Under the Lily Pads

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Yesterday I sat by a pond on the property of Smith Hollow Farm to draw. My pen followed the contours of the half-cloven pads with their stout yet delicate lilies popping up here and there. Some were mere bulbs yet to bloom, others had unfurled and outstretched their usual cup-like shape. Rich color everywhere.

This morning I look at my drawing and it hits me full-force…my focus was on the lily pads and all the while water was present. Water, the life and support for these lilies, is barely evident in the drawing, just hints of it in darker tones and tiny shapes surrounding the pads.

I have a tendency to fixate on the lily pads of life rather than the water. I was at the Farm to draw with friends (liles), while Maddie had a horseback riding lesson (lily), to have some drawing time before I gave a private knitting lesson (lily) and then to chores at home, feeding and caring for a family (lily pads). There are many MANY lily pads in my life, all beautiful and intricate and in some places there are so many that the pads can’t lay flat on the water. They are bunched up, crowding each other from sunning fully outstretched.

Yet I am becoming more aware of the water beneath the lily pads. Call it a pond, a well, a river, an ocean… it is a life-giving current of love and peace, joy and wholeness which supports and upholds all the lily pads.  This river is always present and it never runs dry. I long to fixate more and more on the water, drawing its paths and colors. In so doing I’ll be able to see the lily pads as more beautiful and shapely than I see when I fixate on them. This would be much like the exercise where you draw the negative spaces and thus wind up with the shape of the vase and flowers.

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To draw from the well is an incredibly powerful image for me. For it is indeed when I draw that the straw of my pen and brush gets dipped into the these life-giving waters so that I might sip some of that love and peace, bringing joy and wholeness to the surface.

As the 50 year mark rolled right on by this week, I find myself utterly grateful for each and every lily pad in my life. Yet even moreso for the Water that supports and upholds, nourishes and sustains, ever-flowing underneath it all.

Turning Fifty

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I know, I know. It’s just a number. yet for some reason this number has been looming in my mind for a year now. Probably longer. The thought of turning a half century old has discombobulated me in such a manner I can only describe with the phrase (so telling of my age and generation): it has wigged me out.

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And still is…if I think about it too much.  Now that the actual day is within the week, I’m surrendering and fortifying myself for the event. I will likely sail right through this week without so much as a hiccup. Several changes have been made as I approach this mark. More are yet to be pursued. Certain practices are becoming even more crucial to working out the decades, both behind and before me. These same practices are teaching me an even greater awareness of and desire for dwelling in the present moment, for leaving the past behind and ceasing the future tripping I so easily fall into.

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In a broad sense, I know what the next decade will bring. Children, all three of them, going off to college, graduating, getting married, possibly having children. The thought of myself as a gra…gran…(I cannot type it!) is simply mind-blowing. The decade ahead could also be fraught with more illness for myself and other loved ones, the ache of parents aging, and more dental work. That last one is definitely frightening. Ha!

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I have never faced a decade where I could see such changes, hardships and challenges on the horizon. If I dwell there for long, it takes my breath away quite literally and I have to sit down, breathe, and remember the present…Here is where I am. Here, now, healthy, whole, loved ones all here, sun is shining, all is well. Even on days when the sun is not shining, all is well if I camp out in the present moment. I can breathe. No matter what the next decade holds I’ll be able to breathe if I just remain in  the nowscape of each moment. Prayer, mindfulness, are crucial tools for facing my sixth decade.

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So are drawing and knitting. More than ever before, I find these two endeavors life-giving, healing, enabling me to be fully engaged in whatever circumstance I find myself. I look forward to future drawings and paintings as well as more knitting adventures. I am thrilled to be teaching knitting and crochet classes! I get so excited about meeting new people in and through these classes, offering them the tools to knit that same healing into their lives as I have enjoyed in mine.

With knitting needles in one hand and a paintbrush in the other, I’m ready for the next ten years!

Bring it on!

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Notes on the above photos:

1. Tea and knitting seem to go together, even at the beach! Recent sock knitting has me working with sun colors, neon bright…love it!

2. A friend posted on Instagram a pic of his bicycle in a field of poppies. I asked if I could paint it. This is where I’d like to be. Right now.

3. My birthday tunic is now finished. It is Liesl by Julie Weisenberger. Can’t wait to wear it and share the finished garment with you!

4. I’ve recently been doing a lot of line-only drawings. No watercolor added. Just lines. Continuous. Free-flowing. Caressing the beautiful life I live.

5. I’m enjoying drawing at a farm right across the street from our home. This is not Mr. Whicker’s Farm, as many of you have seen my drawings and paintings over the years. This is a working farm where the Smith family raises goats, chickens, Llamas, and horses. Maddie takes horseback riding lessons here. I draw while she rides. I love drawcumenting my days.

