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*

Michelle’s Challenge: “Go Big!”

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One of the artists whose work I admire on the One Drawing A Day blog, Michelle Bedigian, posed a challenge over a week ago. She recounted that one of her former teachers had challenged her to “Go Big” when she went out to sketch on site. This was to shake things up a bit and to make her approach a drawing differently.  The “big” size she was challenged to do was 36″ x 42″…oi!

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I took this challenge immediately! However, not even owning a board or paper coming anywhere near that size, I decided to use the largest piece of paper I had which was 22″ x 30″. All week long I looked forward to taking the hot press w/c paper on a board with my French easel and all kinds of drawing media and watercolors, to our Ciener Botanical Gardens here in Kernersville, NC. I typically draw and paint there with no bigger than a 9″ x 12″ sketchbook, so this was going to be fun! I have certainly done larger paintings and drawings on location before, but this time I wanted to approach it in a similar manner to how I work in my sketchbook and see what would happen. In other words, I wanted to “think drawing”, rather than “proper painting”. This may not mean anything to you, but in my mind, there’s a big difference.

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Friday morning dawned with gray skies and spitting rain. We had been having this weather all week and I was just sure the clouds would part for Friday’s adventure. Humph. Not to be daunted, I hauled my stuff there anyway, determined to find some way to “Go Big”, even in the misting rain. Right as I hopped out of my car, I saw it. Just the view I wanted to draw! Flowers in the foreground, main building behind with the Methodist church in the far background. Yes! And as I got out my stuff, I realized the back hatch of our vehicle would provide some shelter from the spitting rain. Perfect.

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I was joined by two of my dear artist friends from Reidsville who had come to Kernersville to draw with me. They were not daunted either and found a terrific spot under an awning to draw for the morning.  Once my setup was in place (which was truly perfect using the back of my car to open up all the supplies for ease of reach) I attacked the drawing, trying not to think too much. I had splashed a bit of watercolor on the page the night before. I often enjoy drawing over an underpainting (or rather an undersplashing). It helps tone down the large white expanse of the paper and offers lovely surprises later on as you view the finished the drawing. (See the first photo above for the “drawing only” on top of the pre-splash of watercolor.)

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I got really caught up in the moment, only stepping back a couple of times to take a look and dive back in. After two hours, I decided I had hit the “niggling” stage. This is where I begin adding little bits of this and that which aren’t really helping anything at all. Even though I wish I had stopped long before I was near niggling it to death (I almost like the “drawing only” version the best!), I still liked it immensely if only for the fact that I did it! I drew larger and more expansively and oh boy was it fun!

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I can’t wait to do this again! My little brain is hopping with ideas and different approaches and mixes of media! Definitely a challenge worth taking many times over! Perhaps you’ll try it too! I highly recommend it!

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I’m including some close-ups of specific areas of the drawing so you can see it better. It really was a gray day so I apologize if the photos are a bit dim as well. C’est la vie!

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And in case you’re curious as to the media I used, here’s a list:

Faber-Castell watercolor pencils, Feber-Castell PITT artist pens of various tones of black and gray, Prismacolor Premier Fine-Line Marker 08, Loew-Cornell oil pastels, Loew-Cornell 7020 Ultra Round watercolor brush size 14, American Journey Watercolor paints with a few DaVinci Gouache colors.

Here’s a definition of the word “niggle”:

nig•gle (ˈnɪg əl)

v.i. -gled, -gling.
1. to spend too much time and effort on inconsequential details; trifle.
2. to criticize in a peevish way; carp.

***Should you be up for an excellent read about an artist’s life, read J.R.R. Tolkein’s Leaf by Niggle. 

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Quick Sketch at Soccer Practice

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5″ x 5″ Flex-sketch journal/05 Fine-liner pen/Caran D’Ache Watercolor Crayons

When our Best isn’t Good Enough

Mistakes

 

Living Artfully is a journey fraught with surprises both delightful and bothersome. Experiencing a long awaited dream come true, as in the publishing of Genevieve and the Kite, is wonderfully fulfilling. Yet, as it goes out into the world, it brings back responses. Some of them are positive, uplifting, and encouraging. Other responses are dampening, confusing, and in some cases, backhanded swipes at what you’ve made.

There are many ways to weather this vulnerability in the aftermath of putting a creative project out into the world. I won’t explore all of them, but will just say that it has been helpful to me to remember something my husband once said about a knitted sweater I had made him. I was going on about a small “mistake” I had made and didn’t catch until nearing the end. He said (something to this effect): “That is precisely what makes hand knitting so wonderful. It’s the little imperfections that make it so wonderfully human. It is in them that I know it was lovingly made for me by you.”  <sigh>

I can get all balled up in actual or perceived “mistakes” I’ve made in everything I do. The worst is when you thought you had made something just right and it turns out it has flaws of one sort or another. This is art. This is evidence that a human being made it, and made it lovingly, for you.

