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

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

Art journaling and Megeve

We had a short break with family skiing in Megeve, France. Well the family skied and I mostly did art stuff.

Megeve is a pretty village – away from the main thoroughfare you can find some interesting doors and windows

We visited in February /March and all the Christmas decorations were up so I took lots of reflections in the big baubles

I also did some watercolours and art journal type images

My journal page above looks at stitching family together

Landscape using a ski map as collage fodder.

Beautiful views and a ski lift queue.

I made a couple of girls giggle wearing my fit flops in a cable car

And I forgot that you shouldn’t put bubble bath in a jacuzzi bath – luckily there was a loo nearby for the extra bubbles

Working collaboratively on some mixed media pages

A friend wanted to produce some mixed media pages about her experience of living as an immigrant in the UK over the past few years.

We discussed colour, themes, and what she wanted to convey.

The pieces are to be used as part of a presentation of an academic paper on a slide show loop. We felt that it was important to use a colour theme- we chose a turquoise back ground and spread acrylic paint onto cartridge paper with credit cards.

We did some research on google looking at fear. And found a few images to look at as a starting point.

https://www.alamy.com/the-hands-of-a-child-pressed-up-against-the-frosted-glass-of-a-door-image4635144.html

http://www.paintedpath.org/2011/02/on-being-vulnerable.html?m=1

We found a load of other images but these were two that seemed to talk to my friend the most – built up layers of paint , found images and newspaper collage

We fancied a bit more layering so added baking sheet

We made a copy on my printer – the paper was too big to be copied whole, but we decided we liked the image cropped very much – it conveys the feeling of being trapped much more effectively

The second piece felt much more easier to do.

We added ripped bits of paper onto the back ground and then swirled acrylic paint in a loose circle on top. The figure is a found image from a magazine. We wrote words that my friend wanted on news paper and then added torn red pieces and swirled on top of everything with gelatoes

I have been feeling a lot of pent up anxiety and emotion about Brexit and Trump recently and this was very releasing – even though it wasn’t my emotions being targeted- using art in this way always amazes me.

Using origami in art journaling

I have found making origami in a group setting helps with bonding of participants. People chat about how to do the folding and each other with tricky bits.

I have used Chinese fortune tellers and butterflies in this way. Lisa and I used the Chinese fortune tellers to explore ideas and feelings about the theme of ‘change’ in an existing group that was well established, but was about to experience change in participants and workers.

I used butterflies working with Monika and a group which was coming to an end. We used the metaphor of metamorphosis and endings to help the group come to terms with the group finishing