31 December 2010

Last post for 2010, sneaking in under the wire

Tonight my son is spending the night at a friend's and my husband is playing a gig an hour away, so my daughter and I stayed home and painted papers (she helped me a little bit).

Last night I tried to settle and do something but was just not able to do that, so instead I made some notes in the new little Moleskines I got for Xmas, did my first read-through of my first Mary Oliver book of poetry, and looked through some of 1000 Artist Journal Pages.  While I read I made notes about many things and ended up having a great & fulfilling evening even though it wasn't what I had thought I was going to do at the beginning of it.

I got a great idea about keeping lists so that I can keep up with my life instead of it getting away from me.  I also think this will help keep my list-making side in check and not let it get out of hand so that I end up just feeling bad about the things that aren't getting crossed off my list--because this book won't have things to cross off!  Right now I don't want to say much more about it, but I hope to complete it within a week and will do a full post/explanation then.

Tonight in preparation for making the book, I painted pages from a Dale Rowney acrylic pad (115lb paper, canvas style on one side and smooth on the other) with Golden Acrylic paints--begain with Cerulean Blue Deep, then some Turquoise (Phthalo) followed by Cobalt Teal and finally Phthalo Green (Yellow Shade) mixed with Acrylic Glazing Liquid (AGL henceforth).  I moved the paint around with various items--brayer, my fingers (in gloves!), a palette knife, a paper towel, or a paintbrush.  Over all that I put a layer of Titan Buff mixed with AGL to tone everything down.  The pages aren't finished yet--I'll still add some circles and patterns, probably with acrylic ink in hopes of reducing the sticky page factor.

I would like to thank everyone who has been kind enough to leave a comment on my blog this year.  There are so many wonderful blogs and artists out there, and it's impossible to comment on everything, so I really appreciate the effort made when someone stopping by does leave a note.

Happy New Year to everyone!

29 December 2010

The Year is Wrapping Up--Looking Ahead to 2011

Wow, finally some time to just be and reflect and plan for the upcoming year.  What an odd feeling not to have deadlines approaching!  One thing I do look forward to doing in January is reorganizing my art space--this will be the third year in a row I've done that.  I enjoy the process--it reminds of what I've got, which is always useful, and stimulates new ideas and combinations in my mind.  It's always a continual refining here in my space.

I do have some things on tap that should be invigorating.  For one, I aim to finish the pieces from Julie Prichard's and Chris Cozen's online class Complex Collage, which has been amazingly fun and useful.  I have also signed up for Julie's Super Nova Journaling classes, including the bookmaking intro, and I think those should be very helpful too.  Also along the journaling line, I am enrolled in the three Strathmore free online journaling classes, the first of which begins on Saturday with Pam Carriker.

As you can see, I am aiming right now at further exploration of myself and what I have to say as an artist.  That's something I find very difficult to slow down and figure out when there is always so much going on, so many wonderful projects and ideas out there in magazines and on blogs, that it's hard for me to find my way to knowing what is truly my expression, my view, my truth.  I hope that these various journaling approaches and classes will help nudge me a bit further along that path.

One thing that I am hugely excited about (my mother is appalled, frankly) is that for Christmas this year I got a sewing machine.  Never before in my life have I operated one before, but I'm learning now.  (Tip:  ALWAYS put that damn presser foot back down before starting up the machine again!)  I don't have any books to follow or project instructions next to me--and I am trying to avoid the temptation to get any.  This I would like to see if I can follow where it leads.

20 December 2010

Intended to address Reverb10 prompts but sidetracked by reflections on self-discovery

It was interesting watching what happened to myself the last couple of weeks when all of a sudden life shot into high gear and I simply had no time to even to think about whatever I chose.  Instead, when I had time to think (like when I was washing up the dishes), I had to think about what needed doing as soon as I was done with the dishes.  It was crazy!  Things were like that for at least a solid week . . . and then my six-year-old daughter got her first ear infection, and now I've got her cold and am seriously hoping that having it now means I will be all better for Christmas Eve & Day (am cooking for 11 adults and 5 kids--should be fun).  If only my ears and throat just weren't so damn itchy!

