If I Could Be A Tree

If I could be a tree

I would a willow be

To wave at all I see

And shelter those with me.

***

Or perhaps I’d be an oak

To dangle tire and rope.

In kid-laughter I’d soak

And wear an autumn cloak.

***

But oh a birch to be

In ruffled finery

Graceful limbs so free

A merry dance of three.

-jpe

*********

We personify trees all the time. At least I do…seeing them as beautiful people with personality and history. But couldn’t we tree-ify ourselves? Is that a word? If not, let’s make it one! I like imagining which type of tree I’d like to be and why.

The problem is that I’m hard pressed to land on any one type of tree for long. A month ago I wanted to be an evergreen, tall and enduring through winter’s blast. Last week I wanted to be a cherry tree with explosive fireworks of blossom and color. Yesterday an oak, today a fanciful birch.

These birch trees are fascinating to me. I’m fairly certain that we have River Birches growing in our neighborhood. It puzzled me this week to notice that all of them, with only one exception, had three trunks growing out of one. The exception had two trunks. With a bit of research, I discovered that this is how they are planted…three risomes together in order to keep the height of the tree down a bit. Apparently, left to grow individually, they grow way too tall. Clumping them together, or allowing two other suckers to grow along with the main trunk, helps keep their height under control. But I digress…

Whatever the reason, they look to me like three sisters, or three friends dressed for a party, dancing or laughing together. Their happy coexistence reminds me of the Trinity, of strength in a cord of three strands, of a perfect prime, and the number of children I have.

And how about you? What tree would YOU like to be if you could be a tree? And why is that? I’d love to hear from you and what your tree-ification might be? Well, for today at least!😉💕

P.S. I seem to draw imaginary trees a good bit…like the Yarn Trees and this Steam Tree. It happened as I gazed at my morning coffee and could see the steam rising and curling out of the mug…which got me to thinkin’ that it surely must grow from the bottom, where it is “watered”, or “coffee-ed” and…well, anyway…it’s fun to think about.😃

Drawings Beget Drawings


Perhaps it’s a law of Physics…but it is a reality I’ve noticed time and time again, that when you set your pen to paper and make a drawing, three others are begging to be drawn!

You draw the tree and in doing so you notice daffodils are blooming a full month early! And one must, simply MUST draw the daffodils too.

Or you imagine a large Oak tree and in drawing it, mice show up busily making a merry life all around while a friendly Owl watches over them.

On and on each drawing woos and entices you to keep drawing and even to draw the space around you or the people sitting nearby.

This is just the way it is. When you draw, there will be more to draw. And you’ll find yourself so in love with drawing your world, whether real or imagined, that you fall asleep thinking of tomorrow’s tree, or whether you’ll have time for a few more drawings than just the one daily tree drawing.

Like Frost’s poem about swinging on birches…I too would like to go…perhaps by climbing it…but preferably by drawing the  birch tree…

…draw the black branches up the snow-white trunk that leads my gaze toward heaven as I keep drawing until my page can bear no more…💕

One could do worse than be a draw-er of trees. It will lead to all kinds of adventures in a sketchbook.😃

 

The Space Between


There is a delicious space between one’s head and the page. Sometimes I am not so aware of it as I begin to draw. But several drawings of late have me pondering this place where connections are made, lines speak like words, life informs lines, and vice versa.

Continue reading

Discoveries

It is likely something I’ve known all along, but there are times when I am hit with a realization that feels new, like a discovery I haven’t ever uncovered before.

This week’s daily drawings of trees gave fresh insight into the differences between drawing from life ( or even from a photo I’ve taken) and drawing from my imagination.

Some of these tree drawings are purely out of my head, imagined trees which certainly have their source in the many trees I have drawn from life over the years. Whatever comes out of my head is directly shaped by what I’ve drawn before. I have always known that in order to illustrate well, I need to always be drawing directly from life. But here are some of the differences I’ve noticed this week…

Drawings from my imagination tend to have a story to them. I nearly always insert a person or an animal or something which is interacting with the tree.

I also notice that these drawings have a simplified, more straightforward look to them. There are fewer “things” in the drawing, and the line is a bit straighter and defined.

When I draw from life however, the line work has much more character and energy as the actual contour is followed on the page. I love the feeling of caressing what is in front of me as if my pen were actually touching the edges and inner contours of the tree.

The “life” drawings also show more of the tree’s connection to its surroundings. My pen meanders from the tree contours to its neighboring bush or house. The grass on the ground connects with the trunk of  the tree unifying them and making the entire piece feel as if the tree could not exist solely on its own. It has to have  the earth, the grass, the sky, the clouds and any other objects in its environs in order to fully be itself.

