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.

February and March Journaling

Here are some recent art journal pages. I have neglected my blog in the last couple of months, perhaps because I’m not sure whether anyone actually looks at it. Maybe people are looking at it, but just not making comments. Anyway, I thought I’d better do a catch up post before we take off for Europe in a weeks time. (So excited!)

I arranged a song called “Something opens our wings” based on a poem by Rumi for our Sanctuary group, plus I had this painting of a dark angel from an old calendar, and the page just came together. I “channelled” a letter from my dark angels telling me that its OK to be depressed sometimes. I LOVE this page.

The beloved local newspaper in Byron bay is called the Echo, and after I did some undercollage using the Echo I decided to turn it into a page about how I love living in the Byron Shire. I love the map border on the left, and  I used the trusty old plastic lacey tablecloth as a stencil. I LOVE this page too!

One week in our art journaling class we were challenged to draw something directly into our journals. I drew my hand drawing and turned it into this page about creating yourself. Since the drawing was grey pencil I tried out just having a whole grey scale page for a change and I like it.

 

For this next page our assignment was to cut 2 different landscapey pictures into interesting geometric shapes and fit them together. Since I have travel on my mind this is what I came up with.

And to finish this post here are 2 backgrounds which I have begun to collage and now I don’t know what to do next. This first one I think is so beautiful I’m afraid to do anything else to it.. The second one I think I’m liking the way its going,….but I’m not sure where that is exactly.

 

The background is quite textured ( I gessoed through the plastic tablecloth, let it dry, then painted over it with watery cobalt blue and raw umber) I shall be interested to see what appears on the left hand side.

I’ve been busy preparing some painted backgrounds in the journal I will be taking with me to Europe. I’m not planning on taking my acrylic paints, just a small watercolour travel set. I’m totally inexperienced with watercolour, so….it will be interesting!

Art journal pages that came easily

It’s getting towards the end of January, I have a brand new art journal ( I bought the bound Strathmore one) and I have quite a few pages from my finished journal that I still haven’t posted about…so here they are! I’ll spread them over 2 posts. This is one I started in Zom’s class.We were meant to use a photocopy of some part of our body but I’ve recently fallen in love with some scrapbook papers so I decided to cut my hand out of one of those. I wrote about being left handed, whether or not that makes me “artistic” and I added some pics of some famous left handed artists. I love this page, esp the silhouettes of my hand in the background, created with gesso resist.

This next page was mostly done in class also. People had brought in tarot and other divination cards and we chose 2 of them for our writing prompt. “Knowledge” was one of the cards I pulled and  I ended up writing about what I would like to read over the next few months. I had a bunch of images that I carry to class, including this beautiful painting of the reading woman. She seemed to want to be on the page with the ancient writing and statues so I just tied them all together with some burnt umber and yellow ochre paint. The whole page came together really fast and was very meaningful to me…I love it when that happens! I added the bird when I got home and then the sentence “through the doorway of knowledge flies the bird of wisdom” just popped into my head and became the title of the page.

Here is a page about our coming trip to Europe and how excited I am about it. I had lots of fun experimenting with writing in many different fonts..I’m a bit of a font lover, I think it dates back to my childhood days. When I was 10 I was sent to the opportunity school in Summer Hill and we had to buy the Speedball book of writing. We were expected to copy fancy fonts for heading on all our work and I loved it, especially the “old english” font. It’s much easier now to find interesting fonts, I’m always downloading them from free font sites on the net.

Love and light to all of you!

The dark places

I finally put something on this background that has been sitting here for months. I blogged about how I made the background here. For a long time I thought maybe I would do something about fire, since it looks a bit like flames. My sister commented that she thought it looked like a page about fear, but I didn’t feel to write a page about all my fears. I thought I’d rather write about what helps me to navigate my fears. Not just my fears, but the dark places of anxiety and depression as well. So I found some kind looking eyes and stuck them into the blackness. The goddess with the gold dust is showing me that there is treasure to be found by going through the darkness, and the eyes are showing me that I am not alone, they are there to help. I’m not sure who “they” are, something like spirit guides, or guardian angels, or aspects of my higher self. And maybe they’re all the same. In any case they are serene, unafraid, and they give me the gifts of compassion (for others going through dark places), courage and resilience.

I have been working in my journal a lot in the last few weeks, wanting to get all the pages finished for our exhibition (and they are finished, yahoo!) so I have a backlog of pages I would like to blog about. So I intend to try to blog a bit more frequently for a while to get through them all.

We’ve booked out tickets for Europe next year, nearly 4 months, wow! I’m still looking into what kind of journal I might keep while I’m traveling, there’s so many different options!

