Inspired Journaling

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Make no mistake, I love keeping a journal. I have years worth of journals, some with spines broken, some half filled, some with every page painted. I keep no specific rules about my journals, if I don’t like a drawing or spread, I feel no compunction to keeping it for posterity or the ability to prove to myself that I have grown in talent or skill.

Nope.

I paint over that stuff! They are my books, it’s my time, they are my supplies. 

MTestaAmelia

Sometimes, I gather items together with no plan about how I might use them. This page began in this manner. When going through my ephemera, I came across a hand typed page with the date, July 2, 1937 on it. A quick trip into the land of internet showed me that Amelia Earhart went missing on this -same day-. I have always admired Amelia for her unconventional nature and beauty, it was an exciting connection to tuck into and explore visually.

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And sometimes, I just want to play around with a page, see where it goes without focus or a will to make the page balanced, composed, or meaningful in any way. These pages are like a stew of All-The-Things! Scribbling, stencil use, written words, playful patterning all contribute to completing the page.This type page will often help me open up to new methods of using the same old tools.

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This page is a complete and total cover up!! Twice over! I like to daydream about what a forensic restoration artist would find, were they to dig deeply into my journals and paintings. But I already know. They would find drawings under paintings, under collage with some more paint on top. 

This page must have been awful, originally, because I first collaged newsprint, then boldly applied black paint atop that. I remember thinking, ‘where do I go from here!’ Well, when using acrylic paints, the sky is the limit! All the while, Arrow, my cat at the time, was putting his glamour on. It was easy to ascertain my subject matter from there!

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And you know? Sometimes, I just draw! Because it feels good. Because I need something to do. Because I like to. 

When I am creatively stymied, looking through my journals helps to bolster and shift my perspective. Some journal pages serve to inform new pieces of art. Some help me create new motifs. Some are studies for larger works. Others are just crappy meanderings in the funk of my brain. And that is OK! So long as I pick up the latest journal and continue to get ideas on the page.

Interested in learning from me and with me? I have 8 spots left in my Inspired Journaling class at Craft Napa.  😛 

And the winner is?

 

Congratulations Kristin, please email me as soon as you are able. 

And to all who took the time to comment, post links to your Facebook page, thank you. 

I invite those of you who have interest my my approach to keeping an artist’s journal to please sign up for my class. This is a video intensive 5 week (possibly 6) class that really picks apart all the different aspects of having fun with art supplies, layering techniques, drawing and painting.

I would love the opportunity to work with you and to explore what you and your visual voice has to say. I will ask you to buy yourself flowers too! This is an added benefit of taking the class if you ask me! We all deserve pretty things to look at (and don’t worry, I have also taken loads of gorgeous photos for you to work from as well.

So please, sign up for my first journaling class today! I look forward to it!

Dream Journals

Flashcard Friday-A Wash.

Creating a wash, or in the case of this flashcard in particular, a wash gradation in two colors, is both easy and fun. The challenge is to prepare your work surface with everything you need so that when it comes time to paint your wash, you can quickly grab whatever you need. I like to use a wide, cheap, bristle brush to lay the paint down. There are elegant brushes for this purpose, but I don’t own one.

On this journal page, I combined gradation wash with the use of paper frisket, (a flashcard for another day). There are some techniques that  can or should be used in combination with other techniques. You can do a wash on the page to lay color down-then start working the page, or you can mask an area and paint over it, reserving a portion and coloring the ground. It is up to you.

On another note, I have been speaking with Diana from M. Graham paints. Diana has been gracious and is answering some questions about her paints and we wanted to share information with you. M. Graham are my paint of choice in all mediums-watercolor, gouache and acrylic. I started using her paints because the gouache formulation is such that it can be parsed out in a travel palette and allowed to ‘dry’. Not all gouache can be rewet, but M. Graham paints can. This is a boon for artists like me, who enjoy painting on the go!

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Diana, I have been using your paints for a few years, I was turned onto them by Roz Stendahl, a blogger and artist whom I greatly admire. The selling point for me was the fact that you use honey in your formulation and that your gouache paints do not use opacifiers-making them able to travel in a travel palette. Will you talk about this? Why honey? Why no opacifiers?

