Returning to My Sunday Sketchbook

For the past few months, I've needed to take a break from anything to do with my art.  A hibernation for healing of sorts.  To slowly wake up out of my winter and step into spring, I am going to be doing a personal project called "Sunday Sketches".  I did it a while ago and want to return to them.  (You can view my 1st Sunday Sketches flip-through video here.)

Instead of posting weekly prompts like I did with the Gratitude 52 Project, I will be sharing my completed sketchbook pages with verses or pieces of wisdom that have been speaking to my heart.  I'll start for a few weeks and see where it goes. Then I'll share them with you each Sunday through social media outlets and my blog here.  You are welcome to follow along and join me.  

I originally posted the first week on my Instagram page.  I realize that koala bears don't really have anything to do with the Bible verse, but koala bears are cuddly, and I love animals, so I included one in my sketchbook.  You'll probably see a lot of animals in these pages.

This particular sketchbook project is meant to keep me uplifted, with no pressure to perform.  I hope the words and images are encouraging to you too.  

Here are last week's verses and what I learned from them.  

With love,



One of my favorite passages from the Bible is in the books of Luke and Mark, where a blind beggar named Bartimaues is yelling for Jesus' help.

Thronged by a large crowd of people, Jesus was making his way through Jerusalem.  Hearing the commotion, Bartimaues begins shouting for Jesus' attention.  The crowd tells him to be quiet, but Bartimaues begins yelling even louder.  Jesus then asks for Bartimaues to come to Him.

As Bartimaues makes his way to Jesus, I imagine that the crowd is now hushed.  The two men stand in front of each other face to face, and Jesus asks Bartimaues, "What do you want me to do for you?"

In that intimate moment of need and request, Bartimaues tells Jesus that he wants to see again. Jesus heals His sight, and tells him that his faith has made him well.

I love that Jesus, while omniscient, invites the lost and overlooked to come to Him with their requests.  I love that Bartimaues was quite OK with looking like a fool too.  And it makes me wonder what I would ask Jesus in that same moment.


sketchbook pages in Schmincke watercolors on Canson hot press, cotton-mould watercolor paper.

Meet "Maggie"

Jennifer Frith Ilustrator

After a lot of work and a lot of patience, I'm so excited to share with you that my 3rd children's book is available for purchase here on Amazon.

It's a sweet story about a lion cub named Maggie. She loves Monster Trucks. Her family loves her for it too.

The author, Natalie Shafer, was such a pleasure to work for. She wants little girls to know that it's perfectly ok to be who they are, whether they're sweet and dainty, a little bit rough and tumbly, or maybe a mixture of both.

Jennifer Frith Ilustrator Maggie Likes Monster Trucks
Jennifer Frith Maggie Likes Monster Trucks
Jennifer Frith illustrator Maggie Likes Monster Trucks
Jennifer Frith illustrator Maggie Likes Monster Trucks
Jennifer Frith Ilustrator
Jennifer Frith Illustrator Maggie Likes Monster Trucks

This illustration journey all started because I began sharing my animals, journal pages, and illustrations online with you here about 6 years ago.  I had no idea what I was doing (you can find out for yourself; my first post is here ).  I just knew I wanted to draw and share those creations for whomever wanted to see them.

So thank you for following and sharing your own creative work with me.  I appreciate your friendship, encouragement, and support.  I hope you keep pursuing your own creative curiosities.  I hope you share your art with the world too, or at least a close circle of trusted friends.  Who knows where it will lead.  And even if you choose not to share it with anyone, I'm 100% certain that following your "creative itch" will lead to your own joy, freedom of expression, and a greater sense of self.

Anyway, enough of the gooey stuff.

You can grab yourself a copy of Maggie Likes Monster Trucks here.  


Thanks for being so awesome.  


Jesus Is My All, But Sometimes You Need to See a Therapist

I knew I needed to get help when I wanted to end my life.

It wasn't even a "want"; it felt like it was my only option.

My grandfather – one of my heroes and biggest mentors – had recently died.  We held his hand as he passed away in the Hospice room.  I was the Executrix.  I felt overwhelmed by the responsibility of carrying out his arrangements.  My husband was dealing with his own stuff from his time as a Marine in the Iraq War.  We lived in a pretty terrible and cramped apartment.   I was bogged down by work.  I wanted to look out for my family during this difficult time too.  

I moved from months of feeling overwhelm/despair to months of feeling numb inside.  I felt like I was lying inside an open coffin with the weight of life being shoveled and hauled on top of me.

