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

Art journaling – around migraines

I have written before about my migraines. I had another stinker over the last couple of days that left me feeling disoriented and with my eyes feeling very odd. I listened to a Shelley Klammer art journaling webinar called ‘Diving Deep’ I haven’t even finished listening to Shelleys course and I was inspired.

I used the soft eye techniques flipping through magazines and collecting images and text. I wanted to work with something around eyes and glasses because of the disorientation. I am always touching my glasses – to make sure that I am seeing as accurately as I can.

The words just jumped out at me.

I added a bit more text in the distorted clocks because time seems to stand still, when I am in the full episode.

I wanted to represent the feelings of too much going on in my head. I added pen scribble and white paint to add more texture and oddness to the composition.

I made the collage in a book that I had worked in before. The page on the left had a hole in it – I was very pleased that serendipity played a part – when I closed the page one of the eyes was exactly in the aperture. The framed eye has a lot more impact that when seen within the composition.

Self Compassion dolls

Tess and Monika decided to run a session on compassion after the workshop attendees reacted to Tess’s doll silouhettes.

Monika and I are working with an art journaling for self care group in Edinburgh.

We wanted to do something on self- compassion. Last week we worked on emotions and sensations within the body. I felt that the group reacted quite strongly to the body shapes I produced. I chose an imperfect slightly rounded body shape to work. 

Because of the groups reactions, we thought it would be great to work on self compassion- being kind to their inner critic. I found a few resources on line that were really helpful

https://www.bjclearn.org/resiliency/PDFs/002104.pdf

https://self-compassion.org/

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/08322473.2018.1454687

The last link is an article by Patricia Rose Williams for the Canadian Art Therapy association journsl . Within the article is table of exercises and ideas for art projects.

‘For example, creating a simple wrapped doll with a variety of textiles and embellishments can become a powerful symbol of the self.’

I wanted to adapt this and make a doll that could be added to an art journal.

ACTIVITY: Practicing Self-Compassion

The purpose of this activity is to introduce the concept of self-compassion. It will allow participants to assess how they currently practice self-compassion and to begin thinking of ways they could become more self- compassionate.

Background

Self-compassion is defined as being kind and understanding to one’s self in times of suffering, failure, or when we feel inadequate. Self-compassion contributes to increased resiliency. People who practice self-compassion can take responsibility for negative experiences but don’t get overwhelmed by bad feelings.

Self-compassion researcher Kristen Neff identifies three components of self-compassion:

1) Self-kindness: being kind and understanding to one’s self in times of suffering, failure, or when we feel inadequate.

2) Shared humanity: Suffering and being imperfect are part of the shared human experience. Everyone suffers and everyone feels inadequate sometimes.

3) Mindfulness: Observing our negative thoughts and emotions openly and without judgment, but realising they are just thoughts and emotions. They are not facts.

• Ask the group what they think self-compassion is. After they respond, share the definition .

• Ask the group for their thoughts and feedback on the exercise.

• Does anyone feel they are already very good at self-compassion? Does anyone feel this is

something they need to work on?

• Why do we tend to be so critical of ourselves?

• What are some other ways we could practice self-compassion

1) Think about a time when a friend or family member was going through a hard time or felt bad about themselves. What did you do in that situation (how did you act, what did you say, what tone did you use)?

2) Now think about a time when you were struggling or feeling bad. What did you do in that situation (how did you act, what did you say to yourself about the situation, were you self- critical or kind)?

3) Is there a difference between how you treat a friend who is suffering and how you treat yourself? If so, why?

4)How could you treat yourself more like you would treat a loved one the next time you are suffering or feel “not good enough”?

For more information on self-compassion, visit Dr. Kristen Heff’s website:

About the Book

The writing activity above was adapted from “How Would You Treat a Friend?” at: the

http://self-compassion.org/category/exercises/#exercises

Sources/ More Information

On a paper doll I wrote down things that I don’t find easy about my self

I wanted to use paper to wrap the doll in, but wanted it to be more like fabric, so I scrunched it up to create texture, I wrapped a section of the doll in th paper and attached it using washi tape, so that it looked like a blanket, then I attached the doll to the page using comments about self compassion.

