Friday, December 30, 2011

Existential Questions

The other day, I was organizing my "Digital Collage" folder on the computer and stumbled upon some wonderful gray female figures. Several of them evoked thoughtful and angsty feelings in me. The question, "If the cruel and critical voices in my head stopped talking, would only silence remain?" popped into my head. It stewed there all day, and I decided to do a spread with the thoughtful figures and the various unsettling questions that echo through my being in an attempt to separate me from my inner peace.

In case you can't read them, the questions are:

  • If the cruel and critical voices in my head stopped talking, would only silence remain?
  • Have my career choices led to a dead end?
  • If my jokes amuse only me, are they still funny?
  • If I let my authentic self out, will my world explode?
  • Does the fluctuation of pounds relate in any way to the value of my soul?
  • Am I not girly enough to nab a guy who is a better man than I am?
  • Will my shattered spiritual self ever be whole and strong again?
  • Will my awkward awkward ever feel OK?
  • If I could catch the magical moments in each day, what song would my heart sing? 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Aimless Art Journal Spread

This is one of those "finished it before I knew what it was about" spreads. I sat down at my table, continued my march through Buffy on DVD, and just started fiddling in one of my art journals. I had no idea where I was headed or what I was going to put on the page, either elements or writing. Here's what came out.

The face is one I drew on scrapbook paper. I like the effect of the design showing through the paint.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Book of Days: Cover

In 2011, most of my artsy efforts were directed towards art journaling. I've found that there's a really nice interplay between what my brain can express in writing and what it can express visually. When one or the other just isn't saying what I want to say or isn't getting to the heart of the matter, art journaling, the combination of both, is often the answer. Definitely something I want to keep doing in 2012.

To keep my art journaling habit going, I signed up for Book of Days with Effy Wild. Effy is leading a year-long art-journaling group. If you have an interest, hit the link and sign up. Hey, it's free. What have you got to lose?

Each of us in the group is picking a word or phrase to be our theme for 2012. Mine is "Trust". (Yeah, I put the period on the outside. In this case, the British way just makes more sense to me.) In this phase of my life, I'm rebuilding my ability to trust myself and others after getting a serious smackdown by someone who didn't deserve my (or anyone else's) trust. This year is about getting back in touch with the still, small voice, paying attention to my gut, and giving my own view of myself and what's good for me more weight than anyone else's.

As if the content weren't going to be challenging enough, the book I chose has really small (4" x 6") pages. I've never worked quite this small before. It'll be interesting to see what logistical challenges pop up over the year.

For the cover, I decided to be mostly monochrome. That decision held all through the background and front cover (even painted the brass-colored letters with blue Pinata inks), but I just had to use the glass-mosaic woman on the back. I've had the image in my stash for quite some time. She's from an ad for glass tiles. She had words across her middle, so I collaged over them with the phrase "How do you feel?"


She looks better in the above picture than she did in real life. The piece felt disjointed to me, so I knocked it all back with more blue. An argument could be made that I knocked it back too far, but it feels more cohesive to me, even though it's a bit darkish.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

What Does It Mean to Inhabit Your Story?

As I said before, I'm working through "Life is a Verb" with a group at Wild Precious Studio. Our first official art project was to create a house and fill it with collage elements representing our stories. Clearly, my brain was refusing to face the real issues.

Once I had the basic house shape down, I thought and thought and thought about what in the house would represent my story. I thought about the various rooms and whatnot. But mostly, I'd covered that in my earlier work and I wasn't in the mood to create a house with those elements and then actually put the answer into words.

Part of the instructions said:
Grab images that call to you without thinking very much about why they are calling to you. Don't plan the final product. Just grab and glue until you have an image that works for you ~ even if this means overlapping images or completely covering some up.

So, I started digging through my collection of collage elements and found a bunch by Tangie Baxter. The collection I'd printed out was mostly fish 'cuz I'm a big fan of the underwater world. Anyway, I turned off my rational brain, started cutting and gluing and playing with crayons and whatnot, and here's what happened.

