For today’s Journal Friday, I worked on a two-page spread and shot a time-lapse video. I limited the materials to collage — craft paper and photocopies, water-soluble graphite, ink, metallic marker, and tape transfer. I’m exploring ideas for a new upcoming, online workshop, The Journal Stripped Bare. I think that it’s too easy to get bogged down with a bunch of materials and complicated techniques, so I’m looking to create a workshop that focuses on some basic supplies, but delves into making layered and meaningful pages. In the meantime, I hope that you enjoy the video.
Although I have several major projects going on, the New Year has started out with a major disappointment — one that hit me pretty hard. I haven’t said anything until now, but a class that I was scheduled to teach at the renown John C. Campbell Folk School next week has been cancelled due to low registration. The class just didn’t get enough sign ups to run.
I was super excited a year ago when I got the class accepted, and has been a dream of mine to teach there. Over the past few months, I started to really look forward to the trek down to western North Carolina and spending five days diving deep into some sacred work. It was a bit of a let down to receive the news, especially since I had two other workshops cancelled last spring for the same reason at other venues. It was definitely a bit of a blow, and it left me kind of questioning and second guessing myself as I wondered if I was on the right path.
But I’m trying to see the silver lining — trying to turn the negative into a positive. When the classes were cancelled back in the spring, it allowed me to focus more on getting my studio and artwork ready for a big studio tour that I was a part of. It gave me added time to make the stour tour a big success, and I’m trying to see this latest disappointment in a similar light — as an opportunity to focus my energy elsewhere. I think the universe is trying to tell me that it’s not the right time, and that there’s something else, perhaps something bigger, that I need to do right now.
In many ways, I think that I just haven’t connected with people. I’ve always been a very socially awkward in person, and I think I’m doubly so online. But for the past month or so, I’ve been making a concerted effort to reach out and to connect in a variety of ways, and I think that’s where my energies need to go. I’m looking at this disappointment as an opportunity to reassess what I want and what I need, and to offer up more of myself and to connect in much deeper ways.
So, a big thank you to anyone who has been a longtime supporter — who has been around since the beginning of this journey, and a big thank you to anyone who I have connected with recently. I feel a sense of growing support — of a growing community. I feel the tide shifting. To use a term from my dear friend Erin Keane, I see a sea change coming!
Here’s to finding the positive, shifting energies, listening to the universe, and creating a sea change!
Last week I received two small, softcover sketchbooks from Stillman & Birn for being one of the winners of their Holiday Giveaway. I’m already a fan of their sketchbooks, and I’ve used several of their 5.5”x8.5” inch hardbound sketchbooks over the past couple of years. Winners got to pick books from one of their six series, and I chose the Alpha Series which has 46 sheets of white, medium grain paper with a weight of 150gsm.
The size and format of the smaller book really intrigues me. At 5.5”x3.5”, it’s quite small, but the landscape format is one that I’ve never worked with before. I want to push myself to do something different with it, and I want it to be a project — something very specific and purposeful. I’ve decided to use the idea of a prayer book to focus this project.
Now I’m not a religious person, but I am spiritual. I believe that the act of creating is a spiritual act, so I want to fill the book with ideas, words, quotes, and phrases about creativity and making art. This way I can have a little book to flip through anytime that I need a reminder or a little creative nudge.
The more that I think about it, the more I think that there might be others out there that might want to follow along. So, Im documenting the journey, and creating a weekly series from my explorations as a sort of ongoing tutorial and workshop that is open to anyone who wants to work along with me. I’m not certain how long it will take me to work through the book, but the plan is to post about the project every Wednesday so that folks can join in on the creative fun. Here’s a little intro:
Welcome to the Creative Prayer Book!
In our busy lives, it’s easy to get bogged down with all that we have to do, and so much is vying for our attention. It’s too easy lose track of the things that are important to us, and as we struggle with daily chaos and general busyness, we can forget to feed our souls and take the time to create. Join me in a journey to create a sacred book that will be a reminder to take a deep breath and remember what is truly important. Fill your book with favorite techniques, images, and color, and allow your book to echo your hopes, dreams, and wishes
What you need:
A journal or sketchbook
You’ll need some kind of book — something small with a limited number of pages is good. That way you won’t get bogged down with trying to fill a huge number of expansive pages and be overwhelmed with the process. Something around 4”x6” is good, and you can purchase something or make your own. Perhaps get something with sturdy watercolor or mixed media paper. The Stillman & Birn book that I am using has good paper for mixed media, but it can buckle and bend from the wet media, so if that drives you crazy, get a heavier weight paper.
