Friday, January 22, 2016

Random scrap paper collages

In this previous post, I explained how I like to create a Midori journal insert made of random scrap papers, trimmed and sewn into signatures with no organizing plan. When the pages are opened, the random combinations really do inspire interesting collages.

After inserting the booklet into my journal cover, I will add this and that (images, ephemera, stickers...) for a few days, until a page spread seems full enough of images and words. I try to leave some blank spaces for journaling later. To take this book of partially complete collages to a coffee shop or on a hike gives me a kickstart in creativity when I sit down to write.

I don't worry if the words I write complement the collage, although they often do.
I also open the book to any page to begin work, no need to follow the sequence of pages as they appear in the book. (A date stamp helps keep track.)

Most of these images were cut or torn from a National Geographic I happened to have on my desk at the time. Another trick I use is to NOT plan the collages, I simply take the pictures my eye is attracted to. When the left brain/control center/rational thought process is removed, I seem to connect more with the right brain/intuitive/creative/emotional side. The work ends up feeling more relevant and real than if I had controlled the process.

and here, some of the collages before I add more words:









"Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of 
arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid 
in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, 
and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!"

--Hunter S. Thompson

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Mixed media owls with Tibetan thanka background


“Quand le hibou chante,
la nuit est silence.”

(When the owl is singing,
the night is silence.)

--Charles de Leusse

Monday, January 4, 2016

Journaling in a Midori

Japanese Midoris are a system for journaling which are well-made, compact and flexible, not to mention portable.  They have totally changed the way I journal . . .  I am now using them as my art journal, calendar, note keeper, to do list, etc.   My habit of only journaling in hand-made books worked for me for quite a few years, but I find now I need more flexibility and the Midori journal really achieves that. It's smaller, refillable, and a pleasure to hold.

The system is basically a heavy leather cover with elastics that can hold in any number of inserts which you can buy or make yourself.  I like to combine a few plain-page purchased inserts with some scrap/junk paper inserts that I make myself.  I also like to add pockets and clips to hold paper supplies and ephemera, so all I have to do is grab some pens, double-sided tape, and perhaps some inks and stamps, and I am ready to take the show on the road.  It's so nice to have a separate section for lists, reminders, and day-to-day tasks, and another section for calendar items, and a third for pure art journaling.

Here is my cover, and a few of the inserts I have already filled up.

To start making a junk-paper insert, I like to gather pages from the pile of large books from the thrift store.  I use a tear bar to tear out the pages, and pile them up in random order.




I cut the papers into 8 1/4" x 8 3/4" sheets using my amazing paper cutter, and I then fold them in half.
The extra scraps of paper left over make nice small pieces that fit nicely into the little pocketed folder I made in my Midori, useful for collage.
I assemble the folded sheets into signatures.  (It's nice to also include some blank papers so the pages are not all covered in images.)  A signature is just a stack of folder papers.

Once assembled, I trim the signatures' edge so they fit neatly into the Midori cover.


I use my sewing machine to sew the signatures (you can use a large straight stitch, or of course, sew them by hand if you prefer.)  I tie the thread ends to hold them together.


It's fun to see the random arrangement of papers; it kickstarts my creative brain to have some image or color to work with, so the collage doesn't start with a totally intimidating blank page.

I insert the signature booklet into the elastic band. I like to insert one junk page signature, along with two blank page booklets.  Since they stack, you end up with alternating sections of blank and picture-filled sections.

A page ready to collage!

Assembling my journaling materials and I'm off. It helps to use binder clips to hold the book flat.
Some ephemera, stamps, glue, pens, ink, and a page is done.


“A good journal entry - like a good song, or sketch, or photograph - ought to break up the habitual and life away the film that forms over the eye, the finger, the tongue, the heart. A good journal entry ought to be a love letter to the world.”
― Anthony Doerr




and more Midori ideas can be found at my Pinterest Midori Board

Sunday, January 3, 2016

A Journal Letter

I recently organized my studio, and now my bookshelf full of journals . . . 

 . . . is right by my desk where I can see it.  Whenever I am stuck or bored or need a break, I can scoot over and choose a book to page through, and this morning, I happened upon a journal letter from 2008 that I made with a journaling friend, Laurel, then from Pacific Grove, California. I even got to fly out at one point and meet Laurel in person, which was a real treat. Laurel is a gifted artist, and her generosity in sharing her art was so cool and inspiring.

It was so fun knowing the pages I made would be enjoyed by another human holding the book in her hands, and not just shared on line.  and if I was stuck, knowing a person was awaiting my work also was a little kick in the pants to boost my creativity out of it's stupor. Connecting with another artist through mail and collage and art journaling is really a great way to start the year, if you are wanting to up your journaling commitment in 2016.

So here is the cover, and a some of the pages from our shared journal letter:










Thursday, October 22, 2015

Beauty in our lives

If you look for beauty around you, you will find it.

"Something opens our wings. Something makes boredom and hurt disappear.
Someone fills the cup in front of us: We taste only sacredness."
--Rumi

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Hey World!

