Sunday, May 17, 2015

May One, my latest book

A very nice review on Amazon - thanks, Marta!

"May One is a journey through a woman's life, in a fascinatingly ordinary, random, one day out of each year rhythm. I've often been aware of seasonal and annual cycles, and what a cool way to explore this! It shows a young woman thinking, growing, questioning herself and the world around her, as she becomes more relaxed and comfortable with herself, allowing the images to come forward and speak for themselves. The evolution of her artwork is a delight to see, as it unfolds and blossoms!"

http://www.amazon.com/May-One-Emily-S-Townsend/dp/0988517965/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Making the self public. . . .

An artist puts images into the world.
A writer writes and puts it into print.
and sometimes the subject is boldly and obviously the self; other times, the subject is the self hidden in the story or image.
I think, perhaps, all creative work is about the self, and expressing the self.

My art show opens next Friday, and along with the show, I put together a "catalog" of art journal entries spanning 30 years. I have been worried about sending something so private into the world.
"Ha", you say, "she writes of private things right here on this blog, what gives?"

Somehow putting it in print and having it available for everyone seems scarier.  This blog post was found by you, probably because you are interested in art journaling.  Friends and family seem to never read this, or if they do, no one mentions it.  I get hardly any comments (they are filtered to stop spam, so maybe that's it?) so I often feel like I am writing to myself.

Recently I read two very powerful memoirs.

One, My Struggle by Karl Ove Knausgaard, is a series of 6 books written about his life and difficult situation with his father.  It's been compared to Proust's Memories of Time Lost and I think will become very well known the next few years as a literary masterpiece.  I can't say why it's so compelling, other than his writing is so heart-felt and so direct and so real, you feel like you are a Norwegian man living in Sweden, observing his wife and children and writing about the immense struggle with his relationship with his father.  He is a brilliant writer, and so honest it almost takes your breath away as you enter his world.

Another memoir I just finished is called Storm of the i by Tina Collen.  A friend told me about this book, and reading it I am so struck by our life parallels.  Tina is also a very honest and direct writer, a very creative artist, who struggled her whole life with a difficult relationship with her father.  Her book includes lots of her art, fold-outs, ephemera, and I think it is brave and brilliant and very revelatory.

It also reminded me how scary it is to put it out, and at the end of the book she says her brother-in-law kindly warns her no one reads a memoir unless the person is famous.  Well, that's partially true, but if a hundred people, or ten, or even one reads, and absorbs the lessons and power of the telling, it's a job worth doing.

or so I tell myself.

So as I am about to send my little journaling memoir into the world, and put up a pile of art at Inspire Life Studio next Friday, I was so helped and encouraged by both Karl Ove's and Tina's willingness to be vulnerable, open, and painfully themselves on display for the world to both love and hate, as the world tends to do.

The act of saying "I Matter" is something everyone should be able to do.  Seeing others do this really helps.  So here I go. . .

and here is self-portrait of me at Inspire Life Studio:


"The journey from the head to the heart is the longest to take."
--William Sloan Coffin

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Coming up:

A companion book for the upcoming show, 29 years of journal entries, all from May One.
Making this book really opened my eyes to what happens when an artist goes from words (the beginning entries) to images (the most recent.)
The progress was so much more graphic than I realized, and skipping from May to May, year after year shows it.  It is hard to express feelings, but it turns out, they are better expressed for me in image than in word, which ends up being demonstrated in this book.

I am excited to release it into the world on May One, along with some of my art at Inspire Life Studio.

Karl Ove Knausgaard's speaks of his experience of a painting of clouds by John Constable, recounted in his memoir, My Struggle:
Suddenly he is in tears, arrested by "an oil sketch of a cloud formation from September 6, 1822 . . . the feeling of inexhaustibility.  The feeling of beauty.  The feeling of presence."
He has always been unsettled by paintings, but he has never found it easy to describe his experience of them:
"because of what they possessed, the core of their being, was inexhaustibility and what that wrought in me was a kind of desire.  I can't explain it any better than that.  A desire to be inside the inexhaustibility."

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

You're invited:


"I hereby appoint you a dissident bodhisattva in charge of overthrowing the sour and crippled mass hallucination that is mistakenly called "reality," and replacing it with an authentic reality built on the principles of insurrectionary beauty, ingenious love, reverent justice, rigorous equality, and rowdy bliss." --Rob Brezsney

Thursday, April 9, 2015

A busy month . . . .

