Here's my latest page ... the first in a while as seasonal activities have meant there hasn't been as much time for my art journal as I'd like ...
However I sat down with a page and painted it yellow, then added some grey texture with paint and a baby wipe.
Then, as usual, I got stuck in monochrome mode and started to put down grey collage elements. Its as if once my creative brain starts to work in a single colour, no others can be considered, and this is something I have to fight against.
Then, as I added shadows and black lines, I looked at the page and thought "what is going on here"? I'm a person who loves and celebrates COLOUR! (You should see the explosion of shades in my studio).
So I dug about in my collage stash and added some RED, to insist that my world could never be as grey as this! It also became a protest about the grey November day outside, and possibly the low mood I started out in.
I don't do well in the dark winter months and have to fight a tendency to curl up in a corner and hibernate ... but Christmas is coming and I'm fighting back! Once we get past the longest day my mood always subtly lifts.
And for those of us who follow such things, the Christian season of Advent is almost upon us ... with its great cry of "Awake". So I will.
I was looking back at my journal pages (coming towards the end of book no.14) and couldn't help noticing that they deal a lot more with the things I struggle with than all the blessings in my life. So I decided to redress the balance with this page, and made a positive start by painting it pink, which is my happy colour!
I added a pretty lady from my stash of clippings and started to draw and put down collage elements - trying always to resist my tendency to put a simple frame around the page. Nothing wrong with doing that, but I do like to challenge myself to work in different ways.
While working I was thinking about how small my life has become - not getting out all that much, social life primarily online etc etc, usual self pity party. Gave myself a good telling off for not appreciating what I do have - it may be a little life but it IS a good one, with friends and family, a whole host of hobbies and interests, and generally so much to be grateful for.
Lots of fun doodling and drawing on this page, as you can see - that's the part I enjoy most, getting in the zone and just playing with paint pens and collage.
Sorry I haven't written much here, but it was our youngest daughter's wedding this past weekend. It was the most wonderful day in a historic hall in the city of York, but unsurprisingly it was also very very tiring. Now back at home and planning to rest and recover most of this week .... but (at risk of vanity) I did want to demonstrate that I can clean up well when I have to!
PS if my hair looks a bit odd its because I am wearing a tiny little black hat!
I wasn't going to publish this page, out of a wish not to depress people who might be experiencing their own dark clouds. However, when I thought it through it came to me that feelings like these are just part of life, and everyone has them from time to time. What matters is only that we do find a way, and we CAN carry on ....
The weather at the time was dark and miserable, and my mood does fluctuate with the light. It wasn't my original intention to make any kind of gloomy page - I just like purple! So I splodged down some lilac paint, and began to collage over it.
Then I began drawing, making "connections" between the elements on the page, as well as adding outlines and shadows. Joining things up does matter to me, because I do believe that nothing and nobody exists other than in relationship to someone or something ... and its a source of constant amazement and joy to me to discover unexpected connections. God sees all the pieces of the puzzle and knows what she's doing.
I got to the stage below (photographed later in the day when the light wasn't very good) and then got completely STUCK. I'd left this space in the middle to write in but had no idea what words belonged there.
So I set the page aside and worked on other things. Then one morning I limped into the studio ... and there was the journal open at this page. I literally sat down and immediately, without thinking about it, wrote these words.
But (as my granny used to say) "better out than in". I learned painfully a long time ago that bottling up negative feelings is really REALLY bad for you, so I don't. The journals have always been a way to look into my soul and find out what's going on in there that I won't always admit, even to myself.
Even the act of writing the words down helped to lift my spirits and I am pleased to report that my present mood is one of unrelieved optimism, but then again the sun is currently shining ...
I am returned from sunny climes, but for some reason the jet lag absolutely clobbered me this time, so I'm still catching myself up and feeling dazed and confused.
Anyway, perhaps with the echo of the sunshine still in my mind, I painted this page a golden yellow - which was then given texture by blotting the wet paint with a wet wipe. Hunting around in my collage I found a sheet of pumpkin images ... and with multi coloured autumn leaves blowing past my window, my subject was provided!
Below you can see the effect of my usual technique of outlining the images in black and adding a shadow. The leaves were made using a rubber stamp I've had for around 20 years - one of the most useful I've ever bought, but horribly fiddly to cut out. At this stage I suddenly noticed that I'd missed the "n" off Autumn and panicked. However, I put a coat of gesso over most of the "m", then painted the gold/yellow over the top, and finally drew the letters in smaller. There are few mistakes that gesso can't fix!
So there you are, my own particular ode to Autumn, which while beautiful is actually a bit of a shock to the system after temperatures topping 90 degrees when we were away. The shops were still full of pumpkins but we were in the USA.
