Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Never Alone

I've been art journaling for years and it has lately become my most favored mode of self expression. I can see as I look back on my old journals how much I have learned about art and how to use various mediums and supplies in my work. I would never show anyone most of those old pages and hate looking at them myself, except in order to see my creative growth.

I am still very much interested in incorporating poetry into my mixed media art but I am also looking to expand my art journaling to include more writing, more exploration of thoughts and feelings. Many times that writing will be covered with gesso or paint as it is only for me, but I am working at using art as a starting point for journaling and vice versa. I'm particularly in search of ways to use an art idea as a means to write. 

In this particular piece I began with a coloring page from Stampington's publication "The Coloring Studio," which sadly is no longer being published. I colored and cut out the woman, not using the background in the book but creating my own. The sentiment "never alone" was part of the original picture and though I hadn't planned to use it, as I created the layout it called to me and I thought of two way to interpret it.

Never alone, can mean that you never have to feel alone. That can be due to having family and friends around all the time, or because you have a spiritual belief that some higher power is an eternal escort in your life. It can mean that somewhere, somehow, there is always a person or group you can turn to.

But it can also mean something else. It can mean that you are bombarded by the noise and company of other people and that you are literally never alone. And that can be a stressor. Solitude is a necessary and welcome state, especially for writers and artists who require large blocks of alone time in which to create. Never alone, can mean you never have the quiet you need in order to go deep into your soul and figure out what your true life purpose is.

Like anything, "never alone" has its pros and cons. Its good points and bad. It opens one up to interpreting for your own life and perhaps is a door to discovering more about your heart and soul. A simple sentiment like this can be a creative opening for art or writing and lead me to think in new ways.

Open doors are entries into the creative mind and how lucky that a short phrase, a poem, or a picture can be your open door.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Autumn Art Journaling

We moved from New York to California a year ago. At the time the drastic change of this loveliest of all seasons was buried beneath unpacked boxes, learning how to get around our new hometown and getting to know our newest grandchild. This year however is different.

Now that we are settled into our new home and know where to find everything we need in our new neighborhood I am feeling the loss of autumn in New York. Where is the crisp cold air, the wild colors on the trees painted by my favorite artist, Mother Nature? It is going to be 95 degrees in Temecula today but I am pre-programmed to be slipping into jeans and sweatshirts in the middle of October, not wearing cotton shorts and tank tops. I am missing the splendor of autumn in the northeast. I am missing my friends and the chance to go out with the girls. I am missing my tribe of writers.

Art journaling is my creative expression of choice these days. I love the fun, mess and relaxation of the paint, glue and the feel of the scissors in my hand. But more than that, art journaling has become a way for me to deal with feeling homesick, even when I know I am home. Playing with my art supplies and messing up my art journals brings me joy and distracts me from the feeling of loss.

And so I had to create an autumn art journal page just to give me a feeling of what it was like.

I used Distress Oxide inks and a script stamp for the background. I used a Tim Holtz die to cut out the leaves and colored them with Distress Oxides as well. It is unusual for me to use my own handwriting in my journals but this was such a personal layout I felt it needed that.

So as I head out today to meet friends for lunch at a local winery I will try to remember the crisp air, the farm stands of the North Fork with their colored squashes and big orange pumpkins. I will recall the smell of wood smoke and the aroma of roasted corn. And I will toast autumn in New York, and all the friends we left behind.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Happy Art Journaling

Many poets, journalers and art journalers begin this practice in order to process difficult times and emotions of their lives. And what a perfect way to slowly explore where you are and where you need to go, what to change, or what to keep. It was that way for me in poetry and journaling but not with art journaling.

I am a typically happy, optimistic and Pollyanna-ish woman and when I think of art I think of art I think of my childhood and hours spent drawing, coloring with a huge box of crayons, painting by number or coloring with a Venus Paradise colored pencil kit. Those were hours of pure and joyous creation with no particular investment in the outcome. And that is how I approach my various art journals.

