February daily art project

February can often be a gloomy month. It’s been winter for so long and then suddenly it gets even colder! This didn’t get me down in quite the same way as it often does, even with a 3 week winter cold! I think the fact that I made art every day really made a difference to bring warmth and colour into the wintry days. Art is the new Vitamin C!

I had originally thought my daily art would be a sideline to my main art journaling projects, something that would take no more than a few minutes a day. Instead, I have found it to be the backbone of my recent art practice, a place to touch base with myself each day. It has also taken on a wonderful diaristic feel, recording how I’m feeling and the things that are going on in my life.

The start of the month was also the start of the Season of Kindness at Get Messy Art Journal. I found myself on the receiving end of some lovely acts of kindness when my dear friend and fellow Messian, Rosie, sent me some beautiful flowers to wish me better. On the same day, artist and soul sister, Henrietta, sent me some luscious healing aromatherapy oils with incredible names like Breathe and Immune Bomb. I felt grateful to my dear friends for their love and care. There is no greater magic.

Is it possible to have too much chicken soup? (Answer: No)

I recently completed the Spirits class with Roxanne Coble and loved the way she draws faces. So I continued playing around with this style of drawing portraits:

I started playing with patterns in my daily art journal, inspired by the wonderful patterns Jessica McMillan has been making in her daily art. Go check them out!

“Hey big heart, I know you’re in there!” I have found that the Season of Kindness has been having an effect on my heart. I feel like old dusty corners are getting their first rays of light and breaths of fresh air in a long while.

I have also found that keeping a daily journal has helped me notice small moments during the day, such as this moment when a friend and I reached across the table and created a spontaneous colour palette with our sleeves and a smoothie!

Art is an interesting sort of mirror. It often shows me things about myself that I haven’t yet noticed. I didn’t realise I was in a good mood until I saw these pages I had made!

During these last few days of February, I have been taking over the Get Messy Instagram as a member of the Creative Team for 2018. (Yes, I thought I’d just casually slip that in there. A post on this very subject is coming soon!) It has been great fun hanging out with the community and creating some fun prompts and tutorials for Instagram stories. Today, the last day of February, we have been googling for kindness inspiration. I chose the phrase: “Kindness is the best medicine”. Some brightly coloured gouache and a white gel pen later, this is the page that resulted:

It would seem that I have come full circle this month. Kindness really is the best medicine!

The daily art project is such a wonderful way to move through the year. Many of my fellow artists at Get Messy are taking part in this movement, too. Check out all the awesome art they are making each and every day on the #mydayarted hashtag.

Wishing you all a wonderful March!


Rituals Class – January and February

Rituals is a wonderful art journaling journey through the year led by Vanessa Oliver-Lloyd at Get Messy. Each month has its own theme that we are exploring in our art journals. There is a solar spread exploring the light, positive aspects of the theme and a lunar spread exploring the challenging, shadow side.

Before 2017 came to a close, we prepared the way by creating a wheel of the coming year, anchoring our intentions for each month. I drew a tarot card for each month and spent some time clarifying what each card represented to me. Then I wrote a single word in each section of the wheel. I drew a card for the whole year – The Empress. I couldnt think of another word to represent what this card means to me, so I just wrote it as it is beneath my wheel.

We also created a blank wheel so that we can fill in our experience of each month after it has happened. The word “Love” spontaneously appeared above the empty wheel which we will fill in during the course of the year.

It feels a little strange sharing my art from this wonderful course when the registration for the year is now closed! But I am happy to say there is a free class available online where Vanessa shows how you can make these two wheels for your year.

I also made a wheel celebrating 2017. It felt very good to look back over all the wonderful things that had happened during the year before moving on to the next.

The solar spread for January was all about what we wanted to invite into 2018 with us. This one ended up being a fiesta of rainbow colours. I guess I was excited about the coming year! Even though at the start of January I was feeling all wintry and hibernatory, it was good to connect with the joy of welcoming in the new. All over the spread I wrote “Come on in”, inviting in all the good qualities I wanted to include. What a beautiful way this was to start the year. Much better than new year’s resolutions!

The lunar spread was all about what we wanted to cast out. On the red heart I wrote all the things I wanted to leave behind so that I wouldn’t bring it with me as I began the new year. It felt very cleansing and also grounding to give some attention to the shadow side of things.

