Too Much

If you peeled your eyes away

to give them a break

to rest from so much seeing

to see what might be discovered in reality…

If you pulled your nose back from the glass and stone

from the screen and window

to inhale something new, or just stop breathing the fumes…

If you covered your ears

and stopped listening to tripe, to lies, to bait…

What would you hear?

What would you smell?

What would you see?

Sometimes I feel it – too much seeing.

Sometimes my breathing is labored from so much pressing my nose where it need not be.

Sometimes my ears are tired from so much hearing of what I do not need.

I step back. I close my eyes.

I shut the computer and the phone.

I listen to silence.

Perhaps to song.

And I breathe.

And I create.

And I relax.

********

More and more I’m finding I need periods of respite from online activity. Be it a few hours or even days, this unplugging allows me to rest, to really hear and see what’s going on in my life, to listen to what my pen wants to draw or write. It feels a bit like Spring. Something underneath the surface beginning to stir and waken, yet still waiting to come forth. I’m seeing it on my walks these days…tiny bright green spots coming up from the ground and peeking out the ends of limbs. It’s still very early days here in the South where winter could come roaring back just when the tender blooms think it’s ok to wave at us.

I need to step back, listen to the silence of so much growth. I need to keep watch over the tender shoots…breathing, creating, and relaxing into the change of seasons.

To Sit With What Is :: A New Year’s Surrender

There is something delicious about standing at the edge of a new year! It feels like starting a brand new sketchbook (oh the possibilities!), or casting on a new fair isle project (the colors, designs and so many knits & purls to look forward to!), or setting out fabric scraps with an eye to what could be collaged and stitched into a lovely fragment. It is also encouraging to look back over the year, scroll back through one’s Instagram feed, and see the making, remember the incredible times of drawing, knitting, stitching, writing. Closing out a year and turning my face to another is wonderful indeed!

It is also overwhelming. The above photograph is a current picture of the many ways my creative head and heart walk through life. The older I become the more I realize this is how I deal with life, this is how I work through all that life brings to me, the pretty and the painful and everything in between. If I  gaze out into 2018 for too long, I want to walk a step or two backwards, look away and just sit down. I think I can certainly do that for a moment, for a day at least. Perhaps even for good.

Last year I began the year with the words Slow & Simplify. I wanted them to guide me, to define or focus my intention about moving through the year. It was lovely to carry those words with me, even in the midst of not-at-all slow times and ever-so-not simple ones. There were places in the year, more than I would have liked, that I wished I had not chosen those words, for it seemed that Life was out to contradict them in every way possible. But towards the end of 2017, even in those crazy final two months filled with holidaying, I came to realize a secret to being slow and simple in life…and that is to sit with what is. I’m pretty certain I’ve heard this phrase from Susan Piver whose meditation guidance has helped me so very much over the last few years. I resumed this practice late in the autumn and it continues to root me in my personal life and in my creative life. To sit with what is is not a giving up of dreams and goals. It is not a curl up under the covers, pull the wool over one’s eyes way of life. Rather it is a strong-backed, head up, soft-bellied breathing into whatever is going on in one’s life. It is a way of sitting down and facing whatever is in one’s lap at the moment. For me, this helps me both with what is in my lap in life at the moment AND what is in my lap creatively. Is life going at warp speed at the moment? Ok, sit with that. Be all there breathing into the blur. Is life complicated and confusing? Ok then…sit with that and breathe space into the craziness.

I don’t know how this strikes you. You may not be like me. In fact, I hope you are not. You see, my default setting in life is to feel that I should and ought to be doing, being, making, creating something other than what I’m currently doing, being, making, or creating. Call it driven, call it striving, call it restlessness, call it passion, curiosity, or creative. It is hardwired into my being for reasons I may not fully comprehend. But there it is. Always striving to reach the next goal, check off the next thing on my to-do list, be everything I need to be for excellence in my personal life and in my work as an artist. That last sentence sounds exhausting. Even in a desire for Slow & Simple, it can become a measuring stick that beats me over the head when life isn’t either of them. To sit with what is, allows me to sink into my life, accepting it, breathing into it prayerfully, whether it is slow or busy, whether it is simple or complicated, whether it is pretty or painful, whether it seems productive or not, whether I am accomplishing anything or just running in circles. To sit with what is, allows me to be ok with whatever is in my lap at the moment, be it a sketchbook, or some knitting, or embroidery, or my writing journal. Any feelings of guilt, should-be, oughtta-be, wanna-be , can be let go of, breathing into the creative goodness at hand. Even when I’m being hounded by the be-better, do-more, do-other thoughts, I can just sit with that, breathe space around it, acknowledging that it is there, a part of who I am, but not something I have to give full attention to. It can just sit there, beside me, while I continue breathing, living, creating.

