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!

Sometimes, You Just Have To Do It Your Own Way  Art Journal Page

©2015 Tracey Hewitt

There’s been a lot going on here over the past week. Most dramatically, a shed fire. Another one. It’s been a while since the hay shed went up in flames – seven years, I think – but, surely one shed fire in a lifetime is enough for anyone – right? Maybe not. This one had no hay in it… but it did have an old Toyota, a ride on lawnmower, and a few other very useful bits and pieces; as well as a tractor parked right beside it. Not anymore. That thing’s now a pile of molten metal and ash.
However, my precious daughter-in-law and granddaughter, who were the only ones around for quite a distance when they noticed they had an ENORMOUS campfire – and no marshmallows – are safe and unharmed. Their house, which was closer than any of us would have liked to the fire, is also safe and sound. Bullet dodged, fire out, and heavy sighs of relief heaved.
The fire has nothing to do with the next thing on the agenda – but everything to do with this journal page – which is teaching another round of ArtJournaling classes, which might be some of the best fun it’s possible to have! The page you see here is the result of some preparation sample and demo pieces for the classes. It also started with some writing about that fire. This is what is so transformative about the Art Journaling process (well, really about any creative process, but I love art journaling, because it truly is accessible to anyone). You can write out your worries and your woes, get lots of crap off your chest, and proceed to obliterate it with funky colours, patterns and scribbles, transforming that icky experience completely. You can still see snippets of the writing in odd places, which ultimately become just another layer of line and form.

Detail:  Sometimes, You Just Have To Do It Your Own Way

This was put together using mostly spray inks, stencils, and a mask I cut based on a photo of Keelan on his wedding day, as he was walking toward the altar. (Or, to be more precise, the gate and arch set up in front of the garden bed in our backyard for the ceremony.)
The stencil had been cut, waiting to be used for a while, and I grabbed it without thinking too much – just needed to get the page done, and I was keen to see how this mask would come up. It morphed from an account of  blazing destruction; to cool, strong colours carrying a great sense of independence and hope for the future. I don’t know about you, but that feels pretty transformative to me.

Try Something New

What does it say about your personality when you have an idea to try something you know bugger all about, and think “I can’t do this, but I’m doing it anyway?” I don’t know, either, but here are the results! For a long time, I have thought that adding a few videos of works unfolding and techniques in action might be fun for me, and interesting for you. I have a lot to learn, and will possibly need to relocate to an area where I can access a much bigger Internet data quota (apologies to the Aussie Government, but this NBN thing isn’t working out so well for us out here), which isn’t such a realistic idea. I think there is a lot of research and education in my immediate future if I’m to follow this notion any further. 
However… this was fun for me, and I hope you find the video a little bit interesting. It’s a time lapse look at creating a background with tissue paper on canvas for a mixed media work. The background was done without any firm idea of what the focal point might be. That realisation came a little later.

Small Wonders 

©2015 Tracey Hewitt  Watercolour and mixed media on canvas

After the addition of some acrylic paints to introduce a little colour, it occurred to me that this would be the perfect background for another challenge I’d been hankering to take on. A photo of our Granddaughter, Payton, in a rare moment of stillness, had been whispering it’s longing to be drawn or painted for a couple of months. For someone who, a few years ago, wouldn’t even attempt to draw a face or human form, because “that’s not my thing, I just can’t do them”; I’m pretty excited to have captured a resemblance to a human being, much less enough of a resemblance to a particular human for her parents to know she was the model!
 Her features were sketched in, with Derwent Graphitint pencils. These babies might be my favourite art supply. (Even as I type that, a hundred other little special art supplies are clamouring in my mind to be named favourites, as well!) These pencils – as the name suggests – are much like a graphite pencil, with the added appeal of a range of beautiful, subtle colours, as well as being water soluble. They’re not as intense as some of the other water soluble pencils out there, so the results are soft and delicious. A little watercolour for the pink in her dress and lips, a few touches of inky black for details, and she was done.
That little butterfly she’s so intently looking at? That is a perfect example of the glorious serendipity of layering materials and media. It wasn’t until after I’d drawn Payton in, that I noticed that little butterfly on an underlying layer of tissue paper, perfectly placed to seem to be sitting on her hand, and the focus of her rapt attention. Sometimes, there are forces at work when we create that simply cannot be explained. Happens to me all the time. And, it’s the best feeling. 

