Saturday, 6 February 2016

I CAN'T SEE ....

 
Himself has been in hospital all this week and my brain has been absolutely scrambled.  However, I stole some time to make art because I really needed the peace and refreshment I get from it, and this is the result.

If you've been with me some time, skip this bit because you've heard it before.  The background is done with Caran d'ache Neocolour II crayons - which go on looking like wax crayon, but when you add a wet paintbrush just EXPLODE into brilliant colour.  The yellow areas have been wetted but the others haven't and you can really see the difference!
And then below you can see how the whole page looks once water has been added.  These shapes weren't meant to mean anything, I was just playing with absolutely no idea where I was going!  I love that.
And then I got out my Posca paint markers and played some more ... still operating on instinct and content to let it turn out however it wanted to.  For some time now I've been exploring Aboriginal art, and the powerful images which can result from just dots (or even dashes), and this has been influencing my work for some time.  These shapes aren't dots but the idea of simple motifs is there.
At this point I decided the page needed SOMEBODY, and it ended up with this stamped face plus a pair of glasses.  I'd intended to add eyes inside the glasses until I realised that it expressed how I was feeling - unsure of the way ahead, unable to see far, and kind of groping by instinct every day since Himself's surgery.  Then of course that led to the writing, and the expression of a deep feeling that although I don't know how things are going to work out ... God does, and I can trust that.
I'm a bit dissatisfied with this - I think the colours aren't quite right, they're too much in the same tonal range without sufficient contrast perhaps?  Still, it is what it is.

Sorry this is a short post - hospital visiting when its a 40 mile round trip and you sometimes have to queue 30 minutes just to get on the disabled car park takes all my energy, and the rest of my time is mainly spent just trying to keep things together.  I have the help of my wonderful daughters who are here in relays to support.  We must have done something right because they are all amazing women.

Anyway, himself came through the surgery brilliantly, has amazed everyone with his progress after such major surgery, and is bored and longing to come home after just six days!  He might even make it after a few more days ....

Saturday, 30 January 2016

WASTING TIME ON FEAR ...

 
This page marks a substantial shift in my thinking, and one that I hope I can hold onto in the coming hours and days.  The nearer we got to the major surgery, the more time I spent praying desperately and frankly allowing my fear to completely overwhelm me.

A day came when I realised that I was assuming the worst rather than hoping for the best, and that this approach didn't make any sense!  Its one thing to be realistic and acknowledge the risks of the operation, or the reality of the survival statistics, but its as if I was so determined to be sensible and pragmatic that I was failing to allow for hope, not to mention grace.

I knew when I set down the paint below that I wanted to describe and record this change in thinking, but not exactly how to do it.  I've learned that all you can do is BEGIN, so that's what I did using ordinary craft paint in three different shades.
Then I added some collage and it shouldn't be any surprise that it turned into a sort of sunrise image ... it really had been about the light dawning!  I've set these pictures side by side so that once again you can see the difference that a black outline and a grey shadow makes.

















And then I started writing down everything I'd come to understand, and my decision to choose hope rather than assume the worst.  I do know that bad things might still happen, but overall the statistics for this type of cancer are good, with a high survival rate.  Removal of the bladder sounds really scary, but the more I learn about it the more I realise that its actually quite straightforward to manage and no big deal.  So, as I wrote at the head of the page, I'm not wasting any more energy on fear, I'm hoping and believing that this operation can be a total cure - words used by the surgeon. Maybe I got a bit knocked off course by the sudden death of my friend's husband on the operating table ... and feared a similar outcome.  I'm (trying) not to do that any more.
And then as per usual I got busy writing and drawing etc etc adding squiggly bits and generally filling up the page until it looked finished.  I do feel that a page should always have some human element - a face or an eye - just something to represent myself or humans generally.
The surgery is Monday, and it will be a long day (about 6-8 hours) before we know he's come through it OK, but I and many others will be holding him in prayer the whole time.  I've got my lovely daughters here at home with me, they've rallied to our side magnificently, so if I do have a few wobbles they'll be at my back.

I thank God that this is the kind of cancer on which its possible to operate - many aren't - and that we have a good chance of coming out on the other side of his recovery with a chance to start the retirement fun that's been put on hold.  Bring it on!

