Monday, January 31, 2011

One World One Heart

It's here!  The fifth and final One World One Heart, hosted by Lisa Swifka of "A Whimsical Bohemian" and I am so happy to finally be able to participate!  Thank you so much for stopping by Lost Coast Post!  Let me start by telling you a little bit about myself...

My name is Michelle and I live and dream on the foggy coastline of extreme Northern California, an area often called the "Lost Coast." (To give you some geographical point of reference, my hometown is tucked away amongst the redwoods and at the ocean's edge about 300 miles north of San Francisco.)  It is a place of stunning natural beauty, rich in big ideas and free spirits.  It provides me with unlimited inspiration for living creatively.

I have one wonderful son who lives with me while attending a local college.  I am also known as Mom and (more accurately) "Her Majesty, the Queen of Kibble Distribution" by two mischievous but sweet-hearted kitties named Marley Bear and Tuscany Jane.  Ours is a lively household, full of strong opinions and even stronger love...and it is a home filled with art.

Like so many others, I was in love with art from an early age but it wasn't until 2000 that I really moved art to the forefront of my life.  That was the year I went back to college to pursue (and ultimately receive) a degree in art.  At first, I concentrated on scientific illustration but that gave way to printmaking and then bookmaking and then art journaling.  I dabble in many different mediums, from watercolor to acrylics to colored pencil to pen & ink and so on.  I also love teaching art and in the past ten years, I've taught all ages, from kindergarteners to adults.  Art is so powerful and I treasure the opportunity to help others discover that creative force within.

I hope that you wander around Lost Coast Post for a bit and take a peek at how my muse makes herself known.  (That's really the best way to get to know me.)  But just for stopping by and as a part of "One World One Heart," I'm offering the opportunity to win a little piece of my art.  It is called "Tranquility," and it features collage and acrylics on a 6 by 12-inch canvas board.  It is an older painting of mine but I felt that it was perfect for this event as egrets are one of my very favorite Lost Coast residents.  It seems right that this comical yet classy character leaves my nest to find comfort in some other artist's home.

To enter this prize drawing, please pop into the comments section for THIS POST that includes a working email address or your blog address (don't forget that part!) and leave me a note that so I can contact you for mailing infomation should you win.  I also ask that you have an active blog to participate; I will randomly select a winner and announce that name on Thursday, February 17.  Good luck to all and thank you again for exploring my tiny corner of the artistic universe!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Challenge Check-In: A Banner Week

This was an excellent week for me in terms of art and health.  I live a life of ebbs and flows and even after years of experience, I still struggle to accept it.  But it is what it is and so I move forward whenever I feel the road steady beneath my feet.

As always, there was my "Daily Diary" to attend to and although I continue to combine entries here and there, it is up-to-date, filled with scraps, stickers, doodles, lists, whining, celebrating and general observations about my days.  I don't show full scans of this journal here at LCP simply because I'm sure you would find my meandering musings deathly boring.  And a girl has to keep some things close to her heart...

My daily inchie project is also current and oh, so close to completion.  On Tuesday, February 1st, I'll post a scan of all 31 doodles and begin work on a new month of tiny art.  In the back of my brain, I'm still worried about the inspiration losing its fizzle like a long-opened can of soda but I guess I'll tackle that issue if and when it arises.

And I am delighted to say that I started a new painting.  It has been a long, long time since I worked on canvas and it felt really good to dig into the gesso and acrylics.  I have two large shows booked for 2011 and I need to figure out my theme and approach soon.  Since my wrist fusion in 2008, I've leaned really heavily into art journaling and I've found it hard to go back to canvas and the "production line."  So I began at the beginning.  I'm not sure where this background will lead but I am enjoying the journey.

Don't forget to tune in tomorrow for my "One World One Heart" post and the opportunity to win a piece of my art!  Can't wait for that to go live!  See you then!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

January Sketchbook Challenge: Highly Prized

The first theme to christen a year of sketchbook challenges was "Highly Prized" and I struggled mightily with this one.