To make matters more complicated, I had accepted Jesus into my heart when I was 5.  But here I was, 25 years later, lying in my bed each night, feeling misery.  What Christian lives life like this?  Am I really a Christian?   What about the "Fruit of the Spirit?"   What was wrong with me that I couldn't dig myself out of this emotional mess?  Am I not praying enough?  Or praying the right prayers?   At that point, suicide wasn't a "want".  It seemed like the only way out.  

When I began picturing how I would do it, I knew I needed to reach out for professional help.

And that's when I researched and called a therapist.  It was one of the best, most difficult decisions I have ever made.

Difficult, because telling a complete stranger your problems for the first time feels like jumping out of a plane.  It feels palms-sweaty kind of scary and completely nonsensical (who willingly jumps out of a plane?).  It also feels straight-up awkward.  And then, after the first session, when a thousand locked-up hurts start to bust and break open, you can't sleep for 2 nights afterwards.  

But it was the best decision because it helped me to unravel and unwind a ton of negative thoughts.  It helped to heal wounds that I had been carrying from my younger years into my adulthood.  It taught me coping skills, boundaries, self-care, and how to forgive myself and others.  It taught me about me

The release and freedom from all of that pain was so worth it.  So very worth it.

And I no longer believe that if you are a Christian and you are depressed, that something is "wrong" with you or your walk with Jesus.  

That's why He gives some people the gift of Encouragement (Romans 12).  He wants us to be encouraged by others when we are at our lowest.  We are part of His plan to lift each other up when we can't seem to pull ourselves out of our darkest moments.  And some of those Encouragers just happen to be professionals.

If you are dealing with your own dark moments and would like to get help (please know that you don't have to go through life feeling like this), here are some resources that might be useful for you:

Older journal pages in watercolor.  Cardinals are symbols of loved ones who have passed.

Older journal pages in watercolor.  Cardinals are symbols of loved ones who have passed.

When has asking for help made you feel alive again?

Who's helped to lift you up in your time of need?   

How can you be of an encouragement to somebody today?


Our 4th & Final Gratitude 52 Interview: Sophie Thurlow

For our fourth and final Gratitude 52 Journaling interview, I'm thrilled to introduce Sophie Thurlow to you.  Sophie hails from England (across the pond for most of us!).  It was so great connecting with her this past year.  I admire her genuineness, her tenderness, and her love of animals. 

gratitude journal - sophie thurlow

Welcome, Sophie!  Please introduce Yourself.  What’s your name?  Your profession?  Your biggest passion?  How would you describe your personality and your interest in art?

Hi, my name is Sophie Thurlow and I live in a small village called Sandford in North Somerset, England.  I’ve just started a new role as a part time, charity shop manager, for a local hedgehog rescue centre, but I am also an artist too.  I love being creative, I NEED to be creative!  I’m quite a behind-the-scenes kind of a person. I love my family, my pets and my home.  I’m a wife, a mother of two children and owner of Milo our Miniature Schnauzer.  I’ve had a passion for art from a very young age.  I spent my childhood copying pictures from my books or my birthday cards.  I particularly enjoyed the drawings in the series of Brambly Hedge books by Jill Barklem.  As I grew up, my parents took my sister and I for days out to National Trust houses around England. Whilst there, I would spend ages studying the beautiful portraits in the houses, trying to work out how they had painted the clothing to make them look so much like the velvet, or silk, that they were wearing.  Beatrix Potter also had a big influence on me.  I loved visiting her home, Hill Top, in Cumbria and seeing the different rooms and items that were featured in her much loved, little children’s books.

What made you decide to join the Gratitude 52 Journaling project?

2015 was a tough year for us as a family.  We’d had a few health scares during the year and were going through a period of uncertainty.  I was feeling quite overwhelmed.  One day, I was looking through Pinterest when I stumbled upon Jenny’s ‘Say No to the Naysayers’ journal page.  It really made me laugh, and I discovered her blog through that Pin.  It was then that I saw that she was looking for people to join her in her Gratitude 52 Journal project.  I had never taken part in anything like this before.  I didn’t even have an Instagram page at that point, but I felt it was just what I needed to help me to re-focus and connect with other artists around the world.

What did you learn from this challenge?  How were you surprised by it?

I’ve learnt that I’m not keen on drawing vehicles!!  Seriously though, it has given me the opportunity to draw things that I wouldn’t necessarily have thought to sit down and draw.  I’ve learnt what subjects I enjoy drawing more than others. I was also quite surprised at how my art developed over the year.  Taking part in the Gratitude 52 journal has made me look at the important things in life too.  Don’t miss out on those important little things in life because you’re too busy looking for the bigger things.  As I’ve heard it said ‘sometimes it’s the little things that are actually the big things’.

How has your own art and journaling style developed as a result of participating?  

I feel it certainly improved as the year progressed.  I had never previously thought about putting a quote with my artwork but I loved researching various quotes linked to the prompts and working out how best to illustrate them.  I could feel my imagination cogs whirling into action again.

