Goodbye 2013

It's hard to believe that this is the last day of 2013. It has been such a busy year that it's hard to believe that we're at the end. So much has happened, and time has marched quickly by.

First Dave and I were busy doing our thing - promoting our books, attending conferences, and providing workshops. We hit the NAEA Convention in Fort Worth in March and the VAEA Conference in October. We provided a handful of workshops at a variety of schools, art centers, and universities. We even put on our own retreat in June, and we are planning another for June 2014 (sign up now for some big discounts). We had a joint art exhibit at Eastern Carolina University in Greenville, NC in August, and we both exhibited our work at a variety of other places as well. We have also been working on a couple of new ideas for books, and we're hoping that 2014 will bring a new book by the Journal Fodder Junkies.

Of course there's been my regular teaching gig at an elementary school in Leesburg, VA. It's my 18th year of teaching, and my second at Tolbert Elementary. I can't believe that I've been teaching for nearly two decades. My students continually astound me with their creativity.

On a more personal note, 2013 was also a year of loss. We began the year with the loss of our beloved shepherd/chow Percy. In November my uncle, one of my mom's younger brothers, lost his battle with leukemia. Uncle Ed was always ready with a joke and had given nearly all of my cousins and me silly nicknames. He was only 60.

Most recently, my wife and I had to say goodbye to another beloved dog. Poi (pictured at the top of this post) lost his battle with cancer. He had to have a couple of surgeries and quite a few chemo treatments, and the year saw him slowly deteriorate. In the end, he passed away in my wife's arms just a few days after Christmas. We miss him terribly.

Here's hoping that there's a lot less loss in the new year.

2013 saw a new direction in my art as I became enamored with web imagery. I explored drawing it, painting it, and cutting it out of paper. I even began a collaborative project based on it. Although I have always seen this type of imagery as dealing with connection, I never felt like I had a lot of meaning and intention behind it. I found that intention as I wrapped up the year with two pieces that utilize the web imagery to explore our connection to places - specifically the places that we have lived and called home. I began my "Home" series with a painting where I overlapped maps of the places I have called home. Using Google Maps and a projector, I projected each address onto a 20"x30" piece of paper, and used red acrylic paint to create the web. I created a second "Home" painting using my wife as the subject. As a former naval officer's wife, she has lived in many places, so her painting is much more dense than mine. I'm looking forward to exploring this idea more in the upcoming year.

And so that's just a small smattering of some of my happenings in 2013. I hope that you all have had busy and prosperous years, and here's to a happy, healthy, and productive New Year.

Snow Days

Some unexpected ice and snow hit Northern Virginia over the last two days, and school was cancelled. Needless to say, I took full advantage of the two snow days by spending some quality time in the studio working with my web imagery. I've been struggling with what this imagery really means, and I have been working with ways to make it more purposeful. Up until now it has been rather random.

Today I had a bit of a breakthrough and decided to incorporate my interest in maps and places. Using Google Maps, I looked up five places that I have called home, and projected them onto a 22" x 30" piece of Strathmore mixed media paper. I traced each location with pencil allowing the lines to build up and create a somewhat random web of lines. It's hard to see the light pencil lines in the above photo. They're a bit easier to see in the detail below.

I didn't like the horizontal format from the tracing, so I turned it vertically, and began painting the main "veins" using Golden's new High Flow Acrylic. This new paint is thinner than their fluid acrylics and has the constancy of ink. It is well suited for my needs with this painting.

I slowly filled in the rest of the painting to create the intricate web, but I wouldn't say that I am finished with it. I need to erase a few stray pencil marks, and I may add some smaller details. Then again, I may leave it as is. Now that I have a digital image of it, I plan on projecting the image and details of the image into other works of art including some of the collaborative pieces I have in the works.

Journal Fodder Junkies: The Retreat Registration

Are you looking for a great deal on this Black Friday? Are you looking for the perfect gift for the creative types in your life - or even for yourself? Well, the JFJ have both for you.

We are excited to announce that registration is now open for our Summer 2014 Retreat. So, if you weren't able to join us last June, and you want to save $50, $100, or even $150, act now. We are offering both Early Bird and Artistic Accomplice Discounts for our June 26-29, 2014 Retreat.

Register now for our four-day visual journal retreat, and you can save on the regular $450 fee. Our Early Bird Discounted rate of $400 is good now through February 28, 2014. Fifty bucks savings not good enough? Then sign up with a friend or two or three, and save another $50, $75, or $100. In order to take advantage of these discounts, all registration fees must be paid in full at the time of registration, so make certain you click the appropriate Buy Now button after you submit your registration information. For your security and convenience, we only use Paypal for all of our registration payments, so we can accept all major credit and debit cards.