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I will soon have another creative offering to put out into the world. Though I am doing all in my ability to make it just right, I’m sure it will have a flaw or two or twenty.  I’ve compiled my Letters to an Artist into a small book which I hope will be of encouragement to creatives of all types.  Be on the look out for it to be published sometime in November.

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One of the many delightful surprises in the aftermath of publishing Genevieve and the Kite, was an article that came out in our local newspaper last weekend. Wendy Davis wrote a lovely piece about the making of the book, and I could not be more grateful to her for her kind words. I’m trying to get my hands on the article so I can put it here on my blog for you to read. I’ll let you know when I do.

On this first day of November, as a season of thankfulness comes upon us, I hope you’ll be able to revel in the creative works of your hands, no matter how flawed they may seem to you or to others. Don’t squelch your creative voice in the fear that it isn’t good enough.  These mistakes, either real or perceived, are merely places for God to breathe in and through your work.  (Click on the above artwork to view it larger).

When Life is Boring…

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It seems like there’s a lot of resonance with these thoughts on reaching our full potential, blasting through creative blocks, and living an artful life. I love it! Danny Gregory compiled a few of these in a recent blog post, and has been tackling the topic of the “monkey” in our brain that accuses us as artists and tries to keep us from our calling. Check out all his posts here on his blog. And you really should read all the comments folks have kindly made on my recent blog post on “Potential”…there are some wonderful and helpful insights there!

So, you may be wondering…Do you think the beach is boring Jen? Well, no, not to BE there!  But to look at. I know some of you will take issue with me! That’s ok. You gotta admit though, there are places/things in your life that are simply boring to look at, or boring to live through, or just plain ole boring. When I go to the beach and I’m set to paint the ocean, I sometimes have that nasty little word darting in and out of my head. Bluish-gray skies over a bluish-gray ocean washing up onto grayish-tan sand. Hmm. There are artists who love tonal colors and painting, and they can make truly lovely works of art of realistic ocean scenes. I typically have to turn sideways to get a few houses or people into the composition to make it even remotely exciting (to me).

I’m jazzed by shape, line, and color. So when I’m looking at the ocean straight-on, the only shapes I readily see are three basic rectangles stacked on top of one another: sand rectangle, ocean rectangle, sky rectangle. Granted, the line between the ocean and the sand gives a bit of excitement as it undulates. Here are a couple of ways I tackle “boring”:  In the above sketch drawn last week, I added color according to my own desire.  Working with watercolor crayons first, I “painted” them with water all over the page. Once that dried,  I drew with my trusty bic pen the few lines of cloud shapes, horizon line, and ocean wave lines. I added a few people for interest. Then I went over everything with oil pastels to heighten color here and there.

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This one from last year addressed the boring shapes issue, as I added shapes that were reminiscent of waves and the bubbly foam. This broke up the monotony of the three basic rectangles.

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And these two, also from last year, are a couple of doodle pages of beachy things…color, kite flying, ocean, sand, etc. There are many, many ways to tackle what may seem like boring subject matter to you…you just have to see it with a fresh set of eyes! Ask yourself the question, “What if I did this…or that?” and then try it! You might like the outcome and you certainly WON’T be bored while creating it!

**A big part of Living Artfully is to tackle boredom head on! We all grow bored with the same-ole same-ole. The key is to try new things, not just in sketching and art, but also in your everyday life. Set one day a week, on your way home from work, to buy some fresh flowers for your home. Drive “the long way home” from the grocery store. Plan a little day trip with a friend. Switch up routines you may have had for years. Sometimes the smallest shift in your everyday, brings a fresh outlook, and causes you to notice things you hadn’t before!

Just Wonderin’…

…what’s up ahead…

I’m strangely wordless as I face a New Year rolling in. 2012 was a beautiful year, for many reasons both creatively and personally. I’ll detail some of that in an upcoming post. But I feel a sweet hush around me as I contemplate a new year ahead. The possibilities. The unexpected. The dreams. The hopes. Even the fears are all a part of my reverie. No resolutions. Only to keep on looking around me with my eyes peeled for Beauty, both evident and not-so-evident. I sit with some yarn in my hands. I have desires to put more of my designs out there for others to knit and crochet. If you’d like to peek at my knitting blog, or follow me over there, please do! But these things always morph and change with the seasons. I’ll go where inspiration takes me, drawing it along the way.

Thank you. Thank you so very much for visiting here. For checking in on the crazy things that run in my head and down through my arms to pens, paints, paper and yarn. You just don’t know how I appreciate your presence here. May 2013 bring you beautiful days to draw and paint and create!!

Pulling Down Deep Heaven: Part 2

If I climbed up

to the tippy-top of a tree,

and held out my bucket-

Could I catch the sun-drops,

and keep them with me…

…then share with others

at the base of the tree?