Some of your favorite art supplies
I want this to be something that doesn’t need a special place or special materials, so I’m using materials that I can use anywhere at anytime. I don’t want to load myself down with materials that I can only use in my studio or anything that’s too complicated. I love working with transparent layers, so watercolor and watercolor pencils are a must for me. I’m definitely going to use collage, so I’ll need my jumbo UHU Glue Stic. Of course, Ill be writing and drawing so some waterproof pens and markers are good, as well as a pencil or two and a couple of metallic markers.
Each week, I’ll share the materials and tools that I’m using, so you can add other items as needed.
Next week, I’ll share some watercolor ideas as I start to engage some of the pages and ease my way into the book.
Grab a journal and some art materials, and come create with me!
A good pen is essential for working in the visual journal — from writing and doodling to drawing and embellishing, a quality pen will serve you well, and it seems like most everyone has their favorite brand. For me, it’s my uni-ball Vision pens.
I’ve been using these pens for years, and I don’t really remember when I first discovered them. I always seem to have several stuffed in my pocket no matter where I go, but I am careful with the ones that I get. I make certain that the pens are marked as waterproof/fade-proof, and these are really good at any stage of a page. They easily draw and write on a blank page as well as on top of watercolor and collage. Since they are waterproof/fade-proof, I can paint over the ink once it’s dry with little to no bleeding. However the ink will bleed more often when I paint over solid areas of ink or when I paint over fresh lines of ink, but I accept this as part of the process. If needed, I can always go back over top of these areas and lines.
The regular uni-ball Vision pens and the Vision Needle pens both come in two sizes — micro (0.5mm) and fine (0.7mm), and the Vision Elite pens come in the micro size and a bold (0.8mm) size. The Vision pens are acid-free and available in a variety of colors, but not all colors are waterproof/fade-proof and can easily bleed and blend when painted over with water or watercolor. I normal carry a black, red, and blue, but I do like occasionally having other colors to use so I have a variety of colors stashed in my bag of portable supplies. Over the years, I have tried the Vision Elites and the Vision Needles, but I find the I like the ordinary Vision pens the best.
Although these are my favorite pens, I do have one big gripe. The regular Vision pens are not too airplane safe, and they can end up spewing ink due to the change in pressure on a flight. This is quite annoying when you end up with a big blob of ink on a page or end up with ink all over your fingers. If you fly a lot, these pens can give you problems, and making certain that they are carried with the tips pointing up can help a little to even the pressure inside the pen. The Vision Elite pens are airplane safe, but I find that the ink is not too waterproof, so there is a trade off.
The are only a couple of minor issues with the Vision pens that can be a bit of a nuisance. The first is that the tips can get clogged from time to time if you write over top of wet glue or acrylic paint, so it’s good to be careful not to be in a big hurry and allow paint and glue to dry thoroughly. The other issue is that the ink can take a while to dry on top of shiny surfaces, and if you draw over top of magazine images or slick postcards, you want to give the ink plenty of time to dry.
If you’re looking to add a good quality pen to your journal kit, I highly recommend the uni-ball Vision pens, and as a reminder, I am not getting paid or reimbursed in anyway for recommending any of the materials that I share. These are just the things that I personally use.
The Journal Fodder Junkies Facebook Page hit a milestone this past week. The page hit and surpassed 1500 likes! Thank you to everyone one who has decided to follow our journey — those who have followed us for years and those who have only recently discovered us. I want to celebrate this milestone with a giveaway!
I launched a new online workshop, Mapping the Journey, in December, and I want to give away one free registration as a way to say thank you to everyone who has supported the JFJ in some way. Anyone is eligible to enter, even those who have already purchased the workshop. If you’ve purchased the workshop and win, you’ll have the option to pass the free registration onto someone you know or have your money refunded from your purchase. The winner will receive a copy of the workshop’s PDF and will have access to all the video tutorials.
There is only one way to enter, by opening and filling out the form below, and entries will be taken until 11:59pm EST, Wednesday, January 16th. A winner will be selected randomly from all entries, and announced on Thursday, January 17th.
This contest is closed.
This week I’ve shifted focus a little in my journal as I’ve pared down the materials that I’ve been working with as I explore ideas for a new online workshop. I think that we often get caught up in the materials that we have and use, and the journaling practice can get overwhelmed with choices of materials and techniques drawing attention and focus away from meaning, ideas, and creativity. But what do we really need in order to have a rich visual journaling practice?
With this new online workshop, I want to explore that idea and delve into the possibilities of limiting the materials that we really need in order to create deeply authentic pages while at the same time pushing our creativity. I am reminded of a quote by psychologist Rollo May, “Creativity... requires limits, for the creative act rises out of the struggle of human beings with and against that which limits them.” We don’t need a stocked studio to be creative or to carry on a deep journal practice. We just need a few materials, some tried and true techniques, and the courage to go deep within.
