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.