What are you dreaming about? (part 2)

In What are your dreaming about? (part 1), I described some of the process of creating the final triptych-inspired pages of my first ever art journal. Here is a video flip-through of the whole thing. If you would like to have a longer look at any of the pages, feel free to pause the video or to browse through the images in a more leisurely fashion in the art journal section of the blog. Enjoy!

What are you dreaming about? from Divyam on Vimeo.

Books, historically, have been sacred. So it is by working in an intimate manner with a book that we develop a preciousness of self. There is a ritualistic aspect to opening  and closing a book: opening a book says I am here, I am ready to receive, and takes us into the world of unknowns where all sense of time disappears. Closing the book says I am ready to return to the known world.

– Juliana Coles, Institute for Extreme Journalism

I have loved working in this book so much. We have been on quite a journey together. I am sad to reach the end! A big thank you to my friends at Get Messy for being the most incredible bunch of artists I could ever hope to meet. Onwards to the next journal!

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What are you dreaming about? (part 1)

The Season of Connections has just started this week over at Get Messy! This set of pages is about the connection to my inner world. It is also the last page in my first ever art journal. I thought it would take no time at all to complete just one more page but I should have known the last one would be the most involved!

Here is a short video, showing how the two sides of this spread open out to reveal four female figures on the page beneath:

When I saw the folder at the back of the Moleskine journal, I thought it was the perfect chance to create a flap, inspired by a wonderful tutorial from @diekleineriet . I’m also at the point in the Metamorph class with Erin Faith Allen where we are looking at ‘The Holy Within’. I immediately thought of medieval triptych art (which sent me off into a frenzy of gold ink!) Add to the mix the ‘Initiation into the sacred feminine’ year-long training I have been so enjoying at EarthHeart in The Forest of Dean, and I had a pretty powerful mix of influences going into the creation of this page. You can see a wonderful diagram of the cycles of the Wombdala on EarthHeart UK’s instagram page.

During the Initiation training, we have been looking at the cycle of the seasons, phases of the moon, and the phases of a woman’s life cycle. I had always heard of the three stages of a woman’s life – maiden, mother, crone. In this map, however, along with the four seasons, there are four stages of a woman’s life: maiden, creatress, high-priestess, and crone. I love it that the later phases of a woman’s life are given more space here. I wanted to reflect these stages of life in my triptych. I added an extra flap so that the traditional three panels could become four.

As I was working on these four female figures, I chose colours that reflected the mood and energy of each phase of life. I thought about what has been important to me along my journey through life so far, and imagined what might be important to me as I move forwards on my journey. I included a symbol at the centre of each figure to represent the dreams and longings of each chapter of life.

It was only afterwards that I realised I hadn’t written the word love anywhere. Surely this is something important! And then I realised that perhaps each of these qualities is a facet or expression of love.

I have loved working in this art journal. We have been on quite a journey together, I am sad to reach the end! A big thank you to my friends at Get Messy for being the most incredible bunch of artists I could ever hope to meet. Onwards to the next journal!

But before I move on, I’d love to show you the pages of my completed art journal. I hope you’ll join me for part 2 of this post where I will include a video flip-through of the whole thing!

The Season of Fairy Tales

If you go deep,
deep into the heart,
the heart of the forest,
you will find her.

I have loved The Season of Fairy Tales at Get Messy so much, I don’t want it to end. It is a subject very close to my heart and I feel that during the last two months I have only just begun exploring the realm of fairy tales in the pages of my art journal.

‘The Heart of the Forest’ – While some of my pages touched upon specific fairy tales, many of them drew upon the images that exist across many tales. I was particularly attracted by the image of the forest. I loved the idea of the heart of the forest as a place where all the juicy stuff happens in a fairy tale. It is an external setting and at the same time it is a place within us, a place where we can find something beautiful and essential if we are willing to make the journey.

‘Don’t prick your finger on the Wheel of Time’ — The messages attached to my ‘Women’s Energy’ tea bags reminded me of the blessings given to Sleeping Beauty at her christening. In the Grimms tale, the king invites ‘wise women’ to the party. (Perhaps Disney is responsible for turning them into fairies?) In my rewrite, these women are not divided into good and evil. Instead, they have a depth of beauty and power which they wield unapologetically.

