Westward Ho! Day 5

 

Teesha's Pages

The focus of ArtFest is art journaling.  I’ve tried this a couple of times, even made a few art journals, but never really got into it.  I journal… and I do art.  They come from two different parts of my brain.  Whenever I’ve tried to moosh them together, both parts sort of suffer.

Part of coming out here (aside from loving Teesha’s rubber stamps and, you know, traveling) was to stretch my artsy envelope and embrace art journaling (at least for five days).  I’m with 143 artists who are good at this and six teachers who want to help us do it better, give us new ideas and techniques, and support the artsy life.  My attitude is I’ll Try Anything!  Bring It On!

IMG_0376We have two classes a day with a two and a half hour break between for lunch, rest, and journaling on our own.  Each class is three hours long, which never seems like enough time to do everything we want to do.  The point is not to create a finished piece, but to play around with the cool tools and new techniques, get a journal spread started, then go off later and mess around with it.

Not surprisingly, perfectionism among the ArtFesters abounds, but the teachers keep slicing through that by making us do things fast, sloppy, random, imperfect.  I love it!  Yesterday, teacher Orly Avineri, trooped us all outside with the images we’d made that we liked the least.  We stood in a circle, ripped them up, then released them like confetti with whoops and grunts and whatever non-language noise came from our guts.  Without release, she said, we get stuck.  We can’t continue to wander to the next thing, and the next and the next.  In Artfest’s Superhero pantheon, Orly is Wander Woman.

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IMG_0389After class yesterday, I met up with my new friend, Michelle (brain enthusiast, fan-girl, mystic, potty-mouth) and her Southern California gang for supper.  I was too tired to enjoy their lively conversation about Broadway shows.  Time zone changes, adrenaline, the push of a schedule on the road, the gentle sway of rapid cycling; whatever the reasons, I’d only gotten three hours of sleep at night for too long. I had to skip the beach bonfire last night and for the welcome snug of my bunk.  I fell asleep with the evidence of a day well spent.

Now, with a full eight hours in my sleep bank, I’m ready for another fabulous day with two more of my mixed-media Heros; Andrea Matus and Michael deMeng.  Tonight: The Vendor Show!

SoulCollage®

SC-Bipolar

Bipolar Disorder: I am One who has an altered mind.

For about a month, I’ve driven to Des Moines on Sundays to attend the Unitarian Church there.  I love the facility—an eco-friendly building nestled in the woods with a wooden footbridge from the parking lot that crosses a burbling stream.  Every week, I’ve met interesting, like-minded people with amazing stories to tell.  The messages are uplifting, and I get to sing. I feel very welcome and comfortable there.

But, the biggest surprise was the load of activities and classes that the community offers.  This one caught my attention immediately:

SOULCOLLAGE®
Wednesdays, 7 – 8:30 pm
11/12, 11/19, 12/3 & 12/10

SoulCollage® is a creative process in which we make our own deck of collaged cards for the purpose of self exploration and self acceptance. Images are intuitively selected and cards are created in a manner that accesses your deeper self and facilitates a journey to wholeness. Created by Seena Frost, SoulCollage® allows you to create a deck that is the “Story of You.” This is a fun, intuitive process that requires no artistic experience but allows every one to becomes their own artist. The four-week class will include information about SoulCollage®, making of the cards, and working with the cards to understand their meaning. 

I couldn’t imagine a class more tailor-made for me!  I had to go.

I loved it from the moment I walked into the room.  Native American drum music in the background, chairs set in a circle, simple instructions.

Don’t think.  Pick three images that either attract or repulse you.

There were hundreds of images culled from magazines and who-knew-where-else laid out on tables.  We silently walked around, looking at them all, then took the ones that called to us.  I consciously kept my brain from rushing ahead to what it might mean, what I would collage with it, blahblahblah.  The point was to follow our intuition.

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The Captive: I am One who is blind to the assistance in front of me.

The way we introduced ourselves to the class was to pick one of the images and speak from it, starting with “I am One who…”  This image would be the base for our first card, a part of our selves that made its presence known.

Since I was a little manic at the time, I immersed myself in the process, sent away for the book and supplies (dang cheap, I may add), and started making cards at home.  I’ve been collecting images my whole life with no idea what to do with them except keep them safe.  A lot of the images I use in my collage and mixed-media art, but many are too weird or personal to be appropriate for pieces meant to appeal to others.  So, I pulled out my huge stash of images to see if any of them spoke to me the SoulCollage® way.  The clouds parted.  Angels sang.

This process is a little like making your own personal Tarot deck.  There are Suits as in Tarot, but these Suits are a bit different.  The Committee Suit are cards that depict parts of one’s personality, while the Community Suit picture actual people, places, pets, significant events in one’s life.  The Companion Suit is comprised of animal guides connected to the seven chakras, and the Council Suit collects the archetypal energies (much like the Major Arcana in Tarot).  This is Play that could last a lifetime.

Our class didn’t meet this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, but our facilitator invited us to a card-making gathering she was having at her office on Friday (Not surprisingly, Maureen is a psychotherapist specializing in PTSD).  I went, bringing some of my images and using some of hers.  I love the silence of doing the work, then the community aspect when we speak from the cards and process what they mean for us.  I fully intend to participate in any workshops Maureen holds, especially the one on The Companion Suit.  It seems like a little guidance and meditation might be in order to “find” these special animal guides.

The Observer: I am One who sees Reality without judgement.

