Wow…what can I say that hasn’t been said. I always get jazzed when I teach and see what the students create. This online experience has magnified that feeling 1000%. For the first time I am seeing the value in learning in the comfort of your own home, getting to work at your own pace, in your own space. The way you can let the instruction settle in and have the time to really explore what is being taught is producing magnificent work. I never looked at it this way before. I have signed up for a couple online workshops myself but then I don’t allow myself to take the time to get involved. I let life clog up all my time and I lose out. So…thank you to everyone who DID get involved and made the most of it. You showed me something I didn’t realize before. You opened my eyes WIDE!
I just want to clarify and simplify my journaling process one last time for you. This is how I journal on any size, type, shaped or otherwise type of journal.
paint the background with acrylics and wipe it off while still wet.
Do the collage until the page feels full. Concentrate on borders and a central focal point of some kind.
Shade the collage to create depth in the background
Do doodling pen work (no lettering yet) until the page feels full again.
Do the lettering/writing in the spaces that are left.
when it’s done, go back in with more pen work. One can never have too much pen work.
I have shown you what works best for me, but find your own rythym. Be brave. Try stuff. Keep adding to it. There are no rules in art. Every piece of art has a beauty to it…an energy! But remember…it’s not as much about creating a pretty picture that makes people ooh and ah as it is the process that helps you grow as a human, work stuff out, see the bigger picture, be connected to the universe. It’s important to create. And a journal gives you a freedom you don’t have when you make stuff to sell or give away.
I posted this page because it really was the only thing I have done for the last 2 months. It’s not a mermaid, but it’s what came out. Perhaps it is foretelling of what the next class should be about.
It’s been awesome! Thanks to everyone and especially the beautiful Jane.
Thought I would upload my husband’s latest page (his blog iswww.sustainedconfusion.blogspot.com ) I saw him working on it the other day and kinda went nuts. Looks like all this circus mermaid stuff has been rubbing off on him.
I was reminded by one of our classmates about the importance of clearing chemicals from our lives. Namely certain art supplies, but it goes for everything; food that is not organic, cleaners that are laden with chemicals, furniture and car interiors that have been sprayed with formaldehyde, etc. When I teach in person, I give my little chemical speech, so you’re gonna get it again.
Has anyone noticed in the videos that my left index finger never touches anything and is always annoyingly in the way? Well, I am having severe neurological issues with it that sends me through the roof when it touches anything. It is both highly sensitive and kinda numb at the same time. It’s hard to explain. Doctors have given me all sorts of explanations but never a cure. But my acupuncturist says it is from chemicals. Every time I see her, she says I am still exposing myself to them. I assure her I am not…that I take every precaution but, when I go home, I usually remember using some new hairspray, or plopping my fingers in the paint again without thinking.
The way our body deals with these unwelcomed chemicals can be a myriad of ways from sinus problems to skin problems to more severe diseases like cancer. It is something to be aware of and be careful of. If I am going to stick my fingers in paint, I need to make sure it is non-toxic or wear gloves. Tiphoni (my graduate from RISD) is adamant about cadmium colors not ever touching her skin ever. These contain heavy metals that will stay in your blood stream for over 7 years. She says that the cadmium hues are basically fake cadmium and are ok…but I would still keep my fingers out of it. You can google this kind of stuff to learn more.
So please be aware. It is very serious. I make it a practice to do all my shopping at a natural foods store….especially for natural laundry soap and dish soap. Organic handmade soaps, shampoo, hair products, body lotions, face cream, etc. are all very important substances that go on your skin and right to your liver. Even perfume. My bi-weekly housecleaner only uses organic products so when I am walking across my floor in my bare feet, I am not getting more chemicals. It is impossible to live in this world chemical-free but we can greatly reduce our exposure and as artists, we absolutely need to be aware of the dangers lurking in some of our art supplies.
I saw a post on Facebook about organizing an art room…so without cleaning one tiny bit, I snatched up my camera and took a bunch of shots. I have various areas I create in. This first one is of my living room. My husband and I have two big desks behind the couch so whether we are sitting at our desks or on the couch, we can watch a movie. This is pretty much our computer desks, printers, scanners, etc. but we have done art here too. Since my living room is very long, behind the tv is my little art room in the house (my bigger one is in a separate building behind our house).