A wine charm--part of a set I made earlier this year--
done on 1" square Stampbord pieces--I'm including
this because it's something I did this year, which ended up
being the subject today, and I don't like to post
without having an image!
One thing that has gradually been making itself clear to me over this last year is that I have to--and I can--let go and trust that I am doing what needs doing in the moment, and that I shouldn't force myself into doing things I'm not ready for--and that applies to things as mundane as going through the pile of papers that need filing and are shoved in 3 different drawers in a dresser in our closet.  Eventually, I am learning, the time will come around when I will be moved to sort through them, and then it will take only a couple of hours, whereas if I'd forced myself to do it when I wasn't in the mood, it would take me days and I'd be highly irritated with everyone while in the process.  This doesn't work for those things that simply can't wait (like researching schools for my eleven-year-old son, which also consumed a great deal of time doing the work, composing e-mails to his current school, setting up appointments with new schools, gathering necessary papers for the visits . . . you can see why I fell off the face of the blogging world for a little while), but most things truly are not in that category.

This has been a difficult process for me, and one that still presents challenges (part of me wants to berate myself for not doing the reverb10 prompts every day in spite of everything else that cropped up), but I have gotten much better.  I was the kind of kid who made a schedule for the time after school up to bedtime, and I hated it when my homework took less time than I'd allowed & messed up my schedule.  After graduating from UT-Austin, I was first a relational database developer and then a project manager at Dell--I was great at making schedules, following plans, making lists, and generally getting stuff done.  Once children came along, my world was definitely not the same!  I learned not to make lists anymore because it was too depressing and demoralizing to cross only one thing off after a weekend when I used to cross six or seven things off in a day, but I never really came to terms with how my approach to life had changed until quite recently.  I felt it was something done to me rather than a choice I'd made, and thus it wasn't something I embraced or accepted.

Reading so many different blogs and learning how all of you approach things, describe your outlook, and see the gentleness with which you treat yourselves has been humbling and amazingly powerful for me.  I am probably the most emotionally aware than I've been in years and years, and I certainly have the best self-image I've ever had, and it's wonderful to say that.

Right, I've nattered on a great deal now and not addressed any of the prompts.  I shall do that another time!

19 December 2010

Whoosh! There went the last two weeks

Well, I was doing so well there with the reverb10 prompts, and then all of a sudden I didn't even have a chance to think in the privacy of my own head about whatever I wanted to--I had to think about the thing I had to do next.  And I very consciously make an effort not to overcommit myself too!  I shudder to think how things might be if I didn't do that.

2007 bookmark/gift tag for the PE coach

It was primarily the end of school for my kids that sucked up my time.  At my son's school the families give gift cards to the teachers at the holiday party, and ever since my first year there I felt that although that was absolutely the best gift to give, it was also rather impersonal and lacked any "wow factor".  So I volunteered that year to make bookmarks that also served as the gift tags attached to the cards.  I cut each one by hand, selected reproductions of vintage schoolbook covers that fit with each teacher's subject area, and fastened them on with eyelets.  That year there were only 12 . . . this year there were 47.

2007 bookmark/gift tag
for a kindergarten teacher
2007 bookmark/gift tag
for a humanities teacher
I made custom embellishments using fragments, punched out individual tags, wrote each teacher's name on the tag, made the envelope for the gift card from the signatures that families had left on a sheet of paper in the lobby (scanned it into Photoshop Elements & added a layer of generic winter scenes--we strive for multicultural rather than Christmas specifically), folded each one into an envelope, tied ribbon around it to keep it closed, then tied each tag onto the ribbon.  As you can imagine, if you made it through that entire sentence, it took me a while!

I could have had help if I'd gotten prepared a little earlier, but that's my own fault that I didn't, and honestly, I didn't mind.  I recognized that it was important to me, and when I thought of using fragments to make a decoration for each one, I had that inner feeling that nothing else was going to do, so I might as well just get on with it and enjoy the process.  And I did!  Unfortunately, I didn't even have time to take pictures of the finished products, so nothing to share visually from this year's gifts.