-jpe

If any creative act, (be it visual, musical, theatrical, written or otherwise), is a definitively spiritual endeavor, then there are certain qualities to that activity that are common to all of us.  For one, there’s a sense that a battle is going on. At the very least, the effort involved in climbing to the tippy top of the tree to pull down heaven is hard work and can be very exhausting.

Lately I have felt, alongside the exhilaration of creating, an increasing weariness. Participating in an art show, painting commissions, looking for and recording beauty can be very tiring in a manner different than other work tires.  My husband read one of his incredible short stories to the students and faculty at my school where I teach. He recounted how exhausting that was, to offer his work “out there” in the world.  As we drove home from this event, the weariness was palpable. Every time we talk to our daughter at college as she studies music, she is exhausted, pulling long hours in the practice room, theory tests, exams, and an unbelievable performing schedule. And my music educator friend, Sheri, told me in our swim team conversation, how tired and worn out she is at the holidays teaching music and performing in various holiday events in the area.

I am learning from a wonderful book by Steven Pressfield, that art is war. His book, titled, The War of Artaffirms the spiritual nature of our creative commitment to bring beauty into the world. He speaks in a martial tone, rallying us as if we artists are, in actuality, soldiers fighting a cosmic war.  He outlines the weapons needed to pull down deep heaven, though he does not use that specific phrase.

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The effort involves showing up to the page or canvas, doing our scales, honing our craft, working on technique, practicing, preparing. And then we must offer it, share it, put it out there, get in the ring or out on the dance floor, run the race, fight the good fight, never giving up no matter how beat down we may feel by critics, reviews, circumstances, or our own thoughts.  We are to fight the resistance that comes in any form it may throw at us to keep us down, or out of the playing field.

Being engaged even on a small level in pulling down deep heaven is no mere trifling. It requires a soldierly mindset mixed with childlike mirth as we place one foot in front of the other up the tree, climbing ’til we reach the tippy top.  The climb down may be harder…carrying what we have gathered there from the heavens, and then summoning the courage to share it with others.  It requires miles and miles of walking or riding on a donkey to an unfamiliar town, to give birth to our heaven-sent burden in less than ideal surroundings and circumstances.  We are to write, draw, paint, make music in and around our messy lives.  None of it seems to go the way we imagined or think it should. I have a hunch Mary, the mother of Jesus, may have thought this as well. Yet we are to continue on this journey, like Mary and Joseph, until it is time.  Time for what heaven wants to bring to us and through us, be it a babe, a sonnet, a drawing, a song.

May we have the martial spirit of Mary in our hearts and daily lives this season.  May we be encouraged by the thought that our exhaustion in creative endeavors is due to the fact that we are in the fight: the calling and work of pulling down deep heaven.

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I wrote the above several days before Friday, December 14th, the day someone entered a school in Connecticut with the express purpose of killing.  Children, adults, his aim was all.  If ever there was proof that a battle is going on, and that we need to engage in that battle to bring down the light of Deep Heaven to shine in these dark days, it is now.

Rise up, oh Artists of all kinds…Rise up and wage battle with the darkness! For we do not fight in vain!

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*If you missed Part 1 of this series and would like to read it, click here.

Do I Dare?

It might be fun!

Whilst knitting lately in between drawing and commission works, I’ve developed an itch to blog about knitting.  So I’m thinking of swinging a bit over on Drawn2Knit.  If you’re interested in all things knitting, crocheting, yarn, etc….please join me!  I will still post here as well!

So much to draw and knit….so little time!

Multi-Colored Pens!

I recently went through a phase. Ha! One of many I tend to move in and out of.  It keeps things fresh.  It keeps me on my toes.  Different ways to view and then capture a place or a person.


All of my Flexi-Sketch drawings are done with multi-colored pens and Neocolor II crayons added in.  I used both of these in the first drawing,  as I sat downtown Kernersville at the Factory.  You get a whole different feel when you switch up your mediums.  The above portrait drawing was done at Barnhill’s Bookstore where I sometimes draw with other artists who love drawing people.

My teens are fond of a phrase I will use here:  Pens, watercolor, crayons, pastels, whatever…”It’s All Good!”

A Big Day!

Today we take our oldest child to college. A small truck and a van are packed full of her things. And I’m wondering if it will all fit into her dorm room at Wingate! A host of emotions have been flurrying around our house and in my heart lately.  But this morning, I’m thankful.

Thankful for this beautiful daughter that we were given the privilege of parenting and watching her grow up into a young lady.

Thankful for the incredible opportunity she has to study the beauty of Music at Wingate University.

Thankful for family and friends who will be supporting her in their thoughts and prayers.

Thankful for all the new friends and “family” at Wingate she will meet, and who will become her lifelong friends.

Thankful for the unbelievable miracle of provision for her to go to this marvelous school.

Thankful for endings…and for Beginnings.

We love you Catie!