It is this very connection of all that surrounds us as we draw that excites me.  I’m reminded that none of us exists  merely on our own. If I were to draw you, just you, without anything from your environment, I wouldn’t really be able to tell too much about who you are. But if I drew you in the context of your everyday surroundings, I would get a fuller picture of who you are and what makes you tick.

I strive to do something like this in the imagined tree drawings as well. A tree needs what is around it to tell it’s story, or to tell whatever it is I’m trying to convey in my illustration.

 

Both approaches to drawing are ever so fun and have their benefits, advantages, and pitfalls. I’m enjoying moving back and forth between imagined trees and actual, in front of me, trees. And even trying to blend a little of both into one drawing such as this one directly above. I drew the actual tree in my neighbors back yard and then added the fantasy elf who I imagine is responsible for Knitting the ivy sweater onto the tree.

Both of these approaches to drawing, and several more, are explored and detailed for you in my new drawing ebook! I’m really thrilled to be able to offer this 64-page PDF titled Discover Your Life Beautiful, One Drawing At A Time for only a few cups of coffee! Check here to read more about it and see if you might enjoy beginning a daily drawing practice. Or perhaps you need some encouragement and fresh ideas for continuing what you already love to do!

If you want to follow my daily postings of the tree drawings then head over to Instagram! I’ll see you next week here with a recap of the week’s drawings of trees, both imagined and from life!

Focus

It is a truth, which I’ve experienced numerous times, that when help is needed, help is offered. This happens in a variety of ways, on so many levels in both my personal life and my creative life, which I see more and more are intricately entwined and cannot be separated from one another.

For months now I’ve felt an ever increasing sense of scattered-ness. I have held this open-heartedly as I move through numerous difficulties in life. I even know on some level that the scattered feeling in what I create with my hands is likely due to all that life is granting me to walk through. Here. There. Everywhere. Knit. Spin. Draw. Weave, crochet, embroider. Sketch, tapestry, design. Many mediums, lots of exploration, all of it I adore. The problem is that I do NOT adore feeling stretched thin. I do not like feeling as if it somehow doesn’t add up to anything . I’m not talking about sales. I’m not after notoriety.

All along there has been this tiny little voice saying…things were simpler when you Just Drew. Now to be honest,  there has never been a time when the only thing I made were drawings. I have always knitted and crocheted (I’ve added spinning and weaving to the mix) but there have been long stretches of time where sketching and drawing were my Main Squeeze if you will.  Spinning wool rivals the act of drawing for processing life. Yet there is an added element of the drawings themselves becoming my teacher in a way that hanks of freshly spun wool doesn’t quite reach. Today’s drawing is an example.

This tree is drawn entirely out of my head. An imagined scene where I started out only wanting to draw a tree (my new daily focus for the next year), then begs to have someone in it, myself, doing what I love to do under the limbs and next to the trunk of a beautiful winter tree. I’m drawing in my daily black and white sketchbook, choosing my thick and thin markers at will, enjoying the process, absorbed in the moment. (Ignore the odd brown stripe there…just the shadow cast by trying it take photos in the early morning dark.🙄)

When all is done, I sit back and look at what I’ve drawn. A whispered, oh my, quietly escapes as I ponder what I’m seeing on the lined pages. The tree has such energy, such vitality and movement within. I stand there, nearly ghost-like in comparison, spinning fibers which have the same energy and twist as the tree. And it is this reality of making drawings and how they teach me that I’m in need of daily. I need to be able to see that there is a beautiful pulsing energy at work in everything. Even in leafless trees.

So I’m committing to drawing a tree every day. I have always loved trees, loved painting and drawing them, love sitting with them, wishing I could hear them speak, and sometimes imagining that I actually can. I’ll post my tree sketches on Instagram and write about the process every now and then here. Join me if you can. And maybe commit to a focus like this as well. This doesn’t feel like pressure to me. It actually feels like freedom…to have one focus, even in the midst of making and doing so much else.

So what was it that helped me? As numerous friends are sending up prayers on my behalf, I take it as no small thing that I came home yesterday from teaching to grab lunch before heading off again. As I ate, I opened You Tube (yes, prayers CAN lead us to You Tube!😂) and I saw a Recommended for You video titled The Drawing Advice That Changed My Life. I’m a skeptic with hyperbole but wanted to see what this was all about. I watched it three times. Took notes. Wrote in my journal for half an hour before leaving for an appointment. Focus. I long for it. I’ve been feeling dehydrated for want of hay and water and not knowing which one to go for next. Donkey brain no more (you’ll have to watch the video to understand this😃). I’m off to draw a tree.

