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.
Sometimes the things we believe hold us hostage. Stop us from trying something new or doing something brave. These words may or may not be a poem, but spilling them out in my journal helped me understand that while I may be quite attached to some of the things I believe, they don’t serve me well anymore.
I suspect we all have some beliefs that are not helping us any longer… How about you?
I am unsteady
I don’t know what I know
or, is it that I know what I don’t know?
I’ve told myself stories about
How I am
Who I am
What I am
What you think about me
My beliefs sit at my feet, looking up at me,
Am I true?
Where did I come from?
Do I get to stay?
Will you choose me?
I see fear in their eyes.
Rejection is death to a belief.
Can I bundle them up in my arms,
hold them close, and reassure them
that even if their work here is no longer needed,
I have loved them dearly?
Can I let them go then,
to scamper off like scolded puppies
scurrying to hide under a chair
until I’m not watching.
Until they sneak back to chew on my heels once again?
No. It seems not.
They must be banished
for my own good.
Oh, but their pleading eyes!
How can I reject those eyes
that I have loved
that I have trusted.
But, set them free I must.
Oust them from the comfortable cushion of my being.
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.
Session Three of the Write Into Light course is about to start, and I promised myself I would publish more of my writing here, so I’m diving in to share one of the pieces with you that was a BIG challenge, before I launch into the final session. The image above is from one of my art journals – her eye leaked, and she cried an unplanned and unexpected tear. And don’t we all do that on our way to knowing ourselves and learning to love the flawed humans we are?
This particular assignment was to write a sonnet. Yes, like Shakespeare. My initial thought was something along the lines of: “You’ve got to be kidding.” (Something along those lines, with perhaps an expletive in there for emphasis).
Armed with the technical requirements: iambic pentameter, rhyming couplets – all the sonnet rules and regulations – I set about counting syllables and weaving words. Not sure if Shakespeare would approve, but if felt pretty bloody good to bend an idea into such a regimented shape!
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!
This little tin came into our lives as the packaging for a rally car drive gift certificate. And no, it wasn’t me doing the rally driving! I leave that thrill seeking stuff to the man in my life (the one I married – though the ones I gave birth to are all up for that as well, as I think about it!) I was, however, quick to grab the tin, and squirrel it away in the studio, because, really…what could be better than to open your traveling art supplies tin and be reminded that what you’re doing is Serious Fun?
There is a group of Serious Fun seekers hanging out here with me on a Sunday afternoon lately… I’m teaching them the basics of art journaling (and art, as well, with a focus on low pressure and low anxiety) and, as is inevitable when one teaches, they teach me things as well. One of the important things I keep discovering is what a great benefit it is for grown up women (and men!) to set aside their responsibilities and obligations for a couple of hours and just muck about and have some fun. To play. They leave looking somehow lighter, and brighter; and seeing that is Serious Fun for me.
This trolley (which my Dad made for me many years ago) has seen duty in my life for all manner of purposes. It’s current role is by far my favourite. All those drawers are chock full of inks, sprays, pens, pencils, pastels, paints, stencils, stamps, watercolours, tapes….. so many opportunities for Serious Fun in there; and it can wheel out of the studio and onto the verandah, where all my Serious Fun seeking companions can dip in and share in the fun with me.
Play is recognised as being critical to childrens development… and there’s more and more evidence that it has powerful importance for adults as well. (Check out the writing of Brene Brown if you need any convincing). I know for sure that I’ve got more to give and am much nicer to be around if there’s been a little play time in my day. How about you? What counts as Serious Fun in your world? I’m always on the lookout for an opportunity to have fun – tell me what works for you!
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.
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.
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.
One way and another, the art has been struggling for attention lately. What with plotting ways to spoil a new grandbaby, end of financial year, and a tiny change in our farm business structure (how is it that a tiny change necessitates a thousand phone calls, pieces of paper, and forms to fill in? It will forever remain a mystery…) just to name a few; the time available for creativity has been limited.
There are, thankfully, Art Journals. Smeared with paint, spattered with ink, heavy with bits and bobs glued in, and carrying no pressure to come up with anything special – just to pick up a brush, pencil or scrap of paper and slap something on a page. Aaahh…. balm for a careworn soul.
As I’m writing this, looking at Just One Heart up there, I realise there should be a comma after the word blooming. Oops! (As a self confessed grammar Nazi, that’s going to bug me quite a bit!) The page was created with Dylusions Ink sprays, assorted stencils, a few bits of paper, coloured pencils, stamps and marker pens. The Art of Whimsical Lettering by Joanne Sharp delivered the inspiration to have a crack at some fancy lettering – which was tremendous fun!
So much fun, in fact, that there was more on the next journal page. Worry is a Misuse of your Imagination. I need this tattooed inside my eyelids! Not only a misuse, but probably a terrible waste of imagination as well. Constructed in a quite similar fashion to the first page, with acrylic paints instead of ink sprays, and a hand cut stencil. Manilla folders are infinitely more interesting used to cut a stencil than they could ever hope to be in my office.
As life’s path seemed to be walking me more and more towards cows and tractors (which I shouldn’t complain about – that enterprise kind of keep us fed and clothed), and further away from the studio, I engaged that imagination, and decided to try bringing the farm to the journal. This little guy is brushed in Sumi ink (my current infatuation) over a stencilled, ink sprayed, and scrap paper collaged background. He’s funky, but I think I love him.
