God, artwork, dreams and reality….

Wow, time seems to be having quite a bit of fun with me since my last post on the 3rd of April. My work schedule seems to reflect this. I had one day off on the 3rd, worked 1 day, then 2 days off, worked 1 day, then 2 more days off, then worked 8 days. During each of the two days I had work done on my car, my windshield replaced, and multiple recall items replaced. Thankfully, my insurance covered the windshield and the recall items didn’t cost me anything. While the car was worked on I worked hard doing a much needed cleaning of our home. I still have a bit more to do, however, it feels good that a majority of it has been done. In the midst of all of this I did some artwork, art journaling, designing and focused on a class and some other studying. I’m going to talk about these but not necessarily in that order.

I’ll tackle the studying part first, and if you aren’t interested feel free to skip down to the next topic.

STUDYING:

I’ll give a bit of background. I grew up protestant with a leaning towards Baptist and later non-denomination Christian. The very first church I remember going to wasn’t either one of these, and I’m not sure what denomination it was considered. I remember enjoying Church there because there was no preacher, just elders who ran the church and on occasion invited speakers to our Sunday services. Generally, Sunday service for the family was conducted with someone reading a passage from the bible and different members standing and reading from the bible, intermixed with singing gospel songs. There wasn’t anyone to tell us how to interpret the scripture. Even Sunday school for the kids was an adult reading from the Bible and then talking to the children about what was read, generally they were well known stories, like Noah and the Ark. I believe this early introduction to this type of congregation influenced my opinion of churches later on. I’m not sure what led my parents to switch from that church to a Baptist church but they did. The difference between the two was extreme though as a young person I wasn’t adept at working out why when I had been taught from an early age to not question my parents or adults. I just know I couldn’t fully integrate into the way these later churches were run, not even the non-denominational churches and I tried several of them. This was no reflection upon my belief in God, only in the very nature of how Churches are run and Preachers preach their sermons.

With this being said, it has been years since I stepped into a church. It never fails though that each time I have, I felt there was something fundamentally wrong, because every time I walked out of church I felt worse than when I walked into it. As the years passed I stopped attending church even though I didn’t stop believing in God. I have developed different names to represent God, such as, Universe, which usually is my way of saying Universal Intelligence, or Greater Being, or Great Unknown, and so forth. This is just my way of accepting that there is something unknowable that is greater than all of us. I consider myself spiritual and not religious.

When I am faced with the need to understand something, I don’t rely on what other people say or believe. That has never been my way. Consequently, I research, I observe, I experiment, and I do whatever I can to satisfy that need to understand. It doesn’t matter the topic. Whether it is how a certain art supply will work with or not work with another art supply, or if it is what makes certain people tick or respond in the way they do, including myself, and yes this includes understanding God.

I am often confused as to why I am driven to the need to understand something when I am not at other times. For instance, creativity has always been a part of my life. Throughout my life I’ve used various ways to bring creativity into it. Art, such as drawing and painting, were not part of this between the end of high school and until a few years ago. Oh, for brief periods of only a day or two or a week at the most I might have tried to get back into sketching but I was never driven to understand my need for it until a few years ago. Just as I’m driven now to understand more about God or more importantly my beliefs after years of being absent from any church.

I used to think those years were absent of all desire to understand. When I look back on it now, I believe those years were my period to observe and sometimes experiment. Experimenting was rare however. Observing takes years, at least my way of observing takes years because I’m observing everything around me and storing up inside, my response to what I have observed. Once enough is stored, it then drives me to research, and study whatever I can find, in order to understand what I have observed and continue to observe.

You are probably wondering why or how all of this is related to my belief in God. Well, I’ve spent my whole life observing and storing up information. Now, I am driven to try and understand which means research. I often make this decision subconsciously which the World or Universe, or if you prefer, God responds to. I had no sooner made this decision subconsciously when a resource was made known to me. That resource is a 5 year journey called “Thru the Bible” which contains five years of recordings with Dr. J. Vernon McGee where he takes you through the whole Bible. I tried several times to read the Bible on my own but usually got discouraged and stopped. I don’t think I made it through more than a couple books on my own.

