Refrigerator Art

I find that sometimes I draw something in my art journal that I’m thrilled about because it shows progress, but I choose not to share it because it’s so far from perfect.

Tonight my mind wandered to memories of refrigerator art. As children we were proud to have our works of art displayed in one of the most prominent places in the house – the front of the refrigerator.

We weren’t concerned about the fact that the nose was a bit wonky or that the shading was far from perfect, we simply enjoyed the process and we bubbled over with joy about our progress. We were darn proud to have our drawings on display, even the practice pages.

As adults we are often-times afraid to share things we create that aren’t perfect and we’re also reluctant to admit that it required a lot of trial and error to achieve a less than perfect outcome.

practice builds confidence

To take it a step further, I think that as adults, we’re afraid to try new things because we might not succeed.  There’s also a bit of “why bother” if there’s no way to monetize it.

It’s too bad we’re conditioned to think that way because there is absolute joy in learning something new and feeling proud about showing it off the same way you did as a child.

There’s also so much more to art and creativity than trying to find a way to monetize it. It’s a way to touch people’s lives. We commune through words, art, music, food, and nature; it’s how we truly connect with each other as human beings.

Celebrate your inner child and show off your refrigerator art (even the works in progress) off with pride and joy.

fridge art

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Practice Doesn’t Make Perfect, but it does Build Confidence

One of my mantra’s is, “it’s never too late,” and I truly believe it. Sure there are points in life when it may be too late to achieve certain goals, but that doesn’t mean we should give up on ourselves or stop discovering the talents and interests that may have been buried by life’s circumstances.

One of the things that gets in our way of trying new things is a fear of failure, or maybe more accurately it’s a fear of not being able to do whatever we’re thinking about trying to some preconceived notion of “excellence.”

For the past 3 years I’ve enjoyed a later-in-life discovery about me; I’m an artist. In spite of the fact that I now describe myself as an artist and a writer without hesitation, there is still a fair amount of self-doubt when it comes to certain aspects of creativity.

My drawing lessons started with complex pieces of artwork which required an understanding of two-point perspective and shading. They were challenging to say the least.

progress on perspective_07_finaljpg

It took me weeks to finish the lessons that the other students finished in hours. The outcome was something I felt good about, but the process was stressful and may be the reason why my creative outlet became very abstract and I’ve stayed away from drawing “real things.”

Colorful Ink Drawing on handmade flax paper

For the past year I’ve been partial to flowers and trees.

inktober_10_19_2014tree series_seasons

 

My journal has become a place where I express my thoughts through both words and art. Surprisingly a face emerged one night a few weeks ago.

an attempt at a face

I posted it on Facebook and one of my artist friends recommended I check out an online class called “Supplies Me” and explore the possibility of learning to draw faces. (something I’ve avoided like the plague)

The video introduction to the class hooked me right away. The instructor, Jane Davenport, is all about having fun while learning. Her emphasis on practice building confidence rather than perfection is a unique way of framing an art class.

I jumped in with both feet, ordered a foreign art supply called Gesso to prep the pages of a new journal. Gesso is a white paint mixture that you use to add texture to an ordinary piece of paper. It primes the paper to allow paint or other mediums to adhere and bond to the page.

I ordered the Gesso and a brush; as soon as they arrived I prepped the first two pages of my journal.  I had a hard time deciding whether or not I should use the spiral-bound Moleskin one or this inexpensive sketchbook I picked up at the Michaels a few weeks ago.

I chose the sketchbook. The funny thing is that I didn’t realize until making the choice that there is a title on the cover of the journal; it reads, Art Education Book Five, how ironic is that?!

Instructions for the first lesson were simply to “play.” My Peerless Watercolor sheets and color pencils were what called to me – so I prepped the first two pages, including the inside cover, and started the journal in my comfort zone – trees. 🙂

9_let the journey begin

Lesson 2 was about as far from my comfort zone as I could imagine, we jumped right into drawing faces!

I experimented with a couple of faces on my own before watching the instructional video as a bit of an experiment and to have a record of my starting point. It turns out I seem to be more comfortable drawing eyes that are closed.

practice faces 12_15_2014

 

practice face_12_19_2014

Thankfully the instructor set a comfortable stage for a challenging homework assignment – draw lots and lots of faces.  I think the first one is my favorite,

practice face_12_20_2014

but there are some fun things about the other faces as well.

practice faces_0001_12_20_2014practice faces_0002_12_20_2014

I’m also learning a bit about how Gesso works and feels under my ink and pencil, what smudges and how to prevent unwanted lines and colors from ruining the pages.

