Still alive and still distracted (from art journalling) by this little 12th scale Tudor house - now named Bow Cottage.
As you can see below I've laid some floors and decorated the ground floor - which will be the workroom of Miss Millicent the dressmaker. Sort of inspired by my great aunt but also by this old photo ...
Her workroom being what the world sees will be somewhat smarter than the rest of the house - her own accommodation on floors above being simpler and a little more shabby.
Working on bits and pieces for the room, beginning with this table of work in progress. I made everything except the sewing machine.
And the outside has had extension renovation ... the chimney stack was just a simple wooden block, so I added brick slips to it which I painted to look worn and sooty, added a (cardboard) platform for the top and used a (bought) chimney pot, suitably aged and dirty.
I wouldn't have put all this up here except that a number of you asked ... and it does answer the question "am I enjoying myself?". Well what do you think? Off to Florida for 2 weeks shortly, where I plan to raid arts and crafts shop for materials and miniature makings! The rest and sunshine will do us both so much good, and draw a line under the anguish of recent months.
BUT I am missing my journal a bit, so there are hopeful signs that I will pick it up again one day soon .....
Sorry folks but I've got kind of distracted from art journalling and blogging ... and its all the fault of this!
I used to love to work in miniature but for various reasons I stopped , including being deeply upset by someone in the hobby who really spoiled it for me. Then when we downsized (twice) I gradually sold or gave away my houses and buildings. Anyway I never supposed there would be room in our new flat. Since we retired I've reconnected with an old friend from my dolls house days, and being around her has made me remember why I loved them so much.
Then looking around I realised I had this small space ... and then I found this little house on Ebay - not in a very good state, this is after I did a lot of renovation on the exterior. Working on the inside now.
So you see I haven't made a single journal page and although I felt a bit guilty about not blogging, I was having fun ... something I really really needed.
I will be back because I love art journalling too much not to keep doing it, but right now I'm in the throes of a new (old) love and giving all my attention to that.
I've been blogging away faithfully for years so I hope you'll understand that a break will do me good. See you when I've worked this out of my system!!
My apologies for the lack of a post this weekend - my computer blew up and I am (slowly) getting to grips with the new one which arrived today! Unfortunately it is being temperamental about resizing pictures and a host of other things, but I WILL get it sorted out. Just probably not today ....
Firstly my apologies for being AWOL over the Easter weekend. Despite having the quietest Easter in decades (now that we've retired from leading services) and no guests either, I still managed to be weary and out of sorts. I just never got around to doing a blog post, sorry :(
Anyway, I had no idea that this was going to turn out the way it did! I began with a painted red background and then I was thinking black/white/grey on top - its such a gorgeous colour scheme. I found this tissue paper in my stash which has architectural designs on it, so that was a good place to start. I was thinking of God the great architect, or something .... it would all become clear. It usually does.
Then I found this big eye in the black and white box, and coloured the white background with a Promarker to get it to blend into the red. So then I collaged some more, and doodled a bit and with the bird shape at the top I was beginning to hear in my head that song from the psalms "His/Her eye is on the sparrow" (whichever gender you prefer), so that's the direction I thought it was going in ... I added elements cut from magazines and catalogues (free collage stuff!) but I always try to draw on them or redesign them in some way so that they become different from the original.
But there was something going on in the back of my brain about the 'architectural plan' element, and the twists and turns of the wormholes, which led me to the impossibility of understanding the mind of God, or the great tapestry of life she weaves. These words below were that actually came to me in the end... so I'm assuming they're the ones I was meant to use?
Looking at it afterwards I think these reflections came out of recent experiences and our brush with cancer? I'm not and never have been afraid to die, I'm much more afraid of being left behind. We all fear pain and loss, and that seems to me to be only normal and natural, life is precious. In a way this was a reminder for me that we go to something better, something beautiful and lovely, so that death is not an ending but a gateway into something new and wonderful.
I had been trying to prepare my heart to let go of my beloved, if it was his time, but I needed to remember where he was going (although thankfully not yet).
Funny the places the mind takes you - this week I've also been thinking a lot about theories of atonement (yes really!) but can't quite imagine making a page about it. For a start I'd need a bigger journal!
Its probably reaction, but I really haven't been in good shape this last week. With Fibromyalgia, pain and its location is very variable. At best its all achey and drags you down a bit, at worst it puts you to bed unable to move. I've been somewhere in the middle, and yes I do think there's an element of being able to stop holding everything together now, and this is the collapse after the crisis, in the way some people get migraine after its all over.
