Here, on the west coast of Canada, we’re experiencing a heat wave. At 3:15 p.m. Monday (June 28) I took a photo of the thermometer in the shade at our front door. I read it at 43C which converts to 109.4F. That felt blistering hot for us! And because we don’t have air conditioning everything stayed warm long past the peak of the heat …surfaces, doorknobs, I felt like I was sleeping on an electrically warmed sheet and pillow.
I was reminded of the poem I wrote some years ago and included in my book Family Reunion (2007).
Yesterday’s fever broke in the evening This morning cool soothing air bathes face arms legs the neighborhood refreshed as if it slept deep and exhausted after sickness
But sun’s warm hand upon my back warns temperature is rising and burning heat will soon again blister the brown grass make bright-eyed impatiens and roadside chicory droop in the dazzling delirium
We will lie in darkened rooms splayed under whirring fans flushed fighting off sweats ice-tinkling drinks within arm’s reach till evening when the fever breaks again.
Thankfully the temperatures have moderated since then. But such a weather stretch drives home our vulnerability. We humans have only a small temperature range in which we can comfortably exist. I am in awe of the complexity of creation which God has fine-tuned for plant, animal, and human flourishing!
Tomorrow, July 1st and Canada Day, always feels like the official beginning of summer to me (a holdover from years of school rhythms, I guess). I’ll be taking a break from weekly blogging during July and August. I may post occasionally but not on any schedule. I hope to be back to a weekly post in September.
Wishing everyone a Happy Canada Day and a happy, safe, and healthy summer!
Whatever creative practice you’re into, you’ve probably faced the question—what do I fill my time with?
If it’s writing you ask yourself, what do I write about? If it’s a craft, what do I make? If it’s art, what do I draw, paint, or sculpt?
I have faced this question daily since starting my sketch journal in December of 2018. Here are some ways I’ve solved the problem of what to draw.
Sketch some detail of your day:
I was inspired to start a daily art habit by Samantha Dion Baker’s book Draw Your Day. In it, she tells of how she began doing a daily sketch of ordinary items from her day. When she posted these on Instagram, they gained an eager following which encouraged her to continue this practice. Since starting it several years ago she has filled many sketchbooks, published books, taught classes, and more.
My first sketchbook entries were in that vein—items from my day. My book became a visual journal—interesting to look back on.
However, after doing this for a while, I felt drained of ideas. My life just wasn’t that interesting or varied. Around that time I discovered lists of prompts.
You never need to look for inspiration. In a way, though, when the item feels uninspiring, finding an angle to make it your own is another challenge.
When you post your drawings to social media using hashtags, your work becomes part of a collection and you get to see how others have responded to the prompt. You can follow them, comment on their work, and inevitably a community develops.
You are challenged to draw things you would never choose to draw without the nudge of a prompt, and so you grow as an artist.
Other lists of prompts I have followed are Spring Your Florals (an Instagram flower prompt every second-day), Opus Daily Practice (ever February), and Inktober (an October drawing challenge).
Sometimes, though, you just get the hankering to work on subjects of your own choice. When that happens, you can make up your own list.
Set up your own list of prompts:
When I tire of following someone else’s list, I make up my own. I usually do it by themes. One month I sketched and painted only birds. Another month I gave each week a different theme (favourite things, fridge and pantry items, buildings, and plants). The possibilities are endless here: shoes, jewelry, dishes, desk items, wild flowers, insects etc. etc.
There comes a time, however, when you may feel you should spend those art hours with more intention. You may feel the need to learn a new skill or work on your weaknesses.
Work on areas that need improvement.
As I’ve continued my art practice, I’ve become increasingly aware of areas where I need to improve. Painting landscapes, for example, has shown me how I need to get better at painting rocks, trees, and water. Hours of art time can be absorbed by studying and practicing elements that need work. You can also grow in specific areas by watching videos and painting along with art instructors on YouTube and other platforms.
Work on your art business
At the moment I’m in still another space, where I’m trying to keep my little art shop replenished. Thus my daily art time has frequently gone in that direction, painting another set of cards, sketching a value study for a painting doing trial sketches and paintings in my sketchbook before getting out the pricey paper. Then, of course, the paintings themselves take hours of work.
Wherever you’re at in your creative practice, look hard and long at the challenge of how to spend your time. Then, if you’re not happy with your current source of inspiration, give it some thought, try something different, and so keep yourself and your creative endeavors fresh, nourished, and growing.
Sunday is Mother’s Day—I’m sure I don’t need to remind you!
Mother’s Day reminds me of my own mother and the fact that it’s already 15 years ago that I gave her her last Mother’s Day card. She died about six weeks after Mother’s Day in 2006.