New this year, we will be able to offer 3 graduate credits through Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, WV for those educators seeking Professional Development credit. This option will require additional payment and coursework, and more information will be forthcoming. Make certain that you meet all of your state requirements in regards to Professional Development/Recertification.

For more info on the Retreat, visit the Retreat page.

To register, go to the Registration page.

Connection and Collaboration: A Call for Participation

As I mentioned in my last post, I've been exploring a web image that represents my connection to others, and in the vein of connection, I am looking to undertake a project that calls for Creative Collaborators. As I have explored this idea, I've been feeling the need to involve others, and this is where you come in.

I've had a few people ask how I make this imagery, and that has trigger an inkling of an idea. I want to include others into my process and have this idea evolve into a true community collaboration. I am picturing a simple process - have others create their own web imagery, share it with me, and I'll create a work of art that responds to and incorporates their imagery.

If you are interested in collaborating with me, it's quite simple, so follow these steps.

1. Email me saying that you're interested, and I'll email you back with an agreement for collaboration and other pertinent info.

2. Watch the how-to video that I posted on YouTube.

3. Make your own web image. Be as elaborate as you wish.

4. Photograph or scan it, and email it to me. Make certain that it's a good quality image. I find my iPad takes great photos for this purpose.

And that's it. The rest is up to me. I'll make a piece of artwork incorporating your image. What that exactly will be? I'm not certain, but I won't make an exact copy because it is important to me that you retain all the rights to your original work. I'll probably do some layering or such by projecting your image onto a large piece of paper. I just don't know. I'm looking forward to seeing just where this collaboration will take me. I'm looking forward to the discovery.

I hope that some of you will want to be Creative Collaborators. Thanks in advance.

Process of Discovery

As artists we must pay attention to the things that we keep coming back to for they hold our greatest potential.

We can intellectualize art as much as we want and have grand reasons for why we make it, but it all starts with a small seed of intrigue - a technique, a line, a color, a notion. We come back to this seed again and again revisiting  that technique, that line, that color or that notion, and slowly it grows into something.

At least that’s the way it is for me. I latch onto something and explore it over and over again until I can discovery the meaning of it. Usually it starts out as an unconscious mark to fill space in my journal or a simple thing to try something new. That is how all of my work has started - my Excavation series, my Palimpsests, my mixed media pieces. Over a great period of time I come back to the idea again and again. I play with it, cultivate it, develop it, and finally figure out what it means to me.

So, it is the same with my latest fascination. For much of the last fifteen years, I have explored imagery that has dealt with Connection - connection to self and connection with others, and the latest iteration of this Connection imagery is a web-like image that first grew out of a tree/artery image (see above) in a journal more than five years ago. Over those years, I have revisited that image, and pushed it and pulled it. I have explored a variety of materials from ink and marker to acrylic paint and paper cuts. Something about it fascinates me, and I am still trying to discovery what it exactly means to me.

It’s web-like, and tissue-like. There is a definite organic quality to it - like blood vessels or microscopic views of cells. I tend to use red a lot though I have explored black and blue as well. I know it’s about connection - connection to and with others. My Excavation series was all about the connection to myself - about digging deep and going within. The web is about the ties that bind us to others, but I’m not particularly sure how or why. But that is the fun of art - the discovery. If I knew what it all meant, what it all was to look like, I wouldn’t have to make the art. It’s all about the process of discovery.

I do know that this line of inquiry needs to grow larger in more ways than one. I do know that I want to involve creative collaborators, and I have some ideas in the works. I’ll share more soon. Until I hope you enjoy my latest direction.

Great Week

I'm happy to say that after weeks of feeling tired and aimless, I've had a great week and feel like I'm heading in a good direction.

It started off with a visit to art dealer Grey Carter's house last Saturday. Grey is a collector and dealer of Visionary Art and represents a variety of artists, many of whom have been featured at the American Visionary Art Museum. It is always inspiring to see the work of other artists, and my wife and I were particularly taken with the work of JJ Cromer. I was inspired to get it into gear and start cleaning and organizing the studio on Sunday.

Also, on Sunday, I was able to take in the artwork of good friend and metal sculptor Brian Kirk at an artist's reception at a local winery. I taught alongside of Brian for nine years when I taught high school art. Over the last few years Brian has been exploring rust prints and has devised a way to have steel objects, shapes, and plates rust onto watercolor paper. The results are unpredictable and very stunning. At the reception, I ran into another artist/teacher friend Steve Loya and his wife, and we spent the rest of the afternoon at another local winery catching up and having a lovely time. Steve is a longtime friend and author of the blog Go Flying Turtle. His Splotch Monsters are amazing.

