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…?

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’

 

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.

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.

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!

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!

Season of art 101

What a wonderful season it has been at Get Messy! We’ve been focusing on art materials and how to use them. I’ve found this especially helpful and enjoyable because I have little to no experience of many of these materials. While there are some I used as a child – felt tips, crayons – I’ve been discovering all sorts of new ways to play around with them.

Each week there have been prompts and tutorials from the fantastic creative team which have helped to expand my awareness of what’s even possible when you start playing around with this stuff on a page. There’s something relaxing about trying out a single technique or material, and exploring the different effects it can have. Before long, my basket has become filled with an array of different things I can use when I get to work on something.

Week 1 – Watercolours

This was a wonderful medium to start with, especially as I had begun playing with watercolour over the winter holidays.

This last piece came from a wonderful gouache tutorial with Vanessa Oliver-Lloyd. I didn’t have any gouache so I used acrylics instead.

Week 2 – Texture

During this week, I enjoyed working without having a subject in mind or anything in particular I wanted to express. It felt incredibly freeing to simply play with colour and texture, sticking everything I could imagine down on the page – bubble wrap, beads, thread, postage stamps! After I had finished, this last page seemed to me to be the perfect expression of living in a house that’s in the middle of being renovated: theoretically at home and yet nothing is quite settled.

Week 3 – Acrylics

I had not worked with acrylics since I was at school and these are fast becoming my favourite medium. I love it that they can leave a certain amount of texture on the page and also that they dry so quickly.The above page was inspired by a wonderful layers tutorial with Pam Garrison. I talk more about the process here.

Week 4 – Felt tips

When I began art journaling, I was concerned that comics would be left behind! This week saw comics return in FULL COLOUR! The spread above was created during a Get Messy digi-hangout. It was wonderful to throw colours and shapes down on the page whilst chatting and hanging out, not really thinking about what I was doing. Again, this was very liberating. The resulting spread ended up being a piece about the meetup itself! More on the process here.Here I revisit the topic of house renovation. I have a feeling I may be revisiting this theme for quite a while!

Week 5 – Drawing

This week was one of my favourites. We had an amazing tutorial with Elizabeth of On tap for today filled with all sorts of ways in to drawing. Below are two of my favourites: drawing a series of the the same object and using torn collage as a starting point for your own drawing.

Week 6 – Collage

I didn’t manage to do as much collage as I would have liked during this final week of the season. But I absolutely loved working on this spread – another one which began during a digi-hangout! I was thrilled that the toadstools from the week before found their way into this piece!

If you have made it to the end of this post, thank you for staying with me. Next time, I will be sure to document the process week by week rather than leaving it all to the end!

This has been an incredible season at Get Messy. The only thing that can console me that it’s over is that there will be a new season starting very soon!

I have entered The Witch’s Garden

i-have-entered-the-witchs-garden

When I was a girl, I spent the summers with my grandparents in Dublin, Ireland. My brothers stayed at my dad’s parents while me and my sister stayed at my mum’s parents. I loved it there and it’s a place that has already featured in several of my comics. At the back of the main garden, with its beautiful lawn and carefully tended flower beds, there was a tall hedge. Behind this hedge was a smaller, wilder garden, complete with crooked apple tree, falling down shed, and rusty wheelbarrow. I named it ‘The Witch’s Garden’ and spent many happy hours there, playing and dreaming.

witchs-garden-detail-4

I was so sad when my grandparents’ house was eventually sold, more so than for any other house I’ve known. My first response was to grab some felt tip pens and draw a picture of the garden as a way to keep it forever. While I was making this spread, I connected back in time to that magical garden and also to that place within myself – wild and witchy – where the garden still lives.

It felt powerful to include the three ages of woman here – maiden, mother, and crone. I was drawing on my sense of being a child all those years ago in Dublin, but also bringing the magical quality of that place forward in time into womanhood and also into the future, where I hope to be as cool as this Finnish woman with twigs on her head!

witchs-garden-detail-2

This spread was made as part of the wonderful Totems class with Vanessa Oliver-Lloyd, bringing together all the elements we have been working with during the course: spirit animals, archetypes, elemental magic, and claiming the female. The text is from a poem I wrote some years ago, inspired by entering The Witch’s Garden as an adult.

witchs-garden-detail-1

I look into the mirror.
The muscles round my mouth
are tired from smiling.
The wind whispers in my ear
three secrets held in cobweb, leaf, and twig.
Cheek gives way to bone.
Eyes transform from pools of water into fire.
Curls become snakes,
darting in all directions.
Brambles tangle round the apple tree.
A few snails remain,
clinging to the gravel on the walls.
Across cracked stone,
the ants carry parcels of moonlight.
I listen for her footsteps but the air is still.
Even the wheelbarrow has stopped rusting.
I have entered The Witch’s Garden.

witchs-garden-detail-3

How will I know?

how-will-i-know

One of the things I’m loving about art journaling is that you don’t need to know where you’re going when you start a page. In fact, it’s often better not to know!

This week I took a wonderful tutorial with Pam Garrison, guest artist of Season of Art 101 at Get Messy. We worked in layers, each seemingly unrelated to the other. At many points I could have stopped, happy with what had been created so far. Pam encouraged us to keep going, just to experience what might happen if we did. Even at the end, after the artwork felt complete, I could have stopped and left the page free of words. Nevertheless, I followed Pam’s advice and continued on. And I’m so glad I did.

how-will-i-know_layer-1

I really enjoyed diving into each stage of the process. Each new layer involved leaving something behind – the page as it had been – and moving forward to what it was becoming.

One of the things I’ve been learning in my exploration of art journaling is that there are different ways to start working on a page. You can come to it with an idea of what it is you’d like to express. This idea then informs the choices and decisions that you make as you start to work. Alternately, you can start with the art materials themselves. Put down some colours and shapes and let them suggest where you might go next. The piece we worked on with Pam was a perfect example of this.

how-will-i-know_layer-2

I’ve also been enjoying the fact that on an art journaling page not everything is shown. Where you start may be completely invisible by the time you reach the end. Words and images may be covered or partially obscured by collage or layers of paint. I was amazed at how much of my earlier layers ended up being hidden in this piece. But the act of obscuring is also one that reveals; this lady only emerged from the page by obscuring large areas of what had come before.

how-will-i-know_without-words

This puts a new slant on the work being process-oriented.

It has taken me a long time to understand the power of the act of turning a thing (- like a comp book -) into a place for an experience…

Lynda Barry, The Best American Comics 2016

Many of the things I wrote, drew, and expressed are hidden beneath the surface – part of the piece and yet submerged. But the fact they’re there makes a difference, a visual reminder of the experience that has happened while making this page.

Strange colour palette

colour-palette

No canvas absorbs colour like memory
– Robert Aris Willmott

It’s Season of Art 101 over at Get Messy and this week we’re playing around with acrylics. I had so much fun creating my own strange palette. It’s amazing the associations that colours hold. This palette could be a poem, a story, a biography. Alternately each colour’s name could be a springboard for its own story or poem.