So this is my intention for 2018. To walk into the year bravely, courageously, and creatively opening my hands to whatever comes, whatever falls in my lap. To sit with it, breathe into it, and prayerfully let go of the striving and drivenness that may come with it.  I will resist and let go of the inevitable desire to make “sitting with what is” my new measuring stick. Thanks be to God that there is now no condemnation for those who live in His love and grace. That’s where I want to be…sitting with what is true, good and beautiful.

Thank you so very much to all of you who continue to visit with me here, who read my words, who purchase and enjoy my art-making in all its various forms. You are so appreciated!! Here’s to 2018…a New Year filled with many stitches, sketches and inspirations!!

Happy New Year!

Artfully Yours,

Jennifer

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. 🙂

Discover Your Life Beautiful…One Drawing At A Time

I can’t believe it! I am so so excited to finally have these 12 lessons to offer to you! Years ago, I wrote a lesson a week on my blog. I called it Draw Your Life Mini Lessons. The response was positive and several asked for the lessons in book form. Though I made a couple of attempts at that, it just didn’t seem like the right container for the lessons. At the beginning of this year, I got the idea to expand the lessons into an ebook and video course. It is now complete and available in my ETSY shop.

The self-guided course is now called Discover Your Life Beautiful, One Drawing At A Time. It is the same 12 Lessons compiled into a 64-page ebook instantly downloaded upon purchase. Each lesson has a password protected video to view which offers more discussion on that Lesson’s topic as well as a look inside my sketchbooks, filled over the last ten years. The course is equal parts inspiration and motivation, tips and techniques, as well as instruction for four different approaches to drawing. As you move through the lessons you will come full circle to Draw Up A Chair and begin again and again.

The course is a comprehensive approach to seeking out and finding beauty in your everyday life. Everything from creative blocks you may experience, to tons of ideas for creating pages in your sketchbook, plus instruction for drawing in such a way that you experience your life more fully.

Of all the creative endeavors I enjoy, this practice of drawing my life is at the center. From this daily habit, I’m enabled to see my life for the beauty that may be out in the open or hidden from view. It takes drawing to uncover it sometimes, and sketching it celebrates the life I’ve been granted.

The overall emphasis in this course is DRAWING AS A PRACTICE, NOT AS A PRODUCT. My desire is that in working through the lessons, you will experience a freedom to drawcument your life without any burden to do so in a certain way or to have a polished product. We find love and beauty in the activity of drawing…not necessarily in the finished sketch.

I offer this course to you for the reasonable price of $45. My hope is that anyone might feel they can begin this life-affirming activity of sketching and drawing their life.

I would love to hear from you as to how it’s going, should you choose to purchase the course and work through the lessons. Whether you are a beginner at sketching or a seasoned artist, you will find something in this course to encourage and inspire you!

Click Here to visit my ETSY shop to purchase.

Enjoy!

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

Drawn To Iron

I do not like to iron. At all.

I seem to be in a place where my heart needs re-orienting. Something is in need of being smoothed out. Yet I tell myself I like the chaotic wrinkles, the jumble of piles of laundry. I’m well aware that I’m speaking in veiled terms here. You’ll just have to go with this.

My husband wears black shirts that need ironing. No starch. Just a simple smoothing out of what the dryer doesn’t do. One shirt comes out of the dryer and is hung up on the rod in our laundry closet. A few days later, a second one. And several days later there’s a forest of black shirts hanging there waiting to be ironed.

My husband is perfectly capable of ironing his shirts himself. And he most often does. He is not waiting around for me to do this for him. For some reason, this morning, I saw those shirts hanging there and I needed to iron them. To sort them out so that they can be used, worn, enjoyed.

My life is needing a bit of sorting out. There’s too much hanging on the rod…mostly in my creative life. I’ve succumbed to the siren song that I can have my cake and eat it too, along with all the cupcakes and pies. Again, veiled generalizations.

