Sunday, 24 June 2012

Using Symbols to Invoke in your Art Journal

I have observed over the years that qualities and events I have painted have often come into being. This is not just my experience.
I remember one art journaler saying that 90% of what she put into her art journal came true. I am not a big believer in magical thinking, but I do think that clarifying values and bringing desires into your conscious mind makes a difference as to whether they manifest into your life.
As well as that, there is something mysterious about working with symbols that bypasses our limited conscious mind and goes straight into our subconscious where real change can happen. It is said that symbols are the language of the unconscious.

Last week in class I had my students do a writing prompt on which quality they would like to have, if it would just be theirs without any effort. Then we chose an animal that we felt embodied that quality.

It has been a while since I have done an art journal page around a conscious idea. I usually work very spontaneously, making lots of backgrounds, collecting collage images that appeal to me and sticking them in where it looks good. Then adding writing where I feel to. A lot of synchronicity can happen that way.

In class the quality I chose was gumption. The animal was the bear. The other night as I was working on these pages, I found an old background that I had hated. When I placed the images on it, it was perfect. My two bears fit like it was made for them.
It is a very simple spread and still unfinished, but I feel empowered every time I look at it.


Thursday, 21 June 2012

the Joy and Mystery of Following Creative Impulses

I am afraid my title is rather grander than what I actually have to show you. Which is... a sweater.
Wait, this is a sweater that I am very fond of. Have had for years. Probably my favourite sweater.
But it was holy. You know, full of holes. I took it out of my bag of winter clothes and said "well, you have had your day sweater. May be time to go." I had already demoted it to an at-home sweater, the only place lower is studio sweater. Then garbage. Because nobody would want my ex-studio clothes.
What the heck, I might as well google 'fixing holes in sweater'. Although these were quite large holes, and did I say there were a lot? (this is actually one of the smaller ones that I haven't sewn yet. I keep finding more.)

Anyway to shorten up this story, I decided to give it a go as we say in Australia. I got out embroidery thread that deliberately did not match (it is pinker than it looks in this shot). I decided to knot it on the outside rather than neatly on the inside. It was starting to feel more like fun and less like mending.
This is what it looks like on the inside.
And how it looks on the outside with all the loose ends from the knots. I don't know why I am posting so many pictures, it isn't that interesting.
I kind of wish the inside with all the mending stitching was the outside now.


And finally I will get to the point. Which strangely kind of relates to it not being that interesting. I titled this post 'the Joy and Mystery of Following Creative Impulses' because I do not understand why this whole exercise is giving me so much pleasure. I am mending an old sweater and it isn't turning out anything special and the whole thing is making me very happy.
And I can't wait to do some more mending on it. I am so glad I found some more holes. 
Explain that to me.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Living the Simple Life?



My bloggie friend Ricë has been writing in her blog, mentioning the simple life. She gets an idea in her head and she likes to chew on it a while. Her thinking has got me thinking, you know how it goes.

I have read a little about the slow food movement, slow travel, and I very much like the idea of slow art. I don't know if I read anything about that or if I just made it up (note to myself: that would be a fun blog post to write.) Is the slow movement connected to simple living or is that a thought that Ricë put in my head?

I think I must live a simple life. It wasn't something I set out to do, at least not like a conscious choice of "I must simplify my life." I don't think I had a terribly complicated life to begin with. I have never had a mortgage, it has been a long time since I had a regular job. I have always lived on the cheap because I have never had much money. And I have never had much money because I wanted to be an artist.

My husband and I live on a large property in the rainforest with five other families. We bought the land together about 14 years ago. Our house is small and simple with a single outdoor toilet, rainwater and solar hot water. We do have electricity and a gas stove, but our heating is from a wood stove. We recycle most of our waste as we take our own garbage to the dump - a trip of several garbage bags every few months.

I buy few things, pretty much only what we need. It is a fairly long drive to the shops (30 minutes) and I don't like shopping malls or shopping. The only things I buy that really excite me are stuff to make stuff with.

We don't have a veggie garden and I don't bake bread. But we do shop at the local farmer's market. I do refashion and I would like to make more of my own clothes.

Our house is kind of strange in that it looks bigger than it is. The upstairs is a single room, downstairs is a tiny kitchen, a small living room and my husband's study. The building on the left is our outdoor dunny and a tool shed. The roof behind that is my studio.

I have a feeling that most westerners live very differently. I get this feeling because bloggers speak a lot about getting rid of stuff, simplifying their lives and buying less. Which is great. But if I did that I would probably be in an empty house wearing rags. I do actually wear rags, but only for working in the studio, haha. Just today I realised that my 'new' jeans are over a year old.

