The ancient ones

I’ve never been into browns, either in my wardrobe or in my art. But having recently returned from a wonderful few days at The EarthHeart Centre in The Forest of Dean, I became curious about all the earthy tones at the bottom of my paint box.

I decided to make a palette and discover what these colours actually look like. Having always lumped them together under the heading brown, I was amazed to find these shades so much more beautiful, rich, and varied than I had imagined.

A palette of earthy tones

I started to get inspired, imagining ancient artworks and prehistoric cave paintings, and decided to start as I often do: simply laying some paint down on the page. Where I would normally find myself moving in some sort of narrative direction, this time I felt inclined to play with textures, scraping one layer away to reveal another beneath the surface. The piece below reminds me of a cave wall, rich in mineral deposits, layer upon layer built up over millennia.

When I posted something of my new fascination on Instagram, I discovered yet another wonderful aspect of being part of the Get Messy art journaling community: my fellow artist – the talented and inspiring Misty Granade – also became intrigued by these earthy tones. She had the wonderful idea to turn this exploration into a theme. Pretty soon, we were enjoying a week of adventuring in prehistoric territory together. Check out the hashtags #neutralsweek and #homemadecavepainting to see what we got up to! 

Dancing to the moon

I continued with layered backgrounds, now adding pictures and making marks in the spirit of prehistoric cave paintings. I drew on an ancient treasure trove of images to express something both archetypal and deeply personal, something from aeons ago that is also part of my recent 21st century experience. Dancing to the moon shows a group of women dancing together – a scene that took place, both thousands of years ago and also a week ago when I was at the second workshop of the year-long training, Initiation – Into the sacred feminine.

Grandmother touches the stars

It felt right not to include words in these pieces. The visual images remain free to shift from ancient times to the present and back again. This was also a relaxing change after the recent poetry-writing challenge of NaPoWriMo.

I’m so thankful to Misty for taking a moment of adventure into new territory and turning it into a themed exploration. It encouraged me to delve a little deeper than I might have done if I was just playing around with ideas on my own. And I loved all our exchanges about what we were discovering as the week progressed.

I’m now venturing back into the full range of colours. But I’m bringing a few things with me from my sojourn in prehistoric art: a new appreciation for earthy tones, a sense of the timeless quality of visual language, and an awareness that my own experience can connect me to a collective experience, thousands of years old. I look forward to seeing how all this translates into the forthcoming pages of my art journal!

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Lying on the earth

This spring, I began Initiation – Into the Sacred Feminine, a year long women’s training at The EarthHeart Centre in The Forest of Dean. I have just returned from the second workshop of the year and already feel that this is one of the most beautiful and powerful journeys I have taken in my life so far.

I first visited EarthHeart for a women’s workshop last Spring and immediately felt that this work of reconnecting to the feminine is perhaps the most important thing I have to do in my life right now. I wrote this poem just before I set off for the forest:

Though the Borough of Camden has no forest,
when the moon goes dark I hear the call
and my heart feels sad for lack of women.

I unwind myself towards the women.
Like a thread, they pull me to the heart of the forest.
From the elder and hawthorn and birch trees they call.

I shake off the world as they send out their call
and clothe myself in the fire of the women.
Together we dance in the deep of the forest.

From the forest they call, the women, the women.

Among the many wonderful things I have experienced on this journey so far, simply lying on the earth in the forest has felt incredibly powerful. For a city dweller such as myself, something so simple feels unusual and rare, as if entering into nature is like stepping foot on another planet. And yet isn’t this the place I played in as a child? Hours spent with my fingers in the earth, making friends with the snails and the frogs, sitting up in my favourite tree, gazing out at the sky.

Each time I go back to EarthHeart, I feel this connection deepening. To nature, to the feminine, and to myself.

Lying on the earth,
I am longing for you.

I am longing for you too…

Birth Story

It’s turning out to be an interesting season at Get Messy this time round! During the last season – The Season of Art 101 – I followed many of the prompts and tutorials, and the pages I created were very clearly influenced by these choices. During this season – The Season of Contrast – I have been primarily involved with the NaPoWriMo poetry-writing challenge. So, while I have enjoyed reading the prompts and watching many of the amazing tutorials that are on offer at Get Messy, I haven’t set out to work from many of them directly.

And yet, when I look at the pieces I have created, I can see that they are very much influenced by all I have been absorbing along the way. It’s as if the theme of contrast is working away in my subconscious: here and there, black and white, big and small. It occurs to me that my indirect and oblique way of working this time round is in contrast to my very intentional and directed way of working last season. It would seem that contrasts are everywhere!

This piece came out of an assignment for the Initiation art journaling course with Juliana Coles at The Institute For Extreme Journalism. After yesterday’s piece, Make the sounds, I felt like revisiting the stark black and white together with a limited colour palette.

