Tools & Talismans #50 — Andrea Corrona Jenkins

I’ve told quite a few close friends that if I’d known the magnitude of the admin work that I’d need to do to keep up with this Tools & Talismans project, I probably would never have started it. The list of potentials, the initial contact, the follow-ups, the spreadsheets to keep track of who I’d contacted, and who I needed to follow up with — it's been a logistical journey. And one that I’m so very glad that I ventured into.

This painting is the 50th of 100 — I'm halfway there! — and I’m awaiting 3 more photos and words from 3 more women, and I’ll have all the background that I need to finish the entire series.

My goal is to finish all the paintings before the end of this year and then embark on the adventure of what I do with all these paintings and words, all these amazing stories and all the tools and talismans of this truly extraordinary group of women. Hope you stay with me to see how the story(s) turn out. And now on to Andrea:

As a photographer and writer, I suppose the tools pictured here come as no surprise. What you won't find in this picture, however, are the many types of cameras (and in some cases, rolls and packs of film) I use to do what I do almost everyday — to stop time for a second, tell the stories. The camera pictured here is merely an old favorite, an icon, a representation, if you will, of all the cameras I use to do what I do. I might use one camera everyday for months, then set it aside and pick up another for a week, and so on and so forth. Each camera speaks a different voice, but the language is the same.

The black moleskine sketchbook is my journal of choice, has been for at least a decade now. I like the simple design of it and the way each time I finish one, it stacks neatly atop the previous one — my life neatly stacked. As for writing — always a pilot varsity fountain pen with black ink, always. (I am very particular about my ink pens). Happiest when I have a little color to accompany all that black ink, colored pencils, thin-tipped markers, I gravitate towards oranges and reds (and mustards and pinks). I keep a little washi tape with me wherever I go, because you never know when you'll need to attach something to the pages or, better yet, leave something behind — taped to a wall, a table, a signpost. Bright-colored washi tape is magic.

I had to think long and hard about my talismans. In fact, I wasn't sure I even had any. But after giving it some thought, I realized I do nothing without first putting on the sterling silver dogwood ring my mom wore practically every day of her life. I cannot remember her hand without it. When she died, it was the first thing I went looking for. And for months, I couldn't bring myself to wear it. Now, I can't imagine my own left hand without it, even though I am scared to death I'll lose it, that it'll slip right off my finger and vanish forever. I take the risk, though. Every day. When I'm thinking through something, I often trace the lines of the ring and think about her. I started to wear her silver bracelets for the same reason. They help me think, they help me remember.

The shell in the middle is one I found this past summer on a beach in southern Florida. I've become obsessed with shells over the last couple of years and was thrilled when we ended up on Sanibel Island — one of the world's best islands for shelling. I kept coming up empty, though — until I found this shell. All around me, people seemed to be finding spectacular shells but I was over the moon to find this one little fighting conch, imperfections and all. I cleaned it up and now it sits where I can always see it, where I can pick it up and touch it, examine the patterns, listen for the ocean. It's a reminder to keep looking, keep working, keep going. To never, ever, ever give up.

Andrea Corrona Jenkins, photographer, writer


Tools & Talismans is a personal painting project where I document {in watercolor} the tools and talismans of 100 different women — creators and healers, thinkers and makers, wordsmiths and visionaries. Join me for a year of Tools & Talismans — I'll be sharing a new painting with you every Wednesday.

I'd love to talk about creating illustrations for you! Do you have a project that needs some illustration? Think my work might be a good fit? Get in touch, I'd love to talk about your project with you!