My other half brought me flowers the other day - yes he still does, after more years than I care to confess to. I know that makes me lucky, and I wanted to record that truth.
So I prepped a page with gesso followed by lilac acrylic, which I then rubbed off here and there with a wet wipe. Easiest way I know to start a page and get rid of the glaring intimidating white expanse!
Then, to give you an idea of how I work, I pulled out some bits and pieces of collage which just happened to appeal to me. Yes I know they are all blue or lilac - I seem to get stuck in the tone on tone mode where I use a palette of similar colours. I just got made that way. Not all of the pieces made it into the final page, but that's just my process - try things, keep some, discard some.
Sorry about the apparent colour change below - its the difference between natural and artificial light, the former being in short supply during these dark January days!
Having got some collage pasted down I was beginning to draw some hair around the face, then as usual I outlined the collage pieces with a black line followed by a shadow (done with a marker). I love how it always makes the pieces 'pop' off the page.
And finally the words and the inevitable doodling. As you probably already know that is pretty much my favourite part, and very few pages feel complete without at least a few dots!
It would be so frighteningly easy to take my Beloved and everything he does for me as carer, chief cook and bottlewasher, housekeeper, driver, etc etc, but I really REALLY don't want to do that. I so wish he hadn't had to take on caring for me, but he says he does it because he loves me. That's pretty special, and the feeling is entirely mutual. We are, as ever, best friends.
I didn't set out to make a New Year page, it just sort of happened because this is always a reflective look forward/look back period for me. It felt good and right to conclude that in all of the many ups and downs the past year has brought, there was so much that was good, lovely and true.
The page began with a soft blue acrylic paint, which I then dabbed off with a baby wipe. In reflective, nostalgic mood it was possibly inevitable that I went for a soft sepia vintage look in my collage materials. I used to love making collages with this old fashioned, timeworn look, but don't do so very often these days.
I was just building up layers from my store of bits and pieces, and this time my shadow line was done with a soft sepia (I normally use grey). Below you can see why I try to avoid shiny paper because of the reflection in the picture - and this wasn't even particularly glossy, but I was taking photographs in artificial light.
Decided I didn't like the centre of the frame so as you can see below I collaged over it until I was happy with the result. Not sure why the moon turned up, unless I was also thinking about New Moon? It made sense at the time. The writing arose from the place my mind had travelled to - sitting in that no mans land between Christmas and New Year, giving thanks for all that had been and looking forward in hope.
At that pointed I decided it needed more blue and think I ruined the effect of the sepia, but what the heck. The blue I added isn't actually quite as bright as it looks but is the effect of electric light again, so necessary in these often dark, short days.
I left it like this for a while but in the end the blue was really irritating me, so out with the marker pens and I toned it all down. The result isn't perfect but its better I think?
Once again, I share with you my own hopes for a new year - which are for more light, less pain and a great deal of love, which really is all any of us can ask for or need.
I'm not getting very many opportunities to journal right now - its a busy season - but eventually managed to fit some in by giving it priority. Its become something I can't NOT do, necessary to my well-being, because something in me shrinks if I don't.
Having carved out the space and time I sat down and painted my favourite colour combination on the page, not knowing where it would go.
And then I put Frida Kahlo down because she's such a role model for me, and suddenly the words I wanted just came ... pretty much from nowhere. Or maybe not. Sometimes I feel empty of anything to give, but in the end there is always this one thing.
As you can see I do very simple lettering, and then later go back and embellish it.
These bands also "just turned up" but after this I left it for a day because I got to a point where I wasn't feeling it and inspiration had gone AWOL, probably just because I was tired.
Then, as you can see below, the next day my enthusiasm and energy were renewed and I basically went mad with the dots and doodles! I love that part.
I do hope Christmas is a happy time for you and yours and that you will come into a new year rested and renewed. Thank you for being with me on the journey.
This page demonstrates that, even when you're very very tired, you can still make art out of it! I had a space of time and really wanted to work in my journal because it always brings me peace and healing. However, when I sat down I felt like my mind and body were so weary that I was completely out of ideas. So I turned that into a journal subject.
The first thing was to paint the page below my favourite intense lime green and then started to add grey/neutral pieces of collage from my stash. I harvest material from catalogues, magazines and wherever I can find it, but much prefer dull finish paper. The shiny stuff is a bit flimsy when using wet glue and then difficult to photograph without reflections. One way around this, when I find something lovely but shiny, is to paste it to a sheet of paper and then copy it - which gives me the option of black and white, a matte image, and one that I can reproduce. I make a lot of collage sheets this way, but be warned that you need to think about copyright issues if you plan to do the same.
