Handmade stencils and life

I’ve been working on designing and creating my own stencils. In my previous post I wrote about two of those designs.  Since then I created two more designs and cut them out. Then I did a test to see how well they worked.

Below are pictures of the stencils after I tested them.

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The blue stencil (crosses) was cut out of a Casemate Index Divider. These are 8 1/2 in. x 11 in. letter size dividers which are generally used in notebooks. This divider is very thin and therefore quite flimsy. During testing this divider lifted a lot when dabbing with a makeup sponge which made it difficult to have clean edges (the paint got under the stencil). I also needed to have less paint on my makeup sponge.

The other three stencils were cut out of Avery Insertable Plastic Dividers. These are also 8 1/2 in. x 11 in. letter size dividers. They are thicker than the Casemate Index Divider. During testing these stencils stayed in place better and didn’t lift as easily when dabbing with a makeup sponge.

Here are pictures of the tests I did. I first spread a layer of acrylic paint over the page. Then I used black paint with the first two stencils.

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The third stencil I used white paint. It was a bit thinner than the black paint but also this stencil is the one that was cut out of the thinner divider material. I wasn’t as careful as I should have been when applying the paint which is why the edges are sloppy.

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The fourth test is a bit harder to see but shows up nicely on the white paint. I wanted to see how they would look layered and I like the effect. I used a magenta acrylic paint.

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What I learned from these stencils is I prefer the Avery dividers over the cheaper Casemate dividers for making stencils. I cut them out using a box cutter. I like the control I have over the larger handle of the box cutter and it was easier on my hands and wrist than a craft knife. Maybe in the future I’ll see if I can use my jpeg images of these stencils with my Silhouette to cut them out of actual stencil material. However, I have found hand cutting them is relaxing, enjoyable and a good mental distraction.

I like the idea of using just portions of these stencils for layering backgrounds as well as using them with my homemade gelli plate. I have several other stencil designs which I’ll be working on and cutting out over the next several weeks.

Unfortunately, this is about all I have accomplished since my last post. Life is taking precedence. Even when I have a few moments to be creative, it is difficult to focus. Creating the geometric designs and mandala type designs for my stencils helps to bring some creativity into my life and helps me to feel like I’m not avoiding my artwork entirely.

Tonight, as I write, this is really the first time I’ve picked up any paints since my last post where I had worked with watercolor. The reason for that isn’t easy to reveal. Sometimes I get in an emotional place where I have a difficult time finding any energy to work with paints. When I’m in such a place, all I want is for things to go well. Paints and I have this unstable relationship right now where I tend to go dark with them and then don’t know what to do next. This creates a sort of anxiety stress, so when I’m in an emotionally stressful place, I just don’t want to add any more stress. I, therefore, try and avoid it.

Of late, I’ve been on shaky ground. A lot of life requirements which could no longer be put off are causing stress and anxiety. Any little additional stress just compounds the situation. This is why I haven’t done much with paints lately. Drawing geometric shapes and mandalas help to de-stress me or at least give me a break from the stressors in life which I feel I have no control over.

I am trying to learn to let go. This isn’t easy for me. However, life/God/the Universe has a way of forcing the issue.

After I did the tests with my stencils I decided to play around with the page. In the process when trying to splatter some black paint, I ended up dropping the bottle and spilling a good amount of the paint on the page. Trust me when I say the amount of paint spilled had me just looking at my page and thinking I couldn’t make it any worse. Therefore, I thought what the heck and I decided to add water, let it run around the page a bit as I tilted it in all different directions, then blotted it with a paper towel. The resulting pattern in the black paint was fascinating.

What I didn’t tell you is I had kept the cutouts from the stencils. I thought some of them might make a good mask, especially the large and medium size crosses and the other odd shapes could be used with my gelli plate to make some interesting patterns.

When I was trying to decide what to do about all that black, I laid down the cross stencil over the page and really liked the patterns I saw in the large cross. This gave me the idea to try using the cutout of the large cross as a mask and sponge white paint around the outside of it. I did this three times. Then I used a wet wipe with some white paint to try and soften the edges.  I used a section of the cross stencil to paint some black crosses around the lower part of the page. I’m starting to like the page so I know I’m not done with it  yet. I did decide however to set it aside for now since it is around 1am.IMG_1382

I was wondering how my choice in reading and studying the bible would influence my creativity. I knew it would, just wasn’t sure how long or in what way. Therefore, I’m not surprised it has, just a bit surprised it is doing so already with having only started my studies just shy of a month ago.

I want to write a bit about how my studies are going so far. I’m up to Chapter 27 in Genesis. I have found that using McGee’s recordings in “Thru the Bible” series inspires me to study the scripture deeper. I am almost always mentally challenging McGee’s interpretation and I’ll admit I often do not agree with him. I am not sure if it is because of my lack of knowledge of the rest of the bible or if it is because he and I are very different people.

Listening to his recordings does two things. It reminds me why I don’t attend church and because they are recordings I can first read the scripture, then listen to the recordings, and then read the scripture again, looking at it deeper to hear what it is telling me. And I can replay the recordings or go back to certain parts of the recording to help me understand why I feel a certain way about what he says. I can’t do this when attending church and just listening to a sermon leaves me with feelings that I don’t understand and at a loss as to what to do with them. I’m realizing I need to take things apart, digest them and put them back together again in a way that makes sense to me. Thereby, creating my own interpretation.

