Thinking about the life of an artist…

I woke up this morning thinking about the life of an artist and I guess I could easily include the life of a writer in this as well. I consider myself both. I love both writing and creating art. Both journeys are pretty much in a learning phase and I wonder if that will ever change. My thoughts sort of went like this:

The life of an artist isn’t an easy one. Not only because most artists are assailed every moment by their inner critic and can be compounded greatly by their feelings of self-worth but also because artists, at least the artists I’m aware of, have a variety of issues that have nothing to do with art. Some may have mental health issues while others may have physical health issues. If any of these issues are severe enough to prevent an artist from employment then their issues maybe accompanied with financial concerns. But, even if an artist doesn’t have any of these issues, they still have to deal with every day life like the rest of the population who might not consider themselves artists and don’t pursue this creative adventure.

Note: replace artist with writer and these thoughts seem to be equally true for both. If one pursues being both an artist and a writer then there is even more to learn and less time to divide up into each adventure.

I, probably, love writing just as much as I love being an artist. I classify myself as a creative being. I didn’t always do so. I had my first real taste of being an artist during school from eighth grade until twelfth grade, thanks to a wonderful art teacher. Then because of needing to work and earn enough money to live off of I ventured off into the digital world of computers and never looked back until a few years ago. (That statement isn’t exactly true, I had moments of trying to pick up a pencil to draw but my inner critic always won and I would put the pencil back down and not try again for years.)

The one thing I never stopped doing was writing because our whole society and workforce requires it. For my personal life I would keep a handwritten journal or as they called it back then, a diary. I, however, was not consistent at it. Usually it would reappear in times of strife. If I really think about it, I never really stopped being creative. I might not have picked up a pencil much to draw but I did do other things, like learning to crochet which my mother started when I asked one day while I watched her crochet. I then took that further and taught myself how to knit since my mother didn’t know how. Knitting and crocheting have been a part of my life ever since with periods of abstinence.

Over the years I ventured into several avenues of creative categories. I tried polymer clay, making my own beads which were then made into jewelry. This took me into taking a jewelry repair class which I absolutely excelled at but never had the money to pursue. The equipment and supplies were just too costly plus no landlord would ever allow the combustible products on the property. Since I have, until recently, only rented the places we lived this wasn’t a viable option for me to pursue. It is still true today since I live in a townhouse complex under strata management. Besides I will not risk other people’s homes. I never checked but I’m sure the homeowners insurance would be rather costly if it included a jewelry repair workshop.

I also ventured into pottery. I learned slab and throwing skills for creating beautiful things out of clay. This is something else I fell completely in love with but when I moved away from the city where I lived, any new place I moved to didn’t seem to have the same opportunities at such a financially feasible cost. I miss it. Again having the equipment in the places where I live just isn’t possible and are quite costly and working with polymer clay just isn’t the same. I really love raku which involves flame/extreme heat which isn’t something you ask a landlord or strata council to approve.

I have always had a secret dream of owning my own home that isn’t under strata management, has a yard and not attached to another person’s home. If the yard was large enough and I had the funds, I have no doubt I would create a massive studio where I could pursue jewelry making and repair, as well as, pottery, and have a portion of it for my art. When I say my art, that can be anything from mixed media, watercolors, oil, graphite, charcoal, pencils, pens and inks of a mixed variety. I want my comfort too so I would need a comfortable sitting area and a screen for watching videos and sound system for listening to music. I have no doubt other artists have similar dreams. And because I LOVE books my home would contain a library.

The dilemma we artist’s face is often financial. Unless one is already well off financially that is. As you can see, after reading my secret dream and what I have learned along the way in my journey, being an artist doesn’t come cheaply. Though it can. Our, or at least mine, doesn’t except when I am forced into such a situation.

Learning to be an artist on a strict budget has been a challenge but not as big a challenge as I had first believed.  When I was laid off of a rather well paying job, and not earning any income for a year and half, now finding myself earning only minimum wage in a part time position, I have had to find ways to manage my creative life on a very small budget. Not having so much time to work in the love of my life, helps. It has greatly reduced the consumption of my art supplies. I can write as often as I like on my computer. It only takes up digital space so as long as I have enough hard drive space, I can write until my heart is content. Art supplies, can come cheap, but my artist has expensive tastes and loves the not so cheap art supplies, so those get purchased only when there is room in the budget which isn’t often.

The same goes for art courses. Like several of my artist acquaintances I have discovered I love to collect art classes so at any time when the urge hits, I can sit down and follow along on a class. Following along on a class means I don’t have to come up with my own idea. There are times I need that period of mindlessness to just do something creative, even if it isn’t from my own imagination.

Creating something from my own imagination can be quite difficult at times. That is a topic of another discussion but yes, it is part of an artist’s life which should be mentioned. I don’t think there is an artist out there who hasn’t faced their own issues with trying to create their own piece of art solely from their own imagination and not come up against a wall of doubt and sometimes a complete vacancy of ideas in the mind reflecting the completely blank canvas before them. The more the blank canvas is looked upon the blanker the imagination becomes. Breaking through is hard because it involves letting go and trusting one’s own instincts or intuition. Sometimes, especially in the learning stages of one’s journey, this doesn’t come easy and sometimes we don’t hear the intuitive thoughts at all.

I want to write, “now, back to the life of an artist not being easy” but I never left that topic, though it might seem as though I went off on a tangent, I haven’t really. Being an artist doesn’t necessarily mean you are a painter. I have touched upon a few other mediums artists can work in, there are other’s like wood, metal, textiles and so on. Artists can work in anything, even food, as long as one creates, they are an artist. When you consider it in that way, I don’t know of a single person who isn’t an artist or a creative. After all, we all are responsible for building/creating our own lives. There are just some people who feel the need to take that creativity further into a medium of their choice to create something which physically represents their state of being at the time they created it.

I might find people who disagree with me on the last statement. I would imagine some artists would say their creations don’t represent their state of being. I believe everyone is allowed their own opinion and if this is what they believe then I support them. I used to think this as well about my own creations but have since seen my own reality within those things I create. Sometimes that is difficult to admit, especially when what I created isn’t something I like. Generally if that is the case it is because I’m either not in a good place or I am trying to force it to be something I am not at the time. This is the part of the artist in me which isn’t easy to face. It also isn’t easy to write about. But if I am to be authentic and write about the life of an artist, then I need to include this as well.

