Life Book re-think and a new attitude

Settle in. I had a bit of a revelation when working on my Owl last week, and it all stemmed from an old letter I read, many years ago, that always stuck with me. It was a response from Kurt Vonnegut to some students who wrote to him as part of an English assignment. He was the only person they wrote to who responded, and his response was wonderful:

Dear Xavier High School, and Ms. Lockwood, and Messrs Perin, McFeely, Batten, Maurer and Congiusta:

I thank you for your friendly letters. You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years. I don’t make public appearances any more because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana.

What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.

Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you’re Count Dracula.

Here’s an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don’t do it: Write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don’t tell anybody what you’re doing. Don’t show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?

Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash recepticals [sic]. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow.

God bless you all!

Kurt Vonnegut

The little video a UK based school did, inspired by that response, is also worth a look:

So much of what he said stuck with me, but it took my recent experiences with Life Book to bring it all to the forefront. I had looked at the classes released so far and printed a list. I went thru that list to determine which classes I thought I might do. It was pretty bleak. There were about 60, some full classes, some bonus content (shorted classes but still full projects) and a handful of chats and well-being sessions. Knocking out all the well-being ones (far too airy fairy for me) and most of the chats, and focusing on the actual classes, there were nine that I classed as FOR SURE I would do, 10 that were likely ones and about 14 maybes. That left 17 HELL NOs. For many reasons. To be fair, some of the art in the HELL NOs was stunning, but not something I would do. In some cases the projects as shown were just not at all to my taste. But that letter was still swirling around in my head. And in a kind of big bang of creativity, I took a HELL NO class and ran with it.

The class called for some of that plaster-of-paris infused gauze they use to make casts for broken bones so I had to really re-imagine the whole class from the jump. Instead I began with a series of graduated rings cut from cardboard, stacking them into a sort of bowl like structure:

I covered that with a bunch of torn up lightly spotted with paint paper towel, to give it the feel of the original.

From there, I used mop-up paper towels, quite colourful, to cover the bowl rather than the original paint job and grabbed some gift tissue paper with big gold dots on it to add some sparkle.

At this point I was well and truly gong down the use-my-rubbish road and I began auditioning some of the pick-up/waste papers to use to cover the board this bowl will be mounted to:

You can see the addition of the gold dots there – love that. In the end I went with the same paper towel I used to cover the bowl. I thought it might be too samey-samey but in the end I loved it:

So much texture and the colours are very varied and interesting:

My plan had been to use the black, gold edged circle with wings behind the bowl

but in the end it detracted from the look rather than enhancing it. There were some other final touches that I really liked, like the way you add a dangle of beads to the sides of the canvas to create a hanger across the back. Something to file away for later, for sure:

The final is something that I could not have envisioned from the original class sample, but somehow, that big bang set off by the letter from Kurt sent me down a just do it path and it ended up like this:

I love it. I have dithered and dithered about whether or not to add a shot of the original project and in the end I think it is impossible to see how far from it mine is without doing that. I don’t think there is enough in the photo to give away much about the process (which I pretty much ignored anyway) but it is needed for the contrast:

I think you can see an echo of the original, and it definitely inspired my piece, but they really look nothing alike. And THAT is the point. I just need to follow the guidance from Kurt.

Practice any art, … no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.

I’mma gonna do that! And maybe move some of the HELL NO classes over to at least the MAYBE column.

The other part of the class was a small folded mini-journal. It is a very simple version of the one-sheet booklet and again, I went my own way on that. I’ll have to share that tomorrow, cause this is already way too long. Again, I went at least slightly off on my own on that and that letter plays an even bigger part in that section of the class. And then, cause my desk is a wreck, I need to tidy up for WOYWW…again!

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My very first ever Artists Trading Coins and a fab folded envelope for them.

The envelope is right near the bottom. There was a challenge on the Mixed Media Emporium for watercolours and doodling. Two things I REALLY struggle with, I’m not gonna lie. But I had a bash. I did a whole sheet using coffee and watercolours – OMG it smelled so good while I was working on them. Then I punched out the coins and did some doodling. Not stellar, but OK.