Growing Older

A few weeks ago I had a week when a few different people commented that I looked unhappy lately. This perplexed me because actually I don’t think I’ve ever been happier really! So I figured out it’s because the corners of my mouth are succumbing to gravity, so if you catch sight of me not smiling I probably do look unhappy, or even grumpy! This is of course a rather disturbing new development in my aging process, but not one I can do much about, unless I have a facelift which I won’t.I have noticed that not everyone gets this dropping mouth thing, I guess its hereditary because it happened to my mother. I wish it wasn’t happening. Sometimes I feel a bit depressed when I unexpectedly catch sight of myself in the mirror or not smiling in photos. On the other hand, some people my age are much more wrinkled than I am, so I suppose we all have different aging processes. I’m trying not to think about it, I mean I’m healthy and happy, and glad to be alive and able to go through the aging process! I think it was Maurice Chevalier who said “Old age isn’t so bad when you consider the alternative”.

So I made a page about all this and here it is. It is a fairly simple page really. I used some stencils and stamps and the red flowers are from some old wrapping paper.

I’ve nearly completed my first art journal..I started it in September last year, so its taken me 15 months. I have been working in a couple of other journals as well, but this is my large A4 one and I’m feeling quite proud of it. We have an art journal “exhibition” on next Thursday when some of the brave souls from our art journaling class (including me) will be putting them on display. It’s a bit scarey! I’ll take some photos and let you know how it all goes. I’ll be smiling in the photos.

The Holy Tree

“Beloved gaze in thine own heart, the Holy Tree is growing there…”

This is from “The Two Trees”, one of my favourite poems by W.B.Yeats. The poet encourages us to look into our own hearts with love and see the beauty and holiness growing there, and not to look through the “Bitter glass” where we see ourselves as an ugly bleak landscape distorted by self hatred. I will include the whole poem at the end of this post. Loreena McKennit has recorded a beautiful version of this poem (she wrote the music) which I have arranged to sing in my women’s choir Mystica, (and they do a beautiful job of it!).

How I made this page: I had collected this picture of a tree goddess from somewhere ages ago, and stuck her on a turquoise background. The page then sat untouched for months until I saw a mandala tree similar to this that someone posted on facebook. I considered downloading some mandalas form the net but I really wanted them to feel like mine, so I drew 3 mandalas on yellow paper using some coloured markers. The 3 largest ones are the originals. Then I scanned them and made them several different smaller sizes, printed them, cut them out and stuck them on the tree. I love the way they looked when they were reduced in size. I wrote most of the words of the first verse but had to leave out a couple of lines that wouldn’t fit.

You can find the Loreena McKennit version on youtube here:

I’ll leave you with the original poem, and remember you all have a beautiful holy tree growing in your own hearts. Love and light to all.

BELOVED, gaze in thine own heart, The holy tree is growing there;

From joy the holy branches start, And all the trembling flowers they bear.

The changing colours of its fruit Have dowered the stars with merry light;

The surety of its hidden root Has planted quiet in the night;

The shaking of its leafy head Has given the waves their melody,

And made my lips and music wed, Murmuring a wizard song for thee.

There the Loves a circle go, The flaming circle of our days,

Gyring, spiring to and fro In those great ignorant leafy ways;

Remembering all that shaken hair And how the wingèd sandals dart,

Thine eyes grow full of tender care: Beloved, gaze in thine own heart.

 

Gaze no more in the bitter glass The demons, with their subtle guile,

Lift up before us when they pass, Or only gaze a little while;

For there a fatal image grows That the stormy night receives,

Roots half hidden under snows, Broken boughs and blackened leaves.

For all things turn to barrenness In the dim glass the demons hold,

The glass of outer weariness, Made when God slept in times of old.

There, through the broken branches, go The ravens of unresting thought;

Flying, crying, to and fro, Cruel claw and hungry throat,

Or else they stand and sniff the wind, And shake their ragged wings; alas!

Thy tender eyes grow all unkind: Gaze no more in the bitter glass.

 

Living on the Inside

There is a song by Michael Franks that I have loved for many years called “Living on the Inside” and I was listening to it driving along the other day and thinking that it applies to me now as I am feeling very happy and content in my relationship. It occurred to me that it would be nice to make an art journal page based on it. This is the song:

Here is the page I made, a pic of my husband and I living on the inside of our happiness bubble. The golden “raindrops” have bits of our wedding ceremony inside them (very small). Sorry, I’m a hopeless romantic. They are golden because the goddess Aphrodite supposedly sends a golden rain or mist down over lovers. I painted the background to match some of the colours that were in the bubble and I put our photo into the bubble using photoshop. I only know how to do about 6 things on photoshop, but they have come in very handy for my art journal, as I LOVE including photos in my journal.

I decided just to write some, not all of the song lyrics, so I’ve written the first half of verse one and the second half of verse two.