I finished the right-hand page first and stared at it for a long time. What on earth does That mean? I had thought I was going to do a bunch of journaling on the left-hand page, but once I had made flowers out of paper scraps and added ancient book pages covered with words cut with a Slice, I felt done. Imagine that. An art-journal page with no journaling. LOL!

More on the House Theme

Working further through the "Life is a Verb" with the crew at Wild Precious Studio. The question was about seeing your story as a house and what would it be like to inhabit your story. My brain pretty much locked up at actually answering the question, but came up with a smart-ass reply in the form of this page.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Life is a Verb: Inhabiting Your Story

I'm doing a read through of Life is a Verb with a group on Wild Precious Studio ( We're only in the intro pages now, but Effy posted some interesting questions to think about while reading. This is what came out when I considered, "What does it feel like to inhabit your story?"

Funny. Questions like that normally send me running for a journal to write, but this one came out as a visual.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cats, Can Openers, and That Unmistakable Sound

Some cats will show up out of nowhere if you hold down the lever of an electric can opener. We used to do that when I was a kid to let Sarah know it was time to come in for the night. No amount of calling or looking did any good at all. The can opener, however? Instant cat. I've even seen it mentioned on lost-cat posters. "Answers to Friskie, Frisket, Frisk, Puddin' Pie, and the sound of an electric can opener."

Well, my cat eats crunchies. No interest whatsoever in soft food. Only crunchies. In fact, since I so rarely open cans, I don't have an electric can opener at all. I do, however, have a surefire trick to find the cat. No matter where she is or what she's doing, she appears every time anyone uses the toilet. My theory is that she's figured out that she has a captive audience with nothing better to do than pet her or run a trickle of water in the sink.

I can just see the poster now. "Answers to Mewon, Mewie, Mew Mew, Mewster, and the sound of  a person peeing."

Please don't let the cat out...

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Last night I wanted to do something in my art journal to celebrate and mourn the last day of my job, but just couldn't get my head in the right place. As I poked around online, looking for inspiration, I found some lovely artwork someone had done for the 52 Pages group on Wild Precious Studio. The prompt was "Indulge." What can I say? The word spoke to me.

I'm a cake freak with a wheat allergy, so cake definitely represents an indulgence for me. It's delicious, wonderful, heavenly... and inevitably followed by exhaustion and foggy headedness cuz it makes me not breathe worth a hoot. Sigh. Still, there are times it's totally worth it.

The page is super simple. Remember that whole can't-get-started thing? I laid down some color with Inktense blocks, then drew the cake and covered it in gesso. I was so spacey that I forgot that gesso is normally a first layer under paint. Um, paint... Yeah... Forgot to paint the cake. I did remember that cake needs shadows. Those were added with watercolor. I outlined the plate, tiers, and candle in Pitt marker and Gelly Rolls.

Considering how spacey and uninspired I was, I'm pretty happy with it. I realized this morning how very un-art-journal-y it looks - no layers, no spray, no stenciling... Guess I was focused on cake and not indulging in art supplies. LOL!

On the back, I stamped the word 'Indulge' and then stared at the page for a long time. What is there to say about cake that cake itself doesn't already say? Eventually, I decided to list other things that might be considered indulgences. Again, tired won, and the page is not terribly complicated. I managed to write the words in a few different ways, but none of them are what you call fancy.

So there you have it. Proof that art can come from a muddled, tired, brain in mourning. Or maybe shock.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Elements of Art Journaling: Fire, the Spread

For fire, we worked with the burning emotions (as opposed to water's wet emotions). A few years ago, I'd gotten to a place where I'd worked through my burning emotions and would have had to choose ambition or some such for this assignment. Not so, now. Events of the last couple of years have left me awash in physical, mental, and emotional pain.

