Draw Because You’re Afraid

Sketchbook page with studies of arms

The white paper glows under my hovering pencil and I hesitate at its blank perfection. An idea dances in my mind, waits in my fingers. But there it stops, caught in mid-air like a bird in a net.

Why do I wait? Why is drawing a line so difficult?

I know the answer before I ask–I’m afraid to fail. Simple as that.

Art is a singularly cruel lover: she takes every one of your ideas and dashes them against the merciless bedrock of your own skill. If it meets the concept’s requirements, good! You have a success on your hands. If not…woe betide the artist who did not take time to practice.

But too often, fear of failing shackles you from practice–the sharpest sword in an artist’s arsenal. Oh, fear draws a very convincing spectacle. You know the color will be too bright–the line will go wrong–the drawing will not be accurate. Why even try, if it is to be so bad?

Sketchbook page with thumbnail sketches

Hogwash. (And the fear knows it.) In reality, the chance that the line comes out wrong is only proportional to your own skill, or lack of it. To be sure, your first few (hundred) attempts might be ghastly–just ask me–but as surely as harvest, your skill will sharpen and the line will come out right.

It just takes practice.

So, draw because you’re afraid! Put your pencil on paper and spit in fear’s eye. Practice for all you’re worth and expect results, as seed produces sprout. They will come.

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

John 14:27

Golf Course Sketch Trip

I ventured out on a sketch trip across the golf course the other day, armed with necessary supplies packed in a little bag. The golf course is a beautiful area to stroll and sketch–an unusual oasis in our arid country–but it can be hard to avoid golfers and find a surreptitious spot. I first found a little bench a half-mile from our house and parked myself there, as it offered a fine view of the course’s rolling hills, clubhouse, and local mountain.

(Please ignore the smudging–a little bit of it is an experiment gone wrong, but the rest happened with careless handling.) I definitely want to come back to this spot…the mountain adds a beautiful backdrop and the little hills make lots of interesting layers.

Funny story: As I sat on the bench, a couple golfers drove by and said, “Are you grading us?!” (I only realized later what they said.) I shook my head and was quiet as they teed off (the tee was right next to the bench). Then, as they were packing up, one said, “Wait–are you drawing something?” I said yes, and they seemed impressed, complimented the view, and drove off.

Art always attracts such interest from passers-by. 😛

I moved on to draw some trees–I should have done the little shape sketch (in the corner) first and then done the big one. Also should have taken more time, but this was done standing in a large path beside a fairway, and it’s hard to concentrate while standing holding a sketchbook and trying to ignore the golfers walking by.

Another path. There were all sorts of interesting lines from rain flow, which I tried to capture.

I wasn’t too pleased with the day’s results, done hastily, but plan to remedy that on future sketch trips. Thoughtfulness always pays off!

Rainy Day

Today we’ve had rain for the first time in probably a couple of months…spring has been puny this year for lack of water.

Rainy day clouds always take my breath away here in Arizona.

To quote my grandfather, “Arizona is seventy-five percent sky.”

Our sky here stretches like a grand tapestry from horizon to horizon, and the sun seems closer than other places. In the summer, monsoon storms chase across the mountains and cumulonimbus clouds tower over the earth like titans of old.

My favorite cloud-scapes are like the one pictured above–where the cloud floor parts and you see the tops all gilded with sunshine and almost lost in the brilliance. (The photo can’t do it justice.) It always seems like a scene from a storybook…I can easily lose myself in imagining other worlds and their stories on days like that.

Stories of those imaginary worlds are the principal reason I want to be an illustrator. There are so many pictures in my head–glowing with color and begging to be drawn! I look forward to the day when my pencil can keep up with my mind.

Well, I’ll sign off here. I just wanted to share our rainy day. 🙂

Laurie

Inglenook: Welcome!

“Inglenook? What’s Inglenook? Whose blog is this?”

…is probably what you’re asking as you read this. Never fear, it’s just me, Laurie, under a new alias. The days of My Heart Shall Rejoice are gone…Inglenook has arrived! Well, The Inglenook Companion, to be exact.