 

She likes to be admired

I am totally in love with this aqua-blue colour at the moment and I’m telling you now, you have not seen the last of it in my art journal. Started this page in our art journal class a couple of weeks ago. Zom our teacher has gone overseas now and there won’t be another class until mid October, Godverdomme (that’s Goddammit, one of the only words I know in Dutch). How dare she have a life away from us! Anyway, this page started with the curtains…it was actually an ad for sanitary napkins! It inspired me to think about the part of me that likes to be admired, so I wrote down some of the things that I have been praised for over the years, from childhood through to the present day.

Have you ever done an enneagram test? I’ve done several different ones over the years, and I’ve mostly turned out to be a number 2 (people Pleaser/ Helper) but a few times I’ve come close to being a number 3, the Achiever (who loves to be admired!). Strangely I did a test recently and I was clearly a number 7 (the optimist) which I’ve never been before, so this must be something I have grown towards. I feel rather pleased about this, in an ignorant sort of way though, since I don’t actually know much about the enneagram. Anyway, the number 3 part of me does like to get praise and admiration and I do feel slightly embarrassed admitting this, though I don’t know why because I imagine just about everybody likes it, even if they don’t admit it. My sister Kathryn remembers me at about 3 years old twirling around in a circle of family who were admiring me in my new outfit, which would have been sewn by my mother. So actually they were really admiring HER and her clever sewing, but I’m sure I was feeling the admiration!

How I made the page (for the art journalers out there): First, painted the page with aqua acrylics, paler in the centre. Then used a plastic lace table cloth piece given to me by Fran from our class (thanks Fran) as a stencil and sprayed it with dylusions turquoise spray ink.  Loved the effect! Stuck on the curtains and clouds. Went home and googled “vintage dancer” and found this copyright free image. She was black and white, I printed her out and painted her before cutting her out and sticking her down. Found a font that looked a bit 30’s and copied down the heading in that font using a Posca paint pen, then wrote on the right hand page all the things for which I have been praised over the years. I haven’t used vintage images in my journal  before but I love this one and probably will use some more in future. I am very happy with this page for lots of reasons, the colours, the stencilling, the image, the curtains and the insights that I had about myself. Thanks for listening!

Some new pages

I have a new, smaller  art journal A5 size. I bought it to be a kind of “trash” journal in which I could try out new techniques and not be too concerned about how the pages turned out. Zom encouraged me in this because, as she rightly pointed out, I am now becoming increasingly reluctant to take risks in my large A4 journal, as it now has so many pages I’m happy with and is three quarters finished.

Having said all that, I am already fairly happy with my first 2 pages in this small journal. The one above is about the good things, and the bad things about having a Methodist minister as my father. I made the background using Dylusions spray inks, and a Cathedral stencil from Artist Cellar. In fact, I made the background just to try out my new stencils, and the Cathedral window design got me thinking about my upbringing in the church.

As you can see the girl has a stained glass window skirt, and she’s wearing Exeter Cathedral on her head! It was interesting for me to write down some of the things I’m grateful for with my churchy childhood, and also some of the bits I wasn’t so happy about.

 

Witnessing my thoughts

I belong to a women’s group that meets very infrequently (although we all love it when we do meet) This page was inspired by a meeting we had a couple of weeks ago when we were talking about Eckhart Tolle and trying just to allow ourselves to witness our thoughts and not get attached to them. Not as easy as it sounds! One of our members lovely 25 year old daughter died one year ago in a fire in Paris. We all so admire how she has dealt with this unimaginable tragedy, and one of the main things she does to survive is not attach to her thoughts but just keep returning to the present moment. Listening to her speak makes me resolve to do this more also, after all, my thoughts must be very petty compared to hers. I used the image of the thoughts drifting into my mind through a window, and I just watch them as they pass through and allow them to float out the door.

To create this page, I took a photo of my own eyes. First I tried fading it out to black (on photoshop) but it looked like I was wearing a burka, so then I faded it out to skin colour. Then I cut it out and blended it into the page more with acrylic paint. The window had a light brown surrounding, and the door a dark brown, so I tried to match this with paint to blend them into the page and then blended both browns into the skin colour above. This was quite difficult, I have trouble with acrylic paint it seems to dry so fast, before you have a chance to blend it! Then I wrote some examples of the kinds of thoughts I might be likely to have. I must say, I am pleased with this page, I like the way my funny little eyes are floating up there, I love the window and door and I love that this page is really meaningful to me as a reminder to summon up my witness more often!

To finish this post I will leave you with a quote from Eckhart Tolle (who I consider one of the great teacher/philosophers of our time)

“Be present as the watcher of your mind — of your thoughts and emotions as well as your reactions in various situations.  Be at least as interested in your reactions as in the situation or person that causes you to react.  Notice also how often your attention is in the past or future.  Don’t judge or analyze what you observe.  Watch the thought, feel the emotion, observe the reaction.  Don’t make a personal problem out of them.  You will then feel something more powerful than any of those things that you observe: the still, observing presence itself behind the content of your mind, the silent watcher.”

Eckhart Tolle