Some of the doodling was actually done with strong coffee and a dip pen. And when I draagged out the stamps to add some extra texture, I spotted that little stamped image I think I shared before, and it took my coins in a totally different direction LOL!

I dragged out one of the Tim Holtz word sticker books and found a sort of progression from despair to hope :

There is a lot of symbolism in it that may mean something only to me (like the direction of the fish and the 456 as we progress from 45 to 46) but in the end the underlying message is that as individuals we need to do all the good we can, rather than wait for the slowly turning wheels of government to solve things. I hope the set is ultimately hopeful. Not very trade-able, perhaps but these are the very first ATC(oins) I have ever made so I am happy with them.

I am really happy with this little origami folded envelope. It took m a few tries to get the sizing right and (hopefully) turn it into a more foolproof thing, but here goes:

Begin with a 5 3/4inch square of paper. Fold it in half, corner to corner, to create a triangle. Orientate so the folded edge is at the bottom

Fold down the top point of the top piece to meet the bottom edge

Slip your ATCoin into the fold, centre it as best you can.

Now fold the top tip down to cover the coin

Adjust the position of the coin, again, aiming to centre it. Fold over one side, so the fold line is very close to the edge of the coin

This part is a little tricky. Fold the other point over while slipping the folded tip inside the two pieces of the new fold

The trick is that sometimes one of the two sides will fit better into the other, and you may have to try both ways to see. It should create as close to a square as possible and the coin will be trapped inside. You can then decorate the reverse.

It’s not as elegant, but the Menko pocket I showed previously could easily double as am ATCoin holder as well. I’ll have to work out the exact dimensions but it’s tricky!

Still considering the A Card A Day. I’ve made about 40 cards, between the warm-ups and the daily cards and I wonder how many more is enough? And like the 100 Days project, I have made barely a dent in my card-making scraps. It all seems rather pointless some days, as scraps beget scraps….


Today is the exact middle of the year (day 182) and that day is kinda a deadline for the junk journal and a move-on-to-the-nest-phase day. So on Monday there might be a new project beginning…fingers crossed…

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Watercolour texture challenge – such fun!

I have been doing the Mixed Media Emporium challenges from a Facebook group and it’s been interesting. I had rather let my watercolours sit ignored and it was fun to drag them out again. The Watercolour Texture challenge really got me playing and I thought I would share my samples. The one I liked perhaps best of all was a disc of heavy watercolour paper that I sponged with a bit of iridescent medium using a sea sponge. It gave a really cool texture and a bit of a glimmer, and once I sprinkled on a few grains of brown and black Brushos (each made up of a multitude of individual grains of many colours) and a drop or two of alcohol, it was quite magical – not sure the photos really do this justice,

I tried angling it in the sunlight but still not as amazing as it is IRL.

More Brushos, with some larger alcohol drops to disperse the wet watercolours and some more colour

So then I had to drag out some old supplies, like those damn Silkies and spatter a bit of those over the Brusho sprinkles, wet and then dried:

And then another favourite – I tried the technique of sprinkling water on the paper, then adding embossing powder (which clings to the water and if you are fast, and have pre-heated your heat tool, you can emboss it before the water dries and the powder blows away) first Distress Embossing powder:

Then some very old gold UTEE – which gave very distinct dots, as it is so chunky.

The green one also has an interesting addition – I mixed a tiny bit of yellow Brushos with a few drops of alcohol and dotted that over the green (I misted it with water so the wet paint could react with the alcohol+Brushos) and I love how that turned out.

Don’t mix up too much and work quickly before the alcohol evaporates. I kinda feel like these could be nice ATC (Artists Trading COINS rather than CARDS) but not sure how to finish them off – too much would hide the yummy texture and leaving them plain isn’t really appealing for a trade. Maybe I will see about making some sort of sample book, as someone suggested, so I can keep them.