This journey I began on the 5th of April is different from all my other attempts to read the Bible from the beginning to the end. I’m not saying I agree with everything McGee says in the recordings but what I am finding is because these are recordings I’m able to slow down, listen to what he says about the chapter I read, and allow my own intelligence and spiritual guidance to come to my own interpretation. I write down notes which contains my questions, how I understand what I read or what I’m lead to understand.

When I say lead, I’m not talking about just McGee’s comments because more often than not his comments spark more questions which are often not in alignment with his interpretation. I’m finally understanding that I am quite literal. If McGee’s interpretation contains within it something that is not stated in the scripture I just read and he gives no supporting scripture, I tend to discard his interpretation or parts of it, unless I come across scripture that later supports his interpretation. I know he comes from years and years of study, schooling and experience but that doesn’t mean he is right in everything he says. In fact, I often find he has very condescending and what I feel are judgemental statements which tend to rub me the wrong way. I take that as a sign to explore more and so I do.

I have considered not listening any further to his recordings, however, if I did, then I would not have the catalyst I need. I know this because I start my study period by first reading the chapter. After reading the chapter I usually have little insight. When I follow that by listening to the recordings for that chapter while making notes, I gain more insight and understanding. It doesn’t stop there, sometimes the rest of my day I find myself often contemplating what I am learning. If I only read the chapter I would probably lose out on a good 75% of what I learn when I allow McGee’s comments to trigger the opening of doors to further understanding.

This will be a three to five year journey of studying the Bible (from beginning to end) and possibly other resources as I come across them. I am curious if this will somehow work its way into my artwork and whether it will become a life long journey. I do know this journey will not be an easy one because it has already created some amazing shifts in my understanding and reality.

When I enter into something that creates such major shifts, time flows strangely and the world around me alters in unexpected ways.

ARTWORK:

Last time, I started a page in my watercolor art journal, in an attempt to go lighter with the watercolor pigments that I did on my previous page. I had shown this picture of the first layer of watercolor:

IMG_1364

Though the image shows a light blue in the colors there really wasn’t any. It was the untouched watercolor paper or areas barely touched by paint that showed up with a blue tint. Seeing this in the photo made me want to play with adding other colors.

You can see in the below image where I added some blue and some more yellow. In some places where the blue touched yellow, the mix created a green or blue-green color. I let some of the blue run or drip. I then let it dry.

IMG_1365

Once it was dry, I used a graphite pencil to create some shapes, then used white acrylic paint around the shapes, trying to bring them forward. I didn’t want to cover the whole background with this layer of white so I left some areas alone.

It has probably been a week since I worked on this page. I’m still trying to decide what to do next. I’m thinking doodles. In the meantime, and in between my studies and art journaling, I was lead to focusing on a class.

CLASS & Journaling:

In December 2017, I purchased the Art Bundle for Good. I learned about the Art Bundle in early 2017 and made my first purchase. The Art Bundle for Good is a project created or organized by John Bardos which provides some amazing art resources at an unbelievable discount and portions go to a worthy charity. When I first learned about it, I wasn’t sure about it but gave it a try and now I’m so glad I did. Having purchased two of the Art Bundles I’m amazed and thrilled with all that is included. I have resources that will last me for years so even if I can’t purchase another art class, there are enough courses in the two Art Bundles to keep me busy for a long time.

From one of these resources I received an email stating that Dream Lab was shutting down. I had only glanced at this opportunity when I went through the process to acquire the courses provided from the Art Bundle in December. I quickly emailed the owner, Andrea Schroeder asking if I would lose access to the courses. She quickly replied, stating no, that she was just altering the free course she had available, basically upgrading it and changing its name.

What this email did was to make me look at the courses I received from Andrea in the Art Bundle to see how they fit in my current life. I admit, I have been struggling with attracting what I want to have in my life, so when I saw the email and reviewed the courses, I thought “why not”. It couldn’t hurt. The course I’m talking about is “Creative Dream Incubator”. Her approach is very simple and what I love most about her lesson is the simplicity of it. Her artwork may not look like what I would create but it shows me that it doesn’t have to be elaborate or a masterpiece. People with little to no art skills can use her methods and techniques in helping to bring about a particular dream they may be struggling with developing and want to have in their life. I do believe it is based on the law of attraction but she takes it down to a more simplistic level for those who are not accustomed to or understanding what all is involved in the law of attraction. She provides simple tools you can learn to apply in your everyday life. I am up to module three. There are six modules in total.