New Year Eyes

”There are eyes in pencils and pens.”

This quote by John Piper, found in a book I’m re-reading for the umpteenth time, echoes down a long hallway of years of drawing and writing. I know this to be true…how I see so much better when I’m wearing my pens. A bic pen for writing daily pages of whatnot, the same pen for sketching random doodles, a fine Sharpie and a bold brush pen for drawing, fat markers and dual-ended colors, and a splash of watercolor here and there all help me see the world more clearly and true-ly.

Today, the last day of 2019, feels like any other day, except for a small flicker of  re-kindled hope. Not a hope that things will improve in the New Year, for so many of the difficulties and burdens of 2019 will go with me into 2020, and may even worsen.  It is rather a hope much like a faint far off sound that tickles my ear to turn towards it.  A sweet note (or is it a voice?) that I’ve heard before so many times…

…count them…draw them…put pen to paper…

…and in doing so, pin them to your heart and mind. So many gifts lay strewn at your feet, all around you, as you walk along the way, no matter how difficult or heavy the course. You need, Jen, to wield your pen in order to see the gifts.

Ok. I will. And what shall I pen and pin down with laser focus? What shall I count and list and name and draw into my heart?

Gifts. “Not gifts I want, but gifts I already have.”

-Ann Voskamp. 1,000 Gifts. Pg. 45.

I know this. Yet I forget what I already know…that gifts abound all around me every single day. This past year has brought gifts that I’d rather not have received, the painful difficult kind that has a way of overshadowing the lovely and joyful gifts.

As 2020 rolls in, I want to light a candle in those shadows, to peer down the end of my pens and see the gifts lovingly placed along  parched paths. There will be too many gifts to name them all, much less draw them all. But I will catch as many as I’m able, whispering thank you for each of them.

Ann Voskamp speaks of having her “hunt pen in hand”. I am holding mine firmly as I close out 2019 and jump into 2020. This pen with eyes may also have wings…I will need both for the year ahead!

Attention

In the middle of November I started to draw what was happening in my head. Well, it wasn’t only in my head. Some of the ideas that flutter around in my head come through my hands, or at least get started to see if they want to be fully birthed. Not all of the ideas mind you. My brain is a veritable factory of creative ideas which one person cannot possibly bring into being. I must be choosy.

I do love to have the time to sit and ponder each of them, like rolling a river pebble over in my fingers gazing at all sides and wondering if I have what that particular idea requires, or whether it should wait a while or perhaps be tossed back into the vast idea pond. Spinning wool is a lovely place to ponder and mull and work through the idea backlog.

The difficulty is that I’m forever attaching a weighty criteria to the ideas. Is this meaningful enough? Does it have an artistic flair? Is it original? Or is it someone else’s idea that I think I can do my version of? Will I have to purchase other tools or items to make this? How much time will be involved? Is it do-able within the framework of my life? Will I have to leave hearth and home for a week in order to see this idea come to fruition?

The heaviest weight I put on creating something is that big word Art with a capital A. I have an ongoing love-hate relationship with this word and for many years have preferred to remove the consideration of whether I’m producing Art, off the table. I really just want to be delighted, and if what I’m making delights me, then it shouldn’t matter whether it is deemed Art by me or by anyone else.

So I sit there at my wheel, or stand twirling a spindle, enrapt in delight as I do so, and I’m thinking of all these other things I “should” be devoting my time to.  I kept drawing the little illustrations off and on over the past few weeks in hopes of getting somewhere. It dawned on me recently, as it has done numerous times before, that what I’m holding in my hands is more often than not, THE THING I’m to be doing. Whew. Such freedom and Joy! Just look at the final drawing in my little story and that happy smile on the idea bulb’s face! “Finally! She’s got it!”

Here in the midst of our busy holiday making, I hope you can find some time to be delighted. It doesn’t matter if you are making world-changing Art, or just spinning some fluff into string. Stay in the de-Light as long as you can, eschewing those pesky thoughts that you should surely be doing something else more weighty and monumental. Pay attention to what you find yourself paying attention to (Jessica Abel’s thoughts here).