These two pages are examples of how I express my happy moods. Not to say that sadder emotions don't creep up but I prefer to tackle those feelings with words on the pages of spiral notebooks. I leave my art journals for fun, happy and whimsical splashes of color, image and words. I work in several journals at once all with mixed media pages so that they can hold up to the weight and wetness of paints, inks and gel medium. But they are in different sizes. Sometimes my choice depends on the images I want to use and other times I choose a size to reflect my mood. Am I working tight and small or loose and intuitive. 

I came to art journaling in my fifties and I'm glad I discovered this wonderful way to express myself and to play.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Tribute to a Poet

Several years ago we took a trip to Amherst, Massachusetts and visited the home of poet Emily Dickinson. It was a wonderful experience to see where she lived and wrote her hundreds of poems cloistered in her room all alone. Artifacts of handwritten poems, notes and letters, her iconic white dress with lace collar, the garden outside the door. As a poet and lover of poetry I was touched and inspired by merely being in the same house she had once been in.

I do enjoy incorporating my own poems into my art but many times I like to make an art journal layout that honors a favorite poet. Here is one I did in honor of Mary Oliver and my favorite poem of hers.

Today I made my Emily Dickinson page because the need for hope is strong and crucial right now. Here is her poem about hope.

And here is my art journal in tribute to the solitary poet, the Belle of Amherst.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Making the Most of Every Moment

Before dawn raises her sun striped arms in the sky I gaze out the window, stretching awake my muscles and bones. Hummingbirds flitter outside at the feeder and butterflies hover over the flowers. Each day is a gift and we cannot let even one go without stopping to witness new growth and creative ideas. We cannot pass one moment not observing beauty or being grateful for Mother Nature's gifts.

do not waste time
on idle hours
this life graces us
with moments we must cherish

I take to my art journal in order to spend my moments creatively and to wash my soul of the chaos in this world. I look for images and quotes, or create my own poems, that bear witness to the good in the world.

No matter what I am in the process of creating I feel a thrum in my soul that lets me know I am fully alive and witnessing all that each day holds. I am not idly waltzing through life, but taking advantage of its gifts and appreciating everyone and everything I come to know.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017


It's time to give this blog a face lift and some much needed attention. My creative muses have conspired to lead me in directions filled with heart and passion. That means poetry and art journaling and ways to incorporate the two. I've been exploring ways to combine my art journal pages with my poetry and here is a fresh example of what I've come up with.

For me poetry and art are equally satisfying and soulful ways of expressing myself. I can't abandon one for the other so it was necessary for me to find a way to combine the two. I like more structured art journal pages such as the one below.

But I also like the free flowing form of intuitive painting. Therefore I have to work in two journals. I use my moleskine sketchbook to create art using stamps and quotes and design theory and structured techniques. But I am beginning a new 8x8 inch art journal that will include my intuitive painting journeys combined with new poems.

Intuitive painting such as this:

allow me to freely express what's happening in my head, which is always a turmoil of creative inspiration. It lets me play with paint and get messy without worrying about what the finished painting will look like. I can put on any kind of music that attracts me at the moment and just smear paint across the blank page. 

I like the idea of using these paintings as a backdrop for my poems and will be busy working on these pages. Poetry and painting emerge from the same place in my soul and give me the same sense of satisfaction at self expression.

It's a new creative journey that I look forward to and to sharing the stops along the way with my readers.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Finding Myself in Poetry and Art

The morning is born in silver and blue, calling to me from the slats of light between window blinds. Black crows squawk, demanding attention, the way my mind demands I rise from the bed and head to my desk. A pen with ink the color of a mid-morning sky and a blank page of notebook paper await. The pen will dance my thoughts across the white page, curling dreams into letters and joys and sorrows into verse. The conduit from my mind, through my arm and my fingers, through the pen and on to the paper is a golden ribbon that unfurls from my soul. And here in morning silence I find myself.

Poetry touches the heart. I read poems and a fire lights in my head, birthing flames of new poems. I write and the fires are staunched for the moment only to burn again at the sight of flower blooming or the song of swallow.