Like any piece of art an artist creates, our journey goes through an ugly stage. We don’t often want to admit it. We often don’t want to look back and remember it either. But those ugly stages are when we have learned some very important things about ourselves and our abilities. If we give up during the ugly stage, then often it is because we don’t think we have the ability to make what appears ugly, beautiful. We also can’t look at it and see the beauty that lies within it. I’m not talking just about art. I’m also talking about life.

I think we have all heard a saying that goes something like this “we have the ability to make our lives anything we want it to be” or “our life is what we make of it”. Make means we create it. It also means we can destroy it. It can really be whatever we want ‘it’ to be but we first need to recognize the overall authority we have. Plus, we also need to recognize where we are in our skill level set. Don’t expect a masterpiece if you are only just beginning your journey. While at the same time, if you have perfected several skills don’t aspire to do something at the beginner level. This journey is about learning to create and learning is about improving your knowledge and skill. A journey is about movement not stagnation. Through each level, there will be ugly stages as we learn and perfect new skills.

I’ve been the worst at being hard on myself. Sometimes in my journey I have gone back to being a child and acting as a child or creating as a child. There isn’t anything wrong in doing so. Sometime we have to revisit old skill sets and mind sets in order to remember why we have left them behind. The journey of an artist is such a one and therefore will always be a difficult journey, a life that isn’t easy, because we choose to express ourselves outwardly by creating something that represents where we are in our journey, while others keep as much as possible internal. Those who also choose to put their artist works out in the world for others to witness also put themselves at risk. It is difficult enough to listen to our own internal doubts and self-flagellation all we can think of is that is what we will receive in return when we put our work on display. Sometimes that is true but more often it is not, or at least I hope it isn’t for all artists.

Artists don’t just have to face the battles of every day life, they have to face their inner battles over their work, not just to create it but also whether to let others see it, and if they do then to face their own inner demons again in making it public, then possibly again when someone chooses to say something unkind about their work. Artists take such comments to heart because their artwork is a reflection of them which is something not everyone understands.

It takes a brave person to live the life of an artist and an even braver one to put their work on display. I, however, think the world is a better place because of these brave souls.

This is always in the back of my mind whenever I display my own work. I don’t necessarily feel very brave, though some have said I am and also brave in writing about my art journey. I watched a movie recently titled “The Circle”. It deals with transparency. This is a very controversial topic which the movie does an excellent job in bringing out. Transparency is how I like to be in regards to my art and my journey as an artist. If what I write about can help an artist to have the courage to either be an artist or even show their artwork, then my time and work in writing about my art journey is worth it.

Since my last post, I worked on a few things. I worked more on the abstract flower page. I think I have reached the point where I am done working on it. Yes, more could be done with it but it is has served its purpose. It has helped me learn more of what works for me and what doesn’t. Plus I’m learning my own style of abstract flowers.

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I then watched week 30’s videos for Life Book 2017 and chose to do the bonus lesson titled “Practicing Radical Acceptance” with Samie Harding. I’m not usually into this type of art but in the end, I enjoyed it and like how it turned out. It might be something I do more of and would be in my private journal if I do. This class was more about learning to accept things in life even if you don’t agree with it so it can bring out a lot of emotions which some would want to keep private.

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Sometimes when I work on a class, I don’t realize the emotions that are brought up. When this happens, I usually feel the need to work on something that can center me and is something within my comfort zone. Working with mandalas and tangles do that for me. When I find myself resistant to doing another class or a harder piece of art is when I realize I need that comfort zone for a bit before moving on. So the next thing I worked on which took several days is this one:

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Abstract art which feels comfortable to me generally includes geometric shapes. This one started out with using a compass to draw circles of varying sizes and overlapping. Once I had the circles in place, then I proceeded to either make smaller circles within them or add in lines to divide the circles into parts like a pie and to connect the circles. Then it just took adding a few more lines to create a tangle I wanted or adding tangle patterns in the smaller circles. For the largest circle I altered the smaller circles so they became a spiral, then created the pattern.

This was a fun and soothing project. I was glad to have it to work on over several days while I worked my various hours at my job. I could work on it before I went to work or after I came home. It helped me to wind down after work and relax and I could work on it while streaming Netflix. I had discontinued our cable service as one of the things to cut back on expenses after being laid off of work. I am surprised how little I miss it. Netflix and CraveTV are our solutions to no more cable TV. I consider this part of the artist’s life because I choose to spend my money on art supplies instead of cable TV. Streaming programs I love while working on art then becomes my zen zone.

My final step in this one was to add some shading. I like this piece. I especially like the bolder lines and the stippling I did in the spiral. I am also understanding more of how repeating a pattern can improve the appearance of the overall piece. I often found myself questioning my first choices, or my intuitive thoughts. I have learned when those intuitive thoughts persist to just go with them. It is easier than trying to resist them. As I do this more and more, following my first intuitive thought is becoming easier so I find myself resisting less and less.

After writing all of this, a question just appeared in my mind, “What is my goal as an artist?” It wouldn’t be what many might think it is. It isn’t to sell my art, though at one time I thought maybe I would and I might still but that isn’t my goal. My goal is to create a harmonious life. That might sound strange to some but for me it makes perfect sense. I find peace, joy and contentment when I do something creative. This means as an artist I experience these things even with things I don’t like. I might find angst as something I also feel when something doesn’t turn out the way I like it but I’ve learned for even those things I don’t like, there is also contentment, joy and peace because I learn from them more than I probably learn for those things I do well and love.

When I wasn’t doing my art, my life wasn’t very harmonious. Facing difficult times was even harder. And my inner landscape felt like I had abandoned part of it. Now, as long as I’m doing something creative, my inner landscape feels whole. Don’t confuse whole with finished or complete. There will always be room for improvement and growth but at least now I feel like I’m working with the whole plant including its root and not just with pruning it’s branches.

 

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Whoo Hooo…..

I’m finally back to exploring some art classes and using my paints. I feel like I’ve been separated from my paints for too long. It has, however, been a good break. I was able to explore using inks in Inktober so that was good.