As I was working on the page, I kept thinking about time. In the tale, it cannot be slowed or stopped; Beauty cannot be prevented from turning 13 and pricking her finger. Neither can it be made to go faster; the hundred years of sleep will certainly be a long, long time. I felt drawn to include a multitude of clocks. And it occurred to me that for us today the clock is a kind of spinning wheel. We prick our fingers many times a day and fall into all sorts of ‘slumbers’ because of our reactions to time.

And then I came full circle to the advice on my tea bags. We need these little blessings! Especially the one at the bottom of the page: ‘The purpose of life is to enjoy every moment.’

‘There once was a woman who fell in love with a star’ – When I painted this page, I didn’t realise that the Painting Galaxies class with Katie Smith was waiting for us round the corner! I loved creating a page that explored the beginning of a tale. It’s as if the whole story is contained within that beginning. Our imagination is drawn along that starry path into the rest of the tale. You can read more about my experience of the Painting Galaxies class here.

Come live with me
in my wintry realm.
You will never need
to feel again.

‘The Snow Queen’ – This page was inspired by a wonderful stencils tutorial with @sasha_zeen. Once again I found myself exploring the idea of a fairy tale setting as a place within us, that place where we just want to be numb and not feel any more.

‘Not a morning person’ — This strange bird was my first ever acrylic image transfer, made as part of the Transference class with Tiffany Julia. And the Season of Fairy Tales was the perfect time to explore image transfers because they are like magic! In this page, I was working with something that often happens in fairy tales: one of the characters is transformed into an animal, bewitched, put under a spell. This seems quite similar to the feeling I have when I wake up in the morning, hatching out of my shell, feeling not quite like myself. It usually takes a cup of tea or coffee to shake off the enchantment and come back to my usual shape and form!

I always had the feeling
this was not my place
but someone else’s
as if I needed permission
to walk these paths.
I will take my place
among the trees
that sing to me,
and call me my true name.

‘These are my woods now’ – This page was inspired by the story of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, and every tale where female characters are made to fear walking into the woods, into the dark.

‘Gown of tatters’ – So often we imagine we cannot ‘go to the ball’ because there is something not right about us. In Cinderella, her fairy godmother procures her the most beautiful dresses. But what if she were to go to the ball just as she is, in her gown of tatters. What if she were seen in her own magnificence without the need for a make-over?

‘I have always been here’ – During this season, I’ve been rereading many old favourites about the merging of myth, fairy tale, psychology, and personal history. One such favourite is ‘The Heroine’s Journey Workbook’ by Maureen Murdock. Each day, I have been taking a morning pages approach to the writing exercises in this wonderful book. Writing in depth about my sense of myself at various intervals throughout my life so far, I’m struck by how much change has taken place. And at the same time I can sense the thing in me that is unchanged — some essence of who I am that I carry with me through all the adventures and transformations.

‘You the moon’ – This page was inspired by an exploration into rebirth as part of the Metamorph class with Erin Faith Allen. In this exploration, we cut up a picture we had already made, one that we had some degree of attachment to. We then brought it back together as something new and quite different. You can see the original image here.

‘The Duchess of the moon’ – My image transfer came out looking quite cloudy so I traced over it with white gel pen, which gave the woman’s face an ethereal look. I added planets which I made during the Painting Galaxies class. As I worked,The Duchess of the moon began to emerge. Once again, it seems the fairy tale character and the landscape through which she moves seem very much intertwined.

‘Revisiting the Snow Queen’ – It seems I’m not finished with this icy figure! There is something I find so fascinating about her: the icy stare, her chilling beauty, her stillness.

‘Looking for lost selves’ – This was another piece influenced by my work with The Heroine’s Journey Workbook. I used much more journaling on the page than usual. This stream-of-consciousness writing on the theme of identity became an integral part of the layering of the piece.

‘Babas at large’ –  Look out! Babas at large in the forest! They will sit you down by the fire, brew you tea which will turn your mind into a galaxy of stars, and tell your fortune deep into the night. If you should be lucky enough to cross their path, please say hi from me! The trees in the background are from a wonderful tutorial with Julia Cusowrth.

I had to end the season back in my favourite place – the forest! And it was great timing, too, because I was just about to travel to the forest in real life – the beautiful EarthHeart centre in the Forest of Dean. It was time for the next part of the Initiation yearlong journey into the sacred feminine. Time to write a new page of my story…

Thank you for coming along with me on this magical journey through the fairy tale realm of this past season! I can’t wait to see what the coming season at Get Messy will bring!

Dreaming of distant galaxies

During the Season of Fairy Tales at Get Messy, I had the pleasure of taking part in the Painting Galaxies class with Katie Smith. It was the perfect accompaniment to the season, with a magical atmosphere and a sense of entering another world.

