To Walk Among the Shells

We just returned from a week at ocean’s side. It was much needed and I marvel at the gifts that came through the days with my husband’s family, through walks by the water, naps in a hammock, time to read and write in my journal.

The first day out on the beach I could barely walk. So many sea shells, broken and blistering in the sun, hurting my feet, distracting me from just simple sauntering along the ocean’s edge. This is how I arrive at the beach every year. The weeks leading up to the end of June never fail to wind me up into a complete frenzy. If I didn’t have this week built into my year, I shudder to think where I’d land. A whirling dervish, a spinning top, I get to land on soft sand and buoyant waves, letting my weary soul spin slowly down to where I can listen and be soul-quiet.

It was painfully evident that first day, as I walked among the shells…THIS is where life had gotten to—a bazillion gajillion details of daily living, caring, loving, making, erranding, upkeeping, idea-ing, and not-enough-time-ing. My eyes darted from shell to shell like a nervous hamster (not sure where that image comes from 😳), impeding my ability to walk forward. Back bent over as I walked, hunched to attend to every detail, shoulders perched to pick and choose, I suddenly realized how uncomfortable and tiring this was…this extreme attention to the details of life. How did I get to a place where I felt compelled to attend to every one and every thing? In shells and in life, I have a soft spot for the broken ones, a love for seeing beauty in chaos, a hunger for seeking and finding lovely colors and shapes. But it all gets to be too much for me, and I realize I’ve been bent over for way too long, and I’m in dire need of gazing at the horizon, at the vast ocean of Gods’s love and grace for me, for my family, for the world.

Do you get to these places too? I often chastise myself for how weary I am, for how strung-by-a-thread I feel, for all the shells I’m NOT able to tend to, or to find, or to turn over and really look at. I get stuck in the thinking that the bent-over life is the one we are called to. It takes coming to the beach to hear a gentle roar that speaks a different word or song. It often requires stepping away from the busy shell bank of daily life, so that my Father can left my chin to His dear face and I can once again start to relax and see in His eyes where all the brokenness will be made whole, all the undone will be complete, and where all the beauty resides. Shoulders lower, legs stop spinning, back straightens, and I begin to walk again, slowly, deliberately, less distracted by the crunching at my feet.

To walk among the shells with my eyes fixed on the horizon requires effort and daily tending. I’ll be bent over again I’m sure, nose in the broken and beautiful bits. But for now, home from the beach, my heart is still and my gaze transfixed on the One who holds all the details.

*****

It is my hope and desire to write more here. Yet I’m not wanting to use Facebook or Instagram as an announcement page. To you who are already following my blog, thank you for reading. My joy is to share some of the broken and beautiful bits of life and creativity with you.💗

Whoa and Wow

2018. Wow.

Am I just now realizing the magnitude of this? Nearly two and a half months into it, this number, a big one, it tells where I am, how far along I’ve come since 1965. This year, this 2018, I will be 53 and will celebrate 30 years married and will see my children turn 24, 21, and 16. Lord willing. Wow.

That’s all I can say…wow.

Couldn’t I just spend my days marveling at where I am? Could I not just take a moment, a year, a rest-of-a-life to say whoa.  Stop right here. Let’s pause and gather it all in and look deeply into one another’s faces?

For it shall not stay like this. I feel it already, the pull of years to come. Like Marty in the Future photograph, beginning to fade. Or like the moment’s before Scotty beams us up, pixels waving farewell. Can we not stop the world and get off for a moment to hold one another’s faces cupped in our hands and look, really look and say I love you and always shall?

Please do not forget.

Today, let me do just that with my pen and brush. Let me caress these faces I love, the landscape of Backyard, the hay bales of Silver Dapple. Let me hold them even if for a fleeting line to say I love you and always shall.

To say, if only to myself, please…please do not forget.

This act of loving is feeble and flimsy at best. Pieces of paper in a bound book. But it is how I know to say whoa and wow to 2018. It is my way of cupping my hands around the faces I love, the place that I live, the life that I have. There are miles to go before I sleep, as Frost would say, and there are miles of lines to log in my book through 2018 and beyond.

In this way, drawing and painting my life, I will not forget. And perhaps, when I fade from the photograph and my pixels wave their final farewell, these books will remain,

saying I love you…

and always shall.

-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!

Dawdle

“Oh I can waste a minute or two or hundreds…

that’s not a problem for me,” she says with ease.

Not a confession.

Just a statement of truth.

I envy her this. For I cannot dawdle.

Nope.

Not for long anyway.

I sit to stare out this window

to dream and gaze and wonder…

and immediately lines are dancing in my head,

words are forming into lines

pearls on a string

making hay with all

the wonder, the dream, the gaze.

***

It is all a poem, a painting.

Every leaf trembles with meaning.

Every tree and bush offers revel and rhyme.

Every brook sings sweetly of a tune from another land.

I hear it everywhere.

Under my chair, in laughter, in tears.

It perches on the feeder and roams in the woods.

It calls my name always to come play,

to paint and draw and make much.

This is why I have such a hard time wasting any minutes.

For even while staring out a window

I’m seeing and hearing …

and trying to decipher what I’m to do with all this beauty.

-jpe

*********

I have been making a concerted effort to just sit and stare out a window. Or to sit outside, which is definitely my preference, regardless of the yo-yo weather we are having here in NC. My intention each day is to be aware of where I am, look up, take in the surroundings of what my daily life brings. I’m drawing and sketching more of this in an effort to sink deeply into these moments. Or at least for the time period it takes to draw what I see out the window, or whilst sitting in our living room, or my studio. I’m also coming home from daily walks and sketching something I’ve seen. This is often from memory, but sometimes from a photo. That first drawing was made from a photo I took while walking at Reynolda Gardens last week. Nearly every step was so full of drawable-ness I could scarcely breathe let alone snap a pic with my phone.