This is the view looking the other way. YOu can see we have cubicles behind us to store our stuff. It’s not very conducive for entertaining but we usually sit around the dining room table for that anyway. or outside.
Here is the little art room behind that tv. This is where I have 2 cheap ikea desks next to each other to create a big square. This is my favorite space to create because it sits directly beneath a skylight.
here is the wall I look at (this would be to the right of the picture above. I put prints and art that inspires me (not my own, because my own does not inspire me). I found those pink boards at Target on sale and they are great for tucking in different pictures.
a cart from ikea that rolls around.
These were purchased from target and I find them super helpful for storing stuff since you can see through them.
I love my labeler. Never thought I would, but I use it all the time.
I received this store display for pens, so I painted it and it holds my odds-n-ends pens. My friend Michelle Allen designed the cups at the top. They are awesome for holding more pens.
I’m showing this because I like to use whatever I can find around the house (and I like to rummage through our storage units) for more shelving. The thing on top was a shoe rack that didn’t need to be in my closet. I’d rather have my shoes all jumbled up rather than my art supplies!
This was an old (candle) chandelier that I use to hang my favorite little things on. It’s kinda a jumbled mess now. me keep moving it and it get tangled.
Tracy built this wood desk to fit over the bins below. It’s nothing fancy but it’s a workhorse. and because it is taller, it’s a great place to look through stuff.
ugh…it’s usually not this messy.
pens for my classes to use.
Tracy (my husband) made these tape holders. I can take them anywhere.
Another example of using stuff for storage. this is a coffee table with a shoe rack on top.
This is a great place to store one of my fave collections: my wrapping papers.
these were some stackable file holders that were no longer needed for the office so I use them for papers and stuff. They are better than a big huge stack of papers that isn’t divided.
Another section of those wire bins. I bought mine from ikea at about $25 per section (of 4 drawers). As you can see, they are stackable. By far, my favorite way to store stuff.
This is my tall desk (perfect for jobs where you’d rather stand). My husband found this filing cabinet at our old boeing surplus store (which is sadly gone now) and got it for like $200. He built the legs and base and used a piece of smooth plywood for the top.
just boxes turned on their side. I got panicky when I heard sharpie was going to stop making paint pens and decided to keep the rest of my inventory (I was selling them at the time).
two reading chairs (or watching tv chairs).
I LOVE the desk space for little ol me. Can really spread out and work on several things at once. But if it wasn’t for our classes, we probably wouldn’t have all these in the space. They are a mix of old dining room tables and conference room tables, etc.
I always have to set up my sewing machine somewhere because I hate dragging it out to use it. I LOVE my sewing machine. I bought it 30 years ago for $900. It’s just a basic pfaff but it can sew through anything, including leather.
making use of a desk and the window sill for my paints
I learned from Jane to use round stickers to mark the tops of the dabbers so you can see at a glance the colors.
my sushi angel I made a long time ago. must include some of your own art in your workspace!
this is a cool german drying rack that works awesome for all sorts of things. this is it all folded up (with a goofy gigantic pipe cleaner attached)
this is what it looks like opened up. great for wet papers, yarns, wrapping papers, etc.
My friend, Sarah Greener from spokane gave me this acrylic make-up holder that works awesome for pens, pencils and awls.
another example of incorporating odds and ends furniture for shelf space.
a bucketful of dolls from friends.
inside one of the baskets. YOu can buy these little plastic trays to hold small things. (from ikea)
this is a jewelry tray from marshall’s or ross…can’t remember. Anyway, it’s a great place to separate small things so you can see what you have.
inside one of the fabric doodad drawers.
you can look in and see all your fabrics at a glance.
This is in Tracy’s workspace. We took those cubicle ikea shelves and found a box that was a perfect fit and he stores all his stuff. we were always going to write numbers on each box and then have a list of what is in each box. never got around to it…but we kind know anyway. He has 11 of these lining his space 11X16 boxes = 176 boxes all full of stuff he doesn’t really need. (he’s the packrat…I’m the one who likes to get rid of stuff).
