The madness of being a rock…

I’m not sure where this post will end up. I have a feeling I will spill more onto this page than people might want to hear. My intention for this blog is to talk about my journey as an artist but a person can’t do that without spilling their guts about other aspects of life because an artist can’t create art without life getting on the page or into the paint or ink or whatever medium is used.

I started this bear over two weeks ago. IMG_1307

About a week ago, on February 23rd, I finished him.


On February 22nd, while waiting on portions of my bear to dry, I read an article, Creative Tarot Journaling Made Easy. I decided to select a prompt and give it a try.


After completing the bear, I decided to create my alternative version to him in my own style.


This is still a work in progress. It is taking much longer to complete than anticipated.

There is a story between all these layers. I can’t talk about these three pieces without filling in the story which exists between the layers. The layers represent the many layers which are occurring in my life. Mixed media art or any art for that matter isn’t just laying down layers of paint and then creating an image on the page. Every piece of art, no matter the medium, has the artist’s life interwoven within it. Unless you are an artist it might be difficult to comprehend exactly what I’m trying to express here. I’ll try but I’m afraid I might fail at really helping non-artists (if there really are any non-artists, everyone is creative in their own way) to understand.

I have had to learn to give myself some space in regards to working on my projects. What that means is, if I’m feeling resistance then I back off. Resistance comes in many forms and sometimes it is difficult to know the source of the resistance. I have to discover what that source is in order to move forward. Then, sometimes, moving forward takes time because there maybe a need to process something before I can release it into my artwork.

On February 14th, I heard some not so good news. It wasn’t awful but it has created a bit of friction emotionally for me. The news is that the income I’m receiving in my current job isn’t enough. This has triggered a return of anxiety which so far is manageable. That anxiety is rooted in varying aspects of my past, from childhood, to several relationships the worst being the last relationship I had, to fighting breast cancer, to being laid off and to the last of having trouble just getting a job. Knowing I need to go back to job hunting is also triggering depression. This has also taken the joy out of the job I’ve been doing. I thought it would be enough. To find out it isn’t has not been easy to accept.

The bear is my version of Tam’s Compassionate Bear lesson in Life Book 2018. The Universe has a way of timing things perfectly, for this lesson could not have come at a better time. It reminds me to be compassionate with myself, especially now after hearing the news and each time I apply for any jobs that are posted.  It is difficult to remain compassionate as the weeks go by without any calls for interviews. It is even more difficult to not allow emotions to surface relating to not being good enough. When I wrote in the previous paragraph that the job wasn’t enough, it made me realize that what I heard when I received the news was that I wasn’t good enough. Even though I know this is not true, old emotions arise from my past when circumstances made me feel that way.

There are so many emotions being triggered right now, some of them can be overwhelming. I could have written so many things on my Compassionate Bear and all of them would have felt fake even though they might be true. The one thing that felt true and seemed to put my unrest at ease was “You are loved.”

I posted this bear on the Life Book Facebook group and realized when I looked at the picture that he also looks a bit like a mouse. An interesting combination because though mice seem small and delicate they are quick and cunning. Bears may appear slow but they are strong and dangerous.

These are things I didn’t think about until just now, which is why I love to write about my art and my life together. I find insights like these which can help me deal with “life”. I have always felt an affinity towards bears because of my last name. There could not be two more opposite creatures, the bear and the mouse, and yet somehow they seem to fit together within my Gemini personality. I will be the first to admit that I have opposing forces strong within me which can make me appear to be a very complicated person. This might be why my individual style seems to be focused around mandalas which help me combine these forces into a central focus.

The hard part the past few weeks has been to not let the news suck me down into the emotional turmoil I felt for a year and a half after hearing the news of the workforce reduction I was caught up in. They don’t like using the words lay off anymore. Like a change of wording can make a person feel any better about such a situation. No it isn’t for the people being laid off to feel better. It is to make those making the decision to lay off workers feel better or not so bad. Okay, I went there. I didn’t mean to go there. But it hurts. I’m angry still after two years. And the news just reawakened all of those feelings.

Consequently, working on my art has been in small doses. I work on something for a bit, like on the bear, I would do a layer and then let it dry. Most times I let it dry far longer than it needed to. Meaning it was dry long before I returned to it.

During one of the breaks, the choice to do the Tarot drawing and then an art journal page on it was a good choice.IMG_1329

The prompt I chose was important to me. During a time when I was not feeling happy, I needed a reminder of what does make me happy. I don’t want to say I was surprised by the cards I pulled. Rather, I was, intrigued by what they confirmed.

My intent was to pull just one card but as things often happen with me, my intent isn’t what needed to happen. The Universe took over and I ended up with two cards in my hand. When I flipped them over at the same time, the first thing I noticed was they were both Major Arcana cards, IV The Emperor, and XVII The Star. I won’t go into my complete reading of these cards, some of it is too personal. I will tell you a bit about it because I feel it is important in regards to my current situation and my art journey.

What I came to understand from the cards is my happiness comes from balance, stability, reason, logic, harmony and hope. I put these things in overlapping large circles on my page because they all influence each other in one way or another. I used to listen to people who said I ‘think’ too much. When they would say this, I took it as a bad thing, and that my reasoning, and my logic were bad parts of myself which I needed to tone down or find a way to not rely on so much and learn to be less of these things in my life. Consequently, I fought against them. I would use logic and reasoning to understand something and then I would try and use a not so logical way of overcoming a situation or problem. Until I did this Tarot drawing, I didn’t realize how much logic and reasoning brought me happiness.  I also didn’t realize how much logic and reasoning also inspired hope.

I found it interesting to also note that my 2018 word ‘balance’ showed up. It makes sense that harmony and stability are part of my happiness. Those words just seem to go along with balance for me this year and have shown up in previous artwork since I chose the word balance.

What this reading did for me was tell me to stop fighting against the things I do naturally. To allow my instincts to guide me. I have always known that when I’m faced with a challenge my first instinct is to let logic and reasoning take over. I need to understand the situation and the best way I know how to do that is by use of logic and reasoning. Fighting against it means I throw myself into turmoil which just amplifies the emotions which I relate to stress. I end up feeling like my life is beyond my control.

The smaller circles on this page represent elements in my life that make me happy. I have a few more things to add to this page which will be other elements which can influence my happiness. They will end up being words that float around in the white space.

I enjoyed this exercise using Tarot cards and I may do more of them.


This is my current work in progress. It is my alternative piece for the Compassionate Bear lesson. When I started it, all I knew was I would start it using the grid method I use for drawing mandalas and at its center I wanted a heart. The heart would represent the ‘You are loved’ statement on the bear. What I like about this design is I can add writing around the design if I feel the need to do so.

All of these pieces are done with Prang watercolor paint. The yellow however is Daler Rowney watercolor. I ran out of the Prang yellow so I substituted a Daler Rowney yellow from one of the yellows in the Simply watercolor tube set I have.

I’ll briefly describe the process for each:

Compassionate Bear: sketched in pencil on watercolor paper. I wanted a happy multi-colored bear so I used purples, blues, blue-green, yellow, magenta, green and white watercolor. India ink and dip pen for the black sketchy outline and marks, and tried some India ink using a brush for shading which was a bit tricky and I ended up layering over some of it with more watercolor because I didn’t like how it turned out. The white is either acrylic white paint or Uni-ball Signo broad gel pen.

What Makes Me Happy?:  Tombow markers for the title lettering. Using pencil and compass I created the circles, then Prang watercolor to fill them in and Tombow markers around the edges to define the edges better. Uni-ball AIR black pen for the words inside the circles. I’ll use the same pen when I add any words or phrases in the background.

Alternative to Compassionate Bear: using painters tape, taped the watercolor paper down to hardboard, thoroughly wet the paper and randomly added Prang watercolor paint, yellow, orange, red, red-orange and magenta. Let it dry completely. Using pencil, compass, and ruler lightly drew in a mandala grid. Pigma micron pen, permanently drew in the shapes I wanted that I had drawn in pencil in the grid, then added in patterns within the shapes using the same micron pen (size 01 or 03). I erased any pencil lines I didn’t want or need anymore. I am currently at the stage of using Prisma Colored Pencils to add shading and color to the various patterns. This always takes the longest.

