Monday, September 5, 2011

Kind of excited...

in a way that only a new journal can get me excited! Yep, it's that time again. I started a new book today. But I'm kind of cheating...I still have 5 pages left in the old book! The crazy thing is that I've had only a handful of pages left in this book for 3 or 4 days, because I couldn't decide which book to use next, and I didn't want to finish one book and not have another that I could begin immediately.

I know that's a special kind of weird, but I have a feeling anyone reading this will know exactly what I mean. Journalers have this paranoia about their supplies. We're on an endless quest for the perfect items, and we have this irrational fear of using up items we already have and know we love, especially if there's no suitable replacement in sight.

I actually found the Holy Grail of journals (for me, since every person's HG book will be different!) when I was doing mixed media and collage. That's the book I talked about a while back when I was raiding every Barnes & Noble in town, because they've been discontinued. I have used this book since 2005, and it has served me well. In the past, my ideal journal features were that the book must lie flat, it must have sewn signatures, and the paper must be thick enough to handle acrylic paint and collage. I tried so, so many books before I found the one that suited me best.

But since my focus shifted to sketching and watercolors a while back, it quickly became apparent that my HG book is well, not so holy for this new way of journaling that I'm trying to explore. Watercolors just SIT on top of this paper...there's no nice blending out of the color, if that makes sense. I end up having to use a lot of the color and then it's very bold, and lacks that dreamy watercolor element. Also, my old HG journal is leather, and it has this flap that wraps around the journal, plus a leather tie that wraps around the book two times. I can't tell you how irritating it is to have that darned flap and tie in the way while I'm drawing. It never really bugged me when I was doing collage, but for some reason it makes me crazy these days. I actually thought about getting some heavy duty scissors and cutting it off!

The other thing that prompted me to search for a new type of journal is the realization that while the old journal style might not be a great sketchbook, it's still my Holy Grail for art journaling...and since I have only 4 of them left, I probably shouldn't use them as sketchbooks. I imagine at some point the collage bug will bite me again, and I will pulling out the acrylic paints and gel medium, and I'll need something to work in.

So I shelved the 4 remaining HG journals, and went in search of a new book. My criteria for this book was similar- I still wanted sewn signatures and a book that laid flat. But instead of pages that were thick enough for acrylic paint, this time I was looking for paper that would work well with watercolors. After much research, my first choice was the Fabriano Venezia . It gets good reviews and it's on sale (at the site linked) so I ordered one. Unfortunately, it was backordered. I will eventually get one, but I'm not sure how long it will be, so I had to look around for another book. (Remember, I'd been sitting around for days trying to decide on another journal, and I was just ready to get down to business!)

I went searching at a few of the art stores here, and I brought home the Fabriano Artist's Journal in the larger, 7x9 size. I have to admit, this book will probably present a challenge. The pages, despite their lovely texture, are much thinner than any I've ever worked with in an art journal. The journal doesn't lie as flat as I'm used to. Reviews say that this book will handle light watercolor washes, but it's definitely not built for watercolor. And then there's the cover, which is a thick paper, kind of a cardstock. It's not nearly as hardy as I'm used to. I mean, c'mon...I'm used to leather!

But this is the book that spoke to me. There was an unwrapped sample at the store, and I could see that the cover wasn't the best, that the pages were kind of thin, that I could surely find something else that would be more suitable for what I want to do. Despite all this, I kept coming back to this journal, running my fingers over the pages (which alternate between white and tan!),  and feeling its heft in my hand. I had this urge to whip out a pen and start sketching right then and there! I could just see this sketchbook in my bag, on my art table, in my lap while I sketch in bed.

So that was that. I brought it home, stuck in my "if found, please return to..." label, and did some pages. (I was so excited to begin the new journal, that I just went ahead and abandoned the old one. Oops! I'm sure I'll go back and do a few quick sketches in there eventually, just to use up the last few pages.)

I think I made the right decision, both in choosing this journal and in abandoning the old one, with 5 pages left to fill. I'm looking forward to the challenges that working in a new book will surely bring. Sometimes you've just gotta go with your gut and follow your creative urges!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A quote that has inspired me lately

I have been reading at Laurelines since late 2005. Even when I wasn't drawing myself, I've continued to be inspired by the pure drive and dedication that Laure has for her art. Every January, she sets up these goals for her artwork, and she follows through with them throughout the year. It's inspiring to me to watch someone like her who doesn't wait for lightning to strike or for the moose to walk backwards at midnight before she gets down to business. She just does it, and that's a lesson I have learned and relearned many times in my creative life as well.

This year Laure did something different, and had no set plan for 2011. She called it the Unplan and posted about how she would follow her heart and inclinations instead of having set parameters. As much as I liked her detailed plans, I like this Unplan, too. And it's a great way to shake things up if you're used to having more defined goals.

Recently Laure shared a quote by Martha Graham and it didn't just speak to me; it screamed. I read it when I was about a week into the new sketching journal, and it was just what I needed to hear at the time. I was flipping through my journal last night, and found the quote where I'd copied it down, and wanted to share it with you:

"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique...It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself and your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware of the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open." 

Today, and everyday, I hope that you are listening to those little urges that tug at your creative heartstrings. I hope you are able to recognize them when they come, and then are willing to follow them even when you don't know where they may lead.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Journaling my heart out

Well, I probably should say, drawing my heart out, because that would be more accurate right now. I've been tearing through my current journal, just playing around with pens and watercolor paints and colored pencils and crayons. It's been a darned good time, and I can't believe that I'm nearing the end of the book already. I began this journal on July 29th, exactly a month ago, and I have about 16 or so pages left.

