Experimenting, seeking, and blessings…

I have been playing around with watercolor pencils and my watercolor paints. I have been watching some youtube videos to get some ideas for what I can do artistically to support my bible studies and my spiritual journey.

First, I learned how to highlight text in my bible and then use the same highlighter color to mark my notes I make in the border of my journaling bible, so it is easy to find my notes which refer to the text. This is great because it not only makes it easy to reference the scripture with my notes, it also adds some marvelous color to my bible.

I also have a notebook where I write down notes regarding the chapter I read in my daily bible study. But the notebook is rather plain and uninspiring since it is written using black ink and in a cheap composition notebook. I decided to start making changes:

  1. The first thing I changed was the format so what I read daily was grouped together and each day was separated by a date.
  2. The next thing I did was use a different color of ink each day. I have about 6 different colored gel pens so I started using them to write my notes changing to a different color the next day. This created an obvious division between each day’s studies.
  3. The third thing I did was see if I could use watercolor pencils on the paper and a waterbrush to activate them. This is where I started to run into issues. The watercolor pencils didn’t move hardly at all on the untreated paper of the composition notebook. This also caused the paper to wrinkle.
  4. The next step, I tried some watercolor paint but that also didn’t move very much. Below is a picture of the watercolor paint layered over the watercolor pencils and you can see how splotchy it appears. I wasn’t crazy about it at all, although when I started writing my notes over it, I kind of liked it. This page has an interesting crinkling sound to it and it is wrinkly, an effect from becoming wet which I sometimes like and sometimes don’t.IMG_1613
  5. The next thing I did was try treating a page front and back with clear gesso and applying watercolor pencils to it and activating it again with a waterbrush. This worked better but still had issues with getting it to blend out the way I wanted it, so I put a wash of watercolor paint over it. This is still blotchy but better than the one above and the page doesn’t wrinkle or crinkle like the untreated page above. I actually love the texture of the page from the clear gesso I’m using. The gesso isn’t gritty and it gives the page what my touch and mind can only interpret as an almost leather type feel to it on both the surface and when bending and turning the page. It feels sturdier and not at all like paper in how it bends.IMG_1614
  6. On the other side of the treated page, I used just watercolor wash of paint over the clear gesso. This is by far my favorite and is what I plan on doing going forward in my bible study notebook.

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I expect my next change will be to decorate the cover of my notebook, after watching a video today on youtube of someone covering their composition notebook, it made me want to do something similar.

The thing I am most pleased about is finding a way to work with a cheap composition notebook. I have seen other people on youtube and in some art courses I’ve taken who use composition notebooks for their art journals, junk journals, bullet journals and so forth but when I tried to use one in the way they did, it just didn’t appeal to me. Most of them didn’t treat their pages, some of them glued pages together to make them sturdier.

As you read above, I don’t generally like the page when it gets all crinkly after it dries, though the sound is pleasing the results of the medium on the untreated page isn’t.  As I learned in my creative journaling bible and now in this notebook, treating the page with clear gesso is what I like best because it gives me a broader range of options for anything I might want to do on the page. Consequently, I’m going through clear gesso quite quickly, luckily the clear gesso I can get locally isn’t expensive and I like it.

I only have a couple pages done with watercolor in my journal, even so, when I flip back through my journal, I definitely like the ones with color more. I am hoping to add some doodles or some variations in my writing to help make my notes more visual so I might be able to have instant recall on what was in the text I was studying. Right now my notes just run together. I am intrigued by those who are able to create doodles in their notes as they go and have them make so much sense. I have never been a doodler, so trying to come up with simple images to draw that would emphasize what I’m learning doesn’t come easily or naturally to me. I think I’m more of a word person, so creating changes in my writing may be what I need to do.

What I’m learning is experimenting, trying different things, is helping me to find what works for me. This is being driven home even more so in my play with watercolor paint. These next two images are from practicing on two pieces of 4 1/2″ x 5″ watercolor paper. I have watched a number of artists on youtube paint with watercolor and each time I try to do something without following a lesson or what they are doing and just try to do something on my own, it ends up something like these. Then I don’t know what to do with them.

The first one looks like an out of focus picture of flowers that have no connection with the earth or each other.

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I have no idea where I was headed with this one, I just started putting paint down where I felt like placing it and letting it run. I think when I was letting the paint run we had a bit of thunder and lightening happening outside which doesn’t occur very often.

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Basically, I was just playing. I think I should try a challenge of doing one of these small watercolor practice squares a day for 30 days and see what happens. I’m just feeling a bit overwhelmed with other things I feel I should be doing and not progressing as fast as I think I should be so to add something like a challenge right now might be a bit too much.

It is hard to justify playing with my art when I feel I should be focusing on things to improve our financial situation. I have to keep myself open to what God wants me to do. After winning a spot in “Paint Your Heart and Soul 2019” and another spot in “Life Book 2019”, I have to believe that God wants me to continue pursuing my art and including it as often as I can in my day-to-day activities.

I started a prayer journal and I’m using my artistic skills to bring prayer to life for me. That may sound strange so below is an image of a page in my prayer journal. I don’t want to confuse anyone and have them think the artwork or text is mine. I got both from Pinterest.  If you want to look up the text graphic you can find it here. If you want to look up the image you can find it here.  The footnote to the image states, “Praying is a painting by Dorina Costras which was uploaded on April 11th, 2017.” I had the background painted long before I found the text or image so to find an image which spoke to me so deeply and blended so well with my background and also the text is wonderful. I would love to have this image on canvas or print for my wall but in my present circumstances I can’t afford it so I opted for a small printout to put in my prayer journal.

