Roadside Word Picking

pickingwords

New Year’s Eve…I love Eve’s. They feel like that timeless space of hovering right before warp speed takes over. The eve of something begs for preparation, anticipation, reflection… a mindfulness about the next day and all that it will usher in. Christmas Eve feels like that, and so does New Year’s Eve.

The living room Christmas tree, my studio French tree, and all other decorations are down, packed away carefully and the house feels spacious and clear, ready for a New Year. I’m ready too! And excited for what 2017 might have in store. I know, full well, there will be challenges and perhaps even downright difficulties, sad and painful events. But I also know that making will be a huge part of the year ahead, just as it has been this past year and for so many  years of my life. It is what carries me, strengthens me, gives me joy. Creativity is the lens through which I see my life for the beauty that it is. Making things, be it drawings or paintings, knitted or crocheted items and now spinning wool and weaving wall-hangings, sustains me through thick and thin, in plenty and in want. As I make with my hands, it’s as if I’m holding a lifeline, grounding my feet to what is true, good and beautiful. Creativity allows me to take flights of fancy as it tethers and roots me to home and hearth. Living Artfully allows me to see beauty, as well as create it, in everyday, humble circumstances. I need this Artful way of living and I’m thrilled to continue in the New Year!

weavingspring

This week between Christmas and New Year’s I’ve been spending some time pondering. Pondering and writing go hand-in-hand for me and I’ve logged numerous pages as I’ve tried to make sense of and sort through what felt like a jumble of clutter in my creative life. 2016 seemed to end with way too many irons in the fire, an explosion of too  many directions and not enough time or energy to really do any of them well. As I’ve left a pen’s worth of ink on the page, a sorting has occurred. As I’ve pondered the year ahead, a couple of words stand out to me:

SLOW and SIMPLIFY

Both verbs, they go together well, one nourishing the other. In simplifying my life, it is apt to slow me down a bit. As I slow my pace, things will need to simplify naturally. Much of this is challenging me to indeed clear out a few things. But mostly it’s a call to live present in each moment as if it is the only moment, and breathe into it, slowing and simplifying my expectation of accomplishment. This past year I began working on this in my day to day life. I did not master it (I wonder if that’s even possible) and therefore will continue the work of slowing and simplifying, even if it is just one small thing at a time.

spinningwool

The shakedown of all this pondering has left me with a simpler way of seeing all that I do as a creative person. My work as a knit and crochet teacher, the video podcasts, blogging in numerous places, as well as  pattern writing, will all continue but on a lessened scale. My hope is that this will allow me to spend less time on a computer and more time with a sketchbook or fiber in my hands. I’m increasingly drawn to spinning and weaving, which hold in themselves this call to slow down and simplify. It amazes me how I’m drawn to certain kinds of craft which hold an inherent way of living with them. In this, in spending time making, I am more in touch with the beauty around me and I learn how to live my everyday life with grace and wonder.

abstractplay

I do have new ideas I’d like to see unfold in the New Year. But my gut tells me it isn’t now. Later. Perhaps even in the next year. For now, SLOW and SIMPLE is the way forward, relishing life, making with my hands, reminding myself and others that it isn’t about how MUCH you make, but HOW you make it…slow, gentle, and savored.

yummyweaves

All of this talk of SLOW and SIMPLIFY may seem so pie-in-the-sky! Even I myself, have a little scoffer sitting on my shoulder as I type: “Ha! This is gonna last you maybe the next hour, Jen, but wait ’til warp speed hits!” But to this I say that it’s not necessarily about being less busy. Life is full and seems to grow busier with each year. But this is more about a state of mind, a way of being in the midst of the busy-ness. Certainly I will need to pull back on what I say yes to. But I am committed to experiencing all of life with the same attention and slowness I give to drawing, or spinning, the same focus that’s needed for weaving and knitting. To grow in this capacity will be lovely. Yet even in the slowing and simplifying is a need to go slowly with it, simplifying the steps.

pickingwords2017

It all boils down to this: I plan on pulling off the daily path to sit each day and ponder. To draw the landscape around me. To knit the beauty into my heart. To weave wonder and grace into my life and offer it to others. I hope you’ll continue to walk with me here. Let’s savor together the work of our hands and the joy it brings us! Let’s encourage each other to go SLOW, to SIMPLIFY our distracted lives, and to live Artfully each day.

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

The Anti-Inspiration that Works!

inktoberpansies

I have found some of the most unusual inspirations along the creative path as an artist. I may be the only one who finds freedom and renewed passion in these quirky anti-inspirations, but I’ll share this latest one with you, just in case it helps you too!

