Art Journaling Workshop at The Wyly in Basalt, CO

As I have mentioned many times, The Wyly Community Art Center is so very close to my heart. It is where I took my first art journaling class over 15 years ago, which was a life-changing event for me. I was so honored to be invited back to teach my 2nd workshop there this summer. It is a 2 day intensive called "following a thread". We explore techniques and exercises that help get us connected to our unique creative voices. Teaching always transforms me, adn this weekend was no exception. Sharing my own creative process with students brings me closer to my truth and reunites me with myself in a fresh way every time. It is such an honor to witness people find their groove and come alive through their creative processes!

New Beginnings

a journal page about not playing small anymore.

new beginnings
new beginnings
No more holding back ~Be reckless
Tell Your Love To Everybody. ~ Rumi

Oh Rumi! This man’s words always speak to my soul, but somehow these really got me today. It is Christmas Eve, AND we are in the solstice new moon. For me it is a perfect time to ponder new beginnings…or shall I say new openings. I think that most people who don’t know me very well would think that I am living out loud and holding nothing back. Those that do know me well, however, know that I have a very annoying tendency to make myself small. I think I share this habit with many women. Tara Mohr  has devoted her life to supporting women in instead, PLAYING BIG (please go get her new book of the same title ASAP). In reading her book, and then having this quote hit me square in the face this morning, I am realizing how much I still hold myself back for the perceived comfort of others. “Why would you do that?” my friend incredulously asked me the other day. I actually couldn’t answer, and when I dug deep, all I came up with was this familiar feeling that I am “too much” and I should tone myself down so that others can feel more at ease around me. When I look at the people who surround me, whether in my life or online, however, I can see that this does not apply at all. I can see that this is an old story, that was never even MY story, but one sung to me by various adults in my life when I was a child. The truth is, that when I look at what I really want to create in my life, I want to be surrounded by people who are living large in their own lives and supporting me in doing the same. So here is to new beginnings, no more holding back and PLAYING BIG (and not apologizing for doing so)!

Following a Thread

Following a thread...This phrase has been my unofficial motto for a long time, especially for my art practice. This idea has inspired many a journal page and art piece. I evolve, my art evolves, but my path is always about the thread. It is a constant in my life and I relate to it as a lifeline of sorts. It has always been a guiding force, though at times, hanging onto it has been a sheer act of faith. I have found that if I trust it, however, the thread always leads me exactly where I need to go. So far it has been quite an adventure!

I have been following the thread  lately in a different direction with my with my lettering and my use of text in my creative process. I have always combined text and imagery, usually in such a way that the words are invisible glue that hold together the layers of a page. The words come in many shapes and styles, and are usually hidden or illegible, and create an abstract texture that mirrors the depths of my own many emotional layers. The most consistent way they appear is an abstract script that I spontaneously developed years ago.  Lately my script is taking on a new life. It has become more bold and angular, and a much more prominent part of my journal pages and pieces. I keep asking myself what this is all about, but then I remind myself that I don’t always have to know the why’s of everything (not my easiest lesson), and I just kept traveling into it. Most of the time it feels so alien to me that I don’t even recognize my own work, and others it feels like I am coming home. The more I surrender to it, the more it feels like home to me. I see this new place as a stepping-stone to deeper understanding. Every time my work takes a turn like this, something is usually about to be revealed to me. Today I was impatiently wondering what that could possibly be (and when the hell am I going to figure out the pieces for my upcoming show, and is this a part of it?), when a dear friend reminded me to focus on the journey and not the (anticipated) destination. Of course he is right, and it reeled me right back (albeit kicking and screaming) into this moment in my process, and the beautiful mystery that is unfolding. Here is to being present with what is here right now. What is here right now for me is layers of bright and crazy street art looking calligraphic mayhem.

The Way It Is

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among

things that change. But it doesn’t change.

People wonder about what you are pursuing.

You have to explain about the thread.

But it is hard for others to see.

While you hold it you can’t get lost.

