Harvest

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If I look back over this year as if my life were a field that should produce a crop, it appears at first glance to be spare and thin. Surgery in June and its aftermath, from which I’m still recovering, makes me think the bumper crop will be sparse this year and for good reason.

Yet I’ve been looking through my sketchbooks and artwork I’ve made this year in preparation for my upcoming Art Show at Southwinds Gallery. Last year’s show was an epic event that should have proved to me that much rain and storms often yield a bounteous crop! I’ve been marveling, once again, as I prepare for this show, that indeed there has been a profusion of art growing from these fields of creativity I tend. It is humbling. It is head-scratching. How? How has this happened in the midst of what has felt like turmoil?

I really don’t know the answer to that. All I know is that what I thought would be a sparse harvest, actually looks much like the drawing above, made at the Ciener Botanical Gardens this fall…a profusion of color, flora and fauna springing out of much rain and not a few storms.

I’m grateful. This is an understatement. Gratitude to my heavenly Father who is bringing me through a year of difficulty, all the while having planted and sowed such beauty along the way. As I flip through my sketchbooks and look at the pile of knitting and crochet wrought this year, I’m humbled at how I’ve been allowed to create despite the churned soil and wretched storms.

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It occurs to me, as it has in the past, that each and every drawing I make, is a chronicling of something I’m grateful for. It is putting down on paper, a visual recounting, of what I find beautiful in my life. Wow…there really is A LOT that is beautiful. And I don’t often realize this truth unless I stop and view the harvest.

It is my hope that this post does not seem self-congratulating in any way. Oh dear, it really could be perceived in that light. My intention is to confess to you that my natural tendency is to view my life as meager, sparse, UNDERwhelming, UNexciting, and thin. I realize time and time again, that this gift of art could quite possibly have been granted me for no other reason than to reveal to ME the breath-catching beauty that is all around me in my life no matter the circumstances…to show ME that the yield of a life is not measured in huge accomplishments but in the day to day small things that add up to a satisfying harvest. This is a lesson I seem to have to learn over and over and over again. Truly humbling.

This makes me excited about the art show this year! Especially since I get to share it with my dear friend and fellow artist Debbie Schiappa! She and I have, for a few years now, drawn together on Friday mornings in and around Kernersville. We will be showcasing some of our drawings and paintings of our town along with other artworks of various kinds. Saturday, November 22nd from 4-7 will be a wonderful day to view just some of the harvest from each of our year’s crop. I would love for you to join us there!!

It will truly be a harvest celebration!

Michelle’s Challenge: “Go Big!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

nig•gle (ˈnɪg əl)

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

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

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Pure Joy

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I’m not sure I know what it means. Nor do I feel I am doing it well. But I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the words, “Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds.” James 1:2

I am certain it does NOT mean a plastic smile. Nor does it MERELY mean to gloss over the immediate reality of pain and discomfort to claim that One Day…One day all will be well. This is certainly true and does hold a great deal of hope for us. But the above call, to consider it pure joy, is definitely speaking to the day-to-day experience of it, the ongoing reality of the trial in one’s life, the uncertainty as to whether it will get better, or whether one will have to endure it to the end of one’s days.

In these months post-surgery in early June, I’ve been holding onto that One Day idea. The surgeon and his nurses speak this way: it’s an adjustment period and once you get through that, in a few months, you’ll feel great! I’m going on four months now and I’m not there. In fact, I’ve developed other issues that have my experienced surgeon in a bit of a quandary. First it was a fistula and now ongoing inflammation has developed which is not responding to the antibiotics he has had me on for weeks now. I’ll be going in for testing to see if he can identify what’s going on and prescribe a medicine or other regimen to get rid of whatever is causing the issue. Now I’m thinking this will be more of the same: try this med, see what happens, if it doesn’t work, try another, hope that the side effects are minimal, and if that doesn’t work… Ugh.

I’m now needing the fortitude to find joy, pure joy, in the midst of this trial. I don’t want to “gloss over”. I want to approach each day with an eye toward understanding what these huge words mean…consider it pure joy.