The gouache story is that “designers” gouache that most people are familiar with was created for fashion, etc. designing. The artwork was created, reproduced and discarded.  Because the original art was not to be retained, the permanency of the color was not an issue.  Many of the hues are purples, reds and fluorescents which are available in beautiful pigment or dyes-few  of which are lightfast.  We chose to use the same pigments as our other lines (all rated lightfast I or II except Alizarin which remains by popular demand).
 
While gouache is like watercolor (and can be thinned and used as washes), the usual application is a thick, flat layer or layers.  This requires a media that is film forming and resistant to cracking.  The use of honey in ours creates a more flexible film and better adhesion.
 
Most brands add chalks or whiteners to make the color opaque.  While some prefer this in design work, it detracts fro the brilliant liveliness in a fine art piece.  We chose to leave the mixing to the artist so either technique can be used.  Each color is as opaque as the pigment allows.  Some colors, like Quinacridone Red, are like layering transparent colored glass trying to get opacity.  No matter how much pigment you add, it is simply more transparent by nature than other pigments.
 
Some watercolorists apply transparent watercolor thickly, straight from the tube.  Our watercolors are formulated for more traditional dilution and application and they may not dry if painted out thickly.  For this technique, the gouache is the perfect solution.
 
I’ll try to talk about honey next.

Positively Flash Card Friday

Flash Card Friday

Here is another contribution to Flash Card Friday. Last week we talked about Negative Space, this week we talk about Positive Space. Positive space is object itself. Positive space is the person, place or thing that you are drawing. In the last post, I painted the negative space around the chair, in this one, I painted the chair itself.

As I have said before, negative space stymied and alluded me for years. I didn’t get it, so I created these two images to have relationship to one another so that you will not get confused like I did.

Have you considered making a set of Flash Cards for yourself? These can be used to challenge yourself to a throw down, as Chapter 5 in Dreaming from the Journal Page suggests. This will help you to start layering and building innovative and interesting journal pages all while trying out each technique in the book.

Embracing Ambiguity.

Two weeks ago, David and I went to Kripalu, a yoga retreat center that we visit regularly. Of course I packed up my travel kit, journal and special treats and I took the time to find a flower to two to draw and paint.

While drawing the orange flower I was bit by a nasty bug and am still healing from it!

The next day, I returned to that bug infested place for more torture, ops, I mean, same spot to color the drawing. This is the third drawing I have done at Kripalu. If you have Dreaming From the Journal Page check out pages 118 and 122 for the other two Kripalu flower drawings and a piece of art inspired by them.

When I came home, I continued to work the page using stencils to help ‘pattern up the page’ (this page is featured in video content from the Stencil Magic class (please sign up, I would love to work with you). I want the frenetic energy of the wildflower patch to really shine through and don’t feel as if I have captured that yet. I like the page a lot, it is moving into the right place but is not quite there. Almost, just about, but not quite. Oh the ambiguity. 

When I first started working in my journal pages over time like this, it felt quite uncomfortable. I felt as if I needed to return to the page as soon as possible and complete the image. But, I find when I would do that, I often make impulsive and ill defined decisions that leave me regretting and wishing I had taken the time to truly decide what my next step should be. For me, taking this sort of time is tantamount to creating the beautiful pages I want to see realized in my journals.

So, I wonder, how do you deal with creative ambiguity? Do you embrace it, struggle and push against it? Do you not experience ambiguity?  Talk to me! 

Whirlwinds

This should be Flash Card Friday, but it is not. I called a fun day. I went to my monthly appointment, my Man accompanied, very helpful-the lad. 

A memory of the day, not fully explained:

X-ray box, perforated paper, square head man face, front top quadrant of the page-drawn by David. Me: Flipped, vertebrae, ribs, hips, femurs; his pen, mine pencil. RN comes in to find, then….Very fast walk uptown, stopped at Merrimeko…dreamy…. Then to Mood to paw through and daydream effectively. Rich!