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Gloss sprays and something crazy – yep, I cut a stamp…

I made a page using the gloss sprays – my first one.

This is in my thin-page brown paper bag journal – it only has a few pages left to complete it so I thought I would do a page in it. The gloss spray is not great on the brown paper, but I added some yellow stars and that worked pretty well to lighten it up at least a bit

I added some figures cut from Collage Collective papers, then I did a crazy thing – I cut one of my expensive red rubber stamps. Yep. I really, really did. This asemic writing stamp has on section of very small text on it – not only is it repeated elsewhere on the stamp, it sticks out and (to me) ruins the look of the whole stamp if you want to stamp it repeatedly to, say, fill a space. So i got the sharpest, smallest scissors I had and, snip, snip, snip…

The unseen benefit was that the tiny bit of text was both small and quite straight, and it worked really well to use to stamp the asemic writing along the edge of the figures. This is a look I really like, but I am still at the stage where I think my own attempts at this scribbly writing will end up ruining a page I otherwise like. I am practicing but just not there yet! The stamp works OK to get the look in the meantime:

See how neatly it travels along the edge? I think alternating the orientation of the stamp will make it look less repetitive, but overall, I am pretty happy with it! And so, my 100 days page – getting so close to 50 now I can taste it ….

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A hard fought art journal page…

I had a page on my desk and things were NOT going well. I got there in the end, but because it was such a struggle (at one point I literally wiped away a whole bunch of paint to start again from the last drying point) I took virtually no photos. Ah well. Here is the page:

I wish I had maybe left the middle of my guy’s face a little more bare, but the fronds were the dried layer, and the point where I was happy. What I wiped away was a large stenciled face:

that just did not work at all. I played around with a couple of other stamps as well, none of which worked either.

I tried to wedge in some collage collective bits, and didn’t like them either. While the leafy frond stencil might look a bit like the (discontinued) Dina stencil that is similar, this is my own version, cut YEARS ago from heavy card and still very usable.

So it’s a weird thing. I joined a FB group for Dina Wakely products. I posted my page from yesterday and apparently I ran afoul of the single rule of the group: If you use a Dina product (and you must or they delete your post) you have to SAY what the thing you used was, if it isn’t obvious. On that page what I used was the asemic writing stamp, within the blue circles. As I was feeling a little playful, I mentioned in my post that I had used a Dina product, it was subtle, guess what it was…One of the moderators slapped me down on that, referenced the rule and said I had to say, not ask them to guess, or my post would be removed. I was ok with that, cause I know how blinkin’ hard it is to moderate a forum (or a FB community) and added the info as soon as I saw the comment, but it really reminded me of a simple fact – FB pages like that one are not really about the people on there sharing their work. They are about both providing inspiration by sharing work using a specific set of products, and getting people to see the possibilities of those products. Equally (more so?) they are about promoting the designer and ultimately about product sales. Which is fine, I get it. But I think how it all ties together with THIS post is that I tried 3, no 5 different Dina products in an effort to finish my page. WHY? So I could share it not only here, but there as well, and not get slapped down, I guess. Well, that’s stupid. No doubt, I am a fan of Dina’s style. And I like her products. But I cannot fall into the trap of thinking that I have to force something DW into every page I do, just so I can share it someplace other than here. That makes my pages less about me and makes me more a shill than an artist (gosh, even typing that makes me feel like a pretender. Working on that….)

In the end my own stencil worked far better on this page than the original one. And my own leafy frond worked every bit as well as the stencil I have looked for and cannot find. I am now officially stopping my search. I did try something with another Dina product, just cause it was out on my desk from a different try – the tissue paper words.

Some of the little text snippets are good, they often resonate with me pretty strongly. But I am never keen on using them cause they really disappear into the background, and my backgrounds are usually pretty chaotic. But applying the tissue with gel medium over white or cream card turns them into something far more usable for my style (the no-white-space-left-behind style LOL!) and worked well on this page. I will do this again, I am sure.