Using a garage sale shelf for his camera collection. which sits on top of another cabinet.
halogen lights are my all time favorite. you can get something llike this from ikea for about $50 or so (for all 5 lights).
I just picked this up from ikea. It’s awesome for lugging my pens to the beach or a park. Tracy straps it into our SUV so it doesn’t tip over and I wheel it to the picnic bench.
whew…one last shot of more lighting. hope this gives you some ideas for your own spaces.
Someone asked for my directions for making those big hardcover journals that I used to make (what you saw in the videos when I was going through my older journals). so I had to recreate my instructions because I couldn’t find my previous ones. if you click on the pages above, it should open in a new window in a larger format. This will also be available in the final week as a pdf. This wasn’t really intended to be part of the circus mermaid lessons because it is hard to teach (even in person), but there is enough here to aid you in creating your own if you are inclined. ooops…just realized I failed to list the size of the boards…you need 2 that are 8×10….my favorite size.
This is an abridged article I wrote for one of my magazines quite a few years ago.
Oprah once said. “Keeping a journal will absolutely change your life in ways that you’ve never imagined”. I concur.
Journal writing is an activity that has been going on for centuries. Folks recorded their feelings, conversations, their ideas, goals and dreams, and even their financial matters. Sea captains and war generals recorded everything, including their feelings about what they encountered. We see the creative process behind Leonardo Da Vinci’s brilliance because of his journals. So it’s nothing new. But in this world of computers, there is value in going back to putting pen to paper and slowing down a little bit.
A study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association said that “researchers have found direct physiological evidence that writing increased the level of disease-fighting lymphocytes circulating in the bloodstream.” and psychologists increasingly recommend journaling as a powerful tool in healing. Allowing our outer personas to spend quality time with our inner selves is not a luxury or self indulgence, but a necessary tool for a happy and fulfilling life.
Don’t worry about spelling, bad penmanship or bad grammar. It doesn’t matter here. Some days you will be introspective while other days you might be feeling silly. Some days you will be filled with ideas you want to record and some days you may only want to sum up the day or your feelings with one word. At the very least try to set aside time once a week to write in your journal. This may be a sunday afternoon or that wednesday night when the rest of the family is involved with other activities. Writing every day is preferred of course but usually doesn’t happen. Be realistic in your goals and you will gain more satisfaction from accomplishing them. I tend to enjoy writing in my journal much more at a coffeehouse, bookstore or library. Getting out of the house really helps me think about other stuff and clears the clutter from my mind.
There are numerous books on journal prompts out there but I am opposed to the concept of having specific questions to answer in a journal because it can hinder what needs to come out and get you side-tracked. Questions like “talk about your childhood” or “what do you need to let go of?” just makes me ill. I find answering them to be tedious. Just like in my artwork where I like to just get started by putting something…anything down and working from that, I do the same in my writing. I start off by writing the date and where I am at the moment and that usually moves to something else, and that moves to something else, and before I know it, I have filled a couple pages with insights and feelings and thoughts and ideas about something in particular that I didn’t even know was on my mind.
If you try this method and are still stopping dead in your tracks, carry a tiny thesaurus with you, open it up to a random page, close your eyes and point to a word. Use this word in your writing and see where it leads. This reminds me of when we go hiking and see all these mysterious and inviting trails that lead off. You want to go down them to see what is there…the mystery is EVERYTHING!!!!! Anyway, just opening the thesaurus that I have lying by my computer, I am seeing the words; joyful, joyless, judgement, juggle, juicy, jumble, jump, jumpy, junction, junior, junk, justice, justify…all of which would be great topics to discuss with yourself. I believe seemingly random acts such as these aren’t random at all and might be just the thing you need to think about.
Oprah waas right! It will change your life. It certainly did mine! If you don’t think you have the time, Make The Time! No more excuses. It has been a necessary tool through the ages and is even more valuable to us in this day when there are so many things that lead us away from our inner thoughts. You will be healthier for it.
