A Week of Blind Sight

“Art does not reproduce what we see. It makes us see.” ~ Paul Klee

Seven days. One week. The length of a nice vacation or a hike on the Appalachian Trail. Each and every day of creating marks on 10″ x 10″ Fabriano Artistico watercolor paper, felt like a blind endeavor. I am not trained in abstraction nor have I an art degree. Each morning as I woke early and eager to begin these pages, I felt I had absolutely no idea what I was doing nor where I was headed. I may have had some vague notion of how I wanted to begin, what marks to put down first. But then it was my intent to respond intuitively to the marks, brushwork, colors and lines previously set down on the paper. In nearly every case i hit a point where I felt all was lost, I had run into a brick wall. But years of experience quickly move me in another direction, to keep going, to hang with it until…I start to see something.

“Look at life with the eyes of a child.” ~ Henri Matisse 

This is not my first foray into abstraction. Many years ago I painted lots and lots of acrylic on canvas abstracts, or non-objective works, full of color and movement. Several of them adorn our walls. Some have been purchased, others sit in closets or sketchbooks. I don’t quite know what made me stop making them, except for the never ending childlike curiosity I have about all kinds of art and creative endeavors. It is likely that some other interest, like knitting or free-form crochet took hold. But I never stopped making little abstracts in my sketchbook. They are some of my favorite pages. Even my stitchworks of late look much like a painted and drawn abstract painting. I’ve only substituted fabrics and thread for the colors and lines.

Taking up the challenge that Tara Leaver presented to use small bits of time to create a painting a day (or really any other creative work) seemed the perfect way to stay with these beloved marks and see where they might lead. Though I have enjoyed every single day of this challenge, I feel I am nowhere near done with this, and so I’m glad I have 90 more days of the #100DayProject to keep making marks. And I will certainly be making more 10″ x 10″ works, as I have today, even after the Challenge is over. Somehow, through the blind mark making, I am beginning to see.

“Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand, as if it were necessary to understand, when it is simply necessary to love.” ~ Claude Monet

What I’m seeing is not really anything of magnitude. As much as I wish I could see a specific medium or approach to be “my thing”, what I see is a love for and true enjoyment of many ways to make marks on a page. Just when I think I love gray passages of color from acrylic being worked into the watercolor, then I’ll realize how I adore pure watercolor, oozling & wazzling on the page with just a few lines of carbon pencil or oil pastel. And just when I think “Oh yeah Jen, you love the bold bright color”, then I’m longing for quieter tones and lots of white paper. What I’m seeing is that I love it all. All of this resides in me and loves coming out to play on a page, a canvas, a knitted sweater, or a collaged and stitched fragment of fabric. It is a love for life and living that longs to come out in some tangible way. The voices in my head, all discussing and pretending to understand why I do this, are just rubbish. It is not necessary to understand. It is simply necessary to love. Thank you Monet.

And thank you Tara! For presenting a pilgrimage, inviting us to walk it, creating  art in small increments of time, in a series (if the above is really a series?), and to listen as we walk. Thank you for your ongoing encouragement to keep drawing and painting, to push through the blindness until we see through the art to what really brings us joy. I’ll be carrying this week with me for quite a while, and even continuing to make non-objective works of art both in and outside of my sketchbook!

Enjoy the slideshow of this week’s journey into seeing. It includes Day 8. 🙂

“The main thing is to be moved, to love, to hope, to tremble, to live.” ~ Auguste Rodin

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Process vs. Progress

I am a process girl! Yes, indeed…I love to delve into the methods, the whys and wherefores of making, the steps (or lack of)  to creating, the slow path of stitching, the zen of painting, and the mindfulness of drawing. This is where my writer self gets all excited. To even attempt to put into words what is going on inside my head and heart as I make…ooh yes…lots of good stuff from which to learn and grow. To quote a favorite movie which you will likely laugh at, the Hannah Montana movie: “Ain’t about how fast I get there. Ain’t about what’s waitin’ on the other side. It’s the climb.”

