Sunday, 13 August 2017

NOT HOW MY STORY ENDS ....

Not very well this week, so just going to post this quickly and am sure you can follow the progression of how I made it.




 
Done too much, overwhelmed by life the universe and everything.  Normal service will hopefully be restored next week.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

RESPONSIBLE ...

 
I actually made this page some time ago, and its taken this long for me to feel OK about sharing it.  We retired 18 months ago, and himself had to have major surgery, but its at least a year since he's been (to our huge joy and gladness) well and strong again.

However, we had (like you do) talked and dreamed about all the things we would do with the time once free of the demands of a 24/7 job.  My ambitions were modest - make arty stuff during my frequent and regular periods of enforced resting - and go for the occasional happy outing with himself.  He hasn't done any of the things on his list - like join a choir, bike over to the bird sanctuary, go for regular walks, maybe volunteer somewhere ... and I haven't been on his case because he needs time to adjust, right?

But it FEELS like he is always waiting for me to come up with a plan - and I have to be the one going "let's do this, let's go there". He never makes suggestions - 'shall we pop down the town for a coffee and people watch', or 'do you fancy a run out to' (insert name here).  Nor does he "do his own thing" - see above, which leaves me feeling that I have to come up with ideas for outings or keep him company in case he is bored.  I know retirement is a big adjustment, but .... well its proving a bit difficult.

So I made a page about it because that's what I do when I've got something nagging away at me.  Started with orange paint and dropped water onto it (on purpose) when it was dry.  Not quite the exciting effect I was hoping for - it works better on watercolour and this was acrylic.
Then I started to collage around the edges and draw wobbly black lines.  I always draw wobbly lines because they are so forgiving.  If I set out to draw straight lines I'd probably mess it up, so I give myself permission to wobble across the paper in any way I choose. Try it some time - its very freeing because there's no way to get it wrong!
And then I added something to represent me - in this case I altered a Modigliani lady a bit.  She's thinner than me, but that's definitely not a problem.  I then I wrote down what was really on my mind.
As you can see below I doodled and drew some more but I'd got down essentially what I needed to acknowledge to myself.
It isn't up to me to provide entertainment/happiness for him - he has to find things he enjoys for himself. Anyway he's always been resistant to suggestions!  Once I accepted that he had to find his own path, and I needn't feel guilty for not doing it for him, or worry about him too much, I felt lighter.

But I do have one purely selfish request - which is the cry of many people whose partners have retired and are "under the feet".  Please PLEASE beloved, could you find something that takes you out for just one evening a week so I can watch the TV programmes I like without you moaning?  I've got endless episodes of One Born Every Minute and the whole of The Handmaid's Tale lined up just waiting for the day .....  

Saturday, 29 July 2017

IN THE WET ....

I wasn't sure whether to share this page because its a bit of a moan-fest.  However, since that is authentically how I was feeling I suppose you dear reader have to take the rough with the smooth?

I didn't set out to make a miserable journal entry.  I'd seen these colours together in a piece of aboriginal art and thought how nice they were.  So below you can see how I basically copied the basics onto the page and then set out to make it my own.
At this point it was all acrylic paint, but when I got to the dots (also on the original inspiration piece) I changed over to Posca paint pens.
And it was then that the first signs of gloom and despondency appeared on the warm glowing shades against the black.  The little figure is a stamp and once I'd put it down, without thinking about it,  I drew a grey cloud over her/my head ... and began to know where it was going.  Adding quite jolly bits of collage and pattern didn't get me off the negative track either ...
So I went with it and the writing spilled out ... but as ever it seemed to help and lighten the load a bit.  It did at least make me acknowledge to myself that I was feeling a mixture of anger and hopelessness.  For some reason I'd had this idea that, having been crippled by one difficult to treat illness meant I wouldn't be visited by anything else.  I was wrong about that.
What's been making me feel so low is being diagnosed with yet another painful and wearying illness alongside the Fibromyalgia.  Yep, I really needed that like a hole in the head.  For a while I just couldn't integrate and accept what I was being told about the unusual form of arthritis I've now developed, but I'm working on it.  I'll get there.   Writing down positive affirmations seems to help just as much as getting out negative feelings, and now I've found a quote which helps and which might well form the basis of my next page...

Sunday, 23 July 2017

SPIRIT FLYING FREE ....