My pattern has always been to convert pain to anger and burn it as fuel. So, I figured Fire would be easy for me. I'm angry as hell, thought I. This'll be easy.

I laid down a fire glow on the diagonal with Inktense pencils. It probably wouldn't show at the end, but at least it made the spread Not White.

The rest of the assignment was to figure out what the burning emotion (anger, in my case) was telling us to DO or LEARN and, Not to do it, but to figure out how we would need to FEEL to actually take that step. As Effy pointed out, "We're just arting here. We're not burning our houses (or lives) down." Phew! So I only had to figure out the thirty-thousand-foot view of my next step, not the actual implementation. We were then instructed to take that feeling and create an hour-long playlist.

I have to admit, I never felt like I was doing the assignment "right." I wasn't sure I'd gotten the right marching orders from my anger. The playlist was full of things I like to sing (my primary art form), but what did it have to do with my next steps....? When I sat with it, I knew it was the right bunch of songs, but still had no idea WHY it was the right bunch of songs. Oh, well.

Tuesday night, I got to bed early, turned out the light... and tossed and turned 'till after one something AM. Fine. The experts all say to get up and do something when you can't sleep, so I went to my studio and turned on the playlist.

I thought, for sure, I'd end up with an energetic spread suggesting ambition, movement, power, etc. After all, when I'm angry, I ingest that energy and use it to go DO things. I sprayed through stencils, brayered around laminated magazine images and across other stencils, finally tried Texture Magic through a brass stencil... And found myself wanting to draw a big eye with tears...

I swear it took 10 minutes to convince my brain that, even though the instructions said "abstract," drawing an eye wouldn't get us thrown out of class. Sigh.

Well... The eye needed a nose to direct the tears. And the nose needed a mouth to anchor it in space. And... Well, it's only HALF a face. That's abstract. Kinda... Sorta...

I cracked open a jar of heavy gel medium and mixed in a touch of blue airbrush ink to make the tears 3D and shimmery. Getting it to glop in the way I wanted and eliminating most of the brush strokes was quite the challenge. The result was nothing like the smooth tear-shaped globs I'd envisioned. Worse, they were opaque light blue, it was 3:30 AM, and I was fried. I went to bed.

I barely glanced at the spread on my way to work Wednesday morning. The tears had gone transparent when they dried, so that was a relief, but the two pages didn't hold together as a single spread, the silhouette was lost in its page, and the features were floating in space.

I thought about how to fix the spread as I went about my day on Wednesday. By afternoon, I'd decided watercolor spray and outlining with a gray watercolor pen was about all I could do without endangering the work already done. (An "I am not worthy" goes out to the artists I've seen on YouTube who hit this point and respond with something NOT transparent. Wow. Wow. Double wow. Oh my God. Wow.)

Wednesdays are long days for me, and I didn't get home 'till after 11. I sprayed the whole spread with magenta watercolor in a mister. Nice, but... The next round was a yummy raspberry. NOW we're talking! How I love that color, let me count the ways! The pages finally looked like a single spread, but they looked like a background waiting for a foreground to happen. I outlined the silhouette with a gray Pitt pen and used the same pen to define the outline of the face.

Ahhh... Now it feels good to look at the pages...

BUT... BUT... Oh, crap. We were supposed to represent what our burning feeling was telling us to do next. Didn't I just get stuck in frustration and puke it out on my journal spread? I wondered if the next step involved vast quantities of gesso. I stared...

And then I figured it out. While chronic pain provides a steady, even flow to the anger distillery, A-bomb trauma overflows the vats. What anger comes out of the process isn't enough to both fuel normal life And clean up the pain overflow. The pain-to-anger process I'd relied upon for decades wasn't gonna fly and has likely outlived its usefulness. It's time to open my heart. It's time to get to know anger for it's own sake, not as a dumping ground for pain. It's time to stop hiding the pain, allow the vulnerability. It's time to cry.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Elements of Art Journaling: Fire, the Playlist

The writing part of the Fire assignment was to think of an emotion that burns in us, follow that to what it's telling us to do, and then think about how we would need to feel to take that step. Once the feeling was identified, we were to create a playlist of songs about an hour long to be the soundtrack for creating our abstract-art representations of that feeling.

