Handcut stencils and masks

Tonic 1Inspired by nature! I cut some simple stencils and masks from both thin plastic  (special stencil acetate I bought at the art shop) and also from cardboard. I chose a variety of different greens. I love the combination of stencilling and masking together on the same page.

Next I added a few stencilled shapes in burnt sienna as a  contrasting colour .Tonic 2 Had to remind myself not to overdo the contrast!

I was loving it and could almost have written something on it like this and called it finished…but I decided to add some collage images, so i needed to cut the tonal contrast back a bit so the images would show up. This is very easy to do by painting a semi transparent layer of gesso (I mixed the gesso with water, a tiny bit of yellow ochre paint and a bit of fluid matt medium) The matt medium will make it transparent without you having to add too much water.

Tonic 3It doesn’t show very well in this photo but the whole thing is quite a bit paler and has less contrast.

Then I added some images, a nature spirit , dragonfly and butterfly (also nature spirits!)

 

Tonic of WildernessThe title of the page, the tonic of wilderness is from a famous quote by Henri Thoreau ““We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”

But i ended up writing a quote from a poem I love by Mary Oliver. here is the poem:

My work is loving the world.

Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird — equal seekers of sweetness.

Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.

Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?

Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect?

Let me keep my mind on what matters, which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.

The phoebe, the delphinium. The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.

Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart

and these body-clothes, a mouth with which to give shouts of joy to the moth

and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam, telling them all,

over and over, how it is that we live forever.

Catch up post: Third journal pages

Here are some more pages from my third journal, which is basically finished except for a couple of pages that still need something more. These pages are mostly more than a year old now and I can see that my “style” (if I even have one..?) is changing over time.  I’m well into my 4th journal now, and also my 5th journal, which is the Heroine’s Journey journal is half full now. But I’ll post some of those another time.

Kathryn page finishedGerrit new ZealandDreams 2Back in Brunswick smChurch LibidoDecadesImaginationWinter wolvesNew YorkSacred Union

Evolution of a Page

Face it 1I began this page with no idea of what i wanted it to be about. I randomly glued down some black and white undercollage, just things that appealed to me, left over from the heroine’s journey classes. Oh yes, and the eye. Then I gessoed over the whole thing  and wiped it back a bit so you could still see some of the undercollage. And the eye.

I painted a few areas with yellow ochre and some with turquoise and attempted a bit of a blend between those two colours.I used my handcut spiral stencil when the turquoise paint was still wet and sprayed water through it, then put a paper towel over it to lift some of the paint where the water was to reveal the spirals. This worked Ok but was not brilliant, so then I just didFace it 2 some stencilling with paint on a sponge wedge.I still had no clue what the page might turn out to be about. I grabbed a few images I had lying about that seemed to go with the colour scheme…..I love the image of the naked woman staring at the skull…I found her when I was looking for images of the goddess  Inanna. The background was too full on,  and overwhelmed the images so I toned it down with some gesso tinted with yellow ochre. After I glued down the images I cut a few stamps with the ellipse pattern, not sure why, I think I watched an art journaling  youtube clip with similar stamps.

Face it finishedI thought the page might be about the Goddess, then i thought maybe it’s about time passing and accepting that. So I glued the clock face on the right. i stamped the ellipse stamp with a white stamp pad. They didn’t turn out very well, so in the end I went over them with a white posca paint pen. Then they were too white, aargh! So I toned them down by painting over them with some nickel azo gold paint (very watered down).

The next day as i was meditating in sanctuary, the words “face it” popped into my head and I realised that was the theme of the page..whatever it is, just face it. Whether it is the fear of time passing, of growing old, the fear of death, just face it, look it in the eye. there’s nothing else to be done.  I love this page now, I think it’s one of my favourites.

 

Heroine’s Art Journaler interview number one: Christina

As many of you know, for the last 18 months I have been teaching a course I have developed for women called The Heroine’s Journey. In this 7 part course we reflect on our lives through the lens of the stages of the Hero’s Journey (as identified by Joseph Campbell), using myths and fairy tales, writing, ritual, drama and art journaling. So far I have run the course 3 times, with another starting on 9th August. I have also already run a Part 2 Heroine’s Journey course, as many of the participants wanted to continue on with the process.

I thought it would be interesting to do a series of posts on some of the Heroine’s Journey participants and feature some of their work….so without further ado, may I present Heroine’s Journey art journaler Christina Christina black copy. Christina had not done much art journaling before doing the heroine’s course, but she has a natural eye for colour, harmony and beauty.