I also love progress! I would not be completely happy if I just camped out in the process of making without also seeing that there is progress, a moving along toward a desired end. It actually does matter to me what’s waitin’ on the other side (end product of creating) and it matters to me that I see some kind of moving along a path toward that end. It may be switchbacks, or crazy circuitous roads, but at least there’s a bit of progress. Yes, it’s the climb! But I want the climb to be marked by signs of forward movement, gaining ground, a slow and steady march toward a thing of beauty. Or at least beautiful to me.

The #100Day Project and Tara Leaver’s 7-Day Mini Painting Challenge, are certainly challenging me! Only a week into the daily mark-making sketches in my book, and 5 days into Tara’s Challenge, I am finding way too much chatter in my head and heart as I draw and paint. The voices are far more talkative when I tackle the 10″ x 10″ works on paper for the 7-Day series. I chose to take a similar approach to what I’m doing in the #100Day Project – to make marks on a page in an intuitive manner. I even wrote on the first page of the designated sketchbook for the 100 days: NO THINKING!

Ha!

Here’s a peek into my thoughts as I create these abstract works. I posted this on Instagram (follow me there:) on Day 5. I’m wondering if there is any way to silence them. The voices in my head have a definite cartoon character tone: I approach the paper and mediums with “I think I can I think I can” running through my mind. Then when I’m into it a bit I hear Piglet “Oh d-deary dear, oh deary dear!” At a point of disaster I hear the exclamation when a large shiny ball has been hung on Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree, “YOU KILLED IT!!” Sometime after a lot of head hanging and hand wringing I hear Lucy’s 5-cent positive thinking phrases. After several attempts to run toward the football and kick it, only to feel I have missed it yet again, Eeyore kindly says, “Funny thing about accidents…they don’t happen until they happen.” Rafiki helps me get to the end with “Look harder!” And “Change is good”. As I lay down my brushes and oil pastels I join him in “The past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it.”💗 But my favorite Rafiki mantra I’ll take with me on my way out to walk is “Asante sana squash banana!” Humor and a sense of lightheartedness is always the best remedy. I mean goodness gracious…it IS only paper and paint.

I don’t always hear these voices. There are occasions where I’ve worked so quickly, or in a familiar ,well-worn method, that I’m just in the zone, drawing and painting without banter. It is lovely. But what I’m recognizing this week is that when I’m challenged, stretched out of my comfort zone a bit, committed to creating in a certain category of art, then the chatter begins. But it isn’t a bad thing. It’s actually the pathway to progress. Yes, you heard me say it…the voices of worry, dread, concern, along with their accompanying Keep it up! Keep going! Don’t quit now! (the 5-cent positive Lucy-isms) somehow bring me along to discovering new things in my art. They lead me through to places where I didn’t know existed, or that I could even achieve. What feels like a free-fall into a black ravine, turns out to be a “false flat” where I’m actually going up the climb and not down. The “mistakes”, failed passages, “incorrect” colors can be tunnels leading to new vistas along the way of progress as an artist.

Here are some of the new vistas I’m finding –

  1. What I love in my sketchbook, may not be something I love on larger paper. Hm.
  2. Now get ready for this…brace yourself: I actually do  like a gray mush of paint. Gasp!! What??This has happened numerous times as I work white acrylic into the existing wet watercolor paint. When it turns muddy or gray, I think I’ve ruined it. But after it dries, I see these passages as lovely color and an offset to all the bright colors around it.
  3. I adore many expressions of paint and line. Really.  I swoon over the simplest of pages. (Like that second one up there with just a bit of green watercolor, a black line, and a spot of orangey-pink collage.) But then I also drool over the softer, murky passages of acrylic paint in the watercolor. The latter has a bit more drama or mood. The former is just sheer joy. To me. 🙂

So this is good. So far, so good. In a couple of days Tara’s challenge will be over and I will have 90 more days of the mark-making project I’ve set my hand to. I am still so excited about that! These pages in my sketchbook seem like pure abandon to make marks howsoever I like! I even find myself wishing I could make about ten a day! One of them creates in my head several other ideas. Perhaps I shall. Perhaps I shall also continue making 10″ x 10″ paintings. I like this. A lot.

Thank you for hanging in there with me on this VERY LONG PROCESSING of my recent PROGRESS as a mark-making fool! You really are kind to bear with me for this length of a post! I do hope you are also making progress in your #100DayProject or whatever creative task you have in hand!

