned into something else…a weaving perhaps, or a knitted garment, or a crocheted piece.

I too am a skein of hand spun yarn. I’ve been and am being spun by Loving Hands which are adding strength even in the twist of my life and daily living. I need not worry about the coming revolutions or how many I and my loved ones have left. He will use what He is spinning for His glory and purposes…and all of it for my good.

Today, on my 54th birthday, I will spin on…creating with my hands in the trust and knowledge that strength and grace are being wrought.

 

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*

The Brink of Something

I have wakened, as I do every morning, to the blissful sounds of a quiet house. Of a coffee pot gurgling. A fridge humming. A clock ticking. In this pre-dawn deliciousness, I feel poised on the brink of something…

…a day

…a holiday

…days off from the norm

…a barrage of emotions which accompany being with lots of family

…creative hopes & dreams.

This “brink of something” is a familiar place for me. Don’t I experience this at least once, no five, even ten times in any given week? Don’t I find myself, as it were, perched at the edge of a glorious view, on tippy toes, arms outstretched, ready to leap and fly?

I think this is the truest index of my real situation. This “brink of something” is what gives me the delight, joy, excitement and wonder in my life. Yet it is also the culprit for much confusion, inner turmoil, even sadness and downheartedness. I often waken with the dindle and twitter of that ready-to-fly feeling…and then the day gets rolling and I’m left scratching my head wondering –

Is this it?  Was this the grand landscape into which I jumped?

The view from where I land each day isn’t so exciting or glamorous. And I haven’t landed in that “something” I thought I was in line for. By day’s end it all feels like the same mish-mosh of emotions, sad news from a world of woe, unrequited creative plans and dreams, weariness from slogging it out in the highways and byways of living.

Yet I awaken the next morning and there it is again… the desire to put on my jumpsuit and wings.

I could even go so far as to say that this has been my experience for all of my 53 years. Give or take a few mornings where grief and difficulty, or just plain ole monotony, have taken the wind out of my wings completely, I can see that this is the near daily ebb and flow of my life. To begin each day with such an exquisite hope, such a childlike desire to don my cape and wage the war of life with my paint brush, needles and wool…this is a brink I hope I always waken to.

The difficulty however is this — how does one live “on the brink” day in and day out? How do we, despite what life holds for us moment by moment, maintain an attitude of hope and expectation through it all? I write this not to offer a step-by-step  how-to. Although in just writing those words, I can see the hint of a path through.

Here, poised on the brink of this holiday season of Thanksgiving and then Christmas , my wings are more glittery than my average everyday wings. Woven with tinsel, rimmed in twinkly lights, they are fluttering with the anticipation of a kid on Christmas Eve. Yet 53 years has thankfully taught me a thing or two.

The real joy and delight of this season is not found in tinsel or lights (although I love festooning my home with them!) It is found in turning around from the edge of an imagined stunning vista, to view my life. The work I have daily, is to bring that dindle and twitter of anticipation to bear in my every day world. To stand on tip-toes with arms outstretched and to lean into whatever the day brings. My work each day is to walk step by step into it , wings unfurled, with the full knowledge of what this season is all about —

Gratitude that  I am not alone for the Christ child is coming and has come into our world.  Though I will one day stand on the brink of that heavenly realm, today’s work is thanksgiving for the view I have right here in my life.

May each of us embrace the now-and-not-yet-ness of this season. May we not lose heart in daring to stand tippy-toed on the brink of our days, anticipating our wings taking flight in all our joys AND in our difficulties and sorrows. May we brandish whatever swords of love we have been given, be they pens, paintbrushes, voices, instruments, yarn, clay or fabric.

And remember… you are not alone! I am on the brink here too and the Christ Child has paved the path before us, while also walking hand in hand , step by step, Emmanuel, with us.

“I Will Never…”

I should have known better. It’s happened a couple of times before. I said it years ago…”I will never knit socks.” And then, somehow (I honestly don’t remember what made me pick up teeny tiny needles and start knitting my first sock) I found myself knitting pairs of socks one right after the other.

So I should have known a couple of years ago, NOT to say, “I will never spin.” I was so firmly confident that with the panoply of yarns available, already spun, I would just do myself a favor and stay away from the whole spinning thing. And certainly not bring in another piece of furniture to collect dust in my house. Nope. I will never spin. So I said.

Never say never.

Here’s how it went. One of my students/knitting friends was first and foremost a spinner. Out of a desire to talk to her about her passion, listening to her describe what she was learning, a tiny speck of curiosity took up residence somewhere in my creative world. Of course I told her “I will never spin” and all the whys. Oh a drop spindle? What’s that? Small thing? Doesn’t take up a lot of space? Fun to use, portable…oh really? Hm. Perhaps I could try it. My oldest daughter had recently taken to spinning and was doing great with her drop spindle. So I thought, “Why not?” and bought a spindle and some wool.