The hand on the right opens to reveal the heart beneath, and this gesture frees everything up so that it can be realeased.

I was surprised by the little eye that appeared in the centre of the heart. I put it there to cover some holes I had made that I didn’t like. But as soon as it was in place I felt it was the heart (within the heart!) of the page.

When January came to a close, it was time to write my word for the month. It was interesting looking at the word I had chosen beforehand and the word I chose afterwards. I felt that the word involvement included a sense of togetherness with others and at the same time a feeling of connection with myself to balance it.

It felt good to look back on the month before stepping into February. It helped with that feeling I often get of the calendar moving too fast!

The theme for February was love. The solar spread was about selfless love. I explored that feeling of having so much love to give and wanting to give it all. And how quickly this feels draining. I found it interesting that after a while the arms weren’t even connected to my body anymore!

The lunar spread was about self-love. One side has a self-portrait showing lack of self-love. This is the tired me with no energy or zest for life:

The other side of the page shows a self-portrait where self-love is present:

At first, the two sides seemed so different, I didn’t know how I might link them. I decided to spread the yellow colour and the hearts over to the lack of self-love side. It’s funny, once this was done, the tired, unloved portrait almost looked like she was smiling.

And now February has come to a close, it’s time to write in a word for how I actually experienced the month. My original word was celebration. At first glance, my month did not seem to be about celebration at all! I spent three weeks out of action with the winter bug that was going around. And yet, as I was getting better, there were family visits and celebrations that were really lovely and enjoyable.

So, I think this time round, the word I choose will serve to balance the one I have already chosen:

It has been so wonderful taking the time to greet each month in my art journal and also to reflect on it afterwards. A great antidote for that feeling I so often have that the year is moving by too quickly without any time to think about it. Big thanks to Vanessa for creating such a beautiful journey for us.

If you would like to take a class with Vanessa, I can heartily recommend the Totems class which is still available at Get Messy Art Journal. It was the first art journaling class I ever took and was the beginning of this whole incredible adventure.

Wishing you all a wonderful March!

January daily art project

This year, I have decided to join the daily art movement! This is essentially a 365 day project of making art every day. I read about this idea in Julia Cusworth‘s inspiring article in Brush Magazine and knew I had to give it a go. I chose a Moleskine daily planner as my journal – perfect for the job because it has a page already designated for each day. Not so perfect because the paper is really thin and not meant to have paint, glue and markers thrown at it.

I imagined that the art I made in here would be relatively quick and simple and some days it was. But, more often than not, I spent as long on the day’s page as I would do on any in my “proper” art journal. As the month went on, I really enjoyed the diary aspect of the project and I found myself spending more time with comics and cartoons than I have done for some time. And it also became a great place to practice working with different supplies and techniques.

Here are my pages from the first month of this project!

From the get go, I came up against the thinness of the paper and some of the materials showing through. I added a bit of collage on day 3 to cover up the markers that had bled through. I imagine that over the course of a year too much collage will bulk the book out too much. So I will use it sparingly!

There was a little bit of New Year’s anxiety coming through in days 7 and 8.

Days 11 and 12 were very much influenced by Katie Smith‘s “Connected to Nature” tutorial in the 21 Secrets: Tell Your Story class. The fern on the right is a gelli print I made for the tutorial.

Days 13 & 14 featured drawings made with my eyes closed (and then coloured in with my eyes open!)

I pretty soon got into the pattern of using the same materials or approach on both sides of the page. I found it funny how the two days end up playing off of each other. Monday’s brain ache ends up looking like it’s coming from the intensity of Tuesday’s patterns!

Days 17 to 20 were inspired by a wonderful book called Imagine a Forest by Dinara Mirtalipova.

Up to this point I had been using the same materials on both sides of the page. Days 23 & 24 seemed to have broken the pattern. Crayon on the left and drawing pens on the right. I love this art woman who appeared. Her arms seem to be incredibly long…

My colourful self-portrait for the week’s Get Messy mini-challenge appeared on day 25 (At 10:46 pm!) At this point, I was thinking Tombow dual brush pens to be my favourite art supply for this project. The colours are incredible and yet they don’t bleed through to the other side of the paper. Magic!

