Sunday, July 28, 2013

Layer on layer...

I'm a prompt!  I'm a prompt!

OK, so here's the story: In one of the groups I'm in on Facebook (M3 shout out!!!), we were having a discussion about layers.  They are awesome!  Yes...BUT they are not the easiest thing to learn!  So, one of the ladies was asking about how people in the group do layers.  And as it turned out, we all had layer issues!  I'm so happy, because I thought I was the only one!  Layering has been on my ever growing list of things I need to work on for a LONG time.  But I have been practicing...

I am DEFINITELY NOT an expert (at anything...besides maybe practicing...), but I mentioned that one thing that is helping me is to start out with things I don't really like.  I mean, you don't want to cover up beautiful gorgeousness, right?  Because then you could mess up your totally awesome whatever-it-is and be really sad!  However, if you start out with something you're not really a fan of, and you mess it up, it's not really a loss, because you didn't like it (and, let's be honest, if you don't like it, you'd never use it anyway). So, to my shock and glee, they made that into a prompt, to work on layers by starting out with something you don't like.  (I actually can't leave my craft room because my head won't fit through the door!)

What I thought I would do is take some pictures to show how I arrived at the end here you go: 

This is a piece of scrapbook paper from one of the first paper pads I ever bought.  The rest of the paper from this pad is pretty awesome, but this page has always made me gag.  I don't know why, but I REALLY dislike it.
For the first step I glued this (HIDEOUS) paper to a piece of thin cardboard (think cereal box weight). 
The next step was to apply a thin coat of gesso to try to tone down the brightness of the paper (did I mention how ugly the paper was to me...oh lawd, so ugly!)  After the gesso was dry, I used a large scroll stamp I had and some Dove Gray Stazon ink for the next layer.  Then, I used Jet Black Stazon and a few different scroll stamps over that.
In this step, I used several different colors of Distress Stains to add some color to the gesso.  For the record, Distress Stains are REALLY awesome, and one day, I will own all the colors.  At this point, I decided I was going to do a girl (because what do I make besides girls, really?)...
So, since I decided I was going to do a girl (something I do A LOT), I thought I would change her up a little bit and try some things I don't usually do...and that's where this scrap piece of paper came in...
First, I embossed some stamps onto the page...well actually I cut out the shape first...but then I embossed with clear UTEE.  Then, I used some Dylusions spray inks to color in the piece.  Because of the embossing powder, the stamped images resisted the color, and so the images really stand out.  Then I added some more stamps (there's a heart one that blends into the background and then the white scroll thing).  (This is the point where I took the above picture.)  But, this looked too bright for what I had in mind, so I toned it down with some of the White Linen Dylusions.
While waiting for that to dry, I set about adding paint to the background, followed by the heart stamp, and then followed by the  white stamp as well.  I kind of wanted to stop here, but seeing as how this was about layers and all for practicing, I went ahead with my plan to put a girl on the page.
I made a quick sketch of a girl face outline, took a little bit of gesso and painted her in.  I only put gesso on the actual face/neck part, because I was hoping to preserve some of the background (which makes me super happy!)...
While waiting for the gesso to dry, I kept looking at this piece of scrap and decided that, even after I added the white Dylusions, I STILL didn't like how it looked in relation to everything else, so I went over it with some Inka Gold Metallic Rub in Gold.  That stuff is pretty darn awesome by the way...  I ended up liking this part much better after adding the Inka Gold.  This is the point where I got REALLY into it, and forgot to take anymore pictures until I was done...but you didn't actually miss that much craziness...or at least none that you really need pictures of for explanation...
After the gesso was dry, I lightly drew in some features in charcoal.  I used some Letraset Aquamarkers to colorize.  Those things are so amazing it HURTS!!!  I will TOTALLY be having all the colors of the Aquamarkers...I know I said that about the distress stains, and one day I will...but the Aquamarkers...I will be owning all of those REALLY soon!  Basically, Aquamarkers are watercolors in marker form, but they are so amazing that I think they are actually made up of fairy dust and love from puppies.  I LOVE THEM!!!  ...ok, I'm good now.  I digress.  After I finished the face (and the Aquamarker was the first time I used them, I just got them yesterday), the hair looked a little flat and so I took some of the Inka Gold in Gold and added some hair lines.  I also added some Aquamarkers to the embossed areas of the crown because they were sticking out like a sore thumb...the Aquamarkers tamed them a little.  Then I added some Inka Gold in Gold around the edges and in random places on the page.  But I wasn't happy with that, the gold was too overpowering by itself, so I added some Inka Gold in Steel Blue as well.  Then I thought I'd really like to have a sentiment.  "Be Gentle" popped into my brain.  I was having trouble deciding which set of letter stickers to use for this: a set of shimmery black ones or a set of light rose color ones.  I chose the light rose ones...I chose poorly.  They REALLY blended into the background, and NOT in a good way.  So I went over them with some Inka Gold in a couple different colors...and I still wasn't happy with them.  Then I thought 'what about using the Silks acrylic glaze?'...because is there anything a little Silks can't do?  I used the Jasmine color and that was definitely the right answer.  I love those things (and yes, one day, I will have all the colors of Silks as well...)
Here's another finished photo, just to show the shiny of it.  I am pretty impressed with the end result...  While I was looking at this, I realized that I am kind of like Alice from Alice in Wonderland.  'I give myself very good advise, but I very seldom follow it'.  Starting out with something you don't like is pretty good advise...but I get lazy and don't practice it as often as I should.  Then I look at this and realize that I need to do this kind of thing more...I love how it turned out!  I really like that you can see pieces from every layer.  There's the hideous scrapbook paper, which you can see on the left side (there are little dots that come through).  There's the stamps in Dove Gray and Jet Black.  The paint, the white stamps, the crown with the embossing.  The Inka Gold in Gold and Steel Blue, and the letter stickers colored in with Silks.  I love that you can see some of the stamps coming through on her face and in her hair! 