I haven’t gotten much further with my last ink drawing. Here is my progress so far:

IMG_1194This one is taking a while which I don’t mind. I would rather take my time than rush through something and be unhappy with the results. That isn’t to say I’ll be happy with the results when I take my time but at least I know I will have given it my full attention. There is nothing worse than completing a project and knowing I could have done better if I hadn’t rushed through it.

This journal first started out to be just about my art with sketches or pictures of art I’ve done and writing about them. However, as life will be life, I often find myself including other things about my day in the handwritten part of this journal so, I decided as part of my art journal I would add in calendars. In the calendars I am including my work schedule and appointments, holidays and so forth which, in and of itself, is a sort of record keeping journal that can help explain my absence from creativity and handwriting in my journal.

I guess you could say it is a limited take on the bullet journal concept except I’m not tracking any bullet items. I tried that for almost a year and found it was too repetitive and too time consuming. It just took too much time away from the actual art I wanted to do. I suspect in time, this journal will start to include rough sketches of concepts I come up with which happens all too often and more often than not, get lost because I don’t put them down anywhere to be discovered later.

IMG_1182While working on the above ink drawing I was drawn towards a desire to use my paints. This is the result. The colors didn’t come out the way I had hoped they would, however, it did make me realize Christmas themes in the stores maybe having a subtle influence on me. I think its influence shows up in my color and shape choices. The center looks very much like a poinsettia, at least to me.

I knew I wanted some writing on this one but didn’t know what. A phrase came to mind just before bed so I wrote it down. It wasn’t until I was trying to figure out how to incorporate it into the page that I realized one letter would fit into each of the shapes. This was not planned. I love how this happens. I love when things just fall into place as if it had been painstakingly planned. It happens more often than anyone would think it would.

Because of my angst with the background and colors not working out the way I had hoped, I turned towards Life Book 2017, Week 29. I had recently watched the videos for week 29 so I went back to them to try out her technique for backgrounds. I had planned on doing the whole class but ended up with this page as a result. This girl insisted in being created upon this page after I had created the background using the technique from the class.

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I first painted the background using pink and yellow. Once it was dry, using graphite pencil, I drew her face. When I had much of her face drawn in, I used white paint to fill in her face. I could still see some of the drawing underneath the white pain. I then when back over it with graphite pencil once the paint was thoroughly dry. Most of what you see here for her face is all graphite over white paint. I added a bit of color to her eyes and lips and only used black ink in the darker areas of her face where I needed deeper shading. Her headdress was done over the pink and yellow background and is mostly done in ink, and Prisma Premier colored pencils, with some white paint for highlights. Oh yes, and some what paint for highlights in her face and eyes.

I know a lot of the issues I have with faces is because I sit with my art pad/paper on my lap and tilted at an angle. This throws off the lines I draw for proportions and trying to get things straight. I don’t see it until I take a photograph. I did in fact do some adjustments on her before I did anything that was permanent but she is still a bit off kilter. I’m okay with that. The more I draw faces, the more I will improve and find ways to catch these things before I get too far and it is too hard to change it. I still love her and think she is beautiful.

I started to go on to Week 30 in the Life Book classes and actually watched the videos but then decided I hadn’t really done the lesson for Week 29. Not in the way it was meant to be done. I decided to go back and do it for real this time. The lesson is called “The Story Within”. The artist is France Papillon. Her lesson is more about creating an abstract image of your story, whatever that might be at the time you sit down to create an art journal page. This is what I created when I really focused on what I learned from her instruction:

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The outer dark border was done digitally using Photoshop Elements 10. My page wasn’t dry enough yet to ink the outer edge so I did it digitally for the purpose of this post. I found myself surprised by how much I enjoyed the process of creating this page. When it was complete, I realized it very much represents where I am right now within my inner self and how I am connected to my past selves.

I often wonder whether I will remember what inspired me when I created a particular art journal page. This is why I started writing about what I create. This one in particular I want to remember so I wrote extensively about what it means to me. I keep two journals. One is handwritten and the other is digital. For about a year or so I was having wrist pain which limited my ability to keep a handwritten journal, therefore, to do the kind of writing I need to do, I started keeping a digital journal as well. Then I guess you could also include my blog as another type of journal. I still limit my handwriting because it can aggravate my wrist, so most of my journaling is done digitally. I miss doing it by hand though.

I am thrilled to be back using my paints again and mixing it up a bit with other art supplies. Adding texture and actual objects to my last page was more enjoyable than I had expected it to be. After thinking about it, I understand why. The objects have special meaning that brings the whole piece together. Before this, whenever I was following a class or trying to incorporate techniques of adding embellishments or found objects into something I was creating, there was no symbolism behind it. It was just something I added for no particular reason. With this page, each object, each splatter, each color was chosen to represent something meaningful to me while at the same time I was also trying some things out to see what would happen, and joyfully finding out, in all cases, what did happen, fit very well with what I was trying to create.

This is something I want to incorporate into my art practice every single day. I want what I create to have meaning to me. Up until now, if I sat down to draw a face, it was to just draw a face. If I sat down to draw a mandala, it was to just draw a mandala. If they came out good enough for me to be happy with what I did, then all the better but there was something missing. Each time I sat down to create something, I felt myself searching, trying to find something more, something to connect with. France Papillon’s class may have just helped me to figure out what that something is. Only time will tell if this is something that will stick with me.

That doesn’t mean I’ll be doing abstract art all the time. It just means, when I sit down to create, it will be with a different purpose in mind. It will be to find that story within, which needs to be told.

A Logical Analytical Artist

After my previous post, I was led to check out a couple Facebook groups I have been a member of over the past year. I am sorry to admit that I haven’t paid much attention to them over the year. I needed to revisit them to try and understand why.

One group I revisited is called “My Year 2017”. It is run by a lovely group of ladies who provide art videos every month. I believe they are based off of the monthly prompt they provide. The videos are meant to help give people different ideas of what they can create artistically from being inspired by the prompt. After reviewing the group again, and working on November’s prompt, at first I thought it would be up my alley, but after doing it I realized that isn’t the case.

First, let me explain that November’s prompt in the way Gina explained her approach, the words she picked and how they connected for her helped to give me some hope. For the past few weeks I’ve been contemplating my purpose in life. I knew this would come at some point because of my new job and would make me question my choices. For the past few weeks I’ve been feeling like I have no purpose and I have just been biding my time here until the next phase in whatever may come. Gina’s video and the five words she chose were very meaningful to me and helped give me hope that I will find a new purpose in this life.