I interviewed Christina about her experience of the heroine’s journey, and art journaling.

Alison: What have you liked most about doing the Heroine’s Journey?

Christina: I don’t think I’ve ever given myself the luxury of time to do some creative work, like art work. I like all the new techniques I’ve been learning and I’ve been really surprised by how beautiful some of my pages are, so that’s been…startling and amazing really! And I really love some of my pages and feel happy to show them to people whereas in the past I would have found it very challenging to show my art to anyone.

I’ve also loved the camaraderie of the women in the group and I’ve had a feeling of safety within the group, where we’ve really exposed ourselves, both with our art work and with our feelings. There have been some very poignant moments and a few tears, both mine and other people’s. Holding that space for others…it’s been very beautiful.

A: Tell me about some of your pages…..this Warrior page for example?

Christine Warrior

C:  Well it was interesting how I ended up having this 15 year old warrior, standing next to my grown up warrior. I really saw what a warrior my teenager self was, way back then, she had to be. And also seeing her innocence. And then my mature inner warrior, how capable she is, how resilient. I enjoyed using the animal totems on this page too, animals that I felt an affinity with. They are my companions. The wolf is there behind me, he’s got my back, and the eagle flies over and is a scout, they’re both my scouts and my muses in some way too.

A: And the ancestors page?  Motherline Christina

C: Well I was really close to my Mum, and she died a long time ago and I really miss her, so I loved to put her photo here, when she was in her prime. And the Girl with the Pearl earring I included because my Grandmother was Dutch…and I loved the book, and the painting. She represents my European heritage. And I also used some maps of Europe in the background too. And then I included the perennial mother, mother Mary. That felt really significant to me too, to include the nurturing, overarching mother. And I’ve included the french thing in there, I’ve always loved everything French, I love the language, I used to own a french perfumerie.

A:  I like the muted colours you’ve used in the background, it almost looks like you’ve stained it with tea or coffee or something.

C:  Yes I wanted an aged look. I had some other ancestor photos I could have used but they were more 1960’s photos and didn’t go so well with this old “Ancient Mother” look.

The above 2 pages were made by Christina during  Part one of the Heroine’s Journey which she completed last year. She has also completed Part 2, and the next pages are from that course.

Christina has travelled quite a lot, and has spent some years living in Canada, which she loves. She told me she really enjoyed making this Special Places page, sifting through her travel phtographs and remembering special places.Place Christina

 

 

Joseph Campbell said “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek”

During the Part 2 course we made a page about entering the cave and finding the “treasure”, whatever that may be, perhaps some new knowledge, some new strength or self confidence. The journalers could choose  from a series of different images to represent their treasure. Christina chose a Holy grail image, which is hidden behind an opening door in the cave.. I asked her about this page.

Christine TreasureA. Why did you choose the Grail image for your treasure, instead of the treasure chest or stars?

C. I’ve always had a thing for the Grail. A few years ago I did a workshop where we made a goblet to represent the Grail. I think the Grail is more mystical than a treasure chest. My red haired warrior is going on a quest, a mystical quest to get the Holy grail.

A. (On this page I introduced a new technique of scrunching and glueing down tissue paper to create a textured cave roof, which we then painted black or dark brown, When it was dry we rubbed  Inka Gold paint lightly on it, which was picked up by the higher ridges.  A.  I know you enjoyed the new process I introduced, of working with tissue paper to add texture. Can you say more about this?

C.Well I loved to create texture, I enjoy tactile 3 Dimensional art, and I also love gold, so I really loved rubbing the Inka Gold onto the tissue. I also tried rolling some tissue paper, as well as scrunching it,  to make stalactites hanging down.

A. yes everyone in the class was impressed with this innovation of yours.

C. i also put gold leaf around the image of the grail…you can only see this when you open the doors.

A. So finally I thought I would include your butterfly and flower head page. You have used a photo of yourself in your thirties I think. What was this page about for you in the end?

Butterfly head ChristinaC. Well as you had suggested I used some of the positive comments that the other Journeyers had written about me, as undercollage, along with a couple of my favourite poems that we had as our readings. I included a couple of tulips amongst the flowers to represent my Dutch heritage. But ultimately I think the page is about freedom…the butterflies represent freedom. I’m thinking of writing “Fly free” somewhere on the page.

A. I was impressed with the way you have made your butterflies 3 dimensional, in that you have only glued them down the middle and the wings are sticking out from the page.

C. Well, again, it’s that 3D thing that I really like. It was really interesting to see the things that the others wrote about me and to think, “so that’s how you see me!”