One of the things I love about the techniques that Katie shares is that they are quite simple to do and yet create such a dazzling effect. It is also possible to use many different mediums. The galaxy above was created with acrylic paints, while the one below was made using watercolours.

I love the soft haziness of the watercolours. It reminds me of the clouds and nebulas of the galaxy. The word Breathe came to me as I was looking at the finished galaxy. I felt so calm looking at something so vast and peaceful, and had a sense of the whole universe breathing. Pretty cosmic stuff!

I spend my Sunday mornings out and about at a lovely cafe in West London. I have called it The Doodle Cafe because I always spend my time there writing and drawing. A minimal art kit is essential on these mornings, and so I was delighted when Katie shared a technique on Instagram using Tombow watersoluble markers. It was a great accompaniment to the class. I love the cloudy quality that comes in unexpected ways when you add water to the markers.

I loved this technique so much, it soon became one of my favourites! In this next galaxy I splashed even more water onto the markers and was delighted with the clouds that were created.

I stuck with a limited colour palette so that the clouds could be the main focus.

Back to acrylics, and this time, instead of using the white gel pen to outline the clouds of the galaxy, I used it to add a drawing of myself as an intergalactic princess!

The stars are drawing close to me now

with their whispers of magic and other worlds.

We will talk to each other

like we did when I was a girl,

singing songs

in strange and wonderful tunes.

The above galaxy was made during yet another Sunday at The Doodle Cafe. I used Tombow markers once again, this time really going for it with the vibrancy of the colours.

‘Dressed for the universal weather’ – This is a watercolour galaxy with added blobs of high flow acrylics for bursts of saturated colour. Wow! This added a wonderful vibrancy to the galaxy. I had been enjoying the galaxies in their own right up to this point, but decided to see what it was like using a galaxy as a background. It didn’t take much to complete the page, with a single figure and some writing along the top.

This time I added the high flow acrylic paints to a Tombow marker galaxy. I sprayed the high flow paints with water which again activated the markers underneath. This created a wonderful effect – both vibrant and hazy. I added a quote by Rabindranath Tagore, perfect for the beginning of autumn and the nights drawing in.

Shooting-star-like, blazing briefly,

fire the autumn dark within me.

– Rabindranath Tagore

I often find the time I spend in my art journal to be quite meditative. I found this effect was heightened while I was painting these galaxies. There is something about gazing into the vastness of space that helps to put everything into perspective. As if by magic, towards the end of the class, I noticed the tag on my teabag had a message for me that felt very fitting for the art of painting galaxies:

Open up to infinity

and become infinity.

These are my woods now

I always had the feeling
this was not my place
but someone else’s
as if I needed permission
to walk these paths.
I will take my place
among the trees
that sing to me,
and call me my true name.

Chronicle of a yoga retreat

Day 1

I have just got back from an intense and rewarding week on a wonderful yoga retreat with Alaric Newcombe at Le Tardoun in France. Inspired by Julia Cusworth, I took with me a passport-sized Muji notebook, a teensy watercolour set, and a single black pen. Each afternoon I created a watercolour background and each night I added a drawing of my experience of the day. The end result is a record of what turned out to be a rollercoaster ride, both emotionally and physically!

Day 2

As someone who is used to going to a weekly class or two, 7 hours a day of pranayama and asana very quickly took me well out of my comfort zone! I drew this self-portrait with eyes closed, which helped me express that feeling of being outside my familiar ways of doing things.

Day 3

Due to an ongoing nerve condition in my left foot which makes it difficult to stand for any length of time, it can be challenging to find ways to strongly move my whole body. One of the reasons I love Iyengar yoga is that I am able to explore the strength and energy of my body whilst working safely around my foot. On this day, we were working with backbends and I came out of the class feeling more energised and alive than I had done for a long time.

Day 4

This was a really tough day! It was so hot, I thought my eyeballs were going to pop out of my head.

Day 5

‘All this moving and breathing can make you feel so much more alive, but it can also make you feel vulnerable.’ This self portrait was drawn with eyes closed which helped to express the feeling of being a little dismantled, a little unfamiliar to myself.

Day 6

The calm after the storm. Coming back to a feeling of wholeness. This page was inspired by our early morning pranayama session: the cool air of the pine forest, the chirpings of the birds, the first rays of sunlight entering into the studio.

Day 7

It is strange to feel super energised and super tired both at the same time!