Since the drawing bug seems to bite me every few years, I decided it was time to really dive in and give it an honest try. In the past I'd be inspired to draw, but I'd quickly give it up after a few half-hearted attempts. I wanted to go from zero to accomplished sketcher, with little effort in between. When I didn't magically churn out amazing drawings, I'd give up in frustration. Yet the urge would always come back.

When I began this journal, I kind of had a goal in mind, a sort of promise to myself. I decided that I was going to give this journal over to my desire to draw. I was going to fill the entire book with drawings- no collage, no mixed media, just sketch after sketch- and I was going to really put in the time and effort. If, by the end of the book, I still wasn't "good" at drawing, then that would be that. I'd lay this drawing business to rest, knowing I'd given it the time and attention it warranted.

So now that I'm nearing the end of my book, here's what I've realized. I am not amazingly talented at this. I'm not doing these fantastic renderings that would astonish and impress my friends. But what's really cool is that I no longer think it matters. I'm having a great time. I'm seeing huge improvements in my drawing...not saying I'm the best, or even terribly good, but I'm better than I was. And I've found one more way in which I can slow down, see the world in a new way, and leave my mark behind.

I'm looking forward to the next journal, and seeing where I'll go from here.

Friday, August 19, 2011

From the new journal

Finally ready to share some pages from the new journal. Be forewarned, they're utterly unlike the pages I've posted before. I've really been playing around a lot with drawing, which I'm not terribly good at but I have definitely improved since I started! This new journal has a lot of informality to it, and I like that a lot. There are pages of nothing but pen tests. There are really, really bad drawings, many of them unfinished because the cat moved, or the person I was sketching at the pool packed up and left. There's a lot of experimenting and figuring out what I like.

As I mentioned before, one of my favorite things about this book has been working directly on the page. I love that I can pick up any pen and just go with it. I can use all of my favorite pens again without fear of the acrylic background jamming them up within a few words. I'm rediscovering all of my favorite old pens, some of which I've had for years.

So here's what my current journal is like. There are pages with drawings, often comical ones that I didn't intend to be that way when I began. Is it just me, or is that a snooty Buddha on the left side? He looked snobbish to me, and this page makes me giggle. These are some of the  first Buddha drawings I did in this book.
This next one is a little "better," as I did it after I had a bit of practice, and the other side of the page just has a list of things I wanted to remember

These are some sketches I did of my cat, Sagan. I don't get can a creature who sleeps for 16 hours a day not be still long enough for me to complete a simple sketch? The problem is that he hears my pen scratching on the paper, and gets interested in me. Then he comes over and starts head butting the pen as I draw!

I played around with some inexpensive watercolor paints on this pharaoh drawing:

And here's one of my favorites, for which I had to turn the page sideways. I'm quickly learning that I tend to draw BIG, partly because I like using thick markers and brush pens. My small journal (6x9) often isn't big enough and I end up with images that "fall" off the page. Ganesh actually had one more hand, which was holding a bowl of sweetmeats, but I didn't have room for it on the page! I'm thinking of starting a large, 8.5x11 sketchbook for times when I want to go big.

This journal is already about 3/4 full. Another thing I'm planning to do is go a little cheaper on my next book. I can't afford to blow through $16 journals in a month! I might keep a nicer one with watercolor paper for when I want to paint, and a cheap one with thinner, smoother paper as my regular journal. Still thinking about this. I never used to like the idea of keeping multiple journals (the large book, the watercolor book, and the regular journal) but it sounds like a practical way to go for now. Something to try out, anyway!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bad blogger!

Bad blogger...that's me, letting almost a full week pass in between posts. When I began, I had intentions of posting very regularly, if not daily. But something has come up that I completely didn't expect.

And I blame that something on this book by Cathy Johnson:  Artist's Journal Workshop. Let me just say, I did not seek out this book. I was looking for something entirely different, and it found me. I stumbled across it at Borders, it was 20% off since they're going out of business, and it came home with me. This was roughly 3 weeks ago, and I had no idea what I'd be getting into with this book.

See, this book is about art journals, but not the sort of journal I normally keep. Not the mixed-media, collaged to the hilt, layered to the extreme sort of journal. This book is more about sketchbooks- drawing, light washes of watercolors, perhaps some gouache. Absolutely NOT the sort of journal I've ever kept, simply because drawing was something I just didn't do. In fact, if you had told me about this book, even if you'd strongly recommended it, I wouldn't have been interested. It was something I had to find for myself. And when I did, I was so incredibly inspired.

Something about this way of journal keeping reminded me of my happiest journaling years, which would be roughly from 1995-1998. During that time I was in college, and I used the big black Canson sketchbooks as my journals. I filled 2 of them a year, and those handful of journals are some of the most meaningful in my collection. There is such an innocence about them in the way that I threw in everything without fears, without censoring, without holding back. Sure, a lot of these books are filled with angst over whether I should marry my fiance at the time (I didn't!) or quit the part-time job that made me miserable (I did!) or change my major yet again (5 times in my college career! lol). There's a lot of silly drama and rehashing of whatever I was obsessed with at the time. But there's such raw energy there. So much honestly that I blush now when I re-read some parts, over 15 years later.

