Befriending Curiosity

Do you ever look around your studio and scratching your head, wonder…What am I doing here? Not because you have a temporary lapse of memory as to your location (which happens to me on occasion ;/), but because the things you are making are new and different in some way.

I find myself scratching my head a lot. Have done so for lo these many years. The flip-flopping around from drawing to knitting, painting to crochet, realism to abstraction, weaving to embroidery…fairly makes my head spin sometimes. It is a very real struggle that brings not a little consternation to this artist’s heart.

I was listening to a podcast recently whose topic was completely unrelated to art. The person interviewed was talking about “befriending endings”. That phrase sounded lovely to me, a true way to affirm life and it’s many beginnings and endings, directions and switch-backs. I’ve been thinking of all the ways this helps me as an artist:

Befriend Interruptions. Befriend new directions. Befriend busyness. Befriend the curiosity to try new things.

This curiosity leads me down some magical paths. I seem to return to a very familiar intersection where creativity meets all manner of mediums. At this intersection a host of questions begin to fill my head… how can I make images with yarn? Can I create abstract drawings that have movement and feeling? How can I translate my drawings into embroidery? Oooohhh…could I even create abstract  embroidered pieces? Or superimpose line drawings that are stitched onto abstractly collaged fabrics?

These and other curiosities light me up and send me off down new paths, or sometimes old paths with a different twist or a more fervent embrace. I seem to feel the need to create fresh blogs for each of these paths. It may seem silly to you dear reader or perhaps it doesn’t matter a hill of beans that I do this. But my need for each new path to have a fresh, uncluttered page seems to defy what my studio looks like, and affords breathing space for all the questions and curiosities I am currently working out.

With the onset of summer, I’ll be camping out on a new blog created especially for my embroidered fragments. You can read more about them here and here and even follow me there if you are curious to see where this path takes me. Perhaps you’d even like to join me in a Summer of Stitching. But I will also be drawing and painting abstracts. I am particularly interested in seeing if I can create abstracts that are based on actual things/objects/places etc. Above you can see the first of its kind and you can check in with numerous others, as well as the embroidery, on Instagram as the summer unfolds. These two things are not mutually exclusive of one another. In fact, I’ve been creating abstract fabric collages and stitching my line drawings atop of them. I recently made a fabric collage based on an abstract sketch from my sketchbook. It is being stitched and embellished with embroidery, beads, stitched drawings, etc. I’m looking forward to seeing how it evolves.

If this is all a bit dizzying to you dear reader, please know that it is for me as well. But I am endlessly curious, and seem to thrive on trying to solve creative riddles and searching for answers to the numerous artistic questions in my head. What is a constant and helps me make sense of it all, is that all roads seem to branch off of and lead me back to my sketchbook. That’s a pretty cool idea –

A sketchbook is an intersection where magical paths await exploration.

Let’s go exploring this summer and befriend curiosity!

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

Yep. That’s me! Sitting at the intersection, sketching the path ahead. 🙂

Where Are You?

Every day I need to check in. Over the years I’ve wondered if this was a strange thing about myself…this need to check in, to take stock of where I am at a given moment, to breathe in and breathe out, to mark the moment, taking in the sights and scenery around me. Now I’m feeling pretty certain this isn’t strange, it’s really necessary and good. Not just for me, but for us all!

When life gets busy, full to the brim with all good stuff that doesn’t allow much time for checking in, I feel like I need these check-in moments more throughout the day. It’s all too easy to think that just going and going, running through the never ending to-do list without stopping to breathe and mark the moment, is ok for a season. For me, it’s not ok. I’ve got to touch base with where my feet are planted, what my surroundings are at a given moment, breathe into whatever my location is both in body and in spirit. My sketchbook is the best way I know to do this.

Right from the get-go of facing an empty page, I feel myself throttle down a few gears. Empty space. Wow. Just to be able to look at a space that isn’t filled up with stuff for a few moments is helpful. It isn’t scary to face this emptiness…it is welcome and peaceful. I begin to draw what I saw on my walk, or a memory from a day or two ago I don’t want to lose. Slowly, thoughtfully…line and paint working together to drive a stake in the ground as it were:

Here I am, right here, breathing, resting, open and receptive to the peace of this moment.