Saturday, 23 January 2016

NEW STUDIO PICTURES ....

 
For a change this week I thought I'd show you my lovely new studio!  It's been a couple of months since we moved, and its taken a while to get it to this point, but its pretty much working as I want it to.  The space is a rectangular room about 16' x 9', overlooking the garden, and I opted for laminate floors as the most practical.

Above you can see my main working area - 3 Ikea tables in a U shape around the window.  I planned the whole room on graph paper, thinking always about wheelchair access.  In the floor space above my electric chair takes me easily to whichever "work" zone I want to be in.  The shallow drawers under the worktop hold my huge collection of wood mounted stamps.  I'd originally imagined that when we retired I'd have my studio all fitted out by a kitchen or bedroom supplier, but decided in the end to just add to what I already had.  That way I can spend the money I saved up for it on stuff to play with instead!!

When I'm making art I spend most of my time here in the window - on the desk is the Christmas memory album I've just finished, and to the left the journal I'm currently working in.  The sock monkey with the sparkly pink tutu was a Christmas present from my daughter, who made it for me (and yes she does take orders).  Lots of people comment on the words on the window and ask where they came from.  The answer is Starbucks!  This was one of their Christmas window stickers a couple of years ago, and I happened to be there when they were taking them down and asked if I could have it.  
Then if you turn to the right you can see all my punches mounted on Ikea Bygel rails, and a pile of magazines I've been given to cut up for collage fodder.  The birdcage is something I made years ago which still gives me pleasure.  I absolutely love the curtains, they're a fabric from Prestigious Textiles and I remade them to fit this space.  They make me smile every time I walk into the room.
Then below you can see why the iron is there, because this right side of the room is my sewing area.   I have a small tabletop ironing board I can use here, though it lives on the back of the door when its not needed.  Its great to have my machine permanently out and ready to go.  Before it had to live underneath the desk, and Himself had to lift it out for me every time I wanted to use it.
On the shelf above are my patterns and sewing bits and pieces,including jars of buttons, plus my (rarely used) Cricut cartridges, SU unmounted stamps and 3 new spiral bound journals just waiting for their turn ...
Moving across a little further right is more storage - not necessarily in the ideal places, but where I could make the units fit.  The trolley of shallow drawers holds my collage scraps, organised by colour or theme such as people or words. Its easy to grab the drawer I want and take it over to my workspace under the window.

Next to that is a re-purposed stereo unit into which my Really Useful 12 x 12 square boxes fit beautifully.  On top I keep my Big Shot, which gets used way more than the Cricut machine I have to haul out from under the desk.  I bought some stick on magnetic sheets for the wall and my small collection of flat dies is visible (or I forget what I have) and ready to hand.  I do have other thicker Sissix dies etc, and they live in the first box underneath.  To the right is a tall chest of drawers which holds all manner of stuff, in particular fabric.

Going back to the workdesk and turning left you get an even better view of Millicent the Monkey, and the fantastic ink pad storage rack my nephew made for me!  We bartered for it - he used his joinery skills to make this, and in return I made him a family history scrapbook album.  You can also just see my terrific anglepoise type lamp, which has a lens for very close work.  I still need to get the lighting right in here - I'll probably get an electrician to fit a strip light,(not beautiful but effective) and in the meantime I use my lamp in the dark afternoons.  The big gold R was found in a junk shop for just £1.
Continuing to move left the third table is my computer station, where I spend way more time than I should on Facebook groups etc.  I often call it "research" but who am I kidding, and it is of course where I am while working on this blog post.  On the shelves above I keep boxes with my most used tools etc, and its also where I display my assortment of signs and postcards.
You might also notice that my completed journals live here too!  These are numbers 1-8, which were all done in an A5 format.  At the other end of the shelf I have the new square format books I now prefer, 9 through to the work in progress 12.  I don't date my pages but I do write the start and finish date of each book inside the front cover.
Then beyond the computer desk at the other end of the room is yet more storage - as many Billy bookcases from Ikea as I could fit in, and the Expedit unit I brought with me from our old home. Here I keep less frequently used materials, and there's a whole shelf full of sermons plus files relating to my (as yet unpublished) writing.  The Expedit holds my slim paper boxes which are a hangover from my scrapbooking days, when I collected pretty paper like it was going out of fashion.  I still do scrapbook occasionally, but not enough to make a significant dent in my paper stash!
You may also notice my ball jointed dolls - these are about 16" tall and I enjoy making costumes for them.  Knitting wool for the current WIP sits underneath, and I also have my various books on journalling and other art forms here.  Some of this stuff may move around as I figure out what I need close to hand and what I don't.
So there you have it - the nerve centre of Rosie's Arty Stuff.  I can spend whole days in here in my wheelchair happily occupied with this or that.  I'm revamping my wardrobe at the moment so I'm doing more sewing than anything else, but that can change ....