As I stated earlier, I may add some writing around the design to support the ‘compassionate’ nature of this piece. I don’t really plan these pieces, they develop as I work on them. They sort of let me know what needs to be done next. Sometimes the next step doesn’t always make sense to me and I fight against it, like the blue I am adding now. It didn’t make sense when I felt the need to do it but somehow it works, even though there isn’t blue anywhere else in the piece.

I’m currently in an emotional place which feels like I’m struggling both artistically and in every day life and work. I try to tell myself that I am exactly where I am supposed to be right now but it feels like a platitude. I feel like I’ll never get ahead and the reason for that is years and years of neglect and wasting the resources I had available to me. I would say more but I’m afraid I would sound like a whining brat and that isn’t where I am right now, or I  hope I’m not.

I guess what I’m trying to say is for some reason the Universe feels the need to put me through this turmoil when all I want in my life is peace and harmony. What I’m thinking right now is maybe what I’m supposed to learn is peace and harmony are always present even in the turmoil. Am I able to be that rock in the middle of a raging river and let the turmoil flow around me, letting the friction shape me into what I need to be even at the risk of being unseated? Ever wonder how the rocks got there in the first place? Some of them look like they were just plunked down in the middle of the river, while others look like they grew right out of the riverbed. In school, we learn they were there all along, appearing slowly over time as the water slowly eroded the soil and gravel around them.

I sometimes wonder how many artists really think about how their lives appear in their artwork or how their artwork helps them to understand their lives. Or do they paint or draw because if they don’t they will go mad?




Something different…

Since writing my last post I decided to try something a bit different. I’ve said many times how I am drawn to drawing mandalas. I prefer using a ruler, compass and protractor when I do draw them. I started by drawing a grid for a mandala, then added some additional lines in the grid to create the square border and the inner diamond shape. Then other shapes started to emerge.

I didn’t take any pictures while creating this design, so the only pictures I have are after its completion.

Once I had the design drawn in pencil that I wanted, I went over it with Pigma Micron pen so I wouldn’t lose the design the subsequent steps. I then used Prang watercolor paint to color in the shapes and the background. I truly love working with watercolors. I love making gradients or just letting them bleed and blend together. Next, I took my spray bottle with water in it and spritzed water over the dry watercolor paint. I let it sit for a bit and then lay a clean paper towel over top of it and pressed it down with my hands, then lifted the paper towel. This created a mottled appearance to the watercolor paint. I let this dry.

I selected my one set of Tombow markers. The set I have is the primary palette which meant I didn’t have all the colors and had to select a complementary color if I didn’t have one the same color as the watercolor paint in the area I wanted to use them. I wanted to define the outlines more for the shapes so I used the markers along the edges following them with my water brush to soften the lines. I used the black around the outside edge and softened it as well.

My next choice was to use a Uni-ball Air black pen to create some patterns in some of the shapes. Then Prisma colored pencils, using black, red, yellow and white for the circles to add shading and highlights to create depth. I used white, magenta and hot pink for the leafy patterns inside the diamond shape. Using a white gel pen I added some white dots in the background and some highlights throughout the piece.

I’m thrilled with how this came out. I enjoyed working on it. I’m pleased that this is my own design. The shapes thrill my logical brain, and also please my artist’s eye, as do the colors.

The last thing I did, which was done after I took the pictures, was write in white gel pen around the black border those things I want to bring forward with me or manifest in 2018.  This then became my alternative version of the garden fairy for Week 1, Tending Your Dreams, lesson with Tamara Laporte for Life Book 2018.

I really like this version.IMG_1327

With this addition the page feels more complete than it did before adding the words. This is what I was talking about in my previous post about using Tam’s methods but altering it to fit my style or the things I love to create. I think this works well for me and I may see if this will also work for the compassionate bear bonus lesson. Of course, it won’t be a compassionate bear at least not in the way Tam created hers.


I try to take clues from my surroundings. This isn’t always as easy as it sounds. In fact, it can be quite difficult. No matter what, everything that occurs in our mental space is colored by our experiences in life and we don’t often realize just how much our perception is manipulated by past experiences. Everything we see, everything we take in, is first filtered by our mental space. In order to perceive anything, our mind, our mental space must first process it. This includes our emotions. We feel but in order to know what we feel, we must first let our mind process those feelings.

I didn’t understand how true this was until this morning waking from a dream. A dream I so very much wanted to return to. It wasn’t an easy dream. In fact, it was colored with many difficult emotions. You might wonder why I would want to return to it. Who would want to purposefully return to experiencing difficult emotions. It was because there was truth in those emotions that in real life I avoided or refused to see.

This happens in my art too.

That is difficult for me to admit to but necessary. I’ve been struggling with my art lately. Struggling in the way of not knowing what I wanted to create. Taking classes is fine. The classes help me to try out different techniques. They help me decide if it is a technique I enjoy doing or not enjoy doing. That isn’t what I’m struggling with. What I’m struggling with is, what am I inspired to create?

I face this question every time I sit down to create something on my own without following a lesson. I think I fight against what I’m pulled towards. For some reason I have this mental block and if what I create isn’t unique in some way and yet still contain the elements I’m learning in class, then it isn’t art. I’m not sure I’m explaining that very well so I’ll try explaining a different way by maybe stepping through my mental process.

First, I’m doing lessons from Life Book 2018, sometimes I go back to my 2017 lessons for Life Book 2017 and Book of Days 2017 and do some classes there which I haven’t done yet, but for the most part, I’ve been focusing on Life Book 2018. I say this because when I approach a blank page to do my own ‘thing’, these lessons are foremost in my thoughts. Should I start my page by drawing a girl’s face? Should I just throw some paint on and try something abstract like I did a week or more ago? If I do either one of these how can I make it different, make it my own? At this point I get lost because I’m not sure what makes my art my own. I’m not sure what my own style is. I sometimes think about the art I did for Inktober 2017 when I focused on faces and loved the dark graphic nature of them with stark black and white. Could I incorporate that? Then I become even more lost because I honestly have problems trying to let go and just try things, just play with my mediums and tools.

Then I start wondering, are faces really my ‘thing’?  I made faces something I wanted to focus on because I wanted to get better at creating them. I would love to be able to look at a photograph or a real person and be able to draw them accurately. This goes back to my high school days of feeling like I could only do realism because I could never draw anything from my imagination. I had to draw something from a reference. I’m not saying that is bad. I’m just saying I was envious of those people who could sit down to a blank sheet of paper and sketch something from their mind without any reference and make it recognizable. I still feel envious of them.

However, I have since learned, that once I learn the elements needed to create something, then it isn’t too difficult to draw it from memory. For instance, after watching videos on how to develop proper proportions when drawing a face and how to draw each of the parts, like eyes, nose and mouth, I can now draw a face without a reference. Getting a face to look like a reference photo is still difficult but I believe this will improve with practice. This however isn’t what I am setting out to do when I look at a blank art journal page. This isn’t practice. This is me wanting to create something which I hope will turn out beautiful or at least something I will like and yet have some sort of meaning to me.

I have tried different things to help me decide on a focal image for a page. I’ve tried collage, where I find something from my week or some period in my life to put down on the page. Doing this helped me realize I’m not into documenting my life that way or into that type of collage.

I have tried just throwing down paint without anything in mind just to see where it will go. Most times they come out dark, or muddy, probably because I don’t reference a color wheel. Sometimes the paints I choose don’t go down the way I thought they would on the paper I use. Doing this does help me to learn what works or doesn’t work on the paper I’m using. When they are too dark, or too muddy, I tend to be unhappy with the process and tend to abandon it for a while instead of trying it again. That was before I realized I need to be more aware of the choice of colors or letting colors dry between layers so they don’t create mud. But again, this method can work for backgrounds but doesn’t help me with a focal point for my page.

I’ve asked myself at times what do I want represented in my page? Most times my mind is blank and my emotions are confused when I ask this question. I’ve asked myself why can’t I think of something in response to this question? I’m not sure. When I reach what seems to be an impasse, I start to question my ability to be creative. Maybe I’m not creative. Maybe I have no imagination. I can’t seem to think of even simple things to create and put on the page. This isn’t just for the focal image but sometimes for doodles.

To try and get past this impasse, I might sit down with the thought of just doodling. I used to sit in office meetings and watch a woman doodle on her note taking paper. I was envious of her ability to just turn the ink in her pen into such interesting designs on a scrap piece of paper. I’ve never been one to just doodle. So…. I then think about selecting some tangle patterns and doing some Zentangle inspired art. The step-by-step tangle patterns is what helped me get back into creating art.