In preparation for the mixed media challenge for this week, we learned some tricks to help us learn how to draw the human body.

practice faces_starting body parts

I’ve no idea where this class is going to take me – what I do know is that I’m really glad that I didn’t let my fears keep me from trying something new.

Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it does build confidence and can open up new worlds.

Yellow – Fall’s Hidden Treasure

Fall is my second favorite season, summer will always be my first. What can I say? I love the warmth of the sun. I do have to admit that the cooler temperatures of fall make long walks and bike rides along the towpath even more enjoyable.

This year the reds and oranges have been especially vibrant, and for the first time ever I noticed the beauty in the color yellow as well.

I also discovered that sometimes the leaves that have fallen to the ground are as beautiful as the leaves still clinging to the branch. This blanket of gold and subtle accents of green covering the grass took my breath away.

hidden beauty inspiration

I have no doubt that the drivers of the cars passing me wondered why I was taking pictures of the ground, but I couldn’t help myself. I saw more than fallen leaves, I saw the hidden beauty.

The image inspired me to draw.

hidden beauty

I decided to call it “Hidden Beauty.”

#Inktober Favorites

It turns out that no-shave November is preceded by #inktober, a month-long challenge to do an ink drawing every day. It’s intent is to motivate artists to draw on a regular basis and as a way to improve one’s technique.

Even the best artists get better the more they practice and play with their favorite medium or experiment with a new one.

I started the challenge late. I was too busy working on my Fall watercolor garden to even notice that there was a challenge underway. Once I came up for air I realized that many of my artist friends on Google+ were  posting wonderful ink drawings on a daily basis. Their masterpieces ranged from simple sketches to elaborate doodles.

There’s no way I’ll complete the goal of creating something every day, but that’s OK. It was fun to get my pens out and see what I could come up with. Here are a few of my favorites:

A black and white flower garden was my first entry. It’s kind of whimsical and fun.

inktober flower garden

Sometimes inspiration comes from the strangest places and in this case I was inspired to keep it simple just like the pattern on my dinnerware. It’s amazing what your mind can come up with when you let it wander while emptying the dishwasher.
flower outline
We’ve had more than a few beautiful Fall days here in Pennsylvania I took this somewhat fuzzy picture of a cute little tree in my neighborhood.
Autumn Treee
It inspired me to pull out the Prismacolor markers and create a very bright and all ink interpretation of it.
inktober_10_17_2014
I remember the night I made the following entry well.  I’d spent at least an hour wasting time and paper trying to draw something other than a flower or a tree. In all honesty I’d given up on an #inktober entry for tonight.

I signed onto Facebook and what showed up in my feed? A picture of a beautiful African Daisy – posted by one of my friends.

I was instantly inspired and motivated to draw. Pretty sure I’ve never even used these ink colors before. Hopefully I did her photo some justice.
inktober_10_19_2014
This entry started out being very whimsical  with light lines and little shading
it ended up being a bit intense – interesting…
inktober_10_20_2014
After a long but good day, a bubble bath by candle light not only helped me unwind but was also fuel for creativity. Believe it or not, this was inspired by shadows cast on the wall of my bathroom by the flames from three votive candles.
inktober_10_24_2014

 Feeling a little transitional lately – maybe those feelings inspired this entry. My version of a “tree of seasons.”

tree of seasons
Last but not least, my favorite. I picked up this little gem on my walk the other day – it served as some inspiration .Hydraenga

I believe it’s from a Hydrangea tree/plant – it was so strange to find this one lone piece lying on the grass at my feet.

I couldn’t resist bringing it home.
inktober_10_27_2014
Now to decide how to complete the final four days of #inktober. 🙂

There is Inspiration Everywhere – An Autumn Walk

A few weeks ago I found my way back to getting myself out the front door for at least semi-regular walks in the sunshine. A huge improvement over no walks at all! 🙂

I’m torn about taking my phone along with me on my walks. On the one hand it makes it harder to unplug from the world for an hour or so but on the other hand it’s a good idea from a safety perspective and I also have found the camera useful on more than a few occasions.

I found the vibrant pinks and greens in this patch of flowers to be captivating.

flower garden doodle journal inspiration

It inspired an ink journal entry, which oddly enough was a first for me. This photo was the first time that I used something I captured/created as inspiration for a drawing.

flower garden doodle journal

Although I really like the loose, whimsical, unfinished nature of this entry into my ink journal, I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something more waiting to be created.