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One thing I’m certain of, is that in drawing, I know this joy. Or perhaps to put it more succinctly…it is THROUGH drawing that this joy comes to me. It might be called happiness at times. But not always. One’s happiness is often tied to how a drawing turns out, whether I’m pleased with it or not, whether it is “good” (whatever that means).  There are times, however, when I may not be feeling good about my drawing, or I may not be feeling good period (as I was on Friday morning, drawing the two you see here, with my friend Debbie, up the road at Smith Hollow Farm), and I STILL experience that joy.

So… I draw. And as I draw, something wells up inside me. It may be called peace. It may be tranquility. It may be an assurance that somehow, some way all will not only be well, but it IS well, just at that moment. It matters not how the drawings turn out. Indeed I felt what I produced on that soggy morning was well…a bit soggy. The act of drawing becomes a conduit for joy to break in, no matter what my body may be feeling at the moment or what may come in the future. Drawing, quite literally, draws me into the present moment and ushers in a joy that does not necessarily include a grin on my face.

It also helps to have an encouraging friend, as I did on Friday. Someone who holds out hope that, yes, tomorrow will be different and possibly for the better. Drawing outside causes me to start thinking of all that I DO have: the beautiful outdoors, the cool breeze, the love of my family and the encouragement of friends. Drawing the people, places, and things in my life causes me to see beyond the resident discomfort and pain and allows me a new set of eyes for the grandeur of what’s all around me. If this sounds too pollyanna for you, I do not apologize.

In suffering of any kind, we can choose one of at least two paths. We can either be sour, bitter, beat down, and resentful. Or we can take a deep look at what it might mean to “consider it pure joy”. I’m choosing the latter because I know there is LIFE there, and there is death in the former. I feel the sour, bitter, beat down, and resentful start to bubble up. And I’m battling it with drawing… my pen a sword, my watercolors a shield for the fight for joy.

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It’s worth every minute of time facing an empty page in my sketchbook and filling it with what is right in front of me: fences, friends, family, flowers, cows, anything! Through the act of drawing I’m understanding a bit more of what it may mean to consider it all pure joy.

Won’t you join me?

A Story to Tell

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A few days ago, I was out walking in the morning. Mr. Whicker has bought the land on the back side of our neighborhood and has cleared out the brush, put up a wire fence, to make a lovely pasture (one of several he has on his land) for his cows. I’ve been visiting this back field all summer (a painting of the view here) to see if the cows have been allowed out to graze. This was the first day I’d ever seen them there.

The area surrounding the fence is overgrown with kudzu. Yuck! So I waded into the knee-high kudzu covered brush to get right up by the fence and take a few pics of the cows out in the field. All the while, I was hearing a munching, crunching sound over to the left not far from where I was standing. I did not see anything, so I didn’t pay much attention as I took pictures.

Then, I saw him. One ear, peeking around as he munched on the leaves and kudzu of a small tree only about 10 feet from where I was standing. I began clicking away, capturing the cow as he ate him morning meal. He did not see me for a while…and then…as it dawned on him that someone was standing there disturbing his breakfast reverie, his eye got bigger and he bolted! The sound of his huge girth pelting the ground as he ran away down the hill, is something I’ll not forget. He let out a howl and alerted another cow, apparently also enjoying a kudzu covered tree right next to him, whom I had not seen. The two of them dashed down the hill to join the others, all of them looking back at me, as if to see whether I would join the chase.

This is just one of many things I LOVE about living right next to a farm. Oh my…what stories I have to tell!! And I love to try telling them in my drawings and paintings.

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I created a piece from one snap of my camera where he is still munching, oblivious to me. I am absolutely tee-totally having fun with watercolor and collage! Remember this one? Oh my…I feel a series coming on!

