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

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

Sketchbook Chat!

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I am excited to offer a new way to share my sketchbook with you! This is the first in a series of Sketchbook Chats where I will share with you anywhere from a few pages in my sketchbooks or a tour of a whole one (as you will see here). My aim is to inspire you to drawcument your life in a sketchbook as well!

For now, I am not planning on this being a regular thing as life will surely interrupt whatever weekly or monthly schedule I choose. I am purposing to make these little videos UNDER 10 minutes. Well, I’ve already gone over on that with this first one! But rest assured, they will certainly be short and sweet from here on! This one is longer as I wanted to share a Grand Tour of the sketchbook that includes my recent Stay-At-Home Pilgrimage which I posted daily over on APilgrimsDraw.wordpress.com.

Sketchbook Chat #1

Please share this video with others you think might enjoy it! And subscribe to my You Tube channel so you can receive each Chat as they are created.

Feel free to leave here in the comment section any questions you might have for me to answer in future Sketchbook Chats.

I do so hope this is inspiring and helpful to you!

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

P.S. Things I’m working on… a. shorter videos! b. not waving hands in front of sketchbook c. being sure to put lipstick on entire lips and not just part! lol.:)

What Do You See?

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When it snows, I’m like a bear in winter. No, I do not sleep. In fact I sleep less than usual. But that is because I go into a kind of creative hibernation. So much of what I see just before and during the snowstorm gets translated into something I can touch and feel. It may seem crazy to go on snowy walks and see collaged papers in the landscape, but there it is. Or to look into my stash of yarns and see a poncho. Much like Eric Carle’s Brown Bear, I’ll tell you if you ask me What I See. But I’ll likely tell you in mediums, colors, and textures. Here goes..

Genevieve, Genevieve, what do you see?

(click the highlighted words to watch my little movie:)

BeforetheStorm

I see lines looking at me!

Genevieve, Genevieve, what do you see?

Chevron Poncho

I see colors & textures looking at me!

Genevieve, Genevieve, what do you see?

CollageSmithHollow

I see collaged papers looking at me!

Genevieve, Genevieve, what do you see?

SocksontheLoop

I see warm feet looking at me!

Genevieve, Genevieve, what do you see?

DrawingtheDark

I see shapes of dark & light looking at me!

Genevieve, Genevieve, what do you see?

WatercolorWinterTrees

I see watercolors looking at me!

Genevieve, Genevieve, what do you see?

Lucy&Chevron

I see a kitty looking at me!

Everywhere, everywhere, what do I see?

I see beauty looking at me.

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What do YOU see?

Wholehearted Living

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In Brene Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection, she talks about Wholehearted Living. I keep reading and re-reading this book as it contains so much that is good for continuing to live wholeheartedly even when life is so very FULL! As we careen to our son’s graduation this Friday, party on Saturday and all end-of-school-year events, my heart is indeed very full.

In an interview with Jonathan Fields, Brene Brown said this word “wholehearted” is from a prayer of confession out of the Book of Common Prayer which reads, “Lord, we have not loved Thee with our whole hearts…”

This is my daily prayer.. knitted into every stitch,  drawn in each line,  collaged with every shape…

“May I love Thee and all that Thou hast made with my whole heart, mind, soul and strength.”

I think it would be cool, in my slash title/description for it to read:

Artist/knitter/mother/wife/teacher/beautycatcher/wholeheartedliver!

Hm…not “liver” as in the part of the body, but, well…you know what I mean! 😉

Light in the Waiting Room

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I sat in the waiting room for the final appointment with my surgeon last week. The lamp on the table beside me was on even though it was daytime and fairly bright in the fluorescent hospital lighting. It struck me as odd, to have a lamp in a waiting room that was already lit with overhead lights. I marveled at the shape of the lamp, the light it was barely exuding, and the surroundings…a few tattered magazines, an art print on the wall…nothing special.

But it occurred to me that this moment, all these waiting room moments, COULD be special, if I just had an eye for it. From the first time I waited in this particular room back in April of 2014, so much has happened. I am different, physically and otherwise. Life is different. My outlook on life is different. This would be the last time (hopefully) that I would ever need to sit here. Sock knitting in my lap.

Special? Maybe not. But that lamp has stayed with me. I keep thinking:

There’s always a light in the waiting rooms of life.