They weren't really what I'd call art journals, though I did do some collages, mostly of things I wanted to buy but couldn't afford, or places I wanted to travel to someday. But I did tape the stuff of life in there- poems I loved and typed out, packaging from products I loved, nametags from various events I attended, movie tickets, business cards from restaurants and coffee shops, and so on. I did all kinds of silly doodles, and I played with Crayola markers from time to time. I let myself be as goofy and lame as I wanted to be. These are the journals that I look back through and WHAM! It's like being transported back in time. But even better, these are the journals that really were for ME and me alone. I wasn't thinking about making them look "good" or sound wise. They were my safe place, where I went to celebrate, to complain, to whine, to worry, to daydream, to obsess.

I think what's so different about the way I journal now vs. the way I journaled then, is that back then my journal was my constant companion. Where I went, that journal went with me, and nothing was too ordinary to be written about or taped in. I didn't have tons of stuff the way I do now. I didn't have acrylic paints, collage images, gesso, rubber stamps, inks, an assortment of glues, tapes of all kinds and sizes. I had a few pens I loved. I had some markers.  I had a roll of Scotch tape. That was it! And I made magic from just that!

I'm always looking for ways to make my journal more "me" and less commercial. Less pre-packaged ephemera, and more stuff from real life. Less purchased product, and more stuff manipulated by me. And so this book really blew me away. It made me want to try drawing again, something I've tried before and given up on quickly. It made me want to severely limit my supplies for a little while, and see what I could do with just them. And it made me want to make my journal my daily companion again, something I pulled out and played in wherever and whenever, instead of something I left at home and worked on primarily at the art table. I wanted to make my journal less precious. Less of a showcase of completed "art pages" and more of a repository of messy, ordinary life.

So when I finished up that last journal, I started a new one. In fact, I'm almost halfway through the new journal already! I've done some SERIOUSLY ugly drawings in it. I've done some weird portraits of people I love. I've drawn the Buddha at least a dozen times. I've worked on the page itself, without a single painted background in the book. I've fallen back in love with pens I couldn't use before because they wouldn't work over acrylic paint. I've played with watercolors and gouache. I've used my journal for some of the most ordinary things- testing new supplies, making shopping lists, jotting down a book recommendation. I've simplified my materials so I that I can journal in bed, in the living room, even in a long line at the grocery store. And that journal has been all over with me in the last 3 weeks. I've journaled at the pool during my son's swimming lessons, in a doctor's waiting room, at the yoga studio waiting for kirtan to begin, and in my car. I'm honestly having the time of my life.

If any of this resonates with you, I highly recommend that you pick up Cathy Johnson's book. I am so incredibly inspired, and maybe you will be, too! She also started a blog based on the book, and many of the contributors to the book post to the blog as well. You can find it here.

If you've read this far, thanks for listening. ;)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Clean space and new stuff!

What is it about a clean, organized space that makes you want to buy more stuff to fill it (i.e., mess it up again)? Is it just me? After my cleaning spree the other day, I was left with a much more hospitable workspace:
I felt inspired to create a journal page right then and there! But did I? Noooo....I went out and shopped instead! I hit my favorite "mom and pop" art store first, Visual Art Supply. I really like this store. First off, it's independent and locally owned, and what's not to love about that? It's rather small, and of course you aren't going to have the kind of selection you'll find at Dick Blicks, but the prices are fantastic and there's a good assortment of the basics. I picked up two Sharpies (a Super Sharpie and a chisel tip, both black), a Pitt big brush pen (also black) and a Niji waterbrush with a small brush tip.

That probably should've satisfied my new art supply craving, especially since I'm still doing Moira's 30 Day Craft Cleanse and I'm supposed to be CUTTING DOWN on unnecessary art store shopping. But no....once the husband got home from work, I roped him into taking a family trip over to Artist & Craftsman Supply. I was so excited to find that San Diego has one of these. I used to shop at A&C in my hometown of Charleston, South Carolina and for some reason I thought it was a local store..It really has that local vibe- cool and unusual stuff, knowledgeable staff, decent prices. But it actually turns out that there are 17 of them across the US! Who knew?

I have such fond memories of wandering the aisles of the Charleston store as an art journal newbie, entranced by all of the different supplies and what I could possibly do with them. What's funny is that 7 years later, I still feel that way when I'm in an art store! I'm inspired even by things I don't buy, crafts I don't pursue. It's just amazing to see what's out there and imagine the possibilities.

I tried to be frugal (yeah, right!) but I had my share of my mom's Las Vegas winnings in my bag, and I left with all of this loot:
And I'm excited about all of it...look at those watercolor crayons! Look at those big FAT brush markers! Look at the gel pens! The husband has duty today, which means I have the house to myself all day and night, until tomorrow morning sometime. It's going to be an art journal night!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Mess!

So my parents have left. I dropped them off at the airport so early this morning (3:30am!) that it felt like it was still last night, and they should be well on their way back to South Carolina. It is always rough saying goodbye, knowing that I won't see them again for 7 or 8 months, but there's also a sense of life going back to normal and returning to all of our own routines.

The first item on my agenda for the day is doing something fun for my son. He's always upset the day that Nana and Grandaddy leave, so we're going to hit the bookstore so he can pick out a few books. Then we're going to look for the Rio movie that comes out today. We've seen it twice in the theater and now he simply must own it!