It's been a whole month since I've been here! How does that happen?

We went on a camping trip to Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, we went East to visit parents, I am getting ready for an art show that opens May 1, and been working on a book to go with the show. So I guess that's how it happens.

I am eager to work in my journal again, to help me focus and center.

In the meantime, a few pages to fill the space:



























The moment he looks back at the Constable sketch, “all my reasoning vanished in the surge of energy and beauty that arose in me. Yes, yes, yes, I heard. That’s where it is. That’s where I have to go.”

 --Karl Ove Gnausgaard, looking at a Constable landscape, from his book My Struggle

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Journaling Out Loud





“If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist will answer you, I am here to live out loud." --Emile Zola

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Sunday, March 1, 2015

How many times has art saved me?


"There are very few human beings who receive the truth, complete and staggering, by instant illumination. Most of them acquire it fragment by fragment, on a small scale, by successive developments, cellularly, like a laborious mosaic."
--Anais Nin

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Studio remixing

Since my computer had the little coffee mishap last week, I had some time in the studio to reorganize and make more space.
I do much better making art if I have an environment that invites me in.
Otherwise, I end up puttering around and never getting to it.

I also started a Pinterest board with art studio images, to get me motivated.
I like the open-ness of lots of these spaces.
An inspiring space facilitates inspiring art.
(I wish we all had loft studios in New York, but making our own space nice is the next best thing.)



















I also started filling in the latest junk journal.  I am very happy starting work on pages that aren't white.  The bits and bobs of the random collage get me going, make me more creative, make me more loose.

Also, looking at so many journals that are posted on line, I am dismayed at the level of just re-creating stencil and gesso and girly faces.  (and birds.)
So many pages out there have the same look.
I don't know about you, but this process for me is about discovery.
It's not about making pretty little postcard art I can post.
It's not about knowing in advance what you are going to do on the page.
It's not about following a step by step recipe of how to stencil and layer.

Yeah, I get that people only post what they are proud of.
But listen - let's all learn to be proud of our own crazy individual styles, of our own experiments and mishaps and mistakes.
Of our mashups.
of our remixes.

Scan something, tear it up, glue it down.
Find an image you love in a magazine, tear it out, start from there.
Sketch and embellish.
Carve an eraser stamp and stamp the heck out of that page.
Art journaling is about going within, not copying others' style.
Yes, we all need the boost of posting a pretty image and having the world say Ohhh Ahhh.
But let's be brave.
Let's make some messes and share them.
Let's be proud of our process, and not always look for a neat and tidy finished page.

So after you shovel some snow, warm up and get a cuppa tea, get in that studio, and mess around.
You'll find something unexpected, and maybe something you totally love.

"Tune yourself to your own highest vibration, then make a mess. What comes out might surprise you." --me

Saturday, February 7, 2015

this

coffee spill disaster. keyboard not working right. cant type the first word I need to type which is __ournal. yeah, I bet you can gess the letter that wont type. and the other one. G_ess. this is very bad news for e. __e. sorry.







Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Passion.

What does your passion look like?
What really turns you on?

If you don't know, this is a great thing to journal about.
Tear out some images, glue them down.  Add some colors.
There, now you're loosened up, so now you can write some words.
Quick.
Don't think too much about it.
What did you find out?

I think one of the most powerful tools we have as visual journalers is that when we play around with color and shape and image, our right creative brains are loosened.
We can experiment and mess around, and thus access the more sub-conscious part of our mind.  And this is the part where the secrets of the Universe are.  (Just ask Rumi.)

I see so many journaling "lessons" which show exactly how to make an art journal page; videos where the artist goes through a lesson of paint, color, stencil, whatever, expecting you to follow along and learn that technique.
This is art.
It's not art journaling.
Someone said "creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes, art is knowing which ones to keep."

If you are trying to make pretty pages to share on a blog or facebook, what will you find out?
Don't get me wrong, sometimes it's pleasing to make a page you like, a page that looks finished and even frame-able.
But if you let that become your goal, you'll be missing out on the true discovery of your own inner mind.

Try to let your mistakes lead you somewhere.
Let your playing in your art journal ask the questions, don't work to force the answers.

All this is hard to put into words, but if you mess around, I think you'll know what I am talking about.
Just start with something that catches your attention, play with that idea or image or feeling.  Tear a picture out of a magazine that attracts you.