Waiting rooms are everywhere. At soccer practice. In grocery store lines. In traffic. At intersections. We wait for vacations to come, for the weekend to arrive, for our ship to come in, for a big break, or just for life to make sense. And while we wait, life happens.

I want to be a waiting room artist. Ha! That sounds pathetic doesn’t it? I don’t mean that I want my artwork on the walls of waiting rooms across the medical community, although that wouldn’t be bad at all! What I mean by being a waiting room artist is someone who seizes the waiting room moments of life and looks for beauty, sees the light there, and creates in and throughout the waiting room days. Yep. That’s what I want to be. In fact, I think I already am, I just haven’t named it as such. Perhaps in naming this as my desire and goal, I will have less impatience in the waiting room moments. Perhaps I will stop pacing for the BIG moments and just reach for the special stuff already there in the waiting room.

This is a high calling I believe. It is the pinnacle of artful living. Being the kind of artist who takes his/her creativity into every moment of their day no matter the mundane activity at hand. Waiting can be FULL of LIGHT!

I just need to look for the lamp. Draw it. Collage it. And knit by it.

Kollage Kick

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I’ve been on a kollage kick lately! I love getting out of my usual drawing mode for excursions in collage. Here’s a process you might like to try sometime:

1. Swipe some watercolor or acrylic around on a blank page in your sketchbook.

2. While that’s drying, choose papers in colors that echo the colors you used to paint with. I enjoy using papers I have leftover from other collage times, leaving edges the way they were cut, or shapes that are already cut a certain way. I save everything from small bits to long skinny pieces, knowing they will come in handy for future collage fun.

3. Assemble an image or just a random abstract composition of shapes as I did here.

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****If you want to add words, consider how they might be arranged on the page before gluing the picture pieces down. If you’re just wanting an image, then glue all elements onto the page. I just use Elmer’s glue.

4. This time I tried something that turned out really fun: I took a page from an article about jazz music. I just cut out random words I liked. Then I assembled them into a phrase I liked, adding in other letters from magazines to complete the sentence. This was much like the magnetic words we have on our fridge. We get to assemble them into any kind of poem, prose, joke or riddle we want to. Here’s the phrase I ended up with:

“The music itself is a response…an evolution of what jazzes us!”

This certainly was a page that evolved with all kinds of things that “jazz” me: color, papers, textures, words. It’s a true axiom for visual art as well as for music. We respond on paper, canvas, or instrument, allowing what we love to evolve.

May your day be filled with creative responses to what you love!

Listening

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I would love to hear the sounds roots make as they are growing…reaching into soil, curling around rock, piercing into leaf and loam. Surely it makes a sound, however infinitesimal, this growing, this slow foraging for nourishment and sustenance. Is there a moan or howl as the slimy slender roots move deeper and spread farther?

I would also love to hear a flower bud and blossom. Surely this too gives off something to be heard if we put a microphone to it. Perhaps there’s a crackle or pop as the first petals burst forth. Maybe a rustle and a flutter as they all unfurl and jockey for their final position of glory.

In the aftermath of surgery, I always find myself in a quandary. I imagine this is true following any upheaval or loss in one’s life. You’ve worked through the initial parts of healing and recovery only to find yourself scratching your head and wondering…

What has happened?

How did I get here?

What does it mean moving forward?

It’s a space for listening. A filtered listening, a deeper listening. I’m not interested in the typical stuff I might tell myself–“OK Jen, let’s get on with the show.” or “Everything’s gonna work out,” “Leave it in the past”, or the ever popular “Let it go, Let it go!”

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I’m wanting to hear what’s true about all I’ve been through, it’s purpose and meaning and what it means for the future. I’m wanting to “tink” back the already knitted up fabric to see just how it all went down (or came together) and in so doing, see if I can make sense of what it was and where’s it’s going. I’m not convinced this is even possible…it may be a fool’s errand.

My mom assures me that growth is happening. I listen intently to this woman’s voice on the other end of the line. She who has endured the loss of both her parents to horrendous events. She who has endured metasticized melanoma, ovarian and breast cancers, and who, as I’m listening, is experiencing the pain of shingles.

What she tells me is that I cannot see the growing now. Though underground, teeming life is afoot, and has been, in and through the illness and each of the three surgeries. I just can’t see it now, she says. I may see snippets of it in the future, I may not. We rarely ever see roots doing what they were meant to do. I might see a blossom or two in the coming years. But I can know and trust that growth is happening…

…right now.

So I’m (s)training my ears to hear it.