How's your day going?

Sunday, October 4, 2015

BIG MAGIC

I am visiting family and friends back East, and have a few days in between places.  I noticed Elizabeth Gilbert's podcast http://www.elizabethgilbert.com/magic-lessons/ and started listening last night.  She sought out people who were creatively blocked, called and chatted about their issues, then helped them as well as sharing their story with one of her creative friends for ideas.  I ended up binge listening into the night, then raced out this morning as soon as the bookstore opened to get the companion book, "Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear."

Companion book isn't really the right label, try CREATIVE BIBLE!

I want to write Ms. Gilbert a letter telling her this will be the most meaningful book in my life, that I will keep it right next to my paints and pens and journals, and it will end up paint splattered, dog-eared, underlined and quoted.

I actually believe this book will advance humanity in our quest to be creative people, because she gives permission.

She gives permission to follow your creative expression simply because that's what humans do.  The sad truth is that the world tells us we are simply to lay bricks. NO, we are to create new ways of buildling.

One of the very many revelatory parts of this book is the explaination that we are to be lovers with our inspiration, we are to court it and seduce it and make it our priority.   You know how you always make time for that special fling -- even just 15 minutes of stolen connection?  We need to be that in love with inspiration, that connected to the whispering voice of creativity that can be so very allusive.  Creative ideas are floating around out there, and they will settle upon the one who is ready and listening, the one that entices the muse into being by being available and ready to listen.

I actually have been feeling very guilty about making my art, who am I to do this indulgent thing, my fears say to me.  You aren't making money, you aren't being noticed, you aren't getting comments or praise or acclaim or certainly not paychecks.  But in this beautiful book, Liz explains that if we are doing work for anyone other than ourselves, we may as well pack it up.  Success, if defined by money, will sabatoge us faster than we can cash the checks.  Also, that the creative urge is our right, our instinct, our connection to what makes us alive.  How can we shut that off?

Fear tells us we are not enough, that trying this crazy thing will result in horrible failure.  Her answer?  Accept fear's worry for our safety, and say no thanks, I will be okay, I will embrace inspiration and creativity and my own best authentic self and spend my life force there, thank you very much.

I have had a love affair with creativity for a long time, and this book made me realize I actually have felt guilty about it!  I felt I was supposed to be monetizing my work, getting acclaim or praise or attention or at least some cash, or it all meant nothing.

Silly, silly me.
I didn't realize how deeply that incorrect message was imbued in my self worth.
(and she also points out that every single cultural message to women is that we are not, and never will be enough.  Unless maybe we buy this product.)

Run, do not walk to the nearest bookstore, and get this book.
or download it from Amazon and read it now.
Listen to her podcast (linked above) and hear the creative coaching and tender compassion she sends out to the struggling writers, artist, photographer and song writer she has chosen to share.   Their stories and her response (and the response of her awesome, talented friends) will move you.
They will move you back to your eisel, your note pad, your guitar, your camera, your garden.

We deserve to, yes, we must, inhabit our creative selves, or this energy festers and, as very much experienced by me, turns into depression.

I had a bunch of cute journal illustrations for this entry, but my ipad doesn't want to share them, so, in the spirit of better done than perfect, (which she talks about in the book) I will hit publish.

No go get that book!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Wanderlust. . . .

"The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes."
--Marcel Proust

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Painting Time Out

I'm dog/studio sitting for a friend for a week on Sante Fe Arts District here in Denver.
What a treat; a big empty studio space, me and paints and books, with a loving little friend to throw a ball for and walk with a few times a day.

Makes me wonder why I can't get this much done at home -- why I don't buckle down in my studio and work consistently.  It seems like the distractions (dishes, laundry, garden) aren't really the culprit. It's more that there is more room for self doubt when I am in my routine; that the usual and the mundane actually make me think I can't make good art.  The old me is the me that wins that mind game. I love keeping the house, watering the garden, walking my dog.  But the familiar routine snaps me to the self that doubts myself as a creative person, the self I am working to grow out of.

It doesn't happen as much here in this new space.  New space = new thoughts.
I need to start training my brain to remember this positive outlook, and believe in myself.   I am going to work on keeping these patterns when I am back home.

Another treat about being here is reading time. I am in the middle of an awesome book called Wild Earth, Wild Soul by Bill Pfeiffer -- it's about setting up workshops and communities based on living in reconnection to Earth in community. It is inspiring me to join in a little more. Gathered together, we can make a difference.  The media world wants us alone and separate in out little cubicles so we think consumption give us fulfillment.  We know it doesn't, and I know joining in would help me also to remember that more.

I am going to try to remember that a week away alone can reawaken the essential self -- we all deserve time to remember.

and some doodles in my journal so far:




"I told my students that to become intimate with the outer landscape it is important to become intimate with the inner landscape.  The two are not separate.  The inner landscape is as vast, deep, and wild as the outer landscape."