Tangle patterns, following the step-by-step instructions, appeals to my mathematical, or logical mind. However, randomly putting them into a design which is begun by creating a string in a given space, results more often than not into a pattern of chaos which my logical mind rejects. Even my creative mind has problems enjoying the randomness of it. My artist mind prefers patterns that form a cohesive pattern.

After exploring tangles, I moved on to learning how to create mandalas. I watched video after video, especially on how to create the grid that enables the creator to be more symmetrical when creating a mandala. I also learned how to draw a mandala from seed. I will be honest. I prefer using a ruler, compass and protractor. The mandala appeals to me so much that I return to it again and again and especially when I don’t know what to do or need a change from the lessons I’m working on. I like the preciseness of using ruler, compass and protractor. And… geometric shapes… yum.

Let me explain, why I’m writing all of this. I could just write this in my personal journal. It would do the same for me. Actually that might not be true. In my personal journal I’m writing to myself, in a blog I’m writing to other people. I want to make it understandable for other people when they read it. There is a completely different thought process here or when writing an email to someone than in my personal journal.  So there is a reason behind writing here instead of in my journal, plus I thought maybe revealing my thought process would help a developing artist to know they aren’t alone if they struggle with something similar. Writing helps me to figure things out. It also helps me to get it out of the forever cycle that goes on inside of my head.  Writing this has also helped me to realize I could possibly be fighting against my natural creative process.

These things have been on my mind this year. They are compounded with the fact that I have a tendency towards seeking perfectionism. I am learning ways to let go of that but the tendency towards perfectionism can kill or undermine that ability to play and have fun. Playing and having fun are difficult for me and not solely because of my need for perfectionism. They were trampled down when I was a child. Playing, having fun was something discouraged. I have to reach deep in order to overcome what I was taught as a child. I’m trying to find simple ways to do that right now and teach myself to explore and play with my art supplies. This is the result of one of those sessions, now that I think about it, I think I need to set this up as maybe a weekly practice, to do just one thing that is purely of this nature:


I first drew the mandala with pencil. I used Sakura Pigma Micron pen over the pencil lines I wanted to keep permanently. Then I erased the pencil. I then used my Elegant Writer to create darker lines and used a wet brush to make it bleed to create some shadows. The paper in my journal is not meant for wet medium. It is meant for drawing or writing, so using anything wet on it means the paper will buckle and I could risk it disintegrating, so I went light with the water and let the page dry before using anything wet again.

For the next layer, after the page was dry, I chose Inktense pencils, again activating them with my water brush and being careful to not use too much water. On this paper some of the Inktense didn’t blend or move very well. You can see this on the red Inktense on the background. They were dull and blotchy for the most part. I let this layer dry.

I needed to define the shapes more. I had become rather sloppy on the activation of the Inktense, so I wanted to firm up some of the lines while also trying to get the colors more vibrant. I remembered that my Inkjoy pens would bleed when I did my water test on them so I decided to make this flaw into an advantage. For each of the different areas I chose an Inkjoy pen color that would be closest to the color or complement it somehow.

For the yellow on the outside ring, I chose brown, and used a bit of water to make it bleed into the yellow. For the yellow on the inner pointed star shapes or triangular shapes I used a yellow green and again a bit of water. Blending the Inkjoys with water works WONDERFUL! I loved the effect and did it on the other areas, blending most of them with water. I did it in a way to leave the area along the line darker so it would have a gradient look. The last thing I did with the Inkjoys and water was to use orange around the outside of the mandala. This gave it a wonderful glowing appearance. I let this layer dry.

I wanted to add embellishments so using my Inkjoys again but without adding any water. I added in the green solid lines inside the star shape mimicking the pattern around by creating two thin lines and then a thicker line. I added some dots and then the yellow, orange and red sun patterns. Then I used a Tombow black marker to create the thicker and thinner black lines in the blue section around the outside of the mandala and considered it done.

I totally enjoyed just listening to what medium to use next while creating this mandala. If one didn’t work out the way I had hoped, then finding another medium that would enhance it or improve upon it worked well. Once I added the orange glow around the outside, I decided to leave the red alone. I like the random look of the red in the background. I used mediums together I never would have thought of if I hadn’t sat down to just ‘play’ and see what happens. I can’t say I was really free from worry or free from caring about whether it ended up badly, I just let myself accept that it might not turn out ‘perfect’ and see where that would take me.

I need to admit to myself that I try to force myself away from creating mandalas. That I think they aren’t worthwhile focal images. I look at the classes and see the artists/teachers drawing faces and I think I HAVE to draw a face. I see them putting words into abstract backgrounds and I think I HAVE to add words too.

I am wondering right now as I write this, what I would have created for my garden fairy if I had allowed myself to replace the idea of a fairy being a person or an image of a face, or an image of an elf and so on. Could I have created my page for this class using a mandala as the central focal point? Can I do this as well for the compassionate bear bonus lesson? Have I been fighting against my personal growth as an artist by avoiding what I am drawn towards creating?

IMG_1298When I created this page, the part that I loved best was when I added the spirals from stamps I had created and used the spiral stencil with the molding paste. AKA, mandalas.

Don’t get me wrong, I do not want to stop creating art with faces or other elements, I just need to find a way to use mandalas as a focal image if that is what I am called to do. Just because the instructor in a lesson is creating a whimsical girl, doesn’t mean I HAVE to do the same. Especially with the techniques Tam is teaching in Life Book and some of the other instructors are teaching. Life Book does include learning techniques and yes, learning how to create faces and other elements but mostly it is about using your art to process and let go or bring forward those things in life which you need to do something about.

I created a sketch of my compassionate bear from Tam’s bonus lesson for week 2 of Life Book 2018.

IMG_1307He’s cute. I like him. However… the question kept coming up in my thoughts, “Is this really what I want?” I thought about creating my dragon which hasn’t been easy to do. I don’t want to copy someone else’s design, and I don’t know how to create a whimsical character of a dragon. I’m working on it though. It will take some time and practice drawing in my sketch book before I’m ready to put it on watercolor paper to paint. In the meantime, I’ll paint my bear. I expect there will be changes to him before I do paint him. I’m not a heart type of girl, though I understand the symbolism of hearts and at times they do work with what I’m creating, just not sure I like it on my bear.

I am finding life interesting since I decided to honor my inner artist. Working and questioning my choices while using art to do so seems to ground me more. Art seems to invade all aspects of my life and my dreams which is nice.

Just the past couple days at work, I had thoughts that I should get into product package design because of the issues I see at work. I am exposed to thousands of products every day and often find issues that could be simply addressed.

For instance, certain cheese packaging has the barcode located where if the package shifts just a bit makes it impossible to scan. Packaging around individual mandarins makes it impossible to see the code because it is has an orange background around the code which is in clear packaging that lies over the orange of the mandarin. The code is impossible to see. Just a slight change in the coloring of the orange in the packaging would make the code stand out so the cashier can read it easily. There is a pet food package which puts the barcode at the top of the package. The default position for a package when a customer puts it on the belt is to stand it on its bottom and the cashier will normally just slide the package across the scanner in that position. With the barcode on the bottom or low on the side there is no need for the cashier to have to adjust the position of the package. With it on the top, it doesn’t scan the first time so the cashier tries again or has to look for where the barcode is and alter the position of the product. This might not sound like much of an issue but when a customer has over thirty or more products it interrupts the flow the cashier has for scanning products and getting the customer through the till in a timely manner.

These are things my artist eye catches and the new retailer employee in me would love to have changed. More often than not, it is obvious, those designing the product packaging have no idea the issues it causes cashiers. For large retailers, seconds to adjust packaging or to search for barcodes can cause delays and create lines at the till.

Before I got into retail, my understanding of how artists can make money was very limited. Now that I’m in retail and creating my own art, I see art everywhere. Any business that designs product packaging should have access to or hire an employee who has worked as a cashier. A cashier is intimately knowledgeable of the issues they face when scanning products or looking for the codes on products that need to be manually entered. I say this from personal knowledge. As an artist and a cashier, it is easy for me to imagine what small changes could be made to product packaging to make it easier for a cashier and I can visualize doing so with limited changes to the product.

I could not imagine sitting down as an artist and designing product packaging from scratch. I don’t have the skills in the various tools an artist would need to do that. But as a cashier and an artist it is easy to look at the package of a product and immediately visualize any issues the design could create for the retailer.