2007 bookmark/gift tag
for a science teacher
At the same time, I also had to make a double recipe of shepherd's pie to take (my son got put in charge of the food committee this year, so I felt obligted to contribute something more than my usual plastic utensils & paper plates).  Then there was finding our enormous crock-pot from the boxes in the garage so I could take it to my daughter's school for their party, and getting all our holiday cards ready for sending . . . I didn't even have a chance for a few days there to read my blog list, and I ALWAYS do that.

Things seem to have settled down now, although I have a cold my daughter so generously passed on to me (luckily she doesn't seem to have shared her ear infection too) and I am hosting Christmas dinner for 11 adults & six children.  I am looking forward both to blogging and making things again.  Yesterday I did have a very successful day making a present for a cousin who'll be here for Xmas . . . I'll post about that soon as well as revisit some of the reverb10 prompts I've missed.

07 December 2010

Catching Up--Wonder, Letting Go, Make, Community

Right--falling behind with Reverb10 and realizing that as with other things, I am making my own barriers and standing in my own way.  Thinking about and addressing these issues doesn't have to take a couple of hours and at least 3 revisions before publishing.  Granted, that might produce a better entry for my readers! But I can't use that as an excuse not to step up & speak to the prompt in whatever way I am able to manage.

4 Dec prompt:  So, how did I cultivate a sense of wonder in my life this year?  Quite frankly, I didn't.  My focus was more on just getting by.  But if I am honest with myself, I could elevate that view a bit for next year.

I will say that I did learn as the year went on to appreciate things that I didn't before, and I learned from reading all the wonderful blogs out there that my creativity can express itself in many ways--in the food I prepare for my family and the appreciation I take in the physical effort of it as well as just taking notice of the smells and colors of the ingredients, in the things I share with my children and the laughter we create with each other, in anything and everything, really.

Also, in Susan Tuttle's book Digital Expressions, I learned that taking beautiful pictures of everyday things is within my reach--it's all in learning to really look at things, to see what I am looking at.  Same thing with making an attempt at sketching something.  The curve of a handle on a coffee mug is a lovely thing and full of beauty.  As the boy said in August Rush, beauty is all around us [he may have said music, but it's one and the same].

All right, how can I cultivate a sense of wonder in my life next year?  I don't think I want to place the pressure on myself to blog every day about something, or write in my journal every day.  Perhaps the thing to do is simply to make myself the promise to look for the wonder, to appreciate it in the smiles of my beautiful children, the pleasure when I play something well on my harp, the smile I get when the little wren hops into the middle of the wreath on my front door and checks it out.  I am surrounded by wonder.  But it is up to me to acknowledge it.

5 Dec prompt:  What or whom did I let go of this year?  A few things--some friendships that had run their course, the feeling that my goal is to get back to a physical body I had before I had two children and two miscarriages, and spending my free mental time replaying scenes from my marriage that I wish had gone differently.  I choose to think about other things now, because that wasn't accomplishing anything.  And I finally am aware that rather than going back to something that is gone, my job is to go forwards and find out what is here now.

6 Dec prompt:  What was the last thing I made?  The last thing I finished were some holiday cards.  Materials used included vintage postcard stickers from Hobby Lobby, papers I painted myself on acrylic paper, grungeboard, Distress Inks, Stickles, metal embellishments, Dresden scrap blue snowflakes, etc.  I am halfway through a journal from Julie Prichard's Art Journaling course on the Land of Lost Luggage network (Ning); I used folded notecards from Michael's for the pages, waxed linen thread for sewing the signatures, and for the spine I've used pleather that I've had around for some time, and the cover papers are Oriental-themed ones I got on my last trip to the in-laws in England.

7 Dec prompt:  Where did I discover community in 2010, and what community would I like to join in 2011?  I found community online, and the comments that have come in on my blog and what I read from others has touched my heart deeply.  I love sharing what I'm doing and hearing other's comments and critiques--sometimes the littlest word can send me off in a completely new direction.  And of course, to receive approbation from others is balm for my wounded, fragile creative female ego that is always seeking the approval of others (I am trying to not do that so much and learn to listen to myself and trust myself, at least creatively).  In terms of how to extend this into next year, I'd like to get organized enough to start submitting entries to magazine challenges and participate in a regular online challenge.