A little story, for your information: I often add links to products, books, artists, places – pretty much anything that I think is great. Only because I use it, love it, just plain cannot live without it; and to make it easier for you to find more info about the things I’m waffling on about. No one pays me to give them a plug – it’s all about the love!
My Mum recently took me to task about the lack of interesting activity here on the blog. OK, the lack of any activity at all. She had a point. (You’ve got to love Mums for keeping it real and calling you on your shortcomings.) There hasn’t however, been a lack of activity in my world – as my middle prince would say- lots of cool stuff (OK, so he wouldn’t say stuff, he’d say another word that starts with s…but I’m sure you get the idea) has been going on.
In amongst a bunch of other ‘stuff’, I’ve been working away in an online class with the irrepressible Jane Davenport. It’s not the first of her classes I have enjoyed: Supplies Me is a wonderful journey through a vast assortment of media while she teaches the nuances of drawing faces and figures -things I long ago swore off as being ‘not my thing’ and something I believed for a long time I just couldn’t do. The lovely lady above was the result of my explorations in “Ink Week”, where Jane’s students discover the joy of Sumi ink in an Aquawash pen. I have to tell you; that’s the most delicious, free feeling media to work with and I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to discover it! It was quite difficult to stop drawing, which goes some of the way to explaining how she comes to have a couple of mouths and a nose on her chest and shoulder.
Most recently though, the “Print and Scan” class has held me spellbound. For a very long time, I’ve been keenly aware of a limited understanding of digital file sizes, types and manipulation. I lost track of the countless times I told myself I needed to learn this ‘techie’ stuff. Then, *cue violins and blinding bright light* I read that Jane has created this class – the very one I need, with all the skills I need to learn! It’s Jane’s first Professional Development class; and the investment paid for itself in the first class. The image above is a scan of a 2 page journal spread. We learned how to manipulate the image to get rid of the ‘gutter’ in the middle of the pages, and lots of other techniques to show the artwork at it’s glowing best.
After a small mind explosion (don’t worry, it didn’t make much mess) – and a bit of practice – the lovely lady made her way onto the journal page; and changed the colour of her face – all in the innards of my computer, with information streamed to my computer desk via the wonder of technology and the Internet.
What’s great about Jane is that she delivers this in artist speak, not techie talk; though she has extensive technical knowledge. What’s great about the Internet delivery is not having to drive for hours (and hours…and hours..); You can stop and start that video and toggle back and forth between your image manipulation and the instruction, so you practice it as soon as you see/hear it; you can work on it at whatever time suits you; and – possibly my personal favourite – you can hang out in your paint stained shirt and yoga pants. (Have I ever told you just HOW much I love my yoga pants?)
In honour of Carmel (my awesome Mum) there will be effort made to post stories of more of the cool ‘stuff’ going on around here. Right now though, it’s time to go and log into the Print and Scan classroom for some more mind exploding fun.
“Feeling My Way” exhibition at the Cunnamulla Fella Centre Art Gallery
I can’t quite believe it’s been 6 weeks since this:
I’m pretty sure I promised a report on the exhibition… somewhere I seem to have lost some weeks (I do in fact know where they’ve gone, and over the next little while, I might even get as far as telling you about some of the things I’ve been up to!) But, for today, a little step back in time to Cunnamulla.
My beloved came along (it was an eight hour drive, so the company was great for a start!) I have to say, at around three o’clock on the afternoon we were hanging it all, I was overcome with thankfulness to have him. His skill, care and attention to detail with tape measure, screwdriver and ladder made me fall in love with him just a little bit more (if that were, in fact, even possible!) It’s a good lesson for those of us who are the ‘creatives’ – it’s of tremendous value to have as your sidekick, someone who has a natural inclination to practicality and order. A ‘thinker’ as opposed to a ‘feeler’; if you’re a follower of Meyers Briggs Personality Profiling. Whilst I am perfectly capable of locating my practical brain, while I’m deep in creative brain mode, it’s more of a stretch. I learned some very interesting things about myself out there!
But, enough about me already! The gallery space at the Cunnamulla Fella Centre is, as you can see, just beautiful. It’s a fabulous facility; part of the centres museum – which is brilliant and well worth a look as well.
The staff – Carmel, Sally, Courtney and Mike were everything you’d ever hope for – friendly, helpful, kind and fun!
It was great to meet a few locals while we were there, and I was super excited that sales on opening night were beyond my wildest imaginings!
We had three nights in Cunnamulla, and the recount wouldn’t be complete without a shout out to Pieta and Pitisi at the Club Boutique Hotel . Have you ever had a vase of fresh roses on the bedside table in your hotel room? That’s just one of the things these girls do in order to make their guests feel welcome. It truly felt like coming home to our family at the end of a day. We discovered Pitisi has a great appreciation for tractors – and my art work – which enamoured her to both of us!
Thanks so much to everyone at Cunnamulla – we had a wonderful stay, and I couldn’t be more thrilled with how my fist solo exhibition turned out.
If you’re out that way, you still have a couple of weeks to see it – it closes on the 24th May. While you’re there, would you say hi to everyone for me?