Himself's operation is in 9 days time, and he'll be in hospital for 1-3 weeks because its really MAJOR surgery.  However, once he's home and recovering hopefully it will be a 100% cure and we'll have the rest of our lives to enjoy retirement in.  That's the Plan anyway.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

GREY SKIES

  
Unsurprisingly this page began in a rather low mood on a grey and distinctly unpromising day ... but ended up affirming something positive!

The weather was getting me down so I painted the page black and began to frame it with collage - this is the simplest quickest way I know to get a page started.  I sometimes feel a bit lazy working this way but the amount of mental energy I have to spare varies, and to me its more important to get something down on paper than whether its clever or arty.  I'm not doing this to prove my artistic worth to anybody, m journal is a conversation with MYSELF, and so all you have to do is like what you make, or even just enjoy the process.  Nothing else is necessary.
I carried on collaging, using my "neutrals" drawer of bits and pieces, and as you can see below everything was grey and black except for the face.

There is a vivid pink cyclamen on the windowsill where I work, and when I looked out of the window down the garden there are evergreen conifers in shades from bottle green to almost yellow.  I realised that even on a grey day there was plenty of colour ... if you choose to look for it.
This translated into a message to myself - which my pages ALWAYS are.  A reminder about light and life, and colour, peace, hope and love, all of which are inextinguishable, even on the darkest days metaphorically and physically.  Its all the more important right now to remember that, when the weather is kind of gloomy and with the Big Operation in 3 weeks or so casting a long shadow ...
Posca paint pens are about the only things I used on this page, apart from the black paint and collage, although I used a Promarker on her lips to keep them transparent.  Doesn't a very small amount of red just JUMP off the page?

Hope there is light, life, colour, peace hope and love in your life too .... though you may have to look for it like I did!

Saturday, 9 January 2016

JOINED UP THINKING ....

 
One lesser known aspect of having Fibromyalgia is the effect on memory and concentration - known as "Brain Fog" by the community of sufferers!  I've always claimed a double whammy since I'm also affected by Menopausal Brain Death.  I used to be quite clever, but you'd never guess ...

I began with a nice bright painted background, and then added the lined shape on the right.  It was cut out of a magazine and I just sort of liked it.  Then I painted on the pink shape on the left, and decided that they both looked like worms.  Since it is a family joke that "worms have eaten my brain" some days, well you can see how I got where I went!  So this was me on a "foggy" day sort of trying to communicate how it feels visually.
Then I added a bit more collage - the little circle shapes are brain cells, can you tell?  I joined them up only to realise that that's exactly what DOESN'T happen, so hence the writing.  The fed up face is ... well its me feeling fed up actually.  And misunderstood.  It wasn't one of my better days.

The writing and black lines/doodles are all done with a Posca paint pen, which writes over pretty much anything with a nice strong black result.  I know I say this just about every week, but they really are fantastic and I can't recommend them enough.
I liked the little red brain cell with spiky edges (top right) and decided to add more - they're sort of repelling each other rather than attracting!  There are groups of bits of cells that ought to work together but don't, and of course black holes where nothing is happening!  Hope this is making sense to you?
The page is a bit whimsical for me, but SO heartfelt.  You can't imagine what its like when you can't think straight - or perhaps you can, but not EVERY day, right?  At least this way I can laugh about it, even when its not very funny.

Himself is finished with chemo and its lovely to see him getting back to his old self again.  Surgery in about a month, and then a longish convalescence.   If it saves his life we're up for it!