My youngest son is taking a design class and one of his first assignments involved using tracing paper to capture the lines from one drawing or picture and transfer them onto a piece of drawing paper. It’s kind of like making a carbon copy by hand.

When I saw what he was doing with his drawings, the idea hit me and I asked if I could use a sheet of tracing paper. Surprisingly the 4 x 6 inch ink journal entry scaled quite nicely to 8.5 x 11. It was time consuming but somewhat therapeutic to trace the lines of the petals on to the tracing paper.

Transferring the Graphite_flower garden_2
Transferring the graphite from the tracing paper to the sheet of watercolor paper was downright fun!
Transferring the Graphite_flower garden_3
When I lifted the tracing paper and could barely see the lines on the paper it made me a bit skeptical,

Transferring the Graphite_flower garden_complete

but it seemed like there was enough definition to keep on going –  so I used watercolor pencils to darken the lines and begin to add color.

Water Color Pencil_Flower Garden_1

I have to admit that I was surprised and delighted at how vibrant the colors became after adding water.

Water Color Pencil_Flower Garden_3

I spent several evenings listening to my Enya Radio station on Pandora while filling in the drawing petal by petal.

Water Color Pencil_Flower Garden_10a1
I’m a self proclaimed Geek (and proud of it) so I frequently take progress pictures when I’m working on something that evolves over several sessions.

I found it fascinating to capture the color transformation between before

Water Color Pencil_Flower Garden_10b
and after I “watered” the flowers.
Water Color Pencil_Flower Garden_10d
There is always that final moment, the last little bit that needs to be completed, in which I take a deep breath and hope that I don’t somehow make a mistake that will ruin the entire piece. My guess is that I’m not alone when it comes to that.

I’m happy to say that I’ve gotten pretty good at turning an “oops”  into a “happy accident” so I didn’t freak out when the final lines drawn were deep blue and not purple – somehow it works.

Water Color Pencil_Flower Garden_Final
One of the reasons this drawing is so special to me is that it represents so many positive changes in my life over the past few years. Not the least of which is being given a second chance in life.

I also think that it’s an interesting example of how we might start out with one vision or image but along the way it morphs and evolves into something that looks nothing like the original but is equally as beautiful in it’s own way.

Life is a journey and we never know how one experience is going to influence the next one.

I hope you enjoy the time-lapse video version of the project.

From “Doodles” to “Drawings” and more…

Mixed Media Tree

More and more often I find myself doodling in my journals in addition to writing. My mind starts to wander and all of the sudden my pen lands on the page opposite of my words and a form that must have been hiding in my sub-conscious starts to emerge.

sunflower emerging on journal page

Sometimes the entries turn out to be very detailed and take a couple of sessions to finish.

Sunflower Journal Entry

Other times they happen in one sitting.

Tulip Journal Entry

Don’t ask me how long they take, because when I start to write or draw I lose track of time. I doodle until I can’t draw any more and if it’s not finished, I return to it the next time I feel like it.

I never would have guessed that drawing would become such an important part of my life, let a lone a way to unwind. It seems like just yesterday that I mustered up the courage to attend a drawing class and spent months completing my first sunflower.

sunflower_first drawing in over 20 years

It’s a little deceiving to post these images together because the drawings are completely different in scale. The sunflower from my class is easily 9 times larger than the individual journal entries. It’s also in pencil, not ink and was inspired by a picture in a lesson book not solely from my imagination.

I also never would have guessed an online “doodle and lettering” class would help me gain confidence in my abilities and get in touch with my second-grade art girl.

i am me - Doodle Art Dress

The thing that’s interesting to me is that I clearly have a “style.” I know that probably sounds strange to say, but it’s not something I ever would have imagined myself saying out loud.

Sometimes I wonder if I should challenge myself more and move beyond sunflowers, trees and butterflies. They seem to dominate my art, but maybe that’s ok.

There are Always Options

I’m enjoying the casual and non-stressful exploration of my creativity and some really interesting pieces of art are emerging. My recent affirmation art journaling project has resulted in two additional pieces of work that are completely different from anything I’ve done before (other than the fact that trees are the main subject 😉 ).

This “affirmation Forrest” grew organically as a result of the project. It began as a sheet of paper that I used to try the lettering of a phrase on for size and as a place to clean off the extra ink from a gel pen and doodle tree trunks.

Forest drawn in Ink

My latest project is a “rainbow tree,” for lack of a better description.

Mixed Media Tree

The tree is made up of tiny pieces of paper. They are actually “rejects” from backgrounds I created while working on the affirmation journal.

