Sunday, July 27, 2008

Soul Journaling - Day Nine to Twelve

The soul journaling journey we revisited the past - the immediate past (went back to the pages from day five) and way back into the past (the home where you felt happiest).

I was actually pretty pleased with the clipped out from magazine pages (see previous posts), I didn't really think of doing anything else with them, but Sarah suggested we add some painterly effects to them that I have to say, definitely render them a lot more funky!

Our next assignment was to draw - in our most symbolic, representational style - the house were we felt the most secure and happiest. I love my home that I live in today, and I love my life and my family, but if I could, I'd step through a portal into my childhood home in a heartbeat. We traveled a lot when I was a kid, but there was one constant in my life, which was my Nan's house in Enfield, Middlesex, (a borough of north London). We spent most summers there when I was a kid, and I always remember the sun shining (yes, in England, no doubt memory plays a few tricks) and having all the time in the world to play, sleep, read, paint, and come home when the sun set (about 9 p.m. in the English summer) and have supper of cheese and toast. I'd drag up the stairs to bed, worn out from playing, and remember that even in the summer, it was cold when you'd walk across the hall landing! I knew the next day would be the same, and the one after that. I could walk anywhere in our little town, no fear of anything happening, it was a beautiful time, and I'm glad I can at least revisit my childhood if only in my mind and in the pages of my Soul Journal. Here's my rendering - not the most artistically skilled for sure, but I greatly enjoyed making it!

The bulgy look of the house is because there's a pocket in the page. Not sure what's going in it yet (I don't dare look ahead because I don't want to influence my thinking - aaahhh! Can't wait to be up with the rest of the group so I can really see everyone else's take on our daily lessons!)

Thank you, my blog friends, for being so kind to follow me on this journey! EB, Sarah, Cindy, Lynn, and all my newest e-friends in Soul Journaling - from the bottom of my heart, I'm so glad you're here!

Soul Hugs, Jane

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Soul Journaling - Day Seven to Eight

Today I wrote - I wrote about things that you shouldn't say, and things that I can't say, things that should have been said and weren't. I wrote about things that I have needed to say for 30-ish years, and things that are weighing me down right now. I wrote and it didn't feel dizzying or anything, but I think it's another step towards making my art real to me. And then I covered it all up. Yep, that's what we were supposed to do. I covered it with tape (raided the husband's garage) and made a rather Le Corbusier-esque page:

That was Day 7. Since I'm doing this as I can, I moved straight into Day Eight's project, and I covered it some more. This time with sandpaper, and paint, and gesso, and more paint. It transformed from plain ball point words, to minimalist art, to full on, balls-to-the-wall Lynne Perella style! Not that one generally associates the gracious Lynne with the word "balls", but I mean her no insult. I wasn't trying to make my background look like hers at all, but all of a sudden, I saw something even vaguely approaching the backgrounds painted by an artist that I admire, and it made me feel more confident, like "wow, I'm getting a glimpse of how the BNA's (big name artists) might do this stuff!" More paint, more tape....

I have to say, it's so gorgeously multilayered and textural! I know that my friend Cindy, whose doing Soul Journaling also, and is probably getting near this phase of her project, is probably sitting at her art studio right now looking at her journal and saying - "AAAHH, it's too pretty! I can't cover it up!"

Somehow, I get the feeling that we're getting ready to do a bit more exposing and covering, and thus feeling safe about exposing a bit more....

Soul Journaling - Day Four to Six

As with much of the rest of my life, I got annoyingly, frustratingly behind this week with my soul journaling. I really am a "enjoy the process" kind of person, but my "I haven't missed a deadline in eight years, I'm not going to start now" personality kicked in, so I'm going to give it my best shot to get caught up this weekend. Not at the expense of the mental wandering and playing with ideas that needs to happen, but I need to feel like just ONE thing in my life is actually under control and going as I'd like it too. I've been very stressed due to work lately; I'm built for dreaming, not for very fast paced project management. My inner bohemian (the one that gets to come out an play in my art) is feeling squeezed and pressured about now. I think the only cure is to make some art. I honestly don't know what I'd do without my art time on the weekends - it's what gets me through my week. Better than therapy.

