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 Creative Beginning to 2018….

I ended 2017 with the intent of adding more color and art to my handwritten journal. I was doing ink drawings and adding some of my tangle drawings to the journal then writing about what I was creating which sometimes included comments about my life. This means my journal was generally black and white. I wanted color too.  So… in December I started using some cheap markers and trying to get creative on my pages.

I added calendars for the months since I started my job the end of July using various colored markers. Working is now a major part and joy of my life so I wanted it in my journal. On December 31st, I added an acrylic wash background using neon colors since they are very transparent. I wanted to see the lines on the right page to use as guidelines for my writing. I can’t write in a straight line unless I have lines to guide me. I ended the year with a celebration page for the good things that happened in 2017. I’m glad I did this because I tend to remember the bad things instead of the good things.

I still wish at times that I didn’t have to work but who wouldn’t when they love to do art?! To have nothing else to do but art would be such an adventure. I had that for a little over a year. Other than having to look for a job at the same time, my days were full of art and I loved every moment of it. It also helped with the anxiety of not finding a job.

I am surprised by how much I enjoy my job. I interact with people every day. Two days before Christmas I was asked to hand out chocolates to the customers. It was the best job EVER! I have always considered myself an introvert but doing this job and handing out the chocolates taught me that I can interact with strangers and not die in the process… lol.

I am also a Gemini. So to find this out about myself isn’t surprising. I have many times in my life seen two sides of myself which are in complete opposition of one another. There have been a couple people who have commented about this as well because of seeing me in different environments which reflect those oppositions. The best thing about this job is when I walk out the door at work, I leave it at the door. And when I walk in the door at work, I pick it back up. In my previous job of 33 years, the job went with me no matter where I was, which meant no breaks from it not even on vacations.

So yes, my daily life sometimes ends up in my handwritten journal which was originally intended to be just for writing about my artwork. That means it creeps into this blog as well which was also meant to be just about my art. No matter how hard you try, life does cross over into our art.

For 2018, I’m continuing in my journal from 2017, this is my first page which begins my chapter for 2018. I’m about 1/4 of the way into the journal. I created this today before I knew the group, I joined on Facebook has daily words for inspiration. The words for the first two days in 2018 are EXPRESS and VESSEL, so these words didn’t make it into my journal page.

I was exhausted after an 8 hour shift at work yesterday. I had no energy for doing anything creative on the 1st. This is also my first try at doing zendangles. I want to try and find balance this year in everything including in my art especially, between taking classes and doing my own art, so I’m trying things like this on my own.

IMG_1227I started the page by drawing in guidelines for my words using pencil, then added the words also in pencil. Then I added the background with an acrylic paint wash in neon colors. Once the paint dried, I went over the letters with cheap water based markers and the dangles are gel pens.

I had intended to erase the guidelines but forgot I wouldn’t be able to erase them after I put acrylic wash over them, so I improvised and went over the lines with gel pen then added the dangles. The hardest part was trying to figure out what patterns to use on the dangles. I have found I’m not very good at creating designs or patterns on my own. Hopefully, I’ll get better at it with practice.

In this journal, the left page is blank for artwork and the right page is lined for writing. I use a wash so I can still see the lines. I do artwork on the left and the right is for writing which I do over the acrylic wash with gel pen. I know I won’t be able to do this every day, however, I plan on doing something artistic whenever I want to write in my journal. If I have a lot to write about I generally do that on my computer and just do highlights in my handwritten journal.

As I mentioned, the first two words for this year are EXPRESS and VESSEL. Doing my journaling this way I hope to EXPRESS myself artistically more in 2018. Technically I consider my journals (both physical and digital) my VESSELS which contains many parts of me and my life. I want my physical journal to be more of a visual journal. Sometimes I include pictures of what I have created in my digital journal. This year I hope to add more pictures of my art into my digital journal so I have a record of what I have created.

I still plan on doing my ink drawings. My thoughts have been about wanting to incorporate my love of black ink with my love of color. This is something I’ll need to play around with this year. I also want to explore different ways of using ink in my drawings. So far I have just used a pen. I want to explore using a brush.

I enjoyed the dangling bits on this page even though it is obvious a beginner has done it. The challenge I had was in creating the different dangle patterns. I tried not to copy patterns I saw from other pictures but in the end I found myself doing just that. I need to find better balance and I didn’t have enough open space between the words, but that is okay. It was fun to do for the first time and is something I can play with while sitting down recovering from a long day at work.