For whatever reason, I got two stubborn things stuck in my head:  (1) the image of a prize ribbon and (2) the idea that whatever I "prized" had better be lofty.  The former hovered in my thought process like that one rogue gnat in the kitchen that you never catch, no matter how many times you slap at the air.  Every time I sat down to doodle, I felt this annoying compulsion to include a stereotypical grand prize blue ribbon somewhere, somehow.  (I even have some prize ribbon stickers and they spent the month floating around my studio table, daring me to be literal.)

I also felt compelled to ensure that I was depicting something that others would also consider "prize-worthy."  Silly, of course, but there it was.  I thought: "Maybe I should draw my son."  "Maybe I should draw my cats."  "I prize hope, dreams, imagination...maybe I should be clever and illustrate that?"  And so nauseam.  Finally, after much mental dithering, I realized the error of my ways.  "Should" is such a sticky, guilt-laden word and it really needs to be stricken from my vocabulary.  In the end, I just stepped away from all that crazy over-thinking and just went drawing out in the world.

Yesterday was a perfect, sunshiney day and all the closest benches at our local community college were occupied by young lovers or weary students regaining their energy in the noontime warmth.  Since I knew my son would be in class for at least an hour, I decided to walk out to some stone picnic tables farther afield.  Peaceful, yes...picturesque, not really.  So I simply began sketching what I had to work with and it happened to be this sweet little tree.  As I relaxed into my seeing, a world of roughness and whorls and lights and darks opened up before me.  My revelry remained unbroken until my son found his way to me, exhausted by his search for his wayward mother.

When I got home, I realized that my time with the sun at my back and my moleskine in hand was perfectly prize-winning.  And so, I finished off my doodle with a bit of lettering and tipped my hat to the necessary practice of just letting go...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

January Progresses, Inch by Inch

After a side trip this morning for an MRI scan of my right foot (in contemplation for yet another surgery), I'm back in the studio, doodling and painting.

I am absolutely delighted with how my inchie collection for January is shaping up.  It is a great project because even if I feel like crap for most of the day, I still can manage that inch worth of art at some point.  I'm a little worried that if I continue on for too many months, I might run out of things to doodle but for now, I'm just enjoying the process.  Each little square is a pane in the window into my life.

For the curious - I am using punched squares of Arches 140-pound hot press watercolor paper that have been edged and numbered with Midnight Blue Staz-On.  I glued those squares right into my "daily diary;" I'm hoping I don't regret not creating a separate book for my calender inchies but I have so very many journals in progress that I thought I'd just go ahead and combine the daily doodling and daily blathering into one volume.

Anyway, I first sketch out my doodle in pencil and then lay in color using a variety of pan watercolors.  When the paint is dry, I outline and detail with black Microns and very occasionally, use a marker to add litle shadows.  The entire process takes between five and fifteen minutes, depending on how intricate I decide to get with my little sketch.  The simplicity of this endeavor has made it possible for me to meet the challenge of art journaling every day despite spending the better part of the month in headache hell.  WhooHoo for tiny art!!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Today's Question

Journal Page from Jan 24, 2011

Monday, January 24, 2011

Simply Glorious

It is a simply glorious morning here on the Lost Coast!  I woke up without a migraine (for the second day in a row!) so in celebration, I laced up my walking shoes, grabbed my camera and headed out into the sunshine.  My apartment complex is bordered by miles of pasture land that only occasionally hosts cows.  A meandering creek bisects the field and this marshy domain has been turned into a protected wildlife refuge.  And this time of year, these grasslands become an enormous buffet for thousands upon thousands of Canadian geese taking a break from spring migration to build up their fat reserves.  They drift in bit by bit all morning, one noisy V-formation at a time.  Once they land, the birds waste no time, gazing voraciously and moving across the field like so many feathered lawn mowers.  They cackle and call to each other all day while they eat but nothing compares to lift-off at sunset.  The entire flock takes flight en masse as the sky grows orange, the honking of thousands of birds signaling the end of the day.  Every evening, I am treated to this spectacle and the wonder of it never ceases to draw me to the balcony as witness.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Challenge Check-In: The Proverbial Two Birds

Oooooh!  Here I am, down to the wire with my Challenge Check-In and, as I feel inclined to kill the proverbial two birds, this entry will stand in as my Lost Coast Studio Sunday.  

