Sunday, January 25, 2015


Last week was a bit of this and that, but not much particularly fiber related. So my apologies to those readers who may not be much interested in my play with paper and paint. I'll soon be back to fabric and thread. But this is the why of the art journaling: to learn some basic things about color and design that my play with fabric so far has not entirely taught me. Now it is true that I was introduced to the color wheel a long time ago. That bit of knowledge unlocked a key to a more logical way to sort my growing fabric stash. But actually MAKE a color wheel to hang in my studio? Bah! Who needs that? I can always pull one of many books on my shelves that already have one included. But here I am, lesson one in the art journaling book and I must make a color wheel with watercolor paints. It was quite frustrating blending the primary colors to come up with the rest, painted onto a coffee filter and allowed to bleed into the adjacent segments. Doubly frustrating when I adhered it to the first page painted with an acrylic "glaze" of blue which shadowed through the thin filter, altering most of the colors there. But at least I have the names written in so it will be a reference even if the colors are not very true.

As long as the paints were going to be out which inevitably leads to excess paint on brushes or palettes, I decided this was as good a time as any to restart my Positively Creative Art Journaling exercises. I completed 18 of them before dropping the weekly practice that was to take me through the year. I've been wanting to get back to it, so took this opportunity to at least prepare some page spreads. As luck would have it, both journaling lessons included pouncing through stencils so I used a bit of each kind in each journal. For the Positively Creative journal spread, I expended the sponge with the blue glaze over the page. The yellow was left over from a bit of stenciling on the color wheel journal page. I'd watered it down a bit too much so the shape of the commercial stencil openings didn't show through but I got marks anyway. To stencil on the above page, the instructions were to basically cut a paper snowflake like when you were a kid. Well, apparently I was a kid not that long ago because I knew I had some small snowflakes of construction paper hiding away in my supplies. I pounced white paint over them, then flipped them over onto the color wheel page to transfer that excess paint. I liked that a lot. I still wasn't crazy about this journal page though, so added a very thin layer of the blue to help blend it all together. The journaling prompt was about three things you would grab if your house was on fire. I realized after inking the prompt on and using some yellow, orange and red sharpies to draw flames along the bottom, those white areas of the snowflakes looked a bit like ashes - I'd unintentionally prepared a fiery background for my journaling.

Back to Creating Art at the Speed of Life - the next lesson is on the facing page, starting with the same acrylic glaze and then dividing the page up into random boxes using the water soluble graphite pencils. All the words were provided in a list which included what they mean. I have to admit, I'd never heard of Achromatic and had to double check the meaning of several others. These should all be second nature to me but they are not. Doodling was encouraged; in fact, there were to be more boxes than words so that there would be empty ones to doodle in. I fell back on my Zentangling for ideas, making this the favorite part of the exercise. Then the instructions said to use the water soluble colored pencils to color in next to the outline of the boxes, matching colors to words if possible. The picture above shows the completed page prior to water activation.

Learning more about these pencils, again being reminded that it is not as easy as it sounds once the wet brush comes out. The pigment really moved over the acrylic, sometimes disappearing altogether - I'm guessing up into the brush. So I took more to patting with the wet brush, then maybe moving it back and forth a little more in certain areas. I suppose some of the disappearing act may have been due to the lightness with which I applied some of the colors. Some areas blended nicely, others show a sharper edge to where the color stops. One thing for sure, as soon as they were dry, there was no more blending to be had.

I thought I was done only to go to the next page of instructions and see that the white gel pen needed to be found. The suggestion was to add highlights of the white, visually taking it back to the original page color, and adding interest. I was surprised at how much difference this made with just the first few dots of white I added, so I added more until they were in all parts of the page.

The other thing that got through my brain by doing is that these pencils are transparent colors and just as affected by the color of the page underneath as the watercolor paints on the coffee filter were. The color over those spirals around the word "warm" started out yellow, but once the pigment was activated, the blue underneath makes them look green.

The next spread in the Positively Creative journal started with the sponging of the blue glaze left from preparing the other journal's word page. The yellow was added by flipping the commercial stencil that had been used on the color wheel page, the paint left on it after the pouncing being transferred to the awaiting page. It was still pretty light, the original text on the page not very covered up, so I sponged on some violet mixed with white. I think it looks better in person than I could get it to read in a photo and I'm looking forward to journaling over it.