I went round and round with myself on whether these songs really represented the inner feeling I would need to have to get my butt in motion, or if they were just songs I like to belt out when no one is around. I'm still not sure.

Here's my playlist:

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Elements of Art Journaling: Water

This is my Water assignment for The Elements of Art Journaling on the Wild Precious Ning site.

For water week, we worked with the "wet" emotions, the ones that lead to tears. For me, that led to thinking about who I am and what value I bring. My value has been much on my mind recently, as my company is shutting down, and I'm in the process of finding my next job.

Our assignment was to write our feelings in some sort of water media, then add water to symbolically transform them. I started with a yellow watercolor base and wrote in blue Inktense pencil how the past year of helplessly watching my company die out from under me while doing very little actual work had rotted my brain, my confidence, and the joy I used to feel accomplishing work tasks. I added water and smeared the Inktense around 'till I had a lovely green base.

Once the light-green base was down, I decided to try mixing up some aqua-ish spray color a la Effy (acrylic paint, glazing medium, and water in a spray bottle). Spraying it through the flower stencil (and all over my left hand!) made a lovely background for my pages.

The next part of the assignment was to draw or find a face that represented "the spirit of compassion." Effy gave us a face we could use, but I really wanted everything in the spread to be mine, so I pulled out old sketchbooks and started stealing elements from old practice faces - manga eyes and hair, cartoon neck and shoulders, more realistic mouth. She ended up bigger than the piece of paper (thus the chopped off head LOL!) and a little wild eyed for "compassion," but over all, I was pretty happy with her.

Completely unrelated to the official writing assignment, I started writing notes about the ways people dishonestly use others to get what they want, specifically in the dating world. That led to thinking about the tendency to see relationships in quid-pro-quo terms, which is interesting cuz an eye for an eye is pretty much the antithesis of love. The result of those musings was the text in the hair, "I am a gift I choose to give, not merchandise for you to order."

Once I had the face attached on the right, I stared at the spread for a long time. Went away, came back, stared some more... I was tempted to just leave it, but it felt too plain. I'm a big fan of Teesha Moore's journal pages and the way she makes the text part of the texture and background of the composition. I drew wavy, uneven lines across the left page. They were nice, but needed something. My original thought was to color every other space with transparent blue airbrush color, but it was too dark, so I mixed it with liquid acrylic in white to get a nice medium blue.

After testing about 10 different pens for color and ability to write on both the ink/acrylic mixture *and* the watercolor/acrylic spray background, I settled on the navy blue Bic Mark It. The text was distilled from the Who am I? portion of the writing assignment. The remnants of the pages I tore out of the book before starting to alter it made the first 1/2" by the spine difficult, so I glued on some ribbon to fill the space.

Once the left was done, the face felt like it was floating in space. I decided to fill the space around her with writing, but made it very small, so it would be more texture than text and really make her pop.

It's funny. I look at the spread and don't see my hand in it at all due to all of the new-to-me techniques I used. It'll be fun to see how the new tools in my toolbox continue to change my work going forward.

Here's the final page spread.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Elements of Art Journaling: Spirit Mind Map

Here's the mind map for my final element. I'm really enjoying SimpleMind on the iPad.

Friday, July 15, 2011

More Mind Mapping for Elements of Art Journaling

Did three more mind maps for my journal. Again, I decided to work on the iPad and transfer the results. It's still messy, but less messy.




Thursday, July 14, 2011

Mind Mapping (Clustering) For Elements of Art Journaling

I started this mind map directly in my journal, but soon found that I was annoyed with trying to predict where the balloons should go. I know. I know. That's way too brain-centered for a heart activity like art, but... That's where I am today.