So it was an art filled weekend, and though the week wasn't filled with as much art, I had a great week at school. Teaching art at the elementary level can be an amazing experience. The kids come up with some incredibly creative things, and their curiosity can't be beat. Too bad many of them lose those qualities as they grow. I also had time to finish the cleaning and organizing of my studio (See the photo above). I now have space to work, and I can actually find things. It was nice to purge.

To cap off a great week, I was able to work on some of my own art last night, and I feel like I'm getting back into the groove. And afterward, I spent the chilly evening relaxing in front of a perfect fire in the backyard fire pit. It is so calming to watch a fire burn.

What a great week. I feel like I'm opening up and letting the universe in.

Art of the Carolinas

In two weeks the Journal Fodder Junkies will be returning to Art of the Carolinas in Raleigh, North Carolina once again. We will be teaching two journaling/mixed-media workshops, and there is plenty of room left in both. So if you are in the Raleigh area or wish to take a trip to North Carolina, we hope to see you there. Click the links below for more information. It's not too late to sign up.

Art of the Carolinas - Raleigh, NC

Friday, November 8 - Alternative Approaches to the Self Portrait, 5:00 PM - 8:00 PM, $119

Sunday, November 10 - The Illustrated Manuscript: A Chapter in the Book of You, 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM, $119

Turning a New Leaf

My life has swung amazingly out of balance lately. I have been feeling tired, disconnected, scattered, and woefully out of touch with myself. I've been feeling overwhelmed and pulled in many directions, and I've been forgetting a lot of small details. Unfortunately, this has been a familiar feeling over the last few years.

My studio has shown the effects of this mental imbalance with all its clutter, piles, and mess. It has been almost a year and a half since I thoroughly cleaned and organized the studio making it a difficult and uncomfortable place to work. So, I haven't worked there much. Although I have done some small works and have started a few larger pieces, I have allowed myself to be pulled from my work. I am feeling the effects tremendously.

I am trying to shift the balance, and this past weekend, I began cleaning and organizing the studio trying to purge the clutter and make sense of a lot of junk that has accumulated. I haven't quite gotten it completely cleaned and organized, but it's well on it's way and not the frightful mess like the picture above. I'll share another photo of the studio when I complete the overhaul.

I'm hoping that this major studio cleanse will be the start of a shift back to center to a state of greater balance and peace of mind.

Upcoming Workshops

Are you struggling with your art? Is your inner critic rearing it's ugly head causing doubt and frustration? Then we have the answer. Actually we have two answers, and both involve joining us for one of our upcoming workshops to get your creative juices flowing.

We will be teaching two classes each at Art Unraveled in August and Art of the Carolinas in November, and registration is going on for both. So, come and join us in Phoenix and/or Raleigh and jump start your art with some new ideas.

Art Unraveled - Phoenix, AZ, July 29 - August 6

Sunday, August 4 - Cultivate Creativity, 9:00 AM - 4:30 PM, $145

Monday, August 5 - Facing Doubts and Just Letting Go, 9:00 AM - 4:30 PM, $145

Art of the Carolinas - Raleigh, NC, November 7-10

Friday, November 8 - Alternative Approaches to the Self Portrait, 5:00 PM - 8:00 PM, $119

Sunday, November 10 - The Illustrated Manuscript: A Chapter in the Book of You, 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM, $119

We hope to see you at one of these.


Although this summer has already been busy (Dave and I had our retreat, and I taught a weeklong journal camp for kids), I have had some time in the studio. I have been woking in the journal as well as on some small scale mixed media pieces, but I have also been working on some pieces that are starting to move into new directions.

For some time now I have been enamored with topographic imagery, and I have explored it a lot in my journal over the last couple of years. I love maps and the way they connect us to each other and our environments. I love how they are representational of those connections and relationships. I think the main reason why I have been attracted to topographic ideas has a lot to do with how they can not only show how high something is, but also how far something recesses - thinking of canyons and rifts. On a flat surface, the lines of elevation are only shapes and how close or far away from other lines, represents the steepness or flatness of an area. But once those shapes are cut out and stacked up, they begin to show the form. As a lover of paper, I am fascinated, also, by how a flat surface can be used to create form. More specifically, I like how the paper can create a form that recedes into the surface - how it can stack layer upon layer. I even experimented with some thin drawing paper back in February.

In the example above, I used twenty-five 11x14 inch sheets of Strathmore Imperial Watercolor paper to create the recession. Using a very sharp X-acto knife, I cut each piece individually beginning with the top layer. I haven't glued them yet, and I think that I want to cut out a couple more recessions that bleed the edges and break up the surface a bit more. The stack is about a half inch thick, and I'll probably glue it all together and seal it with Golden Soft Gel Medium and mount it on a cradle once I am finished cutting. I love the white relief, so I have no plans to paint it.