All in all, I am really happy with the way this turned out!  It's significantly better than that (UGLY) scrapbook paper I started out with in the beginning.  And since I started out with something I didn't like, I wasn't worried about messing it up.  This gave me some extra freedom to experiment and not worry about the end result too much.  And I think that made the end result much better.  I really feel like I am a successful prompt!  I can't wait to see what the other ladies have come up with!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

In the works...

Despite the continuation of ridiculous overtime at work, I've been staying creative in small bursts.

I mentioned in the last post that I had a plan regarding my awesome typewriter, and I've started working on making that plan happen.  The typewriter plan just happens to coincide with my goal of less pessimism that I also mentioned in the last post.  It also helps me with my efforts to do something artistic as often as I can.  

So, here's the beginning of what I hope will be a series which I think I will call Happy Thoughts.  

"Something wonderful is about to happen."
"I'm not wearing any pants."
 (This one may seem a little weird...but what's more comfortable than being pants-less?  Seriously...)
"Creativity takes courage. (-Matisse)"
"All the answers to the mysteries of the universe are held within your heart."

As you can see, my Happy Thoughts are all simple and small (post card-ish size).  They can be done pretty quickly, they use my typewriter (in all it's vintage glory) and they encase my efforts at positive thinking. Originally I had intended for them all to have white backgrounds, but I messed up the first attempt at the card with the green guy on it and so I painted over it and started again.  I didn't want to waste the watercolor paper!  I am cheap thrifty!  So, if you see any colored backgrounds in the'll probably know what happened...  I am so excited about the Happy Thoughts!  

I've also been working on a little crochet.  Crochet was the first creative thing I really got into, and I still enjoy doing it...when I get the notion.  It's something that I can do pretty quickly (and still have decent results), so it fits into the plan of doing something creative everyday. 

I've been working on this for a while now.  I put it down for a long time and I just picked it back up again the other day after work.  I have a hard time with big projects (they just get boring to me after a while...I am much more a hat/scarf/toy crocheter), but I was asked to make this by a good friend, so I started.  I may even finish it...eventually...  

