Writing: Exploring Square Pegs In Round Holes

Heart Writing

 

That box that people put you in – the pigeon hole which satisfies their need to classify and order their experiences – you don’t quite fit, do you?

There’s that sharp edge that grabs and catches. You try to smooth it off, sand it away, for your comfort – and for theirs.

Stop. That sharp edge is your power. File it away and your unique shape is lost.

It’s tempting to force yourself into that box shape. To fit. To fit in. But, that sharp edge digs into your side and deep down you know this isn’t the shape of you. It would not be this uncomfortable if it were.

Your place is not inside any box. No pigeon hole can contain your complexity, your contradictions, and the fullness of who you are. That sharp edge? It’s your reminder that you don’t belong in any box, and it’s your sword to cut yourself free.

Dear lovely ones,

I wrote the piece above recently in a writing class with Martha Beck called Write into Light. I want to tell you that I wrote it for you, and that I am way past any feelings of doubt about my own worth and belonging in this crazy world. But I know you know that’s not the honest truth. For I can’t write or paint anything that rings true for you without it being real for me also. My own sharp edge – the part I feel unsure of, the piece that I’m certain is proof I don’t belong – is the thing I need most to embrace. I long to write and paint and share so much with the world, but recently I have found myself here staying quiet, hiding in my busy life, using it as an excuse not to be brave and bold. Jamming myself into a box that isn’t my shape.
I’m nervous about how this writing may be received – it’s not always bright and colourful like the artwork you find here. But, as more people read my book, and talk with me about the themes that resonated for them in it’s pages, about how they’ve found the reading of the book helpful, the greater need I feel to share more of this writing. To share more of the pieces of myself that dig into my side – the pieces which try to tell me I don’t quite fit. To use the sharp edges of those pieces to cut myself free of my own fears and insecurities. I hope my doing that might inspire you to find your own sharp edge and free yourself, too.
I’d love to know your reactions. Love it? Hate it? Wonder what the hell I’m on about? Share it all!

Stencils – How to Make Your Own

 

 

Art Journal Page; Spray Ink; Pen and Ink;
                 “Go Gently” ©2016 Tracey Hewitt Art Journal Page with hand cut stencils

Stencil Love

During art journal classes, the one thing that everyone seems to have great fun with is stencils.  Spraying ink over stencils, and rubbing back paint through stencils is one of the first lessons I teach in art journal class. It’s quick, easy, effective and seems to unleash our inner child faster than anything.

There are endless suppliers of ready-made stencils – just Google ‘stencils’  and you could disappear for a week checking them all out, and still not have exhausted the possibilities. But, for artwork that is uniquely yours, with the fun level only stencils can provide, cutting your own is the way to go.

 

handcut stencils made by drawing the stencil design onto copy paper, laminating and cutting design with a stanley knife
Hand cut Stencils

 

 I’ve tried all sorts of material to cut stencils from, some more successful than others. Template plastic (a refugee from my patchwork days) worked well, but was murder on the fingers to cut, and so hard to get a knife through, crisp detail was hard to achieve. Manila folders work OK for one or two uses. Much easier to cut, but once they’re wet with ink or paint, the light cardboard buckles and tends to fall apart pretty quickly.

Enter laminated copy paper! I guess I must have been doing a bunch of laminating for something, and I wondered if maybe this might work well? Turns out it does. I’m not sure how long these will last, I suspect that ultimately the laminate may let go, but they’ve survived one round of art journal classes in tact, so I’m feeling hopeful.

 

How It’s Done

Grab a sheet of ordinary copy paper

Draw your design – make it simple, and remember that you need to leave some ‘veins’ or connecting pieces, or you’ll just end up with one big hole. A series of simple shapes – squares, triangles, circles – repeated many times are some of the most effective stencils you can use.