So in the end, I think it was a valuable lesson to learn. Will I share it “over there?” Probably – I’ve satisfied the terms & conditions so I might as well. But I am going to be a little more critical in my choices in the future. After all this is MY art journal. The stuff I buy to use when making a page should not be the driving force, my own thoughts and words should be. Will be.

Now day 23! Next milestone is day 30, or ONE MONTH of the 100 days:

I am coming down to the end of those crackle letters (SO old) and I needed to trim them to make them fit. I added the little snippets in a few places, just cause I didn’t want to throw them away. Also I am at the end of my trimmed number tickets. I used both of the 21, 22 and 23 tickets at some point in the past and I was NOT going to buy a whole new book so those three were 121, 122 and 123 trimmed down. Now I think I am golden for 24-100! I am also branching out, having found other sorts of journaling spots other than the tiny notebook. It’ll add a bit of variety for a bit.

Phew. That got long. Sorry.

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Another AJ page – paper dolls!

I am always excited when I use something new for the first time, but more so when I use something I bought over a month ago and am just using. Here is the first page using one of the TH paper dolls:

I did a better (but still crap) job of photographing my steps. To be honest I am not sure anyone cares LOL! But my memory is shit so I do it as much for me as anyone. I started simple enough, with a bit of paint and the brayer to spread it. Then I smeared a little gesso with my fingertip

Then I got all into the stenciling and the stamping. I caught the striped edge stencil then…nothing

and before you know it…

I mentioned this little roller tool before – well, I mentioned I used the zig-zag one but couldn’t find THIS one. I did. They are both from a kids PlayDoh set and better than a credit card to make lines, as you can roll the line right up the page. It looks lovely IRL with the fine liquid gold ink lines. The wings are stamped and embossed in gold on gold-speckled tissue paper, so it all ties together:

I love this quote. I saw it in a downloadable pdf from Stampington. I think I have tried to share these before but as they came to me in an e-mail the links never seemed to work. I’ll give it another go a different way and see…. I googled the text but am not coming up with an attribution. No matter, it’s a good one for creative blocks.

My next 100 days page:

I am being mindful of the placement, so the bulk of the collage stack is not always in the middle. I have always shifted the focus around the page, but never so far to the inside edge! Maybe it’ll help. We’ll see.


Art journal page – and a ripped clear stamp repair

I broke out a new-ish set of stamps to play with and had a LOT of fun with them. I had used a bit of one of the collage collective sheets of a bunch of circles on one of my single pages, but only two of them (although I punched another one out, I never used it) and had the rest of the page left. I had a go at stamping over the circles with the foliage stamp and even with the gaps of white between they still worked out pretty well! Three columns of circles, three fronds.

Here is the page – I was having fun creating so I didn’t take photos. I really must remember to do that.

I also used a stamp by Effy Wild (the Wild and Free one) and an old set of Autumn Leaves stamps. Quite annoyed that the E clear stamp ripped as I was trying to peel it off the backing. Honestly, so many of my cling mount stamps have had issues – the sticky goes and cannot be revived, the silicone deteriorated and the stamp crumbles and rips…just very annoying. Yes, I know these are cheaper than proper red rubber stamps (both cling mounts and wood-mounts) but you still expect them to last for more than a few years! I managed to “repair” it by sticking a bit of the red-line tape on the back, the sticky side holding the rip together, the backing left on. You can see it here, I hope.

The important thing is it still clings

and because of the nature of the letters, with the grungy edges, it still stamps well, especially over a chaotic background like the collage collective, but well enough to use on plain card:

Good thing, too, as it’s one of the most used letters in the alphabet. Worth remembering as a repair tip. Not helpful for super intricate or detailed stamps, but works well for ones like this.

And lastly, my next 100 days page:

Seems like my handwriting is degrading again, but overall I think I am happier sticking to black and brown ink. Note I used those magnetic stamps from the other day as well. Woo hoo!