Anyway, here are my pages from Sarah Whitmire's Soul Journaling Exercises (see the "Caspiana" blog) in my blog list on the right side of the page, and previous blog for more info on this wonderful process! Sarah, are you going to write a book? I sure hope so - the world needs you....

The exercises you see in the pages are representing:
Day Four - paint your backgrounds
Day Five - gather images (such as "something you have", "something you want", "something beautiful", "something exotic", "something comfortable")
Day Six - cut them into one-inch squares and arrange them as you wish across your pages. I wound up needing two pages, because I wanted to keep all my images as a collection!

What we're going to do next with them, I don't know.....I can't wait to find out what the significance will be!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Soul Journaling - Day One to Three

Here's the results of my working with Sarah's Soul Journaling. Please see the previous post for more "deep thoughts", and information all about this exciting process! The picture above is from Day One (background), Day Two (claim it) and Day Three (protection) of the process.

The object of this particular page is to identify the journal as part of me (hence my name in the middle of it), and to charge it (so to speak) with a suit of armor against inner and outer criticism of my (and everyone's) art.

The figure is Joan of Arc, who felt right to me as a symbol of perseverance against inner turmoil and outer critics and following your feelings. If you follow the Myers Briggs assessment profile, I'm an INFJ, so it's all about the intuition for everything.

I'm very happy I'm (hopefully) very unlikely to be burnt at the stake, certainly not likely to be canonized. But I am really looking forward to seeing what spills forth from my mind into the pages of my journal next.

A new look, a new path on the journey

I felt like my blog needed a new look - something that reflects where I feel like my art journey has led up to this moment. Blogs are wonderful in their facility for change. As we learn new things, what we need to surround ourselves with changes. With a few clicks of the mouse, your blog can change too. Sometimes it needs to. You can tell a lot about a person from their art, and by extension, their blog. It's a picture to the outside world of what's going on in your mind and your soul. As you gain new insights, you feel differently about how you want to show yourself to the world. Maybe more honestly, or maybe just more openly. I have been thinking a lot about how art is truly a journey, not a destination. My blog has become very important to me as a touchstone of this journey. In the few short months since I've been keeping this space, it has morphed how I make art and how I share it.

The newest winding path (or rabbit hole!) is something I've wanted to do for a long time but....not sure why.....just resisted it somehow. I have felt for some time that I was tired of just making pretty things. I wanted to make things that tell a story, that mean something to me, that are more deeply felt. I want to portray emotion and what's inside rather than just make my art look pleasing to someone else. I don't want to make pictures of people I don't know looking cute following some formula that's "accepted" and thus safe. Everyone else is doing xyz, and look, they're accepted! If it's really going to be art that I care about, then it has to have personal meaning whether or not it looks like art to someone else.

I really like the words of Juliana Coles in her pamphlet on Extreme Visual Journalism where she says, "We are not concerned with making art. We are not concerned with a product or a pretty picture." I think that's where I am in my art making right now - I want to really do this for me, and in the end I think it will make my overall art more confident and a reflection of my own voice. As I mentioned last week, I've thus become rather fascinated with art journaling/visual journaling - the idea of getting emotion, images, metaphor, and journaling together.

I've believed the zen thought for a long time that when you seek a teacher, one will appear. Last week I posted a page from my new visual journal, and (I couldn't believe it!) one of the total art goddesses - Elizabeth Bunsen - actually stopped by my humble blog and commented some beautiful and encouraging thoughts on my page. Totally made my day!