Anyway, I was still working but slumped in a heap not exactly inspired or effective. Splodged a blue background with acrylic paint, and was cutting up a children's book bought for 50p at a car boot sale.
Then when I'd done a collaged border - the simplest way I know how to work - I outlined it using markers and a purplish shadow.
Then here I began to add bits of doodling and the word "pain", which I'd actually cut out of an old journal page I'd photocopied - its fun to recycle bits of your own work that way, though I almost always want to make it different in some way. I added a face to represent me hiding out behind the walls of pain. If you compare the collage elements above and below, you'll see how I've changed the patterns with doodling to make them truly my own.
After I'd added the writing, I went ahead and ruined it! I guess you know that feeling? I'd just run out of steam and rather hastily filled in the spaces with these zentangle doodles. I don't really like them at all, and even contemplated painting over them, but don't have the energy so it will have to stand.
And yes, before you ask, I'm still over the moon with the wonderful news that himself's cancer is basically GONE. Its almost too much to take in. I guess I'd just used up my reserves back there, and need time (and my journal) to build them back up again.
Frida Kahlo has been my heroine for a long time - because of a horrific car accident in her youth she lived with a LOT of pain and wore a leather corset because of back injuries. But she made art and painted anyway, sometimes even from her bed. If she can do it, then so can I ...
You can see the very simple way the page began with a background of pink and touches of lilac. Teesha Moore (another of my heroines and a real inspiration) issued a challenge to do something with cut outs from one of her pages, and I found the idea intriguing. What you see below is various shapes cut out and laid over my pinky background, and I really liked the result!
But it did seem to need a strong black line (Posca paint pen) to delineate the various "windows" as I was thinking of them. You may also notice that I added a touch more orange paint around the centre.
So then I had Frida looking bravely and somewhat challengingly out of my 'windows". Her direct gaze made me think about being brave when I really wasn't feeling it, and that's where the words came from.
And then I remembered that saying about bravery not being the absence of fear, but acknowledging your fear and going on anyway, and I figured that DID make me brave, however little I felt it!
The wormhole doodling was an afterthought but I like the way it enhances the window effect and the sense of seeing through .... I'd never had page a page like this without Teesha's challenge as inspiration!
And, I have the most amazing news to report. The lab results from himself's surgery came back completely clear of cancer, COMPLETELY. It wasn't in the lymph nodes at all, so he has an all clear and no further treatment. It has to be the result of the many prayers which were offered on our behalf, and we can't quite take it in yet ... although we have booked a holiday!!
So I was sitting staring out of my window (view of solitary daffodil and garages) and thinking about nothing in particular, when I painted this page in shades of lilac and purple, with the odd bit of white.
And there on my desk was this little Stampotique stamped figure - it was on a birthday card I'd made for Himself, and before the cards went into the bin I'd recycled what I could from them for collage (the sign of a true addict)! The little figure became myself and I added a couple of bits of collage from my stash. I knew why I'd done it - I was feeling very small at the time, and this little figure captured that feeling very well.
She looked so alone in the middle of the page that a border seemed to be called for. This is the story of my life; if I can get things safely into boxes it will all be OK! I don't believe I'm a control freak but I am very organised and like to have things in their proper compartments, not least so that I can always find or access them again.
Look at the contrast between the picture above - where the similar tones are blending into each other - and the image below to which I've added strong black outlines and borders. Using this technique I find I can bring a lot of disparate collage pieces together in a unified whole. I use my Posca paint pen for this, because nothing else gives such a strong solid black.
I was looking at the small 'me' person and gazing out of the window again, when I remembered that there is a prayer about being very small. It took me a while to track it down and then I wrote it on here. You may notice that I also changed a few colours (using Promarkers) while I was about it - this is the great thing about magazine collage pieces, if they aren't quite the right colour you can just change them!
Then all that remained was to finish the page off with doodles and decorations, as you can see below. Mainly Posca pens again to make dots and swirls and whatever else took my fancy. My favourite part as you probably already know!
While the idea of feeling very small could seem quite threatening, seeing it in this light of a small human in an eternity of love is oddly comforting. It made it OK to be small, and safe, because all around me was endless, undying, unchanging love. It brought me peace.
This was a really heartfelt page, from a deep place inside me - much of my journal work is like that, but on this occasion it felt pretty much life-saving! As you can see below, it began with a very simple painted background - the hint of print was an experiment with text transfer from an old book which didn't really work! Not important in the end.