But second on my agenda is cleaning this up:
Yes, beneath all of that chaos, there is an art table. And I'm a little embarrassed that it looks like THIS the first time I share it on my blog. I'm looking over there and seeing all manner of things that don't belong taking up precious space on my art table- the suntan lotion from our last visit to the pool, a pretty glass box that my Dad and I found on a Goodwill treasure hunt, an empty coffee can that Mom thought I might be able to use for art stuff (hey...she's probably right!), empty storage containers that didn't work out for me, new storage containers that I hope WILL work out for me, my tool box turned around backwards because Mom has been using it to prop up her mirror when she puts her makeup on in the morning, my glue book in the wrong place because someone used it as a fly swatter, plus an assortment of journals (none of which are my current journal in progress, which somehow made its way upstairs).

So...yeah. That's my art table at its worst. I tend to enjoy a little messy chaos, but this is a little much even for me. I need lots of table space, which is why I chose a 6 foot table to begin with. I need to be able to spread out or I can't think clearly. And when I can't think clearly, I can't journal. And believe me, I need to journal. I've missed it.

So fun for my son first. Art table cleanup second. I'm looking forward to it!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Thoughts for my next journal

Nothing fancy here, just getting down some of my thoughts and plans for the next journal. This is the last "spread" in my current journal, as I used a few pages to test my watercolors. One of my goals for next book is to play around with watercolors more. I've always loved acrylics best, but I want to branch out a little. Some of my favorite pens in the world won't work with watercolor; I anticipate playing with them a good bit!

Speaking of playing around, I experimented with some iridescent acrylics on this page. Not sure if it shows up in the photo. I really like that little bit of sparkle that is there, but not incredibly obvious unless you tilt the page.

So all that's left in my journal are the first and last pages...the two hardest ones, IMO!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Journal love

This is exactly what it looks like...evidence of my obsession with my favorite journal. This stack of 4 unused journals is the result of me driving all over town buying up all of them within about a 30 mile radius. I'm normally not a hoarder, but put the words "discontinued" and "my favorite journal" in the same sentence, and this is the madness that ensues. (I also have two that I started and then abandoned for one reason or another. I plan on gessoing over the used pages and using those up as well!) I fill one of these roughly every two months, so this buys me a little time to figure out what to use next.

Here's my current journal in all of it's messy, painted up glory, with just a few pages left to go:
I have two more "spreads" left, plus the first and last pages. I always do the first page last, and I usually glue in a photo of my messy journaling table on that page and add a title.

And just for fun, here's my last journal, which is the same style but was in black leather. Love how messy and colorful it looks! I ended up calling this one "Making Magic from Mayhem," and it runs from the end of May through the beginning of June.

Monday, July 25, 2011


It seems like when my life is busiest and I'm away from my journal a lot, that's when I need it the most. I'm always grateful that I have this to turn to.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The end of an era?

I'm currently facing one of those dilemmas that strikes fear into the hearts of those of us who rely on our old faithfuls...I think my favorite journal is being discontinued. Since mid-2005, I've been using the same type of journal. It's leather bound, roughly 6x8, with a sewn binding and cream colored paper of a lovely thickness. I do glue two pages together before I work on them, but it's probably unnecessary. I just like a little extra thickness since I do a lot of painting and collage in my books. Almost everything about this journal has been perfect for me and the way that I work. I like the simplicity of the leather cover- just a plain brown or black, no extra embellishing. I like the quality of the sewn binding, which allows me to remove pages without wrecking the binding. I like the color and the feel of the paper. The only thing I've wished for, on occasion, is that they would make a slightly larger version, slightly smaller than 8.5x11.

It takes me 2-3 months to fill one, and I've been using them since 2005, so I have a good stack of these. They feel like home to me. They feel right in my hand and they fit perfectly in nearly every bag I own. When I begin a new journal, there's still that sense of familiarity. I love these darned books.

But when I bought my last journal, I had a hard time finding one. They're usually right there with all the other leather bound journals at Barnes and Noble. Last time I had to go to two different stores before I found one. I didn't think much of it at the time, but I'm nearing the end of my current journal, and I set out to pick up another new one this week. I had to go to three stores before I found one this time. And I had to dig for it, too. It was hidden behind some other style of journals like a lost treasure. My hoarder tendencies sprung right up, and I had the cashier try to locate another one for me. She looked it up in the computer, and only one store within a 50 mile radius that still has some in stock. (Guess where I'm going tomorrow? lol) The cashier wasn't entirely sure if it is being discontinued, but she thinks that the fact that they are disappearing from all the stores isn't a good sign.

So I'm a little nervous that once I fill the journal I bought today, and the one I plan on picking up tomorrow, I'm going to have to go back to the drawing board on journal options. I guess I should be looking at it as an opportunity to branch out, try something new, play around with a larger size, rah rah rah. But instead it makes me downright grumpy because this one area where I don't want to fix what isn't broken. It took me a good few years, and a dozen journals, before I found and fell in love with this one. I don't wanna look for a new love! I want my old one!

Anyway, despite driving around from one Barnes & Noble to the next,  and griping on the Internet like a curmudgeon, I have been journaling a little. I did a page recording some of my Vegas memories, which was okay but not fantastic. Somehow journaling about something days later sort of lost the energy that I think it would've had if I'd done the page actually in Vegas, or right after I got home. But the second page was fun for me. I played around with doing a border (cut from an old calendar) around the entire page, and I like how it turned out.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A few new pages and some thoughts

It feels good to be back online and posting on the blog tonight. I purposely left my laptop behind on our trip to Vegas, and I didn't even seek out the business center or any of the Internet stations at the hotel. I just wanted to be technology-free and enjoy spending time with the family we were meeting there, as well as experiencing the city. But I missed being online, and I've missed journaling even more than that.