I love turning off my brain and just letting the cards form.  I never know what’s going to happen or what images will demand to be put together.  It’s alchemy.  And deep Play.  And manic or not, I love it.  Because it’s an adventure, and I’m all about that.

Solstice Card v.2014

J.K. SimmonsCreating my Winter Solstice cards is something I look forward to every year.  It’s work and joy bundled together, my way of connecting to the people I love and admire.  It’s also my version of a holiday gift.  I stopped trying to give gifts when I went on Disability, but I can still send a little bit of art.

I also send one to a someone involved in making movies, someone whose work particularly touched me that year.  It feels important to tell folks how they help me manage during the worst of my bipolarness.  I don’t imagine they get that kind of feedback very often.  I sent one to Peter Jackson after the first Hobbit movie saved me from a winter of despair.  This year, I chose a long-time favorite, J.K. Simmons (if you haven’t seen Whiplash yet, run to your theater this second).

Original Artwork of Collage Assemblage Artist Andrea Matus deMengWhen I got back from England in September and immediately got sick with bronchitis, I took myself to the Barnes and Noble to comfort myself by looking through art magazines.  I knew I had to start thinking about my Solstice cards as they often take months to complete (I usually make about 60 of them), but had absolutely no ideas in my snotty head.

Then, I opened the September/October issue of Somerset Studio and found the feature on Andrea Matus de Meng.  Her work stunned me.  Could I do something like this for my Solstice card?  Wait.  Instead of using vintage photographs this time, could I draw something provocative?  The thought of doing my own sketching lit a fire and I went to work.

The bronchitis is gone, but the fire isn’t.  I’ve been hard at work on my cards for about six weeks.  I open my Pandora station, microwave a mug of chai, pull on my ratty and paint smeared sweatshirt, sit at my table and let the magic happen.  Here’s what that’s like:

Gathering Materials

It takes some trial and error to figure out what materials to use.  First I pick the card stock for the card itself—this time, Poppy Parade from Stampin’Up®.  I love the quality of their card stock.  This color is discontinued (I can get the “retired” products cheaper), but I had a bunch on hand.

Step 1I knew I wanted to use paint instead of ink this year, so I sorted through my collection of Lumiere acrylics—luscious paint with a metallic sheen.  Then, I just started experimenting.  The photo above shows all the materials I ended up using for each card.  It’s even a little shocking to me when I see everything together in one pile.

As a base for the collage, I took sheets from my parents’ farm bookkeeping ledger, cut them to size, and painted them.  I wasn’t sure which color would look best, so I painted a few of each color.  They all worked, so I continued this first step using six different Lumiere colors.  I like leaving interesting details unpainted (like the row numbers on the ledger), but I knew they’d probably get covered over later.  That’s okay.  It’s my little secret.

Step 2Next, I collaged pages from a tiny, antique book.  I’m assuming it’s some sort of accounting or actuarial text, but it’s in German, and I really have no idea what these little tables are.  I don’t care.  The graphics and foreign language rock!  Once the Mod Podge dried, I painted them.

Step 3Next, I added music from a Temperance song book from the early 1900s.  I love this little book.  Some of the song titles include “Away! Away! The Sparkling Wine,” “The Teetotallers Are Coming,” and “Beautiful Water” (because they tried to promote water as a beverage instead of demon booze).  Music adds a nice graphic, and I love using it.

Step 4After the music dried and got its coat of pain, I added a fun layer of graphics.  This started as pieces ripped out of vintage dress patterns, but I didn’t have many of those.  What I did have was some seamstress’ tissue paper from the 1930s—deliciously yellowed and fragile.  So I drew some of my own simple graphics with a marker and used that.  Tissue is great for adding depth while letting the color and design underneath show through.  Along with this layer I collaged equations from an antique German geometry text.  Again, I couldn’t resist foreign language and numbers.  Yum!

Step 6After drying and painting came the last layer on this background collage—letters from a vintage children’s reading primer, a section from an old spelling handbook, and either bits from another German book on Hieroglyphics or one on Chemistry.  Once that all dried and got a touch of Bronze Lumiere, I was ready to put together my central image.

I drew my Winter Solstice shamans on a 1906 copy of The Youth’s Companion, a newspaper-like publication for young adults.  I thought the small, delicate type face would lend an interesting texture.  The faces also got a touch of white acrylic paint and a touch-up with black gel pen.

Shaman 1

Then, I went to work on the shaman’s headdress.  From my bucket of fabric scraps, I pulled a nice, gold brocade and sewed beads onto strips that would become a sort of drape (think ancient Egypt or Mayan).

Shaman 2

Next came the feathers.

Shaman 3

Then, the headband.  The gold braid and pearls came from a necklace my mom wore before I was born (so, yeah, it’s really vintage).   I added more pearls from my bead stash (I’ve got a little bit of everything).

Shaman 4

And, finally, microbeads to tie the headdress together.

Shaman 5

Step 7I also wanted to do something a little different for the greeting inside the card.  I have a “Solstice Greetings” stamp, but I thought the nature of the outside ought to be reflected on the inside.  So I opted to dash a couple of layers of Lumiere on The Youth’s Companion and hand-write my holiday greeting with white gel pen.  I layered that over a snippet of music from a 1932 The Etude magazine, then spritzed it with Gossamer Gold Moon Shadow Mist from Lindy’s Stamp Gang (great stuff).

I’m pleased with all aspects of this project—the stretch to my creative muscle, the meditative time with my bits and bobs, the chance to give something that delights me, both inside…

Step Final Greeting

And outside.

Solstice 2014

May your holiday season be as rewarding and juicy.

 

 

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