When Life is Boring…


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.


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.



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!

To Timaree et al


An online artist friend, who has visited my blog for many years and has been a huge encourager, asked a question in one of her recent comments on this beach post. I thought I’d take a bit of time to answer her questions, which may be of interest to others as well. Here is what she asked:

“…Love your drawings. I look at the complexity of them and wonder if you

start in pencil but it really looks like you dive in with pen –

do you just start with the nearest objects and work back?

I don’t see lines crossing through objects as if added after something else…”


So I’ll try to walk you through a moment in time I wanted to draw. This photo is of my favorite portable drawing chair. I love the arm that hinges up to hold your drawing supplies.


These are the drawing goodies I’m using for this type of sketching: 08 Prismacolor Fineliner Pen, Oil Pastels, 6″ x 6″ Flexisketch book.


Here is the view I had while sitting in our driveway. Randy was smoking my favorite barbecue for the Fourth of July. Please note that I was not intent on drawing or painting the light!! This is important, because you have to choose what you’re after in a drawing. If I was here to draw the light, this would be completely different. I am only after the lines…the lovely lines that meander in and through my life, the present moment, this here and now.

I often enjoy drawing something that is up close to me with some of the things in the background. Sometimes I stick very close to what I actually see. Sometimes I move objects around in order to compose them in the square space the way I want them. Degas was a master at composing paintings and drawings that were off-kilter, or partly out of the picture plane, as if he was viewing them through a camera lens. I love this way of drawing.

I do NOT use a pencil first or at any point in the drawing. I just go right into it with the pen. This is VERY important!! Working with a pen frees you from having to erase “mistakes”. You MUST leave your lines the way they are! No need to go and redraw what seems a bit “off”, or even a lot “off”. Of course, redrawn lines CAN be really fun! But I just let lines fall the way they will and keep on going!


So I start with the biggest shape, which is typically the one closest to me. In my  mind’s eye I have zoomed in on the Weber grill, so I start with the fun shape of the grill, not worrying that some of it goes off the page (in fact that is my intent!!) Once I have the basic shape of the grill, I can add a few details, like handles, the vent at the top, etc.


Then I begin to work in the “background”, once again choosing the shape I want to be sure is included in my drawing. In this case, I really wanted our red door to be in the picture, so I had to “scrunch” the background over a bit for this to happen. Once I have the door where I want it, I can fill in the bushes, the garage door lines, the begonia ivy, the steps, etc. I forgot to take more pics along the way here ’cause I get so caught up in drawing. Time just falls away…I love that!


Here’s another view of the same thing, but after the meat has been removed to go cook for a few hours. We’ll be having friends over for our barbecue feast, so I’m grabbing some time here to draw before they come! I moved my chair to give me the view I wanted.


Once again, I draw the big shapes of the grill first. I don’t worry about being terribly precise. I like wonky. Wonky drawings are better in my opinion! And I don’t worry about how much of the grill doesn’t even get drawn! No need to! I love the off-the-page look! It suggests that these things in my life are bursting off the page, have a life of their own outside of my little drawing.


Then I decide that the background shape I want to be sure to include is the flag. So I once again, move the background over a bit to accommodate the flag in my drawing. (Does this make any sense?)


I work my way from the flag down to the bushes and then over above the grill, eyeballing distances between things, but not measuring or making everything perspectively perfect. I’m just after an impression of the moment.

And then comes the  color…


I pull out my oil pastels (sometimes I use Neocolor II watercolor crayons) and decide which objects will get color. It really has more to do with my preference, or what I want to highlight. But I don’t want to overdo it. Just a few bits of color here or there. And voila!



I hope this helps, Timaree, and anyone else who might benefit from it! Thank you so much for your faithful presence here on my blog and for taking the time to comment!! I truly appreciate it!!

**And as an aside…this is one of the ways I live artfully. Taking a few moments to trace the lines of my world around me, helps me to see the beauty that lies therein. The pen and the page become a new set of glasses enabling me to see what I really have. Drawing my life silences the clamor in my head for something other than what I have. If you want to draw your life too, check out my Drawing Your Life Mini Lessons. 

Oak Island 2013


I just got back from a lovely week at the beach with my husband’s family! We always have a marvelous time of sun, sand, good food, and fellowship! Do you remember the video I made from last year’s drawings? I recently realized that it has been removed from YouTube…I have no idea why!! Both of my drawing videos were removed. I’m working on uploading them again to a different space. I’ll let you know when I have them up again.

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The above slideshow is of drawings I made while at the beach this week. Each morning I sat on the deck to sip coffee, think & write, and draw.

There was also a lot of this going on…


And this…


But in between knitting and drawing, I got to enjoy my oldest daughter as we walked on the beach and shopped in Southport. My husband and I also celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary on the 25th of June! I can’t believe it! I’m looking forward to the next 25 years with this man, drawn here in charcoal with our youngest daughter Maddie:


I Want to Go A-Walking

I Want to Go A-Walking

I want to go a-walking
all the live-long day
To hear the crickets chirping
and see the bales of hay.

