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?

Birth Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make the sounds

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

* * *

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

All the best warriors I know are on TV

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

* * *

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

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

Folding the twilight

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

* * *

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

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

Travel News

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

* * *

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

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

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

Floating

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

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

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

All this time

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

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

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

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

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

Talking to my body

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

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

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

She

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

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

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

She will be the death
and the birth
of me.

* * *

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

Take a holiday



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

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.

Step right up!

Step Right Up

(A Sad Circus Tale)

Sold by her mother
to an acrobatic clown,
the scarred town,
stray dog
solitude
of her fluid fingers
evoke the night cries
of the high-wire.
It is a brilliant circus skill
to overcome
one’s memories
until tomorrow.

* * *

Step right up! Step right up! NaPoWriMo has officially begun! Behold all manner of poetic marvels!

I had so much fun with today’s poem: I took the piece of newspaper I had been using as scrap beneath my paints yesterday and chose the first article I saw as material for a blackout poem. Fortunately for me, the article in question was about a circus show, complete with fabulous photograph of an accordion-playing fool on a unicycle.

I chose one of the backgrounds I had prepared during Tanyalee Khaler’s wonderful Messy Pages class, stuck down my bits of newspaper and went on from there: gesso, circus fonts, bicycle stamps and silver stars. I knew things were getting pretty out of hand when I started adding glitter. Today is officially the first day I have ever added glitter to a poem.

Just to give you an idea of how far an art journaling page can travel from start to finish, here’s a glimpse of the original background:

If today’s experience is anything to go by, the combination of poetry and art journaling opens up a whole new array of possibilities. I’m so excited to see what the rest of this month will bring!

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!

Dancing our way through a month of poetry

napofeature2April is National Poetry Writing Month, AKA NaPoWriMo. Each April, people from all around the world set out to write a poem a day for 30 days. There is 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. Continue reading