It was great to have Christina in the Heroine’s Journey group, and I really hope she continues art journaling, now that the course is over.

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Becoming

BecomingAn art journal page about Becoming…about using the gifts I have been given to become the person I would like to be, that I was meant to be, the highest version of myself. I was going to do this butterfly and flower head thing on a renaissance painting head, but then I realised I could just as easily use a photo of me and make it more personal. I remember “discovering” this photo of me, aged 34 when I was 50 and in a menopausal/post divorce depression. I couldn’t believe how happy and confident I looked. I kept staring at it. I’d forgotten I ever looked like that. I put it up on my fridge, to remind me that I was happy once. And will be again. So I love that photo and now it stands in as an avatar of me in some of my art journal pages, it represents my spirit shining through, even as my body grows older.

I offered this page as an idea to the students of The heroine’s Journey Part 2 course in their last week. I’m looking forward to seeing if some of them have made a similar page.

In the background I used photocopies of comments written on cards I had been given in recent years, by choirs or by the Songbirds, where they had written kind things about me, thanking me for my gifts.  I glued them down, gessoed over them lightly and then painted the aqua colour over the top.

Through the Threshold

Here is the evolution of another page I made for the Heroine’s Journey course (Part 2) to inspire the participants. The spacey background begins with a black gessoed background. I sponged some cerulean blue and pink paint on with a small sponge spouncer. Then mixed more white into the colours and sponged a bit more. Finally I splattered white paint “stars” by flicking a large brush filled with runny titanium  white paint.

Starry backgroundThis is a practice background I made first. It’s easy but effective I think.

 

 

 

Crossing the Threshold 2Here is my art journal page half done. I already had a black gessoed page with a white gesso painted Saturn shape on it. As a Capricorn Saturn is supposedly my ruling planet. It sat in my journal for months unfinished until I tried the spacey background technique.

 

 

Crossing the Threshold girlI wanted to create the idea of a small traveller going through an enormously daunting threshold. These ancient celtic standing stones did the trick, and they also toned in nicely with the colours in the planet.

 

 

Crossing the ThresholdThen it just remained to write something and the planet seemed the best place to write it.

 

I will also include here some of the quotes that we read at our Heroine’s Journey session on crossing the Threshold.

REFLECTIONS ON THE ART OF LIVING by Joseph Campbell

  1. “The hero’s journey always begins with the call. One way or another a guide must come to say, “Look, you’re in Sleepy Land. Wake. Come on a trip. There is a whole aspect of your consciousness, your being, that’s not being touched. So you think you’re at home here? Well, there’s not enough of you here. You are bigger than you know” And so it starts.

 

  1. The call is to leave a certain social situation, move into your own loneliness and find the jewel, the center that’s impossible to find when you’re socially engaged. You are thrown off center, and when you feel off-center, it’s time to go. This is the departure when the hero feels something has been lost and goes to find it. You are to cross the threshold into a new life. It’s a dangerous adventure, because you are moving out of the sphere of the knowledge of you and your community.

 

  1. When one thinks of some reason for not going or has fear and remains in society because it’s safe, the results are radically different from what happens when one follows the call. If you refuse to go, then you are someone else’s servant. When this refusal of the call happens, there is a kind of drying up, a sense of life lost. Everything in you knows that a required adventure has been refused. Anxieties build up. What you have refused to experience in a positive way, you will experience in a negative way. If what you are following, however, is your own true adventure, if it is something appropriate to your deep spiritual need or readiness, then magical guides will appear to help you.

 

  1. Your adventure has to be coming right out of your own interior, from your own centre. If you are ready for it, then doors will open where there were no doors before, and where there would not be doors for anyone else. And you must have the courage. When you cross the threshold, you are passing into the dark forest, taking a plunge into the sea, embarking upon the night sea journey. It involves passing through standing stones, narrow gates, or the like, which represent yes and no, the pairs of opposites. Once the hero or heroine crosses the threshold she may here discover for the first time that there is everywhere a benign power supporting her in her superhuman passage.

 

 

A door opens in the centre of our being

and we seem to fall through it into immense depths

which, although they are infinite, are all accessible to us;

all eternity seems to have become ours in this

one placid and breathless contact.    Thomas Merton ( 1915-1968 )

 

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.

You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.

People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.

The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.      Rumi

 

Through the gateway of feeling your weakness lies your strength;

Through the gateway of feeling  your pain lies your pleasure and joy;

Through the gateway of feeling your fear lies your security and safety;

Through the gateway of feeling your loneliness lies

your capacity to have fulfillment, love and companionship;

Through the gateway of feeling your hate lies your capacity to love;

Through the gateway of feeling your hopelessness lies

your true and justified hope;

Through the gateway of accepting the lacks of your childhood

lies your fulfillment now.