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A delivery! Sidetracked…

I’ll begin with my next 100 days page:

Like it. Maybe not LOVE it, but like it.

I ordered a few Dina things I had trouble finding (a couple of old stamp sets that I really wanted) and I had made a start on the other side of my single journal page, so when the delivery came I got totally sidetracked from my stamp re-org to finish that up.

I had started with some fairly standard stuff – white gesso and some tissue collage

and topped that with some texture paste and then various bits of colour – old Distress Stain and some of the LIDL acrylic spray in a teal. A little spatter, a little drippage and

I grabbed a sheet from the Collage Collective and punched a few circles

And then stamped, painted and cut out some different circles and cut a couple of that pebble die I am loving so much

It all came together like this!

Colour-wise it could not be more different to the companion page

but what ties them together is the use of circles and the text – one side says We all have a story to tell and the next page says Spilling my story. So while they are very much NOT a matched pair, they go better together than I thought they might.

Tomorrow is hubby’s birthday and all I will do is share my 100 days page. Likewise on Sunday, when I will take a day off for a while. My darling daughter starts in-person school on Monday and I am a little anxious about it. And because we will then have to keep our distance in the house (I’m still shielding till the 31st, or until a week after my 2nd dose of the vaccine) it is going to be a day full of Mom+Daughter time. What time I do have will be (hopefully) spent on my stamp re-org. I am determined to get that done before WOYWW.

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A FUGLY art Journal page – naughty word warning!

If bad language offends you don’t click thru! As I say to my daughter, I use bad language sometimes. I’m not going to stop.

This quote is one that has been rattling around in my head for a while. I kept it there, in my back pocket, ready fro a truly ugly art journal page. Yeah. This is it.

The quote is not one you will find by Googling. It is a quote from a live event with Kevin Smith (he is the Jay and Silent Bob guy from Clerks) discussing a film I mention often, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. It always struck me as a perfect explanation for any kind of art that people say But IS it art, REALLY? It’s art if the artist says it’s art. Is it GOOD art is a totally different question LOL!

This is a case of me beginning with my crappy junk journal. I have a handful of pages in this, maybe even the majority of them, that I really, really like, and I kinda wish they were in a better journal. But they aren’t.

I do love the weight of the pages, although some I glued together, just to keep it from being too triangular, and gaping open! The whole thing began nice enough…

I had an idea to add what I heard SOMEPLACE called a “carrot person” (either BY Dina Wakley or by someone talking about her oddly shaped people) and the bit of a mask you see there is the body. It began life as a digitally altered image of the Venus de Milo

and the carrot is made up of a Teesha Moore stamped head and some packaging from Japan.

And from there I just kept throwing things at it. It ALL stuck and none of it really made it better. It just increased the layers of crap, till I ended up with … this.

There are elements I like and a lot that I would like it it had been better executed. I had planned to use the little bit of text along the crown, that says Creativity is Mental Medicine, which in 2021 it certainly is! I will probably do another page with that at some point but for now I kinda think I need to recover from the horror above. I need to settle my artistic brain and clear it of too many outside influences and just play. And clean. My room is once again a bit of a tip. And it is half-term for my lovely daughter and she has a stacked queue of Netflix movies and Anime to share. Spending time with her is always, always a good thing.


Final Tag book – all put together

I had fun making this – same sort of accordion construction I have done 100 times before, and I am sure everyone knows already. I attached the ribbon tie to the back of the book so it would wrap round.

Added the tags – I made the pages a little bigger so the tags would be framed nicely, yet the top would extend above the book so the ribbon and rik-rak would be free.

And the cover in place:

Just to save you looking back, here are al the tags in place. Some might have a few additions, like splatters, etc.

I have a really fugly art journal page that I may add. Not sure yet. I also have another box of stash coming and I may want to throw a little more onto the fugliness to see if it salvages it. Or not. I added a title that is pretty perfect for it so I may just share it as is. It is a cautionary tale…sometimes, more is crap. But is it ART?