Artistic Accomplices

It has been a strange and wondrous few weeks since NCCAT, and my head still seems to be spinning. The idea of connection has been on my mind lately - for the last few months, and with some time off away from teaching school, I have been thinking even more about it as I have been working in the journal and on my own art more this last week. Art is an amazing way to connect with others, and I am a firm believer that anyone has the capacity and the creativity to create visual art. Too often I hear people spout off about not having talent. But I believe that "talent" is just an excuse not to try. "I don't have the talent, so why bother even trying," these people seem to tell themselves. But that's another topic for another post.

But it seems that more and more, we are coming into contact with people who simply have not created in a long time, and the visual journal has allowed them to reconnect with the creator within. It seems all too easy for people to lose touch with their inner artist, crafter, or creator. Inertia has them running here and there or simply vegging in front of the tv or simply neglecting that part of themselves. It has always been a great gift to have Dave as an Artistic Accomplice - to keep each other motivated - to urge on the creator - to help each other stay moving artistically. The above two-page spread in one of my small Moleskine was a collaborative piece between Dave and myself. It was probably started at some restaurant with being passed back and forth while waiting for food to arrive. It's nothing grand, but it is a way to stay connected with each other and with art.

Finding artistic accomplices and creative collaborators is a key component of the Journal Fodder Junkies, and this, in part, drives this blog. Unfortunately, I don't post as often as I wish I could, but inertia is difficult to overcome whether it's working in the journal or posting to the blog. But it is my sincerest wish as 2008 winds down, that I can be an Artistic Accomplice to others out there, and urge on the artist within. We do not create art in a vacuum. We create art as a way to connect to ourselves and our humanity.

Connection and Growth

This two-page spread was stated over the last two days in reaction to my week at NCCAT. It began as some spontaneous spirals and curves thinking about the connections that I have with people both existing connections and new connections. The curving, spiraling lines represent growth - the ability to grow where you are planted, and the squares and straight lines represent structure and how it is only under the right conditions that this growth can happen. I am just so grateful to all the connections and re-connections in my life - grateful to all the people who have touched my life in some way. And all these connections are chances for me to grow - to become more of who I am - to reach out and connect with others and help others along their personal journey on planet earth. To know how you have changed the world and touched lives is an important gift. So this spread, although in just the beginnings of its evolution - its growth, is dedicated to all those people who have come into my life, who have shared their journey with me. I thank you all for the ripples that you have left in my life.

JFJ Rock Cullowhee and NCCAT

For the fourth time Dave and I presented a week-long renewal seminar at the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT) in Cullowhee, NC in a mountain retreat setting. It is truly heaven on earth for teachers as a place to go and to get some valuable professional development. We are honored to have presented our Visual Journals:Where the Image Meets the Word. This time around we had 22 educators from across the state from a variety of curricular areas - many feeling that they were not artists, but were wanting space and time to renew their spirits.

As is usually the norm with the NCCAT experience, we had many epiphanies and cathartic moments during the five days. Tears were shed as these teachers got back in touch with the most important things to them. It is an amazing and emotional experience with many finally getting much needed time to find themselves. And this past week was exceptionally powerful - for some it was a life altering experience, and many strong connections and friendships were forged.

The above photo is from the last day as participants spend a few last minutes looking through each other journals.

Another important aspect of NCCAT is not so much the content, but the time to be with one another, and it has become our tradition to indoctrinate willing participants in the game of Farkle (also spelled farkel). It is a dice game played with 6 dice that Dave learned, and we have played it for years. It can only be described as Yahtzee "on crack." There seem to be different versions out there, and we have set rules that we play by. The strange rules, the fun, and the laughter, are all a good compliment to the emotional days, and Farkle becomes an important aspect for some participants. Above is Bean's beautiful six-dice Farkle - when no dice score - and the first of the evening.

We are grateful to the center for allowing us the opportunity. We are gratefully to Center Fellow Donna Glee Williams for bringing us there and Program Associate Tootie Watson for all of her work throughout the week. We are also grateful to the 22 courageous individuals who now share the visual journal journey. More info on NCCAT can be found at

Product of the Week - Art Print: Find Common Ground

This two-page journal print is color laser-printed onto 11"x8.5" acid-free, matte laser photo paper and is packaged in a clear poly bag with a stiff, acid-free cardboard backer. The print is not attached to the backer allowing for multiple framing possibilities.

It is only $15.00 plus S&H and is available on our website here along with other prints and merchandise. Using Paypal, we are able to accept PayPal as well as all major credit and debit cards.

IF - Similar

After hustling this week to get everything ready for NCCAT next week, I was able to have a relaxing day working in the journal, and I was able to begin a response to this week's topic: "similar".

This page was started with some watercolor pencil, and I then did some stream of consciousness writing about how many people want to be the same or similar to others. I mentioned how many identify with a group collective like a university, a place of work, or a sports team. For many people being a part of this collective is key to their own personal identity. I have always had trouble identifying with the group and have always preferred to identify with the individual.

