Sunday, September 30, 2012

108/365: The Art of Getting Lost

experiments with acrylic paint application: brayer roller,
hardware store bristle brush, foam brush, palette knife
Today I made:

peace with the lost feeling...

"To be creative is to become more familiar with the sense of being a little LOST. If we are always full of what we want to do, there is no room for the new."
                                  ~Michell Cassou

This quote found me tonight, probably because I so badly needed it. I had some uninterrupted time in my art space and I was determined to make progress on my calendar pages. No such luck. Sometimes I find my way early on in a piece of art. Other times (today!) I move paint around for ages and nothing comes of it. I have to remind myself that moving paint around is proving to be very therapeutic during stressful times and, if anything, I create a background for layering mixed media. But it's still frustrating. I just have to let go of the idea that I will produce a brilliant piece of art in each session. That's not how it works. Darn!

I have days in my art space when I am full of what I want to do. My muse is cooperating and things are flowing smoothly. These moments are amazing and often keep me afloat for a while. But the days of feeling lost and uninspired are inevitable. It's an ebb and flow. As a blossoming artist, I'm struggling to learn not to let those "lost" days squash my excitement for art making. I'm beginning to accept them as part of the process.

Being lost is necessary at times. It forces us to push ourselves to try new things and to seek out new inspirations. Creativity is innovation. In order to innovate, we sometimes need to step off the obvious path and lose ourselves to wild winding roads of possibility. Being lost motivates us to find a way through! It is this way in life as well. We sometimes have to lose our way (in a relationship, on our career path, in our beliefs) to spark a need to reflect, reassess, ask questions, revise our methods, make changes and GROW.

I am becoming a firm believer that one of the best ways to find yourself is to get lost. Honor your wrong turns in art and in life. They will lead you to new discoveries.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

107/365: This Day

Today I made:

a five senses poem...

This day was
the sun on our knees
and the grass on our backs,
salty air,
mahi tacos,
squeaky bicycle seats,
and the long shadows 
of a late September afternoon.

Thanks to my girls for reminding me that it's o.k. to put things down for a while.

Friday, September 28, 2012

106/365: Remembrance

Today I made:

a remembrance...

Be the kind of woman 
that when your feet 
hit the floor each morning 
the devil says, 
"Oh crap, she's up!"


She was that kind of woman.
Rest with the angels, Grandma Bowman.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

105/365: Keep Calm & Make Stuff

Today I made:
a tiny dent in my to-do list...

note to self...
I made this sign to hang in my art space a while back, but it's taking on new meaning for me today. It's my version of the "Keep Calm and Carry On" signs that are getting reworded to fit every interest under the sun. I've seen ones that say, "Get Excited and Make Stuff," which I love, but this version fits for me, especially lately.

I feel like I'm rambling on about to-do lists so much these days. It's just that I'm ever so determined to make my schedule work for me, so I'm a bit consumed by time and task management. I'm hoping to find a way to balance substitute teaching, tutoring, art making and my daily creative, business growing, maintaining healthy relationships and taking time to keep myself healthy. I'm just going to keep at it until my values guide me in a different (or more focused) direction, but it's going to take a lot of self-discipline and breaking of some bad habits.

I am an expert list maker. I am also notorious for getting burned out right after making my to-do list. Rather than prioritizing, I practice procrastinating. My lack of productivity makes me feel guilty and that just stresses me out even more. The stress causes mind clutter, which is so not conducive to creativity! It is a vicious cycle I've been battling with most of my adult life. I obviously need some coaching in this area and am seeking out the resources, but today, my little sign made me realize something useful. At the very moment I begin freaking out and getting overwhelmed about my unmanageable, self-imposed grand master list of to-dos, I should just pick one thing I can do that very moment and do it!

"Keep calm and make stuff" doesn't have to just mean crafty stuff, it can mean making things happen,  taking small action steps towards our goals, making dents in our to-do lists, tackling one small part of a big project. I just need to keep calm in the moment and continue to participate in creating my happiness instead of opting to do nothing when I get overwhelmed. The hope is that one thing on the list leads to another and maybe I get a few things done that day. This will feel so great that I'll be motivated to keep on keepin' on...without the unnecessary stress.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

104/365: What Makes Us Tick

Today I made:

a timely reminder, complete

-complete with my trademark misspelling, that is. ;)
I began this project back in June, when I had a lot more time on my hands. Now my schedule is packed. I see how imperative it is that I do a full audit of how I spend my time and where I invest my energy, so I don't get swept up in the day-to-day rush and lose sight of my goals (again).