To wrest the beauty hiding
in weeds along the way
To find my heartbeat’s rhythm
I lost in the busy fray.

To breathe the fresh air heaping
transforming work into play
To feel the wall-less space
my voice freed to say.

Though I only go a-walking
a small portion of my day
The weeds turn into flowers
and I know it will be okay.


October 4, 2012

Other poems I’ve written about walking are here and here and here.

These autumn days are beautiful walking days! Especially down my favorite Silver Dapple Lane (above). 5″x 5″ pastel in My Little Black Book. 😉

A Bale of Words

Available in My Etsy Shoppe

Another “sitting” out in my favorite field just after the baling. This time with my pastels in My Little Black Book.

Available in My Etsy Shoppe

And a different sort of “bale” here…words bundled together in a little poem I wrote several years ago:


I like you standing there…

Your presence brings comfort amid the recently ravaged landscape.

I walk beside my favorite field,

once filled with waves of grass and weed,

fern and vine, wildflower and morning glory.

I wince at the shearing—

too much is exposed.

But soon you are there.

All that I loved so is bound up in you.

Your solid cylinder a testimony to the weightiness of glory.

Your firm shadows welcome on the sun-blanched scalp.

I hope that you will remain,

that I might gain

some sense of solidity when I next pass by.

But alas, I hope in vain.

Another will come and lead you away to wait in shelter as fodder for animals.

I grieve the cycle, knowing it will begin again,

wondering if there will be an alternate end for me.


upon her walk 9/23/08

Unlikely Lovely

So on Tuesday, I take my youngest, Maddie, to gymnastics at a place here in town called Flip Force.  On the way into the building, I notice a patch of tangly wilderness off to the side.  I had brought along my sketchbook and oil pastels.  “Must see what I can do with that” ran through my head as we walked in.

Once she was settled into her class, I returned to the spot and found a very dilapidated wooden picnic table to sit on and draw.  The natural area was one of those places where the mowed grass runs up to the edge and then everything else has been allowed to grow wild.  A jumble of brambles, weeds, briars, tall trees, scrub trees, underbrush, etc.  Even the green colors seemed “leftover” with its end-of-summer brownish tinge and not-yet-turned-color foliage.

Places like that attract me.  Perhaps it’s the wildness, the untamed, unkempt life-run-rampant that entices me to untangle it in pen, paint, or pastel.  I stayed long enough for two drawings: one began with a black pastel marking the outline and main tree shape.  I started the other with a brown pastel, thinking it would dictate a different set of colors throughout. And it did!

I continue to realize that the best way to make sense of a tangled patch (both visually and in your life) is to draw it! Loveliness in unlikely places…

An Itch to Scratch

I get an itch sometimes.  You know, like an itch to use multi-colored pens, or an itch to use thick paint, or an itch for abstraction.  This itch is for oil pastels…and I’m still scratching! So fun to glide the bold color on white paper. To rub the colors into each other. To watch a forested lane become a magical world of color!

Do you get these itches? Or is it just me?

Faces & Places!

In recent years, I have received commissions from friends near and far to paint and draw the beautiful faces and places in their lives.

 Daughters and sons, homes and land…all are special to the individuals who ask me to honor these things in paint, pastel, or charcoal.

I am always honored and humbled to be asked to paint a person or place that means so much to someone.

Do you have a home or place that holds a special spot in your memory?

Does the face of a loved one evoke your love and appreciation for who that individual is?

I would be honored to paint the beauty you have in your life.

The above are only a few examples of the commissioned work I’ve had the privilege of creating.   I will be expanding this page in the near future, offering commissioned work for folks near and far.  Please contact me if you would like to talk further about a commissioned portrait of a loved one or place.

A Big Day!

Today we take our oldest child to college. A small truck and a van are packed full of her things. And I’m wondering if it will all fit into her dorm room at Wingate! A host of emotions have been flurrying around our house and in my heart lately.  But this morning, I’m thankful.

Thankful for this beautiful daughter that we were given the privilege of parenting and watching her grow up into a young lady.

Thankful for the incredible opportunity she has to study the beauty of Music at Wingate University.

Thankful for family and friends who will be supporting her in their thoughts and prayers.

Thankful for all the new friends and “family” at Wingate she will meet, and who will become her lifelong friends.

Thankful for the unbelievable miracle of provision for her to go to this marvelous school.

Thankful for endings…and for Beginnings.

We love you Catie!

Maybe I’m Just A Little Girl…

This is the refrain from one of my FAVORITE songs by one of my FAVORITE musician/singer/songwriters: Mindy Gledhill.

You just gotta listen to her music!

It’s the most wonderfulest!