I am fixated on getting this Gather your Sew-plies (chatelaine pattern)  right. I felt buoyed by a comment to this post and started to think about this purse as Sewing Jewelry, personal adornment, how would an artist with my skill dress herself?  I began designing this small purse because I want to sew -on –the —-go, embroider wherever I am. Although I merely keep the essentials (Thread, Thread Heaven, Thimble, Scissors, needles), the bag is heavy and it moves around with momentum as I walk. Form isn’t meeting intended function.


A need arose.

 So it needs an anchor. But I want it to be removable, because, well, who doesn’t like a convertible thing? A toy, a puzzle, deeply stitched object. It’s satisfying. 

I think I am just addicted to cataloging, collecting, collating, and jotting. This is an image of an idea book. I think it is different than an art journal, it supports and documents. They help me remember.

A need, and response.

So I am creating a belt and loop scenario. I keep wondering about changing the texture of cloth by stitching it. I would like to explore this some.

I think the hand stencil needs to be embroidered on the purse, somewhere. That stencil has been asking to be used all week.

 

Anyone in the Dallas area going to the Great American Scrapbook Conference, I will be teaching surface design techniques for paper. Come join me?

Flash Card Friday: Negative Space

 

It is once again Flash Card Friday, where I discuss techniques used in Dreaming From the Journal Page.

I don’t know why, but for years I had a very hard time remembering what negative space was. I had a mental block. Then one day my pal Angela looked at a stamp I had carved and said, “You have great command of negative space”. I looked at her dumbfounded and asked her to please explain what that meant.

Negative space is the the area around an object. Simple.

The use of negative space in my work is akin to creating windows into previous layers. See the peach/teal/polka dots? That was the first layer. After which, I outlined two figures (which is my Man and I) and painted around them using a royal blue. The royal blue is negative space.

Easy peasy, right?

When I journal, there are a few images that continually recur, this ‘couple’ is one of them. I started drawing elongated people and calling them David and I after we saw some Giacometti sculptures at Tate Modern. It was such a fabulous trip and the artwork spoke volumes to me, so they became personally iconic. Do you do this too?

My Guy and I are going away for a relaxing retreat at our favorite yoga center and we really need it. See you again on Tuesday!

Please don’t feed the hipsters.

Once a week my Man and I walk up to our favorite coffee joint and help open it. And now, as the weather improves, I have begun to walk afterward. I love walking. I walk fast enough that you might call it running, I can’t slow it down.

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But when I bring my camera, that will make me stop long enough to enjoy cobblestoned streets.

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Oh! Pigeons meet wet cement.

Brooklyn, NYC

And, please don’t feed the hipsters. That stencil looks like Woody Allen, right? He is the ultimate hipster. And that red down there? Roses? I am inspired by this.

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This church door reminds me of the embroidery I am doing on the Female Mag blouse

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And finally, the reason for walking down into Red Hook, this Duke Riley poster. Maybe a year and some ago, I went gallery hopping with the Journal Study Gals. Pat pulled a strip of paper off a telephone pole, tore it in half, handed me a section. I went home to glue it in my journal and made a page featuring it (see the last image in this post).

But I had no way of connecting the scrap of paper to the original artist. And you know I have a thing for posters and poster art, you can’t restore vintage posters for 6+ years without acquiring an affection for paper, posters, and wheat paste.

Brooklyn, NYC

So this morning I went back into Red Hook, photographed the poster in-situ and then took it off the wall. 😈 I brought the poster home, in pieces, and washed it in the tub, it is drying now. I don’t know what I am going to do with it, but I like this man’s work and I think I might need to meet him. I bet he lives in Red Hook. He is a tattoo artist, he makes me want a tattoo.

Different poster, collaged and completed in my 8" journal, melanietesta.com

I saw a real rat today, running from a dumpster into a building that is being renovated. I love seeing rats in the city. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them. Beside which, they clean up after us!

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So, there is a blog hop going on and I am just now catching up with it, you should too.

April 30 – Tracie Lynn Huskamp
Stenciled & Stitched: A Special Occasion Greeting Card

May 1 – Traci Bunkers
Gelatin Printing

Script Lettering/Tattoo style using Sakura Calligrapher Pens

Fun Little Resist

May 4 – Melanie Testa
Thimble Cinch Sack

May 5 – Lyric Kinard
PSE for Thermofax Screen Printing

May 6 – Jill Berry
Pop-Up Heart Map


 

Numinous thoughts.