If I feel lost, I can open a collection of poems and find myself in depictions of happiness and nature. But writing poems or even stories can act as a mirror to my soul and show me what is important in my life.

Once the poems are written images of paint emerge to be danced across a canvas or art journal to express the parts of myself I have newly discovered. Life begins in the lines of a poem and the swirls of a paintbrush and my spiritual practice unwinds like a song.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Art Shows

As members of the Temecula Valley Art League we are offered many opportunities to exhibit our art. It's not so easy to put yourself out there in the world. To feel confident enough about what you are creating to share it with the world and display your heartfelt canvases among the works of other artists, some of whom have been in juried exhibits, have sold their work and been displayed in galleries.

Eventually though, as an artist who creates in the confines of your own room, all alone, with only the muses to sing to you, the time comes when you have to get out there. In April Frank and I had the chance to display our work at a monthly exhibit in Old Town Temecula. Putting our work out in the world was a challenge, not to mention trying to maneuver the hooks and wires needed to hang canvases from the racks we were provided. But it was a lot of fun!

We finally got everything hanging up securely and to the tune of a live jazzy/blues band we wandered around the vast space looking at the work of other artists. As with any endeavor in this world there were many who were better than us and others who were not as good. And in the middle is a pleasant place to be in terms of artistic talent.

We also got to meet other artists and chat about the creative process and the opportunities that exist in our new home town to share our art and meet other creative people.

I know we will be exhibiting more often and we both look forward to that chance.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Blogging, Art and Networking

I know, I know, I said I wanted to blog more often. Well I'm working on it. We did go away for a few days to Paso Robles, another one of California's wonderful wine country regions. And we spent some hours walking on the trails along the coastline at Moonstone Beach. But with the mobility of electronic devices travel may no longer be an excuse not too blog. Though too much food and wine might suffice.

Well I'm back now and ready to talk about art and all that.

Frank and I attended a meeting of the Temecula Valley Art League last night and my discussion with the current President of the organization prompted this blog post. It's related to networking and publicity.

The TVAL monthly meetings are a lovely blend of pot luck dinner, business meeting and artist demonstration. When we moved to California from New York I researched several arenas for networking with artists and the Temecula Valley Art League came up. We've only been to two meetings so far and just became official members but already I see the potential. Not only for networking with local artists but also as a way for me to get involved in something that I feel passionate about. Besides art making I am very passionate about promoting the arts, especially for children.

TVAL is presently looking for new board members and that announcement prompted me to talk to the President and find out how I could volunteer my services. Aside from taking on some responsibilities for doing tasks the organization needs to be done I also want to brainstorm ways that I can offer new skills and services to the league. They need a new publicity person and I might take that on if I can do enough research about how to go about it. I want to promote art for everyone not just promote my own art making which is more of a personal hobby than a profession.

I'm taking it on, along with other clubs or groups that sound interesting and I hope this blog will also be a forum to publicize events and happenings at the art league here in beautiful Temecula.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Why a Marriage between Poetry and Art?

Many might ask why I choose to marry art with poetry. There are two answers to that question. The simple answer is that I needed a way to combine my two favorite creative outlets. For a long time I struggled between wanting to make art and wanting to write. Being a very black or white person I operated under the false assumption that I could do one or the other but not both. Having little creative time back in those years of full time work I felt that doing both well was an impossibility since I could barely find time to one or the other. If I was writing it was in slivers of early morning, or late at night when my brain could barely function. I needed all the time I could muster to get any worthwhile writing accomplished. There was no room for art.

Yet, art kept singing her siren song, luring me into the deep waters of mixed media and art journaling. It was a lovely place to drown except I kept feeling I needed to be more focused and responsible about my writing. After all a novel doesn't get written in snippets of time. It could take years just to create a first draft.

But then poetry came tiptoeing back into my life. From the time I was a little girl I loved reading and writing poetry and who can't write a short poem in a few corners of the day? So I immersed myself in reading poetry again and began to write more poems. I took a few online poetry classes and started sending poems out to literary journals. But still here was my muse tossing paintbrushes at me and smearing bright colored paints into my thoughts.

