Thursday, June 26, 2014

Have Journal, Will Travel

You might remember from this post that we took a Caribbean cruise from New Orleans in March.  I was so inspired on that trip that I tried to bring some of that inspiration to my art.  It's an ongoing process.

What I didn't mention was that I created a journal especially for that trip.  I got the idea from Mary Ann Moss over at Dispatch From LA.  I love her blog so much.  I love her style, and her art journal pages are gorgeous.  Anyway, she mentioned that she creates a journal for each trip she takes.  I also have a travel journal, but it's one with multiple trips in it.  I've love keeping it, but was intrigued by the idea of having a dedicated journal for our cruise.

Following Mary Ann's lead, while also staying true to my own style, I fashioned a new journal for our trip.  I included lots of pockets for adding postcards and other treasures found along the way in NOLA and our cruise ship ports.  In my everyday journals I add words and phrases that inspire me our make me laugh, so I created some of my favorite travel words and phrases such as: journey, get away, day trippin', room service, and lots more.  I typed them up on vintage ledger paper with my rickety old typewriter then cut them out.

I just finished adding all of my photos to my journal, and writing a little bit about each photo. I felt a bit behind in that task, but then realized when I was doing it that it was a really fun way to relive our trip.

In any event, the journal is finished now, and I know I'll visually enjoy our cruise over and over again.

We leave for Boston tonight, and I've decided to do a journal for that trip, too.  The multi-trip travel journal may be shelved for now in favor of the trip-specific travel journal.  How do you document your adventures?  I'd love to know.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Magpie Journals

I love a journal.  I always have documented my life in some way, in a diary, an art journal, a writing notebook, or a scrapbook.

Earlier this year, I experimented with some different formats for my daily journaling practice, and came up with what I call the Magpie Journal.  It's a journal with plenty of pages for writing in the morning, but also has different pockets and flaps to insert photos from my day, movie ticket stubs, postcards, or other shiny treasures I collect throughout my day.

I recently completed several.

As Oscar Wilde said, "I never travel without my diary.  One should always have something sensational to read on the train."

I love that.  And the Magpie Journals certainly would make awesome travel journals.

Each is a one-of-a-kind handcrafted original.

Inside there are 50 sheets of paper, including assorted vintage papers, ledger pages and manuscript papers, re-purposed security envelope pockets, assorted scrapbooking papers, a postcard, a collaged tag (handmade by yours truly), and lots of other doo-dads like tags, stickers, flashcards, labels, tickets, ribbons, flags, and more.

These journals are the perfect starting point: they're filled with inspiration to get you going, and have plenty of blank pages to do your own thing.  A fun and simple way to document your everyday life, or to create a keepsake for someone else.  Or, as previously mentioned, to use in Oscar Wilde fashion on the train.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Being Brave

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage.
Anais Nin

I find this so true, every day.  Mostly, I'm an optimist.  Upbeat.  Glass half full girl. Love to laugh and be with others that do, too.  At my best, I'm energetic, enthusiastic, and open to all the possibilities.  Except when I'm not.

Can you relate?

Cycles, cycles...cycles.  Peaks and valleys.  Ups and downs.  It's life right?

And I do try to embrace the cycles.  Certainly, the peaks are much easier to take than the valleys.  But mostly, I love my life and everything about it.  The peaks where new ideas come easily to me, when I'll try something I've never done before.  I have no fear.  No sense of, "Oh no, I can't do that! No way!"  Instead I say, "Yes, please, fill 'er up!" and "When do I start?"

Those are the days and weeks that my life is very big and very full.  My cup runneth over.  I actually catch myself grinning as I work along at something I love doing.  Those are good days, awesome days, my favorites.

But I'm like you.  I have those periods when I curl up into myself.  Close myself off.  Shut down.  Throw myself a big, old pity party with lots of chocolate.  And my world becomes very small.  Those peaks and valleys.  The valleys can be rough.  During those darker days, the world shrinks to my little cottage, hot tea and dark chocolate and lots of time-sucking activities.  Nothing much gets accomplished.  No energy.  No motivation.  No enthusiasm. No courage.   My life seems very small, and I again catch myself, this time frowning, wondering where that foxy mama is, the one who wears rose-colored glasses and pumps her fist in the air, shouting "why not?!"