I've been reading and thinking a lot about values lately. I always thought I had "strong" values, but I guess I never really tried to articulate them. I'm starting to see that values are more than just beliefs or philosophies of what's most important in our lives. Core values actually serve the purpose of guiding us in the direction of our bliss. Makes sense, right? That which brings us meaning and purpose should feed our goals. Our core values are blue prints for what makes us happy and fulfilled. We need to pay attention to them when designing our experience!

Times like these when I'm trying to juggle so many things and feeling unclear about my focus, I need to check in with my values and make sure they are reflected in the decisions I'm making, the opportunities I'm saying "yes" to and the way I'm structuring my time. When I ignore my values, I experience disconnect, I lose motivation, I flounder. This repurposed clock project is an effort to to get really clear on my values and keep them in plain sight, so I don't lose track of what makes me tick. These are not connected to hours in the day and although balance would be nice, it's mostly a way for me to stay aware of my foundation.

Try it! Make an effort to articulate 10-20 values that shape who you are. Post these in a place where you can see them and refer to them when making big (and small) decisions about how to proceed on your path.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

103/365: The Big 'O'

Today I made:

collaged paper, gesso & ink on paper, Mila Bowman 2012

some truth in the moment...

Trying to juggle a little too much these days. Inspiration and motivation are hard to come by when I'm feeling burned out, as is the clarity of how to proceed.

I had a little art journal doodle therapy to document even this part of the process. It's allowed.

Monday, September 24, 2012

102/365: Baby Steps & Flying Lessons

Today I made:

baby steps towards my creative business...

While I don't currently have my own classroom, teaching and learning are still at the heart of what I do. I don't think I could have it any other way. This week began with a visit to a kindergarten classroom where I'll be helping out for a few days. I forget how much I enjoy this age group. The day was filled with stories about the treasures they keep in their pockets, their visits from the tooth fairy, the bicycles they "drive" and tall tales of how they came across their latest "ouchie." These little people are making their way into the world, practicing what it means to be a part of a community outside of their families, learning so many new things in baby steps. They are constructing meaning like they would a block tower, by design trial and error and tumbles and rebuildings. They seem to know that learning is not meant to happen overnight. When do we forget that? When we are five and six, learning is our job. I'm pretty sure it's the most fun and rewarding business to be in. "What do you do?" "Oh, I'm a sponge for knowledge," they would probably say if they realized. "I work long hours and get payed in understanding and stickers."

Last week I began my first e-course, offered by Kelly Rae Roberts. Kelly Rae is a self-taught mixed media artist and creative business maven. I discovered her inspiring story and art shortly after beginning my journey as an artist three years ago (before I was calling myself an artist.) She is one of my heroes. Thanks to her, I am in school again reading, researching, taking notes, giving myself homework- and it's oh so much fun! And hard work. I need to remind myself to take it one step at a time.

Besides giving me a sudden craving for peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, my day in kindergarten also reminded me of how valuable it is to acknowledge our baby steps in the learning process. Even as big kids, we need to be patient with ourselves and trust that the connections will be made and the understanding will be reached. Whether we are learning numbers and letter sounds, or the ins and outs of turning your creative dreams into a soulful business, we must trust the process and be gentle with ourselves when attempting to learn something new.

If you have yet to discover (and fall madly in love with) Kelly Rae Roberts, please do yourself a favor and check out her work. This gal is amazing on so many levels.

I'm off to do some learning!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

101/365: Art on the Bay

Today we made:

art in the sunshine...

today's piece: mixed media faces in progress

We loaded up the car for another afternoon of art on the bay. Our second Meet-up was an intimate           gathering of creative women. It was so nice to                 share inspiration, techniques and the creative                 process with others. Sometimes when I'm by               myself making art, I get so in the zone and soooo into my head that I over-think things and my inner critic gets in the way. This afternoon, my hands played while my mind engaged in our creative community. I made some art and did some teaching and learning. That's a great day in my book!

Check out the link above for photos of the creative ladies and their work. :)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

100 Days of Creative

There is bouncing and shouting and celebrating happening at my house today! This day marks 100 suns and moons into my commitment to myself. I am 100 days in to my 365 Days of Creative project.        
100 days!!! I must say, I am very pleasantly surprised with myself.