Sketching in a little book may not be your way of checking in with where you are. It may be sitting with a cup of tea and just resting for a bit, it might be working a few rows of knitting, or perhaps just taking a short walk, considering where your feet are falling and how your heart is beating. However it is you can check in, I hope you are able to carve out a few moments today, tomorrow and ongoing to ask yourself, “Where am I?”

And perhaps you can make a simple sketch of where you are and what’s happening underfoot, pinning and penning a root, an anchor, to steady you for the day ahead.

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

P.S. If you’re in need of any encouragement for this along the way, consider this ebook & video course for inspiration and instruction.

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

A New Year Brings Change…

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Dear friend and fellow creatives!
A New Year has rolled in and along with it a plethora of ideas are swirling in my head! I have so much to share with you! As I noted in my last newsletter, the Knitterly Arts Newsletter will be changing. In fact, tomorrow I will be sending out the first of its kind. It will be called:

An Artful Lifeline
Weekly notes of encouragement…a lifeline…
to keep you inspired on your quest to live an Artful Life!

This new version is intended for any and ALL who like making things with their hands, be it drawings & paintings, knitted & crocheted projects, spinning & weaving, and whatever else your particular love might be. Our craft, no matter what form it takes, is our Lifeline. For me, creative work allows me to take flights of fancy while also tethering me, grounding me to all that is true, good and beautiful in my life. I have a feeling your creative work does this for you too. And we always need encouragement to see our work in this way. All of us, no matter whether we are beginners in our art & craft, or whether we are seasoned artists, need to be reminded of how our art speaks to us and infuses our everyday lives with beauty and joy.

Each week you will receive a short but sweet note in your e-mailbox with the following:
**An Artful thought for the week ahead designed to encourage you to keep on making things and to see your life through the lens of creativity.

This is the main focus of An Artful Lifeline, and may be the only thing sent to you each week. But there will also be, from time to time:
**Links to any of my recent blog posts you might have missed.
**More links to resources, both my own as well as others, for further creative encouragement.
**Shop Updates and discount codes for my ETSY shops as well as my Fine Art America shop!

If you are wanting all the good stuff that the Knitterly Arts Newsletter used to have, you can find it in my video podcast, which I’ll be continuing this year!!

All Episodes of the Knitterly Arts Podcast are now on You Tube
and each episode’s Show Notes are housed on my Knitterly Arts blog.

Be sure to subscribe both places so you won’t miss any episodes!

IMPORTANT NOTE: If this new Artful Lifeline doesn’t sound like something you are interested in, NO PROBLEM! Simply hit the “unsubscribe” button at the bottom of the newsletter. If you want to receive An Artful Lifeline , and you are already receiving the Knitterly Arts Newsletter, then do nothing at all! I will be keeping you on the subscriber list.

**If you have never received the Knitterly Arts Newsletter but wish to receive An Artful Lifeline, SUBSCRIBE HERE!

But if not, no offense is taken at all. I am grateful for your past support and for any who desire to keep living Artfully along with me!

Artfully yours,
Jennifer

Every Common Bush

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Earth is crammed with heaven,

and every common bush afire with God;

but only he who sees takes off his shoes.”

-Elizabeth Barret Browning

I’m waking early these days. I haven’t been able to pinpoint why until this morning. Usually, when I start waking up early, it’s due to worries and cares vying for brain space, feeble attempts to solve each problem. This is not the case lately. I’m awake and alive with a desire or anticipation of something…

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I quietly make my way downstairs, slipper-footed, make a pot of coffee, and assume my position on the floor. This has become my favorite spot for Morning Vespers – a space for listening, praying, pondering, treasuring all that I’ve been given, and all that will be granted today. It is a centering space where I ground myself to what is true, knit the words of Christ into my heart, and draw upon His grace for the day.