Thanks for reading this much.  All comments welcome!

04 December 2010

A Moment

Couldn't post yesterday, could barely even think--ate something that disagreed with me completely.  So hard to do for kids as they needed (husband is away on a trip), but I got it done in the end.

This prompt, I find, is stopping me in my tracks.  Not an easy one, and it seems too much like cheating to pick something that happened just recently . . . but this just isn't how my mind generally works.

I will do something from a couple of months ago.  On a weekday morning after getting the kids to school (two different places), I went to the trails in the canyon down the street from us, but I went in from the Floral Park side rather than the side closer to us.  Much to my surprise (we've lived here over ten years now), I found extensive trails that I'd never known were there.  On my way in, I met one man coming out with his dog, but once inside the trees all was stillness and solitude.  There was no wind, no rustling--just a sense of waiting.  The sun was not yet high enough in the sky to have made it down into the canyon even though it was about 8:30 a.m., so there were not even any shadows yet, and while it wasn't dark, there was not yet Light.

As I briskly walked down the trails I passed cool grey ponds filled with nibbly little minnows, and I saw plenty of flowers waiting the sun.  At one point I came to a large rock, and I squeezed by until I could see that I could go no further.  The water rushed down a waterfall, the peace was nearly overwhelming.

02 December 2010

How to Eliminate What Doesn't Contribute to my Writing

 . . . and I shall extend the title, "...what doesn't contribute to my writing or my art or frankly my creativity in general".  The answer to that one is easy for me!  I get sucked in to the internet easily and find quite often that 30 or 45 minutes have gone by with nothing really to show for it.

While there is something to be said for gathering information about what's going on, I know very well that much of what I do is almost compulsive--one more check to see if a new blog post from someone has come up, one more e-mail check, etc.  Plus, given that I have two children and thus cannot say that my time is my own, I could easily be more disciplined about how I spend my time when I am in charge (i.e., during school hours) and decide that reading blogs and my news sites is just something I save for post-bedtime, when I'm usually too done in to be creative anyway.

Besides, I have found that getting into the creative mood in the evenings--while it is certainly my preference--is not a good thing for me.  I get so high on creating that it takes me forever to let it go and unwind enough to go to sleep, and that's not a good thing when I have to get up at 6:15 a.m. for the getting-ready-for-school routine.

So I shall promise myself that beginning tomorrow (why wait?), I will transition to reading my blog list and checking news sites only in the evenings (at least during the week), and the transition will be complete by the New Year.

Thanks to Reverb10 for providing the nudge to focus in on this change that I knew was needed and make it a reality!

01 December 2010

One Word Looking Back, One Word Looking Forward

Hmm, ran across Reverb10 on Christen Olivarez's blog, and it's intriguing.  I enjoyed the 30 Days challenge in November, although I wasn't able to keep to it between two kids in school plus hosting Thanksgiving & having my parents visiting for a week, but it definitely raised my attention to what I was doing each day that's creative.  Which is the goal, right?  Even if I couldn't document it, I DID it, and I appreciated and honored the process as well as the outcome.

So, looking back on 2010, what one single word would I pick to describe it?  Either "struggle" or "growth" would work, depending on which angle one is taking.  I think they are both sides of the same coin myself.  And with all of this growth that I've been having, I choose to go with the viewpoint of "growth" over "struggle".  Struggle is just that.  Growth is something new and good resulting from the struggle.  That is, truly, what I feel has come from this year.

Onwards, now--what word would I like to see myself selecting come this time next year?  Some choices come immediately to mind, such as "relaxed" or "serene", but that doesn't feel quite enough, somehow.  What I think I might like instead is "confident".  I would like that, yes I would.  I'd like to own what I do, not to belittle it or feel like a dilettante or pretender--to really give myself permission to get over that fear that maybe I really don't have anything to say and am simply accomplished with techniques, and to learn to think proudly in my heart and sing out loud with my voice that I am a Creative Person, and that is important and it is enough.