Let me explain myself.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of my first blog, Hoofprints and Roses, begun as an earnest, horse-loving twelve-year-old. Since then my blog has run through many iterations to suit my changing fancies. My Heart Shall Rejoice was actually the longest run, beginning as simply Rejoice! when I was fifteen. It’s been 6 years!

Needless to say, my heart and dreams have grown and changed, and it seemed an appropriate time to change my blog identity—shift it to my grown-up tastes and future aims.

“That’s all very well,” you may say (primly sipping your tea), “But what’s an inglenook?”

This. This is an inglenook.

From Wikipedia

More specifically, that little chimney corner seat tucked back in the wall…can you see it?

A short history: inglenooks were partly enclosed hearth spaces that hark back to medieval times, where family members could sit while the cook worked at the fire. It soon became a cozy and convenient place for people to gather during the Middle Ages, when every shred of heat was precious in drafty winter homes. 
Later, as prosperity and comfort grew, inglenooks were reduced to a decorative setting around the fireplace. Their social impact, however, continued. I love Stephen Holt’s description from This Old House:

“A medieval symbol for hearth and home, the inglenook was placed at the very core of the house, usually in the hall. These shingled retreats were for summer resort living, a safe and carefree family home where all could gather around the fire on a foggy evening in the protective inglenook. …[In modern architecture] it is not used for cooking and only occasionally for heating, but it strongly imparts feelings of sheltering welcome and domestic serenity.”

Isn’t that lovely?

Warmth and family, welcome and safety. A place to rest with a good book on a quiet afternoon, or bundle in with family and old blankets on a chilly evening. Laughter, stories, companionship. Life.

This is the atmosphere I want to encourage in my own home some day, and express to you through this blog…a blog you could read in your own “inglenook,” as a sort of “home companion.”

An Inglenook Companion, that is.

Many joys to you,
Laurie

Music Thursday: "Miserere Mei"

Good morning! Today is Music Thursday…not because of any particular musical association with Thursdays, but because I wanted to share a particular song I like. I’m intentional like that.

That song is Miserere Mei, a falsobordone setting (setting being the setting of a psalm to music, falsobordone being a style of musical recitation in the 15th-18th centuries) of Psalm 51, written by Gregorio Allegri around 1638.

I first heard the piece at a local choral concert with a friend–its strong melodies and haunting harmonies stuck in my mind, and I underlined it in the program to look up when I got home. Although I’ve since listened to it repeatedly, I never knew anything about it until this morning, when I looked it up to share with you.

 Allegri (1582-1652), an Italian priest and composer, wrote the work “on his own time”–or rather, not for a particular commission. Soon, however, his music caught the ear of Pope Urban VIII, who secured an appointment for him in the choir of the Sistine Chapel. He held this position until his death.

The Miserere itself offers a double-choir version of Psalm 51; one choir sings it chant-style and the other adds melodic embellishment…this is what creates that exquisite tapestry of sound. At some point after its writing (and for unknown reasons), the Misererei was forbidden to be transcribed and published (!!!) and  allowed to be sung only in the Sistine Chapel itself.

This continued until, as legend has it, a young composer by the name of Mozart visited the Sistine Chapel in 1770. After hearing the piece only twice, he transcribed it accurately from memory and took it home. Since then, the piece has spread through the world, with ornamentation added by performers until became what it is today.

Sharing it with you today is an appropriate coincidence, as the piece was traditionally performed during Holy Week back in the Sistine Chapel days. Here, the King’s College Choir gives it at Easter, in the King’s College chapel:

Psalm 51 itself holds one of my favorite verses, and many more that have been a mainstay of the Church for millenia:

“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.”  Psalm 51:10-11

What a beautiful ode Miserere is to this heart-felt, repentant Psalm. The Psalmist earnestly desires to serve the Lord with a pure heart, not half-way and steeped in sin. Praise the Lord for His incredible sacrifice at the Cross–the meaning of Easter, and the reason this song was sung–which enables us to live that Spirit-given, Spirit-filled victory over sin! I pray this song blesses you as much as it did me.

