The April sun today shouts of the summer to come. I soak it in when I can make quick trips outside to let it warm my skin. I smile as I see it dazzle the eye through the skylight a few feet from my cube. I drew this sketch in my journal on a hot day at the beginning of July last year. A spontaneous decision to turn down an unknown road on the way back from Sun River brought me to this gorgeous place. I sat on a dock for hours gazing at this view. It was all the more amazing due to the fact that it was a Monday and I wasn’t at work. I am looking forward to more of these days to come. More days soaking it in.
Grief runs over you with the force of a mac truck and leaves you broken on the side of the road. Then, after spending months and months waiting for wounds to heal and scar over, it blindsides you with sneaky guerilla style attacks. It adheres to no rules or timelines or parameters.
Everyone wants you to be ok because it’s been months, even years, since that thing happened to you. Don’t you want to be happy and move on?
fuck. of course we do.
But grief isn’t in our control and we have to let it wash over us and consume us and be in it and then get back to life. Over and over again. Most of the time, we do this alone because the thing that happened to us is old news. Believe me, we want to move on just as much as you want us to move on. I might even to venture to say we want it more.
I am taking an online class about sketching that I am enjoying. It is encouraging me to draw whenever I can find a spare moment. I had some time before I attended a Good Friday service last week and I found myself down near the east waterfront so I popped into Clarklewis and ordered a gin gimlet at the bar. I had about 45 minutes to burn so I decided to draw the bowl of lemons and limes that were sitting in front of me. Lemons have such an interesting and difficult to capture texture. Lumpy and waxy and lovely. Although some of the subject matter was removed over the course of my drawing it was fun to do a quick ‘still life.’ I enjoy drawing out in the world as I encounter a very distinct energy that being isolated in a studio lacks. People are curious and will ask questions and 99% of the time their comments will be encouraging. Sometimes an entire evening of drawing seems impossible after a long day at work in my corporate cube, but a quick sketch feels refreshing and entirely possible. I’m always glad I ‘squeezed’ in the time. Ha!
I was asked to participate in an Easter art project this year for a small church in Silverton, Oregon in which each chapter of Mark was illustrated by a different artist. I attended the show this week and it was amazing to see each artist’s interpretation. I had the choice of Mark 11 or 12 as I was one of the last artists to pick a chapter. I chose 11 because I wanted to draw a donkey. I was the strange girl that never drew horses when she was little, so it seemed like a challenge.
In this chapter Jesus rides into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday on a colt, or as most would interpret … a donkey.
So they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door outside on the street, and they loosed it. But some of those who stood there said to them, “What are you doing, loosing the colt?”
And they spoke to them just as Jesus had commanded. So they let them go. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their clothes on it, and He sat on it. And many spread their clothes on the road, and others cut down leafy branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then those who went before and those who followed cried out, saying:
‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’
Blessed is the kingdom of our father David
That comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest!”
Mark 11: 4-10
It is stunning to think that 5 days later Jesus would be crucified and these same people would be asking for his death. Not just any death, but a barbaric torturous death. I read the story in the past, and I used to have disdain for these people. How could their hearts be so filled with evil after being filled with worship and praise?
Now, the older and wiser woman that I am realizes I would be chanting ‘crucify him’ just as loud. My human heart is bent with sin and I have walked through the shards of my own brokenness enough to stop judging. I weep because my heart is just as fickle as the worst in the Black Friday crowd.
But ultimately we also call this Good Friday. Because this is not the end of the story. 3 days later, we know that a risen King proclaims ultimate hope. Love wins. I am just beginning to understand the love and freedom that was gifted on that day. When I try to wrap my mind around it, I can’t. I am on my knees, humbled and grateful. I am undone.
I’ll say it again. Love wins! Hosanna in highest heaven!
God, the one and only—I’ll wait as long as he says.
Everything I hope for comes from him, so why not?
He’s solid rock under my feet, breathing room for my soul,
An impregnable castle: I’m set for life.
My help and glory are in God—granite-strength and safe-harbor-God—
So trust him absolutely, people; lay your lives on the line for him.
God is a safe place to be.
Psalm 62: 5-8 (The Message)
Most of you know that I walked the Camino de Santiago with my sister last year. We walked 500 miles from St. Jean Pied de Port near the southern border of France to Santiago de Compostella in the northwest corner of Spain. We started walking May 1st and it took us 40 days including 4 rest days. There are countless books, websites and other resources about this ancient pilgrimage route that one can easily google so I won’t regale you with its historical significance on my wee blog.
I didn’t intend to draw a picture every day, and actually hadn’t really ever drawn directly in my journal before. I had taken a perspective class during the fall of 2012 at PNCA’s continuing ed program with a wonderful teacher, Kurt Holloman, that had re-introduced me to journal drawing and thought I might try my hand when compelled.