The above doll comes out of the red wrap so that I can use it for a teaching aid. I decided that I wanted to make another doll today – I get really bad migraines and after suffering for a few days I decided I wanted to make my own doll

I scrunched and coloured the paper with water soluble pastels and hand wrote out the statements, it felt more mindful and I had more control. I made a nest of paper scraps, wrapped the doll in ripped out coloured paper with the colours up against her body and stuck her in the nest. As an exercise this was a lot more satisfying for me. I like how messy it is ….. the top one is a bit toooo clinical

Shame monsters – Picasso, Shelley Klammer and Joseph Arthur

I am working with Monika on an 8 week course – ‘ Art journaling for selfcare’ . We are looking at running a session about shame and guilt. I have been searching for images that we could use as inspiration on line and I found Joseph Arthur. An artist who paints, writes poems and songs. He also paints as he sings ……

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=XZBj7bNltbM

I found Arthur looking up ‘images of shame’ on google – a link took me to a poem using some of his paintings as illustrations https://steemit.com/poetry/@ezravan/to-shame-the-loneliness-original-poem-accompanying-paintings-by-joseph-arthurstemmit.com

Watching lots of videos of Arthur painting faces reminded me of Picasso’s crying women

Shelley Klammer is an art therapist that I admire and use regularly for inspiration. She suggested doing an intuitive painting about shame and then ripping it up and seeing if one wants to rip it up or comfort the picture …..

https://intuitivecreativity.typepad.com/expressiveartinspirations/2015/09/healing-the-shadow-with-spontaneous-creativity.html

I loved the idea of a shame monster to attack ( not sure what that says about me …..) but, was struggling how to present it to our group without scaring them – by making them draw – I had fun having a go at making a portrait using cut out features I prepared, also using magazine faces and felt pens.

Next to add some text

I like this quote from Arthur

‘You never have been young

You never have been sane

And if you say that you don’t care,

In your eyes I see the shame

Looking through the window of your mind

I see your lonely shadow running out of time’

Joseph Arthur Termite song 2002

I worked on her a bit more And then screwed her up.

And then had a go at ripping into her

I needed to stick her back together again ….. she isn’t half so scary now

redacted poems

One of my favourite art journaling methods is to use found text and make simple poems.

I first discovered found poems when I was teaching in the 1980’s, when hubby used them in his English classes. Redacted poems are not quite the same, but I use the same principles, they don’t rhyme and they don’t have to make sense. I have found when teaching art journaling they are a good tool to use if people struggle with using images.

I like messing around using different materials to redact the words ( if you want to see lots of examples on Instagram you need to search #blackoutpoems) I like crosshatching and using washi tape.

I think the cross hatching with mandala detracts a bit too much from the text – but it is fun doing it.

Yesterday Monika and I taught a class where we used text by Bene Brown and other ‘goodread’ quotes about vulnerability as the starting point.

I asked to photograph the work – but promised to just use fragments to illustrate the different techniques the participants used to make their poems. I love the variety of materials and the colours.

https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/vulnerability

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13588356-daring-greatly

Grey and white boroinspired

I bought some yellow cushions to go on my grey sofa – daughter hates them – so I decided to make some boroinspired covers in grey after a friend gave me an old pair of jeans to work with.

I made the first cover very simply joining the grey panels together with 5 rows of running stitch.

One pair of jeans was not enough fabric to make 2 covers for the size of my cushion pads. I found some more jeans and a couple of grey shirts at thrift stores.

Two layers of jeans is quite hard on my hands to sew through – but I am making the design using patches again so at least my fingers get a break regularly

My design so far

I enjoyed sewing this but had to go much slower than usual because the thickness of the fabric made my hands ache. I finally finished it this week

The Beild centre at Blackruthven

https://www.bieldatblackruthven.org.uk/

I taught an art journaling type of exercise at a retreat this week. The Beild Centre is lovely. The accommodation is a converted stable block in the grounds of a small stately home near Perth.

The art room is fab – loads of materials and a log burner to keep you warm

There is lots of great art around the grounds we particularly liked the mosaics which are like small green pools set in concrete in the path around the stable block.

This is my view from my bedroom

Sculptures a pond, and a walled garden.

The group I visited with were coming to the end of a 2 year journey. I planned a piece that they could develop as their own, using acrylic, stencils, collage. I was unsure of the participants art skills so I needed to have a frame work to work with.

Above shows a step by step work sheet I provided. The concept was to build up a strata of ideas about the participants journey using text on the faces rays and layers of paint to represent time

One of the participants wanted to do her own design and had a clear idea of what she wanted to do

The rest of the group used my basic idea, choosing their own colour schemes and a variety of stencils

The face was a stencil designed by Andy Skinner. This was the first time that I had taught a canvas workshop with paint. I needed my wits about me all my years of teaching experience, lol .