I’ve just made a disturbing discovery. Sometime last year, in the middle of some epic convivial confusion, the email address used for receiving notification of your comments here was closed and I neglected to change it in the bowels of the settings here. So… Some of you have made lovely comments here, and it would appear you have been ignored! My most sincere apologies! I love to receive comments here. That glitch is all fixed up now, and I promise if you use your precious time to comment here, that I will respond!
For the month of February, I’ve accepted a photo-a-day challenge, run by Lisa Clarke from ABC Open. The theme is – can you guess?
That’s a fun one. Lots of scope for getting that camera off auto and testing out what it can really do.
This was day two’s challenge – Water Coming Out Of A Tap. This was taken with a really fast shutter speed to freeze the movement of the water as it shot out of my garden tap.
What’s great about a challenge like this, is that it stretches you – makes you look at things closely; differently – and kick starts that creativity that may have become a little sluggish. ABC Open is great for that. They have projects on the go all the time – writing, photography and video – from all over Australia. You can get inspired by other peoples efforts, or jump up and create your own. Go check it out.
 Right now, I’m off for a walk to take today’s photo – A River. Luckily, there’s one a hundred yards or so from our back door, so locating it wont be a problem. Coming up with a creative way to take a picture of it, however, may be another matter, but, I’m up for the challenge.

Art Journaling – It Feels A Bit Like Therapy

Does this pile of luscious goodness look like fun to you?
How about all this snowy, fresh paper and clean brushes?

Wheel that trolley out onto my back verandah and into a gorgeous autumn afternoon, and the stage is set for some serious Art Journaling fun.
A while back, I sent out feelers to see if maybe one or two people might be keen to spend a bit of time here exploring a few art techniques and materials in the safety of their very own Art Journal. While I love where I live, it is a small community, and I thought I might be lucky if I could find any takers. To my surprise and delight – there were nine! All keen to excavate the creativity they hoped was buried in them someplace. 

Over the course of three hours, they were introduced to Dyelusions Sprays, Distress Stains, stamps, stencils and all kinds of markers and pens, which they used to create some really fun backgrounds and play with lettering styles. Of course, many of them (OK – most of them) looked a little horrified when I suggested it was time they write – in their own handwriting – in their journals. When I asked how many of them hated their own writing – hands went up all around the table. What I told them in essence, was this:
 Every mark we make, every word we write, comes from us. Is us. Our essence cant help but show up in everything we do. Hating our handwriting (substitute voice, thighs, drawing, tummy, crows feet, toes, teeth…. you get the idea) is to hate a unique and authentic part of ourselves.
I know we all do it (I am guilty of it often!) But, I’m coming to believe that we have more to give when we give ourselves a break. When we are OK with ourselves and our efforts.
I reckon they all found the tip of their creative icebergs. Which makes me really excited for next week, when we’ll have a play with acrylic paints, try drawing faces and dedicate a page to our Inner Critics. I’ve named mine “Muriel” (apologies to any wonderful and beautiful Muriel’s out there…) and she can be a real shrew. Should be fun to share our stories and see the portraits these great girls create of their own versions of Muriel.

Making Time for Art

posted in: art work, learning, studio | 0

This sign just went on the studio door. I’ve never had a sign like this.
Let’s back up a little, and explain some things. I recently signed up for ArtBiz Bootcamp. This programme for artists is offered by Alyson B Stanfield, of ArtBiz Coach fame. In the past, I’ve learned lots from her book and a couple of other classes I’ve taken with her. This ‘assignment’ was week one, fundamental stuff. It’s taken me almost four weeks to actually do it!  You wouldn’t believe some of the stuff I told myself about how and why this wouldn’t – couldn’t – work for me. I won’t make you want to poke yourself in the eye with a pencil by telling you all about those excuses in detail – just know, they were lame… really lame. What was exciting though, was how great it felt to finally choose to commit to some not negotiable time frames to call studio time. I think I may have even heard an hallelujah chorus off in the heavens somewhere – though I can’t be sure about that. (It may have just been Garfield objecting to a lack of appropriate cat food in his bowl).
What I wanted to share with you though, is that this action – choosing some times, printing them on a bit of card, and hanging it up – created a big shift in the way I think and feel about my work as an artist. Like I’m taking myself seriously.
Sometimes small actions can have big consequences….
What little thing have you done that has led to big things? I’d love to hear. Tell us all about it in the comments.

The Angels Anthology Evolves onto Canvas

After drawing lots of practice faces for Pam Carriker’s Angels Anthology class, I finally felt ready to tackle the canvas and paint. Firstly, a few bits and bobs were laid into impasto gel , which also had some marks scraped into it…along with the word: Grateful.