For example, McGee speaks about the description given of Esau and Jacob. The bible describes Esau as a hairy man and Jacob as a smooth man. For those who don’t know, Esau and Jacob are twin brothers. McGee compared Esau to being like a caveman or a hippie. What one needs  to remember is McGee’s recordings started in 1967 for Thru the Bible and I keep this in mind when I listen to his recordings. He considered Esau like a hippie because from his perspective hippies were hairy (they had long hair) and didn’t bathe much. I guess in his eyes he felt cavemen and hippies to be very similar. I would disagree with this but I do so from the perspective of someone who was born in 1960.

I sometimes feel McGee has a closed mind. His comments regarding books outside of the bible and hippies are just two examples. When I read the description of Esau and Jacob, my interpretation was more of Esau being a man with a lot more body hair like some men have today, while Jacob had much less body hair like other men today.  I believe the description was meant to emphasize how different the two brothers were, not just in thought but also in physical form. Knowing they are twin brothers without this description might lead us to believe they were more alike than they were, so the description aids us in understanding the deeper nature of their conflict. To go even deeper is the fact that there is also a mention of Rebekah, their mother, feeling the strife between them even as she carried them prior to their birth. I don’t believe Esau was anything like a caveman or a hippie. This is where McGee and I disagree on a fundamental level.

I remember as a child being told the the reason the bible is considered a living bible is because everyone who reads and studies it will receive their own interpretation or  understanding of what the scriptures mean to them. Therefore, I use McGee’s recordings as a catalyst. Without that catalyst, I have no doubt my attempt to study the bible would end like all the other times I tried and gave up. This time is very different from the other times and I find myself drawn towards my studies first thing after waking if I have a couple hours available before going to work. I also find myself drawn to study more than one chapter at a time even if I’m short on time. I try not to do so because I don’t want to feel rushed. I’m both surprised and fascinated that this is happening.

In other news, last week, my daughter and I needed to go into Vancouver. While there we decided to go to the Vancouver Art Gallery. It was our first time there. I am so glad we went. I got to see my very first Monet.

I was thrilled knowing I was standing in front of an actual Monet. I tried not to be disappointed. I couldn’t understand why I was disappointed. When I looked at it, I was left with a feeling that maybe it had lost its luster. It seemed dull or a bit out of focus when I looked at it and thought about other paintings but this is probably due to my lack of knowledge on Monet paintings. I have done a bit of research since then and discovered Monet did several paintings of the same subject in various conditions. I have no doubt the feelings invoked by the painting weren’t in fact disappointment but my reaction to the subject matter and the subdued nature of it.

What fascinated me even more about our trip through the art gallery was the exhibition “The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg” and my reaction to it. I don’t think I could do it justice in describing what it was about the exhibit that fascinated me. I could probably look at just one of the paintings for hours because of all the layers and fine details, and OMG the bright colors and patterns. My mind was blown away. All I could think was ‘how does he do that?!?!’ over and over again as I looked closer. In truth, when looking at the paintings at a distance the subject matter didn’t really fascinate me. It wasn’t until I got up close and saw the details. That is when the fascination kicked in.

I am so glad we went to Vancouver when we did and took the time to go to the art gallery. I’m enjoying my studies. Work is okay, I still enjoy interacting with all the people. Even though all of this seems to be going well, mentally I’m not in a good place right now. I honestly do not know how people do it. How do they live pay check to pay check trying to feed their family if they are only making minimum wage? Maybe it is worse for me because I had a really good paying job that I took for granted. All I can think about sometimes is that it should be a crime for people who work to not get paid enough to support themselves.

I saw a sign at a company once where I knew they paid minimum wage to the workers on the front line, which stated they supported a program to end child hunger. My first thought was, “then pay your workers enough so they can feed their children!”. Minimum wage doesn’t pay enough to enable the employee to support themselves let alone a family. It makes me sick when I think about it. I can’t tell you how helpless I feel to do anything about our current situation which if it doesn’t change could be quite devastating. And yet I know there are people who are in worse situations which I cannot even fathom right now. It scares me to death to think we could end up in one of those worse situations. I need to have some things done around the house but I’m afraid to spend the money and yet I know if I don’t those things could and will get worse. So, in a few weeks I’ll bite the bullet, find out how much it will cost, and spend the money.

I stopped writing this last night and went to bed. It was getting so late and I needed some distance to decide if I wanted to include all that I had written so far. I needed a fresh mind. At first, I thought I would delete a good bit of what I wrote since the intention of this blog was to be about my artwork. As I consider what I had written and whether I should delete anything, I ask myself, “Would I be denying the real artist within me by omitting anything I have written?” Yes, some of it is very personal. However, I cannot separate the rest of my life from my life as an artist. When I go out into the world, I do so as an artist. When I sit down to do a painting or drawing, I do so with the weight of my life and all that has influenced me, good and bad. Therefore, if I am to be true in my writing about being an artist, I need to include all areas of my life because no matter what it all influences what I create.

I also have to remember, I am not just an artist who draws or paints, I am also an artist who writes and a writer who is an artist. Writing helps me to process and that includes this blog.