Just Cuz

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Sometimes you just can’t help it! You see something that for whatever reason, catches your eye, tickles your fancy, and you just gotta draw it. But when you’re driving, it’s best not to whip out the sketchbook then and there, but rather take a quick pic and draw it later.

The drawing doesn’t capture the way the center brush twirled and whirled in the breeze as the truck drove through town. Nor did I allow enough space for the broom on the right of the pitchfork. A broom! I may have to re-draw it to include this vital item in the whimsy of it all.

And sometimes you just gotta use your chunky marker and finer Sharpie…oh how I love that combination! Five minutes it took to sketch this out.

Gotta go make some more drawings of the fun stuff I’ve seen lately. How about you?

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Adventure

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“So much of the adventure of the life we lead rushes past us in a blur. Velocity is the culprit. Velocity and pressure. A sketchbook freezes time. It is an instantaneous form of meditation focusing us on the worth of every passing moment. So often the great adventure of life lies between the lines, in how we felt at a certain time and at a certain place. This tool will help you to remember and savor the passing parade.”

-Julia Cameron, Walking in this World, pg. 83.

So much of my own passing parade is indeed going by in a blur. Rich, full, intensely wonderful events, one right after the other…I can barely contain them. I move from one to the next, purposing to be present and bring my whole self fully there to experience every choral and band concert of three musical children in their respective middle school, high school, and college events, each and every senior-in-high-school graduation event to the next…I cannot draw them all. So I opt for the in-between moments.

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It is the in-between part that is hard. Reeling from the memories made, I gather myself to prepare for the next event: how do I get there, what do I need to bring to it, what does my child need, etc. Daily walks and bike rides are proving to be good medicine for the end of school year parade.

The above sketch is drawn from my photo of a lovely spot while cycling around Salem Lake. I’ve just learned how to take panorama photos and I  love the encompassing view this affords. It strikes me that this panorama view is exactly what we do when we are faced with “ends” of things. We look back at the previous school year, or the high school years, or all the years leading up to a graduation, a moving on…the panorama of life lived up to that point.

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As Julia Cameron says, “the great adventure of life lies between the lines…”, so the real adventure of these little bikes rides in-between the memory making events, lies somewhere in-between the lines of the drawing. Beautiful dappled light, calm peaceful water, cool breeze on skin, effort and exertion in-between coasting, rustling leaves with the whir of a bicycle’s wheels…all this is somehow up there in-between those lines.

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Though I myself moved on from that spot on the Lake to celebrate a boy turning 18, to drive the oldest daughter to the airport for her trip to England, and so much more…I look at this sketch and I’m there again, standing on the trail with sounds of fish jumping in the waters on either side of me. I will be there again, taking in the panorama of this Lake, this Life, this Adventure.

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For those who wish to know: I made this sketch using a Schaeffer Calligraphy Pen and my trusty water brush in a 9″ x 12″ Aquabee Sketchbook.

Past Their Prime

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Something in my morning reading prompted me to make my way to the Gardens yesterday to draw the waning tulips and daffodils. I also remembered a conversation with my father-in-law years ago where he suggested I paint dying flowers. I don’t remember too much of what was said. Perhaps there wasn’t much. But I do remember him saying something like “There’s beauty in things that are past their prime.”

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I situated my chair with watercolor paints, water jar, and brush resting on the side “table” waiting for when I’d completed a drawing. I first began with a patch of daffodils, some completely spent, others still hanging onto their petals. There was something of reverence in the air as I began to draw the  deep ridges, curled edges of delicate, fragile petals. I chose a 005, very fine tip Prismacolor pen to render the thin, wispy remains of flowers on still strong stems. Light colors, light touch. Aging, mature, old. Beyond their peak for sure. But lovely nonetheless in their delicate state.

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I moved my chair to sit at the feet of a large patch of tulips in a similar state of demise. Something in me began to feel that they were, even though delicate and partly wilted, somehow strong and virile with their twisted, grooved petals, their inner stigma still standing, their curled edges. I chose a thicker pen, 05 this time, and wanted to display bolder colors surrounding these aged beauties.

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By the third and final drawing, I was working with the thickest pen, 08. Lines dancing around the page as I followed their playful contours. They now seemed jocund and full of frivolity, even though their days were numbered. Indeed, in some of the other beds, gardeners were working to pull up all the spent tulips and daffodils, making way for other flowers, who will surely bedazzle me as these flowers have done.

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The thing is…I’ve been here, witnessing and drawing these flowers throughout their life cycle.  Drawing shows me the full breadth of living: from seedlings to full-on riotous color (as in the drawing directly above this paragraph), to curling and withering petals fading in the warm spring sun. The flowers nod to me as I consider my own loved ones, their life span, as well as my own. I learn so much from these humble plants. I am hoping for the same beauty, strength, and frivolity in my own waning years.