My 6 things for a healthy and happy mind are: enough sleep, good food, a good walk, companions, a purposeful passion and keeping a journal.
Here are a few ideas to consider along with actual journal pages (with lots of words) that I thought I’d share. In the end, it’s about allowing stuff (words) to flow out just like in the art process and then stepping back to see what it’s telling you.
1. Write about the days events. I rarely do this (I consider it tedious), but my husband loves doing this in his journal. I may pick out one thing and start writing about it but this is just to get me going…it’s like starting to draw a line with a pencil. You hope it will go someplace interesting but you never know. It’s familiar and doesn’t require much brainpower.
2. Automatic writing. This is when you sit and just start writing whatever pops into your mind. But you must keep the pen flowing. This is something I do a lot. Just like how I let whatever wants to flow out in the art making process, I let whatever words want to flow out. Alot of what I write is pretty inane stuff at the beginning “Today is a tuesday and I am sitting in a park…”, but things start to sneak in that I wasn’t even aware that I was thinking about. As the writing keeps going it usually gets deeper and deeper and before I know it, stuff comes gurgling up that relates to the bigger picture. I really feel that this is a method for the universe to talk to me about stuff. Again…it is usually when I’m in the flow of writing, not caring what comes out but being open to whatever wants to come out that I figure stuff out or am reminded of things…important things. I get to the end and then read back through it all and together with the art that was created, it tells me stuff. This is when journaling gets super interesting for me. You might have to do this type of writing in a cheap spiral bound notebook at first until you gain more confidence in what may or may not come out.
3. Stories. Sometimes you can tell little stories making the art you just created more meaningful. In the same vein, I like to look through quote books for quotes that relate to the art somehow to give it deeper meaning. If you have a slant toward storytelling or writing, this might be the venue for you.
4. Quotes. I love quotes and I’m not sure why. Perhaps I feel that some things that were said by people bear repeating. I have gobs of quote books on my shelves. Many are marked up with highlighters so I can look through at a glance and see ones I especially like. I don’t really care for online quote sites. Although they can be helpful when searching for a quote about a particular topic you want.
“The creative imagination requires a certain abandon and disregard for results, which often paradoxically generates the most useful outcomes.” -author unknown
I originally wrote this article for my magazine, Art & Life (issue 1) in 2005.
How many times do we sit down at our art desk and mumble in our minds “I can’t think of anything to make or draw”? Compare this situation to a group of preschoolers who universally immerse themselves in the process without a moment’s thought. They aren’t thinking about it, they simply act with the materials on an intuitive level. They draw or paint the same things each time they are at their easels. Houses, people, dogs, trees. Each time they draw it, it improves and changes and evolves. It’s not that there is no intelligence there. It’s just that all the senses act with the brain in a balanced act, so they dig right into the paint before they even think about it. They are sensually involved with the way the paint feels when it is applied to paper and the color excites them without them being aware. As they grow older and their reasoning mind start developing more, it starts to dominate the other intelligences and creative play is arrested.
Imagination gathers together all of a person’s faculties into creative action. It is no wonder that when you try to mentally plan the picture, you are likely to get stuck. Children imagine and create naturally because they have not yet learned to be distracted by plans and expectations or what materials would be best for the project.
To regain that creative immersion, your imaginative expressions should start with repetition of a familiar theme. Beginning artists often set themselves the task of inventing something completely new in each piece of artwork. Even accomplished artists get down on themselves for using the same theme over and over again. However, the familiar image regenerates itself with each new creation. This recurring theme is your channel or river through which the creative stream flows constantly to new places. It is the place from where the imagination leaks out.
The assumption that creativity always involves the invention of something new may be one of the most prevailing obstacles to creative expression. We need to emphasize authentic and sincere expression rather than invention. If we liberate our personal and often idiosyncratic styles, we will create with individuality and vitality. The pressure to invent invariably generates superficial and overly conceptual ideas that just don’t have any life to them.
Try approaching creating with attitudes of repetition rather than invention. When we stop trying to make something new, we see how each expression invariably distinguishes itself from the ones before it. Look at these repetitions as your creative routines or your rituals of preparation. Approach them as ways of establishing your creative rhythm, and as a method for gathering inspiration and ideas.
