I Wish…

I wish I could paint or stitch for you the warm light streaming in our home this morning. Coming downstairs is often an awakening experience as we receive such lovely light through the eastern side of our windowed home. It was glowing through the shades, an autumn sunlight, warm and golden and a touch muted but only in color, not in brilliance.

I wish I could paint or stitch for you the day we spent at Price Park for my birthday this July. I sat there with my family by a quietly gurgling stream and sunlight danced all around us. I just took pictures. And made a sketch or two. No color. So amazing and overwhelming the beauty dripping from the trees that I knew any attempts at painting it would fall oh so short.

I wish I could paint or stitch for you the skies we have been seeing here up on Silver Dapple Lane. Nearly each evening, the canvas in the sky captivates with frolicking clouds, swooshes of color, and serene swipes of muted tones.

I wish I could paint or stitch for you the moon as I saw it a year ago, wrapped in a gauzy shawl, glowing through deep values of purple and blue night. I see it also in the daytime, like a small patch of lightly felted wool pulled and perched in the expanse of azure overhead.

I wish I could sail on a river of crystallite, into a sea of blue…just like Winken and Blinken and Nod. I wish I could tell you stitch by stitch a story of how this image runs through my life…childhood to middle age and everywhere in-between.

As an artist, I am trying to make wishes come true. To employ the magic of paper and pastel, fabric and thread, to tell you what I want to share with you. It all catches me by the throat and I want so much to inhabit these memories again and again, stroke by stroke, stitch by stitch, layer after layer of color and fabric. I scarcely want the making of a painting to end, for in doing so, I feel I must move on. In stitching I can hang out there a bit longer and lean into the story, the wish, the magic.

I wish I could stay longer in writing, painting, stitching. But I must away…daily living calls. I know I’ll see beautiful trees dripping with the first light of September. I’ll look for the moon suspended in the sky reflecting a light that is not his own, but rather is borrowed from a grand and glorious place. And I’ll walk in the light of the golden Sun as I run errands, unload groceries, and do laundry. In so doing, wishes of another kind are coming true as well!

Morning Chatter

I step out the door into a lively conversation already underway.

The woodpecker is holding forth, rapping his message,

the morning dove coos, the cardinal trills

and a congregation adds their own embellished agreements

or rebellious agitation.

Even the geese, returning from a winter’s sojourn, join in the boisterous banter.

I stand in awe for a moment just to take in this morning cacophony.

I walk up the hill, down the lane, past the cows and on by the alpacas and horses. Leaning into Emmaus Road my pace quickens and so does the chatter. Are they cheering me on? Providing company for the path? Or indifferent to my presence, absorbed in their own worlds?

I spot a lone bird atop a bale of hay lifting her throat to the throng.

On the return, crossing Hastily, down Silver Dapple once again and back towards home,

it is quieter now.

Only a few remain in the concert hall of my thoughts,

chirping their ideas, tweeting their rebuttal.

They are settling in for the day ahead yet nothing has been settled upon,

except that we all must begin.

Closing the door, I take up my pen to record the findings,

drawcument the sights,

chronicle the listenings,

make sense of the chaos,

find a tune in the midst of it all.

-jpe

 

When Magic Happens

LovelyBeginning

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!

Fascination & Play

PalmatCienr

I am fascinated by many things. Nature, faces, shapes of objects, fibers, color, line, stitches, light…on and on to where I’m fairly dizzy with delight. This fascination is surely the heart of an artist’s life. Being an artist has less to do with raw talent and more with being fascinated by something and granting oneself the freedom to explore it, try it, dive into it some more, express it. Lately I’ve been fascinated with pastels.

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I enjoy both oil pastels as well as soft pastels. I love adding oil pastels to line drawings and also drawing with the pastels, then adding watercolor over top for the resist effects. I did a lot of this at the beach a couple of weeks ago and am still playing around with it in my sketchbook.