Then, I discovered someone else (through the Altered Books yahoo group) who believes this is important work for herself and she is encouraging this work in others.
Sarah Whitmire is doing a new process called Soul Journaling on her blog - Caspiana - and she's invited us to join her. In addition to my own visual journaling pages, I'm also following Sarah's teachings in my art and I'm having a great time! She presents a new set of instructions/prompts/thoughts every day and it's not too late to join the party. So, check out her blog, as well as Elizabeth Bunsen's blog - Be Dream Play - (links are in my list of blogs that I read to the right side of your screen) and come along for the journey!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Art Journaling has begun

I get these little....interests....crushes....(obsessions) pretty frequently. I hope that doesn't make me a dilettante, I prefer to think of it as "renaissance mind" (is that pompous?) I've been fascinated by art journals for a little while now. The extension of that is visual journaling - to me these are two separate things. The art journal is strictly about art - a place to try out new techniques, keep track of the things your doing. The visual journal is a lot closer to written journal - except instead of just writing words on a page with lines, you illustrate your thoughts and feelings and you can write in them, or not.

This visual journaling thing must have been invented for visual type people (yes, I'm one of those) because it seems to be opening up a whole new way of thinking in my mind. I've been working on mine all weekend (in addition to creating some ATC's for the innaugural meeting of the Altered Artists of Central Florida this coming week - whee!). Here's the thing, though...I can't really show it to you. Ok, the picture above is one of the pages - I can't talk about something on here and NOT show it to you. That's not fair. But you'll probably hear more about it than see it. I have to keep some stuff for me :-)

The visual journal isn't about art - it's about getting whats inside out, with the idea that it's as personal as a written journal is. Nobody has to see it, it's like your own little treehouse in your mind that nobody else but you gets to go in. I love the idea of having my own little secret lair that I can escape to. It happens to be in the person of a handmade journal from Thailand that somebody gave me a few years ago. I was using it for keeping track of my unmounted rubber stamp images (what a mundane use for such a thing) but I finally decided (after much deliberating "is this right?" should I bind it with wire? should I use a new blank book? should I use what I got? what size is right? what paper is right?) to use it.

Well, right up there with my thoughts last week on "use what you got" instead of going out and buying new, I decided to re-purpose my stamping index journal. Somehow the idea that the pages are already all inky and used makes me feel comfortable about redecorating my lair. I had the same experience when I was making my entry for Somerset Studio magazine (mailed this week - with much feeling of anxiety that I was letting my little art brain child loose into the world where I couldn't take care of it.) I repurposed it out of a previous art piece that I'd made too. I think I'm going to explore this idea of not feeling comfortable about working in something that hasn't already been used before. I'm not sure what it means, but you know where to find me working it all out.......

By the way, I tried out a few new ideas when I was painting the pages - and I LOVE them. I actually think it is some of my more interesting work - probably because I can be free to experiment without judgment - even if all that judgment is all sitting right in my own mind. Odd, huh?

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Return to my Roots

Although I've always been interested in artsy things, I consider that I started into my current arts and crafts path about six or seven years ago when my friend Missy decided that we needed to have custom jewelry. We went to The Bead Bar - a local bead shop - and I was overwhelmed with all the colors and choices. I pottered around for about two hours of anxious "I have no idea what to do - this is WAY over my head-ness" and finally picked a few beads and had the girls at the shop make my earrings. I loved the ideas, but I was just overwhelmed like water gorging up over a dam that was too full as to what to do with it all.

Somehow I got talked into going back and taking a class on wire wrap (it would have been easier to start with stringing, but we didn't know that) and after an hour or so, it all began to make sense. I still picked beads that I didn't realize until too late had holes that totally didn't work for my designs, and I became obsessed with getting the perfect wire wrap. I became hooked and started going to bead shows, and moved up from buying single beads to buying strings of them. All the colors and sparkly things! Then moved from buying inexpensive glass to more expensive natural stones (less sparkly, more substantial).

Somehow, though, it just wasn't seemed like there was something missing from this creative endeavor. Yes, it was creative, but it wasn't completely fulfilling and so I kept searching. When I started I didn't even know I needed a creative outlet. Now, all these years later, I wouldn't be able to live without it. My art is that important to me - frustrations, occasional heavy doses of self-criticism, and then triumphant "damn, I'm good!" moments and all. So, I cast my net wider and roved on into other worlds of stamping, altered books, etc but once in a while, I still go back to my roots. Mostly when I get a new outfit, or I realize that my current jewelry just doesn't quite go with an outfit, or when I get tired of the jewelry I've got.

