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!

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.

An Invitation

Will you join
the year long
rose and honey
initiation?

* * *

This week, I am exploring the 10 word poem. I called the first one A 10 word poem. I figured I better give this one a title!

The Goose Girl

She is returning home,
face proud with blood,
eyes no longer the same.

The geese are my brothers, she says.
This was once my own goose foot,
too tender to walk on sharp stone.

After digging in the soil,
it is light as it rests in her palm.
She will carry it with her, always.

The moon, dark with sorrow,
has the answers to all her questions.
There are too many now to tell.

* * *

Today’s poem uses another technique that I learned from Barbara Marsh in Writing Poetry: Experiments in Choice and Chance. The technique: choose a poem that you do not know well, preferably one that you have never read before. After each line of the poem, write your own line in response. Then lift out your own lines and use them as the basis for a new poem.

For my starting point, I chose Loneliness by Meg Kearney. I tried not to read the poem before working with it. (Although I enjoyed it tremendously afterwards!) The resulting piece evokes the world of Grimm fairytales. Working from someone else’s poem rather than my own ideas allowed the poem to retain an atmosphere of mystery, even to myself.