Thank you tulips and daffodils. Thank you.

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For those who might like to know: The pages with a crease down the middle are from my Hand Book Journal. I love this paper to draw and watercolor…off white, toothy. The other images are created in an 8 1/2″ x 11″ Aquabee Sketchbook. Though the pages appear off-white here in the photos, the paper is actually whiter than the Hand Book Journal. A staple sketchbook for everyday drawing, painting and collage.

Kernersville Gallery Hop!

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I am SO looking forward to this weekend! My small town in North Carolina is having not one, but TWO art shows on Saturday which make for a fantastic afternoon/evening out!

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First up is my good friend Margaret Harrison‘s solo show at Southwinds Gallery! You will not want to miss seeing her beautiful watercolors in person!! A multi-talented artist, she will also have her recently published book, Howtogetbetternow, available for purchase and to be signed. Small pastel paintings, cards, and many other delightful creations await you at her show from 4-7 pm.

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From 6-8 pm, Debbie Schiappa, Florbela Nienaber, and myself are in a 3 Woman Show together, just around the corner at Eclection. This is where we have been drawing for several years in the cold months of the year when we are unable to be out and about drawing downtown. Eclection is the perfect place for artists to draw and paint due to the revolving menagerie of amazing hand works by area artisans.  Chris and Amanda, owner and manager of the shop, do an incredible job showcasing the work of these artists and the three of us are tickled to be invited to show some of our drawings from this magical place. We will have originals, prints, and cards for you to view and purchase if you like.

If I could be so bold as to suggest that you clear your calendar on Saturday so that you can attend these events, I know you will not be disappointed. Better still would be to attend Margaret’s show at 4. Eat an early dinner at Giada’s at 5. Come to our show at 6 and stay at Eclection for the evening festivities of music in the Breathe Lounge there.

What a day it will be!!!

And so…

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It begins like a drawing does, or a knitting project. A drawn line. A cast on stitch. And then another. And another. And another until you reach a stopping point, not an end, but a good place to finish. And then you begin again. Each day is a beginning. Each year. Every decade. I am fast approaching a new decade. In a few months my age will begin with a different digit. I’ve been thinking a good deal about this, pondering it, mulling over it in my mind and heart. Assessing the lines and yarns that have been before, looking at the present ones, and gazing into what they might be in the coming ten years.

It is an interesting, wonderful, and somewhat odd feeling to be able to look behind oneself at the years that have gone before. And as my current life is evolving, there is a great deal of comfort in holding the lines that have brought me through all the previous years. My husband and I stand amazed at our middle child (son) getting ready to graduate high school in a month or so. We marvel at our oldest daughter who will be a senior in college in the fall, and at our youngest daughter who will enter her final year of middle school. And he and I both will soon turn into this new decade of our lives. It looks like it will be a very full one indeed.

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So as these changes whirl around me, I hold onto these LIFE lines in pen and yarn.  Engaging in creativity as a way of life is stabilizing, soothing, anchoring, centering. The crazier life gets, the more I hold onto the lines, reaching for them if even for a few minutes here, an hour there, two hours on Friday mornings when I get to draw with others who love it as I do. Teaching women to knit and crochet offers me a way to sit down and connect with someone else who loves yarn, just the feel of it running through one’s fingers, stitch after stitch. I’m grateful for this artful life.

And as I turn into a new decade, I’m sensing more and more the desire to encourage you to live artfully as well! I know many of you do. But we all need encouragement to keep going, to keep putting pen to paper or yarn to needle or whatever your choice of making things. We need to hear someone say to us: Keep going! Keep on making things! It’s good for you! It’s great for those around you! Hold onto the creative lifeline and keep on living artfully!

It is my desire to continue to do this, to keep encouraging you (and in so doing I myself am encouraged) to live an artful life. Placing both blogs under this one umbrella is my way of embracing ALL that I love to create and speaking with one voice to any who might like to listen here. There is so much more to share, so much more for you in the coming weeks and months.

I’m glad you’re here!

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Jennifer

Eclection Days

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I’ve begun toting a big Aquabee sketchbook to the Friday morning drawing session at Eclection here in our town. This sketchbook measures a whopping 14″ x 17″, and the above is the first in this book.  I’ve loved this sketchbook in its 9″x9″ format so I knew I’d love the big size.

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(photo courtesy of Amanda:)

Election is the coolest place to draw!! I love it so much as they have such a variety of things to choose from for subject matter and I absolutely adore hanging out with the artists who join me.

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Above is a recent drawing of “the wall” at Eclection, which is ever-changing with the holidays and seasons. I’ve drawn it here before.