To commemorate this day, I invited everyone I know into my little world here, and I made...

The Top 10 Greatest Things About Living the Creative Life:

my kind of manicure
10)  Manicures come cheap...

9)  Cooking becomes art.

8)  The dishes can wait.

7)  Boredom is not an option.

6)  Priorities shift; hours are gained that weren't there before. Time is made for someone very important: yourself.

5)  Mistakes turn into happy accidents and learning opportunities.

4)  Awareness heightens and appreciation for the little things grows.

3)  Decision making and risk taking is practiced with a paint brush.

2)  Spirits get liberated.

and the numero uno greatest thing about living the creative life....

I created this life!

Friday, September 21, 2012

99/365: Own Your Creativity

Today I made:
a list of creative acts...

photo by Nicole Spotofora, my sweet bee
I use the term "art" pretty loosely around here. Mostly because this "here" is mine and so is most of the art that adorns it. Not to take away from the finely tuned skills and efforts of trained artists and craftspeople who have studied art and design and spent their time working through the creative process, but the creative life is not just for those people. I don't believe that creativity is a special gift or talent bestowed upon the chosen few. It is accessible to all of us. We are all artists in our own right. We all have the spark of creation in us; we were born with it. It's not going away. This I know from experience: our idea of what an artist is might cause us to shy away from calling ourselves creative and from granting ourselves the time to develop our creative interests, but it's never too late to reconnect with the spark. It's never too late to decide to own our creativity. Little by little, we can make our way back to our own truth and find a way to express it. The need to express ourselves is in all of us and that is all that is required in order to begin.                   You are enough right now, just the way you are.

After a silly amount of questioning the validity of my own art, I decided to accept the following: art is a great number of things to a great many people, but in our own personal creative lives, it only matters what it means to us. Our own relationship with our art or with the creative source that feeds our inspiration is what drives us forward to continue on the creative path. Your art is what you make it, just like your life is what you make it. We must trust that we can create that which will bring us joy.

To me, art is anything born from the collaboration between my hands, heart and mind. It is my personal one-of-a-kind truth in the moment. It is my way of expressing my understanding of the human experience or the world around me. When we create, when we make our art, we are manifesting our visions, our instincts and our deepest desires; we are giving of ourselves. I believe that we move toward a more authentic version of ourselves when we create. The truth comes out. We can even choose to share that truth. When we create our art, we are bringing something special, beautiful or meaningful into the world that didn't exist before we created it. Now that is pretty darn cool!

My 365 Days of Creative project is helping me to discover and give credit to all the surprising little ways we can tap into our creativity. I'm certain I'm leaving many things out, so please add your ideas in the comments below. Let's give ourselves countless ways to bring more art into our lives and honor that spark, just by being aware of the ways we are already creative.

50 creative acts, in no particular order:
solving problems at work (how are you creative at your job?), cooking, gardening, decorating your home, photography (including amateur picture taking), sewing, knitting, crocheting, styling an outfit, hair & makeup, jewelry design, scrapbooking and card making, writing (journaling, poetry, blogging, friendly correspondence), drawing & doodling, coloring, painting, sculpting (play-doh counts), planning a party, acting, improv comedy (in the living room with your friends), spoken word, singing (in the car and shower), playing an instrument, composing and compiling music (yeah mix tape!), dance and creative movement (say yes to impromptu dance parties!), planning a trip or a play date, crafting with kids, designing the perfect lesson, building things (blanket forts, lego lands and popsicle stick birdhouses!), stretching your budget, MacGyvering your way out of a fix, knowing just what to say to your friend...these are all creative acts.
Please partake.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

98/365: Swoop In, Destroy, Swoop Out

Today I made:

yet another mess...

This evening I talked hubby into building an awesome spin-the-wheel game for our Art on the Bay Meet-up scheduled for this Sunday. It took him two hours to work his wood shop magic. It took me two minutes to coat our backyard in a fine mist of spray primer. (I blame it on the breeze and the poor lighting.) The sidewalk, my flip flops, hubby's work shirts that were hanging nearby- all primed. I managed to get some on the wheel as well.

My husband has lovingly dubbed me "Destructor" because I'm a pro at making messes, spilling things, breaking breakables, and causing general havoc to my surroundings. I'm not exactly proud of my rhino in a china shop reputation, but I like to think it's not hurting my art in any way. I think perhaps this is why I gravitate towards mixed media, collage and abstract painting. It's vastly more forgiving of my haphazard creative bursts. I don't know about fine art, but I can make one fine mess.
Swoop in. Destroy. Swoop out.