I know I’ve gone off on a rant but I think the rant was good. Though I subconsciously knew that artists had to be involved in packaging, it was something I didn’t think about. I knew they were in advertisement and usually companies dubbed it as marketing/advertisement and I just didn’t think about it in terms of product packaging. You see business logos and advertisements on signs and in commercials which just naturally overlaps with the product packaging. I’ve spent so much time lately on Facebook and reading blogs and other things about artists not able to sell their artwork that I didn’t think about how many artists there are in the world working in the background for all the various businesses. We aren’t all sitting at home in our own little studios creating our personal art. There are a huge number of us creating art for all the world to see to help businesses promote their services and/or their products.

I don’t know about anyone else but seeing it in this way shines a new light on the world as an artist. They are clues left by other artists letting us know, all things are possible if we just believe in ourselves.

Thanks for stopping by and reading. As an artist or someone recently creating art, what do you notice more of in the world that you didn’t see prior to creating art?






Exploring other options (gelli printing), and the next lesson…

I said I would write about this, so here it goes….

While I was working on the Tending Your Dreams (Garden Fairy) lesson in Life Book 2018, I saw posts in the Life Book 2018 group that one of the lessons posted involved using a gelli plate. It isn’t the first time I heard about gelli plate printing. I’ve seen numerous videos on it and considered trying it. I haven’t done so until now because of the following issues:

Issue 1: gelli plates are not inexpensive. At this time buying a commercially created gelli plate is out of my budget, so it was time to consider other options.

Issue 2: I read about using other alternative methods, of the ones I had the materials for, they just didn’t work sufficiently for my expectations.

Issue 3: everyone I watch who does gelli plate printing mostly uses deli paper. I can’t find any deli paper locally, and I put a halt to buying online, at least for now.

Issue 4: creating a homemade gelli plate. The only supply I had to create one was some unflavored gelatin and I wasn’t sure I had enough of that. It depends on the size I planned on making. I also heard of people having issues when making one but to be fair I also heard of a lot of people being successful at making one and some have said their plate has lasted so far a year or more. The plus for making my own is hearing they can be melted down and allowed to set up again, so being able to recycle them was a definite plus.

Issue 5: acquiring the supplies. Unflavored gelatin wasn’t hard to find, the local grocery store carries it. Finding the glycerin posed to be a bit more difficult until I finally found a local drug store that carries it. The only problem is they only carry 250 ml bottles which is approximately 1 cup and costs about CA$7 or $8. I read on one blog a person who made an 11″ x 17″ gelli plate. She needed 4 cups of glycerin. I estimate the cost to be about $45 which includes about an $8 pan for setting and storing the gelli plate. This doesn’t seem to be a huge cost when compared to what a commercially marketed gelli plate costs. It is however high enough that I decided to make a much smaller plate first just to make sure I would be successful at creating a gelli plate and to see if its versatility is as I have read about on other artist’s blogs. Also, to see if it would be a technique I would love doing.

I purchased one bottle of glycerin. I already had enough unflavored gelatin. I needed a small container I could use as a mold and for storage. Others recommended using plexiglass or glass as a cover and a surface to put the gelli plate on when doing the gelli printing. I thought I would need to purchase some but had an idea to try an extra ceramic tile I had. It had a smooth glazed surface and I hoped it would work like the glass others recommended.

I found a 5 1/2″ x 5 1/2″ plastic container at the local Dollar Store. It was perfect size for the ceramic tile I had. I bought 1 bottle of glycerin. When I got home I put water in the container to the level for how thick I wanted the gelli plate. Then poured the water into a measuring cup to measure how much liquid I would need. I only needed 1 cup of liquid. I measured out 1/2 cup glycerine and 2 tablespoons of gelatin (about 3 pkgs), poured the gelatin on top of the glycerin and let it sit will I heated up the water.

Once the water was boiling I measured out 1/2 cup of water and poured it into the bowl with the glycerin and gelatin. I stirred it until it was dissolved. Then poured it into the plastic container and set it in the fridge to set up.

What I noticed: I used a glass mixing bowl, and some of the mixture set up on the sides of the bowl.

I let the mixture setup in the fridge over night and then took it out. I used a knife along the sides of the container to help loosen the gelli plate. When it came out the top, the part that was on the bottom of the container had a bit of a rough surface and the other side was completely smooth. The top was also a bit more firm than the smooth side.

Issue 1: I tried using the gelli plate first on the rougher side but it didn’t work well. The paint didn’t roll out smoothly on the surface and the surface left a texture when printing. Though the texture wasn’t bad, it wasn’t something I wanted to appear on all my prints. The surface was also difficult to clean due to the texture. I flipped the gelli plate over and tried using the other side.

Issue 2: the rougher side wouldn’t stick to the ceramic tile like the smooth side did, so when rolling the paint out, the gelli plate would lift and shift. However, the paint rolled out smoothly on the smooth side and printing looked a lot better. At this point I thought I was going to have to splurge and buy a gelli plate.

I put it aside and walked away from it for a bit. I thought about all the things I noticed when I had created the plate and wondered if using the glass bowl, which even at room temperature feels cooler than room temperature, might have caused the liquid to set unevenly, making it lumpy and then the lumps settled to the bottom of the container before it setup in the fridge. I decided to cut up the gelli plate and melt it in the microwave. This would also help me see if homemade gelli plates are indeed able to be melted and setup again.

I cut the gelli plate up, put it in a microwaveable bowl, yes another glass one but I knew it would warm up in the microwave so if the issue was caused by the cool glass, that wouldn’t be an issue this time. In fact, the gelli plate melted in no time. I used a fine strainer to get any bits of paint out of the liquid that was left from my test printing. The liquid this time looked wonderfully clear of any lumps and setup beautifully in the fridge.

Once it was setup again, I took it out of the fridge. This time I just used some gentle pressure with my fingers to pull the sides away from the container which worked great and the plate came out beautifully. All sides were wonderfully smooth and adhered well to the ceramic tile.

The above pictures are of the gelli plate after I melted it down and set it back up again. In the second picture you can get an idea of the plastic container I used. What I love about this container is it has ridges on the outside so I was able to see if it was sitting level in the fridge and also it helped me determine how much liquid to put into it. The sides also slant slightly outward which means the bottom of the gelli plate is slightly wider than the top. I think this helps keep it firmly planted on the ceramic tile. This picture is after I used the gelli plate to make the below prints. I store the gelli plate on the tile and use the container as a sort of cover over it, protecting the plate for having anything accidentally sit on top of it.

I did some test prints after cutting down some lightweight cardstock to about the size of the gelli plate. This time the printing worked wonderfully. Here are pictures of what I created:

I had a blast creating these prints. The homemade gelli plate worked wonderfully. These are my first prints and I know I took some of them a bit too far and some of the layers aren’t that great but I was successful at creating a few really nice prints. Plus, I now have a better idea of when to stop layering.

This definitely gave me the desire to have a larger gelli plate. I just need to find somewhere I can buy some deli paper. 😦 If I want to use the prints for collage. To make a large plate, I’ll have to buy a container the size I want and possibly get a larger ceramic tile or plexiglass for a cover and for when I use the plate. I want one large enough for a 9″ x 11″ piece of watercolor paper. It would be nice to have a 12″ x 12″ plate but I haven’t had much luck at finding a container in those dimensions. But then I tend to want to go BIG when I find something I really love.

I am now looking forward to doing the lesson involving a gelli plate, especially since I found out I won’t have to spend so much money on a commercially made gelli plate. The homemade gelli plate is as versatile as I have read online, and knowing I can make my own means I can make whatever size and shape I want.

If you are curious as to the recipe I used, it is very simple: 2 tablespoons of unflavored gelatin for every cup of liquid. The liquid needs to be half glycerin and half hot water. For my 5″ x 5″ plate, I needed a total of 1 cup of liquid so I used 1/2 cup glycerin, 1/2 cup boiling water and 2 tablespoons of gelatin. If you plan on using a glass bowl, maybe warm it a bit before putting the glycerin in it. If you end up with lumps, just cut it up and melt it down again, maybe strain it if it looks like it has any lumps or debris in it.

The only thing I’m not sure of at this time is how well this plate will keep. It has been a week or so since I made it. I keep it at room temperature on the ceramic tile with the plastic container over top of it to keep dust off of it. I have no idea if it will get moldy or not. Only time will tell. Some use alcohol in the mixture. I didn’t. So far it is fine.

