Juggling all the Balls

This week’s Colour Me Positive theme was about Balance.  Balance was my focal word and life goal in 2015 so it was interesting to revisit the topic.  As I have mentioned before, I came to realise that I had allowed my life to become unbalanced, permitted myself to become frazzled, come to think of myself as constantly failing to meet muster, because I was attempting to juggle far too many balls.  By focusing on restoring a better balance into my life in 2015, I determined that I did not have to juggle all of the balls all of the time, did not have to keep them all in perpetual motion.  There are glass balls that are fragile and vulnerable and which I absolutely cannot allow to drop – nurturing my kids, for instance – and there are rubber balls that really don’t matter that much in the whole big scheme of things – dusting always comes to mind – and which I can allow to drop because they just bounce and come back anyway.

This little ink illustration, therefore, is a visual representation of that metaphor that I refer back to from time to time to keep me from getting overly frazzled again.  It is essentially little blobby me trying to balance a whole little universe of spheres but knowing it is OK if a few of them stop spinning and fall to the ground.

19 - Balance - Art Journal Page

Centering the Extremes

This year’s final Documented Life Project theme is “storytelling with the written word” and this week’s challenge was to use words front and centre.  As you will  have observed, I am not someone who tends to write much in my art journal.  I much prefer all of the visual elements to the written word when it comes to my creative experiments and I also shy away from recording anything too personal in my art journal too so I don’t use it as a visual diary.  Therefore, when I do use words, they tend to be very brief or else be the words of someone else.

I decided to focus on the word “centre” in the challenge prompt.  A quick google turned up a quotation attributed to Karl Wilhelm Friederich Schlegel, the German philosopher and poet.  That quotation spoke to me amid all the other quotations that google had turned up because it seemed to connect to my word of the year, which was “Balance”.  I have worked really hard to restore some balance back into my life this year, making some time for myself, recharging my own batteries so that I can keep on investing in my family to the best of my ability.  It’s not a perfect yin-yang balance, of course, because that would be both impossible and unreasonable but I am definitely starting to feel more level, more centred.  Centre.  Ta da.

I kept the page pretty simple as I was working on it in very short bursts throughout a busy day.  The background is lots of liquidy watercolour.  Playing on the idea of extremes and balance, I used cold colours at the top of the page and warm colours at the bottom so that they merged in the middle – or the centre as it were.  I then sprinkled salt onto the page, more so on the left than on the right, just to create some visual interest and a subtle difference between the two sides of the page.  I have used salt before with watercolour but have never had it stick fast to the page but it did so this time.  Maybe it was because I was using watercolour paper before whereas my art journal is mixed media paper and is much less toothy.  Maybe the pigment was just far too liquidy for this technique and I should have let the puddles dry a bit first.  Whatever the reason, I am glad I have these oops learning opportunities in my art journal as that is the place for such experiments.  I then wrote the quotation across the page using a black gel pen.  The font is one I found on Pinterest which I thought would be fun to try out as the curls and tendrils of it appealed.

Week 49 - Words - Centre

So another year of DLP prompts is almost over.  I won’t be continuing with it in 2016 as the organisers are taking the challenges in the direction of planners rather than art journals and that’s not my bag.  I will continue to work in my art journal, however.  I find I enjoy the quick bursts of art I can achieve in my journal as well as the experiments and development of ideas.  As the year draws to a close, I will also need to revisit my goals for 2015 and see which ones I achieved and which I need to roll forward into 2016 in my continuing quest for balance.

Autumn Fairy – An Intuitive Painting

Week 47 of Life Book was all about the importance of creative play and was led by Chris Zydel.  The lesson was not a tutorial but rather an encouraging talk and, therefore, the outcome was totally free-form.  Frequent readers of my blog will know that I struggle with intuitive painting as I work better when I have a vision, something to work towards.  However, over the course of Life Book so far, I have learned the importance of getting out of my head a bit and just messing around with the materials and seeing what happens.  I am not there yet but I am on the path towards finding the right balance between intuitive and intentional that works for me.

I started by just laying down some colour in different layers.  I use my kitchen table as my art space and that corner of the kitchen has a dual aspect window.  Looking out on the Autumn leaves tumbling from the trees, I found myself reaching for the Autumnal colours of yellow, orange, red and brown.  I scraped paint with an old hotel card, dribbled paint, stencilled and finger painted.  After a while, I began to see a shape form in one area that could be a simplified torso shape.  That triggered the idea for a figure of some sort to be the focal point in my painting.  I decided to add some gold paint in a circle.  I didn’t like how central the circle was, however, so I pulled it into a tilting oval.  That was what gave me an epiphany: the gold oval could be the wing of an Autumn Fairy.