What I realize in all this is a need to see. A desire for all of living to be grace. And the best way I know how to connect to this is through the humble act of drawing.

I don’t mean drawings to sell. Or to exhibit in a gallery. Ordinary, everyday sketches of ordinary, everyday things grant me sight that I desperately need. Even sight for the things I don’t like to do. Especially the things I don’t like to do.

I made this page in my sketchbook after I had ironed all the shirts. As I drew the contours of an iron we have had for years, and of plain black shirts that will have a white collar worn with them, I was filled with love. Love for ironing. Can you believe that? It was something about the slow process of smoothing something out and seeing the results.

And love for drawing. This crazy simple daily work of sketching the stuff of life works to melt my heart to what is right beside me and with me all the time – a man of the cloth who works to love and serve his family and congregation.

There is more that I could share, of a smoothing out, a realization of things I have realized numerous times before. That is life, isn’t it? Coming back ’round to what we have surely known before, but have forgotten somehow in the rush of living.

I may need to find a few more things to iron around here (sorry, not taking any ironing commissions! 🙂 …and to draw…

…grace in the stuff of living through the lens of my sketchbook.

The Traffic Can Wait

I sit in a car. A lot.

It is not my favorite thing to do. At all.

On good days I can lay hold of the fact that all this driving around is actually due to great blessing in my life –

*an active, healthy,  involved-in-everything teenager.

*lots of classes in neighboring towns guiding women along their fiber journeys.

*errands to procure necessary provisions for a family.

But most of the time, in-between the grumbling, huffing and occasional involuntary expletive, I’m hunkered down, eyes-to-road, thinking where-to-next?

Unless I stop.

I have drawn before (as in the above drawing), these little aberrations of sight and wonder when I happen to turn my head left, out the driver’s side window and look. I don’t do it on purpose usually. It is often with a sigh and a desire to get off this flippin’ traffic-filled road and get on with the real stuff of life, that I turn my head.

I’m not expecting this. At all. But somehow in the fog of my negative thoughts, as I’m stopped in that never-ending automotive line, I can see…

A lovely meandering line of tracks, leading from underneath the bridge I’m on, up into rolling hills where light is carving out distinct shapes on a winter-hued landscape. How I would love to hop out of the car and go. To get on that train and follow those tracks to other towns, states, see the world a bit.

I’m enchanted by the view beside me, right where I am, even as my reverie is broken both by the formidable cement railing barring my jump onto the train, but also by the honking behind me as the traffic has grown impatient with my imagined train trip.

I get back into gear and lurch froward, smiling at the gift of being forced to stop in the midst of what I loathe, and being offered a view, a spot of beauty along my daily highway.

I need to stop and look more often as I drive.

The traffic will just have to wait.

P.S. I do not sit there in traffic drawing. Although perhaps I should! 🙂  I snap a picture with my phone to draw from later, thus a second gift of insight for the day.

The Verge of Chaos

I sat there in front of a photograph on the wall.

Straddling a cushioned cube at a local hangout spot, I was drawn to draw him. Ruffly shirt, dark eye peering out of stark value shifts. My own eyes tracing the shapes, the connections between shapes, the value shifts, squinting in order to see better.

What shall I use? Emptying my zippered pen/marker/pencil pouch, I didn’t realize I was talking out loud. One of my fellow drawers offered – “Use charcoal! It begs for charcoal!” Yes, I know…but I don’t wanna use charcoal…I feel rebellious.

Now if you met me, your first thought would NOT be – Wow…here’s one rebellious chic! Middle-aged, ordinary mom, dressed in homegrown clothes…quite predictable I’m sure. But today I did not want to choose the predictable. I adore charcoal. It is effortless and magical and allows you to lay in values and adjust transitions on a dime. What I wanted today was ink and water and pen and watercolor. I wanted to see if I could tame something whose primary property is FLOW (charcoal does not flow on its own), and to attempt to wrangle it into something that looked like a portrait. Yes… fountain pen, water brush, watercolor paint.

There was only a moment’s hesitation before setting my fountain pen to paper. Just enough time to choose where to start my line…on the page as well as the face…right here, I think. Then it was off to the races. Well, the tortoise race of following the contours of invisible lines were values meet. Not drawing a nose, just the shapes, where I see them. No pencil first, just gut and years of experience guiding me.