Of the last 14 days, exactly 12 either began or ended with a migraine.  That is actually on par with my normal; for the last five years or so, I've averaged 12 to 15 migraines per month.  I know that sounds miserable (and it is indeed) but in the five years before that, I dealt with about 20 to 25 migraines per month so when I put things in perspective, life is looking up.

Needless to say, my tender head has prevented any "hardcore" art-making.  When I'm in the grip of a particularly stubborn headache cycle, I have to stay very quiet when the migraine subsides as any rise in my heart rate makes the blood push faster and harder against the constricted blood vessels.  The noise can be deafening.  If I overdo it, the migraine quickly resurfaces.  So I am learning to be very slow and deliberate in my living when the migraine gremlin has come to call.

"Slow art" is perfect for these deliberate days as I can visit my sketchbook world as much or as little as I am able and still feel a sense of accomplishment.  In one 5 or 10 minute block of clearheaded moments, I can doodle some critters in pencil.  At another time, I can ink the sketches; still later, I can begin coloring the characters.  My little doodles never complain about the pace of my art days. 

And speaking of doodles, I have managed to keep up with my calendar grid for January.  I can't wait to reveal the month's worth of teeny tiny drawings!  I'm quite pleased with the process.  I'm not sure how many months I'll manage an inchie-a-day but so far so good.  And I've kept up with the "Daily Diary" although some entries cover more than one day.

Today was migraine-free from start to finish so I am hoping that is the beginning of a trend, at least for a few days.  It is hard not to get overwhelmed when I wake in the morning and realize that the pounding pulse in my ears is gone.  I put so many things aside and I want to do them all the very minute I feel better.  And it is frustrating to start my day OK, only to develop yet another migraine later in the afternoon because I did too much.  It is a precarious balancing act so I steady my steps with my sketchbook in one hand and my pencils in the other. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

There's Something About Marley

This is Marley.  He came to us from a rescue.  His previous owner rejected him because he grew up (apparently only kittens are cute.)  Marley was half price.

Marley is good at many, many things.  He takes great pride in his appearance.  Every mealtime and every play session is followed by a vigorous bath.

Marley gives himself a lot of baths because he is always getting into things he shouldn't.  He is very curious.  Mama has some twinkly lights hanging above her studio table.  Marley really wishes he could have a closer look.

Marley loves to get into things - literally.  Open drawers are very comfy.

Laundry baskets are fun too...especially if they contain warm clothes fresh from the dryer.

However, Marley's very favorite thing to explore are boxes...even if they are too small.

Marley plays hard and sleeps even harder.  We love to watch him sleep.

Marley dreams a lot and ends up in some very funny positions.  Look at that big, soft belly!  How can we resist?

We are so glad that some idiot thought Marley was too big to love.  Our hearts have plenty of room for this crazy, sweet giant ginger boy.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Challenge Check-In: Tiny Art, Big Pain

"Through the Yarrow" & "Pause"

As indicated in my previous post, this past week was dominated by migraines and as I find it very difficult to make art when the mere sensation of light is agony, I accomplished little in the way of art journaling with one exception: every day, I doodled and watercolored a calendar inchie.  I'd like to reveal the whole lot at the end of the month rather than giving it to you piecemeal so I'll illustrate this drive-by challenge check-in with two more little watercolor landscapes I completed on-the-spot at a local wildlife preserve.

The watercolor techniques class that I took last semester rekindled my adoration of watercolor (especially when combined with pen & ink) and I find myself exploring this medium on a daily basis.  It is so much more flexible than acrylics when it comes to journaling and when used correctly, the colors can be quite vibrant and luminous.

