Friday, January 30, 2015

This and That: Tape, Paper, Planners....and Jodi Ohl!

In spite of the promises of snow and my lingering cough wreaking havoc on my plans, I've got lots of little things to share!
First, I am the proud new owner of a set of the bright and beautiful washi tape designed by Aimee of Artsyville.  She has decided to "retire" her washi tape project, and offered a "buy one set, get one set" from her Etsy shop, and my awesome Mom gifted me with my very own set of six.  You are likely to see lots of Artsyville washi on my planner and art journaling pages in the coming months!
Aimee is always generous with her hand-lettered goodies, and included this insert with lots of ideas for using her washi tape.  At the rate my collection is growing, I better be getting some of these projects underway!  I have accumulated a LOT more rolls since I showed you my wooden schoolhouse storage solution.
My mother and I are taking full advantage of living close to one another for the first time in almost twenty years.  We both love art-making and paper, paper, paper, so art and crafts stores are dangerous for us!  But now, when we buy a pack of paper, for example, we split it with one another so we can enjoy even more variety.  My mom picked an autumn-themed collection, and I added the papers above to my stash.  My collection was called Mango Frost...gorgeous!
We used our new paper to work on a project I've been wanting to try since Cloth Paper Scissors published the article, "Folder Journal:  Making Art From Office Supplies," in one of their 2011 issues.
I think I want to add some additional papers to mine--maybe some text pages and vintage images--but for now, here is the booklet I crafted from a common office file folder:

First inside spread

Second inside spread

I am such a HUGE fan of stitched paper, and I love that this project had me stitching front and back sides with no concern for the backsides of the stitching showing.  By using the Mango Frost paper selection, I had guaranteed color much easier than digging through my paper collection hoping my colors and patterns don't clash!
Finally, I've been continuing my efforts to perk up my planner pages to add some fun to the mundane task of keeping my time organized.  Remember the empty little planner spread awaiting the beginning of a new week?
Well, this is one example of how the embellishing happens over the course of a week:
The stickers, the tape, the clip art, the quotations, the comments about my day, the sticky notes--they all make it that much more interesting to keep track of my days.
A great simple quotation from MLK, Jr.

As this week draws to a close, here's the spread that has been growing over the past five days:
Since I don't maintain a daily art journal, this is a simple fun way to infuse a little color and creativity into my life when I don't have time for a full-fledged project.
Finally, I wanted to share a link to a post by Jodi Ohl.  Via her eNewsletter, Jodi asked her readers to submit "burning questions" about art-making and the artist's life.  She wrote a post responding to the question I shared with her, and I would love for you to check it out.  Here is what I wrote to her:

Hi Jodi!  I met you at the CREATE Mixed-Media Art Retreat in 2013, and I have a piece of your artwork hanging happily in my art room!  My burning question has to do with balancing artwork created for business versus artwork created for personal pleasure.  Once you become a professional artist, do you still have opportunities to create art simply for personal pleasure, or does it pretty much always have to serve some purpose--for a show, as a demonstration, as a commission, etc.?  And how is your process affected?  Is your process different when you are creating a piece for a specific purpose, versus just messing around, having a fun, trying out a technique, etc.?

You can read her response to me here.  If you have a question for Jodi, she is still accepting "burning questions" to respond to!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

It Takes Courage...Oh, the Irony!

"It Takes Courage"
I created this painting this afternoon, trying to make up for a piece I made yesterday that felt like a dismal failure.  I knew I liked my idea, but I was unhappy with yesterday's results, so I bit the bullet and started all over again from scratch. 
My building blocks for this painting were:
1. this favorite quotation from e.e.cummings that I have saved in one of my many notebooks:  "It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are,"
2. a butterfly stamp that inspired the ones on my painting,
3. the work of Cindy Wunsch, published in Cloth Paper Scissors in their November/December 2011 issue.  I like her mixed-media background, large undetailed central image, and stamped poetry across the page.

Here is the piece I did yesterday: 
I liked the background, and a few of the small butterflies came out nicely, but the shapes and markings on the large butterflies looked much too artificial and forced.  I am really working on painting and drawing with a lighter hand, and it's not easy for me!