I wouldn’t normally have chosen browns for this page but I was feeling so grounded and in my body, I was drawn to these earthy tones.

Epilogue

I’m so grateful for this incredible experience. For my inspiring teacher Alaric Newcombe, for my beloved Keerti, for the wonderful group of friends who were so lovely and kind, for the mountainside beauty of Le Tardoun, and for the continual wonder that is Iyengar Yoga.

The Wheel of Time

‘Don’t prick your finger on the Wheel of Time’ – my first page for The Season of Fairy Tales, inspired by Sleeping Beauty.

I was so excited when I heard about this particular season at Get Messy Art Journal. I have always loved fairy tales and imagined I could easily spend a year diving into the treasure chest of these beloved stories. But when the day came, I found I didn’t know where to start. There is so much I want to explore and this made it even more challenging to begin.

Inspiration came to me while I was enjoying a cup of ‘Women’s Energy Tea’ with some friends. The messages attached to each tea bag reminded me of the blessings given to Sleeping Beauty at her christening:

In the Grimms tale, the king invites ‘wise women’ to the party. (Perhaps Disney is responsible for turning them into fairies?) In my rewrite, these women are not divided into good and evil. Instead, they have a depth of beauty and power which they wield unapologetically.

Magazine images are not usually my first point of call when I’m working on an art journal page. With a subject such as fairy tales, however, I suddenly realised how almost every magazine image draws upon our associations with these magical stories. The opulent gowns and jewels are straight out of Cinderella’s ball. The women are often portrayed archetypally as innocent maidens or sultry seductresses with magical powers.

As I was working on the page, I kept thinking about time. In the tale, time works as a kind of antagonist. It cannot be slowed or stopped; Beauty cannot be prevented from turning 13 and pricking her finger. Neither can it be made to go faster; the hundred years of sleep will certainly be a long, long time.

It occurred to me that for us today the clock is a kind of spinning wheel. We prick our fingers many times a day and fall into all sorts of ‘slumbers’ because of our reactions to time. So many of our struggles are ‘against the clock’, rushing to squeeze more hours into the day, or even more impossibly, trying to prevent our own aging processes (back to many of the adverts in magazines – “try this new product! It will work like magic and prevent you from getting old!”)

I came full circle to the advice on my tea bags. We need these little blessings! Especially the one at the bottom of the page:

I love how these little messages point to an inner experience and enjoyment of life – a realm in which the spinning wheel of time has no dominion. I might just go and brew a cup of ‘Women’s Energy Tea’ right now. I wonder what message is waiting for me today?

Wishing you all a lovely weekend!

My voice, the fire

The woman is tending my voice.
Night after night,
I see her,
strong and deeply connected
to the earth,
the open air.

I am unfamiliar with this language
but I can see
the golden heart she speaks of.

A moment billows,
comes towards me,
even now,
while the woman is shining
in the clear blue sky.

We sit and eat the fire.
We drink the heat.
We wake the morning.
The sun speaks on the inside.

I can only be here.
I can, at last, be here.

The Season of Colour

Last week saw the end of the amazing Season of Colour over at Get Messy Art Journal. Each week, there were wonderful prompts and tutorials exploring colour from all sorts of different angles. Here is my collection of colourful pages from the last six weeks.

I love working with colour, especially bright colour. So I was curious to see what a whole season devoted to this subject would unleash! I found myself going even further, giving myself permission to saturate the page.

After a short while, I felt I was floating in a universe of colour, much like the faces and figures in these pages:

It’s interesting how the figures in the last two pages are in exactly the same position. I had no idea of this until some time after the pages were complete.

After totally going for it with bright colour, I found I wanted to hang out in the cool and calm of a more muted spectrum.

This last page was especially cooling to make during the hot spell we were having!

I spent another few days at EarthHeart in the Forest of Dean, where I am participating in Initiation: Into the Sacred Feminine. The pieces I created when I returned from my time in the forest were filled with goddesses with amazing hair and women sprouting out of the ground like magical flowers.

Collage has always seemed a bit of a mysterious medium to me. This season I found I could get into it a little more, helped also by the Metamorph online art school classes I have been taking with Erin Faith Allen. Going over the top with colour somehow helped me to go over the top with collage, layering many pieces on top of each other, sanding then down, painting and scribbling over them.