And then came the "aha" moment!

Sitting in a garden at the art museum I began to see art journals and canvases that married my poems with art. How the words could swirl through a design or sit humble but strong as an element on the page. I had found the answer to my creative dilemma. I could write poems and make art and put the two together and never worry again about where to put my creative focus.

And that is the simple answer--just finding a way to enjoy my two creative loves at the same time.

The more complicated answer is that art and poetry are a spiritual practice for me and giving up either one was like praying to a demi-god. It just didn't fulfill my need for spiritual connection. In order to embrace my feelings for spirituality I needed to enjoy both art and poetry.

That longer explanation for this marriage of poetry and art is for another blog post. And definitely some more art to show you.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Turning Poems into Art

be still
be silent
for your heart
and soul
to sing

As words swirl across the page in blue ink I can't help but imagine what they would look like incorporated into a piece of art. I've made attempts in the past to add my own poems to my art work and some of them have actually turned out okay. One problem is that I use different styles and I need to refine my style so my work will become familiar.

In the image above I worked out something in my art journal in hopes of getting as style down that I like. I believe working out the plan in my journal before committing to canvas will be a big help.

For this page I used Fresco Finish chalk paint applied with a brayer and added a few stamped designs to bring more interest to the background. For the focal images I stamped them onto various mulberry papers and cut them out. Once adhered with gel medium I used bush markers to add shadows and highlights. I printed the poem on mulberry paper too and attached it with gel medium. I was happy with it mostly for the colors. Even though my paintings have become more bold and bright, when creating art for my poems I prefer softer muted tones.

I was happy with it so I did it again on a canvas.

This time I printed the poem on deli paper and I believe in the future I will use deli paper to print all the poems and to stamp the images as well.

I feel challenged to create a series of poem-art canvases for an exhibit in May. I like the idea and this will give me two different art modes for exhibiting. My bold and bright abstract paintings and these softer pieces with poetry and art. The particular canvas above is 8x8 inches which I like but I ended up buying a bunch of 10 x 10 inch canvases that were on sale at Michaels so I will use those for the exhibit.

So much going on in my mind right now about poetry and art so hopefully that will encourage me to post more often on this blog. 

Have a bright and poetic day.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Learning to write poetry from the masters

Early morning. The sun gives the horizon a tentative kiss. I shuffle in pink moccasins to the kitchen to prepare 8 ounces of honey and lemon water to hydrate and soothe my parched soul. After a few minutes of meditation in the silver gray solitude of this new day I turn on the light to read.

I am often in the process of reading several books at once but divine dawn is reserved for poetry, or poetry related books, or inspirational reading that centers me and reminds me to be mindful of each glorious moment of my life.

This precious morning I cozied up to the following books.

The first book was Mary Oliver's new collection of essays. "Upstream." Oliver is my poetic idol. Her knowledge and experience with nature in all its beauty and destruction is unparalleled. She describes flora, fauna and experience in intimate details, images that shock and surprise the reader. And she takes those details and connects them to a larger universal connection that exists among all life whether we acknowledge it or not. She makes me gasp. She makes me pick up my pen and journal to write my own thoughts or to copy down lines from her poems or essays I don't ever want to forget. Reading Oliver is a gift I give myself, ever grateful for the magic of her thoughts and words.

The second book I read this morning is one of a pair I just discovered while perusing "How to Read a Poem" and "How to Write a Poem" by Tania Runyon. I was attracted to these books because they are based on Billy Collins' poem "Introduction to Poetry." Collins is one of my other favorite poets and I love the poem so I ordered the books straight away and was not disappointed. Runyon offers several facets of a poem to explore, each based on a verse from the Collins poem. She then sets the reader a series of questions to ask about a poem based on that verse and gives you several poems to practice the process. The poems are wonderful and turn the book into an annotated anthology that enlightens the reader of poetry. So far I am enjoying the first book and look forward to seeing what she has to say about writing poems. 