What were your favorite materials to use?  Did you discover that you were drawn to other materials more than others?  

I tried to experiment with a variety of materials.  For one entry I needle felted a picture of a sheep onto fabric and then stitched this into my journal.  In another entry I used Derwent Inktense pencils to paint onto strips of fabric to represent the patterns on my favorite items of clothing.  It was fun to use threads to stitch my art into my journal.  I also particularly enjoyed using my Faber Castell Polychromo pencils and my Winsor and Newton Watercolours too.

gratitude journal - sophie thurlow

What was the most difficult part of the project? What did you overcome?  

There were a few prompts that I found a challenge.  I wanted to express gratitude for my late Mother, who passed away in 2009.  We had a very close relationship and I really wanted to do her justice, so it took me quite a while to come up with an idea of what to do.  The prompt for Thanksgiving was hard too as that’s not part of my British culture, but I looked at it a different way and found a quote about being thankful and illustrated that instead.

How did you fit it in with your schedule? 

Being a busy wife, and mother, it was hard to have a definite schedule, but I set aside any free time to sit and draw, usually when everyone else was busy with homework.  It has made me reflect that, going forward now, I will be setting aside specific time in my diary for my art and creativity.

Describe a page or two of which you are most proud.  What do you love most about those pages?  

I think that my favorite pages are those where there is a lot of love and feeling behind them.  An example of this was my page ‘Dancing on the feet of my Daddy’.  Although this may not have been my best page artistically, it was one of my most heartfelt pages.  It brought back to me those little, happy childhood memories of being loved and cherished.  

Prompt 28 was all about first memories and I looked back to when my passion for art began.  I came across a drawing that I had done when I was around 9 years old, of a character from one of my Brambly Hedge books.  I decided to stick this little picture into my journal and finish illustrating it with a garland of wildflowers that featured on one of my Brambly Hedge plates.  It was wonderful to continue to illustrate this drawing 32 years later!  I’m also proud of the pages where I’ve felt that my artwork reflected just what I wanted to say.

Describe your creative setup: did you have a special Gratitude Journal space to create?  

My creative space was either at our family table in our conservatory, where during daylight hours it is a lovely, bright space to work in or, in the darker, colder evenings I’ve worked in our lounge near to our log burner fire to keep cozy.  It’s suited me very well because it meant that I was still around my family, whilst doing what I love.

Who did you meet and connect with as part of this project?  

Firstly, Jenny, it’s been fabulous getting to know you as part of this project and the advice and support that you’ve given to me has been so gratefully received.  It’s also been wonderful connecting to the other Gratitude 52 Journal participants, in particular, Shelly V (@artsycrafty7) and Leigh Ann Simpson (@uhsart) who would regularly leave me encouraging comments on my posts. Through our pages, we shared little insights into each of our lives and through those pages I felt that connection, even though I am miles away in England.  As I’ve posted my pages through Instagram, I’ve seen my Instagram followers grow steadily too, connecting with other artists and people with shared interests and beliefs.

How has gratitude journaling made your life better?  

It’s meant that I’ve made that time and space to reflect on the good things in life, and it has helped me to develop and find out who I am as an artist too.

What advice would you give to someone who is trying to journal and express themselves artistically?

I would say firstly, don’t be afraid of that blank page and just experiment.  Try out different materials, techniques, surfaces and styles.  Have fun and don’t worry if some pages don’t turn out exactly as you wanted.  It’s a learning process and it’s through trying that you understand who you are as an artist.

What else would you like us to know about you?

I feel that art and creativity is a God-given gift to me and I want to use this to some purpose.  I have a deep love for this beautiful planet of ours.  I’m currently working on a project linked to the environment and all the amazing and diverse creatures that we share our little green and blue world with.  I am looking to create various art pieces where some of the proceeds of sale will go towards benefiting wildlife in need, starting with the hedgehogs at Prickles Hedgehog Rescue in Cheddar.  My most recent pieces are artworks of beetles which I am planning to turn into prints and cards.  Once completed, these will be available to buy through my Etsy Shop that I have recently opened and am gradually stocking with items.

How can we connect with you?

I would love you to come and follow my art.  If you are interested to see more, you can follow me here:

I’ve just set up an Etsy shop  where I am selling my new art work. As well as art, I also love to crochet, sew and knit and my shops Bobbin and Bodkin on Folksy and eBay where I sell the creations that I’ve made using various other materials.

If you would like to see more about what Prickles Hedgehog Rescue do in Cheddar, please see their website Thank you for reading and spending this time with me.

gratitude journal - sophie thurlow

Thank you so much for sharing, Sophie! 
And thanks to all of you who have either participated in this project or stayed along for the interviews. 