When I worked or rather played around with my page last night, I got my hands into it. I had used a gift card for the first layer in spreading the paint I had dribbled all over the page in a haphazard manner. I can’t use a makeup sponge to dab on paint through a stencil or around a mask and not get paint on my fingers. I wasn’t liking how the splotches of color looked when I tried to add some layer of colors so I just started dribbling on paint and haphazardly smearing it around with my fingers. I didn’t use a brush at all on this page. The closest thing I used was a makeup sponge, a wet wipe and the gift card to move paint around. I still have some paint on me this morning. 🙂  Yes, I’m normally very fastidious about not getting too much paint on me and when I do to then get every bit off of me.

I am both fascinated and fearful of the changes which I am experiencing in my life. It is a scary place to be in right now. If it was just me, I think it wouldn’t be so frightening. Knowing I have the responsibility of my daughter and I am her sole support compounds the fear. Knowing I have a breaking point has me very weary and watchful that I avoid that breaking point at all costs. It is obvious I’m seeking answers, a resolution and a way through to a life that is less stressful or anxiety driven. For now, I’m doing what I can, which might mean that art takes a back seat if I have to work a second job to make ends meet.

If you have made it this far through my rambling and spilling out of my life, thank you. You are appreciated. Thanks for being here. ❤ ❤ ❤

~Patti

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God, artwork, dreams and reality….

Wow, time seems to be having quite a bit of fun with me since my last post on the 3rd of April. My work schedule seems to reflect this. I had one day off on the 3rd, worked 1 day, then 2 days off, worked 1 day, then 2 more days off, then worked 8 days. During each of the two days I had work done on my car, my windshield replaced, and multiple recall items replaced. Thankfully, my insurance covered the windshield and the recall items didn’t cost me anything. While the car was worked on I worked hard doing a much needed cleaning of our home. I still have a bit more to do, however, it feels good that a majority of it has been done. In the midst of all of this I did some artwork, art journaling, designing and focused on a class and some other studying. I’m going to talk about these but not necessarily in that order.

I’ll tackle the studying part first, and if you aren’t interested feel free to skip down to the next topic.

STUDYING:

I’ll give a bit of background. I grew up protestant with a leaning towards Baptist and later non-denomination Christian. The very first church I remember going to wasn’t either one of these, and I’m not sure what denomination it was considered. I remember enjoying Church there because there was no preacher, just elders who ran the church and on occasion invited speakers to our Sunday services. Generally, Sunday service for the family was conducted with someone reading a passage from the bible and different members standing and reading from the bible, intermixed with singing gospel songs. There wasn’t anyone to tell us how to interpret the scripture. Even Sunday school for the kids was an adult reading from the Bible and then talking to the children about what was read, generally they were well known stories, like Noah and the Ark. I believe this early introduction to this type of congregation influenced my opinion of churches later on. I’m not sure what led my parents to switch from that church to a Baptist church but they did. The difference between the two was extreme though as a young person I wasn’t adept at working out why when I had been taught from an early age to not question my parents or adults. I just know I couldn’t fully integrate into the way these later churches were run, not even the non-denominational churches and I tried several of them. This was no reflection upon my belief in God, only in the very nature of how Churches are run and Preachers preach their sermons.

With this being said, it has been years since I stepped into a church. It never fails though that each time I have, I felt there was something fundamentally wrong, because every time I walked out of church I felt worse than when I walked into it. As the years passed I stopped attending church even though I didn’t stop believing in God. I have developed different names to represent God, such as, Universe, which usually is my way of saying Universal Intelligence, or Greater Being, or Great Unknown, and so forth. This is just my way of accepting that there is something unknowable that is greater than all of us. I consider myself spiritual and not religious.

When I am faced with the need to understand something, I don’t rely on what other people say or believe. That has never been my way. Consequently, I research, I observe, I experiment, and I do whatever I can to satisfy that need to understand. It doesn’t matter the topic. Whether it is how a certain art supply will work with or not work with another art supply, or if it is what makes certain people tick or respond in the way they do, including myself, and yes this includes understanding God.

I am often confused as to why I am driven to the need to understand something when I am not at other times. For instance, creativity has always been a part of my life. Throughout my life I’ve used various ways to bring creativity into it. Art, such as drawing and painting, were not part of this between the end of high school and until a few years ago. Oh, for brief periods of only a day or two or a week at the most I might have tried to get back into sketching but I was never driven to understand my need for it until a few years ago. Just as I’m driven now to understand more about God or more importantly my beliefs after years of being absent from any church.

I used to think those years were absent of all desire to understand. When I look back on it now, I believe those years were my period to observe and sometimes experiment. Experimenting was rare however. Observing takes years, at least my way of observing takes years because I’m observing everything around me and storing up inside, my response to what I have observed. Once enough is stored, it then drives me to research, and study whatever I can find, in order to understand what I have observed and continue to observe.

You are probably wondering why or how all of this is related to my belief in God. Well, I’ve spent my whole life observing and storing up information. Now, I am driven to try and understand which means research. I often make this decision subconsciously which the World or Universe, or if you prefer, God responds to. I had no sooner made this decision subconsciously when a resource was made known to me. That resource is a 5 year journey called “Thru the Bible” which contains five years of recordings with Dr. J. Vernon McGee where he takes you through the whole Bible. I tried several times to read the Bible on my own but usually got discouraged and stopped. I don’t think I made it through more than a couple books on my own.

