Tell me I’m not the only one who has days where everything makes no sense and you feel all kinds of off kilter and out of sorts. (Seriously – I could use the reassurance!)
One of my go to activities to unravel a tangled mind is writing in my journal. Sometimes, a poem will pop out. As I write that, I can hear my Dad frowning – if it has no meter or rhyme it can’t possibly be a poem.
One of the most rewarding things about this artist gig is that sometimes I get to create special pieces – tiny touchstones, with love poured into them for those situations in our lives when words are hard to find, and fail miserably to convey what we hold in our hearts.
A unique piece of art, or photo, is created for each piece, then jewellers grade resin is poured over, to seal and protect the piece forever.
In the past I’ve made pendants bearing special words for bridesmaids gifts, and a set of earrings for another group of bridesmaids. The ring above was commissioned as a gift for an adored young Mum who recently experienced the devastating sorrow of her baby, Aleisha, arriving in the world, already an angel.
Not long ago, our mate Russ’s daughter got married. With her Dad no longer here to walk her down the aisle, her Mum and I put our heads together and created a pair of pendants, to attach to her bouquet. One with a picture of the bride with her Dad, the other, a special message with Russ’s handwriting (thanks to Photoshop, and some old letters, the right words fit perfectly.)
To be asked to create such special pieces is a privilege that’s hard to explain, but it’s a source of tremendous joy and satisfaction to make something that expresses what our words often cannot.
Wise Woman Sonnet
I railed against the longings of my soul,
which yearned for freedom, joy and a light heart.
Believing all the lies my culture told –
“You must always be busy, act real smart.”
Then, though I tried to be the same as them –
the ones who made the rules and held the gate,
My heart found joy in paint and words and Zen.
The quest for busy led me to self hate.
So, to my heart a promise strong was made.
To find what makes me happy and that choose.
Compassion for myself I would now trade
for busyness and ways to self abuse.
Contentment can endure throughout the years,
Your joy is found in ashes of your fears.
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,
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.
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
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!
People often ask “What is art journaling?” Good question! I do my best to explain, but sometimes it’s easier to show you.
First you need a journal
Let’s start with the journal. You can use anything! This pile represents a fraction of the sketchbooks and journals I have accumulated – collecting journals and art supplies is my guilty pleasure! An assortment of paper types, sizes, page counts and constructions, there’s something I love about each of them. My favourites though will lie flat on the bench when opened to work in, and have a weighty paper that can withstand wet media (like watercolour, spray inks and paint). Other features that rate high for appeal are pockets in the covers – you never know what bits of flotsam and jetsam you might find to keep for addition to your journal ‘later’ – page marker ribbons, and elastic bands to keep the book from flying open as it expands from the inevitable addition of collage and tape and ephemera.
What goes in the journal?
The real fun begins when you start to do stuff in the journals! What goes into them? Anything at all! I tend to describe art journaling as the intersection of keeping a written diary with keeping a sketchbook. There are journals like this one with a bit of writing and reflection for each day, and some colour and sketching or scribbling – playing, really. This particular spread is in a cheap visual art diary. The paper is pretty flimsy, so there’s a coat of gesso on the paper to give it a bit more substance, followed by collaged papers, washi tape hand carved stamps, water soluble pencil and watercolour paint.
Then there are the more ‘traditional’ artist sketchbooks where reference sketches are made, and ideas are given a trial run before the detail is worked into a final piece. These snazzy arrows to mark North were explorations before committing the compass direction to a map created in a collaborative artists book.
My favourite art journal is one where I experiment with ideas and media. Sometimes these pages end up a muddy mess, and that’s OK, because the purpose of it is to explore, to see what works and what doesn’t, and it’s this absence of pressure to produce something ‘worthy’ that is the best part of all. My brain knows I’m just mucking around, so it’s low stakes and no expectation.
The spread above is a great example. I’d been mucking around with spray inks and stencils, and the page was pretty ‘blah’. I had been reading about using indian ink in an aqua brush, and this ugly page was a very safe place to try that out – it couldn’t get any worse! The face happened with the inky brush, a bit of extra colour popped into the eyes, mouth and hair with coloured pencil and a white Sharpie marker, and although she has a somewhat alien complexion, there’s something kinda cool about it.