Since this blanket is getting ever larger as I continue to add to it, I was thinking about doing something intermission-ish so that I could have a finished something each time I picked up my hook: 

Granny Triangle using Lucy at Attic 24's pattern (which you can find HERE)
Since making this lone triangle, I realized it might not be the best idea to start making these triangles in the same colors as the blanket because then I'd almost assuredly run out of the colors to finish the blanket and I'd have to buy more yarn to finish the blanket.  Which doesn't seem like it should be a problem, until you consider the fact that I've got about three or four big Rubbermaid totes full of other yarn...  So (at least for mind is subject to sporadic changes) this shall remain the lone triangle in these colors until the blanket is done.

I'm off now, to spend more time with my Happy Thoughts.  If you would like to share your Happy Thoughts, please do so!  I would like to hear them! <3

Sunday, July 21, 2013

I'm not dead...

I promise I'm not dead...seriously!

Last weekend I went to Ohio to visit my family.  I had a great time, even though it seemed like I was barely there at all (much too short a visit)!  I am happy for the time I did get to spend there though.  I love to see my brother's and sister's families and catch up a little.  Being with them reminds me of the good parts of my growing up.  We have a fun time doing absolutely nothing but talking.  I wish I could get up there to see them more often.

Since then I've been on MASSIVE overtime at work, which I'll appreciate on payday, but until then, I will grumble about with a serious amount of grumbling.  Urg.  My sincere desire is to one day be independently wealthy instead of exceedingly beautiful.  Then I wouldn't have to work at all and I could go see my family whenever I wanted and stay as long as I liked.  So if the universe could work that out for me, that would be great.  GET ON THE BALL UNIVERSE!!!

In the tiny amount of spare time from the past week or so, I have managed to get some artsy stuff done.  I'm taking Effy Wild's Book of Days (BOD) workshop online, thanks to her generous sale.  Let me just say, the boot camp alone is worth the full price of admission.  I try really hard not to promote anything because I don't want someone coming back to me all 'you said this was great and that is not how I feel', but seriously, I am loving this workshop.  LOVING IT!!!  

The first thing I did was to use her tutorial video to make my BOD journal.  Super fun and pretty easy!  I've made a journal before, but hardbound.  This one is cloth bound.  I used some cheap muslin I had, and coated it in gesso for the cover.  It's what I had lying about, and it actually worked pretty well:

The outside of my BOD journal.  You can see where some of the color from the first page is popping through.  I'm ok with that.  It's why I like to save decorating the cover of the journal for last.  That way my cover won't get ruined if any artistic over-spray happens.

Here's the first spread of my BOD journal, this is where the color on the cover seeped out from:

"There is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique." -Martha Graham
That comes from a larger quote that I think everybody should read:
"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique.  And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost.  The world will not have it.  It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions.  It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.  You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work.  You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you.  Keep the channel open.  No artist is pleased.  There is no satisfaction whatever at any time.  There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others."
I think Martha Graham, who was an influential dancer and choreographer, really hit on the truth with that statement.  Whatever it is that we do, especially creatively but otherwise as well, is singular and special.  We have a unique view and a unique statement to make in the world.  It is our intrinsic right, our privilege, and practically our duty to get it out there.  There has never been, and there will never be, another person exactly like us.  We shouldn't deny ourselves to the world, because they'll never have another chance to appreciate who we really are and what we do and think.  We are singular, special, unique, and wonderful.

This is the second spread in my BOD journal:

This page is full of texture and layers, which is something that's pretty new to me and something I am learning a lot about in BOD for sure.  I am pretty happy with the textured outcome, and I am super excited about the crackle I got going on in areas of this page!  I've never done crackle paint so successfully before!  So huzzah!!!

This page has a little flap that flips open for hidden journaling as well...although I realize as I look at the picture below, it's not really so hidden if I take a picture and don't at least blur the words...  Oh's more hidden for the fact that I didn't want my super messy handwriting to show up on the page instead of it being something I don't want people to you can read it, it's not a super secret or anything...

Flip open flap!  Fun stuff!  The lyrics on this page are from the song "The Wrote and the Writ" by Johnny Flynn, which you can listen to below if you'd like:

This is the third spread I did for BOD:

Without breaking my arm from the back patting, this is one of those rare moments where I love something I did so much that I can't believe I made it.  I love, love, love this spread...LOVE IT!!!   