Eva Pierrakos

Doorways and Thresholds

This is a “how to do” post aimed at my Heroine’s Journey (Part 2) students…and of course anyone else interested in art journaling! We have been studying the Stages of the hero’s Journey (Joseph Campbell) in relation to our own lives and making an art journal to celebrate our lives and our journeys. Today we looked specifically at crossing the thresholds/doors/portals.

Here is the evolution of this first page on doors: First I painted a light background, mostly white mixed with Paynes Grey and Ultramarine blue…a bit like this page here:Grey background

then I cut out different sized arched door shapes from coloured tissue paper and glued them in, taking care to only put the Matt medium on the page and not directly on the tissue paper. Then I used a stencil girl stencil with arched doorways to jazz it up a bit.

Blue doorsI  wanted to add a doorway with doors you can actually open so I enlarged and printed out a photo I had taken in Tuscany of a door in Siena which I then backed with black cardboard (I used spray adhesive for this as I find it works better than Matt medium for large gluing projects, spray both of the surfaces!) It’s necessary to back the picture with cardboard so the doors will be strong enough when you cut them.

Blue doors cuttingYou’ll have to use a scalpel knife to cut the around the doors,  cut the centre line and the tops and bottoms but do not cut the edges which would be hinged!

Blue doors hand

 

I cut a rectangle of a starry sky, slightly bigger than the door opening and stuck it on the left hand page, and then stuck the door over the top, being careful to line it up so you can see the stars through the opening doors.

 

Blue doors 3

Blue doors 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I stencilled a few butterflies in a pale blue, on the right hand page.Blue doors 5 I tend to use butterflies a lot in my journals to symbolise the soul or spirit, so on this page they represent the soul calling me through the doorways, into the adventure, whatever it may be.

Finally I collaged a woman walking towards the doors and some butterflies .Blue doors 6 I used some alphabet stamps to write the word “Threshold”, stamping it first in white, but it was too hard to read so I stamped over it (and slightly to the right and down a fraction) in black. I quite like the effect. The word “Doors” I stamped in black using some alphabet stamps that I have been carving myself from ezy carve rubber (bought at the art shop..but you can also use ordinary erasers).Alphabet stamps You have to have special carving equipment for this  but the Speedball lino cut set is not very expensive. Carving my own alphabet stamps is kind of satisfying but it’s difficult, easy to make one slip and ruin the stamp, and time consuming so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for everyone!

Doorways page number Two. For this page I first painted a double spread with a few colours, mixed on the page…Raw Siena mostly with some Yellow ochre, white and a couple of patches of Paynes grey mixed with white. Then I cut some door shaped stencils from some spare glossy photo paper (excellent for stencils).Brown stencils I just folded the paper in half, cut half a door shape , then opened it out and voila! symmetrical door shapes.

 

 

I used a sponge spouncer (love that word!) to stencil different shades of brown paint through the door shapes. Then I made myself a new foam stamp, one I had been intending to make for a while, based on the rectangular shapes in Klimt’s painting, “The kiss” Brown stamp I love this stamp!

 

So then I stamped it with dark brown paint, and when that was dry, with a light gold colour paint.

Brown 1

 

I was quite pleased although there was a bit too much tonal contrast, I knew it would detract from the photos of doors that I wanted to collage over it, so I toned the background down a bit. To do this I mixed a watery mix of gesso and raw siena  and painted it in a wash over the whole page, rubbing it off a bit with a paper towel as I did it.

Brown 2

 

I like the way it looks not just like doors but like a whole city of buildings, doors and windows. Then I printed out some more of my Tuscan doors. I cut the actual doors out of the largest one and replaced them with a starry sky. To me the stars represent the mystery…of what might be beyond the threshold, the unknowable, the great BEYOND!

Brown 3Using the “Rule of three” to balance the composition I added 2 smaller doors. There was a beautfiful blue colour in the starry sky which I wanted to bring into other places on the page for balance so I stencilled 3 patches of blue. Then I used my handcut alphabet stamps again to stamp the word “Doorways”  vertically. I was a bit disappointed and wished I had just written it instead, the brown stamp pad I used was very mottled and uneven. BUT I try to let go of my perfectionism in my art journal, so it’s ALL GOOD.