This was a great project to work on in between the drying of the various layers for the Garden Fairy.

After completing the Garden Fairy, I moved on to the next lesson, Week 2, Colorful Intentions with Andrea Gomoll. Here is what I created:


I went a bit too heavy with the black which is fine. I’m learning and next time I’ll apply the black a bit differently. Otherwise, I LOVED this lesson. This is one of the reasons I love watercolor SO MUCH. Watching it blend and bleed into each other when using colors that compliment each other just makes my heart sing. I definitely plan on using this technique in my watercolor art journal when wanting to express myself or even get things out.

Andrea is so good at how she applies watercolor, she makes it look so easy. It isn’t as easy as it looks. In abstract art, that really doesn’t matter. You can let the paint and water do most of the work. I’ll definitely be playing around with this more.

This was also a great exercise to do after taking so long with the Garden Fairy. It was quick and easy, something that could be done in a short period of time. I think I only had two drying periods, one after the first layer was put on and then one at the end before using the stamps and texture paste. And of course the final drying after it was complete. It was done in one day but I had the day off and could work on it, then take a break and do some chores or run errands and come back and do some more.

Next lesson will be the Compassionate Bear with Tamara Laporte in Life Book 2018, Week 2. I did one last year and look forward to creating another one.


Garden Fairy from Life Book 2018 week 1

I chose to take a slightly different approach to Tam’s lesson for Life Book 2018 week 1 Tending to Your Dreams (Garden Fairy). I took some cues from her lesson and incorporated them into my page trying to make it my own.

Her lesson was about what to leave behind and what to bring forward from the previous year or years. I never really thought about it before other than, I just wanted the new year to be better than the year before. Especially if the year before had been a particularly rough year. If the previous year had been a really good one then I would just hope it would continue. Purposefully looking at what had been in my life and making a thoughtful choice on what to bring forward or leave behind had not been a process for me.  So, this was new to me.

With that said, I found this lesson interesting in that respect. Last year started out rough but did get better a little over half way through the year. I started to see changes I never expected but was very grateful to have happen. I chose to approach this lesson with care, thoughtfulness and purpose, therefore it took a great deal of time. I’m glad it did. If I learned nothing else from this lesson, I have learned I can create a piece of art that is loaded with personal meaning for me.

I made some other decisions. The first one was to not “copy” Tam’s drawings or even her techniques. When I copy a lesson as close to exacting as I can get with the materials I have, which is what I did last year, I discovered when I try to do my own artwork I have no idea what to do. This is because I’m not really learning other than I can copy someone’s work. I needed to allow myself to experiment on my own and learn from my own mistakes. The good I did learn from copying was just seeing how different products worked so I had an idea of how to use them. I just wasn’t learning how to incorporate colors and elements that worked for me.

The next thing I chose to do was to try working mostly in one medium. I know this is a  mixed media lesson but working with a lot of different mediums confuses my learning process. I’m not learning what a particular medium is capable of doing. I read an article about the best way to learn art and the different mediums is to focus on one medium at a time. Not only will it help with learning what that particular medium can do all on its own but integrating that learning is usually faster. Then I can switch to a different medium once I reach a level I am comfortable with and feel ready to move on. I’m fascinated with watercolor so I chose this as my main medium for this lesson.

The next decision was to allow my intuition to come forward to inform me of what elements I wanted on my page. I chose elements that would support the choices of what I wanted to bring forward or work on this year. I had already chosen the word BALANCE as my year word to focus on what I needed in my life. I incorporated the Yin Yang symbol to represent balance. I not only want a balance of my light and dark sides/nature, I want balance in all things in my life. It felt appropriate to place the symbol on my Elfin girl’s forehead located just above the third eye, to remind me I need balance not just in my thoughts but also in mental, emotional and spiritual realms.

In my meditation at the beginning of the year a dragon appeared. I understood what the dragon represented, strength, cunning and perseverance. These three things brought me out of a very rough period in my life and I wanted… needed to bring these things forward.


This was the beginning of my sketch for the lesson. The Elfin girl just appeared as I worked on drawing my girl. The dragon took some time to figure out which I wrote about in my previous post. I wanted something to represent the garden she is tending but the flowers didn’t feel right.


I erased the flowers and thought about what else I wanted to bring forward. I draw mandalas when I feel the need to become centered. I definitely wanted to continue this practice but I also wanted to incorporate them into my artwork. It seemed right to include one on this page.

I wanted something to represent harmony and happiness which is something I really need to manifest in my life. Tulips are my favorite flower. After rescuing some tulip bulbs that had been accidentally dug up by someone repairing our fence in our complex, I thought a couple of them would fit well not only in representing harmony and happiness but to honor those that were rescued.

I added some clouds to represent what I wanted to let go of. I had written in them those negative things that had been a major consumption of my energies last year. Then erased them but chose to keep the clouds. Too often, I suppress the negative emotions trying to forget they exist. I needed a reminder that I choose to let them go and not suppress them thus I chose to keep the clouds.

My ugly stage always begins with the skin tones. The skin tones never look right until I add hair color. I don’t have skin tone in my watercolors which means I have to mix it. My skin tones never come out the same but I’m okay with that. This is my first couple of layers.


I tried to take pictures periodically as I progress with my painting with watercolors. It is obvious I missed taking some photos of a few layers but I did most of what you see in the picture below, in one sitting after the first layers above had dried.

I took my time letting some layers dry while I worked in other areas. I added some more shading first, then the colors to the eyes and mouth, then went back to add some more color to the skin by adding some yellow. The last thing I did was the hair. It was tricky. I started with red, blue and purple, doing a wet on wet technique to let it blend together and adding layer onto layer to get the color a bit brighter. After the hair dried I added some black layered on top, adding water to thin it out in places so the colors underneath would show through. In the skin tone I added some purple, blues and pinks. Purple and blue to add depth to the shading and pink to give depth to the lighter areas, along with a bit more yellow. The trick is to try and not make her look jaundiced.

I worked on the dragon next and chose a bit of turquoise green, adding yellow for highlights and some blues to darken the shaded areas. I let this all dry.


In this next picture, I worked on the center of the mandala. I wanted it to have a bit of a gem appearance. Then I added the sun, some light blue for the sky, and light green for the ground. I chose not to do any collage but I wanted a layered look so I took some stencils and chose two different colors of blue (yes, watercolors), used a makeup sponge and dabbed on the colors through my stencils. I chose a darker green for the grass area and used another stencil. I added some light grey shading to the clouds. I let the paint dry between layers, and added some red and bit of brown to the sun to give it some texture too.


Below is my finished page. I added some yellow to the clouds, a bit more grey and some blue through a stencil, then some white acrylic paint over top the clouds after the watercolor was dry. The black dots were made through a stencil using black watercolor paint. I had a homemade dragonfly stencil and dabbed purple, magenta and red watercolor paint through it. All the stencils I used on this page, except two (the two in the grass) were handmade by me including the flower.  I chose these because I wanted more layers on my background. I didn’t outline them or add any detail to them because I wanted them to blend into the background.

I painted my mandala and flowers with watercolors. Once all the watercolor paint was completely dry, I decided to use some different mediums for the details.


I’m not adept enough with watercolor yet to make fine details which is why I said I would work MOSTLY in one medium. I knew for the details I would use other tools, other mediums. This is what I used:

  1. Prisma colored pencils, in the hair, over the watercolor paint in the mandala, flowers, dragon, clouds and her face.
  2. Gel pens, black and white, for some of the outlining and highlights.
  3. Acrylic paint for highlights, the swan, the white beads and a bit in the Yin Yang symbol.


I didn’t mention the swan. I decided to add the swan. It has always been a favorite of mine and one of the first things I learned to draw by using the number 2 to start the sketch. Swans have always held a fascination for me. They represent grace and when I learned they mate for life, they became a symbol for me in regards to the kind of love I wanted to attract in my life.


I am thrilled with my page. It has depth of meaning for me. It encompasses all that I hope for this year and in coming years. Most of all, it has shown me I am growing as an artist.


I wanted to write about my experiences in between the different layers when I decided to make my own gelli plate but I’m going to save that for my next post. I think this one needs to be devoted to this project. She was such a pleasure to create. She deserves to have this post all to herself.