Monday, 4 January 2016

AND SUDDENLY ....SHE KNEW

 
Regular readers will know that I've been worrying myself to death over my Beloved's cancer diagnosis - like you do really, normal behaviour I guess.  A day came when I wanted to take back control, to say I'm tired of bursting into tears or waking up in the night to fret.  I found a tiny piece of collage with the words "and suddenly she knew" and it set off a train of thought in what seemed like the right direction.

Part of what I wanted and needed to get down on paper was the idea of toughening up and fighting BACK, instead of being such a wimp.  So, having painted a simple background and border, I found this face among my collage stuff and fancied her up a little bit, adding the words to her head.  She began to look more like a woman who could and would stand up for herself.
This woman is definitely no wimp, she wouldn't waste time creeping off to have a good sniff and worry about the future, she'd put her shoulder to the wheel and get this done!  I wrote the words out in big lettering and gave her some hair - or maybe its a hat?  She doesn't care.  The "caution" tape seemed to belong with this girl who doesn't take any nonsense, so you'd better approach with caution! Then of course I had to answer the question - what is it she knows?
And the answer was - why fret over something you can't change?  Just get on with it.  I began to add bands of bright colour at least in part as a statement of strength and resilience - you start with wobbly lines and just sort of doodle inside them.  That sounds like a metaphor for transforming from wobbly to strong doesn't it?
At which point the doodling took over, as it so often does.  I love that part because is meditative and reflective, and its easy to get carried away and over-decorate.  Hope I didn't this time ...
So there she is, representing my brave inner self, who has dug her heels in and said "get over it and lets just DO this".  Crying won't make anything better but being strong and determined just might. This girl gets things done, doesn't put up with any crap, and manages change - all of which I can and will do, because now I'm not going to be pushed around by fear any more, I'm going to stand up to it.

Himself has finished chemo and now has a month in which to recuperate before the surgery.  He's so much better already, its lovely seeing him get his energy back.  Sorry I didn't post over Christmas, I kept meaning to, but I was having such a nice time with my family around me that I just never got around to it.

PS Thank you SO much for all the responses to my last post - it did me no end of good to realise how many of you are out there and enjoying my work.  

Saturday, 12 December 2015

GOOD THINGS AHEAD ....

 
It has taken me about ten days to complete this page - generally I do one in two days at the most, but having one or two other things on my mind has meant I haven't have much time just to "play".

I rarely do anything fancy in terms of background because I know that I will be covering it up - and the picture below shows just how simple it is!  Just acrylic paint - the ordinary kind you can buy at hobby stores.  In this case I didn't even bother to go right to the edges of the page, because I wanted to do a collaged border.

So because I tend to stay in one colour range I then dragged out my drawer of orange/yellow/ gold/brown elements.  Its a very simple technique to create a border in this way and to be honest right now I can't really manage anything more complicated.  I don't worry about my collage pieces being the same width, because  a varied edge gives it more interest.
You may notice below that I've added a shadow and a black line around the inner edge - I hope you agree that this makes a substantial difference to how the page looks?  I found this Modigliani lady among my images, and thought she looked kind of reflective, or wistful even, as if she might be looking back - and that's why the writing tells her/me not to!
The rest of the page was added here and there, as I had a few minutes to spare, and is of course (as always) a message to myself.  We're in a new place and have left all but a few special friends behind, so life can feel a bit lonely and isolated at times.  When I get to feeling that way I remind myself not to look back, but to look ahead to a time when we've made new friends and become better established in the area - we HAVE only been here one month!
Still there's no doubt that life feels a bit quiet and our social life is distinctly limited for now.  Maybe that's why I feel disappointed that while almost a thousand people have been by in the past week, only ONE person opted to leave a comment.  Now I am NOT a comments junkie, and that's not why I keep this blog up faithfully, but right now it would be nice to know that you're out there and that I'm not just talking to myself - so say hi if you have time and tell me whether the blog helps you.  It would be so nice to know its making a difference to someone.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

SHE JUST KNEW .....