It is really hard to journal when you're out of town, and wearing yourself out having fun. I prepped 5 pages for the Vegas trip, and I only used two of those. I only journaled on the first night we were gone, because I was utterly pooped by the time we made it back to the hotel room on the second night. The good thing is that I collected ephemera galore, all kinds of fun and crazy stuff, and I can't wait to get to the art table and play with it all!

I actually didn't do much more to my Vegas pages other than some writing. When under a time limit and feeling wiped out, I found that the words were more important to me than the art part. I was glad to have the journal to get down some of my first impressions of Las Vegas. I've been before, but I was all of 9 years old, so naturally it was a whole different experience as an adult.

The next time I travel with my journal, I'll probably bring a little less stuff but more attachment options. I was so glad I brought the tape because the glue stick wasn't quite enough. I'm so used to my gel medium! I found myself wishing I'd brought my mini-stapler, and I think I might've worked in the journal a little more if I weren't put off by the glue stick. I don't mind glue sticks for very thin or very small items. But I really like my stuff to STICK, and I need to know it's not going anywhere! lol

This third page that I'm sharing was actually done on Thursday night, before we left for Vegas. This was one of Moira's challenges for the 30 Day Craft Cleanse group that I've mentioned before. She challenged us to do a page about our "craft demon," whatever little monster lives inside of us and urges us to buy, buy, buy. I used to shy away from challenges and prompts, but lately I've been enjoying them, and this one inspired me immediately. I read the challenge, and went straight to my journal despite the fact that I hadn't even packed my bag for the trip yet! I knew I wouldn't have time to do my usual painted background with lots of layering, so I worked directly on the page with Bic Mark-Its, fine point Sharpies, a pretty pink shade of Twinkling H2O's, a few crayons, some stamps, and a magazine image. In the end, I taped my demon's mouth shut!

It felt great to get in that last-minute journal time, not knowing how much I'd do while I was out of town. The downside to having company (my folks) in town is that my art time is so rare, and I only get 10 minutes here, 5 minutes there. Don't get me wrong; I love having my parents here and I've looked forward to this visit for MONTHS. I'm very fortunate in that I have parents that I would choose to have in my life even if they weren't my parents; I just enjoy their company that much. They are incredibly supportive of most everything I've ever done in my life...but even they are a little puzzled as to why their daughter is collecting bits of trash off the streets of Las Vegas, nabbing the "Do not disturb" sign from the hotel, and gasping with dismay when someone almost throws away the napkins from the burger joint when we had lunch. As my mother watched me tearing up a brochure advertising an escort service (complete with a naked woman named Hailey on it!) she confessed, "Honey, I don't understand this kind of scrapbooking..." lol!

I'm never quite sure how to explain what I do to people who don't art journal. My friend the illustrator never has this problem. She can proudly show off whatever she's working on, and people get it. She's working towards the goal of writing and illustrating children's books. My sister-in-law makes jewelry, and she gets heaps of praise for her lovely creations as well. She sells her jewelry online and at local craft fairs and artsy boutiques. And back when my primary passion was scrapbooking...well, that was much easier to share with other people. My pages were meant to be shared. I loved pulling out a scrapbook and sharing photos of our latest trip to the zoo, or my son's most recent school photos.

But my journals are like the dirty little secret you hide in the laundry hamper when the company arrives. They aren't something I can just pull out and share with everyone who walks in my front door. When people see my art supplies and ask what sort of arts and crafts I do, I'm shy about talking about my books. Anyone who opens up my journal is opening up the truest part of me that exists in a tangible form. I don't sugarcoat in my journals. I don't try to present only the best parts of me. I get ugly and I get mad, and I show off my weird thoughts and my dark places and  my insecurities. Sometimes it's in code, or hidden in a poem or a song lyric, but it's all in there somewhere...

Some people don't understand a practice that has no real purpose, in the sense that I'm not trying to get into art school, pursue a career, or sell anything I create. I just do it because it feels good. It makes me feel better when I'm nervous or upset, and it makes me happier when I'm already happy. I paint, I collage, I draw, I write, and I'm happy. I turn the page and I do it all over again. And again. That's all. I don't expect it to lead to anything other than a saner, more balanced me. If that's all that I ever get out of this practice, well...I think that's enough. More than enough, really.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Prepped for Vegas!

I've got my pages prepped, my journal kit packed, and I'm ready to GO! Here's the funny thing...I've got my journal and supplies ready, but I haven't packed my suitcase yet. Ha! Now that's a girl with priorities.

So these are very incomplete. Just some stuff on the page that gave me a "Vegas feel", to jump start whatever the pages end up being in the future. Five pages is probably ambitious for a two-night trip, but I wanted to feel free to journal my heart out! I'm hoping to find plenty of fun ephemera on the trip, and if I end up completely obscuring what I've done on these pages, that's fine with me!

I've packed what I think is an incredibly small amount of supplies to take along, considering the amount of stash I usually have to work with. Here's what I'm taking:
- 3 ballpoint pens in black, red, and blue
- 2 Glaze pens- white and black
- 3 Souffle pens- green, pink, and orange
- 1 Sharpie paint pen in magenta
- my Caran d'Ache Neocolor II's- all 12 that I own!
- 3 Portfolio crayons- red, true blue, and red violet
- waterbrush
- 2 Washi tapes- grey stars, green polka dots
- glue stick, scissors
- small folder of collage materials

Love that I got the tapes, Portfolios and waterbrush to fit it in the tin that I store my Neocolors in. Nice and compact. Everything in this photo, plus the folder of collage stuff and my journal will fit in a medium-sized messenger bag. I'm also putting my son's journal and his crayons in the same bag. I'm excited to take my journal on the road and see how it goes!