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I do, literally, draw. Each morning, at least one simple drawing of something around me, right where I am, here where I live and move and have my being. Ordinary, every day things. I used to think, in my early years as an artist, that I had to find the spectacular to draw. I thought I needed the perfect subject matter, the lighting just-so, a favorable composition. For many years now, it is the common ordinary things of my own small life that become burning bushes. As I begin the day, I re-commit to this practice of looking for the “burning bushes”, taking off my shoes and drawing them (the bushes…and the shoes!), knowing that even here is holy ground.

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I think it is the beginning of Advent that has me up so early with a feeling of anticipation and longing. My temptation is to look for something big to happen, something amazing, something grand. But as I draw the ordinary common-place things of my life, I’m reminded that it is the small and insignificant things that Christ comes to inhabit. It is right here, in small towns, in barns and mangers, in the hearts of ordinary people, shepherds as well as wise men.

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Advent is one of my favorite seasons. It really seems like there are burning bushes everywhere – all of earth aflame with God. I want eyes to see these bushes, a heart peeled and looking for them, and hands ready to draw them into my sketchbook and life.

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As I draw, I hear Him calling my name. And like Moses, I answer – Here I am. (Ex. 3:4)

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Won’t you join me this Advent, in drawing the common bushes in your life? I’d love to know if you are doing this! And if you are posting your drawings somewhere, let me know so I can walk with you this Advent.

To view these daily drawings, visit me on Instagram.

Kaleidoscope Living

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Some days, all I see is brokenness. Everywhere, in my own life and in the lives of my friends, family, community, state and country…things are broken. Marriages and dreams, health and finances, family ties and good intentions, all have some aspect of brokenness – a tearing of the fabric,  holes of emptiness, or just flat-out broken shards of a once beautiful ceramic or pane. It’s difficult to know what to do with these broken, torn, or hole-ridden bits of our lives. At first they engender shock and disbelief. They lie around our daily landscape, sometimes being swept into corners and under beds, shoved behind closet doors as we hope they might go away or at least go unnoticed.

As a child I had a fascination with and love for kaleidoscopes. Any kind, whether cardboard or metal tubed, offered hours of gazing, turning them slowly, facing the light and marveling at the beauty inside. As an adult I have a small collection of these cylinders – tubes of magic, that I pull out from time to time to remember the colorful designs, new ones at every turn, beauty from bits and baubles.

It may seem horribly simplistic, maybe even offensive, to reduce the broken bits of our lives into thoughts of a childhood toy. But it heartens me, shall I say even strengthens me, to view the brokenness in me and around me in this way.

Left in a heap or hidden from sight, the broken bits accomplish nothing except weeping and gnashing of teeth. Yet hold them together in a cylinder of Love, one might have an opportunity to witness healing and even beauty.

Yet it requires more than merely gathering our brokenness and hurt into our arms. It requires us to move from one end of looking at the heap of broken bits, to the other end, where we can view them through a new lens. We need a lens that takes the broken fragments and transforms them into wonder-filled designs.

We I need to move from gaping at the broken bits, the shrapnel as it were, and walk the narrow path to a new way of seeing. We I need to make the effort to see it all from a different perspective, an eternal one, but one which has its designs firmly rooted here, on earth, in my town, in my own heart.

Once we have this new lens through which to see, we then need to face the Light, letting it penetrate each broken shard to reveal new colors. As our eyes adjust to the brilliance and warmth, we then need to turn, slowly but deliberately, changing how we view one another, our lives, and all our broken places.

As we turn, opening our eyes and hearts to the Light, our new Lens will transform all that is broken. I need to do this each and every day. I need, every day, to re-orient my sight and thus my heart and mind. I must do this for my own health and well-being but also for my children, my friends, and my community. In a very real sense, we need to be Living Kaleidoscopes to everyone we meet, holding out a new way of seeing.