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But now I’m all jazzed about soft pastels. I tend to rotate through art mediums on a fairly regular basis, but lately I’ve been swiping the buttery, powdery sticks across pages of watercolor washes and having so much fun seeing the effects of layered color! When I fall in fascination love with a different medium all over again, it feels like I could spend whole days strung on end doing nothing but working with that medium. Life rarely allows that.

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Yesterday, however, I had the delight to draw and paint for an entire morning, a whole four hours, with a friend at our Ciener Botanical Gardens. Easel, pastels, numerous sketchbooks previously prepped with watercolor, sunscreen, water bottle, a snack and friendship…I could not ask for any thing better.

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Whenever I do get chunks of time to draw like this, the delight, sense of play and lightheartedness is transformative. Maintaining this lighthearted sense of play is a bit more difficult as I can easily get drawn in to the woes of life or even just the pull to “be serious” about my art and really DO something with it. The minute I head down this road, art making becomes heavier and my fascination wanes.

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I love keeping it light and free and fun! There will be time for the more serious end of art production later. Not now…I’ve gotta go draw the clouds up at the top of the hill!:)

I hope your weekend has room for fascination and wonder and play!

 

Time

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I am realizing anew that there’s a time for every season under heaven.

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(photography courtesy of Hazel Kuehn Photography)

There’s a time for celebrating.

And a time for grieving the passing of an era.

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There’s a time for illness.

And a time for healing.

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There’s a time for making marks.

And a time for white open pages.

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There’s a time for stitching.

And a time for ripping out.

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(photography courtesy of Hazel Kuehn Photography)

There’s a time for gathering.

And a time for letting go.

Atimeforeverything

There’s a time for making the usual.

And there’s a time for trying something new.

***

There’s even a time for going to the beach.

I’m glad it’s that time!

I’m ready for it. I need it.

Looking forward to being with family and the restorative sound of the waves, warm sand in my toes, and days of walking, reading, stitching, drawing…

or not.

There will be time for everything.

What I Need

Grandma'sBoxofPastels

en·chant
inˈCHant,enˈCHant/
verb
(1)fill (someone) with great delight; charm.

synonyms: captivate, charm, delight, enrapture, entrance, enthrall, beguile, bewitch, spellbind, fascinate, hypnotize, mesmerize, rivet, grip, transfix…

(2)put (someone or something) under a spell.

I find myself all too often under an enchantment I do not like. The realization of it comes after many days of living under its spell. I am growing in my ability to recognize the signs and symptoms of this dis-enchantment, but goodness me how subtle yet gripping this type of wicked enchantment can be! Once I recognize it, I know that the only way to undo the spell is to be enchanted by an altogether different tune.

PastelPixieDust

This is when I pick up my pen and draw. I slip pastels into my holster and stuff paintbrushes into my quiver. This is when I do battle with the enchantments of fear, worry and the underlying belief that it is all up to me by lassoing the beauty around me with lines from my pen, swiping the dust of everyday living away with pastel pixie dust, and painting a new story, the real one, so that I can live there, in the real world. There’s something that wants me to believe this world is all there is. I need a stronger enchantment to fortify what I know to be true:

There is so much more than what meets the eye! But it is in seeing our lives for what they  are, being present and grateful IN THEM, and looking THROUGH and BEYOND them, that we will know the true reality of life.  

This hymn has been playing in my head the last day or two. It DIS-enchants the spell of nose-to-the-grindstone living. The words weave through my moments reminding me that this truly is my Father’s world where He rules, though so much threatens to undo it.

PastelPlay

Today, I’m wielding my pen and pastels, charcoal and paints, allowing the enchantment of art to work its magic in my heart and remind me of what is True.

I hope you can spend some time doing this too!

*********

*In the first pic up there, you see my small pastel box. I have a much larger one I pull out for large scale paintings. But this one was a gift from my grandmother many many years ago when I was maybe 9 or 10 years old. It has since been refilled with different pastels, but I love it as it reminds me of my artist grandmother Thelma who not only painted with pastels, but also knitted beautiful things.