I'm off to paint our spin-the-"Color Wheel," armed with a tarp and apron.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

97/365: Muster

mixed media on watercolor paper:
water soluble oil pastel, gesso, scrap paper, colored pencil

Today I made:
an effort... 

It's been a long few days. This is what I could muster tonight...

...maybe the beginnings of a journal page background, ...maybe a practicing of this whole showing up thing.

This would normally stay closed up in my art journal, but I'm giving it some air to breath because sharing it here keeps me accountable for living my art every day.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

96/365: My Big Girl Pants

Today I made:

a happy discovery in a stash of old family photos...
...and a new blog banner!

little me, circa 1984
This picture cracks me up! It inspired some new blog banner art and the silliest tag line I could think of. But I guess this is what it's all about around here- encouraging myself (and whoever else comes along) to be brave and step right on into those big kid pants, to face life head on and do whatever it takes to create our happiest possible existence.

I have to be honest though. Right now, this feels like putting on wet jeans on a cold day and having to rush out the door to tackle a to-do list that is bigger than me and a job that I don't feel equipped for. I have stepped right out of my comfort zone. But I'm beginning to understand that big dreams and lofty goals don't hang out in comfort zones. They skirt the edges of possibility. We have to march out there to get them.

So here I go...
Whining mode: off; lame excuse detector: on. Ear muffs ready for people who think they're allowed to decide what my life should look like. It's time to take this life more fully into my own hands, to create the artful life I've been dreaming of. And I know that if I want to be the creator I think I can be, I need to put on my big girl pants, lift my chin, take a deep breath and learn to deal with all these heavy feelings of responsibility, all the decisions, doubts and fears, the procrastination and lack of clarity. I'm the one who has to do it. Daunting as the task may be, this old photo helps me put a lighthearted spin on it. I'm wishing I could go back in time twenty-eight years and get some advice from that brave little girl I used to be. She would probably tell me that I don't need pants at all- just the right attitude and some chocolate ice cream.

Monday, September 17, 2012

95/365: Please Refer to {Fig}ure 1

Today I made:

bacon wrapped figs 
stuffed with goat cheese...
Getting creative in the kitchen. (Hubs gets the credit for the title of this post. He is so clever when well-fed. ;) It's been a while since I've felt the urge to try a new recipe, but the fig tree in our yard has been a favorite of the birds, so I figured I'd try to beat them to the ripe ones. I've probably eaten two figs in my whole life before this, so it was a long shot. I found this yummy looking recipe on (posted by SkinnyMinnie)and tweaked it a bit:

I'm sure it would be ever so delicious with real bacon, but I used turkey bacon (the Oscar Meyer brand doesn't taste like cardboard, I promise.) I don't own a melon-baller, so I used a tiny measuring spoon. I left out the lemon and olive oil. And the extra scoops of fig flesh went straight into my mouth- just to be sure they were nice and ripe, of course. 

The recipe was easy to make, although a bit messy. It served up beautifully on a broad fig leaf and made for a tasty appetizer. I'm a big fan of sweet and savory blends. Hubby approved, but he likes anything bacon flavored. I'm officially on fig watch!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

94/365: The Whole Shebang

Today I made:

framed word art for the birthday girl...
mixed media on canvas board, framed 25"x7": collaged paper, acrylic, ink & oil pastel
copyright Mila Bowman 2012
Here it is in it's finished glory. Hubby helped me construct a frame. (I can't make a 90 degree angle for the life of me.) We cut down inexpensive lattice molding and assembled it with wood glue. I stained it myself. My fingernails are now black. (Hello gloves!) The frame allows all five pieces to hang together and makes it look very official. I'm pretty delighted with the result. Hope the birthday girl likes her gift.

My schedule has been pretty packed this week, so it was nice to have relatively short art projects to commit to each day. I got my creative out and I got to practice some mixed media background techniques. While fairly simple to create, each piece is a mini work of art on its own and I think they come together quite nicely as framed wall art. It's great to have a mini project option when I'm short on time. I can just make random mixed media letter art and piece them together to make words as I go.