I have never spent so much time on one piece of art. At no time did I feel like I needed to rush so I could complete it. As I watched the weeks go by, as each week’s lesson was posted and others completing them within days, sometimes hours of them going up, I was satisfied to still be working on week one. Seeing what everyone else was creating just wets my appetite for the coming lessons which I know I will enjoy. Hopefully in the same way I enjoyed this one.

I did not feel compelled to start another lesson, although reading all the posts about one lesson using a gelli plate and people deciding whether to buy one or make one inspired me to consider what I would do. I then played around with options while I waited for layers to dry or during periods when I didn’t have time to work on my Garden Fairy between chores, work and just life but did have short periods to do other things. I will write about that soon in my next post.

Working this way was so very relaxing, no pressure, no guilt about not “keeping up”, even my inner critic was peaceful for the most part. She did surface occasionally, like during the ugly stages, or when I thought I had totally messed up when trying to add the swan.

Now that she is done, I’m looking forward to the next lesson and and can’t wait to see what develops from it.

I can’t stop…

I’ve been working on my drawing for Life Book 2018 week one “Garden Fairy” lesson with Tamara Laporte. I wanted to go in my own direction with this which is why I’m taking my time. I am so in love with my first sketch I wasn’t sure if I wanted to paint it. This is my first sketch, which was done on watercolor paper.

IMG_1267If you read my previous post you would know I was working on trying to draw the dragon. I couldn’t get the body right so I chose to have him leaning over her shoulder. When I added his scales is when I finally connected with him. As I drew the girl, she just seemed to call out for elfin ears.

The above picture shows how I roughly sketched in flowers but they didn’t feel right to me. This lesson is about considering what we want to leave behind and what we want to bring forward with us. Taking this into consideration I knew I needed to change the flowers, so I worked more on my drawing.

I love drawing mandalas. Therefore, I want to continue bringing mandalas into my artwork so I erased the flowers and added a mandala. I have plans for the center of my mandala.

Tulips are my favorite flower. Last year, I saved some bulbs when some work was being done which caused several bulbs to be dug up. The person doing the work in our complex didn’t seem to care and left them all lying exposed so I gathered them up and replanted them. I wanted to honor this and it felt right to include a couple tulips in my sketch.

IMG_1271This is where I stopped while I considered what I wanted to do. Since my sketch was drawn on watercolor paper, I didn’t want to waste it with a graphite drawing so I decided to see if I could recreate it on a lighter weight mixed media paper. The next picture is my attempt to do just that.


She isn’t exactly like my first drawing. She is close enough and I think she came out rather well. I’ll work on her some more later. For now, this is where I stopped with my second drawing.

I can’t stop drawing her. I pulled out my sketchbook where I was working out the drawing of my dragon and drew another sketch of her. This time with a worried or concerned look on her face. I’m trying to learn different facial expressions and since I seemed to be obsessed with drawing her it made sense to try a different expression.IMG_1275

Then I took out my other journal where I not only draw but also write. A few days prior, I had put down some backgrounds using acrylic paint, mostly just using a card or palette knife to scrape the paint around. I had no idea what I would put on these backgrounds. In my previous post, I wrote about the first background I worked on where I created a mandala.  IMG_1258

On another page, I tried creating a mandala using the dot technique with paint but that didn’t come out so well. I wasn’t going to show it here but after thinking about it, I decided to show it. First, because I wouldn’t be authentic as an artist to just show the “good” stuff. If someone reading this is struggling with their art, they should see that we all struggle and have moments where what we work on doesn’t come out the way we want it to or even passably good. And, that is OKAY. So here it is, including my thoughts I had put on the page.


I might get better with practice, and maybe this would have looked better with a black background which is what I have seen in all the dot techniques used to create mandalas or other dot artwork. Creating dots is harder than it looks. I used different sized brush handles. Even so, one has to remember that with each dot created if you don’t replenish the paint between each dot the subsequent dot will be smaller. If you don’t use the same “pressure” the dots can be different sizes. I didn’t expect perfection and knew this would take some practice. I also learned that maybe I should also create guidelines, at least in the beginning until I become better at it. For now, this isn’t something I want to pursue, even with this small sampling I realized I just don’t enjoy making dot after dot after dot, which might be why I’m not a fan of stippling, though I do use it occasionally.

A day or so ago, I drew another one of my elfin girls on the third page. I drew her in pencil first, and then I went over the pencil with an Elegant Writer pen meant for calligraphy. In my testing of my pens to see if they would bleed when wet, I found I loved the effect when the ink from this pen became wet. I wanted to play around with this. Here is the results. I added a bit of white to her eyes and for highlights but other than that, the shading is from using a small wet brush to make the ink from the Elegant Writer bleed. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE HOW THIS TURNED OUT, so much so, I felt the need to write about it which is what brought me to writing this post.


In regards to my previous drawings. I will eventually paint the first drawing that is on watercolor paper. The second that is on mixed media paper I plan to complete in graphite. I have a feeling I’m not done with drawing my elfin girl and expect she will turn up again and again. But… most of all, I have a love of INK and want to play more with it.

Other thoughts:

It may seem strange for me to still be working on week one of Life Book 2018. I see some people doing the lessons as soon as they are released. I started that way for Life Book 2017 which was fine if all I wanted to do was copy the lesson as close as I could with what was being taught. This worked well for the first half of the year. Starting a new job set me back a bit but I also realized, though I was learning by doing the lessons as they were taught, I needed to explore more on my own.

Copying exactly as a teacher instructs doesn’t allow for experimentation. It also doesn’t allow much for failures from making my own choices therefore I don’t learn what works and what doesn’t work. I don’t want to be copying a teacher’s styles and techniques my whole life so I need to learn what works or doesn’t work for me.

When I first considered Life Book as a course of instruction, I did so because I wanted to use art as a way to help me. It is hard to look at one’s life, thoughts and emotions and feel like one is out of control or felt as though they had wasted the majority of their life. I had so many feelings, not just about my past but what had transpired in the past few years, that I needed to find a way to process it all.

Most people who felt as I do or had gone through similar experiences would probably see a therapist. Believe me I considered it. However, when I was diagnosed with cancer and started the process of fighting it and recovery, I decided to see a therapist. I took my daughter with me for I felt she would benefit as well. This whole situation was terrifying to her. At no time during that session did I feel like this person would be able to help me or my daughter. I wasn’t expecting miracles in just one session but I did expect some effort on this person’s part to help us or to just give us an indication of how they might be able to help. In the end, the only thing we walked out with was the understanding that I was already doing what I needed to do. With this in mind I started looking into art as a way to help me do it even better. This is when I discovered Life Book.

I haven’t stopped with just Life Book. I look at other courses as well. I look at them to give me one of two things. Either they will help me learn how to art journal in a way which will help me work through my emotional journey, or they will help me increase my skills and gain further knowledge in various art techniques. The wonderful thing about Life Book is it does both and introduces me to a lot of wonderful teachers.

Last year, because my main focus was on just copying the art as close to exacting as I could, I didn’t learn as much as I had hoped to in the area of processing my emotions when working on my page. What I was processing was only the technical aspects of the techniques being taught. I wanted to change that. I didn’t want to do art, just to do art, I wanted to find ways to have my art and my emotions come together and express themselves on the page.

In consideration of this, I decided to chose a word for the year. I had never done this before. I decided to do this to see if it helped bring focus into my life and help provide direction. For 2018, I chose balance as my word for this year to try and bring more of a balance between the emotional art journey and the technical art journey. It also has the added benefit of helping me to focus on finding balance in all areas of my life.

Knowing this, I knew I couldn’t rush through my lessons. Let me explain something.

I have always wished I could think faster on my feet. Wishing it though has never resulted in it actually happening. Instead of wishing for it, I decided to understand myself better, which meant being honest with myself. I have no idea how people view me unless they tell me. During my life, I have had people tell me I am rather intelligent. While this might be true, I have to refrain from believing my inner critic when he/she tells me I’m not smart at all. After all, if I were smart I would think faster on my feet and be able to respond to people in the way I wish I could. That is if I would believe what my inner critic says.