You can find Gina’s video here.  I won’t post what I created or give the prompt or description of what she created because I don’t want to take that away from her. She worked hard on the video and I believe it is worth viewing if you are interested. The reason I mention it here is to try and give you some insight into the way my brain works. I am vain enough to think someone might be interested in the workings of my brain. lol Besides I just copied what she created because I wanted to have it to remind me of what I learned from her.

Let me explain something else, following art instruction videos takes the pressure off of trying to come up with my own idea for what to create. For a very logical and analytical mind, this process gives my brain a time to stop all its analytical mumbo jumbo and just do what someone is instructing me to do. I don’t have to think of what will work or not work together or how I need to prep something so what I want to do next will work. It takes the pressure off. For my learning mind this is great because I get to experience without having to think much about it and most times I end up with something I’m very pleased with.

Now… if you don’t have an analytical mind like me then you might not understand just how wonderful it is for me to take an art class like the ones I have been taking this past year. This past year which is actually coming up on two years in January, has been a time of great mental strain. My brain has been analyzing, over analyzing, painstakingly logical in trying to find solutions for me that would create the ultimate solution for the situation I found myself within. I had to find something that would be a safe haven for me and allow my brain to just STOP. To just LET GO. This is what the art courses this past year have been about, as well as, the wonderful part of also learning and experiencing different techniques and supplies.

Now… think about what it means to try and create something from a prompt, whether it is a one word prompt or a quote or something in which the artist is to dig in deep to try and discover what meaning or relevance it has in their lives. This was too much for me. I was already analyzing every single thing in my life, so trying to take a simple word and do what I’ve been doing every minute of every single day for a year, well, it wasn’t going to happen. Not when art for me was supposed to be a place of refuge, a place that brought my mind and my heart peace.

So when I first thought “My Year 2017” was going to be something I would enjoy, instead, it turned out to be something I avoided. When I reviewed the group a couple days ago, and though I found November’s prompt had meaning for me, I realized, it wasn’t the prompt as much as it was Gina’s message in her video in regards to how she approached it, the words she chose and her explanation of how the words connected for her, that had meaning for me. I accepted this but also knew it was a message to not avoid the videos. When I have time I will view the videos provided by this group to see what message they may provide for me. Who knows maybe when my mind has had enough rest, it will work on a prompt or two.

One of the ladies from “My Year 2017” group also does a Pick 10 challenge. The Pick 10 challenge is about picking 10 prompts and using them to create an art journal page. This is different from the prompt I mentioned earlier. These prompts are either art supplies, or art techniques or simple instructions, like use the color red. You do the prompts in the order they are drawn. These are the types of prompts I can get into right now because you don’t have to think about it. When you first see the prompt you go with what first pops into you head and just do it. The fun part is seeing what happens. Here is a picture of what I created from November’s Pick 10, you can see the video here, of what Cindy created. I used the same prompts she pulled for November. I just added the words which wasn’t a prompt just something I felt drawn to do after the page was completely dry. I also added some white highlights which wasn’t a prompt either. I needed the white to help bring the words out more and some of the elements.

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When I work on faces or try and create my own art journal page, for me, it takes a lot of thought, mostly because I haven’t been doing this long enough to give over completely to my intuition. This is why, for now, art classes are so important to me.

The past week was physically draining on me. I worked seven days in a row, most days were only four or five hour shifts, with the last day being an eight hour shift. I was exhausted by the end and was glad I had three days off to recover. Each day when I was home trying to rest my feet and body, I would work on something, usually I like working on mandalas. However, I’ve been challenging myself to try and go beyond mandalas and try my hand at abstract floral art.  My previous post shows one I completed recently. This is the one I started next and is a work in progress.

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I’m still rather basic in the layout for this type of work. I find it very difficult to figure out how to do overlapping elements. This is why I’m challenging myself with this type of art. For years I allowed myself to be held back by my lack of confidence in my ability to create what I want. Faces was one of these things I didn’t have much confidence in being able to do. I let that stop me for years from doing anything art related so now when I find something that makes me feel like I can’t do it, I now want to challenge that mentality and break through whenever possible. Here is an example of doing just that:

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This piece was created from Week 28 of Life Book 2017. Yes, week 28, I just finished it today. It is a bonus lesson given by Jamie Dougherty. I avoided this lesson for months and I let myself think I was doing so because of all the stuff going on in my life. Indeed, part of the reason was that but another part of it was because it challenged me. The class was about facing your negative thoughts about yourself and incorporating it in a fascinating way by using ash and mixing it into the portrait. I won’t give any more details than that because it would give too much away about the lesson. The lesson is called “From the Ashes”.

What held me back was facing my negative thoughts. Oh, I know I have them, but it is very different to know you have them than it is to purposefully focus on them. This was daunting but once I got started I wanted to see it through. I like how she turned out.

I don’t exactly call this a block when I avoid doing a lesson or something I find difficult to face. I’ve heard other artists asking how other artists deal with this type of situation and ask how they get through it. A good many of those answering tend to say just barrel through it. One person actually said she sits down in front of a page and just sits with her feelings. She might sit there for a few minutes or an hour or whatever it takes before she is ready to start working on it.

That isn’t how I approach it.

In fact, whether it is my art, or something I need to do in life, I approach it the same way. If when I think I need to so something, whether it is a lesson, a task, or even something like renewing my passport, IF, at the time I’m thinking about doing it, IF, I feel a strong compulsion to NOT do it, then I DON’T. I will revisit it after a period of time and if the feeling is still there, then I wait and revisit it again and again and again until that compulsion to NOT do it is no longer there. I wait until I feel a strong compulsion to DO IT. When that happens then I know the time is right.

I know, I know, there is the risk of this approach creating serious issues. Let’s say this happens when I know my passport is about to expire, this could cause me problems with other things in my life if I don’t do what needs to be done. I could possibly miss out on a trip I wanted to take. So you might think this approach could end up very bad for me in some situations, BUT, I’m here to tell you it has never caused me a problem. IN FACT, it has saved me in more situations than I can count and in more ways than I can ever tell you.