This is how I feel when I look at this spread: 

*fits of maniacal laughter*

Crossed with this: 

*whispering "I love you" in creepy voice*

This spread also has a flip:

"Cynics do not contribute, skeptics do not create, doubters do not achieve." - Gordon B. Hinckley
The point of this (amazing and beautiful and fabulous) spread is to remind myself to quit being so pessimistic...even when I try to cheat and call it realistic...the point is basically the same.  I think it's true that you tend to see what you look for, so I'm going to start looking for the good a little more often.  Even in stinky situations, there's always something good to find, and that's what I want to see.  Anyone can find the bad parts, it takes a unique person to find the good...and I want to be that person again.  

One good thing I've come across is that Michael's is now carrying their store brand's (Artist's Loft) version of Twinkling H2O's!  Yay!  That's a lot of colors for something like $5...and if you have a coupon (ALWAYS HAVE COUPON!!!)  that's like $3 after tax!  I don't know if the shimmery comes across in the picture, but trust me, they are SHIMMERY:

Fabulous faux Twinks!  I used them on the girl in the awesome 'look always for the good' spread above...she's the perfect amount of shimmery.  (Did I mention how much I love that spread?)

One last good thing I've got to share for today:

O.M.G. !!!  I got this SUPER AWESOME Olivetti Underwood Studio 45 typewriter for $10 when I was in Ohio.  I lugged it  (in it's matching case!!!) all over this humongous flea market that they have in Rogers, OH and I would have carried it to Hades and back if I needed to.  (And it is NOT light...)  This thing is in GREAT working condition, it just needs a new ribbon because the one that's in it is almost used up.  I knew $10 dollars was a steal for a working typewriter, but I Googled it and the cheapest I saw this particular model selling at online was $125 + shipping.  So for TEN dollars, (in my eyes) I got the deal of a lifetime!  I love it so!!!  

I have a plan involving the use of my pretty new/old typewriter...but I'm not ready to share it just will have to wait in terrible anticipation!  In the meantime, just imagine me hunched over my typewriter like Snoopy... "It was a dark and stormy night..."

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Inner Excavations Week 2 you know my usual disdain for the hippy dippy/emotions/hard stuff...well, fair warning...  Be prepared for the opposite side of that today...also for a lot of talking...

Chapter 2 in the Inner Excavations book (IE) is called "I seek".  It deals with looking into the past, but it also talks about our senses and noticing the details around us in any given moment.  

These days, I'm pretty good at noticing the details around me.  For instance, this morning I was noticing that the ceiling fan was casting shadows on the wall that circled around me like a mini strobe light.  It's still doing it, and it's very distracting now that I mentioned it...  I heard the scratching sound my favorite pen makes when I was writing some journaling.  I can smell this little tiny left-over smell of cinnamon from an almost empty plug-in air freshener in the kitchen.  

The hard part about this chapter for me was looking into the past.  I don't have a lot of memories about my childhood.  If I think about it really hard, or if I talk about it with other members of my family, then I can remember specific details of my childhood.  I can pick out pieces of certain days that were good.  

There are also a lot of unpleasant things that come up.  I've learned to deal with these things over time.  I choose not to dwell on the bad stuff that happened to me as a kid. Maybe one day, when there's money for a therapist, then yes...but for the most part, I've got a handle on it. I know what's there, and I know that I didn't deserve it (no one deserves bad things...not even bad people...but especially not children) or cause it.  I also recognize that, at a certain point, you can't use these things as an excuse anymore.  Of course I've been shaped by the things I went through, but I'm an adult, and, as such, I am the one responsible for my actions now.  It's taken me a long time to come to terms with that.  It's something I still struggle with.  But I do struggle, I do try.

Of all the things that bother me about my childhood, the thing that bothers me the most is that there wasn't a permanent place where I felt safe to be myself.  There was a lot of "this is right" and "that is wrong", which isn't bad in and of itself.  The hypocrisy that I grew up with, however, was very wrong.  It was confusing to a child and caused a lot of resentment later on.  I learned to be fake at a very early age.  No one can know the truth.  People don't need to know our business.  People don't like sad people, so you just have to be happy all the time.  It doesn't matter whether you're actually happy or not.  These are things I still have a hard time with.  I feel the need to conceal my feelings about certain things.  I feel the need to smile even when I'm a wreck.  If it does manage to seep out, I apologize for it.  