Then I began to draw wiggly lines with paint pens and fine black pens - the beauty of setting out to draw crooked lines is that it doesn't matter if your hand wobbles! I just like to hold the pen loosely and see where it takes me. The black line came first and then the greeny one, and the rest just followed.
Now there is sort of a stage missing between the above and below pictures - when I added the collage faces and the words "finding strength". I didn't and I don't FEEL strong, but people keep telling me I am or that I'm brave. It isn't how I feel, but I just keep putting one foot in front of the other because its not like there's a choice. And that's when these other words came out of the deep place, (after I'd cried a river of tears). Yesterday was the first day in two months when I haven't cried at all, but actually I'm OK with that, its important to let the negative feelings out. I dump them all on God and then I can go on. Making this page will help me to remember that, on my worst days, I only have to take one more step, just one.
And after that there was nothing more to be said, so I simply did my usual doodling and filling up the space! I added a couple of collage panels, which I doodled and drew on to make them my own, and lots more pen work, but for once I didn't find it necessary to fill every inch.
I debated whether or not to share this page, but in the end it felt right because the message is quite general and might apply to all kinds of situations. I hope it might help someone else who is in that place where they feel like they just CAN'T take another step.
And if that all sounds very negative, don't panic! Himself continues to do well, although progress is a tiny bit at a time. I made this page on a very bad day that's all. We don't know yet whether the lymph nodes were involved, and whether more chemotherapy lies ahead, but that's all in God's hands, and for now we're just getting him over the massive surgery. What I may lack in bravery I make up for in persistence!
This is me being experimental .... I may have mentioned before that I've been studying Australian Aboriginal Art, where everything is done with dots. I came across one work that had been done with lighter colours on a dark background, and that gave me the idea to paint the page burgundy and work on top with pale shades.
You can see below my first efforts - the plant motif is a classic one used throughout Aboriginal art, I think it probably represents a native species since these shapes are ubiquitous in the art form. Anyway, making outlines just using dots (with my Posca paint pens) was a very interesting and kind of meditative way of working.
Then I began to add leaf shapes, this time out of my own head, although I guess every continent must have a plant with a generic leaf like this? What I loved about working with the dots was that you could give the impression of images behind and in front very easily, so although I'd put the white plants on first I could later add the leaves "behind".
I added a few more leaves, a face and the statement about unfamiliar territory. Now that he's home from hospital there is no road map for how to proceed, we just stumble along day to day trying to work out what to do. Its uncomfortable a lot of the time - adults aren't used to feeling so out of their depth and unsure what to do next - quite apart from the fact that the cared for (me) has had to become the caregiver. Very hard for someone with extremely limited energy, but we have managed somehow.
This is the finished page with my usual doodles and embellishments, but it does at least feel like I pushed myself to work in a new way and extended my boundaries in the process. The black lettering didn't stand out very well, so I outlined it in white - I'm not convinced that it was an improvement but there you go. I wonder now if I should have just done white lettering? Whatever, it is what it is.
Perhaps I should have put in two faces hiding in the undergrowth, because here the two of us are, feeling each step of the unfamiliar way .... but its OK because we also feel ourselves held and protected in the hand of God. I could not have come through the challenges of the past 10 days in particular without that knowledge. And today he made his first outing, just 21 days after massive surgery, so we are getting there, one small step at a time!!
I actually made this page just before Himself's surgery, but looking at it today I feel exactly the same now that he's home and we are learning to cope on our own. Daughters have had to return to their own lives so its up to us now.
The beginnings of the page were, as usual, nothing fancy - just splodges of pink and orange craft acrylic paint. I was looking for something bold and bright, that said "you can't scare me" even if that was exactly how I felt/feel!
There has to be a face or something human on every page for me, so I adapted this face stamp to give her a more neutral expression (she normally looks a bit sinister). I added some petals as a sort of headdress, and a couple of pieces of collage.
What I needed to say came out of the word more - I looked at it and asked myself "more what"? The answer was more strength, because I didn't feel up to what was being asked of me. The serene face framed by flowers made me think of my (female) God ... and how I can never fall out of her hand, and I began to draw the flowing locks that I always include in images of her.
Then I just kept on drawing, finding it relaxing and peaceful, which helped me focus on promises like "I will not leave you" "I am always with you", until I felt wrapped around by her presence. I added the words that were on my heart and placed them in trust into her hands. I know very well that I can't do this on my own, but her strength can be sufficient for me.