I will admit that even with the simple methods I’m still learning how to apply them every day. I need to find ways that work for me. What I find interesting is in the artwork in particular I have added some of the steps before I read the module where she suggests adding particular things. So for me the artwork for supporting my dream comes naturally while the rest of the supporting elements doesn’t. I believe this is due to my being taught to not ask questions when I was a child and due to my environment causing me to focus on the negative instead of the positive things in life. I am hoping these methods will help me to alter that aspect of myself.

I won’t be adding pictures of this lesson for two reasons. The first is I feel the need to keep it private but wanted to write about the class in case others might be struggling with similar issues and want to give it a try. The other reason is Andrea worked hard on these courses and the pictures would be giving away too much of her hard work. I am recording my progress in my journal, which is the journal I use almost daily and my version of a bullet journal. This class isn’t just helping me with learning how to create my dream but it is also helping me to learn ways in which I can use my journal to support those dreams.

OTHER:

For a while now, I’ve had a couple things on my mind. Stencils/Masks and stamps. I read an article in the March/April 2018 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors called “Printing Lab: Carved Monotypes” by Dawn Emerson. Even before reading the article I have been wanting to find a way to make my own stamps. I have already made a few of my own stencils and masks, which I want to continue to do.

I don’t know why but this is something I keep putting off. There was a discussion in one of the groups on Facebook about copyright issues when using commercial stamps and stencils in artwork people want to sell. Like others I feel it is crazy when a product you buy can’t be used in your own artwork that you want to sell, especially if the person selling the artwork isn’t just selling a print of the image but has added their own artwork as well. I won’t go into the legalities of this. It is too complicated and too volatile of a topic.

I have in the past purchased some stencils and stamps. I use them only for my personal artwork. Since I don’t currently sell any artwork, it isn’t an issue. From the very start of getting into mixed media I have always felt the need to have everything in my artwork be my unique artwork. This is just one of the many reasons I also don’t do collage very much using commercially created items. I won’t get into that either. With wanting my artwork to be my own unique artwork it means if I want to use stenciling/masking or stamping techniques and collage techniques then I need to create my own. There is one benefit to making my own. I can do it cost effectively.

Below are two of my new stencil designs. I drew them on regular printer paper using pencil, then went over the final design in ink and scanned them into my computer. Scanning them serves a few purposes. It saves them in case the original copy gets destroyed. I can increase or decrease their size or even use just a portion of the design. I could potentially sell the design too. If printed at original size on 8 1/2 x 11 inch paper there is a small border around the edge which may not show up in this image.

Stencil1 copy

Stencil2 copy

I hope to use some of my images from Inktober 2017 to create stamps. You can see the images from Inktober 2017 here.  This takes me back to the article I read in Cloth Paper Scissors. In the article the artist created a monoprint from an image she carved into wood. This gave me the idea to try and use my wood burning tool to carve an image into a small piece of wood, seal it, and use it as a sort of stamp. I haven’t tried this yet but plan to in the near future. I also picked up some carving material used to make stamps so I can experiment to decide which method works best. It is possible one works best for certain applications while the other works best for other types of applications. I’m excited to give this a try and see what develops.

I often feel like I’m not doing much when it comes to my creativity. To alleviate me of this perception I started listing in my daily journal the things I have done that day. Sometimes, it is true, that I haven’t done any artwork but there is creativity in almost everything we do. Sometimes I have to get creative in accomplishing the mundane things in my life. Creating this list also helps me to see when other things have taken precedent and it is generally easy to see why.

I leave you on that note now. My studies call to me as well as those mundane things in life that need to be taken care of. Feel free to comment. Hearing from those who take the time to read my post is one of the more simpler joys in life.

❤ ❤ ❤

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:

IMG_1362

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:

IMG_1364

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”…