Process vs. Progress

I am a process girl! Yes, indeed…I love to delve into the methods, the whys and wherefores of making, the steps (or lack of)  to creating, the slow path of stitching, the zen of painting, and the mindfulness of drawing. This is where my writer self gets all excited. To even attempt to put into words what is going on inside my head and heart as I make…ooh yes…lots of good stuff from which to learn and grow. To quote a favorite movie which you will likely laugh at, the Hannah Montana movie: “Ain’t about how fast I get there. Ain’t about what’s waitin’ on the other side. It’s the climb.”

I also love progress! I would not be completely happy if I just camped out in the process of making without also seeing that there is progress, a moving along toward a desired end. It actually does matter to me what’s waitin’ on the other side (end product of creating) and it matters to me that I see some kind of moving along a path toward that end. It may be switchbacks, or crazy circuitous roads, but at least there’s a bit of progress. Yes, it’s the climb! But I want the climb to be marked by signs of forward movement, gaining ground, a slow and steady march toward a thing of beauty. Or at least beautiful to me.

The #100Day Project and Tara Leaver’s 7-Day Mini Painting Challenge, are certainly challenging me! Only a week into the daily mark-making sketches in my book, and 5 days into Tara’s Challenge, I am finding way too much chatter in my head and heart as I draw and paint. The voices are far more talkative when I tackle the 10″ x 10″ works on paper for the 7-Day series. I chose to take a similar approach to what I’m doing in the #100Day Project – to make marks on a page in an intuitive manner. I even wrote on the first page of the designated sketchbook for the 100 days: NO THINKING!

Ha!

Here’s a peek into my thoughts as I create these abstract works. I posted this on Instagram (follow me there:) on Day 5. I’m wondering if there is any way to silence them. The voices in my head have a definite cartoon character tone: I approach the paper and mediums with “I think I can I think I can” running through my mind. Then when I’m into it a bit I hear Piglet “Oh d-deary dear, oh deary dear!” At a point of disaster I hear the exclamation when a large shiny ball has been hung on Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree, “YOU KILLED IT!!” Sometime after a lot of head hanging and hand wringing I hear Lucy’s 5-cent positive thinking phrases. After several attempts to run toward the football and kick it, only to feel I have missed it yet again, Eeyore kindly says, “Funny thing about accidents…they don’t happen until they happen.” Rafiki helps me get to the end with “Look harder!” And “Change is good”. As I lay down my brushes and oil pastels I join him in “The past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it.”💗 But my favorite Rafiki mantra I’ll take with me on my way out to walk is “Asante sana squash banana!” Humor and a sense of lightheartedness is always the best remedy. I mean goodness gracious…it IS only paper and paint.

I don’t always hear these voices. There are occasions where I’ve worked so quickly, or in a familiar ,well-worn method, that I’m just in the zone, drawing and painting without banter. It is lovely. But what I’m recognizing this week is that when I’m challenged, stretched out of my comfort zone a bit, committed to creating in a certain category of art, then the chatter begins. But it isn’t a bad thing. It’s actually the pathway to progress. Yes, you heard me say it…the voices of worry, dread, concern, along with their accompanying Keep it up! Keep going! Don’t quit now! (the 5-cent positive Lucy-isms) somehow bring me along to discovering new things in my art. They lead me through to places where I didn’t know existed, or that I could even achieve. What feels like a free-fall into a black ravine, turns out to be a “false flat” where I’m actually going up the climb and not down. The “mistakes”, failed passages, “incorrect” colors can be tunnels leading to new vistas along the way of progress as an artist.

Here are some of the new vistas I’m finding –

  1. What I love in my sketchbook, may not be something I love on larger paper. Hm.
  2. Now get ready for this…brace yourself: I actually do  like a gray mush of paint. Gasp!! What??This has happened numerous times as I work white acrylic into the existing wet watercolor paint. When it turns muddy or gray, I think I’ve ruined it. But after it dries, I see these passages as lovely color and an offset to all the bright colors around it.
  3. I adore many expressions of paint and line. Really.  I swoon over the simplest of pages. (Like that second one up there with just a bit of green watercolor, a black line, and a spot of orangey-pink collage.) But then I also drool over the softer, murky passages of acrylic paint in the watercolor. The latter has a bit more drama or mood. The former is just sheer joy. To me. 🙂

So this is good. So far, so good. In a couple of days Tara’s challenge will be over and I will have 90 more days of the mark-making project I’ve set my hand to. I am still so excited about that! These pages in my sketchbook seem like pure abandon to make marks howsoever I like! I even find myself wishing I could make about ten a day! One of them creates in my head several other ideas. Perhaps I shall. Perhaps I shall also continue making 10″ x 10″ paintings. I like this. A lot.

