I am pleased to officially announce that I’m working on illustrating my first book, set to be released in fall 2020. It’s absolutely exhilarating and all consuming. The detailed illustrations are a lot. My studio and mind are full of all things books. I want to make it kick-ass. I want it to be my best work. I want it to be everything I ever imagined it could be. This book, the process and collaboration with the editor and writer has been a dreams-do-come-true kind of experience.
While this book project is what dreams are made of, it’s also full of pressure. Pressure I have put on myself, and expectations I’ve set for what it means. I am full of the high hopes of producing my most beautiful and authentic paintings within this unbelievably tight deadline. When I started officially painting illustrations for the book, I felt that I desperately needed an outlet- something to do and create that would take my mind off of it even for a little bit. It had to be a small task because I simply didn’t have extra time to spare. As you see on my web site and Instagram feed (really anywhere I can put it), I am a mother to four young beautiful beings. I cherish this about my life. I worked hard, really hard to make our family happen. You can imagine, being a mom is not only time consuming, but emotionally and physically draining. I longed for something, anything to distract me while raising a young family and being immersed in this exciting book— an activity that would help me tap into another part of myself.
And so, during this very full time in my life, something told me to walk. Enter my Morning Walk Find project. In the fall of 2018 I found myself being called to go on long walks through my neighborhood. I am grateful to live in the East Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago which is full of interesting buildings, expansive parks and, most importantly to me, Lake Michigan. Having this ocean-like body of water to visit gives me energy. As I began walking, I started to post pictures on my Instagram stories of little things that caught my eye while outside — a flower, the lake’s waves, the lines of a building, etc. After a few weeks of this, I decided to give a go at not only taking photos and videos of these things but also painting and drawing them in a small sketchbook.
Now, the practice of sketching is a whole other new discovery within this project. Typically, I have not been a sketcher. I am a don’t waste any time, go straight from idea to canvas kind of artist. Remember, I have four kids. The youngest is now 3 which is making it easier for me to have larger windows of time; however, I have an ongoing “I don’t have enough time” conversation, and the idea of “wasting” time to sketch made no sense to me. BUT, I’ve always admired people who sketched. I am also an art supply junky and have always, always wanted to be one of those artists who carry around a sketchbook and mini travel paints. This project has feed that desire and ignited my love of using a sketchbook.
With my new travel-sized paints, pre-filled watercolor brushes and sketchbook in hand, the Morning Walk Find journey was born. It was glorious for the first several weeks. Autumn’s crisp air and warm light provided a beautiful backdrop for my sketches. However, as the weather in Chicago turned colder, I wasn’t sure I could continue. One morning, while painting a dried hydrangea, I noticed chunks in my watercolor paint. At first I thought it was debris from the ground, but I soon realized it was ice. My paint was freezing! I checked my phone to find that it was 22 degrees. At that point, I thought my morning sketches would need to stop because I simply could not put myself through sketching outside in frigid temps. However, even though I detest being cold, I wanted to continue the morning walk project. And so, I ended up making a deal with myself. As the weather got cooler, I would limit my walks to the distance from the gym, where I go after school drop-off, and my house. I would find something within this 3 block radius to sketch each morning.
What an eye-opening experience this has been! First, I realized that I didn’t have to take long walks to find something that peaked my interest. Also, I have been “seeing” my surroundings for the first time. For the over 18 years I’ve lived here, I have had an ongoing conversation about how Chicago is lacking nature. I grew up on a 70-acre farm in Tennessee where nature is at the forefront. I absolutely love my parent’s farm and cherish every moment I am there. And, I especially love seeing my children experience the openness of their land. Surprisingly, through my Morning Walk Find journey, I am shocked to report that I can now see Chicago in a similar way to how I view my hometown in rural Tennessee. Nature IS everywhere! I can discern nature here in the city among the concrete, buildings, cars, sirens and movement. My morning walk finds have made me decelerate to a pace found in TN. As I walk, I am struck by the mighty beauty and wonder that has always been at my doorstep all these years. It’s right here.
It remains unclear to me how long I will continue the Morning Walk Find project and if anything more than this post and several instagram photos will come out of it. However, with the book deadline a week behind me (deep breath), if feels like the right time to take a moment and write a few thoughts about it all. Maybe this project is simply meant to have me be present a few minutes a day. Or, maybe it’s meant for something bigger. What has me think it’s the latter is the response I’ve gotten from many, many Instagram followers. People have messaged me saying they love seeing my “finds” or that they are noticing new things around them through following my “morning finds”. I am grateful for your comments as reading them confirms my feeling that there is something deeper here to explore.
If you’re inclined to look, all of my Morning Walk Find posts can be found on Instagram with hashtag #morningwalkfindsketch.
End Note: I saw flowers starting to sprout on my walk this morning and I thought to myself, I cannot stop this project now! Spring is coming. New, bright colors and flowers are emerging. This is the reward of making it through the winter! And so, I created this watercolor sketch then multiplied it.