 
You can imagine that in recent months I've been doing some rather desperate praying, what with a house move and Himself's cancer diagnosis to deal with.  The day I made this I had one of those moments of absolute calm, when I "knew" it was all going to be OK.  Its not easy to hold onto that, but whenever I start panicking its as if a voice in my head says (wearily) "will you not just TRUST me"?  So I try to, with varying degrees of success.

I wanted, no needed, to use bright hopeful colours, and I took these two pictures to show you the magical difference using water on Neocolour II crayons makes!  On the left is the sort of scribbly wax crayon look, which is how it goes down - then on the right is the intense colour you can achieve with a moderately wet paintbrush.  You could also use a waterbrush I guess? The result is awesome!

So onto that background I began to put down some collage.  I organise my collage pieces in a trolley with slim 12 x 12" drawers, and have drawers for colours and then others for neutrals, words and people.  I may think of other categories as I go along.  Now I'm a bit of a tone on tone sort of gal - I like using shades of the same colour, and sometimes you have to remind me that I can use different colours or more than one!

So I pulled out my red/orange drawer - that's the other great thing about the trolley I use, you can just take out the whole drawer and bring it across to the workspace.  I like to cut curved shapes out and layer them up.  Its easy to do and if you're looking for collage techniques you might like to try it?
Anyway, part of this moment of God-given calm was the sense of the interconnectedness of all things, so I began to draw a black line to join them up.  The great thing about drawing wobbly lines on purpose is that it doesn't matter if you er .... wobble!  I also began to add the writing which as you know is so much a part of every page I do.
And once I'd written my words I just set to joyfully doodling to my heart's content - a lovely meditative process.  You'll see that I've drawn and "improved" on the collage pieces themselves - I like to change them so that they're "mine" if you see what I mean.
So there you have it - a happy page for a change, though I can't guarantee to sustain this mood as I am a born worrier however much I try not to be.  But we're safely moved into our lovely new flat (all wheelchair accessible) and beginning to find homes for all our stuff, though the studio still needs work.  Himself is two thirds of the way through chemotherapy (tolerating it amazingly well, must be all that prayer thats going up on his behalf) and should be finished by Christmas.  Then we have daughters and our darling one year old grandson coming - just for a couple of days, which is possibly all we have the energy for, but it will be LOVELY.  Surgery lies ahead but I'm not thinking about that for now, just planning to enjoy the Christmas season :)

Sunday, 29 November 2015

WHERE CAN I FLEE FROM YOUR PRESENCE ....

  
These are lines from Psalm 139 and I've always loved them.  Cut off from my former church community and friends, and yet to build new relationships in our new life, I was feeling a bit sad and lonely.  At times of self pity it always does me good to remember that I'm never alone .... and as always I chose to document this in my art journal.

This was one of those rare times when I did know from the beginning what I wanted to do with the page, and that the first thing was to draw the serene female mother God face.  You can see below its earliest sketchy beginnings ... and no I can't explain why she turned out blue, she just did.
You can see below how I travelled from a simple outline and took it on from there.  Once I'd painted the background, the black sweep of hair was done with a big chunky Posca paint pen  The blue was painted with ordinary acrylics and a brush, then I added some shading with a grey marker and colour to her lips.
My mother God pictures always have swirling long hair for some reason, so when I looked at the above I felt it needed more but wanted to leave room for some writing.  I extended her hair a bit, and also added a blue edge to give the page more definition, and did some more subtle work to the eye.
Once the writing was done I began to feel that the black hair was too 'flat' a colour, so I got out some gold and silver pens and added swirls of these to her hair, and some touches of gold to her forehead and the neck of the dress.  Oh yes, and couldn't resist adding a few dots for decoration ..... well it would be wrong not to, wouldn't it.
Its very early days in our new life - barely 3 weeks since we moved and although the flat is looking more and more like home as we find places for things, there are still 9 boxes waiting for shelving in the studio.  However, I am managing to work anyway using what I have to hand (which is quite a lot actually) and that does my soul good when I'm feeling a bit low or lonely.

Himself continues with the chemotherapy, which is hitting him harder these days, and that runs right up to Christmas.  Then he has 4-6 weeks to build up his strength again before major surgery to remove his bladder and create a stoma.  Apparently its possible to live a full and active life with one of these and it should leave him cancer free.  Its big surgery so its going to be tough, but together we can do this.