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 .....

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.