Hopefully, I will feel better this coming week and some more in-depth studio time will be easier to manage.  The new college semester starts up on Tuesday so there will be lots of busyness associated with getting my son settled into his spring routine.  I hope everyone has a restful and creative weekend.  Here's to art, no matter the challenge!

LCS Sunday - Art While Under Siege

"It's hard to fight an enemy that has outposts in your head." - Sally Kemper

This last week was a perfect example of how my art life is impacted by my health.  Six days of on-and-off migraines brought everything non-essential to a screeching halt.  As much as people will tell you how "art saves," I'm here to say that, in truth, when my head is throbbing and every whisper of sound and glimmer of light feels like a spike to the eye, art is the thing I shuffle right to the bottom of the list.  At that point, I'm only interested in darkness, ice, ear plugs, medication and sweet sleep as my saviors.

However, when I feel bad, I still do something artistic almost every day.  On those days that I'm under siege, I make one critically important adaptation: I redefine my personal expectations.  I let my body set the pace, rather than my brain.  I expand my definition of "art," embracing everything "process" while almost completely shunning the notion that having a final product defines my productivity.  This is a hard pill for a Type-A personality but the other option is to abandon art-making altogether when I feel less than perfect; with chronic pain, periodic hand & foot surgeries (and the lengthy recovery periods), and regular bouts with extreme fatigue, I might never make art if I didn't find ways to adapt.  Here's a list of some things I do to facilitate art while under the weather:
  • Work in small bursts.  This is actually especially important when I feel good.  It is so tempting to "try and make up for lost time" but such thinking can trigger a new onset of misery.  The fallout from multiple hand surgeries has made working in small increments of time pretty much mandatory for me but a kitchen timer is useful for breaking up a work session into smaller bits if I'm having trouble reining in my enthusiasm.
  • Have a piece of "slow art" standing by for low energy/high pain days.  Slow art could be something like a cross stitch project, a journal page I fill with simple, repetitious doodles, a fabric piece that needs hand-quilting.  It is a project that can be picked up and put down at will.
  • Work on low or no pressure projects: Clipping words for found poetry, swatching supplies, browsing my library for books I've forgotten I own, patching journal backgrounds from a box of scraps I can't bear to throw away.
  • Stay warm.  I find that keeping the lower part of my body toasty seems most helpful so I employ long underwear, thick socks, and a small space heater to make sure I don't expend energy I can't afford to lose just trying to stay comfortable.
  • Since I struggle with migraines, I limit my use of traditional spray paints, Sharpies©,  and toxic glues like E6000©.  Staz-On© solvent ink happens to be the best ink for non-porous surfaces and I consider it an essential part of my journaling kit.  However, it is quite strong-smelling so I always replace the cover immediately after inking up my stamp so it isn't just sitting there polluting my airspace.  Consider this: your nose is the first line of defense against airbourne toxins; if you can smell it, the product is venting off some sort of unseen chemical.  Warning labels are there for a reason.  Read them and take heed.
I have one last thing to say:  While it is absolutely essential to modify your work habits and expectations in the middle of a chronic illness, it is just as essential to keep moving forward.  Migraines, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, pain...all these things are life-altering but they are not life sentences.  Studies show that people who keep trying to do the things they love in spite of health obstacles actually suffer less than those who just simply proclaim their disability and give up.  Allow yourself a little room to mourn the fact that you can't always keep up a breakneck pace and then get over it.  Life is too short to wallow.  As I have said, a little here and there adds up and in the long term, I think life is actually more rewarding for those with a little wind in their face than for those who always seem to have the wind at their backs. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Studio Snaps: Unveiling the Process

"Studio Snaps" is a brand-new feature here at LCP that gives you a peek into my creative process.  The concept is simple:  As I work on a journal background from start to finish, I snap photos at each twist and turn.  I will be documenting unplanned projects; there will be many moments where I will change my idea and/or technique if I feel the page needs to be "corrected" or "improved."  This is not a tutorial per se but hopefully, you'll be able to glean some tips & tricks along the way. 

