Journal Spread

I am enthralled with maps. There's just something about them that intrigues me, and so maps have been an element in my art for quite some time now. I've explored maps and map-like images in my journal and in my art for quite a few years now. I've consistently collaged maps into my journal pages as a means of remembering the places I have visited, and I've experimented with using actual and imaginary maps as inspiration for my art. My "Home" series comes immediately to mind.

Journal Spread

So, lately here, when I haven't been creating little monsters, I have been exploring how to use mapping marks as a mean to build up layers and explore where I am right now. These are made-up maps, mental maps. They represent no actual place, but using lines that represent "roads" and "streets" and shapes that represent "borders" and "boundaries", I have been building maps of my journey, my thoughts, and my reflections.

Work in Progress

Maps help us locate ourselves in space. They give us insight into location and distance. They help us navigate our way in the world, and that's what I want my mental maps to do. But like all maps, this artwork is a superimposition of a structure onto something that has no real structure of its own. We see a brightly colored map with its borders, boundaries, labels, and lines, and the world seems like a very orderly and definable space. But take a look at what the area looks like in satellite imagery, and there are no pink countries, or bright orange states, or big dashed lines telling use where one place ends and another begins. Maps are superficial structures that we arbitrarily impose on our world to make the abstract concrete. And perhaps that's what I'm trying to get at with my art - trying to manifest abstract ideas into concrete form, but only yielding arbitrary and superficial forms.

Detail of a Work in Progress

Cultivating Creativity: The First Official Online Workshop.

Life, as usual, has gotten extremely busy. The school year kicked off at the end of August, and the last two months have been a blur. Along with my full time teaching gig, there's been a webinar, a virtual art education conference, a guest speaker spot, an AP Studio Art workshop, work around the house, and of course making some art. And somewhere in all of that, I've been working on the JFJ's first official online workshop. We've done workshops for Strathmore Artist Papers and 21 SECRETS, and we've done webinars for a variety of folks. But this is our own thing hosted on our own online community.

I'm on track to launch the first workshop on January 1, 2016, but pre-registration will open November  27, 2015 with a special Black Friday sale. So if you're looking for the perfect gift to give yourself or someone you know, in one month you can buy our first online workshop at a great price.

So, it is my pleasure to share some information with you to tease what's in store!

Workshop Title: Cultivating Creativity: Working with Spontaneity and Wonder

Workshop Description:
This straight forward workshop is for anyone looking to connect with their creativity, whether you’re a beginner looking for fun ways to begin your creative journey or an experienced maker looking for new direction. Everyone can benefit from inviting a bit of randomness and chaos into their art making as a way of opening up and sparking new ideas, and this self guided course is designed to do just that. It will have you loosening up and looking at the unpredictable and the messy with a sense of possibility and wonder as you begin to purposefully cultivate spontaneous acts in order to set aside your fears of making mistakes and to spark creative leaps in your art. In this mixed media workshop, you will learn to embrace the surprises that arise from giving up a little control as you give yourself a chance to play and reconnect with your inner child. There are no prescribed outcomes or finished projects, giving you the room to discover and experiment without the fear of doing it wrong. Using a variety of basic materials, you will discover how unintentional marks and creative accidents can open you to the beauty of imperfections and break you out of your comfort zone. You will learn to use unconventional and unpredictable techniques, like dripping paint, dragging string, and bleeding marker, to jolt yourself into new artistic directions. These creative beginnings will have you embracing the messier and more chaotic side of life and art making.

This self-paced workshop is broken up into four parts with videos and written instructions so that you can spend as much time as you like immersing yourself in these experimental techniques.

Part 1: Playing with Paint
Part 2: The Unpredictable and the Accidental
Part 3: Randomness and Chance
Part 4: Where to from here?

The workshop will take place through the Journal Fodder Junkies Ning site, our online community. Membership to the community is free, and there are a lot of goodies on it now including a free workshop on basic watercolor and watercolor pencil techniques. So, if you haven't signed up, what are you waiting for?

I've got a lot of work to finish up for this workshop, but as I wrap up, I'll share more information.

Little Monsters

I've recently begun down a different road artistically. Inspired by several of my elementary students, I have begun a series of little monsters as a fun diversion from my I normally thing. And I have definitely been having fun with them. It's such a connection to my childhood, and with Halloween just around the corner, they're timing is apropos.

As a kid, I loved Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are. Actually, I still love it. I admired Sendak's illustrations so much, especially the Wild Things. As a teenager, I spent a lot of time copying characters from the daily comics, and I even went so far as to develop my own cartoon and comic characters.

But monsters and characters were something that I abandoned as I got more into drawing from observation wanting to make my drawings as realistic and naturalistic as possible. But it's good to let go, and have some fun with my art.

I first sketched these little guys on some drawing paper working out their shape and details. I then redrew them onto some Strathmore mixed media paper, and used my paint markers filled with Golden High Flow Acrylic to paint them. Each of these is 4in by 6in, and I'm hoping to put them up for sale on the JFJ website soon.