I'm not taking my laptop with me, so I won't be posting over the weekend, but hopefully I'll be back with some fun Vegas pages on Monday!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Embracing pink

Sharing an older page today, since I'm busy with my folks in town and didn't get to journal yesterday. This page is a favorite of mine, partl because I love this poem from Rilke's Book of Hours and partly because I distinctly remember having a blast when I was working on this page.

I'm only now beginning to enjoy pink. I never was a pink girl; I was a lover of all things red. I thought pink was too girly, too typical, too frivolous. Oddly enough, I was very much a girly girl when I was kid, but my aesthetic these days definitely leans more towards the messy and the grungy. I like yellows and oranges best, followed by greens and blues. A touch of red here and there. Occasionally coral. And one of my absolute FAVORITE things is gold. I know, I know...most everyone seems to prefer silver, platinum, or white gold. But I just love yellow gold, both in my journals and for jewelry!

But lately I've been drawn towards pinks and purples, more than I've ever been. I'm especially enjoying fuschia, florescent pinks, and deep violets. I think it's always a good thing to branch out, to try colors and techniques and images that are not necessarily my favorites. It's good to always be stretching and embracing new things.

So even though I haven't had any "real" journal time in the last few days, I have been prepping some pages for this weekend. We're going to Las Vegas this weekend to meet up with some family. We're having a big dinner at Circus Circus and then the adults are (naturally) going to hit the casinos. My dad and I will be taking my son around, doing fun kid things at Circus Circus. Not sure what yet, as the last time I was in Vegas I was a child myself! But I'm hoping to get in a little journal time at the hotel. The kiddo goes to bed around 9pm, and so the evenings will by MY time to journal!

I'm normally not a page prepper. I prefer to begin a page in the morning, adding little bits and pieces to the page in between doing loads of laundry, cooking dinner, etc. Then I finish up the page in the evenings after my son goes to bed, usually while sitting at my coffee table and watching TV. But since I won't have the benefit of my full stash while we're in Vegas, I'm prepping 3 or four sets of background pages, doing a little collage, maybe a little stamping. I want to leave plenty of room for ephemera and some experimentation with limited supplies. It'll be interesting to see how it works out. I so rarely journal outside of my home. It's seriously been YEARS since any journal left my house!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Playing hooky

I wasn't supposed to journal today. My parents arrive at 10:30am tomorrow, so I have so many last minute things to do. I was supposed to get the kid off to school this morning and immediately head out to buy groceries. But while I was finishing up my coffee, I felt the magnetic pull of the book and before I knew it I was slapping down some images, stamping, and coloring with my crayons! Oh, only put me off of my schedule by about an hour and a half.

And the thing is, I needed it. I'm thrilled to have my folks coming, especially for a nice, long 3-week visit. But it does mean I won't be at the art table as much in the next few weeks. Already, there are all of these plans- an aunt and uncle stopping by tomorrow night and Wednesday, Sean's school carnival Wed. evening, a trip to Vegas for the weekend. Art time will be at the premium for the near future. So it was nice to take a little bit of time and journal while I still have a little time to myself.

Nothing really new here...a layered acrylic paint background (yellow and aqua), some collage, a lotus stencil, some stamping. I did pull out both the watercolor crayons (used dry) and the regular Crayolas for this one.

I'm still working through Less's free online Cult of Stuff class (you can find it here if you're interested!). The first part was working with a new medium, and now I've moved on to the week where we focus on using real ephemera from our daily lives, instead of store-bought goodies. This should be a good one for me this week, as I imagine finding lots of fun stuff in Las Vegas. I typically work with real ephemera a good bit, but it's often part of the background and you can't see much of it in the page in the end. I love working with ordinary stuff, so I think I'll have a good time with this part of the challenge.

There's another new class/challenge group starting up on the same forum,  run by Moira of Crafty Moira , and the focus is on an art supply spending freeze from July 15th-August 15th. Moira is open to people making their own rules (can re-purchase anything you use up, or gesso and gel medium is a "free" purchase, whatever works for you!). Looks like it will be a nice group of folks supporting and encouraging each other to stop the spending insanity and use what we've got. It's called the 30 Day Craft Cleanse, and you can check it out here.

That's about all from here for now! I might not be at my art table as much in the coming weeks, but I plan on posting some of my older pages and such when I don't have anything new to share. And I do hope to get SOME journaling in while they're here...I couldn't go cold turkey when I've gotten used to doing at least a little something every day!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Finishing up my watercolor crayons project!

Final set of pages for my Neocolor II's challenge. I still plan on using them; in fact, I want more! I'm so glad I decided to dig in and really get to know what I can do with these. I can see them being a part of my main stash, for sure. I'm thinking they'll be awesome for traveling, too. Take my crayons and a waterbrush, and there are so many possibilities. I'm headed to Las Vegas with my parents and my son next weekend, and I will definitely be packing some Neocolor IIs!

I started off with an acrylic background in a dark blue. Then I did some journaling using the Neocolor II's. I thought it would be fun to take a wet brush and lightly smear the writing, but it just ended up looking like a dirty chalkboard. More yellow than any other color. So I went back over the writing again, making it bolder. You can still see the chalky smears in the background...oh well. Not a lot of collage/layers here, but that's okay, too. I had fun with the joss paper on the right side. It had this silvery rectangle in the middle, which made me think of a mirror, and I did more writing on top of it. Normally I paint over joss paper and incorporate it into the background but this time I just let it be. It liked writing over that silvery surface; it took plain old ballpoint ink very well, and the ink showed up more vibrant than I would've guessed.