In the past, I have tried to push through the strong compulsions I feel and go ahead and do what I felt needed to be done regardless of how strong I felt about not doing it. This either ended up with me in a very stressful situation, where I was overwhelmed and battling situations that would not have happened if I had waited, or I ended up frustrated because of roadblocks, unbelievable roadblocks were thrown in the way. In some cases it has helped me avoid situations I didn’t want any part of.

Take my art for example, if the next class up in the schedule of classes is one I feel strongly compelled to not do and I try and push my way through it, I very often regret it. I regret it because I become frustrated over it and what I’m trying to do doesn’t work out the way I want it to because I’m frustrated and trying to force something that should otherwise have been enjoyable in the doing of it. I have learned it is better to wait out the feelings and then do the class when I have felt that compulsion switch from not doing it to doing it. I then have a much more pleasant experience with the class and working with the products.

This same thing happens in other things in my life if I follow those feelings. I consider this following my intuition regardless of how illogical it may seem. For me, it is quite logical.

Maybe this will help explain my mind to those who understand and are a bit logical in their own thinking. In most of the courses I’ve been taking this year, there is only one which should be done in the order specified. All the others can be done in a random order. Even so, my mind is one that really wants to do things in the order they are given. This benefits me in so many ways even when it isn’t necessary to do it that way. I know I don’t have to do them in order, but even so, I have not jumped ahead in any of the courses. When I try, it feels wrong. Learning to follow my intuition is about following what feels right.

So there you have it, my mind in a nutshell, so to speak. Take me down the path step-by-step in a logical linear fashion and I’m fine. Take me down a path that jumps from thither and yon and then back again and though I have a wonderful sense of direction, it will feel all wrong. Maybe that is why I find mandalas so easy to draw and the abstract floral drawings such a challenge.

 

Christmas wish list for my art journey…

We all have our wish lists for Christmas including me. My one true wish is to receive a million dollars but we all know the chances of that happening, so here is a more realistic wish list in order of importance:
 
 
All of these have early bird pricing, a couple only until December 1st, and 4th and the other until the 31st. I wish I could get all of them at their discounted prices but alas my current financial situation won’t permit it. Hopefully, I’ll be able to save over the next few months and buy them as my finances allow, at some point, in 2018 before they are no longer available. I have been learning so much from Life Book 2017 this year and Book of Days 2017. I would have loved to have continued Book of Days 2018 but I had to cut costs somewhere.
 
I’m grateful for the job I have which allows me to pay my bills, unfortunately it doesn’t allow for much else so my art journey as far as buying art courses goes has come to a screeching halt. It doesn’t mean I’ll stop creating. It means I’ll have to find free sources to bring art education to my life.

I have been lucky to be part of the art courses I have this year, actually winning a seat in Ever After 2017 was wonderful. I am just sad to learn these and other courses I cherish which continue next year may not be part of my art education resources.

On to more exciting things. I continued watching the Project Pack #1 videos and practicing some of the tangles and techniques in shading. Here are my results. I love the star pattern on November 14th! This one just came out gorgeous.

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I learned a lot on the next pattern on how to create a 3D effect and how a simple black line can make such a huge difference was a wonderful surprise.

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I have drawn paradox quite a few times. This was my first time on black paper with white pen so I played around with two designs, shading them in different ways. I am thrilled with them both and hope to use the shading technique on other projects.

I have included this one again because I made some additions to it.

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Adding the little sprigs that look like evergreen just set this pattern off. Adding an element so different from the other elements makes them stand out more. At this time I think I’m done with this page. I’ve moved on to working on another page to see if I can change this up a bit. It may make an appearance in my next blog post but I won’t promise anything. I have other pressing matters I need to attend to which I hope I have planned sufficiently to get them underway.

 

Journaling and art practice…

I enjoy working in this particular journal because one side of the page is blank for drawing while the other side of the page has lines for writing. Most of my journaling these days is done in a word document on my computer due to my wrist pain but occasionally I like to do some handwritten journaling which makes this journal perfect for doing just that along with practicing my art.

I generally write about my art but sometimes some personal elements creep in which is why I won’t show the handwritten side of the page in this blog. I have only recently decided to treat my handwriting more as art than writing to try and add some artistic elements to the written side of the page. I’m using some very poor pens which is frustrating. I wanted to use them up but will probably end up throwing them away before the ink is all used. They were cheap so it won’t be a huge waste, just a disappointment. I dislike throwing away something before it is completely used up.

 
I can also adhere some small individual pieces I’ve been creating to practice some tangle patterns and white on black technique. Black and white and white and black has been a secret love of mine since art class in school when our teacher had us take black construction paper and white chalk to create a portrait of a classmate. Sometimes I wish I still had my art from school but alas that isn’t the case.

These black and white tangles are part of the Project Pack #1 series of videos on YouTube, you can find them here. I started doing this a couple days ago and have done about two a day. I’m not buying the Zentangle package you can purchase to go with the Project Pack videos so I don’t have all the supplies they mention. I am using what I have. For the black paper I am using 8 1/2″ x 11″ 65lb card stock cut into four pieces, then I round the corners with my corner punch. I have a Sakura white gelly roll 08, white charcoal pencil and a tortillion. Sometimes a graphite pencil is used to add some shading like in the first spiral.

The white on black is a lot of fun and I wanted to keep what I’m doing so I used double sided tape to adhere them into my journal. This might cause me some issues with drawing on the following pages but I’m sure I’ll find a solution around that, possibly putting a layer of a couple papers between the pages will be enough to resolve any texture issues.

I need to talk about this page:

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This is my pride and joy the past couple of days as I watched it develop. I have tried, unsuccessfully to create a drawing of flower bunches or a sort of abstract garden. I found it quite frustrating to try and find ways to incorporate different designs into one piece and make it look cohesive. I finally had an idea of trying to think of it as a mandala, by creating one central flower, then branching out from it adding different elements. This seems to be the solution I was looking for.

I am now able to visualize how I can do this on a larger scale by creating three or four main focal images and working out from each of them. It might become a challenge when the designs meet at some point but I’m sure it will work itself out.

This piece is still a work in progress. Even so, I am thrilled with how it looks now and would be perfectly happy if this is all the further I took it. I will mention when I first started drawing it, I was less than pleased. It looked rather ‘blah’. The central part of the main flower didn’t seem to work for me even after the first initial inking of the basic design. I was sure this would end up in a rather ‘blah’ final piece.