Brown 4Finally I wrote something about one particular threshold crossing in my life, when I left Sydney and moved to the North Coast. I wrote really small, with a fine gel pen, which smudged a few times (that’s what happens to left handers, I’m used to it!)

I hope this has been helpful. Let me know if you make a Doorway or Threshold page.

Our Lady of the Orchids- Alcohol drops on acrylic paint

Our Lady of the OrchidsI had no idea what this page would turn out to be about while I was making it. When it was finished I asked the dancing lady what she wanted to say to me and she “spoke” immediately and said: “Dance while you still have time. We bloom for such a precious short time on this earth. Make haste to paint all your beauty upon the sky. Trust in yourself and in the many gifts you have been given. We are all unique and beautiful orchids with special gifts and talents.You are still just beginning to bring yours out and give them to the world. I will help you. Don’t worry, we’ve got this”

I began this page specifically to try out the technique of dropping alcohol onto wet acrylic paint and it’s turned into one of my all time favourite pages. The message is very meaningful to me and I love the colours and the alcohols dropping turned out quite well.

Method: 1. You must gesso the page first! The right hand page was not gessoed and the dropping did not work on it really.

2. I painted a light red wash and let it dry.     3. In the areas around the edge where I wanted to drop alcohol I painted a dark burgundy colour and then WHILE IT WAS STILL WET I dropped alcohol from a glass dropper (bought at the pharmacy). The alcohol I used was simply methylated spirits.   4. Then I did some bubble wrap stamping on the right hand page to echo the round shapes and darker burgundy on the left page, and collaged the lady and some orchids. Actually I just looked through my collection of images (that I’ve collected for SoulCollage mostly)and choose these because they toned in with the colour scheme.

5. My advice to you: If you make a page and you don’t really know what it’s about or what to write, ask it what it wants to say to you, then just start writing. Something amazing always comes out, just keep writing until it does.

I think I’m going to make an “Our Lady of the Orchids”  SoulCollage page using this image too as it really speaks to me. I could turn it into an 8 by 5 inch card on photoshop like this:Our Lady of the Orchids card sm

Autumn tree page

Autumn TreeAutumn leaves stencilAutumn tree background 2Autumn Tree poemThis is a page from my small journal in which the prompt was to imagine that we were part animal or plant. So I turned my self into an autumn tree (yes it looks a bit creepy!), and this prompted me to write a poem about reaching the autumnal years (see end of post for the poem)

I could not fit the whole poem on this small page, so I just wrote a few phrases of it and decided that I would make another autumn tree page in my larger journal.

I cut this stencil from waxed stencil paper and used it with gesso. On the left page I used the leaves as a mask, painting gesso all around them. On the right page I used the stencil, painting gesso only inside the leaf shapes.

Then I painted a couple of autumnal colours over both pages, wiping it back as I went, the gessoed areas resisting the paint and ending up lighter. This is the classic gesso resist technique that I have used quite a lot.

I found a few autumn leaves online and printed them out to make a bit of a leafy border, then wrote my poem.

 

Here is the poem:

 

I am becoming an Autumn Tree

I am becoming an autumn tree
My leaves no longer greenly, perkily lifting
Toward the sun
My limbs sometimes creaky in the wind,
All my seeds have floated away and now bloom
In far off lands
My blossoms have lost the blush of youth
And I foresee the day when my leaves will fall, one by one
Into the silence of winter.

And yet, the sap still pulses in my veins,
the breeze still sings in my branches,
and my leaves, Ah my leaves are a blazing torch,
lighting up my corner of the forest.
I offer my gifts to those who come searching,
Vermilion and crimson, russet and gold,
The autumn illuminates me, I am aglow
with the wisdom of many seasons,
and my autumn song may yet become
the sweetest of them all.

A Pop Up experiment

snake page top Snake page side 2 snake page front Snake page sideI decided to try a Pop up page in my art journal…it’s a new year, time to try new things! I followed some instructions I found on youtube for making pop ups. This is a spiral pop up, not very hard to do really. I decorated it to look like a snake..I had to do the underbelly as well  because part of that can be seen. It all lies down flat when you close the book, pretty neat huh!?

I also experimented with trimming of the lower right hand edge around a collaged snake, so you can see the black of the page behind it. I used some home made  foam stamps in the background. The Minoan snake goddess has square shapes on her skirt, so I echoed those by using square foam stamps in the background., as well as some spiral stamps I made to echo the snakey shape.

It was fun doing the pop up, I think I’ll try some other pop ups at some point. I’m trying to learn some more art journaling skills and techniques to teach in my Heroine’s Journey course….but more about that in my next post. Happy New Year!