When all was said and done, or at least when I declared that the sketchbook paper couldn’t take anymore paint, that the flow I had been wrangling and taming was on that lovely verge of flowing right off the page, when I sat back and felt that it could stop in this most interesting place…I knew…

…I knew that it was not correct.

I will not go into all the ways this drawing (painting, sketch, whatever you want to call it) does not “match” the photograph, does not exhibit “correct” values or transitions, does not have perfectly measured shapes. What I will say, is that it delights me. This sketch, based purely on itself and not on any standard or pre-existing image, is exactly what I had set out for –

Unpredictable, full of flow and splash and texture, all within certain quasi-delineated bounds that give the overall impression of a face. Yes. This.

This is why I love to draw. As I peer into another’s face, a landscape, a jumble mess on my desk, I get a glimpse of my own self, of my world, of life. I could care less whether anyone else likes it, or think it’s “good” or not. In fact, I want to care less and less what I myself deem it to be.

What I want is to keep on peering into things, drawing them in unpredictable ways, trying new approaches, and so somehow to live the whole of my life in that chaotic flow, trying to wrangle it within invisible bounds so that beauty can emerge. I want to care less about whether the values are correct, the shapes perfectly measured. I definitely do not want my life to match someone else’s.

I must follow where I am led…riding on pools of watercolor as it flows, blooms, and splatters in unpredictable ways. Following  an invisible line that only my Maker draws out for me. This way of living delights me. Scares me. But fascinates me and keeps me coming back to the pages of my sketchbook.

Curbed Beauty

For weeks on end I marvel and enjoy in my living room a gazillion branches shooting out in a most pleasing shape, draped with twinkly  lights and sparkly ornaments. I never once consider the base, the foundation, the structure from which all these balsam branches emanate. Well, maybe once, as my son lifted the tree and I guided the spike from the stand into the pre-drilled hole at the bottom.

It isn’t until our lovely Christmas tree lies bare, de-frocked of its adornments, and drying on its side at the curb right in front of our house, that I can see its real beauty. For many days, as I passed by it on my walks, I winced at the lonesome heap. But this day, rounding the corner into our cul-de-sac, something drew me to look at our tree from a different perspective. What I saw made me draw in breath, hold it for a few seconds and slowly exhale…wow.

I don’t know that I can articulate what I saw gazing from drill-hole-end down the trunk, yet up and through the gazillion branches. It was as if I peered into a telescope and glimpsed another world, more mesmerizing than the tinseled one I had fancied for weeks in my living room. It was like falling into a wonderland of realization where I could actually, finally, if momentarily, see the real beauty behind the external fanfare. I was able to to see what my heart longs for —

–something solid that anchors the myriad of spokes shooting out in every direction…lines woven in an intricate dance held secure by a strong, immovable, straight core.

It is a mere 13 days since the beginning of a New Year and already it feels like SLOW & SIMPLIFY have become HASTEN & MULTIPLY. The lovely slow days of snow perhaps gave a wrenching contrast to the pace of my normal life. I typically stand viewing the gazillion beautiful branches of this creative life I’ve been granted with immense gratitude and an equal part overwhelm.

I realize as I’m on my knees at the curb gazing into our Christmas tree, that it is precisely the fact that I’m often fixated on all the adorned branches which gives me this overwhelming feeling and a sense of go-go-get-done. In these few seconds (perhaps minutes?), my heart-rate slows, and my focus narrows as I gaze into the solid core, the trunk, the vine from which all the branches emanate. Even now, as I write, I’m understanding this phenomenon more and am heartened to move forward in my day with a solidity in my soul:

It may not be a slow day and I doubt it will be simple, speaking in terms of all the branches. But I carry at my core the Tree of Life, the Balm of Gilead, the bright Morning Star, the River of Gladness, the One who makes all things new.

I want to stay here on my knees just a moment longer peering into these things, gaining strength and solidity. But I must away and join in the intricate dance of so many branches.

Perhaps I’ll carry my drawing with me to steady me along that way.

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

Oh No… I think I’ve ruined it!