Note: This type of post is long and photo-heavy.  Even though I have edited every picture for size, dial-up users will probably not be able to load this material.

Step 1: Paint the journal pages solid colors using craft acrylics.  I'll be working on the red page.

Step 2:  Using white charcoal pencil, trace around jar & bottle lids in a variety of sizes.  Remember: Odd-numbered groupings, overlaps & asymmetrical layouts are most pleasing to the eye.

Step 3:  Choose your paint colors.  I use craft acrylics in my journals & use many different brands but Americana is my very favorite.

Step 4: Paint circles & let dry.

Here are the circles completely painted.  I'm not fond of that heavy blue spot at the lower right; I'm going to try & minimize its visual impact as I move forward.

Step 5:  Using paint remaining on palette, load up a makeup sponge with a thin layer of color.  Try not to mix the colors on the sponge as they will mix in the next step.

Step 6:  Choose a simple stencil & sponge paint through design just onto the painted circles.  Don't worry if a tiny bit gets outside the circles.

Step 7: Oops! I feel like the circles are hovering so I choose a red paint that is a couple shades darker than the red background.  I use the same stencil to add some tone-on-tone pattern.
This grounds the design.

Step 8: Using a small round brush, paint contrasting circles around & within the painted spots. 

Here's how the background looks at this point.  I like it but I feel like I need to link those circles to make a more united painting.  Sometimes a layer of smaller, repetitive pattern will accomplish that goal without overwhelming the primary images.  So I forge ahead.

Step 9:  I attempt to sponge some off-white paint through a plastic canvas shape but it just leaves behind some unattractive globs.  A quick swipe with a baby wipe removes the offending marks.  Hmmm...

Step 9 Redux:  Using a Fabric Paint Cannon, I spray white paint through the plastic canvas.  The results are not entirely comparable to real spray paint but far less toxic.

Step 10:  The white pattern came out thicker & more intrusive than I like so I repaint a couple circles to bring them forward again.  This is the essence of push-pull painting.

Here's where the background stands at this point.  I certainly could've stopped here (and probably should have) but something about it feels "wrong."  I'm caught up in the painting process and rather than stopping for a break & then reevaluating my reaction to the page, I decide to take the page in another direction.

Note to Self: Breathe!

Step 11:  Using simple leaf stencil & fine-point permanent pen, trace pattern several times without overlapping the shapes.  I position the stencil over areas of color & pattern that I like.

Step 12:  Paint around the traced shapes.  This is called negative painting.  The leaves are the positive space & the area around the leaves is the negative space.  I use a red similiar to the background but I could've chosen a darker color & the leaf shapes would've popped forward more.

Step 13:  Once the paint is dry, use an Indigo Inktense pencil to trace around the leaf shapes.  Activate and blend out the pencil with a wet brush.

Step 14:  Once again, I feel like the shapes are floating on the page so I unite them with some off-white paint splattered from a toothbrush.

Step 15:  I sponge that same off-white paint onto the edge of a scrap of cardboard & scrape some lines along the edges of the page to create a soft frame.  Whew!  I finally feel like the background is finished!

Here's the completed journal page.  Typically, if my background is busy or complex, I keep the journaling very simple.  I believe that authentic art journaling is about the sum total of process & product.  All the time I spent creating the background is just as important (maybe more so) as what I actually end up saying on the page.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Challenge Check-In: A Little Here, A Little There

This was a pretty good week for me.  I journaled every day since last Sunday with some days more prolific than others.  On two days, all I managed was the inchie-sized doodle for January's calendar and a couple of entries in my "morning journal" stretch across two days' time.  All other days, I completed both the doodle and the diary entry.  In contrast, I spent hours playing on Thursday, resulting in the page you see here.  The bonus?  I took pictures every step of the way and I'm working on a mega-post featuring the entire step-by-step for this page background.

