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 .....

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

WALK THE WAYS ...

 
This page came from somewhere deep inside me, and I'm not really sure why or even how!  If you've ever written poetry you will know how a phrase will rise up and haunt you, a fragment that wants to be part of a whole you can't quite imagine.  It was something of that kind which happened here ....

I was just playing with paint after cruising Pinterest looking for inspiration - I'm always trying to challenge myself, to stretch my wings farther than I ever thought they could go.  I'd seen a yellow and white page that made me think I hadn't used this colour enough, and another page which had a lot of scribbles which appealed to me.
So this was the yellow and white page I made - all acrylic paint - to which I kept adding more and more layers.  Then I tried scribbling around the shapes I'd made - which didn't come naturally as you might be able to tell!  The wormhole doodle is more my kind of thing - quite neat and controlled.
Anyway I made myself do lots more scribbling and began to rather enjoy it.  More wormholes too, just so it didn't feel too wild and free.  Then that phrase I mentioned started running through my head "I will walk the ways at sunset" and I had no idea where it was coming from (its not a quote, I checked if it was some half remembered poetic fragment).  Maybe the white circle on the right kind of made me think of a sunset?  A distant winter sun glimpsed through trees ...

Then I got to thinking - but at sunset these "ways" (which in my mind involved paths through trees) would be getting a bit dark and threatening ... and I didn't feel brave about doing that.  When you're disabled you tend to live cautiously, fearfully, and you probably don't take many risks.  A voice in my head was SHOUTING at this point that I might as well go home then if I was prepared to risk nothing ... which is when I added the words "and I will not be afraid".  It seem to me that, if this was my path to walk, then for good or ill I should set my feet upon it.
It was late afternoon when I was doing this - not a time I usually work because I'm often too tired by then - so I surprised myself by this surge of creativity and the sense of journeying into the unknown.  The pictures are a little bit darker than the actual page because the light was poor by then.

I added more tree branches, a face and a few more winding wormholes, and the thing seemed complete without all the dots and doodles I often love to use.  Some grey shadows made it look more complete.
Strange as it sounds, I feel as if this page was "given" to me rather than something I purposely made.  I'm still looking at it in wonder and stretching for the deeper meaning I think it may contain ... I've always said that journalling is writing messages to yourself, or receiving messages from your subconscious.  This one definitely is!
Its also the first page which has made me think that I might reproduce it on a larger board or canvas, as a finished artwork rather than an experimental piece.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

LOVE AND LIGHT ...

My apologies that I've let two weeks go by without a post - I've been less than well and haven't worked very much in my journal lately.  

I don't feel that this page is one of my best, but then again I'm often surprised by what I like against what other people prefer, so I offer it simply as the authentic product of where I am in life ....it does the job of saying what I wanted without necessarily being my most creative or original effort.

It began with my digging out my Neocolour II crayons - I have fads on various materials and haven't used these for a while.  I love what happens to them when you add water - sheer alchemy!
I was reflecting on all the death and darkness I've experienced lately, and have been wondering if I could somehow put this to positive use.  Then I realised that I already have - it has made me look again at my life and the people in it, so often taken for granted.  It probably sounds cliched to say that I realise now how very blessed I am ... but that's how it feels.

I got so caught up in trying to capture that thought that I forgot to take any pictures until it reached this stage.  However you can probably guess that to the background above I added the circles, and then the writing, followed by the white doodling.
Like I said, it isn't one of my favourite pages, but I'm struggling with my energy levels at the moment - probably in reaction to all that has been happening.  Yet another reason to think about my many joys and blessings rather than dwell too much on loss ...
But I have made myself one promise - to do my very best to live the life I've been given as fully as is physically and mentally possible.  My friend didn't get to do that, so I feel honour bound to do it for her, for both of us.

So I will be cherishing my friends, my family, and the lovely life I have more than ever, giving thanks for 37 years of friendship, and realising as never before that there really is no time to waste ....

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

BRAVE ... NOT REALLY

This page is another one about losing a very dear friend.  Tomorrow will be her funeral and I don't know how I'm going to get through it.  But then again, for the sake of my friend's daughters and husband, I will find a way but only with God's help.

It was just a simple background using two colours of green acrylic paint, and I started to collage the edges with monochrome because it felt right for a mourning piece.
And here it is with the collaged edges complete.  This is the simplest way I know to begin a page - to put a frame around it - and I wasn't feeling up to anything fancy.
Below you can see how I then joined all the elements together with a black outline and a little bit of doodling - it makes such a difference and kind of unifies the result.  The image of Frida Kahlo is there because she was a brave woman, and a heroine of mine who lived through a lot of pain ... so her face is to remind me that I can do it too.  Notice how some colour creeps in - it seems I can't help it.
The writing just says how I was feeling - dreading the day and yet wanting to testify to the great love I felt for my friend.
The red flowers were not only to fill up space but to symbolise strength and my wish to celebrate a life well lived, even if it was shorter than any of us hoped.  So these are brave flowers to remind me to give thanks that she was in my life for 35 years ...
I'm so sorry if my posts have been relentlessly negative recently - there has been a lot of difficult stuff to get through.  Its part of the journey of everyone's life and journalling about mine is my therapy. I share it in the hope it might touch your life too.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

PAIN BEARER ...

 
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

MANY TEARS ...

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

NIGHT REFLECTIONS

 
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

I JUST CAN'T

  
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.