28 November 2010

Activities over Thanksgiving week

Must admit I am tired tonight, but a very good kind of tired.  It was lovely to have my parents here and to host Thanksgiving dinner, but goodness I never seem to get a chance to really take a moment and just chill.  The first two days when the kids were still in school I did manage to find some time to work on a few journal pages, and then this afternoon when my daughter was at a birthday party, I went to a coffeehouse and did some more.

One beautiful thing that happened the week prior to Thanksgiving is that my cousin, who lives about 15 minutes away from me, had her third daughter.  I got to hold her from the time she was 10 hours old until she was 12 hours old--nearly made me want a third one of my own!  Such sweet little warm bundles.  The parents loved having her at the birthing center (same place I had my daughter and they had their second one as well) as they were back home within nine hours of her birth.

These are activities from Liz Lamoreux's new book Inner Excavations that I won from Shona Cole's recent giveaway.  I had tremendous fun doing them.

After reading much encouragement from so many different books, and from having fun playing on the mini Buddha board that my mom got for our house this last week, I am determined to try to learn to draw, at least a little bit.  This afternoon I used my new charcoal pencils and drew a tree and a face.  I feel that they are recognizable as such and therefore a success!

Others are just works in progress--although "work" is a grandiose title that's perhaps not quite warranted here.  Last week I used my recent Groupon for Jerry's Artaram and got a small bottle of Liquitex gesso for my portable art bag, so today I experimented with taping off a portion of a page with artist's tape, then gessoing & painting the page before removing the tape.

I will say that I am having huge rewarding pleasure doing these and finding that though I have no idea what's coming, the process allows me to do things that simply wouldn't happen if I were doing a Project or making a Gift, if you know what I mean.

I hope everyone else had a wonderful week, whether it was Thanksgiving for you or not!

20 November 2010

More Holiday Cards

 This afternoon has been quite fruitful--I knocked out a bunch of cards and am pleased with the results.  They are pretty simple, but I really don't think a holiday card is required to be too complicated.  My thought is that the right colors (red, green, gold for sure) are needed, and something sparkly to catch the light so that you notice it up on the mantle over the fire, or in the hanging card holder by the door, or wherever you put your cards.

The backgrounds I made myself, although not the way I originally intended to do!  Thursday night I made up a packet of gelatin, following the instructions to simply substitute water for the fruit juice called for on the packet.  I must have done something wrong because I think there was too much water--at any rate, when I pulled it out of the fridge Friday morning, it hadn't set.  I tried to use it anyway but it was just a horrible mess.

Undaunted, I switched to doing credit card backgrounds as mentioned in an earlier post.  I used a mixture of different paints--Lumiere for the gold, some Folk Art craft paints, and some Golden fluid acrylics.  Boy could I tell the difference!  The Folk Art seems to suck up all the light and is quite dull.  For my purposes it turned out all right because it was a good foil for the metallic paint and accents, but definitely not thrilled about it.

The glitter along the edge of the painted panel (acrylic paper pad) is Stickles; it's not yet dry in the photo.  Gotta love Stickles!  Luckily from years past I have a large assortment and was able to find the right mixture for each card (I used Holly, Candy Cane, Gold, and Xmas Red).

From the picture of everything I did today, you can see I also got a few gift tags made.  Tomorrow I will cut some tags from Xmas paper to fit in the little bags, and then they will go on wrapped packages under the tree with the "To/From" info on the tag inside the bag.

19 November 2010

Inspired by Liz Lamoreux

Self-portrait reflected from car window
I made a special trip down to the mailbox this afternoon to see if the book I won from Shona Cole's giveaway last week had arrived, and it had!  Joy of joys!  Only about half an hour remained before I had to walk down the street again, albeit a little farther, to meet my daughter at the bus stop.  I read the first chapter carefully, and then I turned the pages a little faster, feasting on the glorious images, the gentle words, and the overall atmosphere of the whole thing.  I will read each page slowly and give it the attention it deserves, but I couldn't help myself today.  I never have been one of those people who don't read ahead until they've actually done the exercise.  Simply not possible for me!