I am not skilled at creative hand-lettering. My attempts are a little messy and pretty awkward. But I really like adding that to my pages b/c it makes the page more ME than if I'd used something like letter stamps (which I also love!) or letter stickers. And I figure the more I do it, the better I'll get.

And I'm off for a day of cleaning out the garage, pricing things for a garage sale, and taking stuff to Goodwill...which is what I did all day yesterday as well. But I have about a bunch of  DVRed episodes of NCIS that will be my reward tonight...looking forward to plopping down the coffee table and journaling tonight!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Explorations with watercolor crayons, page 5

I can't believe I let these babies languish in my stash for so that I've given them several test drives, in several different ways, I'm loving them! And this is my entire current stash...just these 12. I'm so excited to try a few more colors.I'm thinking red, a mediterranean blue, an aqua, a bolder orange, and chartreuse. I wonder when I can sneak in a trip to Blick...and if I can really leave with only five crayons!

So this is the page I did last night:

I decided to try the Neocolors over gesso this time, so I just scribbled with the dark green over gesso, then used a wet brush to make a wash all over the page. It was too dark for my tastes, so once it dried, I scribbled all over the page with the yellow crayon. Now, I know this is not big news for most of you, but I remember I'm a newbie to the watercolor crayon thing...I had no idea the colors would mix so well! It was such a fun discovery and toned the color down nicely. I did some collage, then painted a yellow wash of fluid acrylics over the entire page. Then stamping, journaling, embossing and whatnot.

Another new thing I did, inspired by the Neocolors, was pull out the regular Crayola crayons.  I raided my son's stash for a few colors. It was surprisingly fun and I don't know why I never thought of it before! I'll definitely be playing with regular crayons some more...after I get my own box. (The kiddo will share just about anything BUT his art supplies. He's an art supply hog. I have no idea where he gets that from. Ahem.)

So it was a good night of journaling and trying some new stuff. What's funny is that I don't think any of my discoveries have been anything wild or groundbreaking, but they have been new to me. It's amazing how you can journal for a long time, but still have so much to learn! 

Friday, July 8, 2011


I'm still learning Blogger, and I accidentally deleted all of the comments earlier today. Sorry about that, for those whose comments were nixed. It's nothing personal, just me learning the ropes! lol

Explorations with watercolor crayons, page 4

Still playing with my Neocolor II's! Yesterday I started off with a striped background using 3 colors of crayons and a wet brush, another idea I got from the same Samantha Kira Harding video that I linked to yesterday. Simple, quick background:

I decided to paint over it with a cheapie craft paint in a tangerine shade, and then I outlined the entire page with another WC crayon in a pretty mint/jade color. I blended that out with a wet brush as well, and then went back in to certain spots with a hot pink crayon, and used a little water to blend that in as well.

Then yesterday morning, I saw this gorgeous, colorful page on Sparkleblue Faery's blog, where she wrote her to-do list on a coloring page, then glued it into her journal. She challenged her readers to do the same and write a to-do list on something different and unexpected. Since I have a monster to-do list, thanks in part to my parents coming in town on Tuesday, I decided to give it a try. I had this thick, postcard sized sticker page that my son got in some sort of Happy Meal a few months ago. He'd put the stickers on it, then put it on our fridge, where it's hung ever since. I love using ephemera in my journal, especially anything related to my son, so I pounced on that sticker sheet and wrote my list on it! I had a lot of fun with this one.

I'm halfway through my watercolor crayons challenge  and I've already decided that, not only do I want to hold onto them, but I think I need more! I only have about a dozen, so I think I can justify picking up a few more the next time I'm at Blicks.

In other journaling news, I picked up a new (to me) book at Borders last night, Diana Trout's Journal Spilling and I'm looking forward to diving in, hopefully later today. Actually WORKING a book is kind of a new concept for me. I tend to buy arts and crafts books, enjoy the eye candy, but rarely sit down and try the techniques. But I've been working through a few books I had and I'm loving the results. I used to think that following other's instructions or prompts would limit my creativity, but it's actually the opposite. I find that I am more creative when I'm trying something new or uncomfortable for me, or doing a prompt that I normally wouldn't. It opens me up to new ideas, instead of just falling back on the techniques and ideas that I know and am comfortable with.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Explorations with watercolor crayons, pages 2 and 3

Finished up two more pages last night using the Neocolor II's. The first page was actually complete except for the journaling. I'm posting it here without the journaling because it ended up including some personal information.

I started off with a wash of acrylic paint in lime green, and then did some collage over it. I used a teal green Neocolor II around the edges of the page, making a thick border, and then I blended the crayon out onto the page using a wet brush.  I got this idea from a video by Samantha Kira Harding that I found on You Tube. I like the mixed background of the acrylic paint and the watercolor crayon. It was easy and fun, and I will definitely be doing it again.  

In fact, I meant to try it again on this next page, but once I got into it, I like the way the page looked with the crayon border, and I decided to leave it as it, just dry scribbling around the edges of the pages. 

My favorite thing about this page is the subway map from Hong Kong. My husband just got home from a 7 month deployment a few weeks ago, and his ship had all kinds of interesting port calls- Malaysia, Korea, United Arab Emirates, the Philippines, Hong Kong, and Hawaii. All I asked that he bring me back was ephemera, especially anything with foreign text! He also brought home money from all of the foreign ports, but I haven't been able to use any yet...something about using money, even if it is in small denominations and not useful unless he returns to those ports, makes me feel wasteful! I'm hoping I get over it soon because I'm tempted by the pretty bills!