I’m thinking of calling the workshop The Journal Stripped Bare, and it’s loosely based on an in-person workshop David and I taught a few years ago. But this new workshop will be much more encompassing, and will include techniques and ideas for using a limited amount of supplies while diving deep with ideas, themes, and personal concepts. So, I focused on using only a few materials this week — mostly water-soluble graphite and ink, as I began some initial explorations.
I’m excited to delve into these ideas deeper to see what I can discover, and to see if I can turn them into a viable workshop. Here’s to limitations and pushing our creativity.
As we move further into the New Year, I wanted to share something that I shared a long time ago, but it’s something that bears sharing again as it’s a deeper dive into my thoughts about creativity.
We are all born with an endless capacity for creativity. So why then do so many people believe that they're not creative?
People hold several myths and misconceptions about creativity that keep them from seeing the truth. First they may believe that creativity is linked directly to intelligence, and many people don't feel that they are particularly intelligent. Hence, they believe they are not particularly creative as well. Second they may believe that creativity is confined to certain fields of work such as design, writing, visual and performing art, and they simply are not the “creative” type. Third they may believe that creativity is only for special types of people — geniuses, like Einstein and da Vinci, and who can be an Einstein or a da Vinci? Finally, they may believe that creativity is something that either you have or you don’t, and as such, it is a “god-given” talent and there’s no point in trying if you’re not one of the ones endowed with creativity. So, many people go about their daily lives believing that they are not and never will be creative.
They are completely and utterly wrong. Creativity is part of our original programming, and since we were lucky enough to be born into the human race, we are creative. Look at any child for proof. We see the curiosity, the imagination, the sense of wonder, and the freedom from doubt little kids have, and at one time we were all little kids. We all had that innate creativity. So what happened? In many ways we grow out of our creativity, and as we grow older, we close ourselves off from it through the choices we make.
Much of life seems to be about closing ourselves off and closing ourselves up. It’s sad and unfortunate, but it happens so easily. As infants and toddlers, we see the world as an immensely large place with endless possibilities and so much for us to take in and experience. At such a young age, we soak up these experiences getting our hands into everything as a way to explore and learn about the world. We are open to life and living, and we trust and love without fear. But we quickly begin closing off parts of the world as we grow and learn. We close up and shut down many of the possibilities available to us in our lives mostly because of fear and conformitu, and we lose our creative confidence. We learn right from wrong, good from bad, appropriate from inappropriate, acceptable from unacceptable. We get caught up with doing things the “right way” and with not being wrong, and we shut the door on things that don't fit with what we're learning. We get set in our ways, and we close off and fit ourselves into boxes that, many times, are defined by the expectations of others. We have to act a certain way, be a certain person, or do a particular thing. Our lives get narrower and more rigid as we learn to conform. We lose the flexibility of youth, and we suppress our curiosity, our imagination, our sense of wonder, and that freedom from doubt. Our worlds get smaller and smaller as we try to fit in, play the part, and strive for acceptance, and we don't live up to our potential. We are closed in, and often, we feel that we are locked away from our creative impulses.
But every once in a while, we have a fleeting feeling that we are suppose to be something more — something greater. In those instances, we long to break the confines and be different, but we feel the constraints from all those years of conditioning. We bury that creative or expressive urge with excuses, fear, and doubt, but it keeps coming back. Sometimes it becomes a nagging sense that we want to change — that we want to be free from that little box we’re confined to, but how can we break free? We are shut in, and we mistakenly think that we are locked in. But in fact, we are not. All we need to do is to start opening ourselves to the creative impulses. We need to nudge open the doors we have closed, and we need to peer behind our beliefs and our doubts. We need to open our minds and our hearts and lean into the fear and the pain. We may just discover our true selves.
Once we begin the opening process, we can push ourselves to break out of our normal thought patterns. We can stretch ourselves and begin to break from that narrowly defined space. All we have to do is just be open to the uncertainty, to the uneasiness, to the ambiguity, and to the fear. We have to suspend judgement and go back to that time when play, wonder, and surprise were such a part of our worlds. We may find that we begin to redefine who we are and how we are in the world. We may discover that we're more intelligent and creative than we originally thought. We just need to be open in order to gain back our creative confidence. We can begin to see the expanding possibilities and potential of our everyday lives.
We have to redefine what it means to fail, and we must learn to see that the only way to truly fail is to never try at all. It is fear and doubt that stops us and keeps us from ever trying. We fear judgement, failure, and insignificance. We fear rejection, discouragement, and loss. We doubt our ideas, our abilities, and our resolve. We doubt our inventiveness, our resourcefulness, and our courage. But we have so much to gain. We can grow, shine, inspire, express, open, and live, if we only have the courage to open ourselves a little bit. Slowly, we can open ourselves more and more allowing the creativity to flow stronger and stronger. Even the mightiest river begins as a trickle.