I DO love this time of year, and it felt good to record and take time to enjoy that. Am I the only one whose thoughts turn ahead to Christmas even this early? I've already got preparations in hand ... but that comes from having very little money when our children were young, so that we absolutely had to spread the cost of it all from September onwards.
In a rush with this as off on vacation in a couple of days, and panic sets in every time what with trying to sort out disabled assistance at the airport, medication, not to mention sharps disposal, copy prescriptions etc etc. It'll be fabulous when we get there (wall to wall sunshine) but I'm at that stage where I'm so overwhelmed by the preparation that I no longer want to go ....
Anyway, enough of that! A painted background as usual - and I even managed to use more than one colour! I must be improving ...
Then the collage goes down and the necessary person goes in. Maybe I need a bit of a jolt artistically speaking, because I'm really starting to feel that my pages are all becoming the same and a bit formulaic?
Completed collage with black outlines and shading. At this stage I really didn't know what it was going to be about, but my subconscious obviously did when I stuck down "look for more".
Because then I exploded all over the page in my frustration at the limited life I have to live. I really kick against it sometimes, but I guess that's normal. I just want a life like everyone else, with friendship and laughter, spontaneous outings etc etc. The reality is that if friends rang up and said "let's go out this afternoon" there's a strong chance I'd have to say no - but inside I want to say YES! Yes to all of it, a full life, a retirement rich in experiences ... In other words s'not fair.
And it isn't, but it can't be changed so there's no point in using my limited energy to rail against fate. God reminds me gently that I can still be of use in my small way. And I get to go on holiday to a warm place where my bones won't ache nearly so much - and that makes me a very fortunate person. I do count my blessings, honest, its just that sometimes I need to express the darker stuff .... because that's part of me too.
Not for the first time, I encountered that quote from Mother Teresa "do small things with great love". It came (probably not a coincidence) at a time when I was frustrated by my inability to do anything very much, from a feeling that I wasn't GIVING, wasn't making a difference in the world. Mother Teresa also said "Let's do something beautiful for God" and when I was ordained priest that's what I believed I was called to. I already had Fibromyalgia even then, and didn't (couldn't) see how that would come to shape the life I was able to live and the things I was able to give. I thought back then that God had called me for my strength, but it turned out to be in my weakness that she could most powerfully use me ...
Trying to express this positive truth into my temporary darkness was worked out as ever through my journal. Pink is my happy colour so that's where I began. The big bloom is the person I always hoped I might be ...
But as my life went on my ability to "bloom" (in my own terms, not to mention pride and vanity) got smaller and smaller ...
Until I felt like the small and unregarded person in the corner ...
But that small person and that small life turned out to have greater power to touch people and make a difference than the strong woman I liked to imagine I was ever could.
So here is my celebration of the woman I am now: more understanding of and gentle with my own frailties ... and therefore with those of others, and able to reach into the dark places people inhabit because I have been there myself. And still visit that place sometimes.
It has been a battle long fought and hard won, and there are still days when I WISH it could be different. But I do believe I am where I'm meant to be and giving/sharing my particular gifts ... even from my (pink) wheelchair!
Bit of a theme with this page and the last one I posted - I seem to have had too much on, more than I really have energy for. As part of fibromyalgia I experience a kind of sensory overload where my brain goes into freeze mode and won't function. Always a strong message that I need to rest! However, if I'm not tied to the sofa then one way of resting is working in my journal ...
So I just opened the drawer with the paint in and grabbed whatever took my fancy - trying hard not to pull out all pinks or all blues, which is a besetting sin of mine. Delighted that I managed to use THREE colours on this page !
I really enjoy black line drawing and doodling. I wouldn't necessarily describe it as zentangle, although definitely inspired by those techniques. Another Modigliani lady also found her way onto the page - sometimes I copy them in black and white, as I'd done here, because I like the look on the page. She has a slightly stunned expression which fit my mood exactly!
I promised myself that I could go pretty crazy with the doodling because it was going to be there to represent how overwhelmed I was feeling and how complicated it felt like life had become. It may be true that it wasn't actually all that bad, but it doesn't take much to knock me off course. I like life simple, well NEED it to be.
You can see that I've added some touches of white and red to make the patterns a bit more interesting, and I like how the painted background shows through some areas. Just look at all those vines and creepers coming to tangle me up ... and there's almost a jellyfish feeling to some of it? Well I certainly know all about the "sting in the tail", and it did feel good to get all that negativity out of my system.