This journey I began on the 5th of April is different from all my other attempts to read the Bible from the beginning to the end. I’m not saying I agree with everything McGee says in the recordings but what I am finding is because these are recordings I’m able to slow down, listen to what he says about the chapter I read, and allow my own intelligence and spiritual guidance to come to my own interpretation. I write down notes which contains my questions, how I understand what I read or what I’m lead to understand.

When I say lead, I’m not talking about just McGee’s comments because more often than not his comments spark more questions which are often not in alignment with his interpretation. I’m finally understanding that I am quite literal. If McGee’s interpretation contains within it something that is not stated in the scripture I just read and he gives no supporting scripture, I tend to discard his interpretation or parts of it, unless I come across scripture that later supports his interpretation. I know he comes from years and years of study, schooling and experience but that doesn’t mean he is right in everything he says. In fact, I often find he has very condescending and what I feel are judgemental statements which tend to rub me the wrong way. I take that as a sign to explore more and so I do.

I have considered not listening any further to his recordings, however, if I did, then I would not have the catalyst I need. I know this because I start my study period by first reading the chapter. After reading the chapter I usually have little insight. When I follow that by listening to the recordings for that chapter while making notes, I gain more insight and understanding. It doesn’t stop there, sometimes the rest of my day I find myself often contemplating what I am learning. If I only read the chapter I would probably lose out on a good 75% of what I learn when I allow McGee’s comments to trigger the opening of doors to further understanding.

This will be a three to five year journey of studying the Bible (from beginning to end) and possibly other resources as I come across them. I am curious if this will somehow work its way into my artwork and whether it will become a life long journey. I do know this journey will not be an easy one because it has already created some amazing shifts in my understanding and reality.

When I enter into something that creates such major shifts, time flows strangely and the world around me alters in unexpected ways.

ARTWORK:

Last time, I started a page in my watercolor art journal, in an attempt to go lighter with the watercolor pigments that I did on my previous page. I had shown this picture of the first layer of watercolor:

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Though the image shows a light blue in the colors there really wasn’t any. It was the untouched watercolor paper or areas barely touched by paint that showed up with a blue tint. Seeing this in the photo made me want to play with adding other colors.

You can see in the below image where I added some blue and some more yellow. In some places where the blue touched yellow, the mix created a green or blue-green color. I let some of the blue run or drip. I then let it dry.

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Once it was dry, I used a graphite pencil to create some shapes, then used white acrylic paint around the shapes, trying to bring them forward. I didn’t want to cover the whole background with this layer of white so I left some areas alone.

It has probably been a week since I worked on this page. I’m still trying to decide what to do next. I’m thinking doodles. In the meantime, and in between my studies and art journaling, I was lead to focusing on a class.

CLASS & Journaling:

In December 2017, I purchased the Art Bundle for Good. I learned about the Art Bundle in early 2017 and made my first purchase. The Art Bundle for Good is a project created or organized by John Bardos which provides some amazing art resources at an unbelievable discount and portions go to a worthy charity. When I first learned about it, I wasn’t sure about it but gave it a try and now I’m so glad I did. Having purchased two of the Art Bundles I’m amazed and thrilled with all that is included. I have resources that will last me for years so even if I can’t purchase another art class, there are enough courses in the two Art Bundles to keep me busy for a long time.

From one of these resources I received an email stating that Dream Lab was shutting down. I had only glanced at this opportunity when I went through the process to acquire the courses provided from the Art Bundle in December. I quickly emailed the owner, Andrea Schroeder asking if I would lose access to the courses. She quickly replied, stating no, that she was just altering the free course she had available, basically upgrading it and changing its name.

What this email did was to make me look at the courses I received from Andrea in the Art Bundle to see how they fit in my current life. I admit, I have been struggling with attracting what I want to have in my life, so when I saw the email and reviewed the courses, I thought “why not”. It couldn’t hurt. The course I’m talking about is “Creative Dream Incubator”. Her approach is very simple and what I love most about her lesson is the simplicity of it. Her artwork may not look like what I would create but it shows me that it doesn’t have to be elaborate or a masterpiece. People with little to no art skills can use her methods and techniques in helping to bring about a particular dream they may be struggling with developing and want to have in their life. I do believe it is based on the law of attraction but she takes it down to a more simplistic level for those who are not accustomed to or understanding what all is involved in the law of attraction. She provides simple tools you can learn to apply in your everyday life. I am up to module three. There are six modules in total.

I will admit that even with the simple methods I’m still learning how to apply them every day. I need to find ways that work for me. What I find interesting is in the artwork in particular I have added some of the steps before I read the module where she suggests adding particular things. So for me the artwork for supporting my dream comes naturally while the rest of the supporting elements doesn’t. I believe this is due to my being taught to not ask questions when I was a child and due to my environment causing me to focus on the negative instead of the positive things in life. I am hoping these methods will help me to alter that aspect of myself.

I won’t be adding pictures of this lesson for two reasons. The first is I feel the need to keep it private but wanted to write about the class in case others might be struggling with similar issues and want to give it a try. The other reason is Andrea worked hard on these courses and the pictures would be giving away too much of her hard work. I am recording my progress in my journal, which is the journal I use almost daily and my version of a bullet journal. This class isn’t just helping me with learning how to create my dream but it is also helping me to learn ways in which I can use my journal to support those dreams.

OTHER:

For a while now, I’ve had a couple things on my mind. Stencils/Masks and stamps. I read an article in the March/April 2018 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors called “Printing Lab: Carved Monotypes” by Dawn Emerson. Even before reading the article I have been wanting to find a way to make my own stamps. I have already made a few of my own stencils and masks, which I want to continue to do.