Artfully Yours,

Jennifer

 

#100dayproject

(Day 1 page)

The idea of 100 days of sticking to just one way of creating is not appealing to me.  I am skeptical of my ability to hang in there for that long. Also, I seem to thrive on variety, having the freedom to create as ideas come to me, leaping from drawing everyday life, to stitching fragments, to knitting and crocheting and many other things in between. To actually pick ONE and say “I’m gonna stick with this for 100 days!” fills me with doubt and makes my eyes glaze over. At least, this is how I’ve reacted each year the #100dayproject posts have rolled around on Instagram. Nope. Not for me. Thank you.

And yet…simmering on the back burner the last few days was a question. Could I find anything I might even remotely like to do for 100 days? Something that feels free, varied and allows for leaps within one vein of making? Awake unusually late last night, a flash of brilliance (or madness) tickled my fancy till I was standing at my drawing table making marks in a brand new sketchbook. (Queue up the Hallelujah Chorus here.:)

At one minute until midnight on the first day of the #100dayproject, I posted a rather poorly lit photo of the first entry (see first image above).  I had recently purchased a random sketchbook with 132 pages of Mixed-Media paper perfect for housing all 100 days. I had only filled the first page with a tulip sketch, testing the paper for its ability to withstand watercolor, colored pencil, marker and oil pastels. I loved the 7″ x 9″ pages and their thick 120 lb. feel. The slick paper allows a lovely hand to swooshing pastels around. I knew this would be perfect for the next 100 days of expressive, intuitive, mark-making pages. Here are some of my own self-imposed guidelines:

  1. Non-objective, intuitive, abstract works. As scribbly and child-like as I want to make them.
  2. Any media, any combination including watercolor, acrylic, pencils (both water media and wax), oil pastels, soft pastels, grease pencils, charcoal, collage (both painted papers and found papers), markers, pens, fine liners, ink, bamboo sticks, calligraphy pens, etc, etc.
  3. Must work quickly without thinking. I love working like this, without critiquing as I go. The only thought allowed will be, “what do I want to put down next?”
  4. Only one per day in this book. But I can, if I want to and if time allows, create more mark-making works in other sketchbooks or on canvas.
  5. Space on the left hand side to stamp the date, write the number for each of the 100 days, and any thoughts on the process for that day I’d like to record. Love this last piece of the process.

I could hardly get to sleep I was so excited about this adventure. I’ll post many of them on Instagram but perhaps not every day. I might just post them in groups of four or a weeks worth of them at a time. We shall see. My aim is to create each one first thing in the day as part of my morning practice of reflection. Simple, short and oh so sweet!

(Day 2 page)

I’m also considering beginning Tara Leaver’s 7-Day Challenge along these same lines. Tara is a wonderful abstract artist I follow and whose teaching and work has been very inspiring and helpful to me. I love receiving her newsletters filled with such helpful advice and encouragement for the artistic path. I look forward to reading what she has to say every week! A 7-Day Challenge is far less intimidating than 100 Days!  I did this challenge two years ago but used Freeform Crochet as the method of creating small fiber paintings. It was a super way to explore all that yarn and stitches can do in creating images. For this year’s 7-Day Challenge, I’d like to create the same mark-making works I’m doing for the #100DayProject but on slightly larger paper or on mini canvases. I haven’t decided which yet. But I need to decide soon since The Challenge  begins tomorrow! What in the world has gotten into me?? A 7-Day Challenge AND a 100 Day Project? Good Grief. I must surely be crazy!

Crazy about art, crazy about color, lines, shapes and marks on a page! Wish me luck! Better yet…join me in one (or both) of these ventures! It will be fun, probably challenging at times, but rewarding to have a nearly filled sketchbook with pages and pages of merry marks!

Here’s to the next 7 Days and on to 100!!

Truly…I think I need to get my head examined.