Here’s how it goes…

My passion for drawing and painting starts to flag, droop, wither, recede. Whatever the description, I tend to first label it as don’t-have-enough-time, or i’ve-drawn-all-this-before, etc. But if I really dig deep and get totally honest with myself, I realize that sometimes lurking behind the flagging passion is an insidious thought that what I do just isn’t special. This thought somehow creeps in (might it be from comparing my art to the reams of other awesome online artists…maybe?) and I begin to look at my drawings and paintings as run-of-the-mill, everyone-else-does-this-and-better, nothing-unique, nuttin’-special.

inktoberwhickerdrive

Yes, there it is folks! Someone who has been painting and drawing for nigh unto 20 years now, still…STILL…has these stupid thoughts running amuck from time to time. The struggle is real. Very real.

On my daily walk a few days ago, as I took a good look at this crazy belief that had snuck into my artist’s heart through the back door, I actually had this thought:

You need to embrace the possibility that you are not unique!

inktobergirls

I stopped walking. I looked around. And wondered where in the world this could have come from. I rolled that phrase over in my head again:

Embrace your UN-uniqueness!

Let go of the demand to be special in the art world.

Be free of the need to stake out artistic territory that is only yours.

Just be YOU. Whatever that is. However it looks on the page. Wherever your pen takes you. Just Draw. And Draw. And Draw!

And the strangest thing happened…I felt light as a feather! I started walking again, faster than I had before all this, running this new, surprising inspiration through the cobwebs of my artsy heart. It swept it out clean!

inktoberinterior

And each day since, I waken to a renewed excitement about lines on a page, wondering where they will take me today. As much as I, as a teacher, might not ever want to say to you that you are not unique, I do think the pressure to BE unique can really get us in a bind. Setting ourselves free from the net of having to be special, allows us to swim with abandon, in any direction we’d like to go!

Try it…embrace your UN-uniqueness…and see what happens!

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

P.S. As always…you can follow these daily #Inktober drawings on my Instagram feed. 🙂

InkTober UnderWay

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#InkTober is proving to be such fun for me! I saw that it was coming up a few days before October began from Liz Steele’s Instagram feed. I thought it would be a great opportunity to just play with ink of all kinds…pens, washes, even a splash of color if I wanted to. I got a head start on things, warming up as it were, getting set with some of my favorite tools for drawing.

I try to show in the photo of each drawing, what I have used to make it. Thus far my go-to is a Faber Castell Brush Pen, an Artist’s Loft .05 Fine Liner Pen, a black watercolor crayon and a water brush. The crayon is only used as ink, activated by swiping the water brush on the tip before applying to the page. Really totally fun!!

I am keeping open to the possibility of color, as October should begin to show some color around our area soon. But thus far, I am so loving the black of ink on white paper. Love, love, LOVE it!!

Every now and then I’m posting some thoughts over on A Pilgrim’s Draw. Do follow along there as well as Instagram for my inky journey through October.

And seriously…you should join in, if you haven’t already!! Jake Parker, the initiator of #InkTober says you can do the marathon (all 31 days), the half-marathon (every other day) or any combo you like. He even offers prompts to guide you should you wish to do that.

I just like the simplicity of one (or more:) drawings a day in ink. Just ink. 🙂

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

P.S. If you haven’t heard of Liz Steele, you should check out her website and classes she offers! She is a true powerhouse for watercolor sketching as well as perspective in drawing architecture!

My Trellis

BirthdaySky

There’s been lots of livin’ and therefore lots of drawin’!!

Somehow I thought life would slow down after the wedding, but since it hasn’t, filled to the brim with all good things, I’ve taken to drawing to slow down the moments a bit, to lean into all the goodness jam-packed into my days and weeks.

Even before my birthday last week, I had been drawing, drawing, drawing. Not even stopping long enough to Instagram them all!! Lately it feels as if I cannot get enough of it. Like there isn’t enough paper to catch all the lines and wrangle them into memories. Yet with each drawing, I can sense the haphazard jaunts of living being groomed into something more steady, upright, and ordered. Or at least somewhat ordered.

Marion&MeforTea

Drawing is a trellis for me. Laying down line after line, offers a solid trellis for the color and textures. Scaffolding is another good word for it…a solid form upon which to hang all manner of splashed-on, riotous color. Without a trellis, the vine just takes over. With a trellis, there’s peace, order, structure. I like structure.

ShatleySprings2016

Even without any color added. Just lines. Lots of lines. Line as the ultimate abstraction. I love them. Yes I do. I’m putting lines down every day. Must. Draw. I’m nearly half way finished in a brand new sketchbook I just recently purchased. Fun. Good medicine.

I’ll share more of them soon! In the meantime, I hope you are able to set down a trellis or two in your own sketchbook! Keep ’em flowing…hang onto them…cling to the trellis and you’ll grow a bit more every time.

