To Walk Among the Shells

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

Whoa and Wow

2018. Wow.

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

That’s all I can say…wow.

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

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

Please do not forget.

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

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

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

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

saying I love you…

and always shall.

-jpe

I Hear It

Wouldn’t you like for me to tell you

the thing your heart has

always wanted to hear?

Wouldn’t you like to hear those words

feel them on your face

rumbling in your belly?

Wouldn’t you want to wake up each morning

to those eternal words

you’re starving to feast upon?

***

Out there we can hear it.

In the raucous birdsong

the breeze of leafing

the earth alive.

***

In here we feel it

under our feet pining and pebbling

where streams gurgle

waterfalls roar.

***

Surrounded by wood and wild flower

breathing the loamy undergrowth

hearing the sound of living…

I hear it.

Don’t you?

***

“I love you”, sing the birds.

“You are loved”, breathe the trees.

“We are loved”, roar the waters.

“All is love”, clap the leaves.

“You are cherished”, whispers everything.

Here.

Now.

Tomorrow.

Forever.

-jpe

Pen & Watercolor sketches made at Reynolda Gardens yesterday.

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

American Journey watercolors & DaVinci Gouache.

A Jolly July!

July is here!!

And I’m super excited about this month for lots of reasons. There will be celebrations – the Fourth, our daughter’s half-birthday, and my own birthday at the end of the month. There will be travels – we are driving to Arkansas to pick up our son who is performing with Opera in the Ozarks; and I hope to travel to Virginia to visit with a childhood friend. I’m planning on drawing and sketching my way through the month, knitting up some pretty things, and stitching my drawings onto collaged fabric fragments (my recent obsession:).

To start off my birthday month with a bang, I’m offering a little present to you, Hobbit-style! For anything and everything in my ETSY shop, you may use the discount code HAPPYBIRTHDAY to receive 50% off the price! No, I haven’t gone nuts! Well, maybe I have…I’m setting my intention for this month to be a a jolly one, a true Christmas in July sort of celebration from the beginning to the end.

I do hope you will avail yourself of this once-in-a-blue-moon offer!! For cheap as chips, you can enhance your sketching and drawing practice by purchasing the Discover Your Life Beautiful, One Drawing At A Time ebook & video course. For pennies you can knit or crochet a lovely shawl or sweater, wrap or scarf. So go ahead and indulge! Use the above discount code when you check out. From now until the 31st of July! Enjoy!

I just returned from the Ocean’s Edge and I’m refueled and ready for this Jolly month. If you’d like to read all about the week by the Ocean and see some stitcherly goodness, plus drawings and sketches, visit The Silver Dapple, a new blog dedicated to an exciting medium as I stitch my drawings onto collaged fabric fragments. It’s slow stitching, but all the more savory in its slowness.

To catch all the drawings, watercolors, knitting and crocheting, stitching and whatever else strikes my fancy, do follow me on Instagram as that is where I tend to hang out the most. Above all, I hope you have a Jolly July making things with your hands! Indoors, outdoors, on the road or at home, may your month be an Artful one!

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

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. 🙂

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

An Everyday Outlet

For Day 6 of #drawtheordinary through Lent, I’m to draw a “wall plug”. I should’ve thought about that wording a bit more because what I meant was “an outlet”.  No matter, plug or outlet, they are both ordinary things. (At least they are to those of us fortunate enough to live in parts of the world where electricity is  available.:)

The crazy thing about all this focusing on the ordinary long enough to draw it in our sketchbooks, is that sparks start flying as we do. Each ordinary sketch of an everyday item ignites a world of thought, delight, and sometimes even…transformation.

I sat for a bit just looking at the simple rectangle with two receptacles noting that there’s a bit of form and shape where the 3 prongs of a plug go in. Then I notice that these three holes look interestingly like a face…or a house – two eyes and a mouth OR two windows and a door. All of a  sudden I’m wondering –

What’s inside this thing?

How in the world does it hold energy or electricity that is accessed merely by placing metal prongs (or one’s fingers) inside?

What magic lies inside those black shapes? Is it a colony of lightening bolts? A family hanging out waiting patiently (or not) for the time when they’ll be put to use?

And so on and so forth…

The crazy…and wonderful…thing about this 20 second reverie is that by simply turning my focus to an ordinary object, my imagination was ignited. It was as if by focusing in on this everyday, typically unnoticed thing in my home, I had plugged into a source of creativity that led me to magical worlds were families of electric bolts live and move and have their being.

This doesn’t happen every single time I draw something. No, sometimes a wall plug is just that…a wall plug. Or outlet. But it is in the focus and attention to things I wouldn’t normally engage with, that creativity is sparked. I can fan it into flame by drawing it and having a bit of fun imagining what these electric bolt people look like. Perhaps they need me to plug my lamp in so they don’t get too bored. Perhaps that little guy up in the right window reached out and zapped me as I sat staring into their home. I dunno. Could be.

What I do know is that I’ll continue peering into ordinary places, drawing what I see there, knowing that sparks may fly in the process. Do jump in on the fun! You’re never too late to join the Lenten drawing party! You can download all the drawing prompts through Lent or simply find ordinary things to draw each day in your sketchbook.

Buen Camino friends!

-Jennifer

*The drawing journey through Lent is blogged HERE, and Instagrammed HERE.

*Inspiration & Instruction for drawing your life is HERE. 🙂