I suspect that this will be my most difficult of the elements. I just don't feel my heart sing at the word 'Earth' the way it does for 'Water' or 'Fire'. When I thought about Earth, I asked myself what was my favorite thing about the earth. That's easy. The water. Ooops! Wrong element (for now). That said, I gave it a go. And it went to some very strange places...

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Real Me

This us a page I did for a calendar swap. The theme was "diversity." Around the mermaid, it says:

I am not what you think you see...
White skin, wide hips, five foot three...
I am not my skin, my height, my weight...
My home it lies beneath the sea...
A mermaid I will always be.

Typed on a touchscreen. All typos courtesy fat fingers and insane autocomplete.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Elements of Art Journaling: My Journal Cover

I'm taking The Elements of Art Journaling with Effy Wild ( I'd never altered a book before, so I decided to do that for my journal, rather than using a composition book or Moleskine Cahier. It wasn't till my drunk-on-color self had most of it done that I remembered we're going to be working with the elements as our theme for the class. It only takes a little bit of acrobatics to relate all that stuff to the elements, right?

I forget why I put down all of the collage elements with gloss gel medium instead of matte, but it made it very difficult to unify the piece with color, since so few of the many colorful media in my studio will stick to the glossy surface. I convinced a little bit of spray ink to stain, though, and that made it feel more like one composition.

Adding the 3-D stuff was the most fun. Most of my past artwork has had to be flat enough to go through Post Office machines, so getting to make something lumpy was a treat. The dragon fly has been waiting a long time (like maybe more than ten years) for the right home. I made him out of red wire using instructions from a book called Chinese Knotting. The red was too red for the layout, so I rubbed blue alcohol ink over him before gluing him down. The daisy in the upper right is a nod to my twisted sense of humor. It came with a Diva Cup. Hey, earth is an element, right? It doesn't get any earthier than that. LOL! I forget where I found the butterfly. It was too blah in its original color, so it also got a dose of alcohol ink. When all else fails, add color!

I wish I could say the images had some great meaning for me or represented the elements in some way. Drunk on color is right. While covering the book with gesso, I knew there was supposed to be a theme. But once the blue Inktense went down, I just went color crazy in that very me way I do.

Midway Through




Sunday, June 26, 2011

Art Journal: Orianthi

According to him I'm beautiful, incredible
He can't get me out of his head.
According to him I'm funny, irresistible
Everything he ever wanted.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Art Journal: Soul of the Artist

The soul of the artist, but not the practice, the eye, the ear, but not the execution. The missing piece comes and goes at whim. Oh, fickle muse, how you punish me for my neglect.

Art Journal: Cute

All things cute in my world. Obviously, I'll add to this one.

Art Journal: June 24

Before things can be better, they have to be not the same. -Scout Bartlett

Art Journal: Front Page

This is the front page of one of my art journals.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Art Journal

Wrapped in his arms
The tension drains away.
Safe, loved, accepted, cherished,
He by me and me by he.

Contented as cats,
We rest intertwined,
Warm and silent.

Words superfluous
As all there is to say
Passes directly from heart to heart,
Messages passed directly from skin to skin.

One breath.
One heartbeat.

Art Journal

Love this quote from Will Smith.

Art Journal Every Day: June 21

Two pages today.

Art Journal Every Day: June 21

No, I haven't worked on my art journals every day. It's been quite a month. I'm giving myself permission to shrug and say, "Oh well."

Art Journal Every Day: June 14

Art Journal Every Day: June 12

Yes, I've missed a couple of days. No, I'm not going to make them up.

ICAD: June 10

Art Journal Every Day: June 9

Definitions of prayer and religion. Not sure what else I'll add to this page.

Art Journal Every Day: June 8

You will soon have an opportunity to make a change to your advantage.

ICAD: June 9

ICAD: June 8

ICAD: June 7

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Art Journal Every Day: June 7

Gesso is progress, right? I did eight spreads while watching Are You Being Served on DVD.