Another simple background, made with standard craft acrylics.  I painted the paler blue first then added the darker blue using a baby wipe, which allows you to smear and smudge to get the effect you want.  A quick easy technique to borrow?
I sometimes make backgrounds ahead of time, especially on days when I can't really manage anything more complicated.  When I decide on a background to use, the next thing that comes out is usually the shallow tray of collage pieces.  I'm always collecting these - magazines and free leaflets etc are a good source - and I file them by colour.  I know its terribly predictable, but I can't help it, so when I've made a blue background I get out the blues-purples tray.  I just got made that way ....  Anyway I LIKE tone on tone pages.
And you can see below what I did with the contents - I just cut out shapes to create some kind of frame around the page.  Then I outline the shapes with grey marker to create shadows, and a black outline.  The bird cut out from a magazine gave me the idea for what I wanted to say.
Then the next stage is to include something human to represent myself on the page, and very often the writing comes after that. These stages aren't a prescription for how to journal, but its a tried and tested way of working on days when I'm not full of genius inspiration (which is mostly)!
And then I just doodle around and have fun with whatever parts of the page are left.  On this occasion I managed to leave quite a bit of space, not least because that's the subject of the page!

Mental space has been a little hard to find in recent days - so this is a reminder to myself that its something I really NEED and actually can't live without.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL ....

 
This is another page where (as usual) I'm talking to myself - I have to remember often that even a limited life spent sitting down a lot can be full of beauty.  Its just that you have to look outside your own problems in order to see it ...

So I wanted to make something beautiful, and not yet another page grumbling about how difficult my life is etc etc.  Its good to get that stuff off my chest, but its not the whole of life, is it?  Below is a background I'd already made on a day when I wasn't up to much else.  Sometimes when I look through these in my journal one of them will just shout "me, me!" and this one did.
I am a huge fan of black and white line drawing - and amazed by the power of what a single black line can convey.  I have a Pinterest board full of line drawings and patterns which inspire me.  I've been drawing "vines" or whatever they are like the one below for years, just as a free movement thing.  I can get lost in drawing this way ...
And if you've been with me some time you'll know how much I like what pattern can do too - how something as simple as dots and squiggles can add shading and interest.  Here I'm trying to use elements in the painted background by drawing around and on top of certain shapes.  This isn't meant to be a realistic plant, its more about what it represents ... which is nature in all its glory, with wonderful tiny details the closer you look.
At the above point, having added the writing in the space I'd left for it, I did wonder if the page was finished.  Journal pages can be simple, right?  Apparently not mine.  So, I got out the white Posca pen and drew OVER and around what I'd already done.
I quite like the result, and the effect of looking through leaves and branches, although I slightly regret the loss of simplicity when it ended up so busy.  Actually that sounds like the story of my life, so maybe it was meant to be that way?

It would be frighteningly easy to sit here in my studio, day after day, and feel sorry for myself, or become stuck in introspection.  But outside my window is a tree where the bird feeders hang, and a jay with a wonderful blue streak on his wings has been coming recently.  Plus the hydrangeas are out and they are palest pink.  I love those even when the heads fade and die - in decay they have an additional beauty.  Then there's a creeper joyfully romping up the black trellis which is supposed to hide the bins and the garage wall .... there's so MUCH out there.  I just have to remember to look and appreciate it.  And I did.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

HIDING ....

Fibromyalgia is a really strange illness with a host of symptoms you don't necessarily realise are part of it.  Something I experience, and thought was just a personality trait, turns out to be one of these and to have a name - Sensory Overload.  From time to time, and particularly if I'm tired, I become completely overwhelmed by sounds, people, conversation, and need to retreat and be quiet for a while.

I was in that place when I sat down to work in my journal - just me, in a quiet room (no music or talk radio) and my art materials. Sometimes the most I can do is make backgrounds, and I never really worry whether I like them or not because I'm going to work on top of them.

With this one I had some vague ideas about roses, so that's why I painted pink patches onto the orange page which I half intended to make into roses.
But that's not how things turned out - instead I used a technique I learned from Teesha Moore.  I've got a drawer filled with bits of paper cut out from all kinds of sources which contain interesting colours or patterns that take my fancy.  I cut shapes out of these, sometimes strips to make a border around the page, but here sort of 'U' shapes that I often think look like teeth or boulders!
I usually add to the pieces I use in some way so that they become mine, rather than just something from a magazine.  I draw patterns or embellish them to make them individual and unique, and mine.
Its quite a meditative process and I just allow it to take me wherever it will, and the words come unbidden ...
I was too tired to do a lot in the rather empty looking space above the figure - I couldn't think of anything brilliantly arty to do with it so just began making marks with a grey Copic pen.  I liked the result and did some more!

It seems strange to me that when I'm overloaded I should end up filling a page with colour and pattern, but somehow that is restful to my soul.  Perhaps its because I'm choosing to allow it to come out of my inner core rather than it assaulting me from outside?

