Make a Mess Magic

I’ve been doing the 21 secrets Color Color Color (or, as we say in this country, Colour, colour colour) online course. The class that has grabbed me the most is the one by Hali Karla called Make a mess magic. Hali invites you to make a mess, applying paint in different ways with no idea where it is going, and then invites you to make Magic from it somehow. She suggests using 2 complementary colours and exploring the different colours of brown/neutral/grey that is made by mixing them together. In her demo she used Blue and orange but suggested we could also use red and green or  purple and yellow. I decided to make 3 different pages so I could try all 3 combinations.

Here is my red and green attempt. Which I HATED because the red bits looked like blood and gore. I can see that red paint used straight can pretty much look like you’ve smeared blood across your page. Or perhaps I’m being a bit sensitive?

red-and-green-messAnyway, I stared at it for a long time, I even smeared some gold paint on it hoping to redeem it. Eventually I decided that most of the red had to go, so I used the fern and plant masks that I had cut earlier in the year and masked around them with 2 shades of green, a dark and a light. The red was only poking through in small quantities , which was a vast improvement!

red-and-green-maskedIt made for quite a colourful busy background though and so I thought it needed something in black and white to stand out. Black and white, hmmm…? I know, magpies! If you don’t live in Australia you may not be familiar with magpies, but they are everywhere here. Everytime I go out for a walk I see lots of them, usually staring intently at me, sometimes swooping down to scare you away if they have babies in the trees (in springtime). They are very cheeky birds who will swoop in to steal your food if they can. My mother loved them and used to go out everyday holding out food and calling “maggie, maggie, maggie”.

red-and-green-finishedThey showed up quite well on this background, but I did have to paint a little bit of watered down white paint behind them to tone down the background. After I outlined them with some white and black pens, I asked them what they wanted to tell me. I thought it might be something timeless and enlightening, since they are quite magical birds, a bit similar to ravens, and they have an intelligent look in their eyes. But they started singing an old silly song from 1981 by Joe Dolce, “Shaddap a Your Face”. In case you don’t remember the song,  I include the lyrics of the chorus here for your edification, it was sung with an italian accent. :

 Mama used to say all-a time.What’s-a matter you? Hey! Gotta no respect.
What-a you t’ink you do? Why you look-a so sad?
It’s-a not so bad, it’s-a nice-a place.Ah, shaddap-a you face! I’ll include the Youtube clip below.

So my birds said to me: “what’s a matter you?  Why you look so sad? it’s a not so bad! it’s a nice place!”  Fortunately they didn’t go so far as to say “Shaddup a you face” but I could tell they were thinking it!

It seems a bit silly, but actually, this is quite a deep and timeless message for me. I have been feeling a bit …well, not exactly sad, but a bit FLAT and lacking in joy at times, which considering my life is actually wonderful and I live in the best and most beautiful place IN THE WORLD (and I’ve travelled a lot in the last 6 years which has only confirmed this opinion!) with a husband who is wonderful and supportive, my flatness is inexplicable and disappointing. So I need to hear the magpies’ message! What IS the matter with me? Why do I look so sad?? it’s a not so bad! It’s a nice-a place! So I’ll just Shaddap-a my face now. Thanks for visiting my blog!

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Equanimity: a new art journal page

equanimity-processThe last few months in my art journal have largely been about experimenting with colour. For this page I chose 2 images which had a similar dark burgundy colour and then I took the colours from the butterfly woman image, cream, sky blue and burgundy/dark salmon/red oxide to create a background. I did not know what the page was going to be about, so as usual I ‘asked’ the images what they wanted to tell me, like I do when I’ve made a SoulCollage card. The beautiful woman on the left said “i am one who observes my ageing process with equanimity”. Obviously she is a part of me, although i must admit sometimes she is hard to find. I feel I am ageing a lot faster now, since I turned 60 and it can be challenging at times to look in the mirror!!!

equanimity-sm

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Queen Archetype and a new colour combination

I thought I’d try out a new combination of colours. I recently bought a colour called green grey, so I wanted to try it out. I also just received a parcel I had ordered containing  new art journal , the Dylusions Mixed media journal, and a new stencil, one with small dots. Excited I leapt into a page straightaway, with no idea what it would be about. The only colours I used for this spread were:  Green Grey, Red Oxide, Yellow Ochre and Titanium White. The background turned out like this: then I used the new stencil with the small dots basically all over the page, using only those same paint colours mixed into different combinations.

queen-backgroundqueen-stencilledI had an image from a magazine of a woman holding a funny orange fluffy thing on her head, so I collaged it down and painted over it, turning the fluffy thing into a crown and changing the colour of her outfit so it toned into the background better. She is crowning herself so I decided perhaps the page was about the Queen Archetype. As often happens whenever I make a SoulCollage (or in this case art journal page) about an archetype it means I am becoming more aware of its presence in my life. I have had a Princess card in my SoulCollage deck for a long time…I think it was the second card I ever made, back in 2007. But now I feel I have graduated from Princess  to Queen, in the sense of feeling more in control perhaps, definitely older and more mature,  or at least more having sovereignty over my own life, and also having more to give to others, because i am happy and stable in my own life.

queen-collagedThe image of the 16th century Queen appeared next and then for some reason I really wanted a nautilus shell. Not sure why, I just love them. That Italian patterned paper I bought in Italy last year came in handy as well. Then it was time for a bit of embellishment with a cream Posca and a white gel pen

So there you have it, my Queen Archetype page.queen-finished I decided that even though I have a queen archetype, it’s not a haughty queen, but more of a democratic and friendly queen. I know I am a leader but I also like to be democratic and encourage others to have input and to find their own inner queens.

Lyrical pages

dance-me-ephemeradance-me-2

I recently did an online course with Roxanne Coble called “Let’s Get Lyrical” in which we made pages based on the lyrics of a song. Altogether I made 4 different spreads and I might even make some more. I took a couple of process shots for each page, so you can see the images and ephemera I glued down to start with. We were encouraged to do a lot of doodling with pens at the end, which was really fun and something I had not done much of in the past.

dance-me-finishedThe first page I did was about Leonard Cohen’s Dance me to the End of Love, which was the song that I taught to my choirs and they sang it at my wedding in 2009 and we did our bridal waltz to it. So a special song for me.

 

Next I did Natural Woman, then Bridge Over troubled Water and finally Vincent (Starry Starry Night) as the Songbirds are working on learning an arrangement of it at the moment.

natural-woman-ephemeranatural-woman-completebridge-over-1bridge-over-3starry-night-1starry-night-finished

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 ZealandBack in Brunswick smDecadesImagination

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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?

 

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.

A. 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.

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.