Initially if something didn’t work, I tossed it – then one night as I was tearing one into little pieces it occurred to me that there might be a creation hiding in them, so I started saving them, and voila! It’s still a work in progress and I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Occasionally I wonder if I’d be “further along” with my art if I’d continued taking more formal classes on the other hand I can’t help but think that some of my more recent efforts never would have happened if I had. It seems my definition of being an artist is evolving and I’m learning what it means to me.

Some day I may return to the classroom setting, but for now I’m going to explore my creative side in my own way and in my own time.

I Am Perfectly Imperfect

I am Perfectly Imperfect

A couple of summers ago, I received an email that may have changed my life. It was from an artist friend of mine and it started out like this,

“Hi,

Due to a surplus of various kinds of pulp, I am holding a couple of papermaking open studio sessions and papermaking classes at my studio.  I have Japanese pulp, casting pulp, high shrink flax, abaca and pigmented pulp for painting.

I had no idea what was involved, but the opportunity was clearly too awesome to pass up. I learned all how to make paper and I fell in love with the process. Something about it appeals to my tactile senses, which is odd because I normally don’t like doing anything the least bit messy.

In first stage, the pulp feels wet and sort of mushy but strong. After suspending it in water, the fibers become soft and feathery. You use a frame lined with a screen to scoop up the fibers and create the foundation for a piece of paper. I like to imagine that it’s like panning for gold to pick up the tiny wet fibers and drain off the excess water. Once the fibers settle, you carefully peel the wet sheet off of the screen and layer it between pieces of a special fabric until the entire stack dries.

When all was said and done, none of the edges of my pieces of paper were straight, the thickness varied from sheet to sheet, and many were lined with interesting creases and unintended patterns – but they were all beautiful to me. I wasn’t sure what I would do with them, but after the assorted sheets of paper dried I sealed them in a gallon sized baggie to protect them from the humidity.

I’ll never be sure what prompted me to pick up a pen and use it to make a mark on one of my pristine pieces of hand-made paper. I’m very tentative when I draw in pencil, I draw lines so light you can barely see them and I’m fairly certain that in the beginning of each drawing I spend more time erasing than drawing.  There’s something inside of me that “needs” for it to be “perfect.”

Ink is permanent and each piece of my handmade paper was one of a kind. The thought of using ink on them was completely counter – intuitive.  I’m a perfectionist, if there’s a chance that it won’t turn out right; I’m more inclined to not even start than to make a mistake.  So ink, particularly on my handmade paper seemed like an unlikely creative outlet. In reality, it’s taught me a valuable life lesson.

Drawing on these imperfect pieces of paper was difficult because the texture wasn’t smooth, the creases presented both a challenge and as it turns out an opportunity.

Trees are my default doodle so I guess it’s no wonder that’s where I started. I took advantage of the texture in the paper to create depth in the trunk and branches.

ink tree on handmade flax paper

The strokes of my pen grew bolder and my designs became more elaborate, detailed, and colorful with each tiny work of art. The addition of watercolor pencils and brightly colored ink transformed the imperfections in the paper into something beautiful and completely unexpected.

Colorful Ink Drawing on handmade flax paper

When you draw in ink, if the pen slips and goes in an unintended direction there are two choices. You can crumple up the drawing and give up, or you can find a way to make it work. More often than not, there’s a way turn the mishap into a part of the drawing; my dear Google+ friend Jennifer Broderick refers to this as“knowing how to resolve the lines.”

I still find it strange, but I no longer dread making mistakes because I know they often-times turn out even better than the original idea after I take a step back and think about how to make the “oops” work in my favor.

It doesn’t work every time, and that’s ok too, it’s all about recognizing the difference between an opportunity that might be different from what we planned and also knowing when to cut our losses short and move on.

I am Perfectly Imperfect

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If you want to check out the series of drawings, you can see them here

-> http://bit.ly/1zPdb7P

I am Worthy

I am Worthy

When things are going well in life, things like self-acceptance and a positive attitude about the future is easy. However, when we go through times that are fraught with setbacks and disappointments it’s difficult to keep feelings of self-doubt at bay.

For whatever reason, the first half of 2014 has come with more than a few challenges that have caused financial strain and stress. Just when I think I’m going to get ahead, another unexpected expense crops up or a deal that seemed promising falls through, there have even been weeks that contained both.

It would be easy for me to focus on the negatives of the first six months of this year. There have certainly been more than a few moments in which I’ve felt desperate about the present and doubtful about the future.