Sorry I missed last week - I've been very tired lately and needed to take life gently.  Thanks for sticking with me.


Sunday, 18 June 2017

LIGHT NOT DARKNESS ...

There has been a lot of violence and tragedy in the UK in recent weeks, culminating in the horrific fire in a London tower block.  At times like these people who pray (like me) can feel overwhelmed by darkness and forget to see the beauty of love and heroism shown in the responses of ordinary people.  I needed to remind myself to actively look for those things and not ever to keep my focus only on the heartbreaking facts.

I often say that my backgrounds are never fancy, so I took a picture of this one to prove the point.  It is just orange acrylic splodged (technical term) on with a brush, and then when it was drying I used a baby wipe to take off some of the paint.  Its easy and gives an interesting effect.  I chose the colour simply because I knew I was going to say something about choosing light over darkness, so it had to be something light and bright.
My head was all over the place, so I was completely operating on instinct, which resulted in some (unusual for me) blocky shapes, a bit Mondrianesque even?
Sorry about the next picture which wasn't taken in the best of lights.  It shows how my normal way of working reasserted itself even if I am usually more inclined to work in dots and circles more than squares and rectangle.  The Modigliani lady represents me thinking, praying and pondering ... looking for light in the darkness.You can see how a grey shadow around her lifts the image off the page.
Then finally I found the words I was looking for, after all my desperate prayers for peace and healing were offered and heard ...
Its what we all need, perhaps, time out to become calm and still.  To look for the good and the hand of God in all things, and to reassert that the light still shines in the darkness and the darkness has not nor ever will overcome it.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

PEACE ....

 
I made this page in response to the Manchester terror attack, and waking up to yet another, this time in London, it feels even more right to share it now.  Our youngest daughter was in London last night with her fiance but got in touch quickly to let us know she was safe.

I began to make this in the days following the Manchester bomb - we live just an hour away and have many friends there - so my first act of defiance was to use acrylics to paint the page bright pink!
You may be aware that I've been very influenced by Australian Aboriginal art - amazing patterns achieved just with dots and simple marks.  My work owes a lot to that inspiration, except that I do it with Posca paint markers rather than a stick.  The colours are deliberately bright - I'm sure I need not explain further on that one!
I was trying to paint/draw a figure who would represent all of us - the people who are trying to live in peace in a multi-cultural world, the people who reject hate and violence.  She turned out to be my usual sort of earth mother/God figure, which feels about right.  We are all just human beings who share this fragile planet.
The words are deeply felt and from the heart, especially today, as I listen to the radio and the accounts of those who were on the scene in London last night.  Once again extraordinary stories are emerging of love, self-sacrifice and heroism in the face of death and disaster.  People really are amazing and good.  Love wins.  Again.  Always.
Events like this remind us that life is fragile, so make sure you tell the people you care for how much you love them.  Its the one thing I almost always heard when I went into peoples homes to plan a funeral ... they told me "I wish I'd said ....".
Do it now.
God be with you.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

MAKING ART ....

 
Himself and I have been going to art as therapy sessions to which I'd been invited as part of the pain support group I attend, and he got to go as my carer.  Since we retired he's become interested in drawing, and it was lovely to find something we could do together. The only drawback is that the meetings take place well into the afternoon, when I am beginning to run out of energy and fade away ....

So what I try to do is paint a background before we go, and then take a limited supply of materials and challenge myself to do something just using those.  Himself takes a pencil, a sketchbook and a rubber eraser, and he's good to go.  My supplies always seem to need a shopping bag, even if I am trying to simplify.

So below was where I began - just using one of the circular shapes in the background to write in, and trying to express something of my amazement at what happens when I just "go with the flow" and allow something to happen.
I really got into it and forgot to take very many pictures, but I do remember that the first thing I did was draw the circle shapes inside the writing.  I do love wobbly circles because while I might struggle to draw a proper one, a wobbly circle looks artistic and as if it might have been meant!  Imperfection is very liberating!

And for some reason having worked in curved shapes I suddenly went all spiky and drew these jagged shapes, which somehow for me express the POWER that seems to move me when I'm working.
I did a bit of scribbling too - I promised myself I would - these are also very liberating, I mean you can't do them wrong can you? Everything here has been done using Posca Paint pens because that was all I took with me.  I think they are what I'd save in a fire ... and all the other 12 journals of course!
Now I had every intention of doing a LOT more than this, of filling the space with all kinds of exploding patterns and general loveliness, but I didn't.  Its possible it was only late afternoon tiredness but the page just seemed to be finished, so I stopped.