If you're not already signed up to my Blog Newsletter and you'd like to receive future interviews and fun tips like these in your inbox, be sure to sign up for my email list below:

Keep creating and enjoying this one precious life you've been given!



Gratitude 52 Journal Interview #3 of 4: Leigh Ann Inskeep-Simpson

Here is our 3rd Gratitude 52 interview, with Art Teacher and journaler, Leigh Ann Inskeep-Simpson. 

gratitude journal - leigh ann simpson

Happy to have you here, Leigh Ann.   Please introduce yourself.  What’s your name?  Your profession?  Your biggest passion?  How would you describe your personality and your interest in art?

Hi everyone!  I’m Leigh Ann Inskeep-Simpson.  I am a high school Art, Art History and Photography teacher.  I love to paint, draw, teach, garden, photograph, walk in the woods, play with my dog and eat chocolate.  I would say that I am optimistic, a good listener, fairly quiet and friendly.  When I was in elementary school my neighbor was an artist.  I was best friends with her daughter.  I thought being an artist was the best thing ever.

What made you decide to join the Gratitude 52 Project?

As a teacher I assign “Art Journals” to my students.  There are times when I get stuck and don’t know what to suggest they draw.  I promised my Art 3 and Art 4 students I would draw as often as they draw (once a week). It was good for me to have new inspirations.

What did you learn in the last year with your journaling? 

I learned that sometimes it’s really hard to be on the receiving end of a prompt!  “How am I supposed to draw_________?”  I often struggled with what or how to draw the prompt.  I was surprised at the way others in the group interpreted the prompts.  Their way of looking at the prompt made sense… it just wasn’t what I had thought when I first read the prompt for the week.
gratitude journal interview - leigh ann simpson

How has your own art and journaling style developed as a result of participating?

I have been doing Art Journals for three or four years.  In that time my drawings have gotten more realistic, and I draw more quickly.

What were your favorite materials to use?  Did you discover that you were drawn to other materials more than others?  

Most of the time I use pencil, but there were times I wanted to use ink, colored pencils or watercolor.  Some weeks I just want to shade with pencil.  Other times I need color.  It’s nice to be able to use whatever media fits the mood.

gratitude journal - Leigh Ann Simpson

What was the most difficult part of the challenge? What did you overcome?  

Oh wow, there were definitely times that I felt like things were too personal to share.  But I shared anyway.  “Your Salvation Story” was a prompt that I wasn’t sure I could tell or share.  My husband passed away in December too.  I wanted my Instagram friends to know… but didn’t know how to tell them.  My journal pages told the story in a way that I felt comfortable sharing.

How did you fit your weekly gratitude journaling in with your schedule?  

I usually drew on the weekend.  I liked the fact that the prompts came on Friday.  I could get them drawn on the weekend, but if I didn’t I still had time.  I know there wasn’t a deadline, but I always tried to get them completed in the same week they were given.  My schedule is typical of a teacher - really busy from late August until the first week of June, then pretty open until school starts again.

gratitude journal - Leigh Ann Simpson
gratitude journal - leigh ann simpson

Describe a page or two of which you are most proud.  What do you love most about those pages?  

I really liked the “Role Model” prompt page, mostly because I really like my role model, my professor and friend, Joanne Stichweh.  I usually send Joanne a photo of my drawings, paintings and collages.  When I had lunch with her she said that one of the drawings looked suspiciously like her.  That really made me smile!

gratitude journal - Leigh Ann Simpson

Describe your creative setup:  did you have a special Gratitude Journal space to create?  

Oh my, I draw sitting at the computer.  It’s a mess!  Papers, mail, grocery list, glass of water and the dog medicine.  

With whom did you meet and connect?  

I connected with Sophie (@sophiethurlow), Shelly (@Artsycrafty7) and Barbara (@scrappermamo).

How has gratitude journaling made your life better?

I tend to look for more things to be grateful for.  I am more aware of the blessings in my life.

What advice with you give to someone who is trying to journal and express themselves artistically?

Keep at it!  The more you draw, paint or collage the better you will become.  Share with others!

What else would you like us to know about you?  

It’s been quite a year, new dog, one son graduating high school then going to college, my other son getting a job, my husband passing.  Glad I have visual reminders of everything!

How can we connect with you?  

My Instagram is @uhsart.  My website is

Thank you so much, Leigh Ann.  It seems as though 2016 was a tough year for many people; I'm honored to have you share your talent and heart with us through your journey. 

. . .

Which one of Leigh Ann's pieces speak most to you?  What are you thankful for today?

Our 4th and Final Interview of this series will be up in a couple of days, so be on the lookout for that!