Friday night in my little boat,
arriving on the shores of this world.

Unless I happen upon a window of opportunity tomorrow, this will probably be my last poem for April. I am heading off on a workshop out of town that will take me through to the start of the merry month of May. What better way to end my NaPoWriMo experience than with a piece about beginnings!

Thank you so much for all the encouragement, enthusiasm and support you have given me over these last few weeks. This has been a new venture – exploring the meeting and merging of poetry and art journaling – and all your likes, comments, and visits to ‘Follow The Brush’ have meant a great deal to me!

Make the sounds

Today’s poem is a form of found poetry. It was created from doodles made while on the phone to a good friend and fragments of our conversation. I love how weird it is!

* * *

an ordinary guy in a suit
this is a weird practice
shape your mouth in a
particular way and make the sounds.

All the best warriors I know are on TV

O! To rest
On a great wooden chair,
Covered with sheepskin,
And drink a cup of ale
Between battles!

* * *

Something troubling you? Why not follow Lynda Barry’s sage advice and draw a monster? That’s what I did today and found it so much more satisfying to see my fears visualised and externalised on the page. He is fearsome indeed, this monster, but at least he’s somewhere I can see him! (Okay, he’s a little bit cute, too, no?)

I was also touched to see that the cartoon version of myself was showing a good dose of courage and resilience along with the usual overwhelmed feeling. I found myself thinking of the warriors I’ve been watching on TV, in particular Uhtred son of Uhtred from The Last Kingdom. I think he’s the most courageous warrior I know. (Plus he looks rather dashing in blue eyeliner.) Definitely a role model when facing fearsome monsters!

Folding the twilight

Hands circling,
gathering the ancient air,
my mother folds the twilight
into night.

* * *

I created the background for this piece during a wonderful online art session this afternoon with some of my friends from Get Messy. Both the colours and the use of Jewish imagery were very much influenced by the paintings of Marc Chagall, whose work I have been reading about in a wonderful little book, Chagall: The Art of Dreams.

When it was time to write the words, I realised that the perfect poem for the piece was, in fact, one I wrote shortly after NaPoWriMo 3 years ago. Despite the fact that the words were not newly composed today, I feel that the combination of text and image has created something completely new!

Travel News

This is the story
of a different kind of cave
hidden in the foothills
of the moon.

* * *

During the course of this NaPoWriMo, without intending to, I’ve developed a method of sorts for creating art journaling poems out of words from the newspaper. It goes something like this:

  1. I create a background or choose one I already have in my journal that I’m drawn to. Usually these backgrounds are inspired by the wealth of tutorials available at the Get Messy community or by the Messy Pages class that I’m currently taking with Tanyalee Kahler (also via Get Messy).
  2. I then reach for a newspaper and cut out any words that catch my attention. This sounds random, but I’m choosing words based on the associations I have already made with the background in question. It may not be a conscious association, but something is working away in my subconscious.
  3. I lay all the words out on the table and start to move them around like jigsaw pieces, making groupings and phrases. I continue to do this until a poem starts to form.

The artwork for this poem emerged from a wonderful acrylic blending tutorial with Tanyalee. It had the feel of outer space or a lunar landscape. I reached for the travel section of the paper and found so many wonderful words, more than I could use today. There may be more travel news in the days to come!

Floating

Okay, I’m really pushing the boat out in terms of what constitutes a poem here. As you may have noticed, this one has no words. It has a title though, so maybe that counts? Floating – it could be a one word poem, right?

This piece was created using an intuitive painting method from a wonderful tutorial by Riet as part of the Season of Contrast at Get Messy. We added layer upon layer of mark making and colour, eventually seeing if we could decipher an image coming out of the page. I was surprised to find that out of something that seemed unruly and chaotic, something serene and blissful could emerge.

I felt so relaxed looking at this page once it was done, I couldn’t bring myself to add any words. But who knows, perhaps a poem, or the beginnings of a poem, will come to me later. This spread happened through an intuitive method, so I have to trust that a if a poem is going to come about, it will happen that way too. If it does, I’ll update this post. Otherwise, see you tomorrow!

All this time

This spread began a couple of weeks ago as part of an assignment for Initiation, an introduction to art journaling with Juliana Coles at the Institute for Extreme Journalism. We worked layer by layer, each time “messing up” any idea of having reached a destination. Even now, it’s hard to say with confidence that this piece is done! Nevertheless, it feels complete enough for the moment.

To give you an idea of how the piece began – and how far it has travelled – here is the first layer: a fast frenzied attempt to write my name with as many materials and in as many ways as I could imagine.