Whack the sheet with your hand drawn design through the laminator. I’m lucky to have one here in my office. If you are seriously deprived and don’t own one, try an office supply store or perhaps your local school or printing works. They’ll probably have a small charge, but it will be pittance compared to buying ready-made stencils.

Grab a Stanley knife, self-healing mat and a cuppa (probably not a wine – though I have done that, and the stencil and I lived to tell the tale) and settle in to cut out all the little pieces of your design. Remember – you need to leave little ‘bridges’ in more intricate designs.

Give your fingers a bit of a massage. While the laminated sheet is much easier to cut through than some stencil material, by the time you carefully cut out all the bits, you’ll still be a little tender in the digits

Pull out the spray inks and paints and get cracking on experimenting with your new hand cut stencil, by laying the stencil down over your page which has a bit of background colour on it, and spraying some ink over the stencil onto the page. Carefully lift off the stencil, and Viola! (Have a spare sheet or journal handy to mop up the ink from the stencil after you remove it)

 

 

A Mask is a Stencil in Reverse

 

Art Journal Page with spray ink
Payton and Pa Mask

 

Silhouettes make great stencils, too. As well as eliminating the anxiety about leaving little bridges and connecting bits, if you are careful as you cut, you will end up not only with a stencil, but also the piece you cut out ever so carefully, which can be used a mask. For this one of Payton and Pa, I printed a photo onto copy paper, laminated it and cut out around the outline, yielding a positive and negative image. A stencil and a mask. Lay the mask (the cutout piece) over a page with a background already laid down, spritz spray ink over the mask, carefully lift the mask off, and there you have it – Payton’s first horse ride with her Pa frozen in time, and spray ink!

There’s a bunch of ways you can incorporate stencils into your creations… this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. You can give yourself a little detective challenge and see if you can spot where I’ve used stencils on the works in the Art Journal Pages Gallery. Or, have some fun in an Art Journaling Workshop with me!

 

 

 

 

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Learning the Hard Way

Say Hello to Casper. He’s an old man now – by cat standards, at least. Well into his sixteenth year, he – along with his brother Garfield – has been part of our lives for over half of our kids lives. He’s an introvert. He hates lots of people, and new people freak him out so much, he’s been known to quietly disappear to the shed when visitors arrive, only to return after three or four weeks living on mice and sleeping in the hay when he’s sure the intruders have departed. Unlike Garfield, he is NOT fond of cuddles (or BBQ chips, but that’s another story for another day), and might choose to come and sit close beside you if it’s cold; or, if you’re trying to perform a task which is made much more difficult by the appearance of a cat under your arm!
Casper pretty much does his own thing- as is the want of most felines – and provided he is fed frequently (he isn’t actually all that good at catching mice) mostly keeps to himself and out of my way. Most of the time…
Which brings me to this:
This is my Peerless Watercolour Palette. See how the left side is all crisp and white looking? And how muddied and watery and splotchy looking it gets towards the left side? I guess it’s my own fault, but, is the weird green pond water in my paintbrush water jar really more appealing than the fresh, clean water in your cat bowl, Casper? Apparently. So much more appealing in fact, that he not only drinks out of it, but knocks it over, all over the studio bench, drenching my journal, causing pages to run, and – most alarmingly – drowning my favourite watercolour palette and discharging all that delicious colour. 
As you might have guessed, I was pretty bummed about this. Actually, “bummed’ doesn’t put near a fine enough point on it, but it’s somewhat unladylike and undignified to swear about it and put into print the words I uttered at the time. 
Casper has done this before – numerous times, but, I’d been lucky that nothing got damaged – usually just a puddle of nasty greeny looking water on the bench, and me muttering to myself that I need to learn not to leave the water jar full when I’m done in the studio, before the spill wreaks havoc with something special. 
Sometimes, we seem to have to learn things the hard way. Reminds me of that John Wayne quote. 
“Life is tough. It’s tougher if you’re stupid.”
I’m off right now to empty that bloody brush water jar, before Casper decides he’s a feline Michelangelo.