 But, still, I suppose if it weren't for the valleys, those magnificent peaks wouldn't seem so wondrous.  And as the clouds begin to part, and the edge of my world begins to see a little sunshine, I realize that foxy lady and her big life have been here all along.  I just need to invite her in, ask her to sit with my more quiet, moody self.  I try to be gentle with myself.  To open my heart, so that my big life and everything that goes along with it, can tumble in.

And it always does.  As I begin to be brave again, my life expands to reach those glorious peaks.  Life is so, so good.

Does your life need some expansion?  Is your courage forsaking you, sweet soul?

I know.

I've been there, too.

And believe me when I tell you, this too shall pass.

What are your big dreams?

Write them down.

What are three baby steps you could take towards those big, brave dreams this week?

Good.  Go.  Be brave.

And take this as your mantra:

I am a brave, beautiful soul.  I am fulfilling my dreams and living the big, wonder-full life that is intended for me.  I love this life.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Bringing Vacation to my Art

I've been in the studio this week.  I started out just playing around, getting to know my paints and surfaces again, pondering how to create a distressed and well-worn aesthetic to my work.

When we were on vacation a few weeks ago, I was so inspired in New Orleans and Mexico and Roatan.  I've loved the colors in architecture of New Orleans.  The muted palette resonates with my love for vintage.  And the color combinations make my heart swoon.  When you get up close to many of the buildings in the French Quarter, you can really see the layers and layers of paint on them.  I love it so much.  It just feels like there is a lot of history, right there on the walls, shutters, and iron balustrades.

When we reached Cozumel, I found the same soft earth tones, sunny yellows, weathered terra cottas. And lots of layers.  Yum.  As we walked through the old central district sipping icy cold Sol cervezas from the bottle, I was itchy to recreate this palette in my art journal.

Roatan held the same inspiration for me, while also adding some brighter colors to complement the muted palette.  I took so many photos of buildings, streets, shutters, stairways, fences, doors.  I felt so full and so inspired while we were there.  I wanted to do whatever I could to capture that feeling and keep it with me for our return home.

Back in the studio, I began to add layers of paint in colors subdued from my usual palette.  I've tended towards bright colors in the past, which I love, but the muted shades from our time in the New Orleans and Central America were really calling to me.  So I ratcheted down the saturation of color.  I laid down a layer of paint, rubbed some off, laid down another layer, and kept going until I had layers, colors and textures that made me think "old" and "well-worn".

These are a few works in progress.

It's all a work in progress, as is life.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


I've been flitting around the house, the garden, the studio, everywhere lately.  Going 100 mph and getting nowhere.  That's the feeling anyway.  There have been fleeting moments of inspiration and bursts of creativity, action on the to do list, but nothing seems to really get done.

We went on vacation the last week of March.  You know how it is, those days leading up to vacation and all that goes along with them.  Packing, planning, dog to kennel, airport transportation, arrangements, where's my passport? Upon return home on April Fool's Day, I felt recharged, re-energized and ready to rock it.  And I did.  In fits and starts.

At the same time...I feel like I might be in the midst of a significant shift.  That this might just be the reason I can't settle in, move from activity to completion, get something done.

I have an inkling, a vision, albeit not completely clear, a titch fuzzy.  And so I've quieted down in hopes of hearing what is calling me.  It's tricky, because I feel restless, that I should be doing something.  But my heart is telling me to slow down, to sit still, to listen.  As I quiet my mind, as I dream in the pages of my journal, the vision becomes clearer, the inkling more of a call to action.   I'm releasing some stuff, literally and figuratively, making room for something else to come into my world.  Something that fits me better.  Something that will help me grow, as a person, as an artist, as a friend, as an inhabitant of this big blue ball we share.