*****

If you are interested in Tara’s 7-Day Challenge, be sure to read the highlighted post above. There you will find a free downloadable worksheet designed to help you pinpoint what you’d like to try for the 7 Days. We can do anything for 7 Days, can’t we? It’s the 100 that feels a bit daunting. But I’m giving it a go! <3

 

New Specs

Change is not easy for me. Not one bit. When it became obvious that my beloved red thin glasses were not helping me to see well either far away or close up, I waited a very long time (about a year) before doing anything about it. I knew that I would have to let go of the shape of those glasses since they were not deep enough to accommodate the graduated lens I needed for close up work as well as long distance sight. Although I really wanted red glasses again, I wasn’t willing to spend huge amounts of time looking for red ones with just the right shape. I decided to be decisive. To take the first pair I liked and which felt comfortable on my face. Of course…the lens had to be large enough for my aging eyes.

The same thing is true whenever I feel the need to take inventory in my creative life. I have at various times over the years, felt overwhelmed by all the creating, all the online sharing, all the many avenues of living an Artful Life that I’ve established over the years. Just as my eye glasses were not fitting my needs for seeing clearly, so too the shape of my creative life was blurring my sight, hindering me from being able to focus in any direction.

I took some time for this. Indeed I’m still working through it all as I journal daily and really hone in on what my WHY is, what motivates and underpins all the artistic pursuits I love. I keep coming back to my sketchbook practice. It is from this daily lens on life…sketching my world…that all the rest flows. And it is this lens that I am once again focusing on, letting it be the One Thing that I keep first and foremost as an artist. Drawing my life. Drawcumenting the Days.

Oh to be sure, I’m knitting and crocheting, and teaching my lovely classes of women who want to learn. I have a commission painting going, and ideas for trying out some abstract acrylics on canvas. But these are secondary to the sketchbook lens through which I can see my life for the beauty that is there. It is this focus that is enabling me to shed a few pounds of extra weight online.

To that end, I’ve trimmed and sorted, weeded and organized it all. Well, most of it. You might like to spend some time browsing around jenniferedwards.com to see what’s here. And please do subscribe to my blog/website as I will no longer be sending out the Artful Lifeline weekly newsletter. Indeed, I haven’t done so in many months. I’ve realized that this blog and website can be exactly as my newsletter was…a place for folks to subscribe and receive encouragement and art news right in their email boxes. So please do subscribe here if you haven’t already! Click on the highlighted link above or find on the Home page the spot for signing up. Thank you so much for journeying with me here!

If you enjoy drawing your life in a sketchbook, check out my You Tube Channel for the Sketchbook Chats and other drawing videos. I have spruced up my Channel and am planning on adding other Sketchbook Chats in the near future.

And I am always active on Instagram. Such a fun place to hang out with other artists! I hope to see you there!

But now…it is snowing outside! Yes people….you read that right…SNOWING!!!!!! IN MARCH! So I must go draw it!! My new sketchbook is calling to me and I can see it ever so clearly now! I hope you are finding joy in living Artfully, following the lines of your life in a sketchbook filled with color!

Draw On my friends…Draw On!

Jennifer

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

Discover Your Life Beautiful…One Drawing At A Time

I can’t believe it! I am so so excited to finally have these 12 lessons to offer to you! Years ago, I wrote a lesson a week on my blog. I called it Draw Your Life Mini Lessons. The response was positive and several asked for the lessons in book form. Though I made a couple of attempts at that, it just didn’t seem like the right container for the lessons. At the beginning of this year, I got the idea to expand the lessons into an ebook and video course. It is now complete and available in my ETSY shop.

The self-guided course is now called Discover Your Life Beautiful, One Drawing At A Time. It is the same 12 Lessons compiled into a 64-page ebook instantly downloaded upon purchase. Each lesson has a password protected video to view which offers more discussion on that Lesson’s topic as well as a look inside my sketchbooks, filled over the last ten years. The course is equal parts inspiration and motivation, tips and techniques, as well as instruction for four different approaches to drawing. As you move through the lessons you will come full circle to Draw Up A Chair and begin again and again.

The course is a comprehensive approach to seeking out and finding beauty in your everyday life. Everything from creative blocks you may experience, to tons of ideas for creating pages in your sketchbook, plus instruction for drawing in such a way that you experience your life more fully.

Of all the creative endeavors I enjoy, this practice of drawing my life is at the center. From this daily habit, I’m enabled to see my life for the beauty that may be out in the open or hidden from view. It takes drawing to uncover it sometimes, and sketching it celebrates the life I’ve been granted.