Tragedies happen; people get hurt

or die; and you suffer and get old.

Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.

You don’t ever let go of the thread.

~ William Stafford ~

Embracing the Fallow Times

Some journal spreads I have been working on while visiting my family

I read a blog post recently written by my new inspiring friend Tara Leaver. It was a part of a blog hop for which I actually nominated her about the creative practice. Her answers all resonated with me deeply, but one in particular really got me thinking. It was about the ebb and flow of the creative practice. 

Reading her words kind of brought me to my knees. She reminded me of the importance of giving myself space to breathe and permission to embrace that ebb and flow. I have had the consistent experience of ebb and flow throughout my 20 years of making art, yet when the ebbs come, I undoubtedly feel like there is something “wrong” with me, and like I should “do something” about it. The way that Tara talks about it re-framed that for me and helped me to see those ebbing times as necessary and sacred periods of creative fertilization and rest.

I just recently came off of the longest ebb in the history of my artistic ebbs and flows. Rupturing my Achilles tendon and the ensuing recovery was the catalyst and the great gift of bringing me back to the flow. Before that, for months, I would walk by my art table and feel like I "should" be making art. That would then of course, start a barrage of self-critical thoughts about not being or doing enough. Then the cycles of guilt and shame would kick in. We all know how productive and motivational those thoughts are...ha! All joking aside, I wish that at that time (and so many others) I could have lovingly reminded myself that it was okay (and even productive) to be in a fallow period. If I could have seen then what was coming next, I would have bowed down and worshiped that ebb. Lesson learned....I hope! I am now profusely thanking that hiatus and embracing the fierce flow of creativity that is currently coursing through every facet of my life. I am also aware that it wont last forever and I am preparing myself to welcome the space of another ebb when it comes. I feel so grateful!

 

 

A little artists blog hop action to inspire.... and connect cool people!

A couple of days ago I was nominated by a new lovely friend, Maz Hawes (please check her out because she is AMAZING) to take part in an artist’s blog-hop.  I had NO idea about blog hopping, but now I do.....A blog hop is where one writes a post that is based on a few standard questions (in this case to share one’s own creative practice). It also is a way to introduce and learn about other artists and their blogs. I will be introducing the artist that nominated me as well as three other artists nominated by me (and those artists will in turn do the same). It is a great way to connect with other artists and to learn about their creative process. It excites me because one of my passions in life is bringing like-minded people together. This is the perfect way to do that across many miles and cyber space.

First of all, I love my new friend Maz, the minute I saw her work in an online art journaling group (A Stand for Art Journaling, created by the amazing Orly Avineri), I was captivated. TRULY captivated. I am so happy to be connected with her and to be able to be inspired by her creative bravery and authenticity through our (albeit virtual) connection. I hope to travel across the seas one day and meet in person!

I am nominating another brave artist from across the pond, Tara Leaver. I came across her work online, and find her entire vibe and philosophy quite entrancing (I'm not sure if that is even a word, but its perfect for how I felt when I saw Tara's work). She is also a crusader for the healing powers of art, and that just makes me downright happy. Please check out her work and read her lovely musings on her blog ASAP! There are two more amazing souls that I am nominating, but I haven't heard back from them yet.  As soon as I do they will be added here!


 

Here are the questions:

How does my creative process work?

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

What am I working on now?

Why do I do what I do?

 

How does my creative process work?

I have been keeping art journals for over 15 years. My creative process centers around that practice. My journals are like old friends.

True love....see what I mean??

For me, art journaling is a spontaneous and intuitive practice....a form of meditation. Sometimes I set intentions and treat the process very ritualistically and intentionally, and others I just grab a pen or brush and lay something down as I pass my art table. Either way, whatever needs to come out does, and it usually clears the space for even more creativity and healing. I will typically either start each page (or spread) with a written prayer or a stream of consciousness release. These words rarely end up being an obvious part of the page, but rather a layer. If they are visible, one can rarely glean their meaning. They can be secret messages or mindless ramblings, but they hold the page together with their layers, texture, and energetic offerings. I rarely make a page without words as an ingredient; mingling them with paint, texture and marks allows for what I feel is very potent expression. A very important part of my practice is to stay present and not judge what is coming out (a simple idea, but not easy AT all most of the time). There are days when I make “mud”, and days when what evolves ends up being beautiful and pleasing. Both are valuable, but to value one over the other is dangerous for me, because just as all of my emotions are essential, so is every facet of my creative expression.


