Monday, 30 March 2009

Art Journal

Journalling has been my lifeline for over eighteen years. It is still my constant, and I can never imagine, or want it, any other way. It’s how I see the world, sort myself and things out, plan, scheme, schedule, dream, explore thoughts and feelings and yes, still moan quite a bit…
What I discovered some eight years ago, upon moving to Vancouver Island, was that I wanted something more. Words, always my security, and what I return to time and time again, were no longer always enough in some instances. Whether it was because I had started working seriously on my art and wanted to record my progress, or whether I began to connect on a more visual basis I don’t know, but I wanted something more than my steadfast journal.
I found a beautiful 10” x 10” spiral bound scrapbook and began to tentatively explore within the safety of its pages. Mention of my first art exhibit and sale, acceptance into a local juried show, my invitation to a prestigious event at some local botanical gardens… Sporadically I would paint something or collage a piece to be included in the pages, and postcards of others’ shows or work would find themselves pasted alongside everything else.
Last Fall, I moved into a tiny space and as a result had to go through piles and piles of “pieces” I’d saved over the years, as well as far too many half-filled sketchbooks, the contents of which mostly were not likely to ever be allowed to see the light of day again. But some were not half- bad, and I realised that I didn’t have to keep these sketchbooks intact. I could take them apart, burn the pieces I really didn’t care for, and paste the ones I liked into my art scrapbook. Once the move was behind me I spent several enjoyable evenings doing just that.

But it still wasn’t satisfying enough. Mostly because it was images and very few words.
And I cannot live without words.
Around this time I found some 8” x 8” hardbound lightly-lined journals on sale for 50% off. I bought all three. I then came across a blog where the artist shared her collection of 'Everyday Travel Journals' in which she kept a written and visual record of her life. Something about the way she used her journals changed my entire way of looking at things. All it took was an idea to run with, and run with it I did!

I began to combine images, sketches, and words to my heart’s content. I discovered that the paper in the journal I was using could also take watercolours, and I now have a record of my art journey on an on-going basis. I may not work in it every day, or every week for that matter, but treat myself every now and again to a couple of evenings every few weeks “catching up.” I’m enjoying the process so much I will eventually go back through my journals over the last eight years and harvest the phrases and paragraphs that pertain to the images that populate my original art scrapbook.
From now on I am giving equal space in my Art Journal to both my writing and my art, which is, after all, how it was always meant to be…

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Journalling to My Self - Part I

"This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man."
William Shakespeare

To thine own self be true. If only it were that easy. Most of us ... after many years of questionable upbringing, sibling rivalry, an education system that seemed bent on knocking the stuffing out, and a society where everything, even the pain we suffer, is measured ... are still striving for a perfection that seems forever just beyond our reach.
So we talk to our friends and we buy self help books (occasionally reading them,) go to workshops, see a therapist, do some counselling, visit psychics and commune with whoever we pick for our higher power, desperately trying to be better, to grow, to become healthy, balanced, grounded or whatever the term is at any given moment. I can admit to all of the above, and a lot more besides, over the years. Approaching that magical age of 40 I got to thinking. I create... We all create. I won't get into the intimate details, but as either man or woman we have the ability to create a child - and it don't get much more creative than that! And whether I build a bookcase, write a book, set the table, prepare supper, I create the best bookcase, manuscript, dinner table, meal, that I can.
I was created... (and I'm going to keep this so non-denominational, it's not true) ... Whoever, Whatever, However ... I was created. Somehow I don't think that He, She, It said: "I know, I think I'll make a really lousy Shena today!" I believe that what was said was: "I think I'll make the best possible Shena that I can."
Meanwhile here I was trying to be better, improve, change, grow, ground myself, you name it. Wasn't that like someone bringing me over a nice dish for supper that they had created, and I blithely add spices, whip up a sauce, or sautee it in brandy ... without even tasting it first?
How insulting! It occurred to me that maybe all I really had to do was to stop trying so hard to be perfect and just be who I was created to be ~ my self.
Which is where this all began, being true to my self ...

Journalling to My Self - Part II

Now in no way am I demeaning therapy, friends, counselling, psychics, books, workshops or anything else that we can try. All of the above have helped me enormously and besides, I actually now do most of the above, for myself and with others.
But the single most thing that has been with me day in, day out, in sickness and in health, in sorrow and joy, in quiet moments and in celebration, in the depths of despair and the heights of the awesomeness of life, is my journal. You see, there's a special relationship between me and my journal that has yet to be found elsewhere. Think about it: a journal doesn't disagree with you, doesn't argue back, doesn't criticize, is always there, and best of all, LISTENS. It’s a safe place to scream, to be silly, vent, explore feelings and beliefs that I might not just yet feel comfortable sharing with others. Mine goes EVERYWHERE with me. I am totally indiscriminate about what I put in it. My days, my thoughts, great quotes that inspire me, recipes, photos, the fortune cookie message from last night's dinner that was unbelievably meaningful. Notes on a book I'm working through, a class I am taking. Cards, I keep copies of letters I have written to other people. Stuff I don't know where to put but don't want to part with. I have no rules. I buy sturdy, ring bound, inexpensive notebooks with a pocket inside the front cover, and decorate it, making it mine. I make sure I have an abundant supply of pens I like to write with, one permanently clasped inside the rings. I do have some really beautiful journals that I have purchased in a weak moment (they were on sale) and a couple that friends have given me, but I am afraid they lay abandoned on my bookcase. It's really hard to make a mistake in a lovely book, it's even harder to be nasty and I absolutely cannot, for the life of me, swear on ivory colored paper. I just can't. And I'm not saying you have to swear, but sometimes writing an entire page of the rudest word you can think of is very cathartic. Doesn't happen on ivory paper, trust me.