That sense of freedom to play and explore because there is no pressure for a dazzling outcome is what makes me believe that art journaling is a wonderful way for anyone to begin to dabble in something creative, to learn a few techniques, to follow your imagination and let the hidden parts of yourself surface and come up for air in safety. Don’t ask me what hidden part of myself came up for air with a green eyed, green faced martian lady… reminds me a little of Salvador Dali’s Mum who said after looking at his paintings “I don’t know what what in his head, but I’m glad he got it out”!
Right now, I’m exploring and experimenting in a different format again – the Disc A Day journal. Which is my own promise to myself that I’ll do something small every day (well, ok… I can’t honestly say that I’ve added to it every day, but I have added to it most days, and right now, I’m happy with that). This little journal is made from a large sheet of hot pressed watercolour paper, cut into three sheets and folded and stitched together, which is great for the wet media I mentioned earlier. What I love most about this little disc, is what the washi tape beside it says: “Make Time”. We’ve talked before about how important it is to make time for creativity, rather than wait till you find time.
That awesome tape, by the way, is designed by Kal Barteski and came from You Are Awesome Co, who are sadly wrapping up trading at the end of September, but they have some great bargains going on there for the next couple days.
So, there you have it. Art Journaling 101. Art journaling is my favourite thing to teach – if you’d like to know a little more about classes, check out my Art Journaling Workshop page.
Once upon a time, there was a brave, kind and handsome policeman named Russ. His job with the force brought him and his family of princesses to a small country town, where they met other little families and before very long, the loyalest and most wonderful of friendships were forged. Grown ups, kids, (so many little princes and princesses) – even family animals – all became cherished, each by the others. One day, the time came for the policeman and his now bigger family of little princesses to move to another town. The friends by now had become friends for life, so even though they moved far away, there were still many celebrations and holidays and special times when all the princes, princesses and grown ups spent happy hours in one another’s company.
In time, the princesses and princes became grown ups as well, as is the way of princes and princesses. They found new princes and princesses to draw into the circle, and of course, began to bring new tiny princes and princesses into the world, who all became cherished – each by the others.
The job of a policeman can be a hard one, and while the brave and handsome policeman was keeping us safe, he was seeing things that troubled his kind heart. Maybe he thought he always had to be brave and strong. Maybe he was afraid what the grown ups and princes and princesses would think about him if he told them how he was really feeling. What he was really thinking.
Then one day, the brave, kind and handsome policeman named Russ left the gown ups and the princesses and the princes forever, and all of them who had become cherished, each by the other, had broken hearts and lots of questions that had no answer.
Then, Blue HOPE appeared on the horizon, and the grown ups and the princesses and the princes wished so hard that they had known about Blue HOPE before the brave, kind and handsome policeman named Russ had taken his own life, because maybe, the brave and kind policemen at Blue HOPE may have been able to help Russ to stay.
You see, Blue HOPE need some money to spread the word about the help they have available to brave, kind policemen. So, the grown ups and the princes and the princesses and all of them who became cherished, each by the other, decided to have a special day, in honour of their brave, kind and handsome policeman named Russ, and to raise money to give Blue HOPE so that other grown ups and princesses and princes who cherish kind, brave policeman may never have to know the sorrow of saying goodbye far too soon.
As fairy tales go – this one is crap. Sadly, there is no happy ending ending to Russ’s story, but as the grown ups and the princesses and the princes who cherished him, we are choosing to honour his memory with a family fun day – A Fuss About Russ – to raise money for Blue HOPE, as they aim to raise awareness & share information about Police Suicide globally, introduce an anonymous, external referral system and 24hr helpline.
I’ve donated this piece “Turquoise Tranquility” as an item for the charity auction. It will go under the auctioneers hammer along with an astonishing assortment of goodies: from pearl jewelry to a tonne of mung bean seed! I’ll also be packing up my artwork and books to set up a market stall alongside my clever Mum and her handmade glass beads and jewelry. There’ll be plenty of market stalls, live music, games, helicopter joy rides, BBQ, yabbie races, clowns, and of course the auction action, plus lots more besides.
Here are the details if you live close enough to come join us:
When: 17th September 10am to 4pm
Where: “Harcourt”, Baralaba – Moura Road, Baralaba, Qld. (We’d love you to you pre-purchase your tickets!)