I think it's one of the reasons I like this blog so much.  Because I can just be myself.  If people like me, that's great.  If not, that's fine too.  I am working to make my real life, the day to day person I am, more like that.  It's hard, because online I've met a lot of really supportive people.  I can say what I need to say and they aren't telling me I should think a different way or be a different person.  I don't feel like I've really got that as much in my real life.  I feel like I can't share things.  I get the eye rolls when I talk about certain ambitions of mine.  There are things I've learned not to share because they are judged harshly.  I've heard 'you wouldn't care if you didn't know it was wrong' more times than I can count.  The thing is, sometimes I'm not ashamed of these things, but I don't want the other person to be ashamed of me either.  And that doesn't work, because we have different outlooks.  It's not anybody's fault, it's just how things are.  

So when I thought about all of that, it occurred to me that I'm looking for my 'home'.  I'm longing for a place where I can be entirely myself and be appreciated and encouraged, instead of feeling like I'm squashed into the mold of another person's ideals.  And I think that most people are looking for that 'home' in some form or another.  Maybe a few very lucky people already have it, but I think that, for the most part, it's a place that doesn't actually exist.  Because we want that 'home' to be perfect, and it's just not going to be.  We either have to take what we've got and learn to live with it or we've got to find a way to make what we've got change into what we need or else we've got to leave what we have where it's at and start looking for something more.  

I had all that in mind when I made the assemblage piece for this weeks chapter in IE: 

On the inside, I'm just a crusty, bearded, weather-worn sea captain wanting to go home.

When I went to do my journal spread for this chapter, I had a slight shift.  I was thinking about this evasive 'home' I long for and realized that I feel like I've had it and lost it.

There are a lot of extra details I won't go into here, but I'll give you the gist of it.  

I had a very dear friend, Leonard, who was this home for me.  He was smart, funny, kind, insightful, and a million other things that made him precious to me.  He was the first person, the only person to date, that made me feel accepted for exactly who I was.  There were no outside reasons for him to like me, he had nothing to gain from liking me, he didn't have to like me.  But he did, simply because I was me.  And I believed it.  It's pretty much the only time in my life I've ever felt that way about someone...everyone else has a reason, everyone else has something to gain by befriending me...not Leonard.  

And he was a great friend.  He could be obnoxious and arrogant, he fought his demons but sometimes he quit fighting and let them reign over him.  Even then, he was the best friend I've ever had.  He would listen, actually listen, when I talked.  When I asked for it, he would give me good advise, tell me all the pros and cons of the different choices, and then tell me to go do what I wanted.  He'd make fun of things I'd do and in the same sentence he'd tell me he was proud of what I'd done.  He didn't make me feel inferior or that I was wrong for doing, saying, or thinking a certain way.  And he was the only person I have ever known that would ALWAYS tell me the truth.  Even when I didn't want to hear it, even when it was hard and I hated him for it, he never once lied to me.  I think it was my favorite thing about him.

Three years and a few months ago, Leonard killed himself.  There are a lot of extra details that come in to play that I won't be talking about here, to save the feelings of those that remain and because, frankly, I've cried enough this week.  

Looking back now, I think that there were things I should have noticed.  But you never really believe someone you know will do something like that...even once it's done, you can't believe it.  It takes a long time to accept it as the truth and so, so long to get to a place where you feel like you can breath again.  But then you have bad days and good days...I still do, and I think I will for the rest of my life.  Everything I do has his ghost in it.  I wish I could tell him things.  I wish I could hear his voice giving me good advise.  I wish he could see and experience all the things I see and all the things that happen in life.  He lost so much.

When it gets really bad, I write him.  Sometimes, they're long and sprawling letters.  Other times, they're just a sentence or a snip of a thought I'm having.  It helps though, either way, to get it out of my head.  I thought I would share the most recent thing I wrote (before I did the journal spread): 

"Sometimes I still catch glimpses of you, even though you've been gone for so long now.  It's hard to think about how life goes on in all the insignificant ways, how I get older and you never will.  I know I see you with rose-colored glasses, that my memory of you has become hazed over with half-truths and even entire lies and that no one would ever be able to live up to that harsh standard of perfection you've set by dying before your time.  And I hate so much that this knowledge is in my head, crammed down deep, next to the strong desire to find someone like you, when the truth is no one will ever be all of the things I know you were and all of the things I have imagined you had been.  And I feel the years and I feel the weight I carry and the burden that you've forced me to take possession of and this hollow person you've made me become: trying to find this beautiful thing that will never be found again, that was really never there at all."