This has been a season of many influences, and one of my favourite sources of inspiration has been the We Are All Artists – Creative Mindfulness Cards by Eleanor McComb. This is a wonderful deck of cards, each with a prompt for writing and art in the realms of mindfulness and creativity. The following pages were inspired by Card #6: Touch.

I have enjoyed this season tremendously and feel so lucky to have stumbled across the Get Messy art journaling community. It is truly wonderful to be a part of such a warm and welcoming community of fellow artists. The only consolation for the ending of this season is that there will be another one starting again next week! I wonder what it will be…?

A flip-thru of my art journal so far

So far, the pages of my art journal have appeared in this blog and elsewhere on the internet as single images. They look like standalone pieces when, in fact, they are all pages of a book. Each one follows on from the one before, forming a relationship, part of the same journey.

This is my first ever art journal and I’m excited to show it to you, even though it is not yet finished. I hope you will get a sense of the book-ness of it, how the art journal is simultaneously a question being asked, an answer being given, a journey, and a destination.

Books, historically, have been sacred. So it is by working in an intimate manner with a book that we develop a preciousness of self. There is a ritualistic aspect to opening  and closing a book: opening a book says I am here, I am ready to receive, and takes us into the world of unknowns where all sense of time disappears. Closing the book says I am ready to return to the known world.

Juliana Coles, Institute for Extreme Journalism

If you would like to have a longer look at any of the pages, feel free to pause the video or to browse through the images in a more leisurely fashion in the art journal section of the blog. Enjoy!

* * *

Music credits:
Deliberate Thought by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)
Source: http://incompetech.com/music/royalty-free/?keywords=deliberate+thought
Artist: http://incompetech.com/

Metaphorical me

This piece is inspired by a prompt from the Initiation: Intro to Visual Journaling course with Juliana Coles. I’m definitely getting in the mood for the Season of Colour which has just begun at Get Messy Art Journal!

Anatomy of an art journaling page

Many of the art journaling spreads I have done so far have been inspired by prompts and tutorials from the various classes I have taken and from the wonderful creative team over at Get Messy. One of the suggestions in the Initiation art journaling class I am taking with Juliana Coles is to choose a piece by another artist and use it as inspiration to springboard into your own work.

I chose a wonderful piece by Ines Seidel which I found in A World of Artist Journal Pages by Dawn Devries Sokol. I am including a glimpse of it below to show some of the things that inspired me but also to show just how far my piece had travelled by the time it reached the end of the process.

An art journaling piece by Ines Seidel from A World of Art Journaling Pages by Dawn Devries Sokol.

I loved so many things about this page: the simplicity of the colour scheme, the white empty spaces, the way ordinary objects – such as the houses in the landscape – became surreal when placed on top of the woman’s head. I loved the way the scribbled writing was used as part of the landscape and also surrounding the woman, perhaps like a cloud of thoughts. And I loved the way the text was included sideways, like smoke coming out of the chimneys of the houses.

I wasn’t sure how I wanted to change the process to create my own page. I decided to choose one of the elements to start with and let that lead me onwards with my own sense of what should come next. I set about finding some phrases from Particles, Jottings, Sparks, my book of Rabindranath Tagore poetry, which I bought specially for use in this course. Once I had a bunch of phrases I liked, I rearranged a few of them to create a new poem:

This was the key that gave me a feel for creating my own spread. I decided I would echo Seidel’s use of the landscape but make the sky part much more prominent. It had to be BLUE! I made a simple pencil sketch of a figure walking (the unknown friend) over some rolling hills. Before I painted it blue, I felt drawn to add strips of all the blue washi tape that I have:

I painted the sky, blending together a few different shades of blue, and went over my pencil lines with a black Uniball pen:

I loved Seidel’s use of the scribbled writing and thought this would be the perfect cloud of “dust”, preventing the figure from seeing the blueness of the sky:

Even though I was drawn to Seidel’s use of white empty space, I found myself unable to leave all that white space in my own piece. The landscape felt too bare for me. So I stuck down bits of masking tape to create some texture and painted the area white. But it was STILL too bare for me. So I smudged in some grey paint as well. That felt much better!

Then the white bit in the middle (the rolling hills) started bugging me. So I wrote in pencil some of the words from the poem, adjusting the letters to fill each of the spaces. I smudged the pencil with my finger:

I had had the text ready and waiting to insert into the piece, but each time I wanted to put it in there, it seemed there was something else I needed to do first! (all the steps I just described). At last it was time to put the text into the piece. I placed some in the sky and some on the land. Ah… the piece felt complete!