I still miss her, though signs of her are sprinkled throughout my life. I still wear a few clothes of hers that I rescued from her closet. Some of the art that she made adorns our walls and decorates our house at Christmas. Bells from her collection sit on my window ledge. And we have photos! On beginning to go through my photos a few weeks ago, I came across so many wonderful memories of things we did together—pictures of the birthday parties and family dinners we celebrated at our home and hers, camping trips on which she accompanied us, scenic walks we took around Abbotsford where she lived.
I also have a few photos of her when she was much younger. I love studying them and finding premonitions of the faces of my siblings, our children, nieces, and nephews. This week’s quote in my daily planner reminded me of one of them:
“I can’t quite see myself as a mother and I can’t quite see my own mother as anything else” – Courtney E. Martin.
On my cleanup a few weeks ago I found a stash of sympathy cards we received on Mom’s death. Many of them tell memories of her. This Mother’s Day, I’m going to reread all those cards and appreciate her again for all she was to those of us blessed to have her in our lives.
This week I’m taking in a three-session webinar on the artist’s mindset led by artist coach and mentor Matt Tommey. Yesterday’s lecture was followed by a Q&A where Tommey answered submitted questions. The first question and his answer opened a window for me.
The question was (not the exact words but the gist) “What do I do when I feel an artistic calling in many directions?”
Many creatives are polymaths, i.e. Renaissance people who are interested and excel at many things. It is not surprising that they struggle with finding a focus when their interests and skills are wide and varied.
The answer to that is to recognize that life has SEASONS.
He spoke of his own seasons of leading worship (music), basket making (art), church involvement, now leading his mentoring program.
Our seasons are determined by many things: our age, family and responsibilities to them, finances, health, etc. When we are aware of life’s seasons, and the changes they bring, we don’t need to stress when we find our focus shifting as a result of changing circumstances.
I can relate to that!
When our family was growing up, my creative pursuits involved decorating my home, sewing for my family, gardening, and doing the odd craft project.
Then I started a home-based medical transcription business and for a time my attention was absorbed by it—along with family and church responsibilities.
Once it was established, I got the itch to work on an old love—writing. I registered for a writing course and within about a year, had sold my first article. Many published articles, stories, devotions, puzzles and poems followed. I published a couple of poetry books and even wrote two novels.
(Many of my siblings are talented artists with formal art training. I loved art but felt I couldn’t measure up, so shoved that old interest into the background. When I saw the Bible Journaling book and the projects people did, immediately I knew I wanted to try this, just for the fun and spiritual enrichment of it. I promptly ordered a journaling Bible, which I enjoy doodling in to this day.)
My next step into art was joining Instagram where my visual world exploded with the wonderful art work of others. I joined in on a few art and lettering challenges and stumbled across Samantha Dion Baker’s book Draw Your Day, about keeping a sketch journal.
On December 7, 2018, I made my first sketch journal entry, with a resolve to do a little art every day. It’s a resolve I’ve pretty much honoured since them.
What I discovered, however, as I let myself get drawn ever more into the vortex of art, was that my formerly high enthusiasm for writing was waning. All the creative oxygen in my life was being sucked up by art. I often felt sad and a little guilty about this, but didn’t feel like going back to the committed writing lifestyle either.
Yesterday’s discussion by Matt about flowing with the seasons of life, then, helped me put my experience into perspective.
I realized there were reasons why I was moving out of the writing season.
I have written about many many things and felt talked-out.
As I age (and I am a senior) words are harder to find. The old mind isn’t quite as nimble and sharp as it used to be. Art is easier on the brain.
The production cycle for any big writing project, like a book, is long and taxing. Even if one puts one’s heart and soul into it, it is often not monetarily viable. (It’s true what they say, that writing the book is only a fraction of the work that’s needed to get it out into the world.)
All that to say, I now understand my journey better. I feel free to embrace this new season of visual art creation as a step that was right and perhaps even inevitable.
Our Lecture One assignment was: “Create a piece of art that reflects your response to the beauty of God’s gift of imagination.” The Red-wing Blackbird study that illustrates this post is based on a reference photo i took a few weeks ago, of a blackbird singing his heart out. It symbolizes the joy of a new season.
One more thing!
We’re having a two-day sale at our Etsy shop. You will find 15% off all items in the store (art cards and wall art). Check it out: at Violet Nesdoly Art.
When presented, by my writing group, with the challenge to write about my experience during the pandemic, my first thought was to do it in poem form (seeing as how it’s April and National Poetry Month). “Pandemic Lifestyle” is a snapshot of some of the things that have characterized the last months for me and my husband. (The last stanza makes reference to Psalm 91 that has been a mainstay for me and many others during this time.)
We keep our social distance intentionally move out of the way of anyone approaching us, take to the sidewalk’s grassy margin the street’s parking lane to honour a fellow-walker’s and our own 2-metre force field. As we pass our eyes meet momentarily above masks, smile humour (This feels ridiculous) and apology (Sorry to be treating you like a pariah).