I know that I'm not the only one who lost him.  I know that he touched the lives of many people.  And, honestly, the whole world is less for having lost him.  For all his flaws, he was a good person; there aren't a lot of those left.  

After he died, I started looking for someone like him.  To take his place, I guess, or to make up for what I lost, or to make it easier at least.  I look for pieces of him in every person I see.  And that's not fair.  No one will ever be what he was.  Because even he wasn't the person that is in my mind now.  His flaws are glossed over to the point where they never existed...and he was flawed, everybody is.  That's the way we are, and I'm sad that I've lost those pieces of him.

That's what was on my mind when I worked on this week's spread:

Inner Excavations, Week 2: "I seek"

Left page, close up:

This poem is by Lang Leav, and it fits the way I feel.  It's entitled "Closure":

Like time suspended,
a wound unmended-
you and I.

We had no ending,
no said goodbye,

For all my life,
I'll wonder why.

Right page, close up: 

The diagonal journaling that goes across the two pages is just some free writing I did.  This is a painting I did of Leonard, which doesn't do him justice (he was a very handsome man and I am an unskilled amateur at painting), but it does give me the impression of him over all.  The black shirt is actually a tip-in (I think that's what they call them), and you can see that in the picture below.

The black shirt lifts up in this way.  There is more journaling on the page, and then on the back of the tip-in, I wrote the poem I had written for this weeks prompts (basically memories and senses), which you can read below.

This is the 'memories and senses' poem I wrote:

I hear him say my name
and the words "I love you" rolling off his tongue
like his was the only mouth I was ever meant to hear it from.

I taste the cold on his lips 
and the warmth that radiated from within
like all the good in the world came from him.

I feel his hands running up and down,
slowly, over the length of my arms
like he was the only thing keeping me safe from harm.

I see the electric light
pulsing in his throat under the skin
like this was the moment we would always live in.

I smell his shirt:
lightly cologne and laundry soap so clean
like he was the innocence in this world so mean.

I know that life must teach us things
but life keeps showing me again and again
that beautiful things cannot last, as if I didn't know it then.

The thing about the past is this: it's over.  Whatever happened, it can't be undone, only dealt with.  The hard truth is that no one knows what consequences their actions might lead to.  Kind people consider the options before acting.  Foolish people either don't consider this or they do and simply don't care what the results will be.  And then there are people who are so afraid to make a move, afraid of what their actions will cause that they do nothing.  These people are basically martyrs.  I mean this in that they sacrifice something of great value over principal.  They suffer for it.  They end up being victims.  Because time and other people's actions make the choices for you if you don't decide for yourself.  I've been all three types of people.

These days, I feel like a martyr and a fool.  I have all these thoughts in my head, things I'd like to do, ways I'd like to be, but I'm so afraid to make the move.  Then I get resentful and I jump into doing stupid things that I don't really care about just to be able to say I did something.  Or in the end, because I don't choose, someone else chooses for me.  Time keeps ticking.  Opportunity passes with every second.  Going with the flow is fine, but if you never swim against the current, you end up in an ocean of someone else's troubles.  

And I hate it.  It's stupid and it's weak.  I only get one life.  I don't want to come to the end of it and regret that I live someone else's version of my life.  I want to live MY life.  I want to live it for me alone.  And I want to live it so that I can be proud of it and so that the people who have helped me along the way can be proud of me.  I want to live it so that if Leonard was watching he'd be proud.  He'd know I've learned the smart and beautiful lessons he taught me while he was here.  

I've spent too much time thinking about what I don't want, who I don't want to be.  Time has been wasted not being myself, hiding myself away.  I'm done with that.  The time has come to start being the person I am and thinking about the things I do want.  And not just thinking about them, but actually working to make them happen.