One of the things that was so much fun about almost completely covering up this layer was the texture of the glued down paper which stood out once paint was applied over it – a textural element that was not so discernible when there was so much visual activity going on.

As with today’s other poem, Talking to my body, the inspiration for the final layers came from the wonderful yoga retreat I have just attended in Herefordshire.

All this time –
the strong steady beat
of my own heart.

Talking to my body

The visual aspect of today’s poem is inspired by a Get Messy live web chat with Amy Maricle of Mindful Art Studio. Her relaxed and playful approach was the perfect way to get back to art journaling after a few days away at a wonderful yoga retreat in Herefordshire.

One of the things she said that has stayed with me is how patterns are stronger through repetition. No matter how random a mark may be, if you repeat it, it gains in strength and substance (my words for what I remember from the web chat.) Having just returned from a yoga intensive, I can’t help but see this principle in action in other areas of my life: one yoga posture, repeated regularly, becomes strengthened in the body, with a depth of understanding and a subtlety of refinement. Over time, a few minutes playing with paint and pens can become a meaningful art practice. A few lines jotted down in a notebook can become a collection of poems.

This poem is from a series of book spine poems that I wrote during last year’s NaPoWriMo. It felt especially relevant after spending this time “talking to my body” through breathing and movement.

She

She is up there on the hill,
clearing a path through the wild summer grass,
making a nest for the little bird.

She would like to meet herself
one morning.
She has sent an invitation.

In winter, she removes her own skin,
makes broth from her bones,
dances naked by the fire.

She will be the death
and the birth
of me.

* * *

Today’s poem was inspired by a wonderful prompt from Sasha Zeen as part of the Season of Contrast over at Get Messy. I used a background I had already prepared for NaPoWriMo from the inspirational Messy Pages class with Tanyalee Kahler.

Take a holiday



Take a holiday from the world of data.
You will immediately cause less hysteria
and unleash more pleasure.
You may not come back.

Action Man and Space Woman Build a House!

This piece* is influenced by the Season of Contrast that’s taking place at Get Messy right now. What happens when two seemingly opposite characters get together to work on something? Can each see and value the other’s qualities?

*Is this a visual poem? A comic or a comics poem? An art journaling spread? A movie poster? No one can say for sure!!!

My heart is a black tie affair

My heart is a black tie affair.
Fine crystal tinkles
as I waltz across the floor.

I will find the long dress
that came to me
when my mother broke.

It’s hard to look good
when you’re shaking.
What shoes do you wear?

* * *

Today’s prompt on the NaPoWriMo website was all about things lost and found. When I sat down to write, I couldn’t remember having lost that many things. But the list of things I’ve given away over the years (and now wish I still had) is a long one. It was out of this space that today’s poem emerged.

The visuals of this piece were very much influenced by the Season of Contrast that is going on at Get Messy at the moment. I really enjoyed sticking with the starkness of black and white. I think this may be my most minimal art journaling spread yet!

Experience 


Today I sat down to work on a poem and this happened instead. I can’t claim it’s a poem but I can’t claim that it’s not, either! This poem/art journaling journey is taking on a life of its own. 

Laundry Day


This piece began life as a longer poem (see below) and ended up as something more closely resembling a surreal 1950s advert. What can I say? The creative process is mysterious…
* * *

Laundry day

I carry the dirty rags down
with planks and bags
bought long ago
when we sunbathed naked.

Our wash contains no grass,
no plants, no eucalyptus trees.
There’s nothing worse
than bark peeling off in the machine.

There’s a lot of water in the end.
This isn’t efficient
but the clothes emerge
soft and beautiful as a willow.

When the buzzer goes
it can be very disturbing –
paws raised, saws ready,
I am big enough to hold it.

I carry the neighbours
back up the stairs in baskets
and hang them
on the rail in my bedroom.

The garden men,
chipped away by night,
keep watch over foxes
and cats in the coat cupboard.

Storm

Storm.
Treading water in the too much world,
an ember of my heart is optimistic.
She tells me,
despite the relentless weather,
it matters.

* * *

Today’s poem is inspired by the Season of Contrast which just began today over at Get Messy. The inky drips background and scribbled handwriting were inspired by @tanyaleekahler ‘s awesome Messy Pages class. This was my first time using high flow acrylics and I can now safely say that I’m hooked on these wonderful paints!

Jewel

Jewel

Your deeper brain
has the intelligence
of a mythological creature –
neon curves in full bloom,
explosion of lines at sunrise.
Disappear within its mysterious dance.

Today’s poem was made using words cut out from a newspaper and one of the Neocolor backgrounds I made in Tanyalee Khaler’s Messy Pages class. Here’s a glimpse of the original background:


I’m posting this poem after midnight. But it’s still April 2nd somewhere!