Sunday, 19 February 2017


When I made this page I took even more photographs than usual, to give a real step by step sense of how it built up.  I've been contacted recently by a number of people who are just starting out on the art journal journey, and who really want to understand the genesis of a page. So here goes!

Onto a very simple painted background - just two shades of light blue, ordinary craft acrylic paint - I cut out some simple collage shapes.  I use PVA glue from a very fine nozzle bottle to stick everything down - never glue stick because in a year or two the glue will have gone and the pieces are likely to fall off!  These pieces are nothing fancy, just bits and bobs culled from magazines and free catalogues etc.  I prefer dull finish paper but have also been known to use the shiny kind.
Now look below at what happens when I add a black line done with Posca paint pen 0.7 and a grey shadow using a marker pen -  Copic but you could use any.  See what a difference it makes, and how the elements now stand out from the background in a way they didn't before?
I knew I wanted to write about a Mother God figure, so I drew a face on a separate sheet of paper and painted it.  That way if you don't like the result you can begin again ... whereas if you work directly onto the page (and I usually do) it can be hard to fix your mistakes.  Here I am giving her the beginnings of flowing locks, drawing them out first with black pen.
Then I continued to add more and more flowing tresses, and forgot about using the black lines at all - but they can be added later.  What I was trying to do here was introduce the green shades.
And again, just see what a difference the black outline makes to the result ... and also in places a fine white line, just to add texture.
I had deliberately left quite a bit of space because I wanted to add some lines from a prayer I'd found, which had really touched the place of deep grief I was in.

So once again the fine black paint pen came into play - my lettering is self- taught over a number of years.  I use simple outlines and then embellish with thin and thick elements, not to mention curly ends to letters and so on.  Study lettering wherever you find it, notice elements you like, use changes of size or capital letters, and most of all PRACTICE until it becomes second nature.
And below is the finished page.  I sort of regret the green jagged parts on the lower page - I was trying to introduce more of the green but am not sure that it worked.  However, I'm not planning to change it now.
One of my very closest friends died this week, and this page grew from not knowing how to contain all that I feel.  I found myself looking at a version of the Lord's Prayer from the New Zealand prayer book, and it just really "hit the spot" as they say, especially the "pain bearer" part.

Here is how it begins ....

Eternal Spirit
Earth-maker, pain-bearer, life-giver,
Source of all that is and that shall be,
Father and Mother of us all,
Loving God, in whom is heaven ...

There's more, but this was the part I needed for that day.  Making this page and these words got me through a storm of grief.

Thursday, 9 February 2017


I've reached an age where year on year I am saying goodbye to friends - breast cancer claimed one, an unexpected heart attack another.  Now two women who have been a huge influence on and a blessed part of my life over many years are slipping away from me.

I really wanted to make a page to celebrate them both but ended up in tears over my journal, so this is what happened.  I made a simple paint background in pink and blue, intending to say something about the blessings friendship brings ... but then I drew a black line on it.
 And out came the real feelings ... the tears I've shed for each when (more than once) it has looked like it was the end.  I also had to acknowledge that really the tears were for myself, and the great loss their passing will be, and the big hole it will leave in my life. I've prayed very very hard, and surrendered each of them into the hands of God, and so what will be will be, according to Her will and purpose.
But everyone knows that its very hard to lose friends - the people who are the family we choose for ourselves - and tears seem normal and right in the face of so great a loss.  Its also much much better to shed those tears, than to bottle up anger and sadness.
And in the end they are both such faithful servants of their God I have no doubt whatsoever that they will be received in heaven with much rejoicing.  So why am I crying?  Because I'll still be here, without them.    
And that's sad.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017


This page was mainly worked on in the middle of the night - insomniacs R us.  A few days earlier, faced with a blank journal page, I'd challenged myself NOT to paint the background a single colour and to lay down blocks of random mixed up shades.  Below is the result.

I liked it but it sure as heck didn't feel like me.  Anyway, a challenge is a challenge so then I added some strong marks against the background.  Still wasn't sure where it was going .... but I enjoy the journey anyway.
Then, unable to sleep, I got up and did this (that's why the colours look different under the electric light).  The words had been swirling around my head and I'd got up only intending to write them down, but decided I might as well write them on the page.
The other challenge was to use my own handwriting for a change, which would have worked better if I hadn't been writing with a Posca paint pen, which was a bit thick.

However, the result was THIS!  More related to my usual style of working and yet without the coherence that I usually aim for.  But that became the whole point of the piece - sometimes all you can see in your life is light and shade, random colours, some darkness. Yet, if you look for them there are patterns and brightness, so that you can feel part of a greater whole and purpose, even if you can't quite see it.
So out of sleeplessness and night thoughts, comes a wisdom I need to hold onto when life feels random and chaotic, and in particular the Grace at the heart of all things...

Tuesday, 17 January 2017


Sorry about the darkness of this picture of the finished page ... the weather was grey and grim at the time!