I don’t know why but this is something I keep putting off. There was a discussion in one of the groups on Facebook about copyright issues when using commercial stamps and stencils in artwork people want to sell. Like others I feel it is crazy when a product you buy can’t be used in your own artwork that you want to sell, especially if the person selling the artwork isn’t just selling a print of the image but has added their own artwork as well. I won’t go into the legalities of this. It is too complicated and too volatile of a topic.

I have in the past purchased some stencils and stamps. I use them only for my personal artwork. Since I don’t currently sell any artwork, it isn’t an issue. From the very start of getting into mixed media I have always felt the need to have everything in my artwork be my unique artwork. This is just one of the many reasons I also don’t do collage very much using commercially created items. I won’t get into that either. With wanting my artwork to be my own unique artwork it means if I want to use stenciling/masking or stamping techniques and collage techniques then I need to create my own. There is one benefit to making my own. I can do it cost effectively.

Below are two of my new stencil designs. I drew them on regular printer paper using pencil, then went over the final design in ink and scanned them into my computer. Scanning them serves a few purposes. It saves them in case the original copy gets destroyed. I can increase or decrease their size or even use just a portion of the design. I could potentially sell the design too. If printed at original size on 8 1/2 x 11 inch paper there is a small border around the edge which may not show up in this image.

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Stencil2 copy

I hope to use some of my images from Inktober 2017 to create stamps. You can see the images from Inktober 2017 here.  This takes me back to the article I read in Cloth Paper Scissors. In the article the artist created a monoprint from an image she carved into wood. This gave me the idea to try and use my wood burning tool to carve an image into a small piece of wood, seal it, and use it as a sort of stamp. I haven’t tried this yet but plan to in the near future. I also picked up some carving material used to make stamps so I can experiment to decide which method works best. It is possible one works best for certain applications while the other works best for other types of applications. I’m excited to give this a try and see what develops.

I often feel like I’m not doing much when it comes to my creativity. To alleviate me of this perception I started listing in my daily journal the things I have done that day. Sometimes, it is true, that I haven’t done any artwork but there is creativity in almost everything we do. Sometimes I have to get creative in accomplishing the mundane things in my life. Creating this list also helps me to see when other things have taken precedent and it is generally easy to see why.

I leave you on that note now. My studies call to me as well as those mundane things in life that need to be taken care of. Feel free to comment. Hearing from those who take the time to read my post is one of the more simpler joys in life.

❤ ❤ ❤

The art of “what if”…

This week, since my last post, has been busy with work. Those who work as a cashier where standing on your feet for an 8 hour shift is part of their job, know how exhausting it can be. In four days, I worked three 8 hour shifts. Going into my 8th month my body is finally becoming accustomed to it. My feet ached but only for a couple hours after getting home. My energy levels were fine which meant cooking dinner wasn’t an impossible chore and my muscles and tendons didn’t lock up on me after sitting for thirty minutes at a time. In those 8 months I have gradually lost 15 pounds. This is all wonderful, exciting and a testament to the resilient nature of our bodies, minds and spirits.

These 8 months have also taught me the importance of making time for what is important in our lives. It has also taught me to allow my fifteen year old daughter to find her own way while still being the parent she needs.

This week I started just watching the videos for the art classes I have, mainly the videos in Life Book 2018 and stop trying to do every lesson. I watch the videos and think about how I can incorporate some of the techniques into my own artwork. With this in mind I decided to play a bit. One of the questions I like to play around with is how watercolor and acrylic paint can work together.

I love watercolor. I love seeing how watercolor flows on the paper and observe the colors bleed and blend into one another. Unfortunately I didn’t take pictures of the different steps I took on this page:

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I did start another one where I am taking pictures which I’ll talk about shortly.

This page started with a background in watercolor. The colors that resulted are what you see in the flowers. I let the page dry completely. The page was overly dark/bright and I knew trying to do any tangles would be difficult to see. I decided to try and tone down areas by applying white acrylic paint. I watered down the white acrylic paint a bit and applied it. When I did, of course, the watercolor reactivated and blended with the acrylic paint. In some places it became muddy. I continued to work leaving some spaces untouched which I planned to make into abstract flowers.

As the mixture of acrylic and watercolor paints started drying I continued applying acrylic paint selecting some other colors, like yellow, orange, and green. In some cases, I mixed some of the colors together, like yellow and green, orange and yellow, sometimes adding white to lighten the colors and adding water when I wanted to thin the paint. Sometimes I would mix it in a bowl and sometimes I would mix it on the page. I continued this process until I had a background I loved and the untouched areas popped more off the page. I let this completely dry.

The next step involved a Uni-ball Signo black pen. This isn’t permanent even when dry but that was okay because I wanted to use water to create some shading effects after I put down the ink. I used the pen to roughly sketch around the watercolor areas that were untouched by the acrylic paint. Then created sketchy stems and leaves. I let the ink dry a bit then took a water brush to the ink. I didn’t want to completely erase the dark lines so I just touched upon the ink enough to cause it to bleed a bit creating some shading. Again I let it dry.