I’m imagining that veterans of the daily art movement will be all too familiar with the highs and lows of discovering what materials this Moleskine paper can (and can’t) handle. The Crayola felt tips from Friday bled through completely into Saturday. And then, on Sunday, I discovered how wonderfully gouache works on this paper. Oh joy!

I was inspired to try gouache paints after seeing how perfect they are for painting folk art in Dinara Mirtalipova’s book. I joined the Oh My Gouache class with Mary Ann Moss and started mixing my own gouache palette. After discovering how well the gouache works on this paper, I expect I’ll be using a lot more of it in this project!

Thank goodness for art journaling when you’ve been stuck at home with flu!
On the last day of the month, I played around with gouache on a dark acrylic background. Topped with some enthusiastic gelli roll pen marks.

I enjoyed this first month so much. I found that the daily art project ended up being far more than a quick side project. During quite a busy month, it encouraged me to learn, practice, and make art every day when I otherwise might not have done.

I look forward to sharing next month’s pages with you. In the meantime, check out the #mydayarted hashtag to see all the wonderful art people around the world are making as part of the daily art movement.

Wishing you all a good February!

Season of Nature

The Season of Nature has just ended over at Get Messy Art Journal and what a nourishing and uplifting season it has been. It was also perfect timing as I was away on a winter beach holiday at the start of the season, surrounded by beautiful trees, flowers, and a warm and welcoming sea. My travel art supplies: a box of watercolours and a Hahnemühle watercolour journal. (And a couple of pens!) I hadn’t worked much with watercolours so far, and decided a vacation was the perfect time to try them out.

As with all my previous Get Messy season posts, this is a bit of a bonanza! Next season, I’m going to attempt to post my pages once a week. For now, sit back and enjoy the ride!

‘Most of the time I forget that I am nature’ – these circles reminded me of exotic fruits, planets, and the cells that make up our won bodies and all living things!

The first day of our beach holiday it poured with rain the entire day. It was the perfect opportunity to get painting! (Also a perfect opportunity to fall in love with my new watercolours…)

‘Lazin’ around’ — I only noticed after finishing this page that the clouds and hammock create a smiley face!

Note: I LOVED the Hahnemühle watercolour journal I brought with me. The paper seemed quite thin compared to other watercolour papers I have tried, and yet it took generous washes of watercolour incredibly well. One of the best things about the big landscape format is that I could work on two pages at once, leaving plenty of time for the watercolour to dry (good for impatient people!)

‘Late night rambling’ – this one felt a bit like a “jazz doodle”!

‘Dreaming of the sea’ — this page emerged from the Get Messy prompt to imagine yourself as a queen of nature. Being on a tropical beach holiday, it was easy to daydream about being queen of the sea. The magical hair was very much inspired by the beautiful portraits of Riet Poch and Katie Smith.

More watercolour doodles. I wasn’t sure what that hole was at the bottom right hand corner of the page… My doodle people weren’t sure either!

‘Walking on the beach’ – I was very happy I had brought a few pens along in my travel art kit. I loved the simplicity of some simple line drawings on top of this watercolour scene.

‘Pattern’ – inspired by a lesson from the watercolour book I brought with me in my suitcase: ‘Water Paper Paint’ by Heather Smith Jones.

“The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea.” — Isak Dinesen.

‘Sunny Street’ – It was fun playing around with both black AND white lines on top of this watercolour background.

‘All sorts of birds are chirping…’ — I wasn’t sure what to paint one morning so I painted some words! It was so enjoyable painting words instead of writing them with a pen as I usually do. I might have to write my diary like this every morning!

‘Flower Lady’ was inspired by this beautiful nature woman by Eleanor McComb.

‘Welcome to the Flower Forest’ — this page was inspired by a wonderful tutorial with Riet Poch . My favourite flower is the daisy, representing innocence and new beginnings. Perfect for an approaching new year filled with adventures! Found poetry courtesy of a Barbados travel booklet.

‘Wave Dancer’ — this is my favourite kind of dancing in the whole wide world!

I wasn’t sure where to start one morning so, once again, I wrote with a paintbrush across the whole page. Not many of the words were still visible by the time I was finished! But at the top you can still see the words “I think I have fallen in love with watercolour…”

‘Turning my thoughts towards home’ — this page started as a love letter to Barbados, saying thank you for the wonderful and nourishing holiday we had. Creating this page helped me make the shift from sadness at leaving to an excitement at returning home. I was sad to bid farewell to the beautiful turquoise sea! But I also felt ready to return to our hearth and our garden and our friends!