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And this is a recent drawing of a Valentine’s display under the front window. SO MUCH FUN!!! Chris and Amanda (the owner of Eclection and her amazing assistant) have asked us to offer some cards of our drawings of Eclection to sell in the shop. AND…sometime in April they are going to host a gallery opening for us! We are so excited about this! If you live anywhere near Kernersville, NC you should drop by and see all of our card selections! And while you’re at it, you just have to browse all the artisan’s booths…such creative and fun stuff, perfect for your home or for gifts.

Then come by on Friday mornings from 10-noon to draw with us! You’re guaranteed a good time and plenty of great stuff to draw!

Major On One Thing At A Time

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I often learn about living life from the process of drawing. That sentence sounds a bit odd. But it never ceases to amaze me how the act of drawing informs life, just as living informs drawing. For those who have followed me here for some time, this is not news to you. Here and here are just a couple of posts about discovering help for life from the activity of making a drawing.

As I think about the New Year coming up, I want to live it in like manner to how I draw. When I set about to make a drawing of what’s in front of me, I often begin with a bold line marker. Whether it’s an 08 Fine Liner Pen or a thick Sharpie, I follow the contours of the main bit I want to highlight in my drawing. I settle in to concentrate only on that bit, being present to see all the shapes and connections of lines in that one area. Once I feel I’ve put down as many lines as I deem necessary for that main area, I choose a slightly, or greatly, thinner pen to render background areas. These areas receive no less attention while drawing them, but are rendered lightly so as to highlight and support the main bit, instead of taking it over. I may even choose a much paler marker for even “lesser” background areas, as I did above in the drawing of our front yard.

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I enjoy doing the same thing with color. Color can be added all over one’s drawing or just in specific places–not only highlighting the bits that receive color but also allowing the structure of lines to remain in view, solid and intact.

In 2015, I want to continue learning to live my life in this manner. I do best when I am purposeful about what each day holds. As a wife, mom and working artist, there are many things that vie for my attention. Being purposeful about what gets highlighted and emboldened each day helps provide focus for my days. Carving out time for what needs to have my attention allows me to fill in around it with all the other stuff…IF there is time.

Sometimes I sit down to draw and life interrupts. Of course! But if I’ve begun with the main bit, then I’ve at least gotten something down and the rest can either be left to another day or simply left out entirely.

So what am I saying in all this?

**On any given day, week, or month, MAJOR on one thing. Minor in everything else, or let some things go altogether. Being purposeful to do my work as an artist in designated time segments, allows me to fill in domestic work and other commitments around it. Indeed, sometimes I need to designate the majority of a day to the domestic stuff–cleaning, cooking, laundry, etc. Or a day might be majoring in family or friends. some days need to be “just-be” days, allowing whatever to bubble up and enjoy.

This isn’t about being rigidly segmented with one’s life. It actually allows a flow to my life with a lessened amount of mental static and confusion. Thinking in terms of “one thing to major in”, allows the structure of my life to remain in view, solid and intact. I feel less flighty, less like taffy-being-pulled-in-a-bazillion-directions,  more focused, less scattered. Note that I say “less”…nothing is ever seamless and perfect. It is merely one way to hold my dreams and hopes lovingly together with the demands of my everyday life.

Tomorrow I’ll share a second, though closely related way of approaching the New Year. Please return for a visit and if you feel so moved, leave any thoughts in the comment section for all of us to benefit from. Thank you for being here today!

 

 

Draw Together!

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I am an incredibly blessed artist! Truly I feel this is so not only because I get to spend each day drawing, painting, and making all sorts of things with yarn, but also because I have wonderful friends with whom I get to share these loves. As a companion to a recent post on my Knitterly Arts blog, I wanted to share the incredible joy I have in drawing weekly with a couple of dear friends. These gals have become my friends because we love to draw. I look forward to Fridays when we get together at a locale downtown Kernersville to sketch and draw in our books. There’s a lot of chatting and laughing while we do so, which probably makes our drawings all the better! And when we hunker down for the winter months at Eclection, we also sip tea as we draw the incredible surroundings there!

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Danny Gregory recently posted a wonderful piece on his blog about getting together with others to draw. It truly will bring you much delight, inspiration, and motivation to keep drawing!! In my early years of making art, I did so without knowing others who did this also. Once I found groups with which to sketch or draw the figure, my abilities and passion for drawing increased ten-fold! It really doesn’t have to be formal at all! No need to hire a model if you don’t want to, just draw each other as you all draw! Or draw the couch, chair, landscape, whatever is right in front of you wherever you’ve chosen to be.

These friendships have been and are a blessing in my life beyond description. I hope you too can find a drawing buddy or two or three…