We aren't going to that group any more.  Turns out neither of us liked it much and only went for the sake of the other, but neither of us wanted to say so and spoil it for the other!  Once we had confessed, and since the timing was difficult for me, we've given it up.  In one way its a shame because it was nice to do something arty together.  Now if only the trusty wheelchair could navigate the gorgeous sand dunes just a couple of blocks from home, I could sit and make (sandy) pages while he happily sketched.  Alas, wheelchairs don't like sand or gravel, or a host of other surfaces .... :(

Saturday, 20 May 2017

DISAPPOINTED ...

It was hard to decide to put this page "out there", but eventually I felt like I had to.  These feelings are just as valid as any others I choose to make pages about and share.

I don't bother with electronic gadgets much while I'm on holiday, so when I got home I checked my blog ... and was sad to find just one comment.  Now I'm really not a comments junkie but when I realised I'd had 2,500 visitors of whom just one had bothered .... well I felt like giving up.  Probably tired and emotional after a long journey?  And yes, I know, 2,500 visitors is simply awesome, I had no idea it would be so many, and I am awed and grateful for that.

There is always comfort and solace in working in my journal, so inevitably that's what I did.  I'd wanted to use some of the images from this pictorial archive book for some time.  At last, a book I can cut up without a scrap of guilt!
When I was making mixed media pieces or artist trading cards I used to love working in a brown/cream vintage style, so I set out to make a page like that just because I wanted to.  Torn paper, all sorts of junk from the collage drawers, a few are scrapbook papers, even tissue paper.
I didn't know while making it what I was going to write about in the space I so carefully left, but inevitably my feelings of disappointment came to the surface.  However, almost immediately (as you can read) I gave myself a good talking to about why I'm here doing what I do.

I journal because I can't NOT do it - it is necessary therapy for me, and I can't not express myself this way, not to mention it being a joyful activity that brings light into my limited life.  I share my pages just because it feels right to take the risk of putting myself out there, and hoping the things I struggle with might help somebody else.  I DON'T do it so can I feel warm and fuzzy when people leave me nice comments, which occasionally they do, and it is lovely.  One or two have even got in touch by email to tell me that something I'd posted here had been important to them.  Its special to hear that, especially when journalling and blogging are both essentially solitary activities.

Haven't listened to myself I decided to behave like a grown up and just keep on keeping on, without expectation of praise or reward of any kind.
But encouragement?  Now that's an entirely different matter, and we all need some from time to time.  Including me.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

ENOUGH ...

Thought I would show you something else of my process this time - a lot of you have been kind enough to let me know that you really appreciate seeing the pages develop step by step.  It begins as always with a simple background - the turquoise blue acrylic paint and the yellow mingle together quite well, but they needed something more so I added white on top.
Then I got out my collage materials (and coffee, always coffee).  As you can see below I sort these broadly by colour.  I have a set of shallow 12 x 12 drawers which I have labelled blue, green, orange, pink/red and neutrals etc.  Into these go anything which takes my fancy, although I do prefer the pieces to not be shiny so rarely use glossies - fortunately lots of magazines and catalogues are printed on matte finish paper these days.  Use what you have, save wrapping paper, scrounge from friends, etc etc.

I snip them from anywhere and everywhere - I've even been known to chop up children's books from the charity shop.  A favourite source is plain coloured envelopes that birthday or other cards come in.  These provide a block of solid colour I can draw or stamp on.  I pick much of my collage stuff up for free, and my Other Half is trained to bring home anything which looks interesting.

Then as you can see below I begin pulling out bits and pieces, shapes and colours, sometimes I punch or cut out shapes, just trying them in place.  Some stay and get stuck down and some don't.
I like to keep it fairly simple - you can always add more if you feel the need later.  This strange face began to appear at the top, but I didn't like it - there's an untrustworthy look in those eyes.  That made me think of the weaselly demons which come out to torment you, and it kind of went from there ...
The wormhole doodling represents the knots we tangle ourselves up in, and I could practically hear this demon whispering "you aren't good enough".  My mother's voice was in there too, but I told her to shut up because she's dead.  And in fighting her off I came up with the bit at the bottom, to remind myself that these whispers, often from the past, are lies we shouldn't believe.
My recent pages seem to have become a little bit simpler - its as if I'm finally giving myself permission to have empty spaces?  Or maybe I'm just lazy.  It may well be both!

We're flying the Atlantic tomorrow for some much needed sunshine in Florida.  In the warmth and sun I am always more well and in less pain, so this is my annual treat.  Plus the ice cream is flippin gorgeous.  See you in a couple of weeks 😎