Actually, I have to say that my limited experimentation with art journaling usually leaves me frustrated and disappointed with the outcome of the underlying page, and sometimes of the final outcome as well. It is only with a little time and distance that I warm to my efforts. These pages of this week were no different, leaving me wondering why I keep coming back to this, why I keep hoping for a different outcome, what exactly is the point of spending my time this way. I think I knew the answer deep down but it was made clear in this passage from the January 2015 Smithsonian Magazine article about the American Indian practice of pictographic calendars - the recording of each year with just two of the most important events - one for summer and one for winter.

"One can imagine the unidentified artist setting his task. The questions he faces on the blank sheet of muslin are much deeper than what happened when. 'Who am I?' he asks, 'and who are my people? Where did we come from? What happened to us to make us who we are? What have been the markers of our being - joys and sorrow, losses and gains, triumphs and defeats? It is my will to show a part of our path from the time of origin to the present. It is in the power of my mind and my hand. It is appropriate that I should be the keeper of the story.' The artist's mission is no less than the identification of his tribe in time and space." - N. Scott Momaday

Is that not what we end up doing when we journal, be it in the written word only or with pictures and paint and color and textures only, or a combination of them all ? A brief leafing through the 5 months worth of Positively Creative Journaling tells me that it is indeed a worthwhile endeavor, these art journaling exercises; there are messages in there from last year that still resonate, are still important for me to remember, regardless of the quality of their packaging (although, as I said, time and space softens my criticism of that part). Some are more than just about me, may be a probing of "identification of my tribe in time and space" as well. I may keep most of the verbal expressions to myself but even so, I see the value of pursuing this form. 


Living to work - working to live said...

Wow Sheila. You have been busy.

I too am not really a fan of journalling in the way that some people journal. I find it a bit pretentious because to me it seems neither A diary nor a true reflection of what I really think or feel since the words and prompts usually mean nothing to me.

That said I do follow a few journalling blogs and I find the techniques and some of the ideas really very useful and apply many of them to some of the things I do.

So stick with it but don't beat yourself up to much about the outcome. You don't have to like every page you create by any means but I think you will pick up lots of techniques that you can apply elsewhere.

As always I love reading your blog my heart kiss a little thing when I know I have posted a new entry.keep it up, lots of love.


The Idaho Beauty said...

Thanks Hilary for your encouraging comments. There are lots of reasons to journal, just like there are lots of reasons to quilt, and thus a lot of different ways to approach it. I guess the prompts are a little like quilting challenge themes: sometimes they tickle the imagination and sometimes the mind is just not in the right spot to do anything with them. I'm glad I've had to think about some of the things in the Positively Creative exercises, even though there were some I really resisted. Looking back at my responses - well, it's not unlike those pictograph calendars!

It really means a lot to have your support and understanding in this particular endeavor. And to know that in general you love reading my blog! Lots of love right back...

Vicki Miller said...

Yes, Journaling is not about the end product, but the process. I think you are learning this. The hard thing of course is that voice inside your head that is negative and expects perfection. It takes a long time to learn to deal with it, and you never do totally, but it makes a huge difference to your life.

The Idaho Beauty said...

Thanks, Vicki, for sharing this insight. I never think I am going for perfection, just something that is not a total disaster, but you are right, it's that subconscious critic that quickly takes over, especially when I'm working in unfamiliar territory. I remember similar struggles throughout my quilting odyssey and I'm much better at rational rather than emotional critique there. I guess I need to keep that in mind as I continue to explore the art journaling.

Michele Matucheski said...

I did color wheels with that huge Dye project a few years ago. It was instructive to mix your own colors -- in the effort NOT to make mud. I've had books I wanted to alter, but never could ruin what was there --- maybe I picked the wrong book? My kid has to do an altered book project now for school, and he's making progress. Inspiring to me--just a little bit each week. And he's not really the artistic type. I think I just never got into it because I don't have the space for the wet media. I don't want it in my sewing studio with all that fabric, and no suitable work spaces for paints or water color pencils. I give you credit for slogging through the assignments. I think I would have given it up and moved on to something more gratifying. I guess--if you look at it as a chance to learn new techniques with new tools. You can get the gist, and move on to your own stuff -- like using those water color pencils to highlight your waterfall over rocks quilt!