Homebase

Lucy&theCranes

Anytime I allow my fascination to carry me into mediums I haven’t used in a while, I always find myself returning to a black pen. Every day I reach for the Moleskine, or the Handbook Journal, to log yards of lines in either a Sharpie fine-line pen or a Bic Pen or a thicker brush tip pen.

LinesatCienerBench

After spending the morning at the Gardens drawing with pastel, I decided to end the session with a line drawing, seating myself in some shade. As the lines meandered on the page, I felt myself relaxing, letting go of the intense concentration I had sustained with the pastel works and just letting my eyes/hands follow the contours of the scene in front of me. This is home. This is where I can just be.

BenchAddedColor

Most of the time I am satisfied with just the lines. But something in me wants a dash of color, something small so as not to detract from the lines. But even then, once I’ve added the color, there are times I wish I hadn’t. Color so easily becomes the main focus of the drawing. Its really the lines I love here. This Moleskine is full of “just lines” drawings. But a sketchbook for me would not be complete without color, color, color! It’s the variety of pages that, to me, displays the variety of life, the ever changing days, no two exactly alike.

VBS2016

I can sense a Sketchbook Chat coming soon! I just have so much to share…I really need to narrow the scope for each one. Soon. Yes, very soon!

Until then, draw like the wind, live artfully, be fascinated with lines, color…whatever you like!

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

Fascination & Play

PalmatCienr

I am fascinated by many things. Nature, faces, shapes of objects, fibers, color, line, stitches, light…on and on to where I’m fairly dizzy with delight. This fascination is surely the heart of an artist’s life. Being an artist has less to do with raw talent and more with being fascinated by something and granting oneself the freedom to explore it, try it, dive into it some more, express it. Lately I’ve been fascinated with pastels.

Water&SkyOakIsland2016

I enjoy both oil pastels as well as soft pastels. I love adding oil pastels to line drawings and also drawing with the pastels, then adding watercolor over top for the resist effects. I did a lot of this at the beach a couple of weeks ago and am still playing around with it in my sketchbook.

CienerBirdhouse

But now I’m all jazzed about soft pastels. I tend to rotate through art mediums on a fairly regular basis, but lately I’ve been swiping the buttery, powdery sticks across pages of watercolor washes and having so much fun seeing the effects of layered color! When I fall in fascination love with a different medium all over again, it feels like I could spend whole days strung on end doing nothing but working with that medium. Life rarely allows that.

CienerLot

Yesterday, however, I had the delight to draw and paint for an entire morning, a whole four hours, with a friend at our Ciener Botanical Gardens. Easel, pastels, numerous sketchbooks previously prepped with watercolor, sunscreen, water bottle, a snack and friendship…I could not ask for any thing better.

FavLilyCiener

Whenever I do get chunks of time to draw like this, the delight, sense of play and lightheartedness is transformative. Maintaining this lighthearted sense of play is a bit more difficult as I can easily get drawn in to the woes of life or even just the pull to “be serious” about my art and really DO something with it. The minute I head down this road, art making becomes heavier and my fascination wanes.

TopotheHillClouds

I love keeping it light and free and fun! There will be time for the more serious end of art production later. Not now…I’ve gotta go draw the clouds up at the top of the hill!:)

I hope your weekend has room for fascination and wonder and play!

 

Drawing to See

Railing

I was railing at no one and everything, howling at the just-up sun, grappling with the ongoing sense that my life is out of control (even though it isn’t). I know this song and dance. I’ve heard it many times before. I’ve railed so many times in my life now that it sounds like an irritating whine, a bothersome drone of “woe is me, I can’t seem to do all I need and want to do”, like some melodramatic housewife with the back of her hand to her forehead, wilting into a heap. Ugh.

I knew what to do. Draw. Just draw. Just sit down and draw what’s right in front of me. I  took  myself out on the back deck after a very early run to the grocery store (cuz I can’t seem to fit it all in ya know) and I sat with pens in hand poised over the blank Moleskine page.

That railing. Goodness. Such an obstruction to my view. Do I ignore it and draw as if it isn’t there? No. It’s too in-your-face. Gotta just go with it. It is unmovable and I’ll just have to work with it somehow… Thicker brush tip pen for the railing. Thinner Sharpie fine-liner for everything else. Here I am. All here. Lost in lines. the weight of all my attention begins to fall…into this chair, this sketchbook, my surroundings, the birch tree, the neighbor’s truck and car, the street, the leaves, my foot and the mailboxes. Heart rate has slowed. Following a line does this to me. It takes the spun-up flurry of broad, generalized, and often grossly exaggerated thoughts and brings it down to here, now. Right at this moment all is well! Really…all is well and good. And the next and foreseeable moments are all good too. Where does that railing in me come from?