You can see below the simple background, done with Neocolour II watercolour crayons.  I love these, and how they react when touched with water.  You can still see where I've rubbed different shades on the page, like the slightly turquoise rivulet going from top to bottom ...
Its fun to work WITH that sometimes, so my next step was to outline that shape with black Posca paint pen, and enhance that sense of movement.  You could use other black pens, but I find this gives me the deepest black of all, and I love the contrast it gives. You need the finest point Posca pen for this, which is 0.7mm.
Then as you can see I added some collage in circular shapes, which felt right with the sinuous lines.  I was thinking about a journey here, so these kind of became potential blockages or threats?  My memory problems are such that I don't always remember what I was thinking afterwards, but that doesn't seem to matter.
Then it became more cellular and almost medical looking, with little clusters and connections, and pink almost dangerous cells in places.  This page sprang from my beloved's failure to understand (or remember) exactly how the illness I have affects me. These words are something of a cry from my heart ....
Himself gets a bit frustrated with me sometimes, like when I ask him to make a phone call for me because I can't do it.  There are days when the cognitive symptoms I experience are overwhelming, and the thought of having to ring someone and explain something is more than my brain can deal with.  However, because I CAN do it much of the time, he clearly didn't want to do something for me that I can usually do for myself.

This made me incredibly sad, as yet another example of how my being ill both comes between us and yet makes me dependent.  The page and its words could also mean a lot of other things, and maybe it says something different for you that speaks into your life?  If that's true then I hope it helps, as getting this down on paper helps me.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017


We've had a very quiet Christmas and New Year, which gave me time to make this page in my brand new journal ... its not often that I begin a new one (this is number 13) right as the year turns.  It feels sort of auspicious somehow?  OK just me then.

I had a very broad idea of what I wanted to do - a central figure, a statement about new year, and some general observations on how I feel about it ... given the general climate of gloom etc etc.  I painted the simple outline of a figure first, then added the red background around it.
Then the "opening statement" and some work on the figure followed.  Apologies for the fact that some of these pictures were taken in daylight and some in artificial lighting - which makes the red look pinker.
I wanted to do something like New Year fireworks on the page, with the figure outlined against them.  This began by using a curly stamp on yellow paper, which I then cut out and stuck down.  I also added some reflections on the aforesaid atmosphere of gloom ... feeling that this is being somewhat overstated by the world's media. At least I hope so.
So more curly bits and pieces and more writing - I don't do resolutions exactly, so this is more of a statement of hopeful intent. I plan to remain optimistic and hopeful about the essential goodness of the human race, even if not about those currently in charge of running many countries.
And then the final stage was to add the dots that turn the curly squiggles into fireworks - at least I see them that way!  I'd always intended to do zentangle type patterns on the body of the figure, but left that to the last minute in case I thought it would look too busy.
Our seasonal celebrations were small and very quiet, and of course I missed seeing my children, but I spent some high quality time with my Beloved and that can only be a Good Thing.  Happy 2017 to you all ...

Friday, 23 December 2016


I don't often do pages specific to a season or festival - like most people I tend to be busy at such times anyway!  This however ended up being a necessary reflection and something I needed to work on.

For the first time in 37 years, none of our children will be with us at Christmas, and we aren't free to travel to them because we have to stay here for my mum in law.  I've been telling myself that its OK and I don't mind, but actually I DO, and haven't really been looking forward to Christmas at all.  Usually I'm a crazy over the top Christmas person, so feeling like this is not usual ....

I knew I needed to work it out through my journal so I began boldly, painting the page a nice festive RED.  But then in crept the sadness and all the collage I added was tones of grey.  Grey was how I was feeling.  This page shows how I don't necessarily paint to the edge because I know I'm going to cover that part.
You can see the difference below when I used a black Posca paint pen to join up the collage elements into a more unified whole.  I added the "me" figure (a Modigliani lady), and she turned out to be grey as well, not to mention looking rather sad!
So I finally began to look into my heart, and talk some sense to myself, trying to remember that Christmas will be what I CHOOSE to make it, regardless of who is, or isn't, here.

So then I jollied up the page a bit with bright holly and a Christmas tree, and its interesting to see how those colours jump off the page, and its almost like looking through a window.
What I wrote on the page was the truth of how I was feeling, that it was all a bit pointless, and having acknowledged that sadness it enabled me to gradually lay it down.  Not quickly or easily, but I made a positive choice to enjoy everything that the season offers and to give thanks for it all, however simple.

I hope your Christmas is peaceful and blessed, whether its noisy and wonderfully crazy, or quiet as ours will be.  See you in 2017, where I have this new journal to begin.

Sunday, 11 December 2016


This page was one of the few where I knew from the beginning what I wanted/needed to write about - light in the darkness.  This came out of seeing a new pain specialist recently and, for the first time in many years, feeling heard and understood.  He can't do very much for me but has some creative ideas so, while I'm not dancing with joy since any changes will be small and subtle,  there is a spark of hope kindled within me that sees a possibility of something improving.

