a little self-exposure?

I’m very quick to say “Yes!” or “Why not?” and when Natasha White asked me to take part in a blog hop I didn’t hesitate and fortunately, I haven’t suffered from cold feet even though the questions haven’t been particularly easy to answer.

What am I working on?   As usual I’m working on a number of things . . . or should I say I have several projects on the go but like most people with one pair of hands I can only work on one thing at a time: more and more I am convinced that multi-tasking is a myth put about to make us feel like we should be producing more. I cannot do one thing well and be thinking about something else . . . maybe I can think about something else while painting the house or pulling weeds or hanging out the washing but I cannot weave or paint or sew without concentration.

So while I have a quilt started, a set of Inner Hero cards on the go, been messing around with watercolour for a workshop with Tammy Garcia, exploring soft fibre sculptures, darning knees in tights for my youngest grandheART and me, knitting a jumper for my oldest grandheART, painting some terracotta pots for the garden, assembling some driftwood sculptures for the garden, have a project from Jill Berry’s new book Map Art Lab started (buy the book it’s fantastic!), my main focus is designing a pattern for the taaniko weaving on my whatu tauri. The translation for that is, I am designing the taaniko (Maori twined weaving) on a sampler. The sampler is part of a weaving/raranga course I am taking. I need to choose a major focus for the rest of the year and thus far I have at least 6 wonderful ideas recorded! What am I working on indeed!

There is no 'give' in this fabric!

The unfinished Chinese silk quilt

Exploring soft sculptures


A kete waikawa for my daughter-in-law’s birthday.

Recent postcards

Recent postcards – sorry about the focus.

Creatively darning knees in tights - why not?

Creatively darning knees in tights – why not?

Flax/harakeke boiled and drying . . . still to be dyed and woven into . . . who knows what?

Flax/harakeke boiled and drying . . . still to be dyed and woven into . . . who knows what?

The question assumes I’m working on one thing . . . not possible!  And have I mentioned I have a day-job?  That’s a whole lot of creative problem solving too!

How does my work differ from others of its genre?   A genre? Me? Yeah, unless ‘making/painting/weaving stuff’ is a genre, nah. I do too many things and admire wildly differing styles to settle on one thing . . . and I like it that way.

Why do I write/create what I do?   The answer is easy . . . I can’t not create. It’s simple really, and you either understand the urge or you don’t. I love that feeling of taking raw materials and making something out of them that is useful or beautiful or, joy of joys, both! I get a buzz out of seeing something rise up out of my hands and particularly learning a new set of skills.

How does your writing/creating process work?   I’m not sure I have a process but if I do, it starts with and idea bursting forth in a rush and a roar, a fit of spontaneity and enthusiasm, and I immerse myself in the project. My internal clock is disregarded until I suddenly realize I’m hungry or thirsty or, even more inconvenient because I can’t ignore it, I need the bathroom. If I can’t work until I drop, sleep and then rise and throw myself back into a project because the day-job calls, I might lose focus or worse, the inspiration to do something entirely different might strike.

Does that sound undisciplined? I guess I am but that’s okay.

A question not on the blog hop is what do I want to achieve? That, for me, is by far the hardest question to answer. I love to learn new things . . . for me learning equals fun. That joy of stretching myself and trying a new activity, of mastering the skills without becoming highly competent is fine by me. And I’d like to use my teaching skills to share this joy of making something from almost nothing. I think most of all what I want to achieve is to show my children and my grandheARTs (my muses) that creativity in some form is a life-long, joyous, satisfying, essential ingredient in life.  And one day perhaps, I’d like to take part in an exhibition of some kind . . . even if it’s just a local café.

And now, to whom do I pass on the blog hop baton? I have asked three wonderful women who are not only wonderful artists in their own right but also generous women in their encouragement of others.

Violette Clark’s blog Creative Juice was the very first I began to follow . . . I felt as if I knew her although we have never met.   Her book Journal Bliss started me off on a journey. Violette is an artist, author and an Idea Factory/catalyst who loves helping women brainstorm creative ideas for their business. She lives in a purple magic cottage in B.C. Canada.  Yes, really, you can check it out here on You Tube

Diana Trout is highly creative and generous artist, instrumental in my late start as an artist. Her book, Journal Spilling, began my exploration of watercolours.  She has wonderful workshops and one day, I am determined to attend one in person!  Diana’s blog is another favourite.

And third? Coffee and Quinn Creative starts my day! Her blog with its wise commentary on life and creative adventures provides a venue for community of wonderful people to come together.   Quinn McDonald is an outsider artist, writer, and certified creativity coach. Her book, The Inner Hero Creative Art Journal touches on all those identities.

Of course there are more artists I could have asked because of the role they played in getting me here on the web . . . the creatively prolific, enthusiastic and generous Tammy Gracia is constantly being referred to at the Late Start Studio and her quote is up there on my header. . . Jill Berry who pushed me to explore some colours that I thought I wouldn’t want to use when I took a week-long workshop with her recently . . . and then there’s . . . oh!   I do hate limiting myself.   I had just three choices.