The overall emphasis in this course is DRAWING AS A PRACTICE, NOT AS A PRODUCT. My desire is that in working through the lessons, you will experience a freedom to drawcument your life without any burden to do so in a certain way or to have a polished product. We find love and beauty in the activity of drawing…not necessarily in the finished sketch.

I offer this course to you for the reasonable price of $45. My hope is that anyone might feel they can begin this life-affirming activity of sketching and drawing their life.

I would love to hear from you as to how it’s going, should you choose to purchase the course and work through the lessons. Whether you are a beginner at sketching or a seasoned artist, you will find something in this course to encourage and inspire you!

Click Here to visit my ETSY shop to purchase.

Enjoy!

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

Wind Walking

It’s been a while since I’ve posted any of my poetry. Oh I do have these little rhyming ditties trot through my head now and again. Most of the time I just roll my eyes and go on about my day. But this one “blew through” my head as I woke this morning complete with an illustration. 🙂

I woke to the wind howling in the trees.

“Come walk with me! Won’t you, pretty please?”

I answered the wind by stepping out the door.

Now my hat and scarf…they are no more.

-jpe 2.9.2017

I love wind. Do you? I always have. It seems to call to me, beckon me outdoors, even if just for a bit. Today I shall walk in it. It’s supposed to stick around for the entire day…fun! I s’pose I wouldn’t like wind so much if I lived where the Mistral blows for days and days on end. Although, if I were in Provence, I know I wouldn’t mind it AT ALL!! 🙂

Anyway, I’m headed out the door. I think I’ll leave my hat and scarf inside. 🙂

Who cares about the hair, right? 🙂

(Let’s see just how many smiley faces I can include in one post!)

Did you know that I have a book of my little rhyming poems?

It’s titled Words On A Line. 🙂

Have an Artful Day!!

Drawn To Iron

I do not like to iron. At all.

I seem to be in a place where my heart needs re-orienting. Something is in need of being smoothed out. Yet I tell myself I like the chaotic wrinkles, the jumble of piles of laundry. I’m well aware that I’m speaking in veiled terms here. You’ll just have to go with this.

My husband wears black shirts that need ironing. No starch. Just a simple smoothing out of what the dryer doesn’t do. One shirt comes out of the dryer and is hung up on the rod in our laundry closet. A few days later, a second one. And several days later there’s a forest of black shirts hanging there waiting to be ironed.

My husband is perfectly capable of ironing his shirts himself. And he most often does. He is not waiting around for me to do this for him. For some reason, this morning, I saw those shirts hanging there and I needed to iron them. To sort them out so that they can be used, worn, enjoyed.

My life is needing a bit of sorting out. There’s too much hanging on the rod…mostly in my creative life. I’ve succumbed to the siren song that I can have my cake and eat it too, along with all the cupcakes and pies. Again, veiled generalizations.

What I realize in all this is a need to see. A desire for all of living to be grace. And the best way I know how to connect to this is through the humble act of drawing.

I don’t mean drawings to sell. Or to exhibit in a gallery. Ordinary, everyday sketches of ordinary, everyday things grant me sight that I desperately need. Even sight for the things I don’t like to do. Especially the things I don’t like to do.

I made this page in my sketchbook after I had ironed all the shirts. As I drew the contours of an iron we have had for years, and of plain black shirts that will have a white collar worn with them, I was filled with love. Love for ironing. Can you believe that? It was something about the slow process of smoothing something out and seeing the results.

And love for drawing. This crazy simple daily work of sketching the stuff of life works to melt my heart to what is right beside me and with me all the time – a man of the cloth who works to love and serve his family and congregation.

There is more that I could share, of a smoothing out, a realization of things I have realized numerous times before. That is life, isn’t it? Coming back ’round to what we have surely known before, but have forgotten somehow in the rush of living.

I may need to find a few more things to iron around here (sorry, not taking any ironing commissions! 🙂 …and to draw…

…grace in the stuff of living through the lens of my sketchbook.

The Traffic Can Wait

I sit in a car. A lot.

It is not my favorite thing to do. At all.