Not sure if it's the writer in me or my ongoing obsession with typography in design (most likely both), but I'm finding that blending mixed media with text is a great expressive outlet for me. I'm think it's becoming my signature style- a very happy discovery! There will surely be more word art where this came from (maybe in my future Etsy shop?!!)

What's YOUR favorite word?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

93/365: 'H' is for...

Today I made the last letter for the birthday girl's gift.

'H' is for...
"He who laughs, lasts."
~Mary Pettibone Poole

mixed media on 5"x7" canvas board: acrylic & oil pastel over collaged paper

Friday, September 14, 2012

92/365: 'G' is for...

Today I made:

'G' is for...
"Good judgement comes from experience, and experience--well, that comes from poor judgement."
~Cousin Woodman

mixed media on 5"x7" canvas board: acrylic, oil pastel, collage & doodles

Thursday, September 13, 2012

91/365: 'U' is for...

Today I made:

'U' is for...
"Using words to describe magic is like using a screwdriver to cut roast beef."
~Tom Robbins
...a little truth by one of my favorite fiction writers

mixed media on 5"x7" canvas board
acrylic medium decoupage over patterned paper, distress ink and oil pastel

Nothing fancy on my end here. This is a pretty scrapbook paper that I roughed up. It pulls my color palette together nicely for this week's word art piece.

The inked up tears on the edges began as air bubbles that I was determined to do away with. They obviously won, but I like the shabby look.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

90/365: A is for...

Today I made:

'A' is for...
"A joke is a very serious thing."
~Winston Churchill

mixed media on 5''x7'' canvas board; peeling paint effect over antique book page

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

89/365: L is for...

Today I made:

the beginning of a word art piece for the birthday girl...

mixed media on 5"x7" canvas board: sewing pattern tissue, acrylic, oil pastel

A friend's birthday is coming up this weekend and I want to make her something special she's had her eye on. I'm short on time this week, but I figured I could spend 20 minutes making art each night- one letter a day- until the word is complete.

'L' is for...
"Life is too important to be taken seriously." 
~Oscar Wilde

Sunday, September 9, 2012

87/365: My Happy Place

Today I made:

a clean art studio...

Here's a peek into my studio in it's cleanest state in between projects. It's always undergoing reorganizations and redecorations as I try to find ways to make the best use of my itty bitty creative space. This is where I go to see what art comes out of me...
a space of my own
the stuff that art is made of
staying organized and inspired
Setting up my art space last summer
helped solidify in my mind that my creative life exists, that my art matters, and that it has a permanent place in my home and my heart. Having a place to go to do my work encouraged me to step into an artist's identity. Before I had a space of my own, I made art on the living room floor. My husband was kind enough not to comment on the craft bomb that exploded all over our shared space as he stepped around the mess. I would end up with stiff knees, a sore neck and a disaster of a living room- on the good days. More often than not, the very thought of having to haul all my supplies out of the closet and then put them all away again kept me from wanting to begin. It's incredible how much more time I spend being creative with a space devoted to art making, where motivation and inspiration are abundant.                             To construct my art desk, my hubby helped me stain a 2'x6' piece of pine board that we propped on a dresser with 2x4s to make room underneath for storing canvases, papers and works in progress. The desk holds a table easel, supply storage and still  has plenty of space to work. Book-shelves are devoted to my scrap-books, art journals, inspiration files & vintage books. Over the door I hung a shoe organizer, the pockets of which are great for keeping frequently used supplies organized and on hand. A few dresser drawers were cleaned out to to make room for collage papers, stamps, fabrics and ephemera. The bedroom doesn't have great lighting, so I purchased some wall-mountable lamps from IKEA. The wall is hung with my design line and inspiration & vision boards. I surround myself with things that inspire me & make me happy.

Do you have a creative space of your very own? Maybe the end of the dining room table or a craft closet? Someday I would love to devote a whole room to my art making, maybe even share the space with another artist so we can inspire each other. For now, I share the space with the things that make up a normal bedroom. My husband doesn't complain about the smell of paint and my pup gets to snuggle in bed while I make art.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

86/365: Everything Will Be OK

Today I made:

a note to self... 

watercolor paint and India ink on watercolor paper, 8"x12"
original sketches & hand lettering; "BE OK"= letter stamps

Friday, September 7, 2012

85/365: Art for Insomniacs

Today (in the wee hours) I made:

a blind painting...