The In-Between

Humminbird

In the quiet of early morn, my mind flits…like a hummingbird darting from one flower to another, not staying long enough to really drink much in or resolve a thought.

This is how I know I’m feeling better.

In the early days home from surgery, there’s a single-minded response to pain. All energy goes to managing the intensity of what one feels. Dishes in sink? Who cares? Cat vomiting on the carpet? stupid cat. Someone else will have to clean it up. Ideas for the next children’s book I’d like to write? Not even on a mental back burner. Discomfort, pain, healing requires all our mental faculties. Aside from the obvious dislike of this reality, it actually brings a quietude of  mind in the singular pursuit of feeling better.

Goldfinch

But as the pain level decreases, the mental chatter increases. It’s as if, for a time, the stove’s oven has been the only thing turned ON. As the oven temp reduces from broil down to a more manageable 350 degrees, the top burners begin to light up, one at a time. Creative ideas begin to glow again, to-do lists of all kinds begin filling up at an alarming rate. All of it fueled by a well-worn thought which had disappeared in the post-surgery days, but now roars back to life in the space between my ears:

“I can do this!”

Now that all the burners are ON as well as the ongoing, but more temperate, oven, it’s really quite annoying! This is the hard part, the in-between bit. This is the segment of recuperation I dislike the most because it requires such discipline. I must constantly gauge my energy level and what my body needs. I must turn down, even OFF, certain burners so that the healing work can continue. Even though I “can” do the dishes and the laundry and dinner and clean up cat vomit…I NEED to pace myself and ask others to help do these tasks so that I can choose rest–the most vital pain medicine and healer there is.

WaterfallCrop

This is all happening at the holidays. And to be honest, the “I can do this” mantra is a familiar holiday refrain. Every year, even without undergoing surgery, December feels like that stove with all burners on HIGH and the oven set to Broil. Typically I’m well enough in body to actually convince myself of my can-do-it-all super powers. Then I crash and burn just after Christmas Day either in exhaustion or some virus takes hold to wrestle me to the ground for some much needed rest. Despite my disciplined efforts, I still tend to over do. Pain from surgery is not a bad alarm system, letting me know when I need to slow down, close my eyes and rest.

We can’t all have surgery in December, nor would we want to. I certainly don’t want to do this again. But what I’d like to do is develop an approach to December, (and all other months of the year for that matter)  that does not begin with “I can do this!” Maybe more along the lines of “I choose to do this and therefore NOT THAT.” To be purposeful about how I spend my time even if it means letting go of certain traditions I somehow feel I must continue.

NelieEdwin3

Yes, December is always FULL. Full of shopping, full of making, full of wrapping, full of baking, full of partying, full of cooking, full of cleaning, full of revelling. All good stuff. But there is that saying about too much of a good thing…

The problem is that once December is over, January is on its heels and we are off to the New Year races once again with our banner “I can do this!” flying high as we run. We even make lists of how fast and how far we want to run and how high we want to jump, as if normal living of life weren’t enough for us.

So I have some ideas, I think I’ll share here in the coming days prior to New Year’s. No rocket science. Just some thoughts on how to approach a New Year with all our dreams and hopes held lovingly with the reality of our lives. I hope you’ll stop by and offer your thoughts and suggestions as well.

***The images here are from a commissioned painting I finished prior to surgery. It was to be a Christmas gift and so now I can share it with you. Commission work is always a privilege and an honor to be asked and to attempt creating something another would enjoy.

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. 

GoBigCrop4

 

Restrictions: A Key to Artful Living

AutumnGarden

The above painting was made last Friday at the Ciener Botanical Gardensher in my town. I decided to place a restriction on myself and only use oil pastel and watercolor. It can be a lot of fun imposing a limit on your creative utensils. It works like a guide or a path marked out for you, narrowing the scope of what you have to work with, so you can really focus on making the most of what you have right then.