I call "courage" ironic in my blog post title, because I was so sure that I would mess up this second effort, that I took a photo of my background before I began, just in case I completely ruined my painting and had nothing good to show for it!
But I guess I should give myself some "courage credits" for digging in and trying again.  I am much happier with my results this time!  The stylized butterflies look more "clean," simple, and purposeful to me than in yesterday's piece.
Have you grown up and become who you really are?  I like to think I'm on my way...

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Pumped Up Planner Pages

I have always been a paper-planner girl.  Ever since my days of carrying an assignment book around in my high school backpack, I have put pen to paper to create lists, schedules, and reminders to keep life running as smoothly as possible.  I love my iPhone for making calls, taking photos, and updating Facebook, but I'll just never be an Evernote girl!

Until I read The Artistic Mother by Shona Cole, it never occurred to me to beautify my planner pages or make them anything other than plain and utilitarian.  In one of her projects, Shona guides us through the process of creating beautiful backgrounds and art action plans in the form of lists or calendars, using stamps, oil pastels, punches, and printed words to decorate the pages.

From there, I watched online as Julie Fei-Fan Balzer and Effy Wild created gorgeous daily art journal entries.  Then along came The Documented Life Project, integrating art journaling techniques with a daily planner.  I also watched as a number of the bloggers I read and follow created their own self-designed planner pages to sell in their Etsy shops. 
Finally, I began a Pinterest board called Daily/Weekly Plan Books, and pinned all sorts of fun and gorgeous planner pages in Martha Stewart binders, Filofax and Hobonichi planners, Moleskine journals, and Erin Condren Life Planners.

I made my first effort to beautify my planner pages as I was getting ready for 2014, when I added washi tape and stickers to brighten up the pages.  I didn't change the way I used the book, though, so I ended with my same old scrawl and cross outs surrounded by pretty tapes and stickers.  Not much to look at by the end of the year.
This year, after soaking in the inspiration from my pin board, I'm off to a better start.  I still need my planner to function as a workhorse...I need it for my week's menu plan, doctor's appointments, and things my girls need to take to school with them.  But I am using stickers and sticky notes to record some of these things, and using open spaces for pretty tapes, interesting quotes, and brief notes about the day.
It is still an all-utilitarian planner for me, because I can't afford to give up that functionality.  But it has color and interest that makes me smile when I look back over the pages, and enough information to serve as almost a little diary of some of my days.
See the flowing-haired woman on her stationary bike up there?  I typed "woman riding stationary bike" into Yahoo Images to get a reference picture to sketch for my spin class appointment.
The next time I went to spin class (above), I drew my water bottle resting on the handlebars!  It's kind of fun to look back over my pages and see the little sketches and other "fancies" that brighten up the pages.
When the week begins, my planner is a plain and lonely-looking space:
Sometime next week, I'll show you what this week's spread ends up looking like once it's gotten full use!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Success! (Another Pieced Paper Collage)

In my last post, I showed you my first attempt at a pieced paper botanical collage, using the design and technique presented by Susan Black in a 2013 Cloth Paper Scissors article.

I commented that I looked forward to trying the technique again, using my own design, so that my final result will feel less forced and more original.

I designed my own piece, using drawings of seed heads and dragonflies from 20 Ways to Draw a Tree by Eloise Renouf as reference pieces.
I also chose my papers more carefully for this piece, being certain that they all appealed to me individually and in concert with one another, and that they felt balanced on the page.
Finally, I did not include any handwritten element.  As much as I like to include printed words in my collages, I'm not "there yet" on incorporating my own lettering and enjoying the results.
With those changes from my dress rehearsal attempt, I created a piece that I really enjoy! 

Caatje mentioned in her comment on the last post that "often our opinion of our work is not so much about the work itself, but about how we felt when we made it."  How true!  Making my first piece I was focused on following the instructional steps and using Susan's design, which probably led to my feeling that the final result looks forced.  On this piece, I was excited to create my own design and make the project "my own," and it feels much more natural and original.  