It is not so easy as simply picking up one of my childhood kaleidoscopes. It requires work on my part —

**to refuse to merely gawp and be shocked by the brokenness.

**to make the effort to view life with the Lens of Love.

**to stand fully facing the Light.

**to do the work of turning, changing my perspective, opening my heart  to others, Being the Kaleidoscope.

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

Knitterly Arts Podcast!

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A creative life is rarely a straight arrow path. Perhaps precisely because it IS creative, the path is winding and circuitous, with many side trails leading off the main one which eventually brings you back on track or becomes the new main path.

This is how my own creative life has felt for nearly 20 years. I imagine it will continue. My love for all things yarn and all things art continue to be both what fascinates me and what sustains me. I’m sharing these two loves in a video podcast.

Knitterly Arts is a phrase that comes up in my head when I think about what I do. It encompasses the knitting and the drawing, crochet and painting. My intent for this podcast is to share my ongoing love of these endeavors, as well as how they speak to  me about life and living everyday with an Artful eye on everything.

All of the Knitterly Arts Podcasts will be hosted on You Tube and housed on a separate blog, which is actually one I used to post to a few years ago. You can subscribe to my You Tube channel as well as to Knitterlyarts.wordpress.com to receive notifications of each podcast. This will be the home for each episode’s Show Notes, links to everything I make reference to in the podcast.

If you enjoy either knitting or drawing, or just love making things in general, this Podcast is for you!

Artfully Yours,

Jennifer

Here’s the first episode. Be sure to click on the link above to access the Show Notes. All future Podcasts will only be announced on Knitterlyarts.wordpress.com. Enjoy!

What if….?

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What if you could create for just 7 days, a mere week of your life, and at the end of the week have a small series of works that hold together, have taught you a lot, and bring a smile to your face? And what if you didn’t have to go anywhere or pay lots of money in order to have a week like this? And furthermore, what if you didn’t have to clear out your entire life to create some small works of art?

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The last seven days have been an answer to these questions and more as I said Yes to Tara Leaver’s offer to join her in a 7-Day Mini Painting Challenge. Surely I can commit to something like this for one week? Before thinking too much about it, I was pulling out leftover bits of yarn, a couple of crochet hooks and sketching out some thumbnail ideas for the next 7 days.

I’m not going to say that this was easy. In fact, I probably should have thought twice about what it would mean to try to make a small fiber painting each day. Working with stitches and yarn requires far more time than it does in paint and paper! And then to make these paintings in and around a full-schedule and a holiday weekend. But I didn’t think about this. I just dove in. Sometimes it is best  NOT to think. Just begin!

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Even though I had made a couple of  fiber paintings in the past, I still had lots of questions I wanted to explore. Tara’s 7-Day Challenge was actually supposed to require 30 minutes or less, which I could have certainly done with paint, pens or pastels. But I regularly work this way…small increments of time happily drawing and painting, filling sketchbooks with images from my everyday life. For this challenge, I wanted to explore the questions I’ve had banging around in  my  head concerning making these images with a crochet hook and yarn, even if it meant spending more than a half hour each day, which I did, and staying up a couple of days past my usual bedtime to finish them. 🙂

Here are some of the questions I wanted to explore:

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Day 1: What if I used fibers to create the shapes of trees as well as suggesting light falling on the scene?

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Day 2 & 3 (largest fiber painting of the bunch): What if I tried to use varying tones of the same color to indicate volume and how light plays on a still-life subject? Can this be done with flowers?

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Day 5: Can this be done with fruit? And can I make “cast shadows” read as such in fibers?

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Day 4: What if I used the textures of fiber to suggest nature? i.e.. leafy trees, a “smooth” path, etc.

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Day 6: What if I used stitches and color to show the movement of water and sky? Could I also indicate the texture in a waterscape? i.e.. the foamy waves, the fluffy clouds? (Note: the photographs do not show off all the textures of the yarns. I do wish you could see them “in person”.:)

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Day 7: What if I tried to indicate depth in a landscape with things in the foreground and things in the background? Can I successfully portray this to the viewer? (This was explored in each of the landscape fiber paintings!)