Insomnia- that unwelcome visitor- she wakes me out of a dead slumber, usually after about four hours of REM. She steals my sleep and fills my head with anxious thoughts. She comes a few nights in a row, until I am too exhausted to entertain her. I lie there restless and frustrated until I can't stand it any longer. I usually get up to read or research on the Internet. I heard recently that the ambient light from computer screens wakes up our brains and makes it harder to fall asleep, so no more of that.

Early this morning as I tossed and turned after my four hour "nap," I contemplated my options. Then it occurred to me: I should paint, right then and there, in the dark. It's not like I was doing anything else productive and I couldn't possibly stay in bed another minute. I didn't want to move my art supplies from my bedroom art space or turn any lights on for fear of making myself too alert, so it made perfect sense to paint in the dark. 

So at 3:47 a.m., (according to the digital clock, the only light in the room) I climbed out of bed and put on my art apron to spare my cute pajamas. With my husband and my very spoiled dog snoring in the bed two feet behind me, I rummaged through my stack of blank canvases, pulled out a chunky paint brush and reached for what I hoped were analogous paint colors (colors that harmonize with each other and don't make mud when mixed.) Luckily I keep my paint pretty well organized in an old Coca-Cola crate on my art desk, so I was fairly certain I was in the area of blues and greens. The one color I was sure about was white. It glowed the brightest as my eyes adjusted somewhat to the dark. I began applying dabs of paint to the center of my canvas. A few sweeping strokes with the brush and the small space was covered- I imagined the colors streaking and blending together. Soon my hands were involved, feeling their way around the space, moving the paint, swirling and dabbing with my fingers. The tip of something pointy was useful for etching a rough self portrait, facial features arranged on blind faith. I scrawled in a word, like a third grader learning cursive for the first time, unsure of my letter formations. I didn't think about it. I let my hands do the work. I didn't question when to stop. I stopped at the first yawn.

At 4:09 a.m I crept to the bathroom to wash out my brush, and pleased to find my hands covered in white, blue, green and teal paint, I decided to have a peek at the canvas.

"Insomnia 9-7-12, 3:47 a.m." acrylic on 8x10 canvas; (Yellow crescent & charcoal shading added after sunrise.)
There they were, the circle and the one-eye-open girl- those personal symbols, those familiar gestures- that keep showing up in my art when I don't know what else to paint. There was a crescent moon etched above her shoulder and a setting sun below. The white finger prints, perhaps they were the sheep I counted? I liked how the etching came out so stark white in the wet paint, how the colors gradiated from dark to light (left to right) in a sleepy haze. Those were happy surprises. But mostly I liked how for twenty-two minutes I painted with no regard for the end result. I released control. It was the most fun I've had and the most freedom I've felt in my art space in a long time. I didn't care what it looked like in the light. I was willing to make bad art at four o'clock in the morning. This was just a midnight expression.

Later today I allowed myself to go back and assess my blind work of art. At first I hesitated to alter it in any way, as it was such honest work, born out of the moment, untainted by my inner critic. But in the end I decided, part of my job as an artist is to step back and decide where a piece can go and when it is finished. Last night I layed down the basis; today I added a cut paper crescent moon inside the original crescent etching for a pop of color, and some charcoal shading to the left side of the sun sphere. I decided this was enough and left it at that. 

The downside: I'm a tired girl with a sloppy art desk.
The upside: If the insomnia continues, I may be able to start a new series.
Can't believe I'm actually looking forward to the next sleepless night. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

84/365: Hanging Inspiration

Today I made:

a design line...

Still plugging away at my calendar pages. I've never had this many pieces going at once, so it's been a lesson in organization keeping them all straight. The bits and pieces of the series come together willy-nilly and I find myself sorting them and designating piles of little elements for each month of the project- a photo here, a text snippet there, a color swatch to tie it together. I invariably get an idea for another one of the pages as I work out a design or rummage through my supplies. Pretty soon my art desk is all a-clutter with ideas that I couldn't possibly take on all at once. My tiny art space does not have room for piles!

So I'm finally putting my inspiration wire- my design line- to good use. I've been clipping page notes and corresponding pieces together and hanging them on a length of chord that stretches across the wall of my art space. Things stay tidy and organized and enough out of the way, but they are within sight and reach so I can add bits and pieces to each page as I get inspired. This is essentially the same as tacking things up on an inspiration board, but my line works well for my twelve mini projects. I'm starting to see it all come together!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

83/365: Scantastic Ways to Add Color to a Page

playing with color and texture for a calendar page;
That green paper is a scan of a vintage book cover.
Looks like fabric, doesn't it?
Today I made:

my scanner work for me...

