My 21 Secrets Workshop continues to inspire me to experiment with new techniques and art styles. I created this page in my altered book, using collage, image transfer, and stamps for my background. I purposely gave the pages a weathered, antiqued look using stains and sandpaper. After creating the background, I was trying to figure out what the focal point should be when the caption just came to me out of nowhere: “And in that brief moment of utter stillness and silence, she understood she was not alone.” So mystical, magical! I wonder if it was another subconscious message inspired by my daily morning pages?? (Trying to find reasons to stay inspired to continue that somewhat tedious practice!)
Back in November I started reading The Artist’s Way, a book that encourages, among other things, the daily practice of morning pages. Morning pages are three full handwritten pages of stream of consciousness writing first thing every morning. The author likens morning pages to a sort of meditation (something I’ve tried many times but have never been able to stand doing), and promises that anyone who practices morning pages on a regular basis will come into contact with their inner power, a clear sense of self, that ever-elusive source of inner wisdom. I’ve been trying to get in touch with my “inner voice” for years now, so two months ago I committed to giving morning pages a try.
I already get up ridiculously early every morning to go to the gym. So getting up half an hour earlier to complete morning pages means waking at 5:00 a.m. When it’s still pitch dark outside. And cold. But I’ve done it faithfully now for two months, missing only one day during that time. I’ve learned that my writing muscles are woefully out of shape, as my hand cramps and my thumb goes numb about halfway through each morning’s musings. Every morning I question my own sanity as I drag myself awake and start slogging away, pen in hand, often with very little to say.
The first hint that something might be stirring in there was when I was trying to create a painting for my aunt Sally’s 60th birthday. The thing I remember most about Sally when I was growing up was her wonderful imagination and sense of play. She could create the most fantastic worlds, and we would immerse ourselves in imaginative play for hours. Mermaids, witches, fairies… she filled my life with magic. Thirty years later, she did the same for my daughters. So when I set out to create a painting for her, the first thing that came to mind was magic and mermaids.
I started the painting, but just wasn’t feeling happy with it. It was a boring mermaid. But while writing my morning pages, it came to me that what it needed were words. I asked my pages what the words should be, and several partial ideas came to mind. I wrote them down. I still wasn’t satisfied. But that morning, while I was in the shower, just after asking my morning pages what he picture should say, the answer came to me. I wrote the caption that I felt captured Sally’s spirit on the painting, and suddenly it seemed right and complete.
So… I continue writing, each morning, before the crack of dawn. Mostly it seems like a waste of precious time. But Sally the Mermaid Queen convinced me to keep trying, and keep listening, for that ever-elusive voice within.
Shaylie requested that I make her a custom phone case for Christmas this year. I have made a few of my art pieces into phone cases for myself, and she wanted one made just for her. I find making art for other people very difficult because I feel like I don’t know what they will like. But she kept asking, so I decided to give it a try. It was right around the time that our neighbor’s cat temporarily adopted us, and Shaylie was quite enamored with it. Since cats have been appearing in my art anyway, I decided to do a painting with a girl and a cat. It turned out better than I expected, and Shaylie loved it! I called the painting “Cat Magic,” and shortly after I painted it, we ended up adopting a kitten of our own. That seems a little magical to me!
If you’ve followed my blog for awhile, you know that a couple of years ago cats began mysteriously appearing in much of my art. I’ve never considered myself a “cat person,” so it was a little strange that I kept painting cats. Shortly after the cats appeared in my art, they also began appearing in my yard and meowing at my back doors. New neighbors moved in and brought with them a plethora of cats. I took a lot of pictures of them prowling around and peering in my windows.
Just as suddenly as they all appeared, they also disappeared, when the neighbors moved out a year later. I had grown kind of fond of the visitors, and was a little sad to see them all go. One big white fluffy one appeared to have been left behind, though, and started crying pitifully at my back door. Against my better judgement, I let it in, gave it some pity food, and let it lounge around on Shaylie’s bed with her. Shaylie and I both got sort of attached to the poor orphan, but then its parents returned and whisked that one away too.
Suddenly I started craving a cat! I investigated a couple of rescue facilities and inquired about fostering kittens, thinking that would be a good way to get my kitten fix without the 20-year commitment. But fostering requires taking the kittens to adoption shows every Saturday, which my work and travel schedule doesn’t permit. But the nagging feeling continued, and I allowed myself to peek at an adoption site, and then make an appointment to go see a kitten. Of course she ended up coming home with me. And suddenly this non-cat person has fallen head over heels in love with a wild and crazy kitten that the girls and I finally named Miss MellieCat! She has been with us for just about a month, and she has completely taken over the house and our hearts. In fact, I would say I’ve been in “Kitty Heaven” for the last four weeks, and at last my obsession with including cats in my art doesn’t seem so strange after all.
One of the workshops in my 21 Secrets online class is called “Map to Happy.” I watched the videos several weeks ago, and the project just didn’t call to me, so I moved on. This week the instructor posted a Ted Talk called Happy Maps, in which the speaker talks about how he used a map app to find the shortest bike route to work, and for months he took the same efficient route. Then one day, for some unknown reason, he took a detour and discovered a beautiful route with much less traffic, which made for a slightly longer, but much more enjoyable ride. His message hit me loud and clear: The shortest route is not always the most satisfying. This is a lesson that I really need to internalize, as I’m always in a hurry, always trying to be efficient, always trying to get THERE (wherever there is) the quickest way possible. Inspiration struck, and I created my own Map to Happy in my altered book. It depicts a long and winding road from start to finish, with the path littered with all the things that make me happy… friends, family, love, wine, chocolate, flat abs, my adorable new kitty, eating out, making art, photography, new “toys,” laughter, etc. It was fun to go back through my 2013 photos and remember the happy moments, and immortalize them on my meandering Map to Happy.
Happy New Year! I am off to a slow start this year, but finally created my first art of the new year today. A few weeks ago, inspired by a free Book of Days Bootcamp by Effy Wild, I started working on my first altered book. I went to a library book sale and picked up an old hardbound book called The Song of Bernadette. According to the inscription on the title page, it once belonged to Dorothy and James Ray back in 1942. I thinned out the pages, began gluing two or three pages together, and threw some paint on a few for background. Then, inspired by The Documented Life Project 2015‘s January theme (book pages) and weekly prompt (goal keeper), I created my first art journal 2015 spread with my One Little Word for the year: Fearless. I don’t mean fearless as in without fear. I mean fearless as in fear less. I want to approach this year with less fear. Be more open to possibilities and less afraid of changes. My art is meant to convey an open-armed embrace of the new year, to be faced, I hope, with less fear and trepidation.