But what excites me even more is that I’m going back to Skool!!! Yes, folks, I’ve signed up to take a class, actually SIX of them, starting October 3rd!! I CAN’T WAIT! The same day this encounter with the cow happened, I saw THIS VIDEO on Danny Gregory’s blog about the upcoming semester of Sketchbook Skool…I drooled. Seriously.

Not only do I get to be taught by a couple of artists whom I have greatly esteemed for several years now, Veronica Lawlor and Melanie Reim, but I also get to have a day of sketching in Paris with a French artist, and of course, a class from Danny himself. All 6 of the teachers in this series are teaching about STORYTELLING, and oh boy am I excited about this!! The price for these classes seemed too good to pass up!

So be watching here, as I post my learnings, my homework, and whatever else gets stirred up as go back to Skool! I. CAN’T. WAIT.  Did I say that already? 😉

 

Out and About

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I’ve been out drawing various places on Friday mornings and relishing every  minute! My friend Debbie and I parked our drawing chairs in the Gardens, finding all kinds of autumn beauty to draw and paint.

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A few weeks ago, we ventured just across the street from where I live, to draw the horses at Smith Hollow Farm. My line drawings of the horses kept looking a lot like donkeys (ahem), due to not giving them the correctly proportioned long legs! I’m not sure my watercolor sketch got it right either, but they seem more like horses to me.

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Near the end of our time at the farm, I turned my chair to look down the road. I dashed off this simple watercolor and didn’t think very highly of it at the time. Debbie liked it a lot and encouraged me to look at it again in a week or so…I might like it better, she said. This happens to both of us fairly regularly…not liking what we’ve drawn, but finding that it seems to improve a bit after getting away from it for a while. I’m not exactly sure why that is. Something to do with being too close to it at the time of making the drawing, and needing a bit of breathing space.

I’m also busy revamping my Etsy Shop! I’ve decided to create a second Etsy shop purely for the knit & crochet patterns, so that my current shop, now named Drawn2Life will only have original works of art, cards & prints, and signed copies of my books.  It isn’t quite there yet, if you happen to visit. Soon….very soon!

I hope you are able to drawcument something about your life today. I have an encounter with a cow that I plan to paint today…can’t wait to share with you!

On the Edge

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This one just about got away from me! Some of you may feel that it actually DID get away from me. I dunno. It does seem to be teetering on the edge of chaos. One of the things I love about watercolor is how it has a mind of its own and begs to be allowed to frolic however it will. I like the look of a painting that at first seems chaotic and you’re not sure exactly what you’re looking at. But once your eyes adjust and land on a few distinct things, the image begins to make sense. I’m not saying this one totally fits that bill, but it’s close. I like the explosion of it…the unhindered color works held together only by the little picket fence…just like in real life.

Daily I walk by this neighbor’s small garden spot that surrounds their mailbox. I’m pretty sure that’s bougainvillea there blooming in red!  Gorgeous reddish pink flowers that look like paper! It is set off by this silvery looking plant with yellow spike flowers here and there. I continue to marvel at how I really do not expect to see such beauty in my own neighborhood. Not until I look for it, zoom in on small areas, photograph it, and paint it. Kind of like being a hunter.  I have to peel back the layers to reveal what’s actually there.

Beauty in chaos. Yep. I like that.

A New View

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I am a creature of habit. I wake up around the same time each morning. I love my morning routine of walking, journaling, reading, writing. I eat meals at approximately the same times each day. I have favorite sketchbooks I stick with. I shop for groceries at the same places. I drive the same routes to wherever I’m going. Yes, there’s comfort in familiarity. Change, for me, is often unwelcome.

Yet change nearly always brings many benefits. One huge benefit is that I’m forced to see things from a new perspective, or I simply see new things period! Circumstances beyond our control can shift our perspective in really good ways. Both surgeries have done this in my life. Most recently, when I came home from the hospital, I knew I wanted to go for little walks, no matter how short, no matter how bent over and shuffling I was. Just to move my body, get the blood flowing, and be outdoors breathing fresh air and seeing sky, trees, grass, etc. I love to walk.

