Sunday, January 12, 2014

Structure, I Need Structure!

I am full of good intentions. Too often, I need outside help to carry through on them (my blog was started as one such device to keep me getting work done in the studio). My good intentions for this year include working with sketchbooks (other than to sketch out design ideas), working with paint and surface design, even getting back into Zentangling. I've taken Christmas money to buy paint, sketchbooks & journals, even some official Zentangle tiles (my rationalization being they are now offering them in tan and I've really enjoyed drawing with my sepia pen). The supplies are trickling in, including one I ordered for use with a 49 lesson mixed media art journaling course offered free from Dale Ann Potter. She is such an upbeat person (and I really want to be upbeat this year) and fearlessly creates art (as shared on her blog). Who better, I thought, to provide me the structure (i.e. boot) to explore mixed media collage/art journaling. The course is called "Positively Creative Journaling: 49 Lessons to a more positive life" and its purpose is to help you create a journal that will make you smile on days when you are not feeling happy. As a chronically "glass half empty" personality, this sounded like the perfect blend for where I'm at right now.

It was originally designed as a daily practice, but I've decided to do one lesson or prompt a week instead - something that will carry me through the year, letting me take a few weeks off for vacation or the unexpected and still keep to my commitment for the year. As I read through the introduction and supply list, I realized I didn't need to wait for the fancy mixed media journal to arrive; Dale Ann suggests one can also use something inexpensive like a composition book or an old book with pages glued and/or removed as needed. Hark! This little "Simple Diary" nearly went into the trash after a year of answering its quirky questions - nothing I wanted to keep there. And then I set it aside expressly with the idea of using it as the basis for an altered book. Its small size, I reasoned, would be less intimidating than a larger journal.

So I started my adventure last Sunday - Sunday has been designated as the day for this practice, a day when I would not try to talk myself out of it because of commitments or more important things to do. It's part of the needed structure and a positive way to start off each week! First lesson called for selecting 3 favorite colors and using one of them (slightly diluted) to paint the page spread with a foam brush. I had hopes that the paper in this book, because of its slick feel, would not react adversely to the wet medium, but it curled right up. After the fact, I glued a page behind either side for stability. Binder clips helped hold the pages open.

And as usual, I stood there with a brush with paint in it that I didn't want to waste. I grabbed the good print of my sampler lino block and dabbed in some color (this is something I've been meaning to do to this piece). Then I grabbed one of the oak leaf test prints and expended most of the rest of the paint on it. Now, back to my lesson.

The first pass with paint certainly covered the writing on the page. Next step was to use an old credit card to scrape a second color from top to bottom. Perhaps I dotted too much paint at the top or chose too dark or opaque of a color? (I'm using Liquitex acrylic paint.) One side I left partially covered, the other I gave a more even coat. I really did think more yellow would show through the green. Because I knew I'd be writing on these pages, I opted to add a third swipe to lighten up the green - white scraped from side to side and this time, using less paint. Ok, I think we're ready for the journaling part.

The journaling prompt was "What makes you smile?" and the suggestion was to cut from magazines triangles to glue across the top and words, pictures, whatever that fit the prompt. I have this basket of castoffs, things too big to toss but questionable as to where they will find a home. I know I started this basket with the idea of using it to collage or make small quilts (not all of it is fabric castoffs), but it has mostly just accumulated. I figured I could find some things in it to incorporate into the weekly exercises.

Here's my finished spread. I chose fabric rather than paper triangles to glue across the top. I have many saved little triangles and these are from my hand-dyes. They represent two of the things on my list of things that make me smile - the magic of unveiling the dyed fabric after processing and using up scraps. The squares of marbling were trimmed from "Tears of Mayo" when it was stretched over canvas and represent both using up scraps and unexpected gifts from friends. The picture of the hands giving a massage was in my little basket - need I explain why it made the page? The snowflakes and words came from magazines. I used a Pigma pen to outline the various components and write in the many things that make me smile, and called it good. I have to admit I got way too involved in this, spending nearly 3 hours in all as I searched for just the right things to add to my painted page and fussed with arrangement. And I enjoyed every minute of it, learning a few things too.

So it's Sunday again and time for lesson two. I was prepared for another long session but this one went pretty fast. Scrape paint down the page and remove some of the paint with a baby wipe. Gosh, I've been going to buy a box of baby wipes ever since last spring when I discovered how great they are for removing paint from your fingers. This lesson didn't require using both sides of the spread. Curious, I used the facing page to see how much of the paint rubbed from one side could be transferred from the baby wipe onto a fresh page. Quite a bit, it would seem. And on the painted page, it helped blend some of the areas receiving less paint.

Then it was back to the magazines to look for an image that could be used as a stencil. I didn't want to get sidetracked by looking and looking for just the right thing, so pretty much chose the first thing that would work - an outstretched hand. The journaling prompt was about gratitude, and I could think of several ways it represented that idea to me. I decided to stick with white to paint it, dabbing with a stencil brush but that really didn't work very well. Dale Ann suggested multiple ways to get paint down using this stencil and I could see that other methods would have worked better. I just started moving the paint with the end of the brush, which left it kind of streaky which was fine.

Here's the finished page, with my list of things I am grateful for today. These are pretty much the things I am grateful for every day, although on the harder ones it is easy to forget. The writing is done with a white Gelly Roll pen,  something I've not used before and had ordered for my Zentangling. I loved the way it wrote across the painted page and made my script look good. The arm and hand are outlined in black pigma pen.

Dale Ann has gone to great lengths to make these exercises a stress-free way to learn not only about these different techniques but about oneself as well. It's an approach that leaves me satisfied with the time spent and looking forward to the next session with the journal.


Living to work - working to live said...

Sheila - this is Fab!! I don't really art journal, but sometimes just let my sketchbook pages go that way. But these are just lovely pages so I hope this continues to really inspire you. Hilaryxxx

The Inside Stori said...

What a great kick start to each week you've discovered!!

Connie Rose said...

Looking good, Sheila!

Chris said...

Sheila, looks like such fun! I got an art journal for Christmas, but have not even opened it to do anything. I plan on doing some mono printing of fabric this summer and when I do I will paint the pages in the journal. Then I will at least not have a blank white page staring at me when I try to journal.