I missed taking photos of the stages between the first photo and the finished piece – I may have gotten just a little caught up in bringing her to life, and forgotten to pick up the camera. (By the way, her weird looking eye is a reflection picked up by the camera – she actually has pretty normal looking eyes in reality!)

She’s not the Mona Lisa, by any means, but I’m pleased with the result…it looks recognisably like a face!! 
And while I don’t know that I’d go so far as to say I conquered my fear (of faces); I will say I gave it a swift kick in the butt – and am keen to continue to give it a good shake up.

Drawing Faces

posted in: art work, collage, learning | 2

Drawing faces has always kind of terrified me…

Made me break out in sweat, or hives, or something. Yet, I really want to be able to draw a face, and I do have this belief that it does you good to do something every day that scares you (just a little). So…I signed up for a class with Pam Carriker – an online one, called An Angels Anthology – focusing on using the art supplies and ‘stuff’ you have, to create a mixed media collage. There happens to be a face in this class, so I figured that a fun class, focusing on all sorts of other things, rather than THE FACE, might be a sneaky way to trick my mind into letting go of the anguish surrounding faces.
In the interests of full disclosure, I should include an image here of my first attempt….Argh…
But, with Pam’s help and encouragement, I drew another and another, and in the end, got totally hooked on drawing faces, and even got a couple I thought were pretty good.
I may even be ready to tackle the face on my canvas sometime soon!
Pam has a bunch of tutorials on her website, Living Art at the Speed of Life, which make you just itch to grab that sketchbook or journal and get creative!
Have a great, creative, wonderful Sunday!

Campfire Coaching

posted in: country living, learning | 0
Here’s an image from a few years ago…our hay shed burning.
Looking at this picture takes me right back there. The emotion I felt standing there is bubbling inside me as I write….(perhaps because my husband made an attempt to go in there and rescue a tractor; in spite of our firstborn trying valiantly to discourage him, yet ended up following him in there anyway…leaving me watching, dumbfounded, terrified and angry that if the whole thing blew up, I wouldn’t even have bodies to bury…yep, that’ll be why this image makes me a bit titchy!)
But that’s not really what I wanted to tell you about… I thought of this particular image because I’ve recently been to a Campfire Coaching session with Mick Cornish. Mick very generously ventured up this way to offer his wisdom to our flood affected community. And he’s got plenty of wisdom.
 In some ways, the “Campfire” seemed as big as this shed fire. Mick is a coach – business, personal, life…you name it, he’ll have something to offer. Now, I have to admit that had he not made this generous offer to our community, I doubt I would ever have sought him out. But I discovered so many things – had so many ‘ah-ha!’ moments – that I’m really, deeply pleased to have had the opportunity. Mick explored beliefs, communication, choices, procrastination…just to name a few. And I love his motto – “it’s not what happens to us that determines our destiny, it’s the decisions we make about ourselves in those moments when life happens”. After a couple of days with Mick, I realise what a mighty weight of truth this statement carries. 
I’m trying to figure out what decisions we made about ourselves when this shed fire happened… I may need more time on that…but I do remember thinking (once my precious family was safe and out of harms way) it was a terrible pity we didn’t even have any marshmallows!

posted in: learning | 2
Last week, I spent a wonderful five days at the McGregor Winter School, in Toowoomba, attending a drawing workshop with the very talented artist and teacher, Deb Gilmartin. By the end of the week, I was able to render this eye…which was thrilling! My precious prince Keelan was convinced that I had traced it…took some persuading to convince him that I had, in fact done it freehand! And that is testament to Deb’s great teaching skills. I haven’t drawn in years, and while the high school art class drawings I did all those years ago were passable, I have lately felt the lack of satisfactory skill and technique in the sketching arena.
A week with Deb and I think that’s cured. She taught a dozen of us a number of ‘tools’ to use to get our drawings down in a manner with which we were happy. The class was titled: Learning to Draw and See as an Artist, and Deb used a lot of theory from Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards, and Drawing with your Artist’s Brain by Carl Purcell to help us get our right brains in gear…we drew blind contours – studying our subject, drawing without actually looking at our page; and we copied a sketch – upside down! Deb taught us to see angles and measure relative distances and to ‘see’…which is more revolutionary than it sounds! The greatest revelation of the week was that what we ‘know’ we see, or ‘think’ we see isn’t always what is really in front of us. The simple act of concentrating on an object for long enough to draw it’s details gives you a whole new understanding of that object.
Do you suppose that could be true for husbands, too? If only I could keep him still long enough to draw him….
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