As I write this, I can't help but wonder, do you really want to read about this, my idiosyncrasies, my loose footing, the flotsam and jetsam of my days, the crazy stuff that rolls around in my pea brain?  Well.  Maybe you do, maybe you don't.  Either way it's okay.  It feels important to get it down.  To let you know where I've been.  I hope you'll stick with me, meet me back in this space from time to time, check in to see where I'm headed.

Ode to Hope
by Pat Mora

Daily hope rises,
  a radiance streaming
into our white, sleepy

From a fiery sphere
  light, like love, journeys,
offers the grace we can hear.

Hope rose long ago
  for your great-grandmother
washing her morning dishes.

With her favorite towel,
  cotton, blue and faded,
she dries the cups and saucers.

She plans a special sugary bit
  to feed her family gathering,
like yours.

By a sunny window, eyes closed,
  she sits and places her hand
on your warm head.

She prays for you,
  a face she never knew
but vaguely imagines -
  all promise.

She counts her blessings,
  the expanding ring,
and smiles at the thought of you,
  here, glowing.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Peek Inside My Sketchbook

 My to do list is overwhelming these days.

And I just can't seem to get myself organized.

Or motivated.

 And I'm easily distracted by markers in bright pretty colors,

...and fresh white pages.

Or grocery bags sitting on the counter.

All the while, my to do list taunts me.

Monday, February 24, 2014


I've been dying to whip up a new art journal to play in.  I'd been using a spiral-bound journal that I made recently, but I found the 9x12 pages were too big and scary for the doodling I wanted to do.  I had a bit of vintage barkcloth begging to become the cover for my new journal, and I really wanted to make an art journal with watercolor paper pages.  So.  I did.  I learned the technique from my good friend Teesha, and have made several like this one.  I love them.  Really my favorite way to play.  I like that I can customize the page size to whatever I need for whatever I'm doing.  The spiral-bound journal will continue to be an awesome sketchbook.  I know, I really does sound like the same thing, doesn't it.  It's just not in my world.  :)  Anyway, this is the cover of my new art journal.  I love using odd bits and pieces and putting them all together.  This bit of lace was my grandmother's, and the tab that I embroidered "journal" on is a vintage doll quilt I purchased at an antique mall.  It's so fun to find new uses for old treasures!  Makes my heart happy.

In any event, I've been playing in my journal.  And it got me to thinking about where inspiration comes from, and I thought I'd share a few thoughts I had this morning about that.  Like many of you, I'm a visual person.  So, I love books.  I picked up this book and this one and a few others like it for sketching inspiration.  I find the images in these books are a great jumping off point when my pen won't get moving.  I love to pick out just one element from a design on the page, and see where it goes.

Where can you find inspiration?  Of course Pinterest is a great resource, but sometimes I like to get something physical in my hands, you know?  Art books are a huge inspiration for me.  I love looking at paintings by Matisse, with his brilliant use of color and wonky lines and shapes.  Chagall is another favorite artist of mine.  Just to pour over the pages of art books with the vivid colors and shapes and styles makes me want to sit down at my table and make something with my hands.

Another favorite source of inspiration for me is just to get out of the studio.  Several years ago I took a class on The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron.  If you've never worked through her book, I highly recommend it!  In fact, I may carve out some time to do it again in the next few months.  I loved it so much.  Two of her practices really resonated with me.  The "morning pages" and "artist dates".  I've got a running list of artist dates I want to take myself on, and when I'm struggling with inspiration, I will go down the list, pick one and take myself on a date. A few artist dates on my list include a trip to our Japanese Garden, a tour of my favorite thrift shops, taking my art journal and markers to my local coffee house for a change of scenery, and a visit to the farmers market in the summer.

I also find that one creative pursuit will inspire another.  I like to dabble in different things: I doodle, I stitch, I knit, I write.  For example, when I'm stitching a bit of embroidery on a purse it might spark an idea for a similar motif on a journal cover, or when I'm doodling in my journal it may lead to a bit of applique for a textile project.  Similarly, I find that putting fabrics together for a quilt will inspire a palette for a painting or page in my art journal.  Just like love, inspiration actually is all around us.