For example, I am a devoted Pittsburgh Steelers fan with growing up in the Pittsburgh area during their first 4 Super Bowl wins. But I own one t-shirt, one novelty sign, and one button, and I don't say, "We won" or "We lost". I'm not on the team. I don't receive a check from the Steelers.

But many people do identify strongly with these groups. And advertisers and big business try all they can to get people to buy and consume the same things. Think about the iPods dominance on the digital music device market.

Conform and Consume became words that I was attracted to and I stenciled them in. I then built up several layers of watercolor and watercolor pencil, as well as ink and collage. The packaging tape transfer of the Dalai Lama came next, and it created a strange juxtaposition next to the words "conform" and "consume". But then I turned each into a phrase - "Consume experiences" and "Conform to your own principles". The blue ink lines were really the last big things I added. They remind me of rivers or blood vessels or even roads. But they represent the connections that we have with others.

We need to celebrate our differences and our uniquenesses while understanding that our similarities are much more general and basic - our humanity, our compassion, our desire to be happy, our resilience, and our ability to overcome our differences. We cannot break into factions and groups with an us versus them mentality.

This page is unfinished, but I wanted to post it before I left for the weekend. I'm sure it will evolve.

Search for New Ideas

The visual journal is a great place to explore new ideas and to work out artistic stagnation. Often times it is a matter of working with a new material, working in a new location, or working on a new idea. Sometimes its simply about diving in and tryring something without much thought.

Sometimes it's just a matter of being around new and different people. And Dave and I will have the chance to do all of these when we travel to Cullowhee, North Carolina to teach for a week at the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT). This will be our fourth year to teach a visual journaling seminar there. It is always a great experience, and we are looking forward to it.

So, even though you may not have an NCCAT to go to and recharge and overcome creative stagnation, break out, dive in, dig deep, and search for new ideas. Look online, join a group, splatter paint, and have fun.

Product of the Week - JFJ euro Sticker

It's been a couple of weeks since I was able to feature a product off our website. So here it is. The Journal Fodder Junkies Euro sticker. For just $3.00 each, you can proudly proclaim yourself a Journal Fodder Junkie. Slap one on the front of your journal, the bumper of your car, the window of your bedroom, or nearly anywhere else. Visit the online shop here, and find the sticker and much more.

IF - Opinion

After a couple of busy weeks, I was able to work on an IF topic. This two-page spread began with some brainstorming on the word "opinion" which led me to reflect on beliefs. After writing about connection (a topic that has much been on my mind lately), I began working on these pages that already had some map-like imagery. Slowly I built up layers of watercolor pencil, graphite, acrylic paint, and paint marker. I even traced several of my students' hands.

Like many of my IF pages, this one bears little resemblance to the topic. But as I reflected, I wrote about how many people do not believe that we are all connected. They feel that they are truly individuals isolated from others and that actions have little bearing on others. Many people in essence are rather egocentric and find it difficult to empathize with others.

We, as a human race, at times find it much easier to fall in on ourselves rather than to reveal ourselves to others. What a sad world when we cannot feel that connection to others - when we are so scared, even when surrounded by people, that we cannot and will not reach out to others.

Stop dreaming about life, and start living the dream...

This past weekend, Dave and I attended the Virginia Art Education Association's annual Fall Professional Development Conference in Centreville, VA. We ended up doing three presentations/workshops total, and we left the conference feeling like we had a definite impact on a number of people. And just as with the North Carolina conference the previous weekend, we had a number of repeat "customers". These conferences, presentations, and workshops never fail to reinforce that we are onto something.

The above page was started during the conference, and I worked on it a bit over the last three days. It is still a work in progress and will certainly undergo further transformation. But it's about the connections that we continue to make and the growth we continue to see in ourselves and the people we meet.

Thank you to all the folks who paid us a visit the last two weekends. We appreciate the support. And thank you to all the folks who are not art educators, but feel a connection with what we do. The visual journal is much larger than art education, and we are always looking to connect to people from all walks of life.

You make a lot of ripples dropping pebbles in the pond...

Dave and I headed down to Asheville, NC this past week for the North Carolina Art Education Association's Fall Professional Development Conference. As usual, we had a great time. We saw a lot of familiar faces, and met some new ones. We reconnected with past participants who have taken our workshops and seminars, and made some new connections.

Each time we do these conferences and seminars, the power of the journal and its life transforming nature get brought home. Dave and I know what the visual journal means to us, but to hear so many folks come up and say how much the journal has changed their teaching and changed their lives, leaves me speechless.

I thank everyone that was a part of our weekend. Dave and I are grateful to old friends and new ones, and we see the ripples in the pond expanding outward.

The above image is from one of the collaboration sessions over the weekend. See, we have a habit of pulling out our mini journals and pocket sketchbooks and passing them around at lunch and dinner. There are always some interesting things that get thrown into these collaborative pieces.