On days like these I have to remind myself to breathe deeply and just take things one at a time. There have been a lot of hospital appointments recently because the new drugs I'm taking have had some negative effects which had to be investigated, one of which was blurry vision, making journalling difficult, not to mention computer time. Hopefully now that's (mostly) checked out, life will once again become calm and serene (I wish)!
I've reached the age and stage in life where I hanker after peace and simplicity - having retired we have fewer possessions (although we do keep adding books ...) and we like it that way. Yet, despite trying quite hard not to take on extra commitments (will we run the church jumble sale, no) our days seem to be filled with things we don't necessarily want to do. This week has two hospital appointments and one dentist, leaving little energy for the nice things in life.
However, even if I'm having to rest a lot in between, I can usually still find solace in my journal ... and my concern to simplify what feels like an over-complicated life naturally came out on the page.
As ever, my backgrounds are simple, just acrylic paint. I never see any need to do fancy ones as I usually cover them up with doodles etc. I see some lovely techniques on Pinterest and You Tube but mostly conclude that they are too nice to cover up. Plus I'm lazy and they take a) too much effort or b) new equipment!
My collage materials are mainly free - I often use copies of my old pages or bits gleaned here and there from catalogues or magazines. Putting a simple border around a page like this is one of my favourite techniques for getting started when inspiration is slow to strike.
Adding black outlines and a grey shadow makes all the difference, as you can see, and you probably already know how much I love Modigliani ladies - also free from internet image sources. Among my stash of collage materials I found the phrase "simplify life" which drew a resounding yes from my innermost being!
For me this is a relatively simple page, but it says what I needed it to. I know I shouldn't complain about frequent hospital appointments because people are trying their very best to help me, but toxic medications mean constant checking of my liver function, and regular discussions about the balance of benefits with nasty side effects.
Still, it would be nice to have a week which stretched peacefully in front of us and an empty calendar ... is that too much to ask? Probably yes!!
You know how you volunteer for or agree to do something even though you know its a terrible idea and you will almost certainly regret it? Yeah, that. Well, against my better judgement, I was persuaded to take part in an 8 week Pain Management course. I had a shrewd idea that it would take too much of my limited energy, and after 27 years figured it was unlikely they would be suggesting anything I hadn't already tried. I was right, but being too polite to tell them so have persevered hoping it would improve, with the result that I am now very very tired. Last session tomorrow, thank the Lord, and then I can get my life back ...
So in the middle of the course it just wasn't working and I wanted to say so, but didn't feel I could, and anyway I was grateful that the NHS had provided it, and I did think perhaps I could make some useful contribution even if I didn't take much out. This page is how I dealt with my mixed feelings ....
I just painted the page some of my favourite colours and took it from there, though I should have guessed in advance what I needed to get out of my head and onto paper. Below you can see on the left how I put down some collage, and on the right you can see how the addition of a black outline and a grey shadow makes the whole thing come together as a unified whole?
These words below were the ones that just fell out of my brain and onto the page. I really wanted to drop out of the course and say it was too much (it was/is) but felt reluctant to reject anybody's offer of help (so I didn't). Sigh. I used to be assertive but now I just don't have the energy.
But as ever it all felt a lot better to give expression to my feelings and acknowledge them, even if I didn't feel able to act on them.
And because I actually didn't want the helping people to go away (originally written down at the bottom right) I painted that part out. I wanted to just say no, but that turned out to be hard. Too hard. So now its going to take weeks to recover, and its entirely my own fault. Sigh.
The picture above has come out rather dark, but as you'll be able to see below the yellow is much brighter than it looks here.
I started out with a background of old gold/yellow (Anita's Caramel Corn if you're interested) onto which I dry brushed some mid brown for interest.
I'd bought an old book at a car boot sale, and used one of the pages for something. In my rummaging in the collage drawer I discovered the remains of the page in my stash and so (not an original idea) I cut out lines of text to make random thoughts. Quite like the effect of this. It doesn't mean anything unless you think it does.
Then above, I put down the usual bits and pieces of collage, including my Modigliani lady, plus a bit of outlining. You can also see on the large half moon shape at the top why I try to avoid using materials from glossy magazines, because you get an awkward reflection from it in photographs and I don't much like the result. I go for matte finishes as much as possible, but free materials of this kind aren't always available.
I didn't know where this was going until I studied the figure and wondered what she was thinking about. She seemed to be in an in-between stage of happy/unhappy ... which resonated with me. We moved here 2 and a half years ago, and I am still lonely occasionally for the many friends I left behind. Not getting out as much as I'd like to means it isn't all that easy to join things and make new ones.
But I'm working on it, and one or two special people have turned up lately who I hope will be sticking around, and (because knowing these things take time) I'm happy for that to be where I am for now. Great oaks from little acorns grow (I hope).