Then something happened. I kept going because I remembered how ‘blah’ some of my drawings for Inktober looked until I added in some bolder lines and shading elements, so I persevered. When I added in the stippling to the center of the main flower, everything started coming together. The bolder lines, the checkerboard pattern, then the lines in the petals of the flowers, one after the other brought more depth and dimension to the piece. This thrilled me to no end.

I’m not done with it yet. I will, most likely, add more to it. Not sure what at this time though I do want to experiment with different elements of different shapes. Even if I do something that doesn’t quite fit, I know it will be okay because it will be something I will learn from.

This mandala is something I started working on towards the end of the journal spread from my previous post. I find after working on something so challenging I need something to help me relax or center myself again. Mandalas seem to help me do that.

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I don’t work each mandala the same. Sometimes I approach each one quite differently. After putting in my grid and guidelines, the guidelines being the major shapes within the mandala, I ended up working from a variety of locations. Usually, I work from the inside to the outside and on rare occasions from the outside to the inside. This one just seems to call to be from a variety of locations.

Sometimes, I look at this one and feel it is complete and at other times when I look at the details, it feels like there is a lack of detail and incomplete. I may come back at a later time and add to it but my focus right now is on my flower page above. I don’t always feel like I have to finish something I create and that is okay.

One of these days I’ll get the nerve up to create on a much larger scale. I feel pulled towards creating one of my mandalas on a wall in my house. It is frightening to think about it because no two mandalas are ever alike. I can try to recreate one of my own but it is never identical, which is scary when considering creating one on a permanent space like a wall. Yes, I can paint over it if i don’t like it but to be honest, I’ve never painted walls in my home so just the thought of needing to do so is also a bit scary. I think I’ll work my way up to it by just going to larger and larger paper, and then canvas. Maybe I’ll just save up to buy a large canvas which I can then hang on my wall.

 

Art Journal spread completed

I’ve been working on my art journal spread which I spoke about in my previous post.  This is the progress of my page at the end of that post, you can read about it here.

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My next step was to consider background and hair. I wanted to use watercolor paints and my attempts were less than satisfactory. It ended up too bright in a dark sort of way which meant the white or black pen I wanted to use to draw in her hair didn’t work. It became rather invisible.

To try and fix the situation, I decided to use white acrylic paint with a fairly wet brush. This meant the watercolor would then mix with the white paint creating a soft pastel background. Once dry, my black Sakura gelly roll pen then showed up nicely.  I often had issues with the pen skipping which at first I worked hard to try and avoid. Eventually gave up when I realized I liked the effect it had with the pattern in the hair.

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Once I completed the hair with the black pen, I realized I wanted more color in the hair so I went back to my watercolor paints. I applied a small amount of the dark purple to the areas I felt would be shaded or darker, then using a wet brush I blended the color out to give a gradient appearance.  I added more color, some pinkish purple, and a bluish color (sorry don’t know the names, they are colors in the Prang watercolor set of 16 colors) around the darker purple leaving some areas white for highlights. I really loved how this turned out.

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I learned about Prang watercolors from Barb Owen. Since I have a very tight budget I decided to give them a try. I didn’t originally use the Prang set when I started the background with watercolors. I decided to try a Daler Rowney watercolor set I had gotten a while back that were in tubes of 24. I bought a palette so I could squeeze some of the paint out to dry and then see how well they worked. I have to say I was disappointed in the Daler Rowney. In  fact, so disappoint, I switched to using the Prang set when my first attempt at using watercolor (Daler Rowney) failed.

It may be I just need to practice with the Daler Rowney set to get the hang of them but Prang is so vibrant it was difficult to switch to using Daler Rowney. The rest of the page when I say I use watercolor, I am using Prang watercolor.

For the opposite page, I first wanted flowers and tried more watercolors but it was an immediate fail. I am sure the fail was because of trying to use watercolor over acrylic paint without applying a watercolor ground first, so I went over it again with white acrylic paint. Before the acrylic paint was completely dry I added another layer with a wash of watercolor which mixed with the white acrylic paint. I dabbed at it occasionally with a paper towel. Below is the result.

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You might wonder why I added the watercolor paint to the acrylic paint. First, the addition of more white acrylic paint meant what color had been in the background had disappeared even more and I wanted more color. Second, I wanted to see what would happen. My Prang set is almost used up so I wasn’t worried if some acrylic paint ended up in the watercolor paint. I became rather sloppy in my application but it was FUN!

I really liked the result and was trying to decide what else I wanted to do. I was still thinking about flowers when I saw a blog about an interesting technique. You can see the blog post here.

I tried a few things differently since I was working on top of acrylic paint. I eventually found what worked.  The biggest obstacle was in trying to figure out what pens or paint pens to use. I used Sakura gelly roll black pen for the initial drawing of the circles and lines. I tried using Faber-Castell markers, alcohol markers, and Permapaque markers but didn’t like any of them. Plus I was afraid of drying up the tips of the pens. Eventually, I decided to use a small paint brush and white acrylic paint to color the straight lines, to make them stand out more from the background. Then I used a Sharpe oil based paint pen for filling in the circles with black.

Once it was dry, I tried using charcoal to try and create the translucent effect but because the acrylic paint didn’t have enough tooth, it wiped right back off. My hands were covered in the charcoal more than the page. I wiped off the charcoal by just lightly wiping my hand across the page. What was left on the page, I left alone. I resorted to using graphite by rubbing the graphite onto the tip of a blending stump and then rubbing it on the page. I only covered the areas outside of the circles with the graphite.

My last step was to use darker shading of graphite around the circles and where the lines overlapped other lines to try and give it a 3D effect. To fix the graphite I sprayed the spread with workable fixative. I used workable fixative in case I wanted to add anything else to the page.

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I may actually journal on the page by using either a white pen in the black circles or a black pen in the white lines. It would make an interesting journal page.

So far she is my favorite. She posed interesting challenges for me and I found I could do what people have been saying  which is if you don’t like it you can always paint over it.

I lost track of time while doing this art journal spread. I worked on it over several days. I know I started her before October ended but exactly what day, I’m not sure. I generally don’t spread something out this long, however with work, and #inktober going on when I started her I wanted to see if I could work on her in small doses. Instead of drying her with my heat gun between layers, I put her aside and let her dry naturally, usually over night. I only worked on her in October after I did my inktober drawing and if I had some time to spare.