So, it was time to go, and inspired by Liz's book, I grabbed my camera to take with me for the journey down the street (rather than taking my iPod to play Solitaire whilst waiting).  Come with me . . .

The lantana flowers have long gone from the bush in the front garden and turned into berries.

A vigorous and optimistic snail is making his way up our garage door.  Not sure what he thinks he's going to find there that's worth the trip!

I was struck by two things on my way down to the bus stop.  One was how many empty spaces there were, waiting for children and adults alike to come home and fill them with their presence . . . 

. . . and also how even so close to midwinter there are still flowers about here in Central Texas.

I appreciated the things that my neighbors do to make our daily life beautiful.

And at the end of the street I was rewarded by the sight of my first-grader exiting the bus doors. 

I wanted to take a picture of her lovely face but got the forced smile, so I asked her to think about our new little cousin Penelope who was born two days ago, and I was rewarded with this.

Then as we reached our house and were about to go inside, I looked up into the sky and saw two contrails in the deep blueness.  I must remember to look up more often.

15 November 2010

Wooden Tree Ornament

A couple of weeks ago I got a wooden ornament from Archiver's, and today I finally had a go at decorating it.

I began by stamping my Eclectic Omnibus wooden stamp in Archival Ink--Sepia on all sides.

Then I inked the ornament with Distress Ink--Fired Brick, using the tool and foam pad.

After that, I used my Tim Holtz Fabulous Flourish stamp with Brilliance--Gamma Green ink and covered the ornament with flourishes.  This required multiple stampings; just one didn't cover the whole thing.

At this point I assembled the ornament.  Then I used Stickles Xmas Red to add dots of sparkle within the ornament, and Stickles Cinnamon along the edges.  I thought about using Distress Stickles but decided I wanted more sparkle.

The only other thing I might do is to go over some of the flourish with a sparkly green gel pen . . . I'll have to see what it looks like once the Stickles are dry.

It was fun!

14 November 2010

Credit Card Backgrounds on Journal Pages (unfinished)

For my playtime this last Friday (sitting in the hallway during my son's taekwondo class), I thought I'd play a bit with the credit card background technique that quirky artist suggested last week.  It really couldn't be simpler to squeeze a line of paint onto a page and then drag it down with a credit card!  The hardest thing for me was finding some scrap paper to put underneath the page to catch the excess around the edges.  I ended up using paper towels from the girls' bathroom.  Even though the paint was just Liquitex acrylic tubes that came with a tabletop easel w/drawer that I got last year, the color is still vivid and fun.  Making sure to really scrape the paint down so that there's no thickness left on the page meant that the pages don't stick together.  I *love* the way the water droplets affect the page--they look ghostly, ethereal, fairy-like.

The blue-green page is done in the Canson XL Mix Media notebook, and the yellow one is in the Strathmore Visual Journal--Mixed Media notebook.

A couple of weeks ago, while my mom was visiting, I got some heirloom apples from Central Market--first time I've seen them there.  They were really delicious--seemed to have more of the essence of apple, somehow.  I went back for more and picked up a couple of their handouts because I liked the way they looked.  They were getting wrinkled and damaged in my bag, though, so I decided to just go ahead and put one of them on the cover of my Moleskin journal (too pretty to hide away on the inside).  I'll put paint and other stuff on top of it when I get a chance, but at least I got the page itself on.  Used Mod Podge since that's what I carry out with me, and applied it quite thinly with a palette knife.  It makes me want to eat an apple just looking at it!

09 November 2010

Journal Pages

So today I thought I had this lovely morning + early afternoon to do arty things, and then I ended up doing necessary household stuff (although I did get my most recent post up as a reward to myself just before dashing out of the house).  
packing tape transfer from a catalog
Finally mid-afternoon I had 45 minutes to myself while my daughter was in her ballet class, so I worked on a few more journal pages.

Mainly I had some little circles I'd punched out from a magazine ad--I just loved the shade of orange it was--and I needed to do something with them before they got lost or thrown away.  

Then I did things here and there to other pages as I could, nothing fancy since I didn't have a lot of time.  

It felt good to get lost that way for a little while in all the rush of the day.