Think about what your familiar themes are. For me, it has always been faces and figures from the time I was little. I would sit in my room and go through an entire sketchbook just drawing the same figure over and over again. Now that I am older it hasn’t changed much. While I struggle at times with feelings that I need to invent or move on to something new, I find that reverting back to my familiar modes opens up the creative flow in a heartbeat and releases all tension and stifling blockages.
Try making a painting, a drawing, an assemblage in response to an existing art object – either one you made or a piece created by another artist. Then make another in response to the one you just completed. Keep making artworks in response to the ones immediately preceding them. Watch how one grows from the other and generates a sequence of variations both subtle and overt. For those of you wanting to develop your own style, this is the key. Your own unique creative approaches will emerge.
Every subtle variation affects us and emanates into a new expression whose origins cannot easily be traced to a simple pattern of cause and effect. Each expression spawns another, and this is why artists naturally work in series. I have found that repetitive expressions tend to liberate me from the self-imposed pressure to be creative and innovative. As I stick to the task of repetition I discover how the creative process varies itself automatically. The creative process is a bottomless reservoir of expressions. As we try to do the same thing over and over again, we realize that exact replication is not the way of human expression.
The creative spirit demands persistence. To make art is a practice that lives each instant as fully as possible, let’s go, and moves on to the next project. When examining the lives of creative people there is always sustained desire and a vision into the future. The sense that every day is a new opportunity runs through the history of creative transformation. Daily practice and repetition is the key.
We need to give ourselves permission to do things we enjoy on a daily basis…like making art. We have within each of us the power to create with our own style. Remember that repetition is the easiest way to self expression and inventiveness. The process of creating is a force moving through us, and only through practice do we learn how to cooperate with it.
I just remembered that I give this talk usually to my students when I teach…It’s about copying. I WANT you to copy me. It is the fastest way to learn. I hear it all the time from students…”I want to learn from you but I don’t want to copy you”. I get it…you want to be original. We all do. You don’t want people to look at your work and know whose class you just took. But the first step most of the time is to imitate. We did it when we learned to talk, walk, ride a bike, etc. In renaissance times, the great painters copied other great paintings exactly so they could learn. Everyone does it. I copied ideas from Henrik Drescher ( children’s book illustrator) and other illustrators when I was just starting to find my style. I usually call it, “being inspired by” but let’s face it, I did have to copy his striped legs I saw in one of his books. It’s ALL OK!
This notion really hit home when I was a student in some workshops a few years ago. I’d go in and then want to do my own thing because it felt comfortable. I wanted to be in my comfort zone…especially in a class when so much was expected of me. Well-meaning students around me would say things like “I can’t wait to see what Teesha makes!” I would freeze and slightly panic. But by doing my own thing I didn’t learn anything. I asked myself why I even took the class. The teacher couldn’t really help me because I was doing my style, not her style which she knew so much better. Had I just done what she told me to do, I would have learned more and had that fabulous experience of getting inside of another artists head (which to me is the best part of taking a workshop).
So…for anyone who is still worrying a little about that, it’s time to let go and just roll with it. Do a journal or 2 and then keep making art. what you will find out is that all of what you have learned over the years will creep back in and mix with the new stuff you just learned and then your own style will start to emerge. I used to say all the time that my brain is a big meat grinder…stuff goes in that is specific to me like books, art shows, classes I take, stuff I see. It all is just ground up together and comes squirting out as my sausage …oops I mean style. (I think Carla Sonheim quoted me on that in one of her books) ;) That is why, even though there have been many imitators over the years, people still know my work when they see it. It will always be that way.
I wrote an article on repetition in one of my magazines. I’ll see if I can find it. It’s along these lines as well. That said…I know there are those of you out there who have a style and sometimes just need the motivation of a class to get your engines revved up again to do your own thing. That is ok too. IT’S ALL GOOD!!! We need (me included most of all) to quit beating ourselves up by all the should’s and shouldn’ts and the self imposed rules and restrictions we put on ourselves. copy away!