An inch worth of art isn't much, I know, but it counts.  In that inch, I captured a tiny moment, a fleeting tidbit of time that I'll now be able to recall forever.  In the ten minutes or so I spent sketching and painting, my mind was calm, my pulse slowed, my soul was happy.  A little here, a little there: it all adds up.  And when I had more time, I settled in and really let loose.  Do I wish I had done more?  Sure. But I don't want to waste time grieving what might have been.  I need to trust that I did exactly what I was meant to and remember that, regardless of the wild variation in productivity, I did nurture the artist inside every day and consistency of committment is important.

I think it is also valuable to remember that creativity is not limited to art journaling.  I did a lot of cooking this week as well.  I'm not a fantastic cook but I can make a few yummy and nutritious meals.  I find that the act of cooking is very soothing - measuring, chopping, stirring, seasoning.  I also taught 50 middle school students how to work together to create doodled and watercolored papers for their art journals.  I did laundry and found great satisfaction in folding the soft, warm clothes and tucking them back into their proper place.  I played with my kitties, throwing Squeaky Mouse repeatedly and making Squirrel wriggle convincingly across the living room.  I provided the cats a lap whenever they asked and was rewarded with rumbling purrs.  I played Go Fish with my son using some ridiculously-sized cards and we laughed when they all fell out of our hands.  I watched Dinner with Schmucks and laughed some more.  Every day this week, I did something that nourished my self, my family, my health and thus, my art.  I can't wait for the new week to begin...

Saturday, January 8, 2011

LCS Saturday - Giving Your Hands a Break

I've been asked how I manage to stay artistically-inspired and productive with a variety of health challenges and the short, blunt answer is that I don't.  Anyone who has tried following my blog knows that I generally work in bursts punctuated with long, silent dry spells.  I often make two steps progress, only to fall three steps back.  2010, however, was the first year in perhaps a decade (maybe more) where I feel, when all was said & done, that I actually ended up coming out ahead of it all.  I'm not out of the woods yet; maybe you could say I'm standing on the edge of the forest facing out towards my field of dreams.
journal page from Aug '07; altered Seurat

Over the next 2 Lost Coast Studio Saturdays, I thought I might offer some tips & tricks I've learned over the years to adapt my artistic life to my health demands.  Right off, I have to say that I am not a doctor so please don't take my words as gospel.  By all means listen to your own body (and the M.D. in your life) first.  These are just some things that I have found to help me; perhaps they will be useful to you as well. 

Part One - Hands:  I am most familiar with adaptations to hand issues and so this is where I'll begin. (You can read the lowdown on my hand saga here.)
  • Vary the type of hand activity throughout your art session.  Using scissors requires a different combo of hand & wrist muscles than writing or stamping or sewing and so on.  Don't work too long at a single task.
  • Fingerless or compression gloves can help keep your hands warm while you work or, in the case of the latter, maintain good circulation.  I find circulation gloves to be too tight and all my hand surgeries have made my hands very sensitive to touch.  Some artists swear by them.
  • Increase the size of the grips on your pencils and brushes.  Crayola's Model Magic© and tape wrappings are permanent solutions while pencil grips and old-fashioned curler sponges can be temporary fixes.
  • Spend time mark-making with your non-dominant/uninjured hand.  If you're like me and both hands are impaired, it is still a good idea to spread the workload.  A session spent making serendipity papers is also good if you have the shakes, anxiety, or creative block.
  • Limit time spent using the Xacto knife, punches, or hard clays that need a lot of conditioning.  Book binding involving multiple signatures and/or complex stitches can also be very hard on the hands.
  • Regular contrast baths can be soothing to aggravated appendages.  If you have a double sink (or 2 deep bowls/basins), fill one side with warm water (95 - 100 degrees).  The water should be "Oooh! That feels comfortable warm!" NOT "Damn! That's hot!"  Fill the other sink or basin with cool water.  Cold water directly from the tap can be too cold so add just a little warm.  Please don't try ice without a doctor's permission.  Dunk your hands and hold for 3 minutes in the warm and then rotate to the cool for 1 minute.  Do this for 15 minutes total.  (Note: This often helps sore feet as well.)  Contrast baths encourage circulation.  Super easy alternative:  I like to have a load of dishes soaking while I'm working and I periodically get up to scrub & rinse a plate or two.  The warm (and cool water) is like a quick pick-me-up for my hands.
Next Saturday, I'll outline some things I've discovered to work around fibromyalgia, fatigue, chronic pain, and cures or magic potions unfortunately but rather some ways to keep the creative brain in gear while the body is uncooperative. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Place for Everything vs. Everything in Its Place