We are only limited by our reactions. We can react with tightness, control, and doubt, and allow our world to close down again restricting the flow and bottling up the creative energy. Or we can react with openness and acceptance, and become limitless and free. When we are open, we let go of ego, perfection, end results, and the final product. We embrace the creative process as a messy, but fulfilling, part of life.
But how do we go about opening ourselves to this creative potential?
I’m excited to be heading back to Portland, OR in a couple of months for Art and Soul where I’ll be teaching three workshops, and I hope that you can join me. I love Portland, and Art and Soul is always a big ball of creative fun!
Tuesday, March 12, 6:30pm-9:30pm
Immerse yourself in the art of mixed media layering, and delve deeply into a wide range of techniques for creating artful layers in your work. The focus of this workshop is on exploring the possibilities of layering materials, ideas, and images and incorporating personal themes, ideas, and images. Explore how to build up color and texture using transparent media like watercolors and water-soluble pencil. Experiment with collage, image transfers, and personal text to develop themes. Learn to embellish and enhance elements to draw out focus and detail, and walk away with a variety of richly layered work.
Wednesday, March 13, 9:00am-4:30pm
Monster Maker Workshop
Unleash your mad scientist in this fun mixed media workshop as you bring a variety of creatures of the imagination to life. Learn to conceptualize and create cute and cuddly, or scary and menacing monsters with pencil, ink, paint, collage, and polymer clay. Build your creations from stock parts or invent your own. Customize your monsters with a variety of details, textures, and accessories, and walk away with your own menagerie of little beasts. Evil laugh optional.
Thursday, March 14, 9:00am-4:30pm
Beyond Blank Pages
Challenge your notions of what a book can be and how pages can relate to one another, and engage in a wide range of artmaking and writing activities to weave a visual and written narrative. Transform blank pages into a unified artistic vision as you explore the layering of materials, ideas, and themes. Consider how colors, images, and words can figuratively and literally flow among, across, and through your pages as you change and manipulate the structure of pages with pockets, pop-ups, tears, cutouts, widows, foldouts, and more. Bring your own store bought or hand bound journal or sketchbook, and explore the possibilities for transforming it into a vessel for your creativity.
I hope to see you there!
Watercolor pencils are probably my favorite mixed media material since they combine two tried and true notions — drawing and painting. Similar to ordinary colored pencils, watercolor pencils can be used dry, and you can simply color and shade with them. But the magic happens when you combine them with water.
I discovered these pencils when I first got into working in the visual journal many, many years ago, and they quickly became a staple in my journal work as well my mixed-media, stand-alone pieces. Prismacolor was the first brand that I purchased, and I’ve been using them ever since. Prismacolor is a maker of professional quality art materials, and their markers and colored pencils have been been very popular with professional and amateur artists alike.
The watercolor pencils are no exception to this professional quality, so a set may seem expensive, but you get rich, vibrant colors and sturdy pencils. They pencil form gives you a lot of control and the ability to shade a variety of values, but as soon as you paint water over your marks, the pigment blends and bleeds giving a very nice painterly effect. You don’t have to just use water. Any medium that is water-based will work to spread the pencil, and using a contrasting color of watercolor paint gives you some vibrant color blends. Water-based makers also work to blend the pigment, and by coloring a light colored marker over the pencil, you can create some very rich results. Dark colored markers overpower the pencil. You can also dip the point of the pencil in water and draw with the wet tip to give you a darker color that looks more like marker.
Above all else, I love using these pencils to layer. Building up layers of different colors can create a lot of depth and richness in a piece. You can use any of the techniques above, but I normally just paint clear water over each layer, and allow it to dry completely before adding a new layer. It’s easy to build up 5 or 6 layers or even more.
I only have a few small issues with these pencils, but it’s not enough to detract from the color, the vibrancy, and the quality. The first issue (perhaps it’s not really an issue, but just part of the nature of all watercolor pencils) is that it’s difficult to get precise, even edges. Since there’s a lot of painting, edges can blend and bleed, so I like to use regular colored pencil to refine edges and even out any splotchy areas. The second issue is that many of the lighter colors are not completely transparent and have white in them, giving them a bit of a cloudy effect making it more difficult to build the rich, transparent layers that I like. My final issue is that the smallest set of 12 colors doesn’t have purple. It’s rather annoying since the reds and blues they include don’t mix to give you a vibrant purple. There are three different greens, but no purple. I’ve always scratched my head at that decision.
These are some great pencils to have in your artistic tool bag, and they’ve served me well over the years.
I haven’t worked too much in my journal this week other than some note taking and some writing. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the stories that we tell ourselves about our creativity. I’ve been reading a lot and contemplating how we connect to our creativity, and of course, there are some people who don’t believe they are creative. It’s all about the types of stories we tell ourselves. So, how do we change the stories?