When #Inktober was over, she became my main focus and is all I worked on until she was finished. I finished her yesterday other than the writing I may add later. I think her hair is my favorite part of her, that is, if I had to choose a particular technique from this art journal page. Otherwise, I love her in her completeness for what she represents of my art journey.

Note to self: I had to be careful of not drying out the tip of the markers I used. I am hoping I didn’t ruin any of them. They all still functioned after I used them and in some cases not as well as when I had started with them.

I need to learn ways of layering and using products that will help lock in a layer and give me a better surface for using other products on, hopefully reducing the chance of ruining a product. I considered using clear gesso, or matte medium but in the end didn’t use either. In some areas when I went back to go over the black gel pen lines on the lines due to the white acrylic paint covering some of them up, my pen would cause some of the paint to come up. I think the clear gesso or matte medium would have prevented this but I wasn’t sure how well my pen would work over top of either product. I do have an Art Techniques and Test journal (my Effy Grimoire version) which showed either of the products would have been a good choice, but I didn’t refer to it when working on this spread. I just went with my gut instinct.

One of the reasons I didn’t refer to my Art Techniques and Test journal is because I didn’t test what would happen if I applied clear gesso or matte medium over top of gel pen or some of the other pens I had applied to the page. I was afraid of, in particular, the gel pen smearing. Effy Wild addresses some of this in a couple of her lessons which I need to go back and make some notes about but I also need to add to my grimoire by testing what happens when particular products are applied over top of different pens.

Another reason I didn’t refer to my Art Techniques and Test journal is because I wanted to just experiment on the page. I wanted to find out if I could fix my own mistakes or work from just pure instinct. I think I was successful on both accounts.

The other things I learned:

  • when in doubt check my Art Techniques and Test journal
  • when it isn’t in my Art Techniques and Test journal, then add it
  • let myself experiment on my art journal page
  • let myself fail

I am not at all disappointed in this art journal spread. In fact, I love it. When I compare it to my previous art journal page in this book which was created from one of Effy Wild’s BOD2017 lessons, I can see so much improvement.

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The difference between this art journal page and the one I just created is, this one was done by following a lesson. The one at the start of this article was done completely from my own imagination. The Effy lesson one was done around June 2017, so there is only about 4 months separating the two.

There are so many factors that separate these two pages. I think I’m more invested in pages I design and create on my own than I am when I’m doing one from a lesson. I don’t really consider something I have done from an art lesson as my own work. Therefore, I think I work harder on trying to do a good job on my own designs. Inktober, dare I say Inktober has been a powerful influence for me this year and I think it shows in this spread.

There is something here I cannot ignore. Following a lesson is wonderful for helping me to gain confidence in my ability to do something someone else is demonstrating. What it doesn’t do is give me confidence in my ability to create something completely on my own. Inktober is a demonstration of that this year.

In the page from Effy’s lesson I can’t even begin to tell you how I did it, but in the page I created all on my own, I can visualize almost every single step I took and the issues I ran into. I can’t help but wonder if one of the reasons I haven’t been doing any more of the classes is because of this.

Don’t get me wrong. I love doing the lessons and yes they have helped me immensely in taking that next step in my art journey. It just feels as though my journey needs to move forward more on my own than in following someone’s instruction. What these lessons have given me is the courage to step out on my own, without them I probably would have given up.

This is something I will need to think on for a while to decide if buying more of the art course offerings is something I want to do, or do I want to spend the next year just playing around on my own to see what develops.

What I keep hearing from that inner voice that tells me what to do is this. Do buy what I can afford in the art course offerings but do so only if it provides what I need for furthering my art journey in the direction I visualize myself going while challenging me to try something new and different. In other words, don’t keep buying the same thing and expecting my skill to grow if the courses don’t offer anything more.

This is paraphrased, of course. My inner dialogue is quite different and difficult to put in writing. It is comprised of a mixture of images, words and feelings/emotions. The wonderful thing about this is only I need to understand it.

This inner dialogue is also based on a lot of what I have learned over the past year from my purchasing experience. After having purchased a couple of courses which could not be saved and had a limited period to access them, it became quite clear to me this doesn’t work well for me. Logically, if I purchase a digital class, I feel it should be accessible to me for as long as I want and as often as I would like to view it. I know some art teachers don’t feel this way about their courses and feel they should be offered like courses are in college or live in a classroom setting. I think they miss out on a lot of students because of this.

I totally love the idea of buying a course and having permanent access to it. I have considered monthly or yearly memberships but this doesn’t work for me because of losing the access to the classes if I need to end the membership. I totally get the membership option that appeals to art/craft instructors, unfortunately, this doesn’t work for me and my budget. The other reason it doesn’t work is in the cases of the sites I’ve had an opportunity to look at, the membership doesn’t provide a good enough value for those courses that interest me. Basically, buying the individual courses would be better for my budget than buying a membership.

As stated, I will need to think about what art course offerings I will want to invest in for this coming year. I may find that list to be quite short, especially if I feel a need to pursue my art on my own to see what develops. The good thing is, most of the courses that appeal to me can be purchased over the next ten months or so because they are year long courses. Granted I might not get a discount but I can spread them out so it isn’t a huge hit on my budget at one time and I get more bang for my buck with these types of offerings. On top of that, I can take my time to decide if it is something I want after I experiment with playing around on my own for a while.

So much to think about and time will probably fly so fast I’ll wonder where the year went. That is how I feel about this year. Where did it go? It feels like it had been spring only a couple months ago not six or seven months ago.

By the way, since I started my job, my art supplies have suddenly stopped dwindling. Where I once thought I would never be able to keep up with my art supplies to have on hand for the art I was creating, I now find myself worried my supplies might get old before I have a chance to use them. Such an about face in such a short period of time. It is challenging for my mind and emotions to keep up with. I’m glad though. It means I have plenty to work with over the next several months and I’m still enjoying my job.

 

The End of #Inktober2017, and moving on…

October is over which means #Inktober has ended. I find myself with conflicting feelings. I love that I was able to complete #Inktober. I’m sad that it is over. In some ways I miss it, while in other ways I’m glad it is over so I can move on to using what I learned, during #Inktober, in my other art. I want to move on to working on larger pieces though they will still be in one of my many art journals, they will be larger than the 2 1/2″ x 2 3/4″ spaces I blocked out for my #Inktober pieces.