I love finding new books of poetry or books about poetry that inspire me and help me learn. Perhaps one day some reader or poet will open one of my books and become inspired too.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Art and Poetry as Spiritual Practice

I grew up with no religious training or spiritual practices. Holidays like Christmas and Easter were celebrated because they were fun and were reasons to bring family together for good food, laughter and card games. I didn't attend church or synagogue except for rare transitional events like weddings or funerals. I grew up fine but always with the feeling that something was missing.

Over the years I tested a few religions, tried them on to see if they fit but they required too many alterations to be the right style. I had been told so many times that religion was silly, or wrong, or so much nonsense that I just couldn't find one to suit my needs. And yet, I kept searching for a spiritual practice that would make me feel complete.

I tried yoga, tried to learn meditation and Buddhism, and even spent a weekend at an ashram with a friend to see if there was anything there that could become my spiritual practice.

Over the years yoga and meditation gave me some peace of mind and an excuse to enter the solitude and silence I so desperately require in every day. But it didn't seem enough. And then I discovered something. As a child I had a spiritual practice but didn't know that's what it was. I had poetry and nature and art. I would lie in the cool morning grass of summer and watch the clouds roll by. I would observe the plants turning green in the spring and flowers exploding in an unbelievable variety of colors and shapes. At some subconscious level I must have absorbed all of nature for being the miracle that it is. Mother Nature was my goddess but I didn't name her as such until well into midlife.

Slowly I came back to my childhood passions. First it was poetry--reading and writing poems became my expression of spirituality. A connection to emotions and thoughts that sleep beneath the heart and are difficult to recognize and arouse until I spent many quiet mornings sinking into the rhythm and meaning of poems or watching my own feelings sprawl across the white page in waves of blue or purple ink. 

In later years I discovered I still had a passion for art. I started out scrapbooking then moved on to collage, art journaling, mixed media and painting. I learned techniques through online classes, books and magazines. And finally I had a spiritual practice I could relate too.

Ultimately I needed a way to combine these two creative modes of expression. And though I'm not quite there in a consistent way I started this blog in the hopes I could develop a daily practice of art that incorporated my own poems--or lines from poems by poets I love like David Whyte, Mary Oliver and Mark Nepo.

Here are two samples of my attempts at adding my own poems to my art work.

I'm trying to develop an artistic style that will work and can be consistent so people will recognize the art as mine. I have long since refined my poetic voice and I believe it's fairly recognizable to those familiar with my work. This is definitely an ongoing project but it has become my spiritual practice and I am grateful for that.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

It's raining here in southern California and I hear that's unusual but since we just moved to the west coast a few months ago I have nothing to compare it to. So I am taking advantage of this gray Sunday to formulate my plans for blogging.

I had considered starting a whole new blog based only on poetry and calling myself the Zen Poet but that presented a few problems. First of all I would lose all the art I've posted here and second it would limit what I could include. So I've decided to stick with this blog because I can write about poetry and art and just sort of follow my heart. I hope to have more informative posts and to blog more frequently.

Today's post is about stepping out of my comfort zone in relation to art. I typically have a simple style with soft colors or neutrals and not too many layers on my pages. Doing many layers in one piece just never appealed to me. But I began taking some online courses with Mimi Bondi, an Australia based artist whose book "No Shenanigans" inspired me to get creatively uncomfortable. There are e-classes that match each chapter of the book and Mimi is an amazing teacher. Her free youtube videos are amazing and very accessible and I recommend them.

These are two new journal pages that I created with guidance and inspiration from Mimi. I'm not totally pleased with them but I am pleased with the stretch I made to work in new ways with paint and ideas. I even managed to let my fingers do the painting and get pretty messy in the process!

I encourage you all to step outside of your comfort zone and create something using new materials or techniques and if you have't made an art journal page or painted the way you did when you were a child I certainly encourage you to try it out. It's lots of fun and it makes a rainy Sunday brighter and more colorful.