Dear Ms. Lady Bug

The letter was an assignment to write to "someone rather distant (geographically or emotionally), a friend you haven't seen in a long time, or someone from whom you feel estranged". I mentally scrolled through a list of people and finally settled on Ms. Lady Bug. I decided to use the text as it originally flowed out of me, rather than trying to tighten or improve the letter/poem.

Lady, Bug, Buggles, Lady Bug, Ms. Bug.
So many names for such a little girl.
We never quite bonded, you and I,
Two damaged souls with thick walls
Where more open hearts would join.

What a shock it must have been
From a lonely life in Grandma's dark den,
Our Wendy sewed you to my heel like Peter Pan's shadow.
To work, to the market, to home, out to walk,
Never without human company for more than an hour or three.

For six weeks you barely acknowledged my existence,
Silently following like a recalcitrant teen.
It broke my heart when you fell for Carl, the IT guy,
Your whole being alight when he entered the room.
My heart twisted in pain as he took first place in your heart.

Obligation and shame drove my care of you,
My inability to say No when "I would take Angie if..."
Became "I'll take any dog Grandma has if/when..."
Even when a coworker indicated his grandma might love you,
Embarrassment overrode my sure knowledge that we two would never be one.

First task, the weight.
I dragged, then strolled, then walked, then trotted with you
As the scale dropped from 48 to 36 to 29
And the brush untangled too-fluffy, coat-fault fur,
Your sleek, energetic self a far cry from the tired fuzzy football that once you were.

You were a fixture under my desk,
Though you would choose other feet should mine leave for a meeting or lunch.
In nothing flat, you transformed my Indian office mate from freaked to fan.
Your admirers paraded in on a daily basis.
Most came to you, but for a precious few, you came out.

You had an iron stomach and a passion for food.
The pork chops, mashed potatos, broccoli, and cheesecake,
Two more meals for me became your evening snack.
Dreading what might come, I made your bed in the garage.
But morning found you quite as pleased with you as the night before.

I remember the morning you missed the jump into the truck.
My bags hit the drive as six years of mother reflexes caught and hoisted your butt.
Going home, you made it, but screamed in pain as you moved from floor to seat.
The vet found nothing, but told of possible horrors awaiting long spines.
You promptly forgot and disdained assistance.

Was it the jump that did the damage,
Or the damage that caused the slip?
Should I have known you were at that age,
When human muscle replaces canine spring?
I'll never know.

One rear foot, chewed on, and starting to drag,
The beginning of the end.
Boots, cones, human assistance, and the end of walks.
Out, go, in, down, your life got smaller.
You hated the wheels from day one.

Between rains in late January, I rolled you out front,
Thanking God you still could go on your own.
I stared at the stars preparing for my increasing duties in your decline.
As you locked eyes with me, my head filled with the words, "I'm done. It's up to you."
Lightness of heart pushed and pulled at the heaviness of the responsibility.

I'm a chicken, a hypocrite, and blind.
I'd thought it would be easy, letting go this girl who wasn't mine.
Tired from four weeks of my waffling, you gave me a sign.
Tuesday you seal walked to Carl; Wednesday you just raised your head.
Thursday, he crawled under the desk, but you were too tired to care.

You went to Rainbow Bridge on Friday, and I went home to bed.
I fought my guilt, my shame, my infinity of ifs.
In Monday's pre-dawn twilight, you came to me, bounding across a field, radiating joy,
You came to set me free; In that sweet instant, all was forgiven, and all became clear.
I love you. And you love me.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Art Journal Every Day: June 5

Just a background again....

Rubber cork stamp

There's a later around the outside that doesn't carve as easily as the middle. I used that to my advantage to make the cuts stop at the edge. I rarely drink, so experiments with corks will likely be a long term project....

Art Journal Every Day: June 4

Another background. I spent close to 8 hours on the phone over the course of the day and have no words left.