On another note, I did another lesson from Life Book 2017, week 33, “Bloom into Spontaneous Collage” with Shelley Klammer. Her explanation of how she gathers collage materials for here spontaneous collage page helped me tremendously on creating this page. I am not a fan of collage but after doing this page, I realized, I do like collage just not so much in my artwork with paints. I sometimes have difficulty with my paints lifting.  This type of collage was fun to do. I may find myself doing something like this from time to time. I just don’t have much collage material.

IMG_1225Her method of doing these collage pages is more about intuitive collage. It isn’t about designing a page before you start or even picking a subject to collage about before selecting your collage pieces, which I think is why I liked it.

Doing it intuitively brings information from your subconscious to your conscious mind. Until I did this collage I was sure I didn’t have any dreams left. But this collage ended up being a dream board of sorts. Without thinking about it, I found myself selecting pictures that had some symbolic meaning to what I wanted for me and my daughter. It helped me to realize my dreams were not dead, they were just buried.

I find my dreams too hard to keep to the forefront of my thoughts. Since being laid off from my previous job of 33 years, I felt my dreams were impossible and it has become very difficult to think about them without sinking into depression. So learning those dreams are still alive was a relief while at the same time it hurts to realize they may never come true, at least not without some major changes in my life.

In Life Book, I work on single sheets of paper. At the end of Life Book, Tam shows how she binds her pages into a book. I have been considering this and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so a few months ago I looked up alternatives. I looked up alternatives because I didn’t want to permanently change my pages by adhering them to each other or to other paper in order to bind them into a book. I landed upon an idea I hope will work.

I want to create a book box for storing my artwork from Life Book. That way I can store the pages as loose pages and be able to take them out if I want to. This way too, I can use the back of my pages for a journal of sorts about the class for that particular piece. The issue I have is my pages are 9″ x 12″ and the chipboard I have is 12″ x 12″. I’m not sure I can create a book box that will hold the pages using the chipboard I have. If not, I may have to buy a different medium to create the book box. I’m thinking I could use hardboard which I can purchase at my local hardware store. I’ll just need to learn how to cut it down to the size I need. I have time to figure that all out since I’m only on week 34 of Life Book 2017.

It is my hope that this idea will work out well. If it does, then I will be able to use it for storing any other artwork I do on loose sheets of paper. There are other options but they all have their drawbacks. This one seems to be the one that will reassure me that my pages will stay intact without having to alter them in some way for storage.

I am glad 2017 is over. I want to move on and let go of the difficulty of the past couple of years. I am grateful for the time I had to bring art back into my life. The time I had without a job helped me to cement this need into my life and make it a priority so when I did get a job it wouldn’t be set aside again. These last two years have been a time of adjustment, of learning how to alter my priorities and choose what was important to me and how to make room for what is important.

Up until now I have never chosen a word to focus on for the year. I tried New Year’s resolutions several times to no avail. I’ve had years of no focus at all. For 2018, I decided to choose a word and see what happens. My choice is BALANCE and each month I plan on choosing another word to focus on for the month which supports my focus of BALANCE. For January, my word is BOUNDARIES. It is my hope, to focus on them, journal about them, research and then make choices I can incorporate into my life.

I’ve had issues with setting boundaries my whole life. In some of my art classes the topic of boundaries has come up so I decided it was time to learn about them and set some of my own. I know I have some boundaries but they have been arbitrary. It is time to put some reason behind them and make them a solid part of how I live my life.

This may seem strange to some people to think someone my age doesn’t have firm boundaries by now. It even sounds strange to me. It is something I have come to understand to be a source of issues I have run into in my life. Since deciding this, I have found myself dreaming about situations that reflect these issues I’ve had in my life. It is like my subconscious is showing me what I should have done in those situations instead of what I did do. It is showing me the boundaries I need to set. I find this rather interesting.

I sometimes think I should have been a psychologist or research scientist because of these remarkable things I notice about my mind and how it interacts with me and my universe. I notice it even more now. I’m not sure if that is a product of allowing my creativity to grow through art or if it is just this particular time in my life which finds this all very fascinating. Maybe a mixture of both. It is so very easy to discard these subtle truths as our imagination conjuring up something that could only be in a science fiction tale. I, however, prefer to believe in the impossible. Maybe that will carry over into other aspects of my life as well and I’ll find myself believing my dreams really can come true.