Marley says: "OMG!  That's a lot of journals!"
Some people are what I call "kitchen sink" journalers.  They start one journal (perhaps even number it) and everything (except the proverbial kitchen sink) goes into that journal: doodles, to-do lists, daily observations, private rants, artistic experiments, collected ephemera.  Only when that tome is complete do they begin another.

I am what you might call a "compartment" journaler.  I like to separate themes, techniques, styles...sort of like someone who doesn't like foods to touch on her dinner plate.  At last count, I have 19 different art journals in play.  There's one for poetry, one for red & black pages, a couple for collage, one for portraits practice, a Moleskine for sketching, another for watercolor, and so on and on and on.  This system allows me to rotate journals to fit my current mood and interests, not to mention always having another journal to work in while pages are drying.  When a journal is complete (which doesn't happen often), it has a cohesive look and thorough exploration of a particular idea and/or style.  The downside is that it is hard to follow the development of my "look" or narrative of my days as the timeline is scattered throughout many volumes.

I also keep a variety of sketchbooks - 16 in all last time I checked.  Again, the material is compartmentalized: one book for cartooning practice, one for business ruminations, one for supply experiments...well, you get the idea.  I generally favor spiral bound blank books with heavyweight drawing or watercolor paper inside.  (I absolutely loathe sketchbooks with crap paper!)

For the longest time, I thought I wanted to be a "kitchen sink" journaler.  I admire the looseness of such journals, the causal collection of a day's doings, the step-by-step life story laid out in bits and pieces of gathered goodies and doodles.  I've even attempted such a journal but when I really paid attention to how this type of journaling made me feel, I realized I simply could not mash things together and be content.

Every journal is as unique as a fingerprint or a snowflake.  There is no wrong way to keep a journal and each journal keeper ultimately develops a style that fits him or her like a glove.  The process of discovering the "perfect" journaling style can take a while; there are so many examples online and in books to study, so many, many techniques to try.  As you sort through all the inspiration & information, pay attention to those techniques, methods, and materials that feel comfortable, fun, and invigorating.  Therein lies the path to the special blend of journaling that represents and nourishes your own unique soul.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Challenge Check-In: Starting Small

Every Sunday, I am going to log into Lost Coast Post and ramble on a bit about what I did during the week for the challenges I have undertaken for 2011.  I'm calling it "Challenge Check-in" and it really is just a reminder for myself of how the week unfolded.  Very often, I minimize my accomplishments so I think seeing it in print throughout the year will keep me engaged in my creative life and remind me that, in spite of obstacles that regularly interfere with my plans, I actually get quite a bit done.  

Obviously, the year is still young.  I spent the weekend preparing (and then beginning) a journal that will be my "daily diary" for 2011.  I keep lots and lots of journals (more on that in a post later this week) but I have found that I really enjoy having a journal that I write in a teeny bit each day.  I've kept such a journal before for about a two year period but I skipped all of 2010.  I discovered that I missed it so off I go again.  This year, I'm also going to attempt to add in a calendar challenge but no promises on how long I'll stick with it.

Morning journal in progress
 When I work in this type of journal, it's like doing mini "morning pages," although I will write my daily blurb whenever it suits me.  I will often note how I'm feeling that morning, what the weather is like, what errand or appointment is occupying my thoughts in that moment.  I don't write much, just enough to generate a snapshot of the day for posterity. Often, I will incorporate small doodles, collage, or stickers.  Time, interest, energy, and/or health permitting, I will work in other journals as well during the day but I make a point of trying to never skip the diary.  Every page in the journal (spiral bound, cold press paper) is prepared with watercolors in advance so all I have to do in sit down, write, and play.  This way of journaling guarantees that I devote a few minutes every day to creativity.  Sometimes, the morning journal serves as a jumpstart to bigger and better things; sometimes, that paragraph I write is the sum total of my artistic efforts for that day.  Either way, the ritual comforts and anchors me.  