I did, however, choose to do the last #Inktober drawing a bit larger. I used the whole page instead of blocking off a small section and wasting the rest of the page. So with no more delay here are my pages from #Inktober2017:

I sort of cheated on the last page. I added some graphite shading to it so it is not 100% ink. I’m also not sure I am totally done with it. It is still calling for something more, especially in the square spirals. They need more drama to them. Just not sure how to do that yet.

Towards the end of October, I was feeling a strong pull to do something with color. Because I’ve been learning a lot from Tamara Laporte and her use of Neocolor II and acrylic paint, those are usually my go-to art supplies, especially when creating faces. I pulled out my handmade art journal I had originally created for BOD2017 (Book of Days 2017). When I created it, I used watercolor paper, so now it is my journal for when I want to use wet medium. I have been so enjoying my #Inktober faces I immediately went to drawing a face in my BOD journal for the intent of adding color with paint. Here is my progress so far:

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I started first with Neocolor II, salmon. Then added SmartCraft vanilla. I left it to dry over night, then added more Neocolor II, and acrylic paint. I don’t remember all the colors I used, and I left it to dry over night between each of the layers. There is probably four or five layers. Of the Neocolor II’s I used paynes grey, indigo blue, salmon, phthalocyanine green, yellow green, malachite green, emerald green, purple, carmine, raw umber, ocher, brown, black and light grey.  I only used vanilla and white acrylic paint. Obviously, I’m not afraid of mixing and overlaying a lot of color but I do so lightly and sometimes using vanilla or white acrylic paint to blend and smooth out the Neocolor II.

Once all the layers were dry, I still wasn’t happy with it. It didn’t have the depth of shading I wanted so I pulled out my Prisma Premier colored pencils. I can’t even begin to tell you what all the colors were that I used. Most of them were very similar in color to the Neocolor IIs I used. But for the eyes I first started by adding black Posca paint pen for the pupils and on the edge of the upper eyelid and a bit on the nostrils of her nose.  I also added vanilla and white acrylic paint for the highlights on her face before adding colored pencil. I waited on the highlights in her eyes until I was almost done.

Then I went to town just layering colored pencil with lots of the similar colors to the Neocolor IIs and using either a blending stump or a blending pencil to help smooth out some of the colored pencil. In the end, I stopped using the blending stump and blender pencil and just added color with the pencils.

I did not use a reference photo when I added color. This is completely from my imagination and the next steps will be too. I plan on using watercolor for the rest of the page. It will span into the full spread of the two pages but what will develop is completely unknown at this time.

I don’t plan my art work. At the most I might start out by thinking I’ll do a face, or I’ll do a mandala, or I’ll do an abstract collage of doodles or as in one of my pages I decided to partition it off into six equal parts with a border between each of the parts, but that is as much as my planning goes for these days.

Once I make that choice, if it is a face, I’ll decide what angle I want. If it is a mandala, I’ll decide if I want one or multiple mandalas. Then I’ll decide if I want the face or the mandala to be center of the page or to one side, if one side then which and so on. I make decisions as I go. I do start them all with pencil first. When I say I decide, it is more of an intuitive decision. I don’t make the decision on what I think the end result will look like. I go by what my intuition is telling me.

I guess in some ways, I create my art the way I go through life. I do think ahead and try to imagine where I want it to go and sometimes I make choices that will help me to get there. But where I think it might go, rarely is where it ends up. And most times what my intuition tells me to do rarely fits with anything I’ve visualized.

However, my main focus is on the now and doing what I feel needs to be done next. I have not done any huge studies of what colors blend well together to make other colors. I go on intuition when it comes to what color to use next. I don’t generally do any test swatches to make sure they will mix well together. I just add them to my page. I do start small and if I don’t like it, then I’ll go for another color. For the most part, I don’t do that very often. I’ve learned my intuition is usually right on target. It is when I try and alter what my intuition tells me that it goes wrong.

#Inktober was so much fun and carried with it such a variety of emotions with each drawing. The ones I thought I disliked at the beginning, I now find beautiful in their own way. I understand how they represent my search for own style. I was surprised when the graphic style started to appear and very pleased when I saw the results. Then mixing them with mandalas and tangles. It was like bringing all the things I love together in one piece of art. My inner artist was dancing a jig inside she was so pleased, especially with day 31.

I have heard other artists talk about how their emotions appear in their art. I rarely ever saw this happen in my art until now. It is subtle. And sometimes, it is surprising. It can be surprising because sometimes what appears in my art isn’t how I thought I was feeling. Take for instance, day 15. This was during the most active time of the “Me Too” movement on Facebook and I was seeing a lot of posts about it. I had a mixture of emotions about what I was seeing in my news feed along with it and some of the discussions between people for and against Trump. It took me by surprise when my drawing ended up appearing as if she was in prayer and possibly spiritual in nature.

On the surface, I was frustrated and angry by the Trump posts because when I stepped back from the emotions of it all, it was difficult to tell the difference between the opposing parties. The hate and bigotry, mud slinging and name calling was going on from both sides and it just made me sick.

On the surface, when I read all the various “Me Too” stories, I was saddened and sickened by how many there were and so fearful that those two little words, “Me Too”, would become a trigger for someone instead of comforting words.

To find these feelings manifesting into a picture that for me reflects my spirit in prayer was calming and soothing. It helped me to realize that deep inside I was in prayer over all the turmoil going on. I have no formal religion though I grew up in a Baptist church and then a non-denominational church in my teens and adult years, I was surprised to find this drawing containing elements that are associated with religions I have not been a part of but do respect. I love it for that reason.

I know there are people who use art to release their emotions. I use writing to do that. It seems that art for me is becoming a doorway I can open to discover what is going on even deeper within myself. I can use writing to do that as well but I have also found writing can keep me from moving deeper if I don’t intentionally ask myself the important questions. Art, however, requires no questions, just an opening of the soul. The nice thing about art though is it doesn’t have to be a conscious opening. Therefore, it isn’t invasive. It is less scary. And if you really love watching how the mediums blend and mix together it can be very comforting and a joyful experience.