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.

The madness of being a rock…

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

I started this bear over two weeks ago. IMG_1307

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll briefly describe the process for each:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Hope

Below is my latest art journal page.  I came across Journal52 which is a challenge run by Effy Wild. Once a week a prompt is given. When I came across Journal52 they were in week 3. At this writing they are still in week 3. Their week 1 prompt fit my previous art journal page to a tee so I counted it as week 1. Week 2’s prompt is HOPE. I wanted a fitting affirmation statement so I went on the search for one. As soon as I found “I look towards my future with hope and happiness.” I knew it was the right one. Coming across a photo to use as reference for my focal figure of the woman with a shaved head was also perfect for the message I wanted to relay.

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I’ll talk about the message in a moment. First, I’ll describe how I created the art journal spread.

I did a rough sketch of the layout with graphite, some of it changed as I went but mostly it is as I intended it to be. I painted the girl, starting with an Art Crayon in flesh tone, then laying with acrylic paint until I had her the way I wanted her. I then used some prisma colored pencils for finer details and to adjust some shading.

Once the girl was done, I collaged in tissue paper in green, yellow and blue using watered down glue. I used watered down white glue to reduce costs. If this was a commission item I would use collage medium or gel medium. I crumpled the tissue paper to give more texture to the page. I also used red and green for the center of the large flower.

Once the page was dry, I used a brayer to apply acrylic paint over the tissue paper to give it more visual texture, then I used my homemade stamps to stamp in the flowers. The rabbit is a commercial stamp. I added Faber-Castell PITT pens for color and details on the flowers and rabbits. On the large flower I used Prisma Colored Pencils.

After stamping in the flowers I realized the original position for the dove was going to be all wrong. This is the only alteration to the original sketch. Placing the bird much higher has given the spread a more balanced appearance. If the bird had been where I had originally intended it to be, the painting would have been bottom heavy. I then added in the lettering using my black Painters permanent marker.

There are a lot of things I love about this art journal spread. First and foremost it is completely my own. I wasn’t following a video, or in a class, I only used the prompt to help inspire an idea. It isn’t whimsical and it is about my life.

This is where we come to the message. The affirmation statement is how I need to look at my life and future right now.  Since 2014, it has been a long and difficult road. The woman with the shaved head represents me two years ago when in 2014 I was diagnosed with breast cancer and yes I eventually shaved my head when my hair started falling out. In 2016, I was laid off of work after 33 years of devoting my time and expertise. Finding another job has been difficult and I’m still looking.

So this is very much about me surviving cancer and the blow of losing a good job I had devoted my life to and trying to maintain hope and happiness in the midst of it all.

I am doing what I love…. being creative… taking care of my daughter. These are things to be happy about. I see this in my painting.

~Patti