Below you can see yet more collage, including the Modigliani lady who looks suitably glum/tired, and here I've also added the grey shadow and the black line which both unifies the elements and makes them stand out.
The process of journalling must have begun to lift my spirits because, without really meaning to include them, these red lines crept in. Then I added the wording, including the expression "bone tired" which unfortunately ended up a bit squashed against the collage.
In the final version below you can see that I addressed that problem by painting over it and then shortening the sentence by leaving out one word.
I'm not sure why I added the doodly red and orange lines, except perhaps that they look vaguely cellular, so maybe my subconscious was registering my tiredness at a deep physical level? I don't actually know, and that's not important enough for me to worry about.
This kind of physical exhaustion is something that goes with both of the auto-immune diseases which affect me, and is the cause of the greatest limitation on my daily life. I don't have the energy that most people take for granted, so can only give what there is to a few. These days just going down into the village for a cup of coffee with a friend is an exciting outing, but it teaches me to enjoy the small and simple pleasures life offers in a big way ...
You know how many of us experience a dissonance between the person we are (or would like to be) inside, and what actually happens in real life? Yeah, that. Anyway, you'd think in my six decades I've have got this sussed, and I have ... just not all the time. Anyway, that's where this page is coming from.
As ever, just an easy yellow painted background and then my (lazy) technique of doing a collaged border around the page. This is what I do when I can't think of anything else, or don't have the energy.
Then below you see the finished border with black lines and grey shadows added, which makes a huge difference. A bit more collage too - notably this Modigliani redhead. I love his portraits and can use them freely without infringement of copyright :)
Then as usual the writing - which starts as very simple lettering and then I go back and add fancy bits. Practice a bit on a piece of paper - I promise you its easy. I try never to write in straight lines and mix up capitals and lower case, then I don't have to worry about staying straight or whatever!
After that comes my favourite part - the doodling in the spaces! I just draw happily with my Posca Paint pens until it looks finished.
My feisty inner self is allowed to say what she thinks freely and clearly. In reality, as a Priest you have to be a peacemaker who is always pouring oil on troubled waters, trying not to take sides etc etc .... but inside you're often thinking "will you just shut up and go away"?
This becomes so ingrained that even now I'm retired its still hard to stand my ground, and say NO, or I can't go along with that. I am working on it but .... well its a work in progress, and so am I.
Not much to say today having just returned from a 400+ mile round trip to see daughters and grand-daughters. Pretty much done in, so have nothing to share ... but thought I would show you the journal I've just finished below .... which is no.13 ... see the shelf above!
And below is the new one I have just begun to work in - I'm amazed to find that it is my 14th. The first was begun in August 2010, so its been quite a journey. I don't date my pages but I do write a start and finish date in each book - I get through one journal in about 9 months as a rule. Once it was only six months, but it has been over a year at one stage. It brings me such joy that I can't imagine not doing it at all.
The shelf they sit on is right above my workspace and computer, and I often reach up and randomly take one down ... its fascinating to see how my style has changed and the things now past that I struggled with at the time. They are all spiral bound and I love to tie ribbons and little bits and pieces, charms and souvenirs, to the bindings. No.14 will get more decorations once its finished - too many at this stage would make it difficult to work in. My first 8 journals were A5 but since then I've been working in 8 x 8 square books which adds a surprising amount of usable space. I glue two pages together for strength, so they are all double sided, but I only rarely do double page spreads.
Sorry I don't have more energy for the blog right now, but the grand-daughters ate it. Normal service will be resumed eventually.
I don't really have to explain what this page is about, do I? Yes, it was one of those days when it all seems pointless, why are you even bothering, etc etc. So what else would I do to talk myself out of that place but make a journal page! I'd already tried crying my eyes out, but it gave me a headache.
I often say that my backgrounds are just simple, and here is a picture to prove this - just a scribbly mess of two shades of blue acrylic paint.
Then I added some border pieces of collage and drew the poor soul peeping out at the bottom. Yes she is me - it was, after all, a Bad Day.
Lots more collage below - I love that process, just rummaging through my stash for bits and pieces that seem to fit. If you look at the bottom right I've begun to add the black outline which (oddly enough) always seems to unify the whole from a random assortment of stuff into a fully thought-out page.
As you can see below I continued to add the black outlines and also a grey shadow, which really makes a big difference. The positive affirmations are obvious really - just the ones that spoke to me at the time ... and perhaps also speak to you if you too are stumbling around in the darkness? I hope so anyway. This is a page for any day any of us feel like giving up.