This was SUCH a wonderful exercise. It showed me how each piece of art that I see can become a source of inspiration, something I can learn from. It also showed me that even if you include all sorts of things from another person’s page (and I included several!), if you follow your own impulses and sense of what you want to create in your own page, you aren’t going to end up with a copy of someone else’s work.

I’ve often looked through all sorts of amazing art in books and online and thought “Darn: how do they do that?” I feel excited that there is a way to be inspired, to try out different things, and to keep learning from all the wonderful artists there are in the world. Thank you for inspiring me, Ines Seidel! And thank you for your beautiful words, Rabindranath Tagore!

Taking in its hands
The flute of the Known,
The Unknown plays
Its manifold sounds.

– Rabindranath Tagore, ‘Sparks’

 

The Season of Contrast

The Season of Contrast at Get Messy Art Journal is drawing to a close. And what a wonderful season it has been!

Over the course of the last few weeks, I have had all sorts of things going on my life plus I was very much involved with the NaPoWriMo poetry writing challenge. As a result, the season’s theme seemed to be more of a background influence – so much so, that I wondered if I should go ahead and do a round-up post. But here it is! and I’m so glad I decided to review the season, because it has helped me see just how present the theme of contrast has been in my work these past few weeks.

One of the main ways in which contrast appeared in my art was through the portrayal of oppositional forces, such as the young woman facing a traditional man’s world:

‘Can you see my world?’

Continuing the oppositional theme, I also explored contrasts in size, inspired by a wonderful tutorial by Misty Granade:

‘The best warriors I know are on TV’

I had a lot of fun exploring what happens when very different characters come together to work on something:

‘Action Man and Space Woman build a house’

The following piece, exploring two different sides of ourselves, came out of an inspiring prompt by Sasha Zinevych:

‘She’

I loved exploring the stark contrast of black and white. White lettering on a black background was a wonderful way to include text on the page:

‘My heart is a black-tie affair’

Vanessa Oliver Lloyd‘s tutorial on negative space, inspired my approach to creating a piece about inner experience. The invisible reality of the inner experience is rendered more visible as the gold shines out around the outline of my hand. Talking about it now, it sounds like I consciously intended this to happen! But these are not necessarily conscious choices. That’s one of the things I love so much about art journaling: I am presenting deeper, almost dream-like parts of myself to my conscious waking self:

‘Experience’

In ‘Storm’, I’m still with the oppositional forces and the contrast in size. The storm is so big and the figure seems so small. And yet the contrasting materials give the simple black and white figure a clarity as she moves against the complex chaos of the storm, with its clouds of scribbled words and ink drips:

‘Storm’

I loved the contrast of black and white so much, I returned to it later in the season, adding some colour into the mix. I felt the influence of Isabel Greenberg, one of my favourite cartoonists, in ‘Birth story’. Greenberg’s The One Hundred Nights of Hero and The Encyclopedia of Early Earth are both incredible works of visual storytelling and are well worth checking out!

‘Birth story’

I think one of the reasons I enjoyed the black and white images, is because it was easier for me to bring in my love of comics and cartoons:

‘Make the sounds’

One of the wonderful things about following artist friends on Instagram is that there are so many other takes on the theme of contrast. Witnessing all these different journeys alongside my own has made the whole experience so much richer.

Towards the end of the season, Misty Granade and I took a ride into the earthy tones of our paint palettes, and travelled back in time to the prehistoric world of cave paintings. I remember wondering at the time if this was somehow connected to the theme of contrast. I can see now that it most certainly is: the exploration of a whole range of colours that were outside, in contrast to the bright colours that were within my repertoire.

‘Dancing to the moon’

I have also discovered that the exploration of contrasting or oppositional forces can actually serve to bring things closer together. I went back to prehistoric times so that I can be here today with an understanding that is rooted in something deep and ancient. I used the earthy tones in my palette so that I can return to the bright colours with a new depth.

‘The ancient ones’

It’s interesting that the images from the end of the season were all ones of integration, a bringing together, as if all the different parts of myself were invited to the party. Time to celebrate!

It has been a truly wonderful season at Get Messy. I am amazed at how much exploration can happen in the space of a few weeks. There is a short break now between seasons, a welcome time for reflecting on all the ground we have covered in recent weeks, and also a chance to catch up on any of the tutorials and prompts we didn’t get to the first time round.

Soon a new season will be beginning. I wonder what the theme will be next time? I can’t wait to find out. Perhaps some of you will join me there?

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!

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!