And then I see it. Right on the page, directly in front of me. The railing to our deck. What once was a nuisance, an obstruction, prison bars keeping me from seeing the view, has now become a framework through which the view has structure and meaning. The railing sits there now as a solid boundary designed to protect and guard me from falling to injury. What once I wanted gone is now transformed into part of the landscape, a resting place for the eye as I look at my dashed off sketch. So much free-flowing leafage and vegetation anchored by the solidity of a deck railing.

This is the beauty of drawing. It anchors my jangly and driven thoughts. Provides a framework for all the free-flow of living, protects and guards me from bolting off into the world without a safety net.

If you are railing today…DRAW! If there’s a railing in your way…DRAW!

Find a railing of some sort somewhere and sit near it, draw through it, around it, over it and consider the possibility that the obstructions in your life might just have a beauty of their own if you could only see it and surrender to it (that’s the hard part!). It’s crazy that, for me, it takes drawing it to make me see the railing of my life as necessary anchors and protection rather than prison-box obstruction.

Draw to be able to see what cannot be seen with just your eyes.

Draw to see beyond and through the railings!

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If you’re interested in developing further an ability to see life with an artful eye, this little Primer is a place to start. 🙂

All My Attention

BeachAdirondacks

Every drawing tells a story. It doesn’t matter whether it is abstract or representational, detailed or dashed off, unfinished or complete…it speaks of life in that moment, what was going on either in the artist’s physical world or in their feelings and thoughts. More often than not, it encompasses both.

CaptureLucy

I often feel like Irene, in the Princess and the Goblin, whose been given a near invisible thread to take with her into the world outside the castle and to follow where it leads so that she might be led back home. Life has a way of calling me out of my comfort zones regularly, which in turn creates a storm of thoughts and feelings that are not easily sorted out. The very best way I have to quiet the storm and be led through it (even good storms such as a wedding!) is to follow the lines of whatever is around me, pinning them down on paper as I can, catching them by the tail, and following them home.

RandyRelaxing

Bringing the full weight of all my attention to particular moments is what drawing affords me. Even knitting doesn’t quite rival this focus of mind and quieting of jumpy thoughts. I can still ruminate to beat the band whilst knitting and crocheting. (Unless of course I’m learning a new stitch pattern or following a chart, but even that is not the same.)

ToughGetGoing

I look back through this Moleskin and I can see so much that has happened in the past few months. Though there are no actual wedding drawings, I see and remember little moments leading up to it and beyond…that thread that reminds me I have a rope, a life-line, leading me in and through life’s big events as well as small ones.

bloom

I finally got around to reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic several weeks ago. The one thing that has stuck with me is a phrase she mentioned once or twice. “So here’s the part where I…” She recounts that after so many years of living this creative life, she now recognizes the patterns of her emotional and mental landscape that are repeated time and time again. This SO resonated with me! “So here’s the part where I get so busy I can hardly think straight let alone feel focused in my art.” “So here’s the part where I’m humming along with creative juices flowing daily.” “So here’s the part where I haven’t been able to create much and now that I can, I’m so backlogged with ideas I’m flailing around making anything and everything that comes to mind.” etc. etc.

JustUsThree

It is helpful in the midst of it all, to realize these patterns and that a thread runs through all of it, leading me out to a wide open space where I will regain a sense of harmony and direction in what I want to make. Drawing leads me through. Drawing makes all the jumpy thoughts and questions bed down for a time, allowing a sense of calm to flood back in.

MorningTea&Reading

I’ll keep following the line. I feel it already bringing me through the overgrown brush, the frenzied forest of life, and I know it will lead me out into that spacious place which may not be home yet, but a place to hang my hat for a time.

CienerAtLast

I sincerely hope that you too can follow a line today, pin it to paper, catch it by the tail and hang on for dear life, bringing the full weight of all your attention to small moments.  In so doing, your sketchbook will be a full, beautiful and rich account of the journey.

Sketchbook Chat #3

SketchbookChat

I’m getting a bit better! This one is under 15 minutes! Woo! Hoo!

In this Sketchbook Chat I share a demonstration of adding watercolor to a drawing of a privacy fence. What I aim for in these videos is not to teach you exactly how to hold the brush or apply the paint, but ways to think about your subject, your medium, your intent in making the page in your sketchbook. To me, all of this is MUCH more important than merely how you hold your paint brush, or which colors to use where. I hope it inspires you to splash around with watercolor in the pages of your own sketchbook today.

PrivacyFenceColor

This is the finished page in my Moleskine watercolor sketchbook. The video gives you a tilted view of the page as I paint, so I wanted you to see it more close-up. 🙂

Thank you, as always, for spending your time with me in these videos! Subscribe to my You Tube channel so you don’t miss any of them!

Artfully yours,

Jennifer