Documented Life Project – Spread # 1

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I recently made a decision to join the Documented Life Project. I’ve been aware of this online art community for several months through my art mentors, Fran Pascazio and Marilyn Rock. Additionally, I’ve been following this community on Facebook.  When I found I could buy the base journal, a Moleskine Weekly planner, in a format that began mid-year (July 2014 through Dec. 2015), I decided mid-year was the right time for me to join this inspiring art journal community.

The two photos below show my first weekly spread. The portrait page tips out to reveal a back side underneath, providing a four page spread to comment on a week in my life’s journey. So far, I like the way I can merge varying elements of my life into a single visual journal. For example, I can make a memory record of important events in a given week, collect random art work into a single volume, and carry the planner with me for noting down future activities.

As with any visual journal, my new DLP planner is a cultural product, hand made by me, in my voice, and records a view of my life. I experience art journaling as a sanctuary from the homogenizing forces of visual culture’s global communication systems. In addition, art journaling is a form of meditation that anchors me very effectively in the present moment.

In the Documented Life Project, I am gaining fresh inspiration among a group whose focus seems to be to be to foster creativity and individual expression. Using the same global communication system mentioned above, individual artists reach out to one another, acting as witnesses to one another’s journey.

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Family Reunion

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view of Lake Chelan, WA.

view of Lake Chelan, WA.

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Mother, a.k.a. the birthday girl.

Mother, a.k.a. the birthday girl.

I returned to New York last night from a cross country jaunt to Chelan, Washington for a family reunion celebrating my mother’s 90th birthday. It was a joy to see and hug many people who traveled in time and family with me during the days of my youth and to meet new generations of  relatives. It was a joy to be in the place where my ancestors are buried; the setting of my mother’s girlhood and  where I was born. I was able to visit the cemeteries where headstones mark the final resting place of individuals I ‘know’ through my mother’s stories and old family photographs. It was a joy to go through old photographs with family members and learn more family history, such as the detail that my paternal grandparents homesteaded their apple orchard farm.

Photographs, cultural markers, and celebrations such as this one serve us, I think, in constructing a sense of personal and family identity by supplying the who, what, when, where, and why for our personal stories. In these ways, we use memory to grapple with time’s passage and  the necessary letting go that life (and its counterpart death) requires. The particulars of our shared story help us imagine our uniqueness in order to resist the trend toward homogenization in American culture.

My mother has been a central individual in many lives, weaving webs of connection through her lifetime of relationships and stories. She commented that she thinks of herself as “just an ordinary person.” The group photograph, however, bears testimony to just how many lives one ‘ordinary’ person can influence in the course of a lifetime. We all are influenced by those who traveled this landscape before as well as by those who travel with us now. I am grateful to be part of this family and for the gift of my mother.

 

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My brother, Les, and I. at X-J Ranch, Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada 1957. Les's son Monte commented that he sees a similarity in my 1957 image to the body language of his his 7 year old daughter, Betty.

My brother, Les, and I. at X-J Ranch, Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada. 1957. Les’s son, Monte, commented that he sees a similarity in my 1957 image to the body language of his daughter, Betty, now of the same age.

Art Journey Update

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Below is a photo of a display area in my new ‘studio’ space. I find I like putting out some of my more recent pieces so I can reflect on them and enjoy them collectively. I’ve included this image and images of two recent spreads as a way to communicate my continuing journey in life and art journaling. Sometimes I wonder why I continue to art journal. It certainly is not to sell art which our culture suggests as a primary reason. The answer, I think, lies in communicating what ever I am processing to myself in the language of art and in the joy of the creative act. Plus, art journaling absolutely anchors me in the present moment.

IMG_3943The spread below, Timeless Within, emerged as a way to process a book I read recently, The Grace in Dying by Kathleen Dowling Singh. The spread began as an exercise to step into the present moment through art and to try out some new stencils. I came across a sentence during the Easter season (can’t recall where) that got me to thinking about Jesus’ resurrection in a different way. “Jesus bore witness to awakening from the dream of self”. He modeled for us that we are not just what we think we are, the self image constructed in our mind. We let go of that sense of self through suffering as we approach and enter death in order to realize our fuller, spiritual self in the mystery beyond earthly life. This piece reminds me to live conscious of my spiritual nature, that I am more than my resume can summarize, and to not fear dying but to think of it as a natural part of life’s design.

IMG_4127The spread below is a reflection on the experience of planting seeds in my garden recently. I find myself hurrying home and out to the garden to see what has sprouted and how much growth has taken place. It is a lot of work but I do receive a mysterious boost to my spirit from being close to the soil and participating in the miracle of new life and the promise of harvest. This year, I planted old seeds from my mother that I have been saving. I decided to test how long potential life remains suspended in a seed as I have read that seeds found in ancient jars in archeological digs have sprouted and grown.  So far, on day 11,  mother’s red double poppy seeds have not germinated.
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Giveaway Love

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Jesus calls us to help those who are at the margins of society, those who are suffering and in need. I am often aware that my actions are limited to those within my small daily sphere. My small Christian community, the Messenger’s of Love,  has a weekly challenge by which to act our faith. This week, how to answer my call to action found inspiration through a forwarded email from an art friend, Marilyn Rock.  The project is called the Truth Card Exchange and is organized by women who have formed a Brave Girls’ Club using digital technology.

