Art journal session with Zoom

March 16th

Intro

Monika and I did our first art journaling session via Zoom tonight. I am awake on the 17th at 4am. The meanings and ideas that we’re thrown up for me going round and round my head. I got up to write them down.

Monika and I decided that we would to art journal too this evening because there were only a few participants. And it would feel weird just watching the whole time via a screen.

Making process

As I flipped through the magazine looking for images and text about how I felt – living during the time of Corona. I was amazed at how many words caught my attention (in retrospect this doesn’t really surprise me because everything I am doing in my art practice at the moments is working with text). I have been using these particular magazines for my personal work over the last month and I thought I knew them very well. Shifting my focus to how I was feeling opened up the text and images for me again.

I have been particularly loving a double page spread about trees, waiting to use it in a collage. I have also read all the quotes. (normally I wouldn’t encourage people to stop and read in their flip through the pages).

The text I collected was: ‘mother love’, ‘the end of the world’, ‘farewell my friend’, ‘the gift of time’, ‘I feel trapped’, ‘home’, ‘life is for living’, ‘all change’, ‘ I’ve connected with my self on a deeper level.’

This quote by Jeanette Winterson

‘ Earth is ancient now, but all knowledge is stored up in her. She keeps a record of everything. Of time before time, she says little. Of time to come, she says much ,but who listens’.

As I cut out the words that had jumped out to me and looked at the images in more detail. I realised that if I turned the tree spread upside down it looked like lungs. I stuck the whole page onto a patterned piece of paper.

I had a scary conversation with my daughter about her night asthma (that’s where ‘mother love fitted in) and my chest has felt tighter than usual since a bug I caught last month. The tree branches went off the page and looked like they were held or truncated by the rectangle.I felt trapped just looking at them. It feels like being contained in a bad way just writing about it. Echoing my feelings and worries about the respiratory effects of the virus.

I also found an image of a women emerging from a bird cage. The lid was open and she was rising up on a chair. At that moment this was too much like an escape, so I drew a bubble around her. She became shielded and isolated from the tree. These were the only two images that I wanted to use.

I added my text and then started writing into the collage, changing the meanings slightly in black biro.

The end of the world as we know it

The gift of time socially isolated and shielded

Mother love, not being able to hug or cuddle my children or friends.

Farewell, my friend – who will I loose?

Life is for living, who chooses who lives and who dies?

I placed ‘ I feel trapped’ above the cage and cut up ‘ in my’ from other text I had discarded, and finished the statement with ‘ home’.

I had chosen ‘home’ initially because of what was happening between my husband and I. We are separating and he has moved out of our flat. He complained today that his new space is ‘ not home’ ( it’s rented accommodation, next door, so that we can still socially isolate, but have more space for our selves).

I found my self circling the printed text with a black biro which has the effect of making the black on white backgrounds seem to hover or float, accentuating the the words and the woman caged.They hover in bubbles in front of the tree. It is as if I photographed it capturing a moment in time. In our debrief, Monika picked up that ‘time’ was a theme coming up for me.

I worked very fast so, I free wrote around the edges of the tree page. I realise now that this also accentuates the containing of the ‘lungs’

‘ the tree represented life and lungs, breathing, ventilators, my Covid19 collage, who chooses who lives and who dies, it all seems so random, men, BAME,people old, a 107 year old lady was released the other day. Who has underlying conditions?’

We had planned to do another collage session after our group check in. I had used up all my collage collection but still had another page from my tree. With the first collage, I had waited to stick down all my pieces until I had cut out everything. This time I was more intuitive. The text on the second tree page would be upside down if I turned the tree into lungs again. I hadn’t wanted this one to be the correct way up either, but I knew I wanted it to be less constricting. I carefully cut the text and replaced it the right way up.

‘Trees exhale for us so we can inhale them to stay alive… let us love trees with every breath we take.’ Munia Kahn

My new selection of text was: viewpoint, uplifting, inspiring, engaging, ‘the earth is like a child that knows poems’ Rainer Maria Rilke, holding boundaries, new beginnings, facing the reality of change, you can’t numb difficult feelings, with out numbing other emotions, such as joy, happiness and gratitude.