I figured it was worth a shot asking the sun to come home with me. And as I write this on a bright sparkly winter’s morning in January, I can see that the sun did jump into my suitcase after all!

‘The Night Garden’ — this is what happened when Katie Smith got me doodling and playing around with zentangles in her wonderful tutorial! I used Sakura gelli roll pens on a watercolour background.

‘All the sparkly lights’ — enjoying rainbow watercolour drips in a wonderful tutorial with the Get Messy guest artist for the season, @agirlwithajournal .

‘Think like a tree’ — This page was created in Katie Smith’s ‘s wonderful ‘Connecting to Nature’ class in 21 Secrets: Tell your story . I had so much fun playing with so many different elements and techniques, including drawing a Katie-style girl! The central flap folds over to reveal a tree on the other side:

The title of this page and the awesome quote on the left come from this inspiring poem by Karen I. Shragg .

‘Think Like a Tree’

Soak up the sun
Affirm life’s magic
Be graceful in the wind
Stand tall after a storm
Feel refreshed after it rains
Grow strong without notice
Be prepared for each season
Provide shelter to strangers
Hang tough through a cold spell
Emerge renewed at the first signs of spring
Stay deeply rooted while reaching for the sky
Be still long enough to
hear your own leaves rustling.

I didn’t have a gelli plate so I used a ziploc bag to make the gelli prints for this tutorial. I enjoyed the process so much and found the prints worked well as stand alone pieces of art too:

I used one of the prints in my daily art project:

More on the exciting #mydayarted project is coming at the end of the month, when I will be posting all of my daily art pages from January!

These two women appeared during a Get Messy hangout last week. One of the things I LOVE about these wonderful hangouts is how, while you’re busy talking and listening to everyone, the weirdest stuff starts appearing on your page!

‘What am I going to do today?’ – (It’s good to ask such questions surrounded by huge flowers, I always say!) Once I had drawn on top of the watercolour background, I found the shapes  were not so easy to make out. So I painted around them with white gesso. I love the way the gesso covers but also reveals the watercolour layers underneath.

‘We may be on different planets, but we are from the same universe’

And on that note, I want to say thank you so much for journeying with me to the very end of this post!

Wishing you all a wonderful start to 2018!

Consulting the oracle

I think I may have discovered my most favourite thing ever: making my own oracle cards!

The inspiration for this project came from the Metamorph class with Erin Faith Allen. I loved her approach of not having any fixed ideas before or even during the process. Instead we went abstract, splattering paint and making marks, working on many cards simultaneously. Only once the image-making was complete did we explore what the cards might mean.

Oracle cards are meant to connect you with the richness of your subconscious and super-conscious. This is so much more powerful when the images have actually come from deep within you, bypassing your conscious mind.

The one thing I did decide, which came to me once I started playing with paint on the cards, is that I wanted there to be four sections, designated by colour: yellow for creativity and joy, green for nature and the body, blues for spirit and wisdom, and red for love and friendship.

First I splattered some ink on the cards, covered it with gesso, then smushed some acrylic paint around in the four colour categories. The resulting colours were too bright, so I covered the cards with white gesso once again which made it easier to see the shapes that were emerging.

I then traced the shapes that I saw with a black drawing pen. The images that came were surreal, dreamlike, and really felt like they came from the deeper reaches of my imagination.

I loved how many creatures and strange beings appeared!

Each one has its own atmosphere but, even now that the cards are finished, I don’t want to attribute any one specific meaning to them. They could mean all sorts of things depending on the context and situation. I haven’t yet decided, but I might give each one a cryptic title that points in a certain direction yet is still open.

I loved this process. It felt strengthening to connect to my own inner wisdom in this way. Now that I’m finished, I want to do it all over again! (Spoiler: I already have! This could become a habit!)

It felt so perfect to be connecting with my inner wisdom through this project during the Season of Connections at Get Messy. You can see more of my art from the season here.

You can see all 24 of the oracle cards here. Thank you for joining me on this journey!

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.


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.

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 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…

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!

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!


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!