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!

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!

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!

It’s that time again!

It’s nearly April and that means it’s nearly time for NaPoWriMo! This is the month where people from all around the world set out to write a poem a day for 30 days. There’s something wonderful about a creative challenge in which so many people from so many countries are involved. All that energy and focus; it’s like being invited to a big party where everyone is celebrating poetry.

This will be my fourth year taking part in the challenge and this time round I’m planning something a little different than what I’ve done before: poetry with an art-journaling twist! As many of you will have gathered, I’m pretty much obsessed with art journaling at the moment. And while I couldn’t imagine missing out on NaPoWriMo, I also couldn’t imagine a whole month without art journaling. This is the story of my life – always branching out in new directions and then wondering how I’m going to piece it all together.

It’s not entirely true to say I’m a stranger to visual poetry. Ever since I began taking part in NaPoWriMo back in 2014, Blackout Poetry has remained one of my favourite poetic forms. In addition to this, during last year’s challenge, I had a great time branching out into comics poetry. I certainly hope that these two forms will play an important part this year. Even so, the bringing together of poetry and art journaling seems to me to be an entirely new combination.

Fortunately, I haven’t had to ponder this dilemma for too long. Just this week, I started the fabulous Messy Pages class with Tanyalee Kahler over at Get Messy. This class is all about creating a multitude of amazing backgrounds and the infinite possibilities that can develop from there. As I began to experiment with acrylic backgrounds – pictured throughout this post – I realised that these would make fantastic backgrounds for the art journaling poems. There’s also a lesson on journaling and scripting – which will be perfect for experimenting with all sorts of ways to include text on the page. Clearly, this class couldn’t have come along at a better time!

Each day during the month of April, I’ll be posting my poems here at Follow the Brush. Hopefully, these backgrounds will be transformed by the addition of this year’s poems into something entirely new.

Wish me luck!

Art and colour open up my world

One of the things I love so much about being part of the Get Messy art community is the feeling of connection with artists all around the world. The forums are alive with conversation – about art tools and resources, what we’re working on, and what we’ve got planned in our creative lives. There is a lovely atmosphere of camaraderie and support – so important when much of the creative work goes on in our own company.

Recently, the feeling of connection has moved to a whole new level. We’ve been meeting up on Google Hangouts for a session of real time art making, otherwise known as the ‘Digi Make-a-thon’. All around the world, we are sitting at our desks and kitchen tables, playing with pens, paint and collage, whilst hanging out with friends we seem to have known forever, even though we’ve never met in “real life”.

This is one of the wonderful things about technology. The sense of being in the same room together was so strong that at one point, when someone couldn’t find their scissors, I nearly passed them my own!

I also really enjoyed not being able to think too much about what I was doing because I was busy talking and interacting. I painted some bright colours on the page, and then started sticking down some toadstools I had drawn a few days earlier. Before I knew it, things got pretty psychedelic which, it turns out, sums up how I feel about the explosion of art and colour that has happened in my life recently!

This was the second Digi Make-a-thon. The spread I made during the first meet-up emerged from the same atmosphere of not thinking too much, all the while talking and enjoying the company of some new and lovely friends.

Working with friends I’ve just met
talking
listening

not really thinking…

I’m so very glad to have stumbled across the Get Messy art journaling community! And I can’t wait for the next time we meet up together!