Laurie

A Penny for My Thoughts

Well, I haven’t been here since Thanksgiving! And I had planned to write at least one post about the new year, “thundering newness,” and other esoteric feelings about 2018 (it’s probably better I didn’t). Happy March, anyway!

I’ve been thinking about…

…Amazing new opportunities as a graphic designer at our church. I’m actually a ministry “intern” now, and am shortly starting an Assemblies of God Bible school program (which is combined with the internship). I had looked at this program a couple years ago, but it wasn’t the time yet. Now, it is! The Lord has pulled me into a group of awesome people that love Him, and I’m excited to start my first real ministry experience with them.

…How much fun it would be to write a travel blog. But first you have to travel. Hmm.

…Having stripped my phone down to the barest essentials of being a “phone.” I’m tired of its technological tyranny over my life…so I deleted every app I don’t need for work or true convenience. Even the email app went. Crazy, I know.

…But have you read Cal Newport’s book “Deep Work”? If you haven’t, you need to. You might chuck your phone out the window when you’re done. Or at least delete your social media accounts, like me.

…Except for my art-focused Instagram account (my own sketches, preview-able at the bottom of my blog in a handy-dandy widget!). I actually started it around Christmas in an effort to keep myself accountable with daily practice of my art. It worked! However, app access for it went “adios” in the phone purge as well…now I’ll only be able to update by transferring the photos to a computer. Less distracting. (Goodbye, Instagram “Explore” page!)

…How I want to read more. My reading life has dwindled to almost nothing in the last couple years, and it nags at my conscience every time I walk past my “half-finished book” lineup. Reading is too slow for the 21st century, too sober and wise and peaceful. But how I crave that wisdom of centuries past to seed and shape my own life!

…Our last two GORGEOUSLY cloudy, rainy days. Maybe people in Seattle are tired of rain. Not me! Not here! (We live in Arizona.)

…The saying my Papa has: “Simplicity is the keynote of art.” The more I’ve thought about it, though, the more I am convinced that simplicity is the keynote of life. I crave it in every corner of my days, from the inside out. Simple thoughts, fewer belongings, unmuddied focus. Why? Because simplicity brings peace and depth. The fewer things you run after, the farther you’ll be able to go. I want to go far.

…The difference more Bible reading makes. A devotional email from Kim Potter prompted me to take my Bible reading plan seriously (9 chapters a day, people!) and I’m already seeing the change in my thought life and desires. It feels so good!

…The fact that I haven’t finished today’s reading yet. Oops. Better get on it.

Go in peace,
Laurie

A Quiet Thanksgiving Night

Happy Thanksgiving, friends! It’s a gorgeously clear night out, full of crisp autumn air and starlight from Arizona’s endless sky—a fine benediction on two days of holidaying with family. The last week has been so full of running and doing and talking and dishwashing that I’ve hardly had a chance to actually thinkabout Thanksgiving and what it means. Indeed, I have so much to be thankful for that sometimes it takes my breath away. Here’s a few things that come to mind:
I’m thankful for hot showers, clean clothes, and a soft bed.
I’m thankful for a family that loves me and my multitude of flaws unconditionally—and shows it in practical ways.
I’m thankful for good music that stirs the soul.
I’m thankful for healthy food to strengthen our bodies.
I’m thankful for the opportunity to pursue my chiefest dream of becoming a book illustrator.
I’m thankful for golden sunrises and sparrows picking breakfast off the ground.
I’m thankful for a solid, time-loved house that keeps us warm and dry.
I’m thankful for Arizona’s infinite sunshine and wild clouds.
I’m thankful for a job I love, that’s both challenging and satisfying.
I’m thankful for dear friends that love the Lord.
Most of all, I’m thankful for my Heavenly Father and His Son, and His Spirit dwelling within me. His love fills and fulfills me, His Word guides and renews me, His hands hold and shape my days. I can trust Him with all that I am, and lean into His promises when flesh threatens to fail. He loves me dearer than any father, brother, or husband, and He is the Creator of the universe.