I am encouraged to continue creating these pieced paper collages on coffee-wash backgrounds!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Pieced Paper Botanical Collage

I had a dress-rehearsal today for a pieced paper collage technique that I would like to explore further.  I'm not entirely satisfied with the results, but I think that if I try it again with a more original design, the final result will feel less "forced."
I used a tutorial by Susan Black, published in Cloth Paper Scissors back in July/August 2013.  The first step is to brew black coffee to use as a stain for my watercolor paper.  I used a packet of instant coffee that I've had in my craft stash for years for just this purpose.
I used a 2-inch foam brush to lightly apply a wash of the coffee to my 9x12 sheet of cold-press watercolor paper. 
Then I dabbed more coffee onto the paper, and the initial light wash "contained" the pools of coffee within their perimeter (except for a couple renegade dribbles that ran off the side of two of the four papers I stained).
I tilted and turned the paper to let the coffee run around the page, and then used my embossing tool to further spread it around the page.  It looks like a very light wash of neutral color until it dries, and then you can see the varied layers quite well.  There is no way to tell how a given background will turn out, which is part of the fun of creating them.  Here are the four different backgrounds I created:
For the next step, I drew a pencil sketch onto tracing paper, using basically the same design that Susan Black uses in her article.  She advises us to place the tracing paper over top of the coffee-stained background as we draw, which helps with the composition and design.  Next, I held the watercolor paper up to the window with the tracing paper underneath, and copied the design onto the watercolor paper.  In retrospect, I would trace it quite lightly, because the pencil lines are not part of the finished product.
Finally, I painted the stem, and then chose papers from my stash to piece over the drawing to create the collage.  I used my tracing paper drawing again, holding it up to the sunny window under the scrapbook papers I selected.  I drew the shape in pencil, and then cut it out and fit it into its place in the collage.
I used a glue stick to adhere the papers.
I used watercolor paint for the stems--vidrian hue toned down with burnt umber.  Then I used a black pen to add outlines, dots, leaf veins, and accents to the stems.  I used two colored markers, including one with a bit of a metallic quality, to write the word "wonder" in the corner of the collage.
I like it, yes, but I copied Susan Black's design almost directly, and I would like to do a more original piece next time.  I feel as though the piece looks "forced" when it so closely mimics her work.  I enjoyed the process, though, and look forward to trying it again, when I can make the final result more "my own."

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Art Journaling Circles: January Meet-Up

Last night, I attended my first meet-up with the Journaling Circles group that meets in my area, led by the author and artist Rosemary Augustine.  The group meets once a month at a local Panera to work in our art journals:

Our facilitator Rosemary leads the group, providing the exercises and theme for the night:
I found out about Journaling Circles on, while looking for art-related groups in my area.  I was so excited to discover that these like-minded women are pursuing their creativity and artistic expression just a half-hour from my home!
We all came with our own stash of markers, paints, water-brushes, washi tape, and other basic supplies, not knowing exactly how Rosemary would direct our evening.  We started out with a moment of deep-breathing to center ourselves, so we could breathe in our creativity and breathe out criticism, judgment, and expectations.  I often underestimate how valuable such moments are before launching into my art.  I can feel a real shift when I take a moment to relax, switch gears, and focus.

Then we did some loosening-up exercises in our journals, just to get our arms stretched and our hands moving--both dominant and non-dominant hands!
Then we set to work on our evening's prompt.  We were thinking about "DIRECTION," and creating some sort of map for our new year.  For awhile, we worked independently and quietly, but soon we began to talk and share about ourselves as we worked.
Lisa couldn't resist a smile for my "candid" shot of the table!
I worked in an art journal that I've used on-again/off-again for a few years now.  It is a 1964 calendar with a Venetian theme.  I created my flow-chart style spread over top of a reproduced painting of one of the grand waterways of Venice.  I made twelve boxes to represent the twelve months of the year, but my goals are not restricted to any particular month; they will be present to carry me throughout a creative and healthy 2015.
My finished art journal spread:  Direction, 2015.
A couple of the women allowed me to photograph them with their completed pages.  Here is Megan, who is a software consultant by day, and a talented artist and blogger all the time.  I am very excited to check out her blog further, as what I've seen so far is a great read.
Here is Lisa, a career teacher now pursuing her degree to become a college English professor--a girl after my own heart!
We were a diverse group in our 30s, 40s, and 50s, including an art therapist, a children and youth director, a stay-at-home mom (that's me!), a project manager, an author and artist, and others I look forward to learning more about at future gatherings.  I came home feeling energized and inspired...and, after all, isn't that what it's all about?