All the world alive with loveliness. It is sometimes too much for me. I have to reign it in somehow and just be content with only one drawing, or just a sketch or two. I wish, oh golly how I wish, I could take in all that I see and hear and transpose it into my sketchbook. The doing of these drawings is less about having something to show, and more about grafting into my being all that I see, all that I hear. To somehow tattoo onto my heart and mind these lovely things so that in bleaker times I can remember them. So that when beauty is scarce, my heart is trained to look for, find and record the flowers that are blooming next to the carnage of a dying bush.

Dawdling does not come as easy for me as it does for my dear oldest daughter whose words open the poem. I am drawing inspiration from her and making an effort to dawdle more, to “waste” a few minutes or more (if indeed it is a waste!) by just looking, resting my eyes on what is around me, and holding my hands at bay for a little while before they burst into lines and splattered paint. I know it is not a waste. Not at all. It is the crucial ingredient for an artful life.

I hope you can dawdle a bit today too!

******

For more on dawdling, drawing, seeing our lives, and living with artful eye…

check out…

A practice of drawing your life in a sketchbook.

And…

I Hear It

Wouldn’t you like for me to tell you

the thing your heart has

always wanted to hear?

Wouldn’t you like to hear those words

feel them on your face

rumbling in your belly?

Wouldn’t you want to wake up each morning

to those eternal words

you’re starving to feast upon?

***

Out there we can hear it.

In the raucous birdsong

the breeze of leafing

the earth alive.

***

In here we feel it

under our feet pining and pebbling

where streams gurgle

waterfalls roar.

***

Surrounded by wood and wild flower

breathing the loamy undergrowth

hearing the sound of living…

I hear it.

Don’t you?

***

“I love you”, sing the birds.

“You are loved”, breathe the trees.

“We are loved”, roar the waters.

“All is love”, clap the leaves.

“You are cherished”, whispers everything.

Here.

Now.

Tomorrow.

Forever.

-jpe

Pen & Watercolor sketches made at Reynolda Gardens yesterday.

Faber Castell fineliner pens: Brush Tip, 1.5 , XS .

American Journey watercolors & DaVinci Gouache.

Sketchbook Chat #5: Ordinary Drawings from an Ordinary Life

It is my desire to resume my Sketchbook Chats, so I’m picking up where I left off and offering you the fifth one!

I was out in my backyard drawing the rhododendron bush that is showing off right by our deck. I had planned to video more outside there, but alas, a neighbor began to mow his lawn, so I came indoors to show more sketches, drawings, paintings, all from my sketchbooks over the last several weeks.

I hope you are continuing to draw and sketch your life, finding beauty along the way!

Enjoy!

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

Oh No… I think I’ve ruined it!

This is such a regular thought that goes marching through my head as I create, that I am used to it now, and I’ve even grown to expect it. It wasn’t always so. There were years that  a fair panic would nearly shut me down completely when this thought would blaze its way into my consciousness as I painted or knitted. Nowadays, I have the thought less frequently and I’m better able to say “yeah, yeah I know, it might all fall apart here, but let’s just wait and see, or let me just try this…” And 9 times out of 10 the painting resolves itself, or I figure out how to bring about a satisfying stopping point. :0)

In both the above painting and in my recently completed weaving, I’ve had to deal with this pesky thought. Watercolor has a mind all its own. Add to that my own purposeful slap-dashery approach and you’ll likely have numerous points where the thing feels totally out of control! I now know that usually a press of paper-towel and a fresh splash of color will do the trick of wrangling the watery hues into some semblance of an exuberant image. This is actually what I love most – a painting or drawing that teeters on the edge of chaos, yet somehow holds together.

I’m finding this to be true in weaving as well! How delightful to be able to work with fibers in a manner quite similar to painting. I do not plan it all out. That is not how I like to work. I like to have a general , overall feeling or gist to a painting or weaving, and then dive in with an intuitive search for that initial feel and/or look. Personally, this is exciting to me! So when I have that pesky thought that I may have ruined it, it is an opportunity to do a couple of things:

1. LET GO of my original, albeit loose, plan or idea.

2. USE whatever I’m perceiving as ruined as the basis for something new.

3. CONTINUE working with a Well-I’m-not-sure-where-this-is-going, but-I’ll-see-it-to-the-end attitude.

Most of the time, I’m satisfied with the outcome of drawings and paintings that go through this “ruined” phase. And this weaving is also resolving quite nicely even though I’ve had this thought more than once as I added colors and textures. Perhaps, when we are new to a craft, this pesky thought bothers us more frequently. It’s good to remember…

It’s not ruined……it’s only re-routed.

It isn’t a failure…..it’s an opportunity.

It isn’t hopeless…..from this point on magic and mystery ensues!

Here’s to a day of magic and mystery as we weave our lives with color and grace amid the “ruins”!

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

InkTober UnderWay

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

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

FINALLY!!

SketchbookChat

SKETCHBOOK CHAT #4!

Drawings from a two-day sketch crawl in Boone, NC with my parents!

Tips and techniques for you to try as well!

Enjoy!

Artfully Yours,

Jennifer

My Trellis

BirthdaySky

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

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

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

Marion&MeforTea

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

ShatleySprings2016

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

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