See what happens.

 
The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider's web.

--Pablo Picasso

Friday, January 30, 2015

Journaling as a spiritual practice


I have been a diarist for most of my life.

It started with me as a little kid making words on paper, and maybe adding pictures.
Scribbles and doodles that did not get saved, but helped me to think more clearly about the world and myself.

The angst of middle school resulted in numerous lined spiral notebooks filled with sorrows and joys, thoughts and feelings splashed all over the pages.
In high school, much of my writing had to do with friends, boys, the group, or a lack of a group. (I destroyed those journals when I went off to college, I was so appalled at them. Yes, I wish I hadn't.)

Thirty years later, I still use my journal for some of this psychological spilling.  But it is much more now.
I record desires and hopes.
I wish for better habits, goals, discipline, reason.
I sometimes still do let it all get splashed out onto the page, but mostly I use my journal to redirect those rants into positive affirmations.
To find the inner truth of my sub-conscious and let it speak to me.
These books are a beautiful record of where I have come.

The last few years I have been making my own journals from 22" x 30" watercolor paper.
Making the book and binding it myself makes it so much more mine.
I can really beat up the pages with collage, ink, watercolor, penwork, fiber and ephemera, lots of words.

I am excited to be starting a new project, a year-long art journal workbook I will print and pubish. This will be a starting point for someone just exploring this practice.
and it will be a get-back-to-it point for anyone whose art journaling process needs a jump start.

Sometimes I wonder what this shelf full of 30 years of journals will come to.  Maybe a landfill, yes, but more importantly, it's what these books have helped ME come to.
They have helped me live a much more focused life.

I know one part of my life work is to share that with the world.




"As a day well spent procures a happy sleep, so a life well employed procures a happy death."
- Leonardo da Vinci

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Connections

In the history of discovery, scientists, philosophers, artists and poets have something in common, they start with a problem, and they make some new connection which solves this problem.

So many great advancements are accidents, while someone is looking for something else, they stumble upon a whole new way of looking at, or doing something.

*Alexander Fleming, while on vacation, left his lab dishes dirty and a new fungus grew which killed all the bacteria - penicillin was discovered.
*The microwave oven was invented when a scientist investigating rays had a chocolate bar in his pocket that melted.
*A Swiss scientist found burrs attached to his dog's fur, and developed velcro from this idea.
*Charles Goodyear accidentally dropped his rubber onto a hot stove, and vulcanizing rubber was invented, changing the durability of rubber, and the whole industrial system.
*In September 1940, 4 boys and their dog in the Dordogne region of France went into a cave following the legend of buried treasure. What they found, the prehistoric cave art of Lascaux, was one of the most magnificent finds of neolithic art in the world.

So, it makes sense to ask a question with an open-ended answer. To let the various connections and fragments happen as they will, and see what answer emerges. This is one magnificent way to use your journal.

Do you have a pressing question for your life?
Maybe:
What is the most authentic work I could be doing?
What is the best way for me to use my skills?
Is there something I could do to create a life that feels more fulfilling?
I have this particular struggle, what is something I could do to help me through it? How can I change my perspective on this one problem?
Am I where I am meant to be?

I have been reading Zen Buddhism, and one deep understanding I am getting is that being in a Zen state is to believe that where ever you are, at that moment, is exactly where you are meant to be; that whatever you are doing at this moment, is exactly what you are supposed to be doing.

So put together the serendipity of discovering something new and unexpected along with the idea that you are exactly where you are supposed to be at this very moment.
What do you get?

I don't know the answer for you, but you can ask your journal.
Jot some possibilities, whatever comes to your mind. Create a collage of images that appeal to you. Play with some answers, even the most outlandish ones. See where this takes you. You just might find a revelation that you were looking for, but could not uncover because you were assuming you knew the answer already, but that answer was not quite right.

You just might connect two or three things in your life; people or events or projects, that will be determine your future.  You might discover yourself.

Good luck!


"I think on some level, you do your best things when you're a little off-balance, a little scared. You've got to work from mystery, from wonder, from not knowing."
--Willem Dafoe

"Each person is an enigma. You're a puzzle not only to yourself but also to everyone else, and the great mystery of our time is how we penetrate this puzzle."
 --Theodore Zeldin

Monday, January 5, 2015

Get going, it's 2015

This is a page from Egon Schiele's journal.
What are you working on?