Thank you for hanging in there with me on this VERY LONG PROCESSING of my recent PROGRESS as a mark-making fool! You really are kind to bear with me for this length of a post! I do hope you are also making progress in your #100DayProject or whatever creative task you have in hand!

Artfully Yours,

Jennifer

 

#100dayproject

(Day 1 page)

The idea of 100 days of sticking to just one way of creating is not appealing to me.  I am skeptical of my ability to hang in there for that long. Also, I seem to thrive on variety, having the freedom to create as ideas come to me, leaping from drawing everyday life, to stitching fragments, to knitting and crocheting and many other things in between. To actually pick ONE and say “I’m gonna stick with this for 100 days!” fills me with doubt and makes my eyes glaze over. At least, this is how I’ve reacted each year the #100dayproject posts have rolled around on Instagram. Nope. Not for me. Thank you.

And yet…simmering on the back burner the last few days was a question. Could I find anything I might even remotely like to do for 100 days? Something that feels free, varied and allows for leaps within one vein of making? Awake unusually late last night, a flash of brilliance (or madness) tickled my fancy till I was standing at my drawing table making marks in a brand new sketchbook. (Queue up the Hallelujah Chorus here.:)

At one minute until midnight on the first day of the #100dayproject, I posted a rather poorly lit photo of the first entry (see first image above).  I had recently purchased a random sketchbook with 132 pages of Mixed-Media paper perfect for housing all 100 days. I had only filled the first page with a tulip sketch, testing the paper for its ability to withstand watercolor, colored pencil, marker and oil pastels. I loved the 7″ x 9″ pages and their thick 120 lb. feel. The slick paper allows a lovely hand to swooshing pastels around. I knew this would be perfect for the next 100 days of expressive, intuitive, mark-making pages. Here are some of my own self-imposed guidelines:

  1. Non-objective, intuitive, abstract works. As scribbly and child-like as I want to make them.
  2. Any media, any combination including watercolor, acrylic, pencils (both water media and wax), oil pastels, soft pastels, grease pencils, charcoal, collage (both painted papers and found papers), markers, pens, fine liners, ink, bamboo sticks, calligraphy pens, etc, etc.
  3. Must work quickly without thinking. I love working like this, without critiquing as I go. The only thought allowed will be, “what do I want to put down next?”
  4. Only one per day in this book. But I can, if I want to and if time allows, create more mark-making works in other sketchbooks or on canvas.
  5. Space on the left hand side to stamp the date, write the number for each of the 100 days, and any thoughts on the process for that day I’d like to record. Love this last piece of the process.

I could hardly get to sleep I was so excited about this adventure. I’ll post many of them on Instagram but perhaps not every day. I might just post them in groups of four or a weeks worth of them at a time. We shall see. My aim is to create each one first thing in the day as part of my morning practice of reflection. Simple, short and oh so sweet!

(Day 2 page)

I’m also considering beginning Tara Leaver’s 7-Day Challenge along these same lines. Tara is a wonderful abstract artist I follow and whose teaching and work has been very inspiring and helpful to me. I love receiving her newsletters filled with such helpful advice and encouragement for the artistic path. I look forward to reading what she has to say every week! A 7-Day Challenge is far less intimidating than 100 Days!  I did this challenge two years ago but used Freeform Crochet as the method of creating small fiber paintings. It was a super way to explore all that yarn and stitches can do in creating images. For this year’s 7-Day Challenge, I’d like to create the same mark-making works I’m doing for the #100DayProject but on slightly larger paper or on mini canvases. I haven’t decided which yet. But I need to decide soon since The Challenge  begins tomorrow! What in the world has gotten into me?? A 7-Day Challenge AND a 100 Day Project? Good Grief. I must surely be crazy!

Crazy about art, crazy about color, lines, shapes and marks on a page! Wish me luck! Better yet…join me in one (or both) of these ventures! It will be fun, probably challenging at times, but rewarding to have a nearly filled sketchbook with pages and pages of merry marks!

Here’s to the next 7 Days and on to 100!!

Truly…I think I need to get my head examined.

*****

If you are interested in Tara’s 7-Day Challenge, be sure to read the highlighted post above. There you will find a free downloadable worksheet designed to help you pinpoint what you’d like to try for the 7 Days. We can do anything for 7 Days, can’t we? It’s the 100 that feels a bit daunting. But I’m giving it a go! <3

 

New Specs

Change is not easy for me. Not one bit. When it became obvious that my beloved red thin glasses were not helping me to see well either far away or close up, I waited a very long time (about a year) before doing anything about it. I knew that I would have to let go of the shape of those glasses since they were not deep enough to accommodate the graduated lens I needed for close up work as well as long distance sight. Although I really wanted red glasses again, I wasn’t willing to spend huge amounts of time looking for red ones with just the right shape. I decided to be decisive. To take the first pair I liked and which felt comfortable on my face. Of course…the lens had to be large enough for my aging eyes.