How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My work differs from others' work because it is mine. I know that sounds trite, but it really is so true. Just as I remind my students all of the time, I must remind myself that I have a unique voice, and the more I can listen and pay attention to that, the more my individual style and offerings will emerge and grow. I am not saying that it is easy to be true to that, because I can certainly get caught up in comparison, or imposters’ syndrome or feelings of unworthiness. I am also not saying that I am not inspired or influenced by other artists work.  I bow down to other artists and revel in their talent all the time. It inspires me to no end, and I take it all in and let it percolate so that it can inform my own unique practice (on that note, if you haven't already, you must read Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon...BRILLIANT). My mentors and friends push me to be true to myself by watching them do the same. I am ever grateful for the existence of all of the warrior artists in my life. That being said, one thing that I feel may be different about my work from some other mixed media artists is that it is always centered around my emotional growth and the processing of my life experiences. I rarely come to the page with an intention or an idea of what I am going to make, but rather allow the universal creative life force move through me and take me exactly where I need to go in any given moment for the highest good. I find that the highest good usually translates into my own healing so that I can go forth from a grounded place and share that healing with others...which is really at the core of my life's mission.

 

 

What am I working on now?

 

I am working on a body of work that stems from my journaling practice, but will be displayed publicly and presented in a very different and more polished way than ever before. I have never consciously created a body of work for a gallery or any other purpose. It has always terrified me to show my art publicly because it is so intimate and personal. My work has always remained contained in the safe harbor of my trusty journals, and has only been shared with my family, students and friends. I was recently invited to do a show at my dear friend’s gallery, and instead of completely freaking out when she asked, I choked back the feeling that I would vomit and said “YES”! I am currently creating pieces for this show. They are mixed media pieces on paper that are mounted on wood. The theme is “following a thread”.  This is a little sneak peek at some trial pieces.....

I am also working on my new website which will include a blog (this one) about my creative practice, art journaling resources and classes and will also be home to my portrait photography business, Woods Photography. There is another rather huge and exciting community project underway which is still a secret....so stay tuned for that! :-)

Why do I do what I do?

As I say in my bio, art (my creative practice) came into my life both as a gift and salvation. Learning to tap into my innate creativity through art journaling has helped me to navigate some dark times. It continues to be a grounding force in my life’s journey. I create because it is as important to my well being as eating well, sleeping, exercise and prayer. I strongly believe that creating art heals me on a deep level, and I strive to honor that gift by sharing my understanding of creativity as a healing tool with my students and clients.

this was a  tough one...processing something very painful

 

Courage

I have grown into a place in my life where I mostly feel courageous and confident as I move through my relationships and the world. Every now and then, however, come those situations where it seems that all of that strength falls away and leaves me stripped naked and bewildered. It usually happens in the face of certain people (personalities). It could be a person I just met, or someone that has been in my life forever. It has to do with the part of me that shows up around those personalities. These relationships trigger some unhealed places and can cause me to feel paralyzed and very small at times. When faced with these instances, I can so quickly revert back to how I felt at a  young age (powerless), and even how I handled my feelings then (not very gracefully). It makes me feel so  flustered and discombobulated. I actually can lose myself and the sense of my own strength in an instant. It is so frustrating when it happens, because I feel that the confidence and personal power for which I have worked so hard all my life becomes just out of reach, and I am left feeling defeated and with a sense of shame because I have interacted with a person from a small place instead of a healthy strong one. It is a vicious cycle to be sure, and I still haven't fully unraveled it. All I can do at this point is forgive myself (not easy), acknowledge it and gently observe myself as I move through and try to heal these situations. This journal spread represents how I did that that today in the face of my feelings about a relationship that leaves me feeling powerless. It is about taking back the courage and confidence I know I have and not falling into the trance of an old trigger that no longer poses a real threat.