Another “what if” question came up. What if I put watercolor over top of the dry acrylic. I’ve done this before and in some cases it would bead up because it doesn’t absorb into the substrate. The acrylic paint I used was a cheap craft paint called Craft Smart. It leaves an almost chalky appearance and feel which is why I think beading wasn’t a huge issue. Where it did bead up I didn’t mind. I used watercolor to color in the leaves, except for the rare blue ones on the top left flower stem. The bluish leaves are actually an area from the first layer of watercolor background which wasn’t touched by acrylic paint. One of the few places where the paint was a soft pastel color. The color in the rest of the leaves are a result of watercolor on top of the dry acrylic paint. I added watercolor down the stems, at the bottom of the page for grass, in the petals of the flowers, using a variety of colors to create the effect I wanted. I let this dry completely.

Most of these steps done between the drying periods were done before or after work when I had an hour or two. Today, I added just a touch of more watercolor in a few areas just to add some additional shading and a bit more grass on the bottom of the page.

I’m not done with this page yet. I have plans to add some white highlights but I’m waiting for a set of detail brushes I ordered. I am pretty much done with trying to find paint pens that work for fine details. I have gone through several varieties of paint pens, Posca, Painters, Sakura Permapaque, and Craftsmart, just to name a few. All of them have failed me in various ways for what I need when I want to add white details. They either let the background color bleed through them so the white isn’t bright enough, or the tips have issues like leaving blobs of paint where I don’t want it, or they clog or fall out completely. With my strict budget I can’t keep buying products hoping they will work so I’m going to rely on the old faithful brush which can be used with paint and ink.

One of the issues I had when working on this page was at the very start. I added too many different colors for the background which is why in a few areas when I added the watered down acrylic white paint it became muddy. On the page next to the one above I started a new page and decided to limit my colors to yellow, oranges and reds for the first layer. Here is what I have so far:

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There is blue around the edge, that came from paint when I was working on a previous page when I failed to put paper towel under the page I was working on. It looks like there is blue in the background of the page but that is actually white. It is untouched by any paint at this point. Interesting that it looks blue in the picture. I kind of like it so after this layer is dry I may try adding some light blue in watercolor.

I tried to go lighter with the watercolors on this page. I get too heavy handed when I work with the Prang watercolors. I love how vibrant they are. As much as I love the vibrancy it is an issue when I want to add any details, plus I want to learn how to get a more pastel effect which is another reason why I’m playing the “what if” strategy with my journal right now.

The rest of my life is also a “what if” sort of game. “What if” I do this or that, or think this or that, or…. and it goes on. I want to understand why life works one way for some people and another way for other people. It is an interesting experiment in both art and life. I entered into Life Book because I felt a need to find a way to heal. Even so, I felt something was still lacking. Don’t get me wrong. I love the lessons. I love what I’m learning. I love that I can use art IN THE MOMENT to release, to let go, and to alter negative into positive. I wanted to expand on this further and this is where I felt the lessons stopped, at least for someone like me who can sometimes have trouble using lessons as a base or foundation and then expanding upon them. It has taken me a while to find what I was looking for but without these lessons and life experiences over the past ten or fifteen years I would not have come up with what I’m experimenting with now.

There are many different processes being shared in the world today. Some of them are about how to become successful, others about how to attract what you desire, or how to be happy and so on. I believe it is important to share all of this with each other. However, as a person who has been trying to find her own way in life, these processes have one thing in common. They work for the person sharing it and may work for others but it doesn’t work for everyone.

I’ve been struggling with understanding why that is. I have come to a sort of conclusion today. It is probably only a partial understanding or conclusion. My conclusion so far is this. Everyone has to understand how they interact and connect with the Universe.

It is very much like working with various artist supplies and tools. What works for one in a certain way doesn’t necessarily mean it will work that way for someone else. To make it work for me, I had to find my connection with the Universe. For some people it is praying. For others it is meditating. For me, it is how I have always seen things with my mind since before I can remember.

I was led to understand this today. I read something that resonated with me, which opened me up to listening to a recording made years ago in which someone was explaining how they understood something. This person is the only person who explained things in the way I understood as well. I know I’m being vague about this. I don’t generally share my beliefs with the world. It isn’t my beliefs that I want to share anyway. The fact that after all these years, and at my age, I have only found one person who has expressed an understanding so very similar to mine is an important thing in and of itself.  It means everyone has their own truth to understand and that truth isn’t the same for everyone. In fact it might be very rare indeed.

What I want to share is this. When I stopped fighting against the Universe and it’s way of interacting with me is when I gain the most understanding. When I stopped fighting against the way art supplies and tools interact with me is when I learn the most about what works for me and what doesn’t. When I leave myself open to the connection I have where information flows and utilize this to explore is when the world changes around me. But more importantly it changes through me first. You can’t change the world around you without first changing something inside of you.

I am a member of a lot of art groups on Facebook. In every single one of them, there are people who ask for set answers to their questions. What is the right product to use for this or that lesson? What is the right pen… What is the right paper… What should I do first… What…. How…. When should I do such and such…. and so on. The questions are good. It is good to question. Don’t ever think I’m criticizing someone for asking questions. I’m not. Some people are limited financially so they need to know what product works best so they aren’t spending money on a product only to find out it doesn’t work and then having to spend more money on another product and so on. I get that.