The same thing is true whenever I feel the need to take inventory in my creative life. I have at various times over the years, felt overwhelmed by all the creating, all the online sharing, all the many avenues of living an Artful Life that I’ve established over the years. Just as my eye glasses were not fitting my needs for seeing clearly, so too the shape of my creative life was blurring my sight, hindering me from being able to focus in any direction.

I took some time for this. Indeed I’m still working through it all as I journal daily and really hone in on what my WHY is, what motivates and underpins all the artistic pursuits I love. I keep coming back to my sketchbook practice. It is from this daily lens on life…sketching my world…that all the rest flows. And it is this lens that I am once again focusing on, letting it be the One Thing that I keep first and foremost as an artist. Drawing my life. Drawcumenting the Days.

Oh to be sure, I’m knitting and crocheting, and teaching my lovely classes of women who want to learn. I have a commission painting going, and ideas for trying out some abstract acrylics on canvas. But these are secondary to the sketchbook lens through which I can see my life for the beauty that is there. It is this focus that is enabling me to shed a few pounds of extra weight online.

To that end, I’ve trimmed and sorted, weeded and organized it all. Well, most of it. You might like to spend some time browsing around jenniferedwards.com to see what’s here. And please do subscribe to my blog/website as I will no longer be sending out the Artful Lifeline weekly newsletter. Indeed, I haven’t done so in many months. I’ve realized that this blog and website can be exactly as my newsletter was…a place for folks to subscribe and receive encouragement and art news right in their email boxes. So please do subscribe here if you haven’t already! Click on the highlighted link above or find on the Home page the spot for signing up. Thank you so much for journeying with me here!

If you enjoy drawing your life in a sketchbook, check out my You Tube Channel for the Sketchbook Chats and other drawing videos. I have spruced up my Channel and am planning on adding other Sketchbook Chats in the near future.

And I am always active on Instagram. Such a fun place to hang out with other artists! I hope to see you there!

But now…it is snowing outside! Yes people….you read that right…SNOWING!!!!!! IN MARCH! So I must go draw it!! My new sketchbook is calling to me and I can see it ever so clearly now! I hope you are finding joy in living Artfully, following the lines of your life in a sketchbook filled with color!

Draw On my friends…Draw On!

Jennifer

Whoa and Wow

2018. Wow.

Am I just now realizing the magnitude of this? Nearly two and a half months into it, this number, a big one, it tells where I am, how far along I’ve come since 1965. This year, this 2018, I will be 53 and will celebrate 30 years married and will see my children turn 24, 21, and 16. Lord willing. Wow.

That’s all I can say…wow.

Couldn’t I just spend my days marveling at where I am? Could I not just take a moment, a year, a rest-of-a-life to say whoa.  Stop right here. Let’s pause and gather it all in and look deeply into one another’s faces?

For it shall not stay like this. I feel it already, the pull of years to come. Like Marty in the Future photograph, beginning to fade. Or like the moment’s before Scotty beams us up, pixels waving farewell. Can we not stop the world and get off for a moment to hold one another’s faces cupped in our hands and look, really look and say I love you and always shall?

Please do not forget.

Today, let me do just that with my pen and brush. Let me caress these faces I love, the landscape of Backyard, the hay bales of Silver Dapple. Let me hold them even if for a fleeting line to say I love you and always shall.

To say, if only to myself, please…please do not forget.

This act of loving is feeble and flimsy at best. Pieces of paper in a bound book. But it is how I know to say whoa and wow to 2018. It is my way of cupping my hands around the faces I love, the place that I live, the life that I have. There are miles to go before I sleep, as Frost would say, and there are miles of lines to log in my book through 2018 and beyond.

In this way, drawing and painting my life, I will not forget. And perhaps, when I fade from the photograph and my pixels wave their final farewell, these books will remain,

saying I love you…

and always shall.

-jpe

Sketchbook Chat #5: Ordinary Drawings from an Ordinary Life

It is my desire to resume my Sketchbook Chats, so I’m picking up where I left off and offering you the fifth one!

I was out in my backyard drawing the rhododendron bush that is showing off right by our deck. I had planned to video more outside there, but alas, a neighbor began to mow his lawn, so I came indoors to show more sketches, drawings, paintings, all from my sketchbooks over the last several weeks.

I hope you are continuing to draw and sketch your life, finding beauty along the way!

Enjoy!