I listen as I draw. I listen as I knit. I listen when I walk.

How do you listen?

**Note: “tink” is a knitting term meaning to unknit each stitch, one at a time, to get back to a certain point in the knitted fabric.

 

A Story to Tell

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A few days ago, I was out walking in the morning. Mr. Whicker has bought the land on the back side of our neighborhood and has cleared out the brush, put up a wire fence, to make a lovely pasture (one of several he has on his land) for his cows. I’ve been visiting this back field all summer (a painting of the view here) to see if the cows have been allowed out to graze. This was the first day I’d ever seen them there.

The area surrounding the fence is overgrown with kudzu. Yuck! So I waded into the knee-high kudzu covered brush to get right up by the fence and take a few pics of the cows out in the field. All the while, I was hearing a munching, crunching sound over to the left not far from where I was standing. I did not see anything, so I didn’t pay much attention as I took pictures.

Then, I saw him. One ear, peeking around as he munched on the leaves and kudzu of a small tree only about 10 feet from where I was standing. I began clicking away, capturing the cow as he ate him morning meal. He did not see me for a while…and then…as it dawned on him that someone was standing there disturbing his breakfast reverie, his eye got bigger and he bolted! The sound of his huge girth pelting the ground as he ran away down the hill, is something I’ll not forget. He let out a howl and alerted another cow, apparently also enjoying a kudzu covered tree right next to him, whom I had not seen. The two of them dashed down the hill to join the others, all of them looking back at me, as if to see whether I would join the chase.

This is just one of many things I LOVE about living right next to a farm. Oh my…what stories I have to tell!! And I love to try telling them in my drawings and paintings.

ShyCow

I created a piece from one snap of my camera where he is still munching, oblivious to me. I am absolutely tee-totally having fun with watercolor and collage! Remember this one? Oh my…I feel a series coming on!

But what excites me even more is that I’m going back to Skool!!! Yes, folks, I’ve signed up to take a class, actually SIX of them, starting October 3rd!! I CAN’T WAIT! The same day this encounter with the cow happened, I saw THIS VIDEO on Danny Gregory’s blog about the upcoming semester of Sketchbook Skool…I drooled. Seriously.

Not only do I get to be taught by a couple of artists whom I have greatly esteemed for several years now, Veronica Lawlor and Melanie Reim, but I also get to have a day of sketching in Paris with a French artist, and of course, a class from Danny himself. All 6 of the teachers in this series are teaching about STORYTELLING, and oh boy am I excited about this!! The price for these classes seemed too good to pass up!

So be watching here, as I post my learnings, my homework, and whatever else gets stirred up as go back to Skool! I. CAN’T. WAIT.  Did I say that already? 😉

 

Following a Hunch

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I posted this close-up pic on Instagram and had a hunch that I would paint it and possibly add some elements of collage. I wasn’t sure though. So I started out slowly drawing the contours in pencil. So many times, I am unclear as to how I will proceed with a drawing/painting, but just beginning, making a start, almost always reveals what I want to do next.

LilyCollage1

*Note: I do not trace my photographs. I know there are artists who do this and that’s their decision. But I think tracing cuts out half the fun! I love to prop the photo on my iPad up in front of me and draw in my sketchbook looking back and forth for shape sizes and line intersections.

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I decided I wanted to keep the line work evident, but to switch up the line quality. So I chose a Sharpie Fine Pen, a grease pencil, and a bic pen to give three different textures to the lines. For some reason (a hunch) I wanted to leave the lilies in pencil thinking I might collage them or something else.

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I began to lay in color, bright, oozly and wazzly color…

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At this point the idea of adding in collage elements was pretty strong in my mind, but I wanted painted color everywhere, even under whatever I might collage.

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So I scoured magazines for oranges, and pilfered my paper stash for other decorative papers…

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The collage part was so much fun! But it does take a bit of time choosing just the right papers, where they might go, cutting them into just the right shapes, deciding how much or how little to collage.

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But in then end it was so worth it! This is my favorite of all the recent florals!

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I love the jewel tones of watercolor juxtaposed with the bright textured papers. It’s difficult to see in a photograph, but there are shiny bits of paper that just add sparkle to the overall image. I’m definitely doing this again! And yes, I’ve done this kind of watercolor/collage before, but hadn’t in a while so it felt like discovery. You should try it too!!

**This one is in my Etsy Shop, just waiting to be “picked”.;)