I also made a found poem : feeling lonely, regrettable life, pent up misery, liberated, healthier decisions.

I couldn’t believe it when I was leafing through the pages I found three more images of people sitting talking to each other in bubbles. ( the magazine was therapy today…..) I stuck everything down and as I was tidying up I saw the mad hatter from Alice in Wonderland, and he represented time again for me and the feeling of having fallen down a rabbit hole.

Reflecting on the session Monika I talked about how well the Zoom technology managed to hold the group. I had been worried that we all would feel isolated. In other Zoom sessions over the last month this has been the case. However,the session was inclusive. The themes we explored were echoed in each other’s work and it felt possible to recreate the relational through and in spite of the technology.

This art journalling technique was inspired by Shelley Klammer

Asthma , art journalling and me

I started using an inhaler when I first went to London to do an art degree when I was 19yrs- before that I had hay fever, sneezing fits that lasted so long I bruised my stomach.

When the asthma arrived , the hay fever stopped – I don’t remember when it happened exactly but I don’t sneeze any more I just wheeze

All sorts of things set me off – animals with fur and feathers , damp, mould, strong smells – passive smoking

I control it with antihistamine and preventative drugs

I am struggling at the moment because we had a flood in our bedroom – there is a bath in my bed room itself ( why? It was there when we moved in) the pipes between the bath and the taps leaked over a period of time and then flooded – we woke in the night to the sound of rushing water behind the wall …….

Anyway it hasn’t dried out properly and when we had a carpenter and a plumber in there was black mould all behind a cupboard and under the floor boards – this has been treated but I can’t sleep in our bed with out having a reaction

So I think my levels of allergic reaction are a bit high and my chest is a bit tight – it is easy for me to forget to breathe

I occasionally ( well a lot actually) hold onto my breath and clamp down on my stomach when I am stressed or in an emotional situation – which as I have intimated before is ongoing at the moment

I am surprised at how powerful I have reacted physically to the art journalling
– Deb has said that it is the same for her – I suppose it is not so surprising as we are visually orientated – but it is a bit of a shock. The idea that drawing windows and doors . Playing with the concept of standing on a threshold and then shutting the door metaphorically could impact on me quite so strongly

I feel things visually and experience embodied reactions

Yesterday I went around the National art gallery in Edinburgh and looked at the latest Scottish art society exhibition with a friend . We stopped at a vibrantly coloured huge abstract work. My friend said she loved it – my first reaction to the clashing colours and vibrant paint was that I hated it- then I stopped and I had an embodied reaction to it which I liked – I sighed – she laughed – I said well maybe I don’t hate it after all .

Sometimes I feel over stimulated . By lights, advertising , window displays –
I had a breakdown of sorts when my children were small – I couldn’t bear going shopping because the shelves of packaging , text , photos and colours were over whelming –

These are all examples of how I respond to the visual so may be I shouldn’t feel so surprised after all – I said to Jon this morning – what has he brought me up to Scotland to do? Lots of good work he replied ……….

Don’t forget to Breathe

I am feeling very stuck with my IBS – I seem to have shut everything down – my chest is tight , stomach bloated and I feel distant from everything

I had a thought that this visual journalling is a powerful tool for me so maybe I locked everything behind my windows and doors – lol!

I started concentrating on my breathing – checking in with what I was doing with my tummy – not letting it move – my lungs – not letting them expand – I realised that I had shut everything down. (It was even more powerful saying it out loud to my hubby )

The family stuff that I am not talking about here can be overwhelming sometimes- it hangs in the air, not being talked about- then talked about too much

a friend said to me

‘The stuff of others carries often an enormous weight I think which we only recognise as such once it’s passed.’ ( Dagmar 2015)
I haven’t added this to my breathing pages yet – but it is going in there somewhere

I have asthma and take preventative drugs morning and evening – we have had to move out of our bedroom because we had a flood that hasn’t dried out yet and keeps setting me off with a coughing fit – (I think that is another journal page for later)

I was so ebullient about the fact that I had realised I wasn’t breathing properly that I made 3 pages

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