What I’ve learned over the past couple of years but more importantly what I learned most recently is this. You will always be seeking answers from someone else until something changes inside of you. “What if” there is a knowledge base we are all connected to and that knowledge base is updated from every single person’s conscious and subconscious mind? “What if” we are able to connect to it and by just listening and experimenting with what we hear, we are able to learn everything we ever needed to know? “What if” that connection is different for everyone? For someone, it could be in story telling. For someone else it might be in creating art. For someone else it might be working with numbers. For some it might be prayer, or meditation. Or for others it might be by visualizing a connection to everything and anything.

I don’t know where it comes from but I like the phrase “Fabric of the Universe” or “Fabric of Time”. The use of the word Fabric in both phrases make me visualize the Universe or time as a woven fabric but not as a single layer but multiple layers in all directions. In that fabric everything exists and is connected otherwise it would all fall apart. If one part becomes torn, lost or worn out, it can weaken and cause the rest to start to unravel. This is why it is important for all of us to find that connection, open ourselves up to it and allow knowledge to flow through us and out into the world. When that connection is broken is when we find ourselves fighting, struggling and falling apart. When that connection is made it brings strength and flexibility to the Fabric.

It is amazing to me how allowing creativity into my life is slowly altering my perception of reality. I have read where some artists use acrylics and oils together, two mediums I never thought could work together in one piece of art. If this is possible in art, then what are we capable of in this world if we just stop thinking things are impossible and start playing “what if”?

“What if” I create a force of energy around me that attracts beauty, love, abundance and harmony? “What if” I create a shield which repels hate, anger, toxicity and destruction? “What if”…. fill in the blanks. Find what works for you. Share in the comments, maybe it will spark something in someone else. Nature doesn’t hold back on the “what if”. It doesn’t ask “what if” I mix red and blue. It just does it. It does it so well we see a never ending kaleidoscope of purple hues in this world. Think about that for a moment. If nature or God (depending on your belief) had stopped with the “what if” or limited the “what if” then maybe humans wouldn’t have existed.

Only you can decide if you want to play “what if”…

My life and my art…

It has been 23 days since I last posted. My life has been a sort of mish-mash of things but mostly distracted with the efforts taken for the inevitable job search. It is a never ending roller-coaster ride. I won’t go into the details of the emotional pitfalls one can experience. I’ll just say that it has had an effect on my focus to create. I didn’t feel I had anything to write about until I at least finished one of the things I was working on.

Since my last post where I displayed my progress on my alternative to “The Compassionate Bear” bonus lesson from Life Book 2018 with Tamara Laporte, I have been making slow progress until I finally finished it today. Here are some closeups of the piece before the final step.

 

This is a full picture after the final step of writing the words on the page.

IMG_1351I don’t have any pictures showing the progress as I created it. This is where my job search sort of took me. All I wanted to do was sit down and work on something and not worry about anything else. I do have the one picture from my last post.

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It shows the inked in design with the start of some colored pencil. My previous post, describes the process I used to create this piece. The only addition was in using a Uni-ball AIR pen to add the writing.

I like the way colored pencil goes over watercolor. I don’t like how long it takes me to do a piece when I decide to add a lot of color with colored pencil. I started this back in the last half of February and only completed it today. It may have taken in total a few days over a month to complete. That is pretty long for me but not unusual when I work in colored pencil. Maybe some day I’ll find an alternative. If not, then I’ll consider it a lesson in patience to have the results I seek.

Another reason it took me so long was because I also started another project. This is one of those art journal pages where it starts out by dumping your brain onto the page first and then creating art over it. This dumping of my brain was about feeling frustrated over not being able to create the life I want or feel I need or deserve in this life. Having worked hard for over 30 years and being laid off, not being able to find a job that pays enough and slowly using up all the funds I had put aside for when I could retire is really, really hard on so many levels. I could probably use up an entire art journal dumping everything I feel inside and covering it up by creating artwork like this over the top of it.

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Sometime I’ll add words to the page, words of encouragement or something. This page went through several steps before it got to this point. The first, as I stated, was dumping my thoughts onto the page. I wrote my thoughts using inktense pencils in various colors. Once I completed dumping it all out onto the page, I used water to activate the intense pencil. While it was still wet I added white acrylic paint so it mixed in with the inktense, then let it dry.

I didn’t write down all the steps I took so at this point it becomes a bit blurry as to the order of what I did. I think I got it right. I took some white tissue paper I had used for gelli printing, tore them into pieces used them for collage on the page. After it dried, I drew the girl on with pencil and used black acrylic paint to add in the shading to create her features. I used various shades of yellow, brown, orange and white to create her hair. For the background, I added several colors of acrylic paint, blending with fingers and/or brush and again let it dry. Using spackle, since I don’t have texture paste, through two different stencils created some nice texture. Then I let it dry thoroughly. Golden fluid acrylic paint mixed with glazing medium applied with a wet brush then wiped or blotted off with a baby wipe created the pink color with the background peeking through. This all had a very matte finish, almost chalky feel to it due to most of the acrylic paint being cheap Craft Smart paint. I put down a layer of gloss medium and varnish and let it dry overnight. One of the reasons I did this was so I could do the next step.

For the final layer I used Faber-Castell PITT artist pens to add color to her eyes and lips and using my finger to blend created some shading around her hair and her body to help pop her a bit off the page as well as give some subtle blending to the shadows.

I chose the circular pattern stencil for the texture in the background in hopes it would give the illusion of her trying to conjure a world of her choosing. I think it works well. In saying this I think I came up with the words I will add later, “Make your life, your own.”