Understand, I work in a very gray and dull corporate office, in a very detail oriented, here's the rules profession (tech writing) - I have to get my Stevie Nicks-in-her-Jack Daniels-phase inner bohemian out somehow (thanks Gary Gilbert for that entirely appropros description!). I do it by my highly theatrical and costumey clothing. I dress as I do to entertain myself (and puzzle my more straight-laced fellow cube rats) I must confess, the inner 16-year old in my 41 year old self thoroughly enjoys delights my soul.

Back to today's topic though - I get the urge once or twice a year to create jewelry (it isn't the all of me, but there's a bit of it that I do enjoy if I don't have to do it too often), and here's this weekend's work!

The beads are handmade from rolled up paper, painted, then dipped in UTEE (ultra thick embossing enamel) and with overlays of glitter, mica powders, fibers, and whatever else amused me. The beading is from my still gigantic bead stash, the wire wrap is in my "casual" style - yes, I can wire wrap perfectly. No, it doesn't amuse me so I prefer the casual approach; I think it conveys my ideas much better. One of my treasured beads from my trip to Venice appears in there (the glowey coppery gold one in the above picture). There's even a dangle on the end (sorry, not visible in the pictures apparently) of Vintaj filigree that I had in the "expensive stuff" stash. I love this because it doesn't match the copper at all (it's bronze with a washed-down-a-drainpipe-for-three years patina). My homage to the chatelaine - a medieval belts with keys and other useful household requisites on the ends.

Hope you enjoy the piece, dear readers!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Gift Wrapped

I hate gift wrapping - I'll do about anything to get somebody else to gift wrap things for me - pay money, call in favors, rely on charm. This occasionally works, but inevitably, I still have to rely on my own wayward wrapping skills. I generally feel like I'm the only grown adult with the wrapping skills of a four year old.

If you've gotten a gift from me, then you've probably met these fine examples of my "skills":
  • Undercut paper with odd scraps of (hopefully similar) paper taped over the ill-fitting bits to disguise the jaunty flashes of cardboard box underneath.
  • Overly generous application of large amounts of paper to small boxes resulting in saggy protrusions of wasted wrapping.
  • Ripped paper with odd holes around box edges.
  • Bulgy sacks of paper when I can't be bothered to find a box.
  • Gift bags with unattractive wisps of undermatched (generally torn, certainly recycled) tissue paper leaking out from the top.
This past week was my friend Cindy's birthday. As one of the few painty-fingered members (we'd really like some more members!) of the Altered ARTists of Central Florida, I figured she'd appreciate some altered gift wrapping to go with her birthday gifts. Problem is, I hate gift wrapping. Sigh....what's an altered artist to do?

Uh....get out the paint and old useless stuff!

I LOVED this gift wrapping! I made packages from scrapbook paper (hey, it's not like I actually USE it, I just collect it so it may as well go to good use...), papers torn from an altered book and collaged, an old wooden thread bobbin, I punched holes, I sewed, I painted, I glazed, I stamped - I actually found that giving was beating receiving....huh.

What did I learn from this experience?

Well, I gotta be me. Apparently the following are not me:
  • measurement (involves numbers.....bad)
  • crisply trimmed and mitered edges
  • slick and glossy bags from Hallmark
  • perfect froths of hard shiny ribbon
  • using scrapbook paper for its duly appointed use
The following ....are me:
  • Hand-dyed paper from Thailand
  • My own "calligraphy"
  • Paint glazes on top of old crumbly book pages
  • Eyeballing my hole punching (not measured at all)
  • A vast grab bag of luscious furry ribbons
In the future, I'm wrapping everything this way - and I don't think I'm going to care whether people think it's "cool!" or "ummmm...interesting..." If they don't "get it", then they probably don't get me. That's ok too, but I wonder why I'm giving them a gift.....

It's amazing how much more comfortable something (formerly hated) feels when you quit trying to be somebody else, and start being you.