Even on my walks I tend to take the same route day in and day out. This summer I began taking a different route due to not wanting to tackle hills yet. This led me to walk down into our neighborhood instead of up and out of our neighborhood. Off of one of the cul de sacs is a view I hadn’t seen in a while. Mr. Whicker, as you know, has a farm at the top of our neighborhood. Last year he purchased more land at the back of his property and this is a view from the cul de sac. He leveled the field and planted wheat or hay (whatever it is he feeds his cows). I have loved walking down to gaze on the glowing field over the fence. Vines have grown along the posts and wire fence. I do love having new views…especially for drawing and painting!

So I’m embracing change in my life. I’m enjoying new views, new perspectives, and new work as a creative person. Even my body is having to get used to a new way of working. This too will become familiar one day. But for now, so much is different. Discouragement and fear licks at my heels some days. I’m doing battle with it by knitting, drawing and painting. Yes, they are familiar things to me…but they allow me to absorb and accept the new in a celebratory way. They function as anchors, rooting me to the ground as things change daily.

I hope you are able to experience some change in your own life. Embrace it with a drawing! Celebrate it in paint! Or knit your way through it one stitch at a time.

Stress Relief Knitting

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A few weeks back, at a soccer game of Maddie’s, I had to go stand way down at the far end of the field behind all the parents on the line.

The stress was getting to me.

Multiple coaches (I don’t understand why this is needed?) were hollering on the sidelines at the girls. Parents were hollering. All the other games surrounding us…there was hollering.

Oh. Did I mention there was a lot of hollering?

And a lot of scoring. By the other team. :/

My fingers itched. I needed to be doing something besides listening to all the hollering and watching the other team score.

So the next time…

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Yep. I brought my knitting with me! Yay for me! Because I didn’t stress out nearly so much!

There was still hollering. And some scoring (by both teams, but mostly the other). But my hands were busy. I can watch a soccer game even though I’m knitting rounds and rounds of stockinette on a sock.

And boy did I motor along on this sock! Wow.

*Note to self: When you want to speed up your knitting–go to a soccer game and knit!

**Second note to self: When you’re feeling a bit stressy–knit! And it will relieve the stress immensely!

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Then when you’ve finished knitting your socks, you can sit back with them cozying your feet.

No stress there at all. 🙂

***End Note: “Hollering” is the North Carolina mountain term for “yelling”. Just to be clear. 🙂

Oh. And I grew up in the mountains of NC. Just to be clearer. (or is it “more clear”…?)

I’m Off…

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I’m off to draw and knit at will

Where life will lead, my days to fill.

A week, a month, I cannot say

I’m going into the field to play.

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There are yarns to knit and lines to draw…

…weaving them in a bouquet to enthrall

as I scurry about the rough hewn path;

amid the wild flowers I’ll run and laugh.

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For too much “must-do” is simply too much.

So I’m off of Facebook, this blog and such.

But if you’d like to see where I am,

You can follow me over on Instagram.

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Life is full! We live it just once.

Take a break, pare down, find the essence.

Off the grid and out in the field

See your life beautiful, a bounty to yield.

-jpe

April 21, 2014

Tulip Pair!

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The paint is barely dry…and these two fresh off-the-drawing-table tulip paintings are now at Southwinds Gallery here in Kernersville! Be sure to call Angie at Southwinds (993-0818) or drop by the Gallery to see them! Each of them measures 9″x12″. The perfect size for gift giving. Perhaps you have someone you’d like to give a painting to for Easter! Or a hint to your spouse for an Easter gift for you might be just the thing!

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These are only a few of the tulips now blooming at our Ciener Botanical Gardens which have just begun to bloom and will be blooming over the next three weeks. When I was there to draw last week, I got to meet the new Executive Director, Mr. John Whisnett (sp?), at the Gardens and he told us how they plant early blooming tulips as well as late blooming tulips so that there’s an abundance for several weeks!  Be sure to visit the gardens for a lovely walk and time to sit and draw, or paint, or knit, or just think.