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.

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.