On good days I can lay hold of the fact that all this driving around is actually due to great blessing in my life –

*an active, healthy,  involved-in-everything teenager.

*lots of classes in neighboring towns guiding women along their fiber journeys.

*errands to procure necessary provisions for a family.

But most of the time, in-between the grumbling, huffing and occasional involuntary expletive, I’m hunkered down, eyes-to-road, thinking where-to-next?

Unless I stop.

I have drawn before (as in the above drawing), these little aberrations of sight and wonder when I happen to turn my head left, out the driver’s side window and look. I don’t do it on purpose usually. It is often with a sigh and a desire to get off this flippin’ traffic-filled road and get on with the real stuff of life, that I turn my head.

I’m not expecting this. At all. But somehow in the fog of my negative thoughts, as I’m stopped in that never-ending automotive line, I can see…

A lovely meandering line of tracks, leading from underneath the bridge I’m on, up into rolling hills where light is carving out distinct shapes on a winter-hued landscape. How I would love to hop out of the car and go. To get on that train and follow those tracks to other towns, states, see the world a bit.

I’m enchanted by the view beside me, right where I am, even as my reverie is broken both by the formidable cement railing barring my jump onto the train, but also by the honking behind me as the traffic has grown impatient with my imagined train trip.

I get back into gear and lurch froward, smiling at the gift of being forced to stop in the midst of what I loathe, and being offered a view, a spot of beauty along my daily highway.

I need to stop and look more often as I drive.

The traffic will just have to wait.

P.S. I do not sit there in traffic drawing. Although perhaps I should! 🙂  I snap a picture with my phone to draw from later, thus a second gift of insight for the day.

Curbed Beauty

For weeks on end I marvel and enjoy in my living room a gazillion branches shooting out in a most pleasing shape, draped with twinkly  lights and sparkly ornaments. I never once consider the base, the foundation, the structure from which all these balsam branches emanate. Well, maybe once, as my son lifted the tree and I guided the spike from the stand into the pre-drilled hole at the bottom.

It isn’t until our lovely Christmas tree lies bare, de-frocked of its adornments, and drying on its side at the curb right in front of our house, that I can see its real beauty. For many days, as I passed by it on my walks, I winced at the lonesome heap. But this day, rounding the corner into our cul-de-sac, something drew me to look at our tree from a different perspective. What I saw made me draw in breath, hold it for a few seconds and slowly exhale…wow.

I don’t know that I can articulate what I saw gazing from drill-hole-end down the trunk, yet up and through the gazillion branches. It was as if I peered into a telescope and glimpsed another world, more mesmerizing than the tinseled one I had fancied for weeks in my living room. It was like falling into a wonderland of realization where I could actually, finally, if momentarily, see the real beauty behind the external fanfare. I was able to to see what my heart longs for —

–something solid that anchors the myriad of spokes shooting out in every direction…lines woven in an intricate dance held secure by a strong, immovable, straight core.

It is a mere 13 days since the beginning of a New Year and already it feels like SLOW & SIMPLIFY have become HASTEN & MULTIPLY. The lovely slow days of snow perhaps gave a wrenching contrast to the pace of my normal life. I typically stand viewing the gazillion beautiful branches of this creative life I’ve been granted with immense gratitude and an equal part overwhelm.

I realize as I’m on my knees at the curb gazing into our Christmas tree, that it is precisely the fact that I’m often fixated on all the adorned branches which gives me this overwhelming feeling and a sense of go-go-get-done. In these few seconds (perhaps minutes?), my heart-rate slows, and my focus narrows as I gaze into the solid core, the trunk, the vine from which all the branches emanate. Even now, as I write, I’m understanding this phenomenon more and am heartened to move forward in my day with a solidity in my soul:

It may not be a slow day and I doubt it will be simple, speaking in terms of all the branches. But I carry at my core the Tree of Life, the Balm of Gilead, the bright Morning Star, the River of Gladness, the One who makes all things new.

I want to stay here on my knees just a moment longer peering into these things, gaining strength and solidity. But I must away and join in the intricate dance of so many branches.

Perhaps I’ll carry my drawing with me to steady me along that way.

Artfully yours,

Jennifer