I really like how they turned out, and I am looking forward to making more. Let me know what you think of them.

A Couple of Videos

I've recently been honored with a couple of videos posted by others that I wanted to share. If you follow the Journal Fodder Junkies on Facebook, you may have already seen these, but I wanted to share here on the blog.

The first video (above) is a conversation that I had with Connie Solera of Dirty Footprints Studio. Connie is creator of 21 SECRETS - a mega-online journal workshop that features 21 different artists presenting 21 different workshops. David and I were fortunate to be part of the Spring 2015 21 SECRETS.

Our conversation covered my art making, my journaling, and my motivations. It was a joy to talk with Connie, and I hope you enjoy the video.

The second video is from Dan Fisk. Dan is a Virginia singer and songwriter, and he invited me to be part of a recent Painting the Music event in Leesburg, VA. I had to paint Dan's song "Little Things" as he and other performers did their thing for two hours. It was a fun challenge to marry my style with Dan's song. It was also a fun challenge to try to complete a painting in just two hours, but I have a feeling that I'll work on this painting a little more before calling it complete.

I hope you enjoy the time lapse video of the painting process. It's interesting to see the painting evolve.

I want to thank to Connie and Dan for including me in their endeavors.

Purchase the 15 for 30 Challenge Now!

The 15 for 30 Visual Journal Challenge was a huge success, and I am grateful for everyone who participated. I had several art educators contact me about the possibility of using the challenge in their classrooms, so I have created a suite of items for purchase.

But it's not just for educators. Its for anyone wishing to push their journaling further, and it includes several extras and add-ons that the original challenge didn't have.

For just 5 bucks you get the following:

  • a 40-page PDF of the Challenge. Print it out for handy task cards.
  • a 32-slide PowerPoint ready to go in any classroom.
  • a 3-page PDF of progress charts to keep track of the challenge and to create your own.
  • a PDF of 22 inspiration cards. Print them out and cut them apart for simple creative nudges.
All delivered via email to your inbox.

So head on over to the JFJ Shop to purchase yours today!

Art is not a Competition

Dave and I just got back from Art Unraveled in Phoenix, where we had a great time connecting to people and teaching a few things about our process, but there have been several things that have come up that have me thinking. I want to share.

Life is not a race.

Art is not a competition.

So often we get tangled up in our thoughts about our lives and about our art, that we get lost inside of them building up stories and scenarios in our minds. We run the scripts through our heads so often that we begin to really believe in them. We begin to spiral uncontrollably in them, and we can’t escape them.

These are stories of lack and comparison. Over and over, I have heard these stories from others and from myself, and they are stories that keep us stuck as we look for someone or something to blame.

When we step out of the present moment, when we start to think about where we’ve been and where we’d like to be, we quickly fill our thoughts with all the things that we don’t have and all the people who have it better. We waste energy thinking that if we just had more money, or lived in a different area, or if we just had the breaks that others had, then our lives would be different - our art would be different. We waste our energy spinning these stories around in our heads, and we go nowhere. We stay stuck spinning our wheels.

I have been experiencing such thoughts myself. For years now, I’ve been dreaming of making it as an artist. By making it, I mean making a living off of my art. I would like to step away from being a public school teacher, and live my dream of making and selling work, traveling and teaching classes, and writing books and articles. I do a little of all of those things, but not to the extent I would really like. I do sell a little of my art. I do travel a little to teach, and I have co-written a couple of books. But in order to keep paying the mortgage, in order to keep paying the bills, I have to keep working a full time job that can be demanding and draining. And all the while, I think about all the things that I don’t have, all the things that I have to do and put up with, all the people who I think have it easier than I do, and I continually get lost inside of these thoughts. I compare myself to others and think about all that I don’t have. I tear myself down and bury myself under the weight of these ideas.

What if I let go of my stories? What if every time I began to think of what I don’t have, I let it go and thought about what I do have? What if every time I began to compare myself to others, I let it go, and thought about who I am? This would mean that I would get present with myself. If I focus on where I am right now and what I can offer right here, there is no room for those old and tired scripts.

And so that is what I am working on - staying present and knowing that I lack nothing and that life is not a competition.

When we tell ourselves stories of comparison and lack, we diminish ourselves and our art, and we make ourselves small. We can only do what we can do, but we must do it with an eye on growing, connecting, and inspiring. I shared a bit of advice with someone recently, and I think that I need to heed it as well.

Never diminish what you do, and never make yourself small. Make and create boldly.

Making Space

I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus from the blog and social media during the month of July needing to have a bit of down time, as well as time to focus on other things, but I am back!

One of the key things that I have discovered recently is that I need to make space in all aspects of my life. I’ve been feeling a bit bogged down with the clutter and the chatter of life, so I have been on a mission lately to make space and to declutter mentally, emotionally, artistically, and physically.