Whether I'm creating a mixed media piece on a canvas, or working on paper to design an art journal or scrapbook layout, I'm always trying to find new ways to add color to the page. Don't get me wrong, I love me some paint and pastels, but they don't call it mixed media for nothin'! I'm also finding that commercially produced scrapbook paper can get a little boring to use all the time, so lately I've been making my own paper.

A scanner really comes in handy for this. If it can fit under the lid without damaging the glass, I've scanned it. I've tried everything from fabrics (right out of my closet), to vintage book covers, wicker baskets, wood, my hand, scrabble tiles and leaves. Textures and colors stay true when scanned; it's just a flatter version of the real thing. I tend to save actual fabrics and 3-D elements to use as embellishments, but the scanned versions work great as flat backgrounds to write on or can be torn to bits and mixed into a collage. I just have a cheap printer/scanner/copier combo and it does the trick. This is not the most efficient use of ink, but sometimes I see just the right color or pattern for a piece and can't help myself. If you don't have the paint color you need or you can't find exactly what you're looking for in that stack of store bought patterned paper, look around, inspiration is everywhere. And it can be scanned!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

82/365: Collage Composition & Cameras

Today I made:

digital photos to help with composition...

No power tools today. I took a break for softer things; back to working on my calendar pages. Here's a sneak peek of a summer month I'm working on.

The pages are coming together much like my art journals and scrapbook pages do. A picture is often the inspiration for both color palette and text. I like to collage in several elements (paper embellishments and ephemera) while I'm designing, but sometimes it's hard to know where things should go on the page. Mostly everything I've learned about composition in collage, I've discovered through play and trial and error. There are some general guidelines to composition (that I could spout off if I had gone to art school), but I like to trust my eye. Pieces get moved around until the composition looks "just right."

One handy trick I use is to take a digital photo of a layout or composition before attaching anything to the collage surface. Then I move things around to try a different composition and take another photo. I repeat this a few times without gluing anything down until I have three or four versions of the page on my camera. Then I flip through them to see which one is the most appealing to the eye. It helps to have options to compare side by side. It's kind of like having a studio mate and asking, "Which version do you like better?" But my pup is not much help in this area, so I go it alone with the aid of my camera.  Our eyes know what pleases us.

Monday, September 3, 2012

81/365: Jigsaws and Sun Dresses

Today I made:

progress in the wood shop...

The sun drew us out today, but still in my play clothes, I did make a bit of progress on my cigar box ukulele. After some careful measuring I was ready to cut the channel to set the neck into the cigar box body. Have I ever mentioned how much I dislike taking precise measurements? A lot. I actually marked my measurements on the wrong side of the box and had to do it all over again. Measure twice, cut once,  right? Though I did discover a nifty contraption called a combination square that lets you measure at perfect angles. That made things a little easier. When hubby is not looking, I'm going to borrow it for my art space to measure photo mattes.

I was rewarded for my patience with my first go at a jigsaw. Have I mentioned how much I do like power tools? I've always been intimidated by them- with all their loud noises and sharp blades- but I must say I'm finding it to be a very empowering experience.

It is quite clear to me now that I have taken on a project that is going to take time, patience and skill (the latter of which I hope to acquire along the way.) This is not slapping paint on a canvas and calling it art. This will require fine craftsmanship. The greatest thing I took away from today's session at the work bench is the idea of leaving a creative project in progress at a point where you know exactly where you'll pick up the next day. This practice will transfer beautifully into my art space. From now on, to keep from feeling stuck and wondering what to work on, I'm going to end my creative sessions with a plan for the next day. Showing up to make art will be easier when I have a specific task to look forward to.

Here are today's wood shop adventures. Sorry for the dark pictures. They don't call it a man "cave" for no reason.

jigsaw training

cigar box ukulele, day 2

Sunday, September 2, 2012

80/365: Wood Shop Warrior

Today I made:

a plan to infiltrate the Man Cave...

Safety first!
My husband is one of my creative heroes. His love for music led him to want to build his own guitars. So while I play at my art desk in our bedroom, he spends his time crafting instruments in the garage turned man cave/wood shop. Recently he began experimenting with repurposing old cigar boxes and turning them into cigar box guitars & amps. He does all the wiring so they're electric! I am quite in awe.