I, however, have come to understand, First, I AM intelligent. Second, my intelligence demands that I take my time to consider what I know or don’t know, and sometimes if I need to know more, it requires research. Third, I am also not quick to understand my own emotions and sometimes it takes me a while to dig into them to understand what they are and what triggered them. Because of this, almost every situation I’m in, I am not quick to respond because my way of doing things is, first to understand what I am feeling, why I feel that way and to take time to think about it and not jump into quick conclusions or decisions. People wanting quick responses and quick answers get frustrated with me, and yes, I get the impression that they might think I’m dumb but this is because they do not know me and I don’t always think to say that I need to think about this before I answer. I will admit that sometimes I over think things, and sometimes it is difficult for people to understand why I need to think about something that should only require a simple answer.

There is no surprise that this is how I approach my own art. We are at the end of January and to know that week one has taken me four weeks and I’m still not complete isn’t a concern for me. In the past it might have been but that would have been before I took the time to do my own self-analysis to understand why I do things as I do or why I react to things as I do and so forth. Doing my own self-analysis doesn’t mean I am always right. In fact, there are times when I need to re-evaluate because something doesn’t add up to what I had previous thought about myself. There isn’t anything wrong with that and I am sure therapists are having to do this all the time with their clients. There is just no way someone can know everything there is to know about another person and besides, we humans whether we want to admit it or not, are changing all the time. I will be the first to admit that this is even true for myself.

I have no doubt there would be a lot of people who would argue this point. Their egos would want them to believe they know themselves implicitly. I love the part in The Matrix where Neo is told “Know thyself”. On one hand we already know everything there is to know about ourselves while on the other hand, we know absolutely nothing about who we really are.  Neo walks out of the room, so confused, believing he isn’t what people believe him to be. He doesn’t believe in himself. He doesn’t believe it until circumstances put him into a position where he has to reach inside of himself to be what he needs to be, proving to him that he has always had it inside of himself to be whatever he needs to be.

This is true for all of us. Sometimes what we need to be isn’t at all what we think we should be. It is no different for me in my art. I think my art should be realistic, not whimsical or even be mandalas. If someone had asked me back in high school what kind of artist I would be, I would have said my art would be ‘realism’. I had never heard of mandalas or at least I don’t remember hearing about them back then so I would not have even considered myself to be a mandala artist. And yet, that is what I have become. I also lean more towards whimsical at this stage which I would never have thought possible because back in high school I had trouble drawing anything from my imagination.

Why am I writing about all of this? First, because I need to explore the depths of these things for myself and writing is how I do that. Second, because this is just an example of how my mind works and why I am not quick on rebuttals or responses in various situations. I have to THINK about whatever it is that requires my response. My thought processes are not short. They can be long and involved and writing helps me to work my way through my thought processes.

I use the same process for my artwork. Consequently, I don’t expect immediate answers or results. I don’t sit down and immediately make decisions on what I’m going to create and then create it. Oh sometimes I do but most times like the Garden Fairy, I need to go through this process.

I knew when I first watched Tam’s Garden Fairy lesson that I would draw a female face but I knew it wouldn’t be a copy of the face she drew. I knew from my meditation that my animal would be a dragon. But that is all I knew. It took a while of thinking about my dragon to understand I didn’t want to copy a dragon I found online. To draw him took research of looking at various pictures then setting them aside to start sketching on my own and only referring to pictures once in a while to get shape and form properly in perspective. It took more contemplation on what I wanted to represent my garden.

The third reason I write about all of this is hopefully so other artists who are new to exploring their own abilities learn that there isn’t anything wrong with taking their time to complete a lesson. The wonderful thing about online classes, especially ones where you can download them or have lifetime access to them is this, you can do them in your own time, at your own speed and repeat them as often as you like AND do them in whatever form you want to do them in. Classroom instruction doesn’t give you this flexibility, nor do the online instructions which give you only a limited time access and no downloadable content. My advice especially for beginners is choose courses wisely and take advantage of YouTube’s free content.

I want to write about one other thing. I know this is getting long but after writing the above and having a break to go off and work and think about other things, I had this thought come to me. I don’t PHYSICALLY practice my artwork every day. I do THINK about my artwork EVERY day. If I’m not physically practicing, I am viewing other people’s artwork, reading about it or watching videos, or thinking about how I might go about doing some technique or trying different things. I might consider in my mind, what if, I do this, or what if, I do something else, or what if, I combine this and that. In my mind I’ll try and imagine what might be the result of doing that ‘what if’ and in some cases it might take me to my art table to see if what I imagined is in fact what happens. Most times though I’m thinking about sketching or painting, especially watercolor and how I blend, or push the paint around. In my mind, I’m creating a number of art pieces.

Here is where some people might consider me crazy, but it is a proven fact that athletes do improve from just meditating on running or doing whatever physical activity they want to do more than if they just practice it physically. I believe this is also true for artists. If it weren’t true then I could never explain how I improved in my portrait sketches after months of not physically doing any drawing and only thinking or using my imagination and creating sketches mentally. So don’t underestimate the power of the mind. If you don’t have the time to physically do the work, I bet you have plenty of mentally free time where you can do the work in your imagination. Waiting in lines at the grocery store for instance, or waiting in a doctor’s office when you don’t have a small travel pack of art materials to play around with. Or waiting in traffic. Or walking the dog. I could go on and on. My point here is I probably create more in my head than I do in physical substance and there isn’t anything wrong with that. In fact,  I believe it is key to learning and becoming a better artist. I just can’t stop…  I do it all the time, sometimes even in my sleep.

What do you think? Let me know. Or just write a comment to let me know you were here and read my post.

Art Practice, Work and…

I started writing this post last week. I’m not sure what happened. Something got in the way. Either it was my mental space or something else entirely. This is where I began last week:

I am finding it difficult to believe two weeks has passed since my last post. It isn’t easy trying to describe the past couple of weeks. I had to look at my calendar to remember what has consumed my life these past fourteen days. Out of the fourteen days, I worked eleven days. The last stretch was seven days long. On the last day, yesterday (16th), I was so looking forward to my time off the last hour and a half of work felt like three hours. My mind no longer wanted to think. Upon arriving home, I made myself and my daughter a cup of hot chocolate and sat down to let myself unwind and let my body and mind absorb the fact that I have two days off.

I have so many things I need to do and yet my mind bulks at wanting to do any of them because it would eat up my personal time for myself during these two days off. I decided to focus on one thing which means seeing my doctor for a prescription refill. This means half my day today will be spent driving to see my Naturopath for the refill and getting my daughter’s supplements evaluated and resupplied. Expenses which are no longer covered by insurance. Changes I have to learn to work into my new budget. Only time will tell how hard this hits.

The rest of the things I need to do will need to be addressed as time allows and as my finances allow. They will get done, one at a time, just maybe not as quickly as they would have been done in the past.  This seems to be the case for everything in my life these days.

This is also how my art journey is also progressing.  Although, in retrospect, as I looked back at the images I had to include since my last post, I had done more than I had first thought.IMG_1245

The image of the tulip is from Week 34 of Life Book 2017 “Be Bold” with Gwenn Seemel. This was way outside of my comfort zone. I generally prefer realism, using colors that are the colors in the real life object I am creating and using a solid application. To go outside of the natural colors is difficult for me and I had trouble doing the crosshatching technique the instructor did. I ended up just letting my strokes come naturally to me while varying slightly with the colors. I doubt I will use this technique again or very often.

Make Your Mark2This next piece is from Life Book 2018, Week 1, “Make Your Mark (Warm Up)” with Tamara Laporte. I felt much better about this one. The layering and colors I felt came out better than some of my past pieces even with the addition of collage. I created the symbol myself, loosely basing it off of the Ayurveda symbol of harmony and balance. I wanted to include my word for 2018 , balance, in this piece. I added the colors that closely represented the words balance, harmony and happiness. This is what I hope to bring about for 2018.



These next two images are works in progress. With my work schedule such as it was, I needed to work on something that would help center me and allow me to work on it in small pieces while I sat with my feet up, resting them from long hours of standing. Mandalas and Circles seem to help me to center myself. Working with tangles enables me to work in broken periods of time.

I also started adding color, whether it is an acrylic wash background, or a different color of ink, or using prisma colored pencils, it helps me to feel like I am allowing my inner artist the food and fuel she needs.

I have been slowly working on these over the past couple of weeks. I haven’t felt hurried to complete either one of them.IMG_1258

For this one, with the acrylic background, I used neon colors because they are more transparent than the regular acrylic colors. I added some patterns using a silicone pot holder that had a sort of honeycomb pattern to it and then overlayed a bit of white using a wet wipe to put it on thinner. This gave a more muted background for me to draw the mandala. Then added premier prisma color pencil. I may add some more color over time.