Seriously though, this second page was a good one for me, not because I think it turned out perfectly, but because I felt like I truly took what I was feeling and got that emotion out onto the page. Those are the pages that feel best to me, even if they aren't the "prettiest" in my journal. The map was the first thing I put down over my painted background, and then I accidentally ripped the top left of the page. These things ended up being serendipitous little surprises when I found myself writing about a part of my life that is broken, and how I need to find my way again.

The quote, from Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, is an old favorite that I've had to remind myself of at least once a year- "There are always more opportunities to get it right, to fashion our lives in the way we deserve to have them. Don't waste your time hating a failure. Failure is a greater teacher than success."

I need it on a tee-shirt. :)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Explorations with watercolor crayons, page 1

Lately I've been very excited about a series of posts written by Less Herger on her blog, Comfortable Shoes Studio . She's called the rants the Cult of Stuff, and basically she is encouraging art journalers to stop being addicted to the shopping, and start using our junk instead. This concept seems to have really struck a chord across the entire art journaling community, because I'm seeing discussions about it all over the place. Less herself has even started a free online class revolving around the same theme, and you can find it here on the Art Journaling forums.

I'm a little late to the game because the class started a month or so ago, but the group is going to be left up for anyone to join at any time. So I'm jumping in, and focusing on playing with Caran d'Ache Neocolor II watercolor crayons. Most AJers I know swear by these, but I've never really taken to them. I bought a bunch back in 2004 when I first starting AJing and basically every page I did was an imitation of my hero, Teesha Moore. She swore by Neocolor II's, so I had to have 'em, too. Naturally. And they've pretty much just sat in my stash ever since, gathering dust. Every time I see another AJer rave about how these are an essential and a must-have, I wonder what I'm missing. I decided it was time to find out. Less suggested taking a supply you haven't used much, and doing at least 6 pages with it. That's my goal- at least 6 pages using my crayons. And if I don't love them at the end of this, I will purge them and feel guilt-free about it! Make room for other stuff I do love and do use.

What I didn't like about these crayons in the past was that I had a hard time writing over them without killing my pens. The writing part of journaling is very important to me, and I've killed many a pen learning what will and won't work over my preferred mediums.  I decided to tackle this problem right off the bat here:

 I used a deep greenish-teal Neocolor II for part of this page. (The orange was done with a Copic Sketch marker.) I did some scribbling inside of the orange lines, and then used a wet brush to spread the color. I experimented with a pen or two, and each one I tried either wasn't showing up (Pitt pen), wasn't bold enough (ballpoint pen, Sakura glaze pen), or beaded up over the crayon (Zig Writer). Then I had a burst of inspiration and pulled out a graphite pencil instead, specifically a Derwent 6B. I wrote thickly, going over my letters several times to make bigger, bolder letters, and I really like the results! It made an interesting effect where, seen in one light, the writing is hard to read. But tilt the book slightly, and the writing shows up very well. Really cool!

What I think is especially fun about this is that a plain old pencil is something I have never used in my journal until now. I bought several when I was taking an online drawing class last year, and once I shelved that interest, I haven't touched a pencil since. Now I'm inspired to pull out all of the drawing tools I bought for that class- pencils of varying hardness, a charcoal pencil, a graphite stick, a few Conte crayons- and see how I can use them on my pages. I have this tendency to buy supplies for one purpose- journals or scrapbooking or a drawing course- and forget that I can use them for other things, too. I don't know why I tend to put things in a mental box like that, but I'm wanting to break free from that way of thinking, and this is a good start!

Monday, July 4, 2011


I admit, I'm a little nervous about this. I've blogged before and the focus of that blog, as this one, was my art journal adventures. And at first it was really some pages, get some really sweet comments, make some friends, and all was well in my blogging universe. But then something strange happened. I started feeling like I wasn't journaling for me anymore; I was doing it for my readers (all 3 of them, lol). Is there anything that will lock up your creativity faster than feeling like you're performing for an audience? I didn't think so, and I closed down my blog.

So why I am here again? Well, it's a good 5 years later and I hope I've matured (ha!) enough not to let feedback or lack thereof affect me in that way. The truth of it is that I enjoy sharing what I'm doing and what products I'm loving, and what is inspiring me,  not because I want validation of what I'm doing, but because I enjoy being part of a community of art journalers. 

So we'll see how this goes. Maybe I'll love it, maybe I'll hate it, but I want to give it another try.

And because it seems like bad form to start off without at least one little visual, I'm going to share a photo of  one of my favorite journaling spaces. This is my coffee table, covered with journaling goodies.

(Notice that an episode of NCIS is on TV...a Halloween episode, hence Abby dressed up like Marilyn Monroe.) All of my pages begin at my art table, but most of them end here, at my coffee table. I love to sit there in the evenings on my zafu, with a DVRed episode of NCIS or Law and Order: SVU on the telly.

It's my routine to do my background and perhaps a little collage at the art table, then save the writing and the finishing touches for the evenings at the coffee table. It's so relaxing to me, like a form of meditation. I carry a tray of supplies that I plan on using, plus my trusty toolbox, over to the table and plop myself down for journal time. Other essentials include the ever-present iced hazelnut coffee from McDonald's (my Caf-Pow!) and the Tums, the latter being rendered essential because of the former, lol.