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

 

Drawcumenting Life

Over ten years ago, when I first began to blog, I was inspired by Alicia Paulson‘s photography of her everyday life. It seems an enchanted life from the viewpoint of her camera lens…walks in the woods, her current stitching projects of all kinds, her home, her cooking. Everyday things, which are indeed beautiful in and of themselves, but made moreso by the art of photography. Her writing was also enjoyable as she chronicled her days, rainy or sunny, chaotic or simple, difficult or restful. I wanted to do the same thing but with sketches and drawings rather than photographs.

I’ve been reconnecting with this love of drawcumenting my days. Not that I had stopped drawing  in a sketchbook, but I was finding an overwhelm with all that I love to create which crowded out the daily practice of looking for, sitting down, and sketching something in my life. Whether it’s the daffodils blooming along our driveway (below), or the end of the day sitting around the living room while husband works at the computer (first one), or sketching a photo of the knitters and crocheters I teach (second sketch), or the loveliness of my daughter as she learns to knit an intricate pattern …this delights me to no end.

I have been in need of some focus. To re-establish what it is that underpins all the creativity, all the mothering, the wife-ing, the teaching, etc. Drawing my life in a sketchbook is how I can see it all for the beauty it is, no matter how hum-drum or exciting it may be. Following a line through my days works to help anchor me and provide insight into what’s going on underneath it all, in and through it all, and sometimes even despite it all.  It is a documentary of sorts, but drawn through a pen, a brush, a sketchbook.

I have just finished an entire sketchbook! I love looking back through it for all that it contains from the date written on the very first page. I am aware that I have jumped around to several other sketchbooks. large and small, for more drawings and sketches of life, but when one is filled up to the very last page, I feel a wistful contentment…herein is a life of love. Go to my Instagram feed to see a very quick flip-through of this sketchbook. The above drawings of knitters around the table and of my husband at the computer are the final two drawings in this book. The video cut off right before these last two sketches.

I have a couple of sketchbooks to choose from to begin another. They are what I call “good sketchbooks”…you know, the more costly kind with paper thick enough for watercolor, pen and all kinds of media. The sketchbook I just finished, with its tons and tons of pages, was very cheap! Same with this brown kraft paper sketchbook. Both bought at Walmart, they contain fairly sturdy paper, but it does buckle and warp, something I don’t mind too much. In fact, a cheap sketchbook can be very freeing! I also loved the really white paper of the first one! White paper makes watercolor sparkle and fineliner pens stark and clear. I’m not terribly crazy about the brown kraft paper, but it’s fun to switch to every now and again. I’m hesitant to start drawing in my Handbook Journal because the paper is cream colored. However, even though I liked the white pages of the cheap book, it was difficult managing the bulk of so many pages not laying flat for a drawing across both pages. That is my favorite way to draw – covering both pages at one go. So I’ve ordered a Stillman and Burn sketchbook because I’ve heard that the pages lay open very flat. We shall see. There are only 26 pages in one sketchbook so that won’t last me very long. I’ll just keep on searching for the perfect sketchbook. If you have a favorite, do share it with me! I am particularly in search of bright white paper, thick enough to handle watercolor, and pages that lay somewhat flat.

I hope you can drawcument your day through the lens of your sketchbook! Draw on my friends…draw on!

Too Much

If you peeled your eyes away

to give them a break

to rest from so much seeing

to see what might be discovered in reality…

If you pulled your nose back from the glass and stone

from the screen and window

to inhale something new, or just stop breathing the fumes…

If you covered your ears

and stopped listening to tripe, to lies, to bait…

What would you hear?

What would you smell?

What would you see?

Sometimes I feel it – too much seeing.

Sometimes my breathing is labored from so much pressing my nose where it need not be.

Sometimes my ears are tired from so much hearing of what I do not need.

I step back. I close my eyes.

I shut the computer and the phone.

I listen to silence.

Perhaps to song.

And I breathe.

And I create.

And I relax.

********

More and more I’m finding I need periods of respite from online activity. Be it a few hours or even days, this unplugging allows me to rest, to really hear and see what’s going on in my life, to listen to what my pen wants to draw or write. It feels a bit like Spring. Something underneath the surface beginning to stir and waken, yet still waiting to come forth. I’m seeing it on my walks these days…tiny bright green spots coming up from the ground and peeking out the ends of limbs. It’s still very early days here in the South where winter could come roaring back just when the tender blooms think it’s ok to wave at us.