Check out the blogs now and especially again on Monday the 19th of May when these three lovely women will answer the same questions . . . perhaps not the last one though . . . that was a challenge I gave myself.

squeezing in some creative time

Life has been very busy but still I managed to squeeze in a little time to doodle . . . not a lot of time but at least it was regular.

I often work with teachers and students to develop SMART goals: Specific, measurable, Achievable, Realistic and within a Timeframe.  On this occasion I made one for myself.   Often my goals are achievable but unrealistic so this time I kept to the KISS principle and Kept It Simple Sweetheart!  My goal was to do a very small doodle a day for a month . . .IMG_2170OTD stands for On The Day.   There were only 5 occasions when I was late so I feel really good about the other 25.  Why would I beat myself up about the 5 late ones?

Not long after I began this, Violette Clarke was encouraging everyone to do Messy Art Daily for much the same reasons . . . a little and often is the trick.

I’ve also attended a conference in Auckalnd recently and managed to squeeze in some creative work there as well.  I seldom take notes because I know I won’t refer to them again.  I tend to listen intently, perhaps jot down some key words or references and follow up with reading more on the subject later . . . this time I doodled as I listened, pages and pages in my Black and White Journal!

IMG_2172IMG_2174When I go away I take a minimum of materials.  The Doodle a Day needed just some pens and one Copic Marker (the damn thing bled through the page, most annoying!) however my watercolour crayons and pencils smuggled a ride along with a small Moleskine and spray bottle.IMG_2105The pencil-case is one of several that I made recently after borrowing Alisa Burke’s book, Canvas Remix, from the library.

So, how do your squeeze in some creative time when you’re run off your feet?

playing at work

Just because I haven’t posted anything for a while doesn’t mean that I have been idle on the creative front.  Yes I know I was intending to post daily over the school holidays but what with noisy builder’s electric saws whining away and then the bashing of hammers as they replace the cladding part of my house, and the wonderful distraction of my two grandchildren, well, it just didn’t happen and what is more, I have NOT been beating myself up over it.   But since returning to work . . . I have been playing as part of my work.

It’s been rather more than just doodling in meetings (it helps me focus) because I’m working with a wonderful teacher in a class of 12 and 13 year olds creating individual journals about their developing personal identity.  The class teacher is working on an inquiry about careers based on their strengths and skills and I am augmenting that focus by having them uncover at their personal qualities and eventually, setting some goals.

The planning incorporates several areas of the curriculum: the Arts, PE & Health and Literacy.  I am excited beyond measure!  One of the resources I am using is Violette Clark’s Teen Dream Journal DVD and her book Journal Bliss . . . they’re so user-friendly for teachers!

This afternoon I played around with three very simple versions of the same page, complete on the left and incomplete on the right so the students can see how they are developed.  I’ve used just basic script, circles and lines.   I kept to the KISS principle . . .  Keep It Simple Sweetheart!  The letters for the heading for the first spread are cut out of squares and rectangles of magazine pages . . . a technique I will show them tomorrow.  The heading on the second spread, in Big Fat Letters, was demonstrated last week.

Adding circles and dots to text.

I wanted to show the students that the addition of circles and dots to their writing (on the left) makes a big difference to the overall appearance of the text.

Personal Qualities

This time I want to introduce the students to ‘the piano test’ which I first used in a class about two years ago. We were working on some visual presentations and to have the students critique their own work I had them prop it up on a piano and take four big steps back to view it. This page lacks definition and I’m hoping that is what the students will tell me.

Gone dotty

Again I wanted to show the effect of using simple shapes, lines and dots, and the power of a border . . . this one is just a wiggly line. I also left my pencil markings in the circles so that the students can see that just a little planning is helpful!

Any feedback is welcome as eventually, I’m hoping to come up with a resource for teachers of any skill level on art.

un-shelving and 3 insights before lunch

Un-shelving is a word, because I just used it.  My blog had been deliberately laid aside, shelved, for a further two months for no reason other than I chose to do so . . . and that should be good enough.  It’s not that I’ve been busier than usual, unwell or not creating anything, it’s just that I make choices to (pretty much) suit myself and being able to do that is one of my most basic needs.

What I need in my life are very simple things: people I love and respect; peace and tranquility within; play, the activity when I get lost in the moment, is essential to my wellbeing; being productive whether at work or play is immensely satisfying to me; and power, the power to make choices.  These are my 5 Ps and I have been thinking a great deal about them over the past couple of months . . . well, years longer if truth be told.  Maybe I will blog some more about each . . . are you interested?