Processing Anger

I am just starting to document my journal process as I let my emotions out on the page. I am not totally sure how I feel about it yet, as it is still an experiment. I will say that it helps me to reflect on my  process in a different, more objective way. As I look back at the steps and various incarnations of a page, it helps me to remember the many layers that go into each one...a perfect reflection of the many layers of emotions that often accompany anything of significance in my life. This spread helped me to let out some anger that I was feeling this morning. Its not pretty, but it really released some things I needed to release so I could go on about my day. I am so grateful for this practice!


Morning Practice

This morning I was feeling completely off. I am sick, and have been cooped up in my house for days (on top of the months prior to this from my injury). My dogs are cooped up. We are driving each other insane over here. Before the insanity set in, I made a list in my writing journal of the practices I want to make sure I do every day (I was inspired to do this after listening to a great podcast  on the topic by Todd Henry of The Accidental Creative).  One of them is to do a morning art practice in my art journal The goal is to sit down to create for at least 30 minutes after I write my morning pages (thank you Julia Cameron), and before I look at the phone, computer or food. This sounded so great when I was writing it, but then within the 5 minutes between putting my writing down and wandering into the kitchen, I totally lost sight of it. I got swept up in being annoyed with the dogs, the heat, my sickness, I could go on and on. It was not a stellar moment for me. Then it caught my eye......my art table. It just sits there, patiently....quietly beckoning me. I heeded the invitation and sat down. And thank GOD! I feel so much better now.

I decided to chronicle the evolution of this spread. All of my frustration, anger, sadness and chaotic thinking went into these pages. Needless to say I felt clear and open when it was finished. I have no idea how many times this has happened to me, or how many more it will take for me to remember that doing this practice every day makes me feel centered and grounded and able to handle whatever comes my way. I will keep reminding myself, as I hope we all will. The creative practice is such a gift....if we let it be. Here is to letting it infuse our lives with its magic!!

Longing

Music and lyrics deeply move me. I routinely spend hours making playlists for every mood. I make them for myself, for the ones I love (a throwback from the 80's really. :-)). It truly is an important part of the creative process for me. I have to have the exact right music on when I paint or write. Today the mood is longing.....that deep tug. This is one of my favorite songs.....

"If I Had A Boat"  -James Vincent McMorrow

Golden, golden, golden river run
To the East then drop beneath the sun
And as the moon lies low and overhead
We're lost

Burn slow, burning up the back wall
Long roads, where the city meets the sky
Most days, most days stay the sole same
Please stay, for this fear it will not die

If I had a boat, I would sail to you
Hold you in my arms, ask you to be true
Once I had a dream, it died long before
Now I'm pointed north, hoping for the shore

Down low, down amongst the thorn rows
Weeds grow, through the lilies and the vine
Birds play, try to find their own way
Soft clay, on your feet and under mine

If I had a boat, I would sail to you
Hold you in my arms, ask you to be true
Once I had a dream, it died long before
Now I'm pointed north, hoping for the shore

Splitting at the seams
Heaving at the brace
Sheets all billowing
Breaking of the day
Sea is not my friend
And everyone conspires
Still I choose to swim
Slip beneath the tide

Once I had a dream
Once I had a hope
That was yesterday
Not so long ago
This is not the end
This is just the world
Such a foolish thing
Such an honest girl

If I had a boat, I would sail to you
Hold you in my arms, ask you to be true
Once I had a dream, it died long before
Now I'm pointed north, hoping for the shore

Opening

A lot of times I come to the blank page and have no idea where I am going, or even what I need to process. Sometimes it is a spread and sometimes the pages stand alone but live next to each other as is the case in this spread. As I worked on this one, I realized it was about opening to possibility....about allowing things to unfold instead of forcing the river.