Saturday, January 1, 2011

LCS Saturday - Taming of the Stash

Main portion of my upstairs workspace
Hooray!  The baby new year is here!  My mind is racing, heady with all the possibilities ahead.  I am filled with hope, inspiration, excitement and yes, I am a little bit overwhelmed.  In these first few days of January, I am concentrating on making sure my workspaces are shipshape for all the creative energy about to blow through.  My Lost Coast studio is spread out between three separate spaces: two in my home and one at the school where I teach.  Primarily, I work in the upstairs studio which inhabits about half of my long, lean living room.  In the far right of this photo, you'll catch a glimspe of my microscopic kitchen.  The redeeming feature of this apartment is the gigantic loft ceilings that provide a much needed feeling of space.

And that space is absolutely crammed full of stuff!  No doubt you have your own crazy full stash, a conglomeration of art supplies that seems to have a life of its own.  Perhaps all that stuff you've collected is actually working against you.  Today's edition of Lost Coast Studio Saturday is all about making that stash inspirational again.

Last year, I vowed to dramatically decrease the amount of money I was spending on supplies and overall, I did just that.  The endless cycle of search, shop, and stash is beginning to break down and as a result, I discovered that I felt more relaxed in my space, more creative, more productive.  So as 2011 begins, I thought about ways to access the stuff I already own.  Here's some ideas for a "studio reboot":
  • Change up your organizational strategy.  If you typically file by designer, try sorting by color or theme instead.
  • If there is a specific theme you find yourself repeatedly drawn to, create a box just for it, and cull all areas of your studio for stuff that supports that obsessive interest.  I am particularly drawn to the Zetti aethestic so I have a "Zetti" workbox that holds all the papers, ribbons, and embellishments I think fit into that description.
  • Dig through your current system and rediscover what you own.  I guarantee you'll find stuff that you forgot you purchased. 
  • Freshen up your inspiration board:  Pull out those newly unearthed embellishments that wowed you in the store so long ago and pin them up!
  • Shuffle your supplies. Move things currently on the top shelf down to eye level and vice versa. If there are things you'd like to use but you have to get up and fetch them, shift those goodies so they are within arm's length.
  • Change the way you display and/or store.  Remember that out of sight often means out of mind!
  • Once a week (or month) revisit techniques and/or supplies you've shifted out of focus due to time constraints, competing interests, an evolving style, or overwhelmed brain cells.     
  • Re-evaluate supplies and tools that you used covet.  For example, I used to be in love with eyelets.  However, I haven't set an eyelet in anything for as far back as I can remember.  Browse the internet and see what artists are doing now with the things you once adored.  If your creative juices don't begin to boil with renewed enthusiam, it might be time to find those supplies a new home.
  • Get rid of supplies you really aren't going to use again.  Sell your destash items on Ebay, Etsy, Artfire or your blog.  Or donate those supplies to a school art program or  a women's shelter that offers creative classes to its clients.  (Better yet: offer to teach a class at that shelter and use those supplies to fuel your endeavor.)
The bottom line here is to be honest with yourself.  Say, for instance, you know gel pens last longest if stored horizontally so you tuck them away in a plastic box.  But if you forget to pull out that box when journaling, what's the point?  Isn't used up better than dried up?  If you've resolved to doodle more in the new year, I suggest you get those oft-forgotten gel pens into a pretty teacup and put them right on your work table.  Your supplies should work for you, not work you over.  And really, how many eyelets do you want to leave to relatives when you die?  Figure out your priorities: creating vs. collecting.  2011 is now one day old.  How will you take control of your creative life this year?
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