This is such a regular thought that goes marching through my head as I create, that I am used to it now, and I’ve even grown to expect it. It wasn’t always so. There were years that  a fair panic would nearly shut me down completely when this thought would blaze its way into my consciousness as I painted or knitted. Nowadays, I have the thought less frequently and I’m better able to say “yeah, yeah I know, it might all fall apart here, but let’s just wait and see, or let me just try this…” And 9 times out of 10 the painting resolves itself, or I figure out how to bring about a satisfying stopping point. :0)

In both the above painting and in my recently completed weaving, I’ve had to deal with this pesky thought. Watercolor has a mind all its own. Add to that my own purposeful slap-dashery approach and you’ll likely have numerous points where the thing feels totally out of control! I now know that usually a press of paper-towel and a fresh splash of color will do the trick of wrangling the watery hues into some semblance of an exuberant image. This is actually what I love most – a painting or drawing that teeters on the edge of chaos, yet somehow holds together.

I’m finding this to be true in weaving as well! How delightful to be able to work with fibers in a manner quite similar to painting. I do not plan it all out. That is not how I like to work. I like to have a general , overall feeling or gist to a painting or weaving, and then dive in with an intuitive search for that initial feel and/or look. Personally, this is exciting to me! So when I have that pesky thought that I may have ruined it, it is an opportunity to do a couple of things:

1. LET GO of my original, albeit loose, plan or idea.

2. USE whatever I’m perceiving as ruined as the basis for something new.

3. CONTINUE working with a Well-I’m-not-sure-where-this-is-going, but-I’ll-see-it-to-the-end attitude.

Most of the time, I’m satisfied with the outcome of drawings and paintings that go through this “ruined” phase. And this weaving is also resolving quite nicely even though I’ve had this thought more than once as I added colors and textures. Perhaps, when we are new to a craft, this pesky thought bothers us more frequently. It’s good to remember…

It’s not ruined……it’s only re-routed.

It isn’t a failure…..it’s an opportunity.

It isn’t hopeless…..from this point on magic and mystery ensues!

Here’s to a day of magic and mystery as we weave our lives with color and grace amid the “ruins”!

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

A New Year Brings Change…

artfullifelogo

Dear friend and fellow creatives!
A New Year has rolled in and along with it a plethora of ideas are swirling in my head! I have so much to share with you! As I noted in my last newsletter, the Knitterly Arts Newsletter will be changing. In fact, tomorrow I will be sending out the first of its kind. It will be called:

An Artful Lifeline
Weekly notes of encouragement…a lifeline…
to keep you inspired on your quest to live an Artful Life!

This new version is intended for any and ALL who like making things with their hands, be it drawings & paintings, knitted & crocheted projects, spinning & weaving, and whatever else your particular love might be. Our craft, no matter what form it takes, is our Lifeline. For me, creative work allows me to take flights of fancy while also tethering me, grounding me to all that is true, good and beautiful in my life. I have a feeling your creative work does this for you too. And we always need encouragement to see our work in this way. All of us, no matter whether we are beginners in our art & craft, or whether we are seasoned artists, need to be reminded of how our art speaks to us and infuses our everyday lives with beauty and joy.

Each week you will receive a short but sweet note in your e-mailbox with the following:
**An Artful thought for the week ahead designed to encourage you to keep on making things and to see your life through the lens of creativity.

This is the main focus of An Artful Lifeline, and may be the only thing sent to you each week. But there will also be, from time to time:
**Links to any of my recent blog posts you might have missed.
**More links to resources, both my own as well as others, for further creative encouragement.
**Shop Updates and discount codes for my ETSY shops as well as my Fine Art America shop!

If you are wanting all the good stuff that the Knitterly Arts Newsletter used to have, you can find it in my video podcast, which I’ll be continuing this year!!

All Episodes of the Knitterly Arts Podcast are now on You Tube
and each episode’s Show Notes are housed on my Knitterly Arts blog.

Be sure to subscribe both places so you won’t miss any episodes!

IMPORTANT NOTE: If this new Artful Lifeline doesn’t sound like something you are interested in, NO PROBLEM! Simply hit the “unsubscribe” button at the bottom of the newsletter. If you want to receive An Artful Lifeline , and you are already receiving the Knitterly Arts Newsletter, then do nothing at all! I will be keeping you on the subscriber list.

**If you have never received the Knitterly Arts Newsletter but wish to receive An Artful Lifeline, SUBSCRIBE HERE!

But if not, no offense is taken at all. I am grateful for your past support and for any who desire to keep living Artfully along with me!

Artfully yours,
Jennifer