I could have blogged about the pohutukawa tree in my garden that burst forth in blossom in time for Christmas . . . IMG_1345DSC09963the art I have created . . . IMG_1207work inspired by Diana Trout on 21 Secrets, call it emulating or copying if you will, I really admire her style – it was wonderful so I signed up to 21 Secrets 2013 (check out all the amazing tutors) over at Dirty Footprints Studio.Meg's fish carcase and crab Emulating Diana Troutthe beach treasure that has been found and the creativity it inspired . . . Meg's fish carcase and crabJeanne's garden sculpturethe forgotten potatoes, desperate to grow . . . Potatoesthe 20,000 bees that thought the bench seat at my front door would make a great hive . . .Visiting bees my holiday visitors . . . Jeanne with flowersMeg and Elmoor even my new flagpole – you simple cannot live at the beach and not have one.  The flag represents the five elements and I brought it back from one of my visits to Hanoi . . .Flag - 5 elements. . . however I didn’t.  I chose to take a break and today, with the sun shining, cicada’s chirping and sound of the surf in the background, I have chosen to resume blogging partly as a response to thought-provoking blogs such as Quinn McDonald’s. 

I keep a journal, mostly writing, very personal and occasionally a blog or the journal itself will throw up a quote I want to use as a leaping off point for creativity or just to ponder and write another page.   Today I was reading the comments on Quinn’s blog entitled Speaking Up For Your Own Sake, the comments are always worthwhile. There was a quote from Meg Hess, “you can tell the helped by the hunted look in their eyes” and it made me think of how I hope to respond, both personally and professionally.  My success is variable.

And Violette Clark’s blog today had me thinking about balance and the struggle, that perhaps most of us have, in retaining our equilibrium.   Personally I think there is a lot to be said for shaking it up occasionally.

So, my three insights or BFOs (Blinding Flashes of the Obvious) before lunch?

  1. Helping is something I try not to do, even when asked, as I believe the most valuable thing I can do is to make a space where they can help themselves.
  2. I respect my body: we’ve been through a lot together.
  3. Just like a tightrope walker . . . getting the wobbles is fine as long as you know where your centre is.

So there you are . . . I’m back, how often I have no way of knowing.  Sometimes daily, but I doubt it.   Maybe weekly?  It will be irregular and although I’d like to say I’ll provide X posts a week and have a particular focus, that isn’t me.   Yes, there’ll be links to interesting blogs and inspriational TED talks, yes, I’ll posts about my delightful granddaughters, yes, creative endeavours and insights and, goodness knows what else . . . I just don’t like being boxed in.   My need for freedom of choice is way too high!  Ah, the power to choose!

I am content with myself at this point in time.

a small problem

When I read a post by Violette Clark this morning, she had written that every summer the sun bleaches the fluorescent pink from letters on her Creative Juice sign.  I’ve suggested using test posts of exterior/interior house paint.

I use test posts on the terracotta pots I use outside and thought that maybe, it would work on her sign – what do you think?

Now that I look at my pots I can see I could do with bigger sized pots!

As for piles of stones. I rather like them.  Building and drawing – these with water-colour pencils and a zebra double ended pen.  I can’t give more detail about the pen as I bought it when I was living in Tokyo and cannot read the label.  It was a shame I used such thin paper – it was about to disintegrate when I attempted to apply more colour  and it buckled something shocking!Stones

nailing colours?

I was asked why all this carpentry, the nailing of colours to the mast – a familiar saying but what does it really and what’s the origin?

The meaning these days is that I’m giving my opinion, saying what I think, so like it or lump it!    To defiantly display one’s opinions and beliefs.

As for the origin . . . some time in the 17th century in the time when Britain ruled the waves, a British admiral had his mast shot down by enemy cannon fire.  When a flag was lowered it was a sign of surrender and of course if the admiral surrendered, or appeared to do so, the whole fleet was lost, but just because his ship seemed to have been defeated (no means of propulsion) didn’t mean the fleet was.  There was bit of creative thinking, perhaps by the admiral.  A nimble and brave man (reputedly one Jack Crawford of Sunderland) shot off to the highest point of what remained of the mast and nailed the flag to the highest point as a signal that they were still in the battle, still going despite everything – the flag was as a signal to everyone, his own fleet and the enemy.

So how does that apply to me?  I may seem, to those who only look at my outward appearance to be on the path retirement.  The most polite response would be, phooey!   Retirement?  More like advancement!  Look up the meaning of the word – retreat!  I’m not intending to retreat from anything!

And what’s more, I want to show others, by having my colours flying, that they can do it too – it’s never too late.  Or as someone dear to me once said “You’re a long time dead, make the most of it.”

The moral of the story, for me?  A bit of creative thinking, some bravery, and a signal can be sent to many people to keep on working, or playing, towards their dreams.

And do drop by Violette Clark’s blog, Violette’s Creative Juice.  She asked me MONTHS ago to write a guest post and this seemed like a good time.  Talk about flying my colours!  I feel so brave – you know that mix of trepidation and excitement?

I got snail mail!

Yesterday afternoon, as I walked on the beach I found a piece of driftwood as black as pitch that looked for all the world like a crow’s head.  Now one of the blogs I read on a regular basis is Violette’s Creative Juice – and Violette has a special place in her heart for crows.  Crow

So there I was, wandering back from the beach with my crow, thinking about Violette and her love for crows, I checked the mail and YAY!  Violette had sent me her Teen Dream Journal DVD – lucky, lucky me!  I am probably the only person in New Zealand to have one!! Mail

In my job I work with students at risk of failure due to learning and/or behaviour difficulties and self-esteem