Deep dive into what’s right there in your hands to make and bring to life. It is likely the Big Idea 💡 you’ve been after all along.❤️

Notice & Observe

Here we are…again…at the starting gate of a New Year! All the hopes and fears of all the years (or at least those of 2018) seem to gather together in a clump as we look ahead, hoping the New Year brings less difficulty than the one before, and fearing that it might not. The temptation for me is to rally all my best efforts to keep things running smoothly, without wrinkle or wrench. I know by now this is an exercise in futility. Life brings to us each day a panoply of blessings and challenges…both of which I want to be in a position to notice and observe.

The lovely thing about a New Year is this turning of the number, or page, on a new vista of days, weeks and months. It can feel fresh and clean, unfettered by previous months’ busyness, waiting with anticipation for us to walk through it, holding promise and positive outcomes almost as carrots to lure us into the days ahead. I love this fresh feeling and the excitement of good things to come. Yet I also know that 2019 may very well hold some difficult, painful and confusing things for me as well. I neither want to blindly march into the year with a pasted grin on my face, nor do I want to wallow in future castastrophising (dreaming up all manner of trials and tribulations that may or may not happen). It would seem that “Que sera sera” might be a good tack to take…whatever will be, will be. Though helpful in some ways, this forward thinking version of “It is what it is”, doesn’t carry me through a New Year in the way I wish to experience it.

What I need this coming year, and what I intend to uphold as often as I am able to do so (no goal setting or resolution here), is to meet the New Year moment by moment by Noticing and Observing. To Notice is to say “oh look here at this little (or big)  thing”. To Observe is to pick it up and to ask questions like “I wonder how it got here?” or “look at the colors within” or “see how the shape is so lovely” or “does it have a purpose or is it simply a gift to enjoy?” and so on. Though I have had a good many years of Noticing and Observing, I still need this practice of meeting each new day with space to consider the small moments of my life. A sketchbook is a wonderful tool for Noticing and Observing.

On the 20th of December 2018, I began a new sketchbook which was given to me by a dear friend. To be sure I had not finished the 2 or 3 other sketchbooks I have going, but I had been wanting a book of days, one without a spiral in the middle, one in which to drawcument the days as I notice and observe them. It was also to be an anchor for me as I faced the craziness of the holidays. It has indeed been that anchor.

It is perhaps not a proper watercolor sketchbook, as in having the precise paper on which watercolor shines. But I love the almost cloth-like feel of this paper, and the handmade look of it with fabric cover and twine stitching. It is made by Anthropologie and I do hope they are still making these when I finish this one. Another will surely be in order. The very best thing is that my favorite markers, both fat and thin ones, do not bleed through the other side, thus allowing me to draw on all sides of the woven pages.

To Notice & Observe, is like dancing in puddles. When life gives us rainy days, as it has in abundance here in central North Carolina, it is best to notice where the puddles are and dance in them. Drawing and painting are perfect puddle activities, as are any other creative endeavors. Knitting, spinning, weaving and the like are all beautiful ways to notice what’s going on in your life and to observe it from a place of beauty. Writing is also excellent…I write every morning all the noticings and observations of both my interior and exterior worlds.

There is something amazing that happens when we Notice & Observe. Somehow, our hearts are lightened a bit. Perhaps it is in the lines and colors of pen, paint and wool that weaves into our eyes a renewed palette for the day. We also receive insight when we Notice & Observe. There is a direct connection between the lines on the page,  the strands of yarn and wool, to our minds and hearts. We receive hope, clarity, lessened anxiety and so much more in the act of making something with our hands. I look forward to this blessing today and on through the New Year. I wish it for you as well.

Happy New Year to you!

May it be filled with many moments to Notice & Observe!

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

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*

Morning Chatter

I step out the door into a lively conversation already underway.

The woodpecker is holding forth, rapping his message,

the morning dove coos, the cardinal trills

and a congregation adds their own embellished agreements

or rebellious agitation.

Even the geese, returning from a winter’s sojourn, join in the boisterous banter.

I stand in awe for a moment just to take in this morning cacophony.

I walk up the hill, down the lane, past the cows and on by the alpacas and horses. Leaning into Emmaus Road my pace quickens and so does the chatter. Are they cheering me on? Providing company for the path? Or indifferent to my presence, absorbed in their own worlds?

I spot a lone bird atop a bale of hay lifting her throat to the throng.

On the return, crossing Hastily, down Silver Dapple once again and back towards home,

it is quieter now.

Only a few remain in the concert hall of my thoughts,

chirping their ideas, tweeting their rebuttal.

They are settling in for the day ahead yet nothing has been settled upon,

except that we all must begin.

Closing the door, I take up my pen to record the findings,

drawcument the sights,

chronicle the listenings,

make sense of the chaos,

find a tune in the midst of it all.

-jpe