Whether or not I successfully achieved all the “what if’s”, (or took two days to complete one painting!) these six paintings make me smile! They still have a bit of work to be done–backing them so they can be wall-hangings and some final embroidered touches here and there.

I know I will create more of these in the future, but for now I’ll just look at the ones I’ve made and smile. When they are fully finished, I may hang them in my home. Or I might exhibit them at my Annual Art Show in November, or offer them on ETSY. I don’t know yet. I’m just enjoying having made them and having many of my questions answered.

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I appreciate all of your positive responses to this little 7-day journey on FB and Instagram! And I’m thankful for Tara Leaver and her wonderful way of inspiring artists to be freed to create, to move through blocks and to offer our work in the world! If you aren’t familiar with Tara’s art and workshops, do check her out! She has a workshop coming up very soon you might want to participate in. She has lots there on her website to encourage you to be the artist you want to be.

OR, in my case, to spend 7-days being just “ONE-OF-THE-57-ARTISTS-THAT-LIVE-INSIDE-OF-YOU”! Thank you Tara!

Artfully Yours,

Jennifer

When Magic Happens

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It happens at various times along the way. Magic that is. Years ago, when I first swiped watercolor on a white page…I drew in my breath and held it as I watched the color move on the paper, blend with other colors. Something special was happening that was just for me. The magic of watercolor has never left me. It’s oozles and wazzles delight me endlessly.

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Then one day, again many years ago, I got out a wooden box filled with Rembrandt soft pastels that my grandmother had given me when I was  child. Holding a stick on its side, I swooshed the pigment on the page, and there it was again…that feeling that magic was afoot. In neither instance did this magical feeling have to do with WHAT I was creating on the paper. In fact, if you saw these early attempts, you would not be particularly impressed as they looked much like what a kindergarten artist might create. I did not care. The magic was in the process of putting color onto paper. Or was it in the seeing of these colors as they went onto paper? Or was it simply the initial discovery of new mediums?

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I have now been actively pursuing art-making for almost 20 years. Wow! That seems like a long time to me. You might think that the magic has worn off, the blush of first love at swiping color on a page might have become ho-hum over the years. It does, in some sense, become a normal state of enjoyment for an artist…surely this is what keeps us coming back to make more art! But there are still moments when our breath is taken away; we stand back in awe or delight at the page or canvas before us, and simply are amazed at the loveliness. It isn’t an arrogance or prideful thing. It is merely showing up to the page every day, being present for magic to happen. Some days you feel it. Some days not.

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And then there are days when the convergence of something new…or at least it feels new…suddenly hits you and you know that magic has happened once again. Its outside of you. It came through you. And it now exists in front of you. This is what happens when I put my favorite creamy pastels over top of random swooshes of watercolor.

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The first magical moment with this happened soon after our daughter’s wedding this summer. I had pulled out this neglected sketchbook from years ago. I had not made many marks in it for various reasons. Two, maybe three pages had a few half-hearted attempts. So with a what-the-heck attitude, I dashed on some random washes of watercolor, page after page, and let them dry.

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As I was into abstraction over the summer, I swiped pastel over top of one of these pages and knew instantly…I was in love! I couldn’t make any more sketches or drawings that day due to its loveliness. I just walked by my drawing table often to gaze at the soft colors dancing around on top of the watercolor. The next day, I turned the page, and worked again in the same manner. Light touch. Gorgeous color. Again…magic!

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On and on, page after page now in this book, some abstract, some representational. This particular one, made last week after being blown away by the cloud formations at the top of our hill on Silver Dapple Lane. You see, the magic begins with inspiration, with beauty seen, with a desire to lasso it onto paper, or free it for interpretation, or something. But after I stepped back from trying to recreate what I saw and felt up on my favorite lane, I knew…

…magic!

It was there on the page.

I held my breath for only a little while, exhaling gratitude all day.

***Magic may also be due to the tea one drinks while painting! The message on this bag of Green Tea set the tone for this painting. Kinda cool!