We live in a bubble cloistered behind the membranes of doors and windows that become transparent during Zoom meetings, where we see each other at kitchen counters, lounging against headboards, seated in front of bookshelves (looking so well-read), or posed before waving palms and surging surf, mute testimony to where we have been where we would love to be again yet relieved to be here, now, surrounded by the familiar and the safe.
We are sheltered under a wing covered by divine feathers as we experience sweet family life virtually with children and grandchildren, brothers and sisters, in Bible studies, prayer meetings and streamed church services. Here we have been hidden from the Covid-19 pestilence that walks in darkness, the prowling pandemic that lays waste at noon. We have not been numbered in the daily 3 o’clock count of thousands and ten thousands that have fallen around us, and we are incredibly grateful.
Can you believe we’re already almost halfway through January?
Have you done any dreaming or planning for the year ahead?
I finally got to setting down some intentions and goals last weekend. I know many pooh-pooh this new year tradition. Not I! Even the roughest road map helps me feel more purposeful and confident that I’m heading in a direction to which I’ve given at least a little thought.
One of my intentions this year is to be more regular with blogging. I’m going to try for one post a week, alternating posts about art and writing. We’ll start this week with art.
A month from today is Valentine’s Day! Since I’ve opened my shop, I’m very conscious about upcoming celebrations—all the more because orders need to be placed in good time to allow for shipping (and I’m not Amazon!). And so I’ve spent my art hours this week making valentines (with accompanying memories of elementary school).
A Valentine trend this year, according to Etsy, is for vintage designs. I had fun trying to figure out and duplicate that look. Here are some of the cards you’ll find at Violet Nesdoly Art. (Several of them can be personalized.) What do you think, did I capture the vintage vibe in some of them?
How have you spent these first weeks of January 2021?
Eye of the Storm, Book Two in Janice L. Dick’s Storm Series, takes us through the tumultuous years of 1917 to 1919 in Russia and Crimea. The Czar’s rule is in shambles. All over the countryside poor Russian peasants are agitating for land. Mennonite settlements, like the villages in the Molotschna Colony, are frequent targets as Russian neighbours, emboldened to take over land they feel is really theirs, steal, kidnap, raid, and light fires. The troubles soon spill over to Crimea and reach the Succoth Estate—the home of Heinrich Hildebrandt, his family, and Johann Suderman, the tutor Heinrich has hired for his younger children.
In the city, Paul Tekanin, the Russian friend of Johann in his youth, joins the Bolsheviks. Through him we experience the roller-coaster-ride of political developments in Russia at this time.
The characters we met in Book One continue to throb with life as they feel the increasing pressure to defend themselves (in defiance of the pacifism which is a foundational tenet of their faith) against vandalism, looting, and threats to life. At the Succoth Estate Heinrich and his family do their best to placate the populace with generosity and service. However, the anarchy in the countryside only grows worse. As their lifestyle of peace and plenty is turned upside down and lives are lost, they face the dilemma of whether they can live by another teaching of Jesus and forgive their enemies.
Dick keeps the action moving as she segues us from one scene to another through the viewpoints of various characters. These people are realistic and sympathetic. The setting is described with confidence and in vivid detail. Not only was this a captivating read, but educational as well. I am looking forward to the release of Book Three, the final one in the series, this summer.
Original Watercolour paintings. Only one of each available – in various sizes and price points. For example, the pictured ones are 9×12 inches Regular price: $125 30% off: $87.50 (paintings only, no mats or frames included). (The blackberry painting- bottom right- is no longer available)
Free Under the Cloud download
Also on November 26 – 28 only get a free download of the Kindle edition of my latest novel Under the Cloud at your Amazon store:
I’m excited to announce that my second novel, Under the Cloud, a continuation of the story begun in Destiny’s Hands, is now available from Amazon in paperback and ebook editions!
Here’s the cover (designed by Glynis and Amanda Belec of Angel Hope Publishing):
And the description, from the back of the book:
“Fifteen-year-old Zamri lives in the shadow of her brilliant brother Bezalel. While he crafts the gold and bronze articles for Tabernacle worship, all she can look forward to is a life of women’s work—work she finds uninteresting and confusing. But no one can keep her from dreaming. She imagines becoming a leader among women like her hero Miriam. That all changes when the dashing Pallu wins her heart.
“Trek through the years of exodus with Zamri as, within the strictures of Israel’s patriarchal society, she grows into mature womanhood. Discover with her how dreams need never die, indeed can come true in the most unlikely ways.“
Yes, the seven and one half-year project has finally been completed! My first entry in the notebook where I kept the journal of this book is dated January 7, 2013. Interestingly, it’s almost exactly eight years since I launched Destiny’s Hands (I received the boxes of books of that title on July 4, 2012).
Receiving boxes of product will probably not be the case with Under the Cloud, as I have been unable to place an order for author copies with Amazon. They are not shipping author copies to Canada during the Covid-19 pandemic *sigh.*
However, they do send out purchased paperback copies to Canada, and of course the Kindle edition is available as an instant download.