Journalling to My Self - Part III

I have no special time to write, no particular topics, and especially no set amount a day. This is my best friend remember. Unconditional love on both sides. And because I get to be really who I am, it becomes a joy to visit, a treat to pick up and write a little, and yes, a huge comfort at three o'clock in the morning when I feel very, very alone and the dog is snoring soundly in my ear. My journal is my friend, my confidante. I have always been able to see things more clearly when I am writing them down. It calms me, and helps me to feel all the things that I'm trying not to feel. I don't seem to be able to fool myself when I write. It helps me see myself differently. My journal is my reflection, a mirror to the inner part of me. When I look back over the pages at a later time I can relive the good, positive feelings I had about myself, I can actually see the changes that are coming about, and sometimes, just sometimes, I catch a glimpse of the wonderful person within.
Why journalling? Because however honest I like to think I am, to a certain extent I can still B.S. my way through, or out, of most things. Especially when it involves my own stuff. When I write, it's really, really hard to lie. And when I do, I know full well what I'm doing. And word by word, journal by journal, I find that I am becoming more true ... to my self.
©2000 Shena Meadowcroft

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Daily "Magic"

One of the comments on my last post about daily sketching (thank you!) read: "What a wonderful way to look at life too." It reminded me of "Magic," a wonderfully daft black lab that was my best friend for 14 years . For eight of those years we would take the same walk every day, day in-day out, more often than not around the same time.
Occasionally I'd drive to another part of town for a change, but the walk that we took was down by Nosehill Creek (parallel to the highway) which ran right into the Bow River almost at the centre of the city of Calgary. Each day: same walk. We'd start at the same place, we'd walk the creek, and sometimes along the river by the zoo, but always the same. The seasons changed and so did the ground cover, but not much else. Same walk, different day.

Yet that dog threw himself with such anticipation and complete wild abandon into that walk. Everything was new, everything was exciting, and every tiny part of the walk was greeted with complete and utter amazement, as if he was seeing it for the very first time. And I knew that if ever I could wake up each day with that same attitude, my life would be rich beyond anything I could imagine.

Recently my van was out of commission and I had to walk a long way in rotten weather. I was tired and grumpy and for some reason thought of "Magic." So I decided to pick up off the ground one of every type of foliage that I could find with the commitment to paint them in my Art Journal later that day. And as I discovered each new piece, that I had seen every day of my four years on Gabriola, I began to really enjoy the walk. Painting the pieces that evening I realised that I had, for that day at least, seen the same, same old, as brand new and exciting.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Room with a View - Daily Sketching and Writing

Last Christmas, I read about a woman who saved up for a “pleine air” painting holiday in France only to discover, once she arrived, that it was the worst time of year weather-wise; rain and wind prevailing most days, putting a complete damper on her outdoor plans. Undaunted, she decided to sketch and paint the scene from her window every day. She enjoyed the process so much that she returned to the same place the following year, at the same time, and went on to complete a vast number of sketches and paintings of the same scene.

Right now I live in a tiny spot with an incredible view. Totally inspired by her story, I began a series of sketches which have taught me so much more about seeing and sketching, than any amount of travel or variety could in the same period of time. Free to interpret the same view daily, in the warmth and comfort of my own home, regardless of the weather (and there has been weather, trust me!) I get to experiment and make mistakes because, after all, I can do the same view all over again tomorrow!

The exercise has become a way for me to explore new ways of using old materials, play with concepts I’ve been meaning to for a long while, or try out techniques as I read about them – after all it’s only a 6 x 9 sketch… besides, there's always another one to do…

Have I done one every day? Nope. Am I enjoying doing them? Absolutely.
I do intend to continue with the idea in the next place I move to.

Because every time I sketch the same view I learn something different about my art, and myself.
Now I wonder what would happen if on the facing page I use the day’s view as a setting off point for a piece of writing?

Monday, 2 March 2009

Design for Life

Ballet, Fashion Design, Knitting, Basketry, Time Management, Strategic Planning, Self-Discovery, Intuitive Development, Research, Writing, Art…… these are only some of the workshops that I have taught across Canada and the United States over the years.

I only have one rule.

It works whether you are designing a garment, choreographing a routine, knitting a sweater, weaving a basket, planning your daytimer, writing a novel, or painting a masterpiece…

It’s my only rule, but it’s a golden one.

It goes something like this…

If whatever you are doing doesn’t turn out like the teacher’s sample... or the picture in the book... or what you yourself have in mind...


Works for life too.