I think that we live in an age where so many things vie for our attention that it’s easy to feel a bit lost in the fray. There are many things pulling me in a multitude of directions, and I need to bring some openness and calmness into my life so that I have room for myself and room for what really matters.

Physically, I have been trying to declutter the spaces that I inhabit, and I have begun sorting, trashing, organizing, and rearranging so that these spaces are more open and more conducive for connecting with myself and my creativity. I have also been trying to get myself moving by walking more and being out in the openness more. This is allowing me to bring freshness and energy into my life. And I also just got back from a wonderful vacation to the beach where the vastness of the ocean and sky allowed me to reconnect with openness and space in a very literal way.

Mentally and emotionally, I have been trying to declutter my mind by letting go of much of the judgmental self-talk. I’ve been trying to drop the script when my inner critic begins ranting and raving. I’ve been trying to divorce myself from excuses, criticisms, and judgments. I have also been trying to watch less tv, and read and meditate more. All of this has been an attempt to keep my mind clear and focused and my heart light and open. It seems to be working.

Artistically, I have been trying to declutter my art by simplifying my images and processes. I have a tendency to create complex and complicated spaces, but I’ve been wanting a more meditative approach to my art. So, I have gone back to some old forms and ideas that I explored in my Excavation series trying to reconnect to myself through my art. I have experimented with a couple of small pieces - white colored pencil on black paper - getting back to my drawing roots.

I am hoping to continue making space in my life even as I know things will be getting very busy. David and I will be in Phoenix this week to teach at Art Unraveled (there are still spaces left in our workshops, though you'll have to sign up in person). And my school year will be beginning in a couple of weeks, so I’ll just have wait and see how I hold onto this newfound space in my life.

But for now I am feeling more open, more clear, and more energized.

Thank You! But Now What?

I want to thank everyone who participated in the JFJ 15 for 30 Challenge. I can't believe the 30 days are over. I am so grateful to everyone who participated and shared their work on their blogs, on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter. It's so humbling to see so many folks actively engaging in the journal, and I am glad that I was able to give people a creative nudge. I think a lot of people were surprised at how much they accomplished, and found that they spent more then 15 minutes each day. And that was one of the major points of the challenge - to build a daily habit of journaling even if it was only 15 minutes a day.

The challenge was a bit of an accomplishment for me as well. First, I was able to sustain the challenge - both the journaling and the posting. No matter how busy or tired I was, I made sure that I completed each challenge in my journal, photographed the results, wrote, and posted each day's challenge the night before. Thank goodness for scheduled posts. That way, the challenge posted at 8:00 AM everyday. But I also accomplished my other goal - to connect to and to inspire other people. There was definitely a sense of community that built up around the challenge, and I checked Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram multiple times each day to see what was being posted. I loved seeing how people took simple ideas and made them their own.

With the end of the challenge, many people are wondering, "Now what?" Well there are three things that can help you sustain your creative courage.

First off, The JFJ challenge has sparked another challenge. Tim Needles, a fellow art educator we met several years ago who participated in the challenge, has launched his own daily challenge for the month of July. You can find Tim's challenge at the blog The Everyday Renaissance. You can also follow Tim on Twitter.

Second of all, David and I will be conducting several workshops this summer.

  • If you're in the Austin area, David will be teaching a two-day workshop the weekend of July 25th, at Jerry's Artarama. 
  • In August, David and I will be conducting workshops in Phoenix at Art Unraveled. We will be teaching three different workshops August 9-11. Check our Events page for more info. 

Finally, I am pleased to announce the launch of the Journal Fodder Junkies official online community.  This community is a place where we can share our online workshops, resources, videos, news, and more. We also want to give people a chance to connect to one another and to share their experiences, their processes, and their journaling with one another in a safe and closed community. You must sign up for membership to enjoy the benefits. Your membership is completely free, but it must be approved. Once you sign up, I'll try to approve your membership within 24 hours if not quicker. Once your membership is approved, you will have access to a number of free tutorials, downloads, and resources. Eventually, we would like to house our paid online workshops there as well. I've been putting together the last bits and pieces over the last few days, and things might be a little rough and sparse for now, but I plan on offering more as time goes on. Please click here to check it out and to sign up. I'd love to get some feedback.

Thank you once again, and please keep the journaling habit moving forward.

JFJ 15 for 30 Challenge - Day 30: Reflection

We use the journal to reflect on our art, to reflect on our lives, and to reflect on our relationships. The journal helps us figure out what’s important, and it helps us figure out what we want and where we need to be. It is a valuable tool for living and learning.

Spend time today reflecting our your journey. You might want to reflect on specifically what you have done over the last 30 days or you might want to reflect on your life or your art in general. What is going well? What needs work? What is an area of strength? What is an area for growth? If these questions don’t work for you, come up with your own. Write, collage, paint, and/or draw.

Don’t forget to share! #jfj15for30