--Paul Rezendes

Thursday, August 27, 2015

tournesol

Hello!
It's been a long time.
Summer means gardening, and that's where I've been a lot this season.
I have found the therapeutic value of getting up from my desk/easel/computer and heading outside to dig in the dirt.
and the rewards of all the planting are blessing me right now.
I have glorious sunflowers (that my daughter, Ola planted) reaching their pretty faces up toward the light.  They are one of my favorite things in the yard.
In French they are called 'tournesol" which means "turn toward the sun."

I was stewing over a particular problem.
My mind was chewing on it over and over, thinking of the negative side of this situation, not knowing where the solution would be.

So I have learned in these cases that going off to my journal to work - something I have not done in quite a while, is a good way to redirect nagging thoughts.  I had some photos of my glorious sunflowers, so I cut out one, tore out the other.  ('cuz cutting can be pretty tedious.)
Gluing them down, then adding some dressmaking pattern paper, some washi tape, some ink, some words . . .

Suddenly, it made sense.
The flowers turn toward the light.
They don't worry about the shadow side.

Perhaps my own mind could try this same thing with my problem, turn toward the light.
Yes, the difficulty is still there, but the higher choice in my mind is to choose the brighter outlook.
Seems like such a small thing to realize, yet it took my picking up my journal, doing some collage, some ink and glue and just messing around with something that delighted me to remind myself to turn toward the light.

This is why I journal.



















"Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you."
--Maori Proverb

Monday, July 20, 2015

Stuck?

Find some scrap paper.
Cut shapes.
Tear some paper.
Arrange.
Glue and sew.
Done.


"Creativity is conceived as a reproductive act with a tangible result -- a
child, a book, a monument -- that has a physical life going beyond the life
of its producer. Creativity, however, can be intangible in the form of a
good life, or a beautiful act, or in other virtues of the soul such as
freedom and openness, style and tact, humor, kindness."
- James Hillman

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Inspiration

It's the color time of year in the garden.

I am working on some patterns for my licensing work, and I couldn't resist going outside to shoot some of the flowers, and choosing colors from the fabulous display Nature creates. After sitting at my desk and feeling so dazed with looking at a screen, it's like a little vacation to just go and be with the flowers.
and necessary for my mental health.

Thank you Mother Earth -- for beauty so simple and so abundant as flowers.


I ask Spirit "what am I to do?"

"Be in love with yourself.
Be in love with the Universe," is the answer.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Thursday, June 25, 2015

How we "spend" our time.

Isn't it funny that we say "spend time"?
I am trying to focus more on that idea, that time is a precious commodity, and if I squander it, there I go.
It is lost forever . . .
Nothing accomplished.

But I am not thinking of this in the way society often assumes - that work, work, work, achieve, achieve, achieve is the goal; that production and end result are the whole point.
Because they're not.

Learning to BE, learning to just settle into my body, feeling the earth around me, sending out feelings and intentions of love and connection -- THIS is a much better use of my limited time.

I'd so much rather spend my time as investment into the whole of life.
I'd rather spend my time sending out something as invaluable as loving energy - because this investment grows and comes back tenfold.

I do get frantic sometimes with to-do lists, chores, achieving stability in bank account, bills payed, clean house.  But more and more I am letting go of these needs.  I do try to meet the basic requirements to have a responsible life, but after that?
Spending time with my children (grown-ups now), walking with my dog, taking the time to greet a neighbor, asking a clerk how their day is going, and waiting for an extended answer, or just smiling and being.

Last night we were wandering around in Boulder at the Kale Festival (gotta love Boulder) and we stopped to watch the Kayakers on Boulder Creek.  One caught my eye and sent me a big smile.  He was concentrating on the white water, I am sure, but he took the time out to thank me for my audience with his expression.  This very small act made me feel so good, connected to this athlete for a nano-second, he knew I was appreciating his work, I knew he knew.  It was a nice bit of human interaction.
and if I had just walked across the bridge and not taken the time to notice, it wouldn't have happened.

I am working on being in the moment, and feeling the connection of all things.  What better way is there to spend your time?


"Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
― Mary Oliver

Thursday, June 18, 2015

the gift of creativity

Photoshop is such a great tool for mixed media collage.

I love to just mess around in my journal, mixing papers and sewing and paint (that's what I did in this background), then scan and print it. I then can add other layers of image in lots of different media. This is a block print repeated, and a watercolor. Printing the final image up, and pasting in my journal gets my creative mojo flowing. It kickstarts my brain when the blank page says "what are you doing?!"

Another block to creativity is the sense that it's a waste of time. I constantly fight the cultural message that if I'm not producing (especially making money) I am not doing anything worthwhile.
Adding beauty to the world has to be the most worthwhile way to spend time.
and adding happiness to yourself, and thus spreading the joy in waves through everyone you come into contact with is another very worthwhile way to spend time.
Being creative is a gift to the Universe.
Belief in your own creative work is also a gift to yourself.

I vow this week to remember this as I invest time in my journal.


























“What art does is to coax us away from the mechanical and towards the miraculous.”
--Jeanette Winterson

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