I worked on these two pages off and on, going back and forth between each one when I didn’t know what to do next or needed a break from colored pencils, or something needed time to dry.

I used to think that maybe creating whimsical faces wasn’t for me but I’m rethinking that now. Abstract, whimsical, life like or whatever have their place.  I’m tired of feeling like I’m fighting for every tiny step I take, whether that is in my art, in finding a job, or just doing everyday things in this life. Is it my imagination or does life get exceedingly harder the older you get?

I know doing artwork is supposed to be fun and for the most part I do get lost in it and enjoy it. Both of these pages though had moments which I didn’t enjoy so much. I think this is reflective of my life right now. I’m struggling with things which I think I shouldn’t have to struggle with and not sure why that is. Am I overthinking things? Am I trying to fight against the natural flow or direction I should be going in? When I look in the direction I am headed if I just let go, my anxiety skyrockets. Then I find myself freezing, locking myself in place to try and prevent it, whatever “it” is. But if I don’t move then nothing will happen and what results I foresee could be even worse.

I’m trying to understand this. I wonder why I feel my only hope is for a miracle and what or how did I learn to hope on miracles at all? If you were raised similar to the way I was, where you watched Disney movies and went to church every Sunday, the premise for these are this, a knight in shining armor or a prince will rescue you from your terrible life, or pray and your prayers will be answered. Then we were also taught work hard for what you want and you’ll be able to achieve it. All of these things I learned, relied upon and trusted in were blown into smithereens over the last few years. Granted the knight or prince was a falsehood anyway. Prayers are never answered in the way we would like them to be. But working hard should not be rewarded with being thrown out on the street.

I wanted this blog to be all about my artwork. I wanted to leave the rest of my personal life out of this blog. I’m finding it harder and harder to do that. The reason for that is if I embrace being an artist completely then my work as an artist is comprised of my entire life. Every artist has a period in their life where they struggle not just with their art but with various areas of their life. It is inevitable. Everyone’s struggle is different and appears in their art in different ways. They may never mention it or you may never really understand why their art might pull on your emotional strings but trust that when it does, it is because something they felt ended up in the piece and resonates with you.

My art isn’t just the paintings or drawings I do. My art is also writing. This means I can’t post my artwork without writing about it. Writing about it means exposing my life. So this blog will never be just about the paintings or drawings I create. It is about the life I create and how it bleeds into my writing and into my paintings and drawings.

I am in constant conflict within myself. I’m told we have two hemispheres in our brain and each hemisphere performs a different function. The left, controls the right side of our body and has to do with logic. The right, controls the left side of the our body and has to do with creativity and arts. When I take tests to determine which hemisphere is dominant, the results are almost always equal. If not equal, then the left is dominant but only by a degree or two. There are exercises to help people bring balance between the two hemispheres. I have never done them. I don’t need to. The conflict I feel ends up in a battle between my logical side and my creative side especially if they don’t agree.

There are people who probably can tell when they read what I write that I often use writing to help me resolve the conflict which occurs between my logical and creative sides. Writing about it helps me to slow down, not just so I can allow logic to take over but also so I can focus on how I feel, hopefully recognizing it for what it is trying to tell me. This is why interviews are difficult for me. It isn’t that I can’t think on the fly. It is that my thoughts flow too quickly sometimes too fast to grasp. On top of that, I often see several sides at once and without thorough examination it can be difficult to know which to focus upon.

I love writing. I love using writing and research to help me make decisions. These two together are probably my most valuable asset. If I don’t understand something, I research it. If I don’t have enough details about something, I research it. If I’m conflicted, I write about it. I journal a lot, almost every day.

One of the hardest things I’m coming to grips with right now is how to marry my creativity with my logic. I’ve been told I’m too logical by people who haven’t seen my creativity. When I heard this from people I would think being logical was bad and that I wasn’t creative at all. Over the past few months when considering these two, what seems like opposing forces, logic and creativity, I realized something. Behind the outwardly appearance of being logical there is creativity which helps me to sort through the logic and determine what is the best path or decision to make. Using creativity along with my logic, I’m able to view various elements which others, who only depend upon logic, might not see.

This is why I find joy in almost all forms of artwork whether it is abstract, mandalas, whimsical or life like. I can take the randomness of abstract and in its later stages bring in order from the chaos. In creating mandala, I’m able to start with an orderly progression and incorporate random elements later or not at all. In whimsical, I can add anything from abstract to logical forms and be totally random. Realistic is more of a challenge. I didn’t understand why until I was writing about this right now in my blog. Realism requires the logical side of my brain to be creative, if that is even possible or makes any sense. Logic deems that if I’m drawing a realistic portrait that the eyes have to look as near as possible like the eyes of the person I’m drawing. A shadow has to fall just as I see it on the person or the picture used for reference and so on. My creative side wants my logical side to stop being so precise and just enjoy what I’m doing. If I allow that to happen, I find what I create is far better than if I don’t.

Marrying creativity and logic is possible. It can be a struggle if we fight against it. It can cause us to sabotage whatever we are working towards. I no longer believe that one has to be more dominant than the other, or one has to exist and the other not. We are all creative. We are also all logical. We use logic with creativity and creativity with logic. There really is no separating the two. As much as some people think I’m too logical, they obviously don’t understand the working of my brain. I may present myself logically but it took creativity to get me there.

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

Clues

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:

IMG_1306

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?