I need to step back, listen to the silence of so much growth. I need to keep watch over the tender shoots…breathing, creating, and relaxing into the change of seasons.

Evergreen

Were my life four seasons of twenties

I would be in late Fall.

Spring and Summer past, so too the brilliance of leaf and coolness.

Only a few bright jewels remain quivering on their branches

knowing full well they await their last flight

of wind before gravity takes hold.

From here I can feel the chill of coming winter.

And I now see, with other limbs bare,

the evergreens standing sure and unmoved by the seasons’ ravages.

They have been there all along playing

a lesser role to oak and maple.

Providing scaffolding for all of nature’s

hoopla to dance and frolic.

Now they have their day…their deep values

fencing the path, marking the way.

I walk on. For I cannot go back.

Stopping to rest beside an evergreen

I admire its solidity, if prickly and severe.

I touch the bark, the needles, and I inhale something rich, resinous, comforting.

Surely in my winter, evergreens will guide with pointy fingers

and lay out a carpet soft for travel-weary feet.

Here in late autumn I can still feel the sun of summer’s day,

the blush of spring’s blooming.

It is all encompassed by memories of brilliant colors against a bright blue sky.

The hint of woodsmoke brings me to now, as I walk forward

into winter’s snowy embrace.

-jpe

I’ll Tell You

What happens when so much making comes tumbling out of you that you shy to share it?

What do you do when so many ideas beg and need to be birthed, small, tiny, insignificant ideas yet they must be born?

What if you feel so alive with all the making, the knitting, the poeming, the crafting, the drawing, the writing of stories that, surely you are living in miniature and illustration?

What then?

I’ll tell you.

You let it tumble out.

You do not share it. Not yet.

You birth the ideas as far as they will go no matter how small and insignificant they seem.

You knit, you poem, you draw and craft, you illustrate and write.

You live in your stories for your stories help you understand your story and thereby help you to live…

Tumbling…

Making…

Loving…

Alive.

-jpe

An Everyday Outlet

For Day 6 of #drawtheordinary through Lent, I’m to draw a “wall plug”. I should’ve thought about that wording a bit more because what I meant was “an outlet”.  No matter, plug or outlet, they are both ordinary things. (At least they are to those of us fortunate enough to live in parts of the world where electricity is  available.:)

The crazy thing about all this focusing on the ordinary long enough to draw it in our sketchbooks, is that sparks start flying as we do. Each ordinary sketch of an everyday item ignites a world of thought, delight, and sometimes even…transformation.

I sat for a bit just looking at the simple rectangle with two receptacles noting that there’s a bit of form and shape where the 3 prongs of a plug go in. Then I notice that these three holes look interestingly like a face…or a house – two eyes and a mouth OR two windows and a door. All of a  sudden I’m wondering –

What’s inside this thing?

How in the world does it hold energy or electricity that is accessed merely by placing metal prongs (or one’s fingers) inside?

What magic lies inside those black shapes? Is it a colony of lightening bolts? A family hanging out waiting patiently (or not) for the time when they’ll be put to use?

And so on and so forth…

The crazy…and wonderful…thing about this 20 second reverie is that by simply turning my focus to an ordinary object, my imagination was ignited. It was as if by focusing in on this everyday, typically unnoticed thing in my home, I had plugged into a source of creativity that led me to magical worlds were families of electric bolts live and move and have their being.

This doesn’t happen every single time I draw something. No, sometimes a wall plug is just that…a wall plug. Or outlet. But it is in the focus and attention to things I wouldn’t normally engage with, that creativity is sparked. I can fan it into flame by drawing it and having a bit of fun imagining what these electric bolt people look like. Perhaps they need me to plug my lamp in so they don’t get too bored. Perhaps that little guy up in the right window reached out and zapped me as I sat staring into their home. I dunno. Could be.

What I do know is that I’ll continue peering into ordinary places, drawing what I see there, knowing that sparks may fly in the process. Do jump in on the fun! You’re never too late to join the Lenten drawing party! You can download all the drawing prompts through Lent or simply find ordinary things to draw each day in your sketchbook.

Buen Camino friends!

-Jennifer

*The drawing journey through Lent is blogged HERE, and Instagrammed HERE.

*Inspiration & Instruction for drawing your life is HERE. 🙂