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."

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Hey World!

How's your day going?

Sunday, October 4, 2015


I am visiting family and friends back East, and have a few days in between places.  I noticed Elizabeth Gilbert's podcast 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


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


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

"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


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!"

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


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


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.
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


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?
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