Why not indeed?

It’s like a staircase. One step up.  You don’t realize the stair steps are leading you somewhere. You just take that step out of curiosity and voila, another step appears. A fall fiber festival with wool and spindles hanging everywhere, with big neon signs (not really) on them saying Spin Me! More conversations with the spinning friend. A visit to a spinning guild with her on a Sunday afternoon where someone was giving away some of her spindles, demonstrating ways to use them, and ladies sitting at their wheels. Uh oh. Wheels. Those look fascinating. And that lovely sound they make. And look at the gorgeous yarns they spin. Perhaps I could find one that looks compact, not so big and bulky. Oh and maybe I could paint one…I saw that at the Fiber Festival!

Several stair steps later, last summer, I bought a vintage Louet spinning wheel from a local spinner for a super price. Promptly painted it. I kept thinking what if I can’t do it? What if I’m just not able to make this thing work? I sat down to it and began to spin. And wonder of wonders, I took to it right away. A duck to water. That kind of thing. All of a sudden I found the stair step I had climbed was now a broad open field of wool and fiber with little gates leading off to dying wool, eco dying, blending wool, batts, rolags, and braids. A delightful place to spin around in.

This stair step thing is how it goes most of the time. I suppose for some folks, they fall into a new creative outlet hook, line, and sinker, all in one fell swoop. For me, it is often dipping a little toe in and just seeing what the waters are like. Telling myself all the while…”OK, this is alright, but I will never go any further with it.” Ha!

I’m learning…to never say never. Ya just never know! 🙂

Filaments of Light

What is it about spinning? The wonder…the allure? Can someone even explain why? I will attempt to do so here, but at the end of it all…this fascination baffles me. From a certain viewpoint, taking fluff of various kinds and turning it into string seems incredibly strange, silly and perhaps even nonsensical. You know how people say to us knitters…”why are you knitting socks when you can just go buy them, wear them immediately, and spend far less for them?” Well…think about this in reference to spinning yarn. I  mean really. Yarn in all variations, combinations, colors, textures, price points, etc is available to any who might wish to have it. So why spin one’s own yarn?

Well…

(Cue up the grand music, the poetry, the meditation of body and soul…)

And there, right there, I’m lost for words. How do I speak of the fluff of roving, wool batts, braids, sparkly fiber, wooly locks, alpaca, silk, and more? How can I describe the colors, intense and saturated, light and airy, pastel and muted, and the ever-beautiful basic cream of undyed wool? How do I tell you what it’s like to sit at a spinning wheel, fibers flowing through one’s hands and watch it turn into a strand of color and texture, sometimes barber-poling, sometimes thick, sometimes thin, sometimes slubbed and rough, other times smooth and creamy? And oh boy…how do I explain the wonder, the beauty of plying two strands of handspun yarn together? Oh the delight, the giddiness, the sheer bliss of this pastime? Even drop spindles hold a fascination for me that may be beyond description. Twirling dervishes of wooly delight.

The only way I know to speak of this amazing activity is to say that when I spin, with a wheel or spindles, it feels as if I am spinning filaments of light. To be sure many of the combined batts (both purchased and those I am now creating with a blending board…oh the crazy delight of that…but I shall not bore you with a poetic description, at least not today anyway) contain sparkly man-made fibers that glow and glisten as you spin. But even just the plain wool itself, especially when caught in the light just so, looks like tiny strands of light lining up into a cord as I spin, however thick or thin. This fascination with filaments of light is what gets me. I’m not sure I have any other explanation than this. Filaments of Light.

I cannot even say that I spin in order to knit with it or weave with it, though I certainly do both. But I actually spin just to be spinning. Just to enter that little dance (or is it a trance?) of foot tapping, wheel spinning, fiber flowing space. Even if it is only for a few minutes. I love that about it too…being able to just sit down to it and go. So little set up. No faffing about with where I am in a pattern, or decisions about what color to weave with next. Just spin. And spin. And spin.

And once I have the delicious yarn wound into a cake or hank, I love to just look at it, stack them up, sit them around here and there for decoration. Little cakes or twists of colorful Light!

The next time you have a hank of yarn in your hands, look for those filaments of light. Many of the yarns mass-produced today lose that spark of light. It is in the handspun variety that you can see it. Words for it may elude you, as it does me. But it will be there, spun up into the fluff and color of yarn.

<sigh>