I have never studied mandalas and lately I am finding I have a deep desire to get into learning more about them. I have a couple books in mind to get and hope a class that went on last year will be made available again soon. I want to understand more about how they relate to our inner self and how they can teach us more about ourselves. I believe this extends back into Carl Jung’s teachings as well which I had delved into a few years ago. It is time for me to return to those studies.

Here is where I stopped and didn’t return to it until today (23rd).

Today, I find myself in an emotional state I very much dislike. This state is one where I feel almost constant anxiety and anything I haven’t done or need to get done and I’m not working on or seeing to, becomes a focus of my inner critic to berate me on what an awful person I am. I am in this place right now and feel powerless to do anything about it. I’ll explain something which may help to put some light onto this situation.

I’m in my late fifties. I’m completely menopausal. While going through Peri-menopause I discovered my lowered progesterone causes me acute anxiety and sometimes panic attacks. Things that normally don’t bother me on a day to day basis can become overwhelming during low progesterone periods which can become worse with stress (emotional or physical). My Naturopath recommends I take natural progesterone supplements and take them cyclic, meaning I go off of them about five days to try and mimic my body’s way of cycling hormones. When we first discovered I was definitely in Peri-menopause we decided to put me on a complete range of hormones. I had to go off of all those hormones except thyroid and progesterone due to my diagnosis of breast cancer, so I am trying to handle this by just using progesterone. When I was on the whole range of hormones I felt so much better but the doctors will only prescribe progesterone and thyroid now due to my cancer diagnosis. By the way, I know without a doubt that adding the full range of hormones didn’t cause my cancer, I had the lump before starting the hormone treatment.

Today is only day two of not taking my progesterone during the five day period.

I made that sentence separate to emphasize this fact. DAY TWO. This started happening recently where my emotions start plummeting severely within only a day or two of stopping my progesterone so much so that in at least one case I returned to taking my progesterone on the evening of day two because the anxiety and my emotional well-being just got too bad. I may do that tonight too. I absolutely hate feeling this way. That other time I saw an immediate change the next day so this is not my imagination. Today, I am trying something a bit different by trying a slightly lower dosage instead of going back completely at my full dose to see if that helps. In my studies I have learned that our hormones fluctuate in a cyclic manner. If they are working properly in our prime they do not deplete completely they just slowly cycle down and then cycle back up over a period of time and we always have some of all our hormones all the time.  For women this is generally related to our woman’s cycle. In Peri-menopuase and menopause our hormones can deplete so badly we may not have any for varying periods or at all. It is much harder for men because they don’t have the obvious signs like women do for their reproductive period in their lives to teach them what this cycle is.

What I hate about this most is how this effects my life and especially the creative aspect of my life. I can’t think straight. I often forget things and I rarely have control of my inner critic which means it might have full reign. When my inner critic has full reign then I often have difficulty working on anything new where my skills are lacking. For instance, I have been wanting to draw a dragon, which I have never done before. I don’t want to copy someone’s design of a dragon. I want to create my own design. Yesterday, when I finally picked up my pencil to work on it after having studied some drawings online, it took several tries. My attempts felt child-like. I sketched across four pages in my sketchbook, four different versions. Each try, I put my pencil down afterwards, sometimes after only drawing a circle for the head and walking away from it, sometimes for a few hours before returning to it. I can’t repeat what went on in my head during each of these attempts. A repeating theme though was about giving up, and I can’t do this.

When my inner critic gets involved it isn’t just words I hear. Sometimes I don’t hear words at all. I FEEL. I FEEL VERY STRONGLY. Those feelings sit heavy and hard like a rock in my chest and my head feels like it will explode. I can write about this now because I feel it as I write this. My inner critic tells me I’m getting too personal. I’m talking about things I shouldn’t be saying on this blog. That this blog is supposed to be to show my art, not to reveal my inner pain. But it doesn’t just say this, it makes me FEEL it. It doesn’t make me feel shame for feeling these things. It makes me feel shame for revealing them to those who will read this and it makes me afraid I’ll be laughed at or shunned or think less of for showing my weakness.

All these feelings are so much stronger today than they are when I’m on my progesterone. It doesn’t mean I don’t have them when I’m on my progesterone. It just means the progesterone helps me to put them into a more manageable place and lets me feel the GOOD feelings more than the BAD feelings.

Today, I want to hide away from the world. I don’t want to be around people. I hear the verbal criticisms I have received in my lifetime louder today when most days they are silent or just whispers. Today, I just want to wrap myself up in a warm blanket and turn up the TV so I can’t hear the words in my head and watch shows that will make me feel differently and better than I feel right now. Which means I have to choose the shows I watch wisely or they will just bring out the voices even louder and the feelings even stronger. The same goes with my artwork which is why I tend to work on things I know best, like my mandalas.

I generally don’t show my rough sketches or failed attempts at something I tried to create so doing this is stepping outside of my comfort zone. Here are my attempts at creating my dragon. I wanted something different because of the piece I plan on including it in is my week 1 class of Life Book 2018, the Garden Fairy.

IMG_1265I decided not to worry too much about taking a good picture. I just wanted a couple pictures that would reveal my struggle. In all of my sketches you can see I erased quite frequently and tried again and again to get something I liked. My very first attempt is actually the image on the right in the first picture. It didn’t look that way in the beginning. In fact, I came back to it after working on the other three. It had a partial body to go with it which I removed. I like how it now looks like the dragon is snuggled up to the neck of the girl I’ll draw, protecting her.IMG_1266

These two were just an attempt to figure out what angle I wanted because I wanted my dragon to end up sitting on the shoulder of the girl I will have in my final sketch. This may change to the snuggle image, but this was all done before that sketch morphed into it’s form to snuggle.

You might wonder why a dragon. Part of week one is a meditation and in my meditation I was surprised to find my animal to appear as a dragon. I want this represented in my art piece. Even though in my meditation my dragon had the appearance of a dragon like in DragonHeart the movie, I wanted a less imposing dragon for my art journal page since this will be more of a whimsical art piece or at least I think it will be. My first drawing was the closest to what I wanted so I returned to it to work on it some more. I am not totally happy with it right now but it is close enough to begin my art journal page using the suggestions from the week 1 class “Garden Fairy” of Life Book 2018.

I wanted to somehow explain my art process and how life, emotions, physical health can have an impact on that process. I don’t have a set process. I try to do something creative every day but what that something will be isn’t something I plan ahead of time. I don’t set down any rules that say okay, I’ll draw something every day, or I’ll paint something every day or I’ll do some art journaling every day or I’ll work on an art lesson each day or every week. That isn’t how it works for me.

Because my work schedule isn’t for the same set of hours five days a week, I can’t set a particular time to sit down to be creative or work on the classes. I can’t even set a particular time to write my blog. I do try and write a blog post on a day I’m not working because it does take time. It just doesn’t always work out that way and sometimes I miss a week or two. After my two days off, I have another seven days I work in a row which ends with the last day being an eight hour day with only one day off. This will be especially hard for me. I’ll be exhausted at the end of those seven days with not much time to recover. Luckily the other days are four hour shifts with about three of them being morning shifts. I like those because they give me the rest of the day to work on art in between the other chores I need to do. This is also why I will never ‘keep up’ with any of the art course I take.

There is one other thing to mention. I used to rush my way through the art classes but since I decided to incorporate the possibility of not copying them exactly, I find I need time to consider what I’ll do. This might take a few hours or it can take weeks. It depends on so many different factors going on. One of them being like trying to work out the dragon sketches, sometimes it is about deciding what I want included in my art journal page. These things go on all the time in the back of my thought processes while I’m doing other things like work or chores or errands. It isn’t until I feel ready to put pencil to paper that I begin like I did with the actual sketching of the dragon. That dragon was in my thoughts since I meditated more than a couple weeks ago.

I think I am already beginning to feel the smaller dose of progesterone working and slowly lifting the dark shadowy blanket permeating me. This is good. Today, I have chores to do and I plan on working on my sketch for my Garden Fairy. I want to make this page my own which means not sitting down and copying exactly what Tam created in her class but using her ideas and finding a way to design and create my own art journal page.

I welcome comments and love reading them. I’m not good at asking people questions to invite discussion but I would like to hear your thoughts and would love to hear about your own experiences especially if anything I wrote here brought things to mind. If  you don’t want your comments public, you can reach me through my contact page.