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

Weaving Through Lent

For several weeks now I’ve been working diligently toward a rather extensive project. I got the idea to create tapestry weavings through the season of Lent culminating on Easter Sunday. As I voiced the idea to my husband, we came up with a way to work together with another artist in our church to bring this installation of woodburnings, poetry and weavings to life.

On Instagram I’ve been posting snippets and sneak peaks of this “secret project” for many weeks. It has not been so secret to our church family as they have enjoyed seeing a new tapestry, poem and woodburning each week through Lent. This week there have been three, making 9 weavings altogether.  All is revealed in this episode of my Knitterly Arts Podcast. We created artworks based on themes taken from Lent and Passion Week, culminating in 9 woodcarvings, 9 weavings, and 12 sonnets and villanelles.

You are able to view this installation by employing the pause button to read the sonnets, view details in the woodburnings and weavings, as well as read my explanations of where I found inspiration for each tapestry.

It is my sincere hope that this artistic offering will encourage and bring joy this Eastertide, despite my amateur my filming skills. :/

***

*Woodburnings created by Asher McClain.

*Poetry written by Randy Edwards. To read more of his poetry (and hear him read it as well!) visit backward mutters.com.

*Tapestry Weavings by Jennifer Edwards (yours truly:).

And the music you will hear in the video is composed and played by our son William Edwards. You can find more of his music on Soundcloud.

***

May you have a beautiful and joy-filled Easter!

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

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

Could It Be?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

Nothing to Prove, Everything to Share

beautifuljumble

Just like oozly watercolors on paper, the colorful mind of an artist can turn to mud with the introduction of just one wrong thought. You don’t think of it as a “wrong” color to add in the mix with all the rest. You think “oh I’m just assessing the work”, “I’m just analyzing” or “I’m just being realistic.” But the minute, the absolute second, the tip of your brush touches the paper with thoughts of self, outcomes, worthiness, or value, the brown mud creeps into every color on the page chasing joy right out of the picture.

This happens to me far more often than I’d like to admit. But what also happens, fairly soon after I’ve thrown my hands up in the air crying Uncle, is that help begins to rain down. My hands are then catching the lovely drops of nectar that speak directly to my ailment and soothe my soul.

The first of these drops came a few weeks ago as I was agonizing, for the umpteenth trillionth time, over whether or not to start a video podcast. I won’t bore you with all the artistic angst (and believe me – the angst isn’t artistic at all!) I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and saw a post from my favorite yogi Eoin Finn, which said:

Nothing to Prove. Everything to Share.

The quote was even in the shape of a droplet of water, like dew from heaven. These words leapt off the screen and lodged in my heart so grandly that within 24 hours I had taped and uploaded my first video podcast for sharing my love of knitting and drawing. Eoin had put a hashtag with this quote, #jenniesallen, who has a book coming out soon by this very title: Nothing to Prove. I cannot wait to get my hands (and heart) on this book.

The next gift was a short but profound Good Life Project Riff with Jonathan Fields. I’ve listened to his podcast interviews for years and love hearing from so many voices about the path their creativity takes them. But in his “riffs” (very short podcasts) he jams on a particular subject. In his latest Riff, I was reminded of a truth that sets me free in my creative angst every time! I won’t go into the whole description of Jonathan’s podcast because you will love hearing it straight from him (only 9 minutes!), but I’ll tell you the main gist:

There is no there there.

There is only here now.

Oh how this sets me free from the tyranny of outcomes and plants me firmly where I need to be, fully alive to the moment at hand.

The last gift, though certainly not the least, was discovering this week the work of Michael Nobbs. I had heard of him through Sketchbook Skool for a while, but only a few days ago ventured to his newly revamped website from the Sketchbook Skool Newsletter. After listening to several of his short daily podcasts and reading his writing on Sustainable Creativity, I fell in love with this slow, gentle approach to creative living that Michael embodies.

Michael’s podcasts and writings, timely and inspirational during this week of Art Show preparations, have felt like a comforting hug. With tea in hand, short bursts of work, followed by times of rest, a bit of homely baking and a generous amount of pondering, I will make it to the Art Show and beyond…one small step at a time.

I highly recommend you check out Michael’s beautiful offering! As well as Jonathan Fields and his Good Life Project, Eoin Finn, and Jennie Allen. This season of thankfulness has me abounding in gratitude for all the fellow creatives valiantly sharing their love and messages with us. They enable me to go forth valiantly as well, with nothing whatsoever to prove…

just everything to share.

See you at the Show! 

artshow2016invite

****Note on the above sketch: I have taken to drawing jumbles in my home. These are places where lots of STUFF seems to assemble itself into a colorful mess. They are great places to draw!! Drawing the jumbles of my life helps me see that there is beauty in messes. And it also delays the tidying up…:0