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 😎

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

LOOK BEYOND ...

 
Now and again I make a page on a black background - which allows you to do all kinds of different things.  I even look at journals with black pages occasionally, but have concluded I don't want to work that way all the time!

I'd put a coat of gesso over a page which didn't seem to be going anywhere, so I figured I'd just black it out!  At the stage below you can just see some of the old page showing through.
The Posca paint pens I like so much are wonderfully opaque, so you can get a good strong white against a dark background.  And yes I have been looking at Aboriginal art again - I can see the influence very strongly here.  Those perfect red circles aren't paint, I punched them out of a lovely thick red envelope which had contained a greetings card!
I'd been at an art class the day before, and during the afternoon something had happened to make me appreciate more than ever just how much of someone you meet casually might be hidden.  In this case it was something a person was scared to show other people, and a confidence I felt honoured by.  I was still thinking about this when I got home, so inevitably it found a way into my journal. Hence the "look beyond" - which is as much a message to myself as anyone else.
At this point I used a different black paint on the main area because the original wasn't a flat enough colour.  It was also a later time of day so as you can see the whites have photographed very differently.
Reflecting on how much we don't see, hear or perhaps understand, led to the words here - I suppose I was reminding myself to expect to be surprised, to choose to look at something or someone with new eyes, or listen to what is NOT said .....
And unusually for me I was quite happy to leave empty open areas and not fill them with dots and doodles.  I'm also moving towards using less collage and other people's images, preferring to create my own.  It is a journey, and I'm astonished now when I look back at journal no.1 just how very far I've come in my travels to this, the 13th.


Sunday, 9 April 2017

HOSTILE WORLD ....

 
This page arose out of sheer frustration!  Considering we have disability access legislation (via the European Union) it can be horribly difficult to get into many places.  In fact I'd say that about 50% of the time I can't get into buildings unless someone goes off and fetches a ramp, assuming I can get their attention to ask for it.

Then there's the problem of uneven pavements, potholes, lack of dropped kerbs, etc etc.  My favourite Italian restaurant in the nearby village centre has a ramp up to the door, but then a wooden lip that my wheelchair can't mount.  Oh yes and the toilet is upstairs, but because its a historic building they don't have to do alterations for one downstairs.  I could go on but had better not - I would definitely sound like a crabby old cow.

Anyway I got out my Neocolour II crayons to make this background - still trying to make myself use multiple shades, and wanting to create circles and shapes within it.
Next I began to outline the shapes with black (Posca paint) pen, and although I didn't invite her this woman then appeared, followed by the words that obviously really needed to come out.
So having been surprised by their appearance I had to figure out and explain what I meant!  When the practical difficulties seem insurmountable and just a trip to the post box can be more trouble that its worth, you end up hiding inside and not going out.  And that simply Won't Do.
It was time to remind myself (again) that I am NOT prepared to settle for half a life, mostly spent at home, but choose to live as fully as I can within my limitations.  I just wish someone would really understand the barriers to integration and participation when you're on wheels.  My beloved says all council officials should be obliged to spend a day in a wheelchair at least once a year .... and then they might Get It.
So having got my grumpy inner woman sorted out I settled down to enjoy lots of doodling and dots.  Sorry if my fit of frustration makes me sound grumpy (which I was) but sometimes you just have to let it all out. And of course I do that in my journal.  Job done.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

PILGRIM ....

This page arose out of my regular habit of cruising art journals on Pinterest in search of challenge and inspiration - its funny what will start me off, sometimes just a colour as in the last post, or a corner of something.  This time it was a page made with vertical rather than horizontal lines - which made me recognise that I have tendency to work across the page rather than down.

So this was me drawing vertical lines and starting to paint the resulting spaces.  At this point I was reaching for more shades of blue, but realised that I also have a tendency to play safe and stay with the same colour, so I boldly plumped for the red and promised myself I would use a wide range of shades.
Well then there was no stopping me and I added orange too, not to mention red dots in the corner!
I had no other plan for this page - I like working intuitively and just seeing what happens.  I didn't know what I was going to write but the sections had begun to look like roads or paths to me, which set off the reflections about being a traveller and a pilgrim.

You can possibly see that I hadn't stuck the eye down at this point because I was still deciding whether or not it belonged there ... I do that often.  It works to just try random pieces of collage in different positions.
When I did stick the eye down I used paint around the edges to blend it into the piece, and then did some more doodling - heavily influenced by Australian aboriginal art, which is really lighting my fire at the moment!  The white horizontal dashes came from that source.
It was quite a journey in itself completing this page, which I worked on over several days.  The tree branches were a surprise to me, as were the orange lines on the yellow which made me think of layers in rock.  The wormhole doodling is a favourite technique which I haven't used for a while.
I'm still excited by working downwards rather than across, and its funny how much difference such a simple thing produced.  I really had FUN making this and genuinely like the result.  Look out for more work which travels down the pages .....