So I did something I only do occasionally, and painted the page black.  Its fun actually, because colours work differently on the dark background, but you need materials that will be opaque over the black - in this case Posca paint pens.

The bird represents me - on the ground, my wings clipped, but looking up hopefully at a spark of light.
And when the words below were finished I could almost have left it like that, because that was all I needed to say.  But of course it was a bit too bare for me, and I started to doodle ...
I wasn't really liking the page very much because the writing didn't seem to look right - but once I put the outlines around it suddenly it WORKED!
And now I DO like it - because it says what I wanted.  But also I realised that I had drawn a lot of beauty around the bird, even grounded.  That helps because even if the new specialist's ideas don't come to anything, it will remind me to look for the loveliness around me, rather than longing for the unattainable ...

Thursday, 24 November 2016


One of the most significant women in my life has been very ill recently, and may yet not make it.  She's in her 80s but somehow has always seemed vibrant and indomitable.  To see her as she is, after a major stroke, a shrunken tiny figure in a hospital bed, is to challenge the huge presence she has been for me.  I made this page to show how I will always think of her - vivid and bright, funny and just plain wonderful.  A mother in her way, a sister, a FRIEND.

It started as a simple page of pink paint, to which I added some of the brightest scraps of collage material I could find.  The black line really makes helps the collage jump off the page, as you can see below from the ones I've not outlined yet.
Then of course there has to be a face - or something human - on every page, I find it sort of grounds the art somehow, and reminds me that my work is about people, and the lived human experience we share.
Then out of me came what I wanted and needed to say. It is a kind of cry of protest against the gradual extinguishing of such an intense life force.
This is the finished page - I think, I hope I have done justice to an outstanding, amazing woman.  I have been blessed to have her in my life for 30 years ... and that's what I want to treasure.
Yet at the same time I have to keep watch by her side as the light fades, and walk with her to the end.  Its the last gift I can give her.

Friday, 11 November 2016


I'm still not quite back in the routine of journalling regularly again, so forgive me for the long gap since my last post.  I'm aiming to get back to posting weekly without working harder than feels natural.

This page background is, as so often, just paint - a basic orange and a slightly darker shade.  Backgrounds don't have to be fancy - after all you're going to write and draw over it, however shades which are lighter and darker can produce some interesting effects you can work round or with.
I thought black and white would look good against the bright colour, and ended up creating the image in the corner.  I decided she looked like a witch, so that's what she became ...
Then I was adding more collage pieces from my black and white drawer, with a strong black line to link them all together and give them some kind of unity.  My "words" drawer also produced the label "wicked witch" so that was clearly meant to be!
And then the rest of the page just grew without me thinking about it very much!  I love that stage, when the work takes wings and flies on its own and you are transported into that "other" place.

It finally came together with a few more words from my collection, the words my heart needed to get on the page, and lots of white doodling.  I added the little bit at the bottom "but inside" at the very last moment.
I'd like to think that, despite being tired and ill much of the time, some brightness and beauty still shows through.  Hope so anyway!!

Friday, 28 October 2016


Apologies that I was AWOL last week - life got a bit complicated with one friend having surgery which she might not survive and another having a major stroke.

When I'm stressed, which of course I was, it tends to make my pain worse so all in all it wasn't a very good time ... and that's when I made this page.  As ever, it really REALLY helps to get things off my chest like this.

I was just painting pages in a random fashion, and one of them was this lovely lime green with a touch of brighter green.  It seemed like the right kind of colour for the mood I was in.
And then, having no particular plan, I just began to add bits of collage.  A besetting sin of mine is to reach for more of the same colour, and sometimes I have to remind myself that you are allowed to use more than one shade - as many as you like in fact.  But anyway, this page remained steadfastly green.
As you know, I often put a black line or a shadow around elements on my pages, and the following picture shows what a difference doing so can make.  I used a grey paint pen rather than black here and you can see how it can be used to unify the different elements into a whole.
A bit more collage and then it was out with the white paint pen, and I found myself doing these wavy stripey lines - not something I've done before, but I like the effect.
Then finally I wrote down what was going through my head - on this occasion a bit of a wallow in self-pity.  It happens sometimes but I try not to let it too often, because it only leads to even darker moods and places.  As ever, getting it onto paper also helps to get it OUT and that's the best way I know to let go of a black mood.
A little image to signify a small sick and tired me, plus some more white doodling and a touch of turquoise, and it was done.  The white "tentacles" creeping towards me strongly suggest the feeling of being overwhelmed don't they? I didn't plan it that way but my subconscious possibly did.

It is SO good to be journalling again (I may have mentioned that already) and as an unexpected bonus finding new friends as a result!

PS One friend came through the surgery and is now recovering really well.  The other has had a series of complications and is now dying ... so I'm making another page about that.