I like my simple life. The advantages are pretty obvious. I like how I spend my time and the work I do. I love living in the rainforest with the animals. I live in such a way that has less impact on the earth (although because of how far out we live, we do have two cars.) The disadvantages are that I can get a bit insecure that my house looks poor to other people or that I don't dress well enough. It is a kind of social shame that can come up when I imagine that others are judging me.

What is your life like? Simple or complex? Do you like it that way?

Sunday, 17 June 2012

How to Use Black Gesso in your Art Journal

Saturday I was with a private student and we talked about black gesso, the dark sister of the usual white gesso. 

Most art journalers are familiar with gesso. If you aren't here is a post called What is Gesso and Why Should I Care? 

Black gesso can be used like white gesso, as a base for paint. Like white gesso it changes the surface of the page and makes it easier to manipulate the following paint layers. Sometimes I use black gesso alone as a background.

 As you can see, it creates a very different mood. For this reason alone I would suggest you have black gesso in your box of art journaling tools.

Gel pens 'pop' nicely on black gesso. If you want to slightly change the colour of your background you can add a layer of another colour over the top. This can get you a very dark purple or blue-black. Gesso is naturally matt, so adding paint is also a way to make the surface a bit shinier.

On the left page I actually lightened it a bit with some purple paint with a bit of white added. It is still quite dark.

If you want a little respite from all the black darkness, you can use black gesso on only part of the page. I think I actually cheated on the pages above and added collage borders. But the one below was done using removable painters tape to make sharp lines.

If I remember correctly, I first painted the blue background. I didn't really like it so I used some tape to define the edges and painted a border in the black gesso.  Later I added a 'frame' drawn with my gel pens.


 In these pages I added the black gesso later. Sometimes I will divide a page into thirds and then paint either the bottom or top third with black gesso. I usually use the black section for writing.

Along the same lines, I also like to add shapes of black gesso on certain pages. Usually this is at a later stage when it seems to need 'something'. Mostly the shapes are rectangles but with the above pages I tried something a little different. You could use a stencil or just paint a shape freeform. 


Finally these are the pages I was doing with my student -obviously they are not finished. The black gesso rectangle that I added makes me think of a chalkboard. Have you seen the chalkboard paint? Such a cool idea.


Friday, 15 June 2012

Finished Painting - 'the Shelter of TIme'


This is my most recently finished painting, 'the Shelter of Time'. It came from a photo session I did with one of the neighbour girls nearly two years ago. I shot her underneath the huge fig trees that are on our property.
Originally I wanted the piece to have a slightly ominous atmosphere. I am not sure I captured that, but I am pleased with the feeling of the tree. (if you want to see it larger, just click on it.)

I am still debating whether to use matt varnish on it. It will lessen the value differences slightly, but I prefer matt to a shinier finish for this series on wood.

I have quite a few paintings in the studio at various stages. I used to post the different stages on my blog that they went through. I enjoyed sharing those with you. But recently I discovered someone had posted one of the in-process photos on Pininterest thinking it was a finished painting. I found this embarrassing, as if I had gone to a party still wearing my slippers. So to prevent further misunderstandings, I am just posting finished paintings now.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Around My Neighbourhood


One of my favourite beaches for a walk is in a nearby town called Brunswick Heads. 

It has been wintry lately.

We pretty much had the place to ourselves yesterday.

Back at my place in the hills, we have had a visitor the past few days.
There are a few goannas on the land. This one is about four and a half feet.
The building is a combination of our tool shed and the compost lou. 

He isn't dangerous unless you try and grab him or something. They have big claws and can run very fast.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

A Few Drawings from My Art Journal

I am trying to draw with my new nib pen in my art journal.


It is pretty awkward. I am used to a Micron, which draws an unchanging narrow straight line, . The nib pen has to be dipped into an ink pot to fill it with ink, sometimes the ink flows nicely from the nib, sometimes not. The paper in my art journal is probably a little rough for pen work. 

I plan to persist because the pen is so pretty. 

Well, that isn't the only reason. I like the changing width of the line (pretty much why everyone uses a dip pen). 

This drawing was a little more successful, but it could be a while before I feel graceful with this pen. 

Why is she sitting on a goat? Good question. I thought it was more interesting than a horse.

We used to have goats. They are wonderful affectionate animals. We had a nubian goat like this one. She was a most beautiful goat, and so smart. Intelligence turns out not to be an easy quality in a goat. She would get out of her fenced area and as most people know, goats will eat pretty much anything. Constant trouble but oh so cute.