What more could one possibly want?

Autumn Days

Autumn has much the same feeling as New Year’s for me, for whatever reason. There seems to be a fresh start, with new winds blowing and the sun shining brighter (which it actually does), and everything changing with the bright colors and dancing leaves.

This autumn, my family’s had lots of lovely new opportunities for friendships and activities (yay Bible studies—so satisfying) to fill our days with, and I’m training to add some new responsibilities at work. Like I said, new things!

What I’ve appreciated most this season, though, are the absolutely spectacular mornings. Every day, the sun rises with some measure of gold and glory, and christens the day with such beauty as would make you catch your breath. I’m usually at my quiet time when the sun crests the horizon, and it’s like the Lord’s own benediction on our time together.

As you can see, I gave my blog a little facelift (I can now change the header photo to suit my moods). I’ll keep posting some of my random thoughts and observations now and then…the Christmas season is soon upon us with it all the joy, wonder, and celebration of the birth of Christ. I can’t wait! I love Christmas.

But I won’t forget to give good old Thanksgiving its proper dues. Autumn isn’t done yet! I’ll wait until the turkey is stuffed and in our bellies before breaking out the carols.

Oh, and speaking of mornings earlier—I leave you with this:

“My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and give praise. Awake, my glory! Awake, lute and harp! I will awaken the dawn.”

Psm. 57:7-8

Go in peace,
Laurie

Little Blessings of Late

flowers on branch

Odd as it seems, God’s goodness in our lives can be easy to lose sight of. I cringe even saying it, but it’s true–between the busyness of each day, we let thankfulness fall in the cracks. So, I’d like to dig it back out and spend a few moments reviewing some of my blessings of the last week.

  • My wonderful young adults group. It not too small, not too big, filled with people who love the Lord and His Word. We have awesome spiritual discussions, and play games that make us laugh ourselves sick. And we do it every week! It’s pretty cool.
  • An impromptu video chat with dear friends I haven’t seen in forever. Seriously, there’s no pick-me-up like old friends that you miss! It was super spur-of-the-moment, completely unexpected, and so much fun.
  • Doing a quick drawing that just “clicked.” Like I was made to do it. And maybe I was.
  • Sticking with my workout program…and seeing results! I’ve actually lost weight (not necessarily what I was looking for, ha!), but am already stronger–and it’s so cool to see that each day in my workout. And it feels so good! I’m starting to understand the whole “I want to go work out” thing…it’s addictive.
  • My Living History group. This week, by a bizarre turn of events, I ended up cooking part of our lunch on the wood burning stove…there was much laughter and the worst cooking fail of my life (or, nearly). Details to come in a post. It was nerve-wracking and hilarity-laden.
  • Getting a new sketchbook! And then hacking it in half, b/c you can extend the life and get double the use (thanks for the idea, Papa!). Can’t wait to start the first half. (Lol!)
Well, it felt good to think back on the recent blessings in life. Thanks for listening…I leave you with Andrew Peterson’s song “The Magic Hour”, which I have been enjoying of late:
(If you can’t see the video, click here)
Time for a quick sketch before bed. Good night!
Laurie

Quick Sketch: Sleepy Dog

My grandfather’s art assignment for me the last few weeks (I do bi-weekly art lessons with him, as he is an accomplished southwest landscape painter and has much to share) has been loose contour sketches, like Shari Blaukopf’s shown here. In her post, she mentions Charles Reid’s “blind contour sketch” approach explained in his Watercolor Solutions—a method that has astonished me in its effectiveness. To put it briefly: keep your eye on the subject, your pen on the paper, and follow the outline (or contour) of the subject, checking occasionally to make adjustments on angle or proportion. I’ve been amazed at how accurate my drawings have been, while staying loose.

I used that method for the outline of this sketch, and added my own extras for detail and shading. The detail is fun—dipping the pen in from the outline for a quite squiggle that adds dimension and interest. I’ll be using this method more in the future!

Materials: Strathmore 5.5″ x 8.5″ sketchbook, Pentel Stylo sketch pen

Laurie