The other day, he proposed we build instruments together- cigar box ukuleles for each of us. Because I love to learn new crafts and am hoping that if I build it, the urge to make music will follow, I am all on board!

So despite having full knowledge of my reputation with sharp instruments, hubby has invited me into his wood shop where he is showing me, step by step, how to construct this curious piece of awesomeness. It is a miracle I still have ten fingers and no broken bones or sutures in my medical history. Let's hope I can keep it that way. Wish me luck. I need all my fingers for art making.

Today I learned how to cut the neck for my ukulele on a table saw (with a handy little safety piece over the blade). That's hubby cutting the angle for the headstock. Wood glue and monster clamps fixed the angle piece onto the neck. The belt sander was my favorite!

We're almost done forming the necks. Tomorrow we add the fret boards and set them into the cigar box, which will be the body. Then the electronics! Huge learning curve for me, but it's nice to try new ways of creating. Now I understand why my husband is almost always covered in a fine layer of saw dust. :)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

79/365: A Creator's Manifesto, Unedited

Today I made:
the beginning of a manifesto...

When I reread last night's post I nearly fell out of my chair.

"Could it be that deep down I still don't value the creative time I've given myself?!"

What the WHAT??!!
Did I really just say that?! Crazy!
I must have been playing devil's advocate in a one-sided conversation with myself. Writing it out really did the trick. I think last night's rant was a major turning point in my journey. Today I see things a little more clearly. I can accept that what got done is more important than the intended to-do. These 79 days have been a gift.

That brawl with my inner critic must have toughened me up because I'm feeling rather fired up about my own libelous statement. Who knows how long this will last, so I'll get it out now.

I obviously value the time I've spent being creative and reflecting on my creativity if I would spend this many days (in a tidy row!) blabbing about it and showing off my efforts. Who was I trying to fool anyway- making my journal accessible to the world and then pretending it was all for me? Truth is, I have a message to spread.

It took me a while to get comfortable with sharing my voice and my truth. If you know me, you know I have a tiny voice. But there's heart behind it and I can get real loud when I think I have something important to say. And golly, I do! So tonight, I'm turning off my censor, no matter who is following along. This is my manifesto in the making.

Excuse me while I climb my soapbox.
This is how I see it:

Creativity is important.
I had this inkling as a blossoming artist a couple years ago when I just wanted to fit more creativity into my life, and focus on the creative process (totally separate from talent and achievement in the arts) because it felt good. It made me feel alive between the mundane day-to-day. It helped me gain confidence in speaking up. It helped me find an even bigger purpose than I set out to have. And it was just plain fun.
Creativity is important.
This message is reinforced for me every time I reflect on my work as an elementary school teacher.
Creativity promotes learning. Creativity should be fostered in children and adults. Creativity empowers us and builds our self-esteem. Creativity lets us practice being brave, making decisions and taking risks that push us to discover our own potential. This I learned by watching kindergartners play, and that is the most honest play there is.

Betty Edwards says it beautifully in her book, Drawing on the Artist Within.
"Creativity. It is the force that drives problem-solving, informs effective decision-making and opens new frontiers for ambition and intelligence. Those who succeed have learned to harness their creative power by keeping the light bulb turned on."
Is it just me or does anyone else believe we need to be creative in order to ensure our survival on this planet?

The creative process is in every thought we entertain, every action we choose to take, every desire we manifest. We are the creators of our experience. Shouldn't we all be living joyful lives of our own making? Whether we are creating a little art eye candy that makes someone smile, writing that makes someone think or whether we are redesigning our lives to make them feel like our lives, creativity is key.

I choose art and writing to create my happiness. I choose community to support it and my passion for teaching to share it. Art, writing, community, passion, fashion, music, medicine, and cupcakes- these are just a few of the things we can create and they have one common thread: in the act of creating them we make ourselves happier. This inspires us to live more creatively on a consistent basis. When others see our energy and passion for what we are creating, it inspires them to choose creative acts that in turn spread more happiness.

creativity + your spin on it = happiness

So is creativity worth our time? Yes oh YES!
This is what I've been "working" all summer to help myself realize. This is what I want to help others realize, for the common good. For ourselves, our families, our communities and the future of our world, each one of us must use our creative license. 
Each one of us has that creative spark. Find what makes you happy and fan the flame.