Himself is doing very well and taking it easy at home to build up his strength. The problems lie in the fact that he is normally my carer, and now he can't do anything either! Our daughters have been here and helped out magnificently, particularly when it came to getting their non-driving mother to the hospital 20 odd miles away!!
Now I have to remember how to cook (a long time since I did), pace myself carefully so that I can keep the laundry going around, and so many other things that he made easy for me - how DOES someone who can't lift anything deal with changing the cat litter tray? Suggestions welcome!!
But we are safe in God's hands and holding on to the hope that he might even now be cancer free - test results on the lymph nodes in about six weeks.
Himself has been in hospital all this week and my brain has been absolutely scrambled. However, I stole some time to make art because I really needed the peace and refreshment I get from it, and this is the result.
If you've been with me some time, skip this bit because you've heard it before. The background is done with Caran d'ache Neocolour II crayons - which go on looking like wax crayon, but when you add a wet paintbrush just EXPLODE into brilliant colour. The yellow areas have been wetted but the others haven't and you can really see the difference!
And then below you can see how the whole page looks once water has been added. These shapes weren't meant to mean anything, I was just playing with absolutely no idea where I was going! I love that.
And then I got out my Posca paint markers and played some more ... still operating on instinct and content to let it turn out however it wanted to. For some time now I've been exploring Aboriginal art, and the powerful images which can result from just dots (or even dashes), and this has been influencing my work for some time. These shapes aren't dots but the idea of simple motifs is there.
At this point I decided the page needed SOMEBODY, and it ended up with this stamped face plus a pair of glasses. I'd intended to add eyes inside the glasses until I realised that it expressed how I was feeling - unsure of the way ahead, unable to see far, and kind of groping by instinct every day since Himself's surgery. Then of course that led to the writing, and the expression of a deep feeling that although I don't know how things are going to work out ... God does, and I can trust that.
I'm a bit dissatisfied with this - I think the colours aren't quite right, they're too much in the same tonal range without sufficient contrast perhaps? Still, it is what it is.
Sorry this is a short post - hospital visiting when its a 40 mile round trip and you sometimes have to queue 30 minutes just to get on the disabled car park takes all my energy, and the rest of my time is mainly spent just trying to keep things together. I have the help of my wonderful daughters who are here in relays to support. We must have done something right because they are all amazing women.
Anyway, himself came through the surgery brilliantly, has amazed everyone with his progress after such major surgery, and is bored and longing to come home after just six days! He might even make it after a few more days ....
This page marks a substantial shift in my thinking, and one that I hope I can hold onto in the coming hours and days. The nearer we got to the major surgery, the more time I spent praying desperately and frankly allowing my fear to completely overwhelm me.
A day came when I realised that I was assuming the worst rather than hoping for the best, and that this approach didn't make any sense! Its one thing to be realistic and acknowledge the risks of the operation, or the reality of the survival statistics, but its as if I was so determined to be sensible and pragmatic that I was failing to allow for hope, not to mention grace.
I knew when I set down the paint below that I wanted to describe and record this change in thinking, but not exactly how to do it. I've learned that all you can do is BEGIN, so that's what I did using ordinary craft paint in three different shades.
Then I added some collage and it shouldn't be any surprise that it turned into a sort of sunrise image ... it really had been about the light dawning! I've set these pictures side by side so that once again you can see the difference that a black outline and a grey shadow makes.
And then I started writing down everything I'd come to understand, and my decision to choose hope rather than assume the worst. I do know that bad things might still happen, but overall the statistics for this type of cancer are good, with a high survival rate. Removal of the bladder sounds really scary, but the more I learn about it the more I realise that its actually quite straightforward to manage and no big deal. So, as I wrote at the head of the page, I'm not wasting any more energy on fear, I'm hoping and believing that this operation can be a total cure - words used by the surgeon. Maybe I got a bit knocked off course by the sudden death of my friend's husband on the operating table ... and feared a similar outcome. I'm (trying) not to do that any more.
And then as per usual I got busy writing and drawing etc etc adding squiggly bits and generally filling up the page until it looked finished. I do feel that a page should always have some human element - a face or an eye - just something to represent myself or humans generally.
The surgery is Monday, and it will be a long day (about 6-8 hours) before we know he's come through it OK, but I and many others will be holding him in prayer the whole time. I've got my lovely daughters here at home with me, they've rallied to our side magnificently, so if I do have a few wobbles they'll be at my back.
I thank God that this is the kind of cancer on which its possible to operate - many aren't - and that we have a good chance of coming out on the other side of his recovery with a chance to start the retirement fun that's been put on hold. Bring it on!