So playing around and being intuitive got me to that juncture and then I worked more intentionally.  I sharpened up the shapes that were the scaffolding of my idea and began the process of painting a figure.  I kept my painting more illustrative and childish, like a picture book illustration, as befitted the subject matter.  I used Neocolor II, Inktense pencils and Posca paint pens to refine everything and add the details.  For all that my stencilling is still spectacularly terrible, I am quite pleased with how this piece turned out and feel like I am a step closer to striking that balance between intuitive and intentional.  My chosen word, right at the beginning of Life Book, was “balance”.  I am pleased I am finding it in different areas of my life.

Week 47 - Autumn Fairy

Goals for 2015

This year, as well as continuing with the Documented Life Project (DLP) in its new format, I am embarking on Life Book 2015.  That will be my first ever online art course and actually only my second ever online course – the first being about writing my family history – and it is quite a commitment since it runs all year.  I am looking forward to honing my skills with mixed media techniques, learning new approaches, trying new materials and media and just trying new creative things.

For both the DLP and LB, the initial pieces for the year focused on goals, ambitions and intentions for 2015.  I have never been one to set New Year resolutions but I do set myself goals, things to strive for in the year ahead.  I set myself 9 goals last year and actually managed to achieve most of them.  Writing up my family history was, with hindsight, far too ambitious.  I did, however, write up the history of one of my genealogical lines.  My other family history goal – to reorganise my family history photos into a bigger album – was also ridiculous given that my photo albums were in storage boxes until a couple of months ago.  However, all things considered, I did pretty well with my goals for 2014.  Hopefully I will achieve similar success with my 2015 goals.

There were two DLP prompts for the first week.  The prompt was to “be your own goal keeper” and the challenge was “book paper”.  I considered combining the two but I had actually created a background a few weeks ago when I was at my Art Journal MeetUp group and I thought it would work well for recording my goals for 2015.  I wrote the individual goals inside the geometric shapes but I also decided to set myself a word for the year and incorporated that in the central circle.  My word for the year is “balance”.  After two years of relocation, change, transition and adaptation, I am ready to try and reestablish some balance back into my life and in every area of my life.  Hopefully the goals I have set will help me achieve and restore that balance.

Week 1 - Goals

Despite my best intentions and my anal retentiveness regarding punctuality, despite my decision to strive for balance this year, I have started the year already trying to play catch up with my creative commitments, including DLP and Life Book (LB).  I decided, therefore, to do a very quick page with the book paper prompt.  Someone happened to inform me that 2015 is the year of the sheep.  That was all the inspiration I needed.  I cut a fat, puffy, cloud shape from a dictionary page – choosing the page that had the word “sheep” on it which I then cut out and added to the page.  A quick scribble with black and white gel pens later and that shape had become a silly sheep.  I used stamps to write the word “balance”, which was an ironic reminder of my key word given I was hastily putting together my page while simultaneously making dinner and doing laundry.

Week 1 - Book Paper

The warm-up exercise for my first ever LB lesson was – by coincidence – also about setting a key word for the year.  The lesson was about teaching a layering technique in mixed media.  I chose to work in purples, blues and magenta which in retrospect might have been a mistake because, once I had applied the gesso layer which knocked back the colours, I didn’t particularly like the pastel shades that emerged.  They reminded me of hydrangeas which I have never been a fan of because I associate them with decay for some reason.  I enjoyed the layering technique, however, and can see it is an approach I will take again but this time using bolder colours for the first pass and then bringing them back stronger in the layer on top of the gesso.  See!  I learned something already.  The envelope on the front contains my goals for the year, closed up with washi tape, and I stamped on some butterflies for visual interest.  I then used stamps and sharpie to write the key phrase: find balance.

Week 1 - Warm Up - Word for Year

Now I don’t even know if I will recognise balance if I find it.  I don’t actually know if I can thrive and flourish in a balanced state.  My husband thinks I function best when I have a bit of a palaver going on.  I think he is probably right.  Still worth striving for though and certainly I could benefit from being more balanced, calm and settled than I have been these past two years.  Let’s see if it comes to pass.