I’m rediscovering that this is also true for living an Artful Life in general. So many times, I find myself bewailing all the restrictions in my life that keep me from being as creative as I’d like to be. Maybe you have things that feel restrictive too, like a job, or family, or domestic shoulds, or volunteer work, or health issues. So many things, both which I have chosen in life and things which I have not, can feel stifling and confining to our creative dreams. There are times we just don’t feel like we’re moving forward in any way creatively due to these constraints.

What we lack is a way of viewing these restrictions as guidelines.  Like I said in the first paragraph, we need to see each restriction as “a guide or a path marked out for you, narrowing the scope of what you have to work with, so you can really focus on making the most of what you have right then.” A fellow online-artist posted this youtube of Phil Hansen who did just that: embraced what was limiting him and in so doing, found a wealth of creativity he never knew he was capable of. Be sure to watch this amazing video…you’ll love it!

My hope for us all today is to Live Artfully by embracing the places we feel constrained, and then be the artists we are guided to be!

May we Seize the Day our Limitations!! 🙂 -Phil Hansen

When Life is Boring…

ColorfulOcean

It seems like there’s a lot of resonance with these thoughts on reaching our full potential, blasting through creative blocks, and living an artful life. I love it! Danny Gregory compiled a few of these in a recent blog post, and has been tackling the topic of the “monkey” in our brain that accuses us as artists and tries to keep us from our calling. Check out all his posts here on his blog. And you really should read all the comments folks have kindly made on my recent blog post on “Potential”…there are some wonderful and helpful insights there!

So, you may be wondering…Do you think the beach is boring Jen? Well, no, not to BE there!  But to look at. I know some of you will take issue with me! That’s ok. You gotta admit though, there are places/things in your life that are simply boring to look at, or boring to live through, or just plain ole boring. When I go to the beach and I’m set to paint the ocean, I sometimes have that nasty little word darting in and out of my head. Bluish-gray skies over a bluish-gray ocean washing up onto grayish-tan sand. Hmm. There are artists who love tonal colors and painting, and they can make truly lovely works of art of realistic ocean scenes. I typically have to turn sideways to get a few houses or people into the composition to make it even remotely exciting (to me).

I’m jazzed by shape, line, and color. So when I’m looking at the ocean straight-on, the only shapes I readily see are three basic rectangles stacked on top of one another: sand rectangle, ocean rectangle, sky rectangle. Granted, the line between the ocean and the sand gives a bit of excitement as it undulates. Here are a couple of ways I tackle “boring”:  In the above sketch drawn last week, I added color according to my own desire.  Working with watercolor crayons first, I “painted” them with water all over the page. Once that dried,  I drew with my trusty bic pen the few lines of cloud shapes, horizon line, and ocean wave lines. I added a few people for interest. Then I went over everything with oil pastels to heighten color here and there.

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This one from last year addressed the boring shapes issue, as I added shapes that were reminiscent of waves and the bubbly foam. This broke up the monotony of the three basic rectangles.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And these two, also from last year, are a couple of doodle pages of beachy things…color, kite flying, ocean, sand, etc. There are many, many ways to tackle what may seem like boring subject matter to you…you just have to see it with a fresh set of eyes! Ask yourself the question, “What if I did this…or that?” and then try it! You might like the outcome and you certainly WON’T be bored while creating it!

**A big part of Living Artfully is to tackle boredom head on! We all grow bored with the same-ole same-ole. The key is to try new things, not just in sketching and art, but also in your everyday life. Set one day a week, on your way home from work, to buy some fresh flowers for your home. Drive “the long way home” from the grocery store. Plan a little day trip with a friend. Switch up routines you may have had for years. Sometimes the smallest shift in your everyday, brings a fresh outlook, and causes you to notice things you hadn’t before!