"We’ve gotta carve out some time and space from the day to day noise…the laundry, the groceries, the homework, the job, the spouse, the friends, the television to go away.
Live and learn?
How about Isolate and Create."
--Chase Jarvis

Friday, December 19, 2014

Flowers in the Winter

We have less than two days until the Solstice, the shortest and darkest day of the year.

A great way to rejuvenate is a visit to a Botanical Gardens -- here in Denver we have a wonderful tropical pavilion, filled with heat and humidity and birdsong and colors.

Yesterday I took my brother, who is visiting from Oregon, there.   He is a botanist, so it's always a treat to visit plants and trees with him.
I know I will be bringing the watercolors along next time.
Maybe an art date is just what you need this busy time of year!


“In a cool solitude of trees
Where leaves and birds a music spin,
Mind that was weary is at ease,
New rhythms in the soul begin.”
--William Kean Seymour

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Back to basics . . . .

Visual journaling for me has been a progression, and a many-years-long adventure.

When I first started keeping a journal (back in middle school!) it was spiral notebooks filled with words. In college and architecture school, I had sketchbooks and idea books, but these did not get to the essence of what I wanted to say, they were just a place to take notes, a place to record what other people were saying.

As I started on this visual journaling path, I added pictures and sketches to illustrate the words.  I started to let my right brain/sub-conscious tell me secrets through the process of letting my mind wander, letting my creative brain take charge. Words then became less common. Images took over.  I found that there was a pre-language place in my brain, and by collaging and painting without direction, I could more easily access the creative and non-verbal, it felt like I could access secrets and discovery of things my rational self didn't always have access to.

I still work this way, but sometimes, to shake things up, it's nice to go back to the beginning, and let the spiral of evolution bring the work to a new place.  I can start with lots of words, then see what happens after that.  It's good to shake it up, to not get in a rut, to try new ways of working.

I recently attended a workshop based on Spiritual ideas; not art. Some of the speakers were artists, and I listened closely to what they had to say. One in particular got my attention. She has lots of interesting talk and ideas. I ended up sitting with her at lunch, wanting to hear more about her process. When I got home, I looked up her website - there was nothing there. I was not surprised. It is so easy to talk about art, it's so hard to do it.  Don't listen to others who declare themselves masters. Find your own work inside yourself, keep at it, work long and hard.

If you are serious, you will punch in and work a solid 8 hour day.
If you are serious, you will keep at it even when frustrated, or bored, or scared.
If you are serious, you will work through the anxiety and doubts.
You will learn to follow through with your ideas, and not just have them.
Doing this, you not only contribute to your own evolution, you contribute to the evolution of us all. How many of us really commit to the process of finding our truest voice?
of finding a totally unique and personal way to express ourselves?
Doing this is a huge gift to the world.
Make your work and your life a gift. Don't just follow others' shallow talk, find your own evolution.

I am going back to basics a bit - putting words on paper.  Then working through with my ideas to completion, seeing where I am to go.

Stop reading about art on the internet.
Go make some.

Namaste.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

What does it mean to fall in love with your own imperfection?

I've been learning about Wabi Sabi.
Wabi Sabi is the very hard-to-define Japanese sense that the imperfect and impermanent aspect to things is of great beauty and importance.
Think of an ancient oak table - the nicks and scratches and discolorations make that table all the more epic.  A brand new raw unscathed chunk of oak would not have the same gravitas, the same history, the same aged beauty.

We all are damaged - how can we get through life without nicks and bumps?
and some whoppers of scars and yes, a few colossal mistakes?
Now imagine that all those scars and bad decisions and character flaws and less-than-perfect physical traits are the very things that actually make you beautiful?
Hard to do, isn't it?

When I was a kid, I stuttered.  I was horrified whenever in the middle of a sentence my words stuck. It felt like my brain was short-circuiting.  It felt terribly embarrassing, and the curious expressions on other people's faces as I struggled to make words come out of my mouth horrified me.
I also was a sort of chubby, messy kid.  My clothes didn't always fit right, my hair was really hard to keep neat (it still is a frizzy nest), I didn't always understand hygiene.  I think most kids are like that, but all of these things horrified me.  That stuttering chubby kid did not feel much self love.