I started walking in the morning with my sister and then would walk my own pace after lunch. This usually dictated I was walking solo as my 6’3″ stride is hard to match. (Especially when I am walking with my Pacer Poles. If you are not a fan of walking sticks, you will change your mind on the Camino. They become a treasured extension of your body) I would then arrive at our decided destination, find a place with 2 available bunks, and sit outside and wait. We did not bring cell phones on our trip, so I would wait for Lissa to come walking by so she would know where we were staying for the night. After procuring a glass of wine, I would then sit down and begin to draw whatever captured my attention. This quickly became a part of my daily routine and something I looked forward to every afternoon. The drawing above is from a small town called Castro Jerez where we stayed on day 17 of walking. A huge storm was sweeping in, grey and moody, where I could see the Camino climbing the hill in the distance.
I ended with a entire book full of drawings and they are all precious to me. Not because they are technically amazing or precise. They are all simply drawn with a ballpoint, a medium fine point sharpie and a teeny tiny watercolor kit housed in a mini altoid tin. They change in skill and style as the miles pass, becoming bolder in line work and color. They are precious to me because when I look at these drawings each moment comes rushing back and I remember: the sounds, the weather, my tired body and the pure delight that felt like it was seeping out of my skin.
I am working on pulling these drawings together for a larger project so I will share updates with you along the way.
I have always loved Japanese woodblock prints, especially from the artist Hokusai. One of his most famous is The Wave off Kanagawa (shown below) which is usually known as simply ‘the Wave.’ This is a Ukiyo-e art, which translated means pictures of the floating world. This art was a genre of Japanese woodblock prints (or woodcuts) and paintings produced between the 17th and the 20th centuries, featuring motifs of landscapes, tales from history, the theater etc.
I have been using these woodblock prints to inspire my own art. I love the way they tell stories and use line work and shape to express emotion in the natural elements. The wave feels like a profound symbol to me. An event or circumstance that we face that we desperately want to avoid, but cannot. We try to move around it and it will topple us. So we must fight our natural instinct and head directly into the fury. More often than not, we have no choice. It is hard to believe that there can be peace amidst such darkness, but I have felt it settle over me and wash through me in spite of turmoil surrounding me or raging inside me.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
My friend Scott Erickson wrote in a post the other day that ‘the darkness pushes the hardest right before the light comes out.’ I find great hope in that as I move through my waves, worn and white knuckled.
In Portland, as I race back and forth to work, and am immersed in the chaos of life I need to remind myself to look at things with fresh eyes. To find the beauty in the ordinary and the unremarkable.
Most things that seem that way are only such because we have grown accustomed to the beauty and we look through it. We are staring at our phones or weighed down with the exhaustion of just getting through the day and our vision grows hazy and clouded.
This drawing is one I drew last year and is two blocks from my apartment. I wanted to draw the top of the building but I ran out of room which is a common problem for me. I love the doorway, however, and the stonework and the red stairs. I have learned in this last year that when I take the time to draw something I am forced to really see it. Drawing slows me down so that I notice the small details and the unique beauty in my surroundings that has always been there. For this I am grateful.
Drew this sitting on the waterfront on Sunday afternoon enjoying the sun heating my back. Decided to try to draw the Morrison Bridge because it felt daunting. Things with symmetry are hard for me, especially because I draw with a ballpoint and there’s no turning back once I start. My aunt shared a quote by Pablo Picasso that I love. I am trying to embrace it. “I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”
I have booked myself on Tuesday nights (and one weekend day) to get into my studio space. My only goal for this year is to show up and DO THE WORK. Much to my dismay, nothing actually changes unless you show up and do the work. My problem is that I don’t really know what the work is. I am trying to rediscover my artistic voice in the middle of my life which seems simultaneously easier and harder than it perhaps might have been if I had focused on becoming an artist at 21 instead of 42. Lately, I feel the most freedom and delight in the actual process of drawing when I draw in my journal. I’m not even in the studio, which doesn’t surprise me. Sometimes having an official space makes one feel they must do very official work there. Drawing in my journal started when I was on my pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago. I was compelled to draw wherever I managed to sit down after a long day walking. With a glass of wine at the ready, I felt free to capture the moment. I felt more joy than I ever had in the pure process. I had limited tools: a ballpoint pen, a sharpie, a paintbrush with water in the handle and a small Altoid tin with nubs of water soluble crayons. This limiting actual allowed me to just enjoy what I had, and draw what was in front of me, rather than wonder if I should be using something else or drawing something more important.
So after some attempts in the studio I find myself drawing from photographs from the camino. It brings me back to those moments in a very real way. I delight. I lose myself in the process. It feels freeing. I drew this image last night at home. It is from the northwest province of Galicia in the mountains near O’ Cebreiro. I am looking forward to sharing my journal images, drawn in real time which have a life all their own. This, however, will suffice for now, since unfortunately I cannot be a pilgrim all the time. This image reminds me that I need to keep walking. Do the work. Be grateful for the muse. Even if she sits down with you at the kitchen table.