Kass Hall and I speak to one another through Facebook, she is also a (4 time) cancer survivor and she has written a book, soon to be published about Zentangles, called Zentangle Untangled. Kass recently wrote a review of Dreaming from the Journal Page on her blog. Then she went and wrote this post.

And I got to thinking. When I was diagnosed, it was the exact same week I received the contract for Dreaming from the Journal Page. I approach life with a glass half full mentality. So, if you can’t do anything about a situation (in this case that would be a cancer diagnosis), and you love making stuff and have a contract sitting on your desk to write a book. You write that book and do whatever else needs doing, like get chemo and have surgery. This seems normal to me. Many people act as though this is an aberration, and make statements like, ‘I would curl up in a ball and sleep during something like that’. (Kass didn’t say this, but more than one person has.)

To which, I am nonplussed. Really?

But my thing is, if in doubt, paint something. If my mind is filled with negative, start a project and focus intently on it until reason prevails. Fear will always beckon, it’s the ‘frenemy’ you wanna shake and can never quite release. So, why give the mind a chance to settle in that place? And I am not saying that writing a book while going through treatment for breast cancer, or any cancer or sickness, is an easy thing to do, not at all. Maybe I am grateful that I have cultivated the wherewithal to apply art to major life experiences-no matter how challenging.

My bald head during treatment became a beacon of strength to me.

Where do you find courage and ability? Are you one of those who might curl in a ball and sleep? I find courage in the making. Painting, drawing, sewing, it fortifies me. It reminds me that I have ability and can push myself further. It reminds me that I want to be better, live more, extend myself to the limits of possibility.

To have my life threatened by a disease and to know that my lease on life is tenuous at best? That seems like courage to me. Or at the very least the impetus to be courageous. At the same time, I often feel like Kass, I know what I want and the steps I need to take in order to make my goals acheivable, but I freeze.  

My very own signed copy of Dreaming from the Journal Page

Are you frozen? Do you apply art to necassary situations? How do you cope with challenging circumstances? Kass and I would like to know.

The Webinar and a travel journal update

A sampling of what I would take if I were traveling to France! Or anywhere else.

Oh my goodness! I just finished the Webinar with Create Mixed Media and I think it was a success. I was a bit nervous, but that is to be expected. If you attended, thank you so very much for coming and for checking out my website, blog and… ahem….

my new teaching website, The Clever Guild.

The questions were great and I wanted to address a few of them here. 

When I make my journals I have been using Saunders Waterford 140lb. Hot Press Watercolorpaper. I am fickle and can change my mind often but this has been a favorite for the last two journals made. When I went to F.I.T, my teachers were adamant that we use Cold Press paper and I can’t remember why. They helped me form a habit that I was just recently able to break. Using Saunders Waterford 140lb Hot Press paper is somewhat new to me and I really like its flat surface and ability to hold a puddle of water for a long time.

The one paper that I do not like is Arches and the reason behind this is, when wet, it has a funky smell. I have never liked it and can’t confirm that their paper still smells because I am not willing to purchase it again.

The last journal I made used 4 different watercolor papers (and if you would like to hear my thoughts on them, just comment here on this post and I will expand on the topic), and I made the book with 4 different papers in order to test them out and see what I thought. There was one paper in that journal that I really did not like. But the Saunders paper shone like a pretty nugget of gold, so I have become a fan.

Above you will see what I would bring as a travel journal kit. The little palette is brand named Jack Richeson and I bought mine through Roz Stendahl‘s local art store, Wet Paint (she turned me on to these palettes [and if you go ahead and order a few, please tell them Melanie Testa sent you-I don’t get anything out of this, they are just really good people and independant). The little guys are just two dollars fifty, so buy quite a few and give them as gifts to your favorite art buddies (I do this and you know who you are!) 

I also carry a Pentel Pocket Brush Pen, a refillable cartridge style pen with actual bristles in the brush (!!!), a mechanical pencil with 3B lead, my favorite, and a Lamy Safari Fountain Pen using Platinum Carbon Black Ink. One of the best waterproof inks out there. I also carry and empty dropper bottle and fill it when I get to where I am going.