And it worked, it pretty much always does, losing myself in the creative process never fails to lift my spirits. Possibly I was just being a wimp? Never mind, wimps are people too right? The light DOES still shine in the darkness but I need to remind myself sometimes ....
This page arose out of somebody telling me that I inspired them. I was incredulous at first, I feel like I do so very little, but later began to feel awed and grateful. As a full-time priest it was almost never given to me to know when or if I'd made a difference, but we often justify ourselves through our busy-ness. In my present limited life where I can DO very little, I often feel more like a taker than a giver.
I do try to do what I can, however little that is, and I began to see that that is enough, and not to feel guilty because I cannot do more. The realities of my life mean that it will have to be enough, but nonetheless it helped me remember that what I can give - which is time and a listening ear - is of real value.
The background is yellow but looks greeny in some lights ... and as you can see below the light was very different when I began work to when I was finishing the page. The grey collage I laid on top of the paint looks blue below, but that was in artificial light.
The following morning (in full daylight) I added some more collage pieces - the word Inspire was the prompt for the whole page. As you can see I've just added random text and textures, and I've also added a grey shadow around each piece, using a marker.
The picture of Frieda Kahlo found its place because she is one of my heroines - she lived in terrible pain from spinal injuries sustained in a car accident, and yet managed to be an icon for many women through her painting.
The words below are simply making a record of what I'd learned through this particular encounter - that doing what you can is actually enough. Very often I forget that.
Its astonishing how much peace this has brought me - I suppose I've felt guilty for a long time that I couldn't do more, forgetting that sometimes presence and quietness can be a contribution in itself.
PS Lest I sound pious and self-satisfied ... you only have to look at my other pages to know how often I kick against my limitations, and hate the days when pain makes me cranky and horrible. Peace is hard to come by and all the more valuable because of that.
On a drawing page somewhere (probably Pinterest, I can waste hours on there) I came across the idea of these little critters with chubby bodies and a kind of oval cut out for a face. When I tried to draw one he started out smiling and benign, but turned out to be a grumpy demon in the end!
Below the background I made with Neocolour II crayons in yellows and blues, onto which I've begun to collage various shapes. This is my go-to technique when I don't have any brighter ideas.
For some reason I decided to give the collage elements a black spiky edge, suggesting to me that they weren't "friendly". Its just the way my mind works, sorry. I drew the little creature in the middle and made him look worried - well you would with these spiky amoeba things coming to get you!
More spiky edges followed - I love how the Posca paint pen gives an opaque finish over almost all surfaces, even the very slightly waxy finish of these crayons. I was keeping to the edge because I knew I'd want to write on the other areas - something to look out for because you can get so carried away creating that you forget to leave space!
Then it turned out that the creature wasn't me at all, and wasn't friendly either - he was actually another demon (I have lots of those), setting out as usual to torment me in my low moments. You may be familiar with the kind that tell you you're selfish and lazy, that you're no use to anybody (particularly difficult area for us disabled types), that you are in fact a waste of space. And that's before the historical ones/sins of the past come out to get you ...
But that's the genius of journalling - because I drew the demons and made them look silly, and not scary at all. Anyway by drawing and working on the page I sort of hid until it was safe to come out.
Trying out a new diet at the moment - well a complete change of my eating habits really - in the hopes that it might bring some improvement. There seems to be strong (proper medical) evidence that it can, so I can only hope it works for me. Nothing lost by trying ... except that, as predicted, you feel rotten for the first week or two. Yep. It must be working!!
As you know I don't generally use quotes in my journals, but here's another one I came across which just happened to speak into where I am right now.
This is another very simply made page - a painted background to which I began to add a border of collage bits and pieces.
And here it is with the border finished ... at which point those flowers from last week showed up again ... which can only be a good thing, right?
One of my Modigliani ladies also made her way onto this page, complete with a crown from my (much too large) rubber stamp collection. I was bowled over when I came across this Jung quote - I suppose its to do with a change of attitude from victim with no power or choices, to something much more positive and powerful, even though you are basically in the same place? This is something I remember from CBT, that you can't change what has happened, but you can choose how you react to it. Lately events have had me down in the darkness, but (with God's help) I am clawing my way back out of that dark hole ....
So here I am, broken and wonky, but with a (mostly) undefeated spirit, ready willing and able to make what difference I can in the world. I know that inevitably I'll visit that dark place again before I'm done, because I'm only human, and anyway sometimes you have to shed the tears before you are ready to rise again. I think the word "undefeated" might have come from the Invictus Games, which were on at the time. And for now, I am!
Nearly finished this purple journal I've been working in since last December, so have been preparing the next (number 14!) and will be starting out fresh in a few days. Hope that's another metaphor for my down but undefeated state?