Cut ahead a few decades - I learned to polish it all up - I straightened my hair, learned to talk more fluently, took showers and groomed myself.  Ta Da.  I am now okay, I thought.
Then, this last year, my stutter came back.
I can not tell you the horror that fills my brain when it gets stuck on a word.  It doesn't happen very often, but it does happen.  and believe me, I notice it.
I even went to a neurologist to see if anything was wrong.
Nope.
She didn't think I stuttered (it didn't happen in her office.)  She said not to worry about it.
But I worried.

Then I started learning about Wabi Sabi.
and not only am I learning that what makes us imperfect makes us beautiful and interesting, but also that the challenges we face and overcome make us much more interesting people.

Those stretch marks?
Signs that I birthed three amazing children.

Those freckly age spots?
Signs that I have spent lovely decades outside enjoying being in the sun.

Those chunky thighs?
Signs that I am not now and never will be thin, but that my body type is beautiful as it is.

That frizzy hair?  A sign that there is room for all types in this world, not just straight-haired blonds.

I am not quite ready to be thankful that I stutter.
But I know that the old oak table with marks and dents and nicks has stories to tell.  and it's character makes it so beautiful.

So I am working on embracing my Wabi Sabi.

This Ted Talk given by Cheryl Hunter explains it in a powerful way.


What will you put on your blank page?  Fill it with all your imperfections, your Wabi Sabi.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

What gives you joy?

That is what you should be doing.
I'll say that again -- What gives you joy? That is what you should be doing.

Why is this so hard to sink in deeply? I seem to do a thousand things before settling down into my studio:  reading Facebook, twitter, some cool threads on reddit, watching youtube interviews of celebrities, getting some coffee, maybe a chocolate, doing some dishes, organizing my files, stacking up my journals and looking at them, maybe another chocolate.
and oooops, the day is mostly over.

Focus and intention are my biggest challenges.
What are yours?


WHAT MAKES YOU COME TO LIFE?
Ask yourself this question, whenever you are given any choice or opportunity.
Ask: "Will saying YES to this path bring me closer to the source that brings me to life? Or will it take me further away?" No matter how alluring, no matter how beautiful, no matter how sparkling and fancy and delicious — do not say YES to other people's dreams.
Do your own thing.
Live in your own waking dream. Stubbornly.
Even if it means not washing your hair for a week. (ESPECIALLY if it means that!)
--Elizabeth Gilbert

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Monday, October 20, 2014

One thing at a time . . .

I've been re-reading one of my all time favorite books, "Long Quiet Highway" by Natalie Goldberg. It mostly is memoir about her finding Zen meditation, and how it affected her creative life.

At one point, her teacher tells her she either should be a Zen monk, or a writer, but not both. I found this hard to hear, because I always seem to wear many hats. Having three kids, grad school, then working outside the home, then working at home, at many different jobs, I learned that it was a luxury to think I would ever only have one thing on which to focus. I did learn to only do one thing at a time, and to be fully present for whatever I was working on. (at least to try to do that.)

The idea of Zen seems to be fully present and aware, and to understand how fleeting all life is.

I was at the beach at the Outer Banks recently, and my journal pages reflect the calmness I was feeling there. I turned off my phone (mostly) and ignored social media for three weeks as a digital detox. I was falling into the trap of checking my phone/computer/ipad multiple times a day, and obsessing over answering messages and comments, returning and deleting emails.
Instead of being in the moment, I was thinking about photographing and sharing the moment on Facebook. The time away from social media was very good for me, and now I can spend much less computer time, and more being alive time.

and the idea that we need to be just one thing? I think we need to be the one thing that we are at the moment, and if while we make art we think about the chores we need to do, or while we write, we think about the art we should be doing, or while we teach, we think about the studio work piling up, then we are not fully in the moment.  At the beach, I was at the beach. I wasn't spending all my time sharing the beach on Facebook or Twitter. It was a nice realization that this computer time has a way of taking us out of what we are doing.  I want to be present, not thinking about sharing the present all the time.

One teaching in the book is about putting a horse on a horse; that riding a horse is hard enough, why would we ride a horse on a horse? Which to me means living life is hard enough, why would be try to observe and analyze it while we are doing it.   My over active mind tends to worry and wonder and speculate all the time on what I should be doing, rather than what I am doing.   or how I will share what I am doing on social media.

I am working on not doing this, on not riding a horse on a horse. On being fully present.

and a few journal pages from the beach:



and the beach colors, aqua water and turquoise sky have inspired this:


"To a mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders."  Zen Proverb