Their project seemed tailor made for me as I have a passion for expressing my interpretations of life through art journaling. Repurposing old poker cards as mini art surfaces, I created seventeen hand-made love notes to send out into the world. One is pictured above. I trust, through the Brave Girl’s Club, they will reach a soul in need of a concrete reminder of God’s ever present hope & love.

A Word for 2014

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The photo above is of an art journal page I created on New Year’s day to commemorate my family’s recent celebration of Christmas. When I celebrate the holidays, I am celebrating anew the arrival of Jesus, God’s son who became human that we might become divine.

Although, as a working woman, I am plagued with busyness, my inner creative self continues to cry out. While I wedged in time to create art, I did not carve the time to share it through this blog in 2013. So, a new year. The earth making another trip around the sun. What do I resolve to do in this new block of time? In 2014, I resolve to rekindle this blog as a way to speak my word-of-the-year.

My journey in 2013 was graced with joy in spite of being overworked, overtired, overtaxed, etc.. The source of that joy is my relationship with God and my delight in his creation. Culturally, I’ve been trained not to speak of religion or politics in public. For 2014, I’ve decided to speak the name of Jesus in public.

I have a love of history and I’ve often felt drawn to other historical times. But, according to Pope Francis, God placed me in this time and this place so I may speak the name of Jesus.

Summertime Art

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I’ve been making time for art in spite of my transition to being a full-time office worker. Very therapeutic. The spread above welcomes summer and closes my first altered book art journal, below.

I got a bit carried away breaking the rules when working on spreads in this journal and consequently broke the spine of the book. I ‘mended’ the spine by applying a piece of leather to the outside cover. I also added quilt-patterned tissue paper for contrast and color harmony. The result, a book whose textural outside invites one to pick it up to see what is inside. Inside, visual reflections on the last nine months of my life (no gestational pun intended).

I felt both satisfaction and loss at finishing my first altered book journal. I began the process of altering a ‘new’ old book for an art journal. The first two spreads, both celebrating the arrival of summer, are shown above and below. The latter one emerged as a response to the three words circled on a magazine page, which formed the first layer. The bright colors at the top and bottom were applied by melting crayons onto the page with a heat gun. Fun! I love the resulting brightness and the waxy shine of the crayon.

Adapting

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My life has undergone a significant transition in the last month, hence my absence from blogdom. I took a little time over the three day Memorial Day weekend to express this transition in my altered book journal. My brief span of freedom – to follow my heart’s desire to create and market art and increase my digital art skills – that lay between completing a Master’s degree and accepting employment came to an end in early May.

As this page expresses, I have entered a gray, windowless office world defined by cubicles. There, I am adapting to speaking a new language of acronyms and abbreviations. I have been aware of my brain cells throbbing as they realign themselves to attach meaning to unfamiliar codes and procedures as I learn to do my new job. I’m also adapting to a new daily rhythm. One in which the mysterious growing and unfolding of spring growth is going on out in my yard, mostly without these eyes to witness or hands to record in photo or paint.

I am grateful for the employment and I am adapting. I’m meeting new people and learning new things. My heart continues true to its nature and holds color and art. I visit the growing things each morning, evening, and weekend. Last weekend the ephemeral beauty of the common orange poppy called to me out my kitchen window with its brilliant display of color. Although I wanted to paint it, I settled for a photograph, which I share here with you now. This weekend, the poppies are gone.

Bleeding Hearts

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I got up early today to make a small gift to tuck in the card I will be sending to my dear mother tomorrow. She and I are gardeners who both love bleeding hearts. Mine are blooming now and whenever I notice them, my mother comes to mind. I thought a hand-made gift might bring me to mind for her.

I thank Junelle Jacobsen for her class and its freeing affect on my art. I don’t have to paint something photographically perfect, just something that simply expresses ME . . . and its ‘totally fine’ to mix media. This piece is painted with watercolor on 5.5″ x 7.5″ 300 lb. Arches watercolor paper. I then added pen marks and subtracted color with my new favorite, the Mr. Clean Magic Rub eraser.

May Meadow

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I created this two page spread in my altered-book visual journal to commemorate the sighting of meadowlarks in our backyard on my last day of ‘freedom’ before I started work. Our usually manicured lawn has been enjoying its own kind of freedom while our tractor-mower has been in the shop. It has become a meadow. Although I’m not too keen on the dandelion’s reproduction frenzy, I have been delighted with the variety of bird visitors and especially with the meadowlarks.

I experimented with ‘Watercolor Ground’ to see if watercolor paints would work better than on a gessoed page. It seemed they did, although not the same as on watercolor paper. The background and birds are painted with watercolor. I created the dandelion puffs by removing circles of color with a bit of damp Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. I then applied clear gesso and used colored pencil for the finish work on the dandelions.