When I look at this year from an objective perspective, I know that the number of good things that have happened far out-number the setbacks. I’ve also never felt better about myself or more certain that I’m on the right path.

Sometimes I think people equate having a positive outlook with not having any negative feelings or fears. There’s no way on earth that we can expect ourselves or anyone else to go through difficult experiences and disappointments without “feeling.”

In fact, when we allow ourselves to feel and express emotions such as anger, doubt, fear, anxiety, and remorse it’s much easier to move onward and upward with confidence. The feelings are real and if we try and ignore them, they only fester and undermine our progress for a longer period of time.

I’ve learned the difference between acknowledging the feelings and sharing them with the intention of seeking support and a helping hand and dwelling on a topic and ranting just to hear myself talk.

Reaching out for help during times of trouble can make us feel vulnerable and can even cause feelings of shame. As human beings, we want to succeed on our own. I don’t know if it’s innate or societal, but it can be hard to admit that we’ve made a mistake, had a lapse in judgment, or that something bad happened to us.

Allowing others to see our vulnerabilities isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of self-confidence and courage. It takes guts to be honest. We conjure up worst case scenarios as a result of telling the truth. In my experience, they are never as bad as I imagined and usually result in something positive.

A big realization for me has been the importance of accepting myself and that believing I am worthy is the first and most important step to success and happiness.

I have an awesome feeling about the future and believe someday the events during this time will make a great story. While I can’t do it today, there’s no doubt in my mind that the stories will be told with laughter and joy.

I am Worthy

All is Well in My World

Rain doesn't make a day awful. It just makes it wet

I recently discovered the teachings of Louise Hay, author of “You Can Heal Your Life.” She has an amazing story and her beliefs are very thought provoking.

Her philosophy includes many points which center around loving oneself and how our thoughts affect our present and future.

“Every thought we think is creating our future.”

This sounds like something super philosophical and esoteric, but it’s really very practical and true. A few chapters into the book I had a huge “aha moment” when I read:

“Rain doesn’t make a day awful, it just makes it wet.”

Rain doesn't make a day awful. It just makes it wet

Wow, it really is up to us to make each day a good day or one that we want to forget.

She firmly believes that we can heal what ails us through the power of loving oneself and that aches and pains in each part of the body are associated with things like past experiences, negativity, fear, and a lack of self love.

Self love is not the same as self indulgence or self acceptance. It means that we treat our bodies and our minds well, enjoy the person we are in the present, forgive and release the people and things from our past that hold us back, and embrace our future with confidence.

Part of her teachings include using daily affirmations as a way of changing one’s world for the better.

After reading the book and thinking about this concept for a while, I decided to create a journal with the affirmations from her book that resonated most deeply with me. For the next 100 or so days I will create my book one a page at a time and continue to change my world one affirmation and one day at a a time.

At the end of each chapter is a longish affirmation that speaks to the lessons within the pages before it. Each one ends with the phrase “All is Well in My World.”

Just that affirmation on it’s own has a powerful meaning and I thought it was perfect for the cover of my new journal.

All is Well in My World - Journal Cover

As I see it, the focus of her teachings is for each of us to love ourselves and use our thoughts and actions to “Be Whole,” which is the phrase that came to my mind and wrote on the back of my journal.

Be Whole - back cover of the journal

I already know how the story turns out so I created the final page and glued it to the inside of the back cover.

I Am - back inside cover

It’s interesting to me that this simple phrase, “I am,” keeps appearing in my life through different experiences, authors, and artists. Like, “All is Well in My World,” it stands on it’s own as a powerful affirmation.

I created the backgrounds for the first set of daily inspiration with watercolor. A fun side benefit of this project is the opportunity to explore and experiment with this medium.

watercolor pages for journal entries

The first affirmation is, “I release the pattern in my that created this.” I am at Peace. I am worthwhile.” (Louise L. Hay)

There’s a theory that we often-times create a pattern of chaos in our life without even realizing it. The chaos leads to accidents, mishaps and mayhem. Well mayhem might be a little strong, but the word fit nicely. 

I’ve begun to wonder if we have “strings of bad luck” because we start and persist with internal thoughts that, “life is hard,” “nothing is easy, “things never go my way,” and “I wonder what’s going to go wrong next.”

It could be that life just simply runs in cycles or there could be some truth to the belief that our thoughts create our reality. Maybe it’s a little of both.

release accidents_04_05_2014

I’ll be sharing these daily inspirational quotes on Facebook and Google Plus. In sharing them, I hope the right affirmation finds it’s way to others just when they need it.

Today and every day, all is well in my world.