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The image and the words together bring prayer to life for me. It has been difficult to have faith that my prayers will be answered. Throughout my life, I have prayed more times than I can count where I felt like no one was listening and nothing came of my prayers. The more I read my bible, the more I realize there was a very important element missing in my life when I accepted Jesus into my heart as my Lord and Savior. Learning was disjointed, had no cohesion, there was no direction given to me as a new child of God. Would things have been different if there had been a more structured teaching to help someone like me? I can’t answer that. I would like to think so but God does things a certain way for a good reason. Maybe after being saved, I needed to become lost and lose almost everything so I would truly seek him for the right reasons. Seeking God for one’s own personal gain is wrong. I originally sought him and accepted him because I feared for my life that I might die and go to hell. I didn’t seek him to glorify him or out of fear of him. In April, when I decided to start reading the bible, I did so because I wanted to get to know God and who he really is. Not the God I was taught about as a child because I felt what I was being taught was a bastardized version of him and not the real HIM.

It is hard to sit back and study the bible at the pace I am studying it. I want to fly through it learning all I can as fast as I can.  Even though I’m moving through it chapter by chapter instead of verse by verse which is what is recommended by Anne Graham Lotz in her 3-Question Bible Study method, I feel like I’m learning at a snail’s pace.

I came across Anne’s method a couple weeks ago when I was searching different ways of studying the bible. I also discovered she has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and has just started chemo treatments. From what she writes it sounds like her diagnosis is more severe than mine and her treatments will last a lot longer. I pray for her every day for God to give her strength and healing. I used to listen to her father Billy Graham many years ago but had no idea she had her own ministry. From what little I have read and listened to so far, she may become a rather important source of inspiration for me.

I am slowly finding my way in this life, this new life which is developing out of the ashes of my old life. I often feel as though I am no longer standing on solid ground, so unstable it might dissolve completely leaving nothing to stand on, or that I’m standing on the edge of a cliff where the slightest breeze could push me over the edge. God is the only one who is keeping me grounded. He is answering my prayers and giving me hope. When I am left to my own devices, and I try to rely on just myself, everything just feels like it is falling apart and there is no hope left in me.

I am learning to lean on God, and he is showing me in amazing ways that he is listening and answering my prayers in his own way and in his own time. It is hard to be patient. It is hard to change from my old ways. It is hard not to let doubt bubble up and overwhelm me. But each time I witness God’s helping hand in my life, my faith grows a bit more, a bit stronger and becomes a bit more rooted. I am glad my art has a part in my life. I love how it is becoming entwined with my spiritual growth.

Maybe one day I’ll discover my true purpose which God has for me.

Additions to my Faith Journal

I am thrilled with how my Faith Journal is evolving. Below is a closeup of the front of my journal.

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I used Tombow markers to add color to the text, and the shading around the white paper. The black was used throughout the journal around the edge of the white papers. I loved it so much on the cover I felt it would work well through the rest of the journal and I think I was right.

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Here you can see what else I added to the journal, tags. Yes, tags. I wasn’t sure I was going to use tags. That inner voice of mine told me to just play around with them. I could always change my mind since they aren’t permanently attached and can be pulled out. I have other ideas which I might still use. It all depends on what further changes I decide to make.

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This photo and the next two show the inside pages with the black Tombow marker added. I blended it using the Tombow blender.

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Below are two of the tags. I used acrylic paint using a wet wipe to apply the paint and blend it, then added some stamps using a Stazon ink pad. Stazon won’t move once it is dry and since I wasn’t sure how I would add scripture to these I wanted to make sure the ink didn’t move with whatever method I use.

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Below are two pictures showing the tags slightly pulled out of their pockets. Two pages have the opening at the top, creating a top pocket and two other pages have the opening on the side, creating a side pocket. The pockets are the full depth and width of the page.

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I counted all the sides and pages I have available for adding scripture and there are 19 in total counting the tags. I believe I can add even more to possibly create a total of 54 surfaces or more for scripture.

I would love to fill it completely right now, however, I want to choose scripture which resonates with me. This means I should take my time and make note of what scriptures call to me, either during my daily reading or other events.

I am considering other ways to decorate my journal. Maybe dangly bits of odds and ends, shiny twinkly things, or whatever else I might have lying around. This is about creating something which inspires me to keep my faith, constant and true. The glorious thing about this is, it doesn’t just do that, it lifts me out of the darkness which has been enveloping me recently and not so recently.

IMG_1539I need to mention one other thing.

I AM FLABERGASTED!

When I saw how my Tombow markers worked in my bible on a page treated with one coat of clear gesso. As long as I do not use too much water the Tombows will not bleed through the page. I definitely don’t want to use Tombows on an untreated page. I tried it in a small area and not only did it bleed through to the backside, it also bled through to the page underneath. But on the treated page I think I found my new ‘go to’ markers. I love the way they blend and move over the clear gesso. Not to mention the brightness of their colors! For tiny areas I will still rely on sharpies, and other permanent markers and highlighters for text. But, DANG, I do love the Tombows on the artwork on this page.

I love how my bible is providing me knowledge in many ways. Not just knowledge of God, though that is my main purpose in reading the bible. It is also teaching me what my various art mediums are capable of over clear gesso and that I don’t always have to have heavy art paper in order to use them. I am also enjoying how I am being inspired creatively with the projects designed around my faith. I haven’t felt this type of connection with my art before so this is new and exciting for me.

 

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.