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.

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!

My third journal

I’ve decided to get back to my blog, now it’s 2016! Here are a few pages from my third journal which is almost finished. Church in the Pines World Traveller Son Gerrit in NZ Guilt into Gold Kabir's Song Mandala page Autumn Tree poem Door to FreedomI mostly love my pages actually. This is what I use: Acrylic paints, stencils (home made and bought, including a plastic lace tablecloth), collage, scrapbook patterned papers, home made foam background stamps, gesso resist, occasionally a spray ink. And of course black and white pens, mostly uniball gel.

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More Travel Journal Pages

I’ve been continuing to work on more pages for my 2011 Travel Journal. Luckily I had kept quite a lot of pamphlets, maps etc from our trip, and since the journal is a loose leaf one in a ring binder, I can add lots of pages retrospectively. I alsokept a brief diary of all the places we went so it has been easy to write about it. I have enjoyed this process so much,reliving  memories of that trip and designing pages to celebrate each place we visited that I’m thinking of making my next travel journal in a similar loose leaf format so I can keep adding to it after the trip is over. This prolongs the pleasure!

Anyway, without further ado, here are the pages I have done over the last few months.

Vaison la Romaine Les Baux Pont du Gard Collioure Castelnou Carcassonne Dordogne FontevraudThese are all in France, Provence, Carcassonne, the Dordogne, the Loire. I’m still working on the Paris pages.

Getting into Mandalas

Mandala JoyA JOY mandala.
Just finished this watercolour mandala last night. I’m not experienced with watercolours at all but I’m starting to like them a lot. I started this one using watercolour pencils but the bright red/orange is actually paint which I found to be much brighter than the pencils.
I am doing a 4 week Mandala course at the moment with Rosalind Gittings and for this exercise we thought of a positive feeling like Peace, Love, Joy etc and visualised a symbol for it to use in our mandala. So my symbol was a sunflower and the emotion was JOY.

I might go ahead and make some other mandalas for Love and Peace at some point.

Winter Comes on

Winter Comes OnIn our art journaling class last week we had a go at blowing runny paint (mixed with some kind of flow medium as well as water) with a straw. I ended up with a background that reminded me of winter branches. I took the background home and stared at it for a while. Then I was looking through an old diary called “The lover’s diary” and I came across this couple in a painting called “The Garden of Eden” by Riviere. They are in a cold looking bleak background, yet her face is lit with love, they seem to be in their own little world. I imagined them on my winter tree background. Before dinner I had a sunset walk on the beach. The winter is almost here, the evening falls earlier every day, but the sunsets in May are spectacular. Nevertheless, I felt a bit depressed when I was driving home, as I often seem to do after sunset on a winter’s evening. I wonder if it’s a kind of seasonal affected melancholy, perhaps it is an ancient coding in my genes? My husband , who does not get depressed, finds it hard to understand these feelings. But he is always there for me, being solid and kind and supportive. So my gratitude to him drags me out of any feelings of depression, and by the time I was glueing down these images I was cheery again. Doing something creative (as opposed to watching television in the evenings) is a mood lifter as well!

Anyway, all of that is what this page turned out to be about. Many different feelings and ideas came together on the page. Art journaling is a wonderful thing.

What to do with a beautiful background

It’s hard to know what to do when you’ve made a background you really like and are afraid to ruin it. I had these two backgrounds waiting a long time, months, to have something else put on them.  I posted about them here earlier in the year. This is what I have ended up doing on these 2 backgrounds and I like how they’ve turned out.

Both Sides Past Lives

Because this page already had the 2 Botticelli faces I had an idea to make the page about the way that I can usually see both sides of most issues. The angels are speaking in Latin, as all my art journal angels do….they are saying “On the one hand (side) ” and “on the other hand”

 

This page already had some ancient looking pillars and an Egyptian statue, but I didn’t have a clue what it was about. It came together more when I added the flying eagle, which I decided represented the soul flying from life to life. As I say in this post, I’m not totally convinced that I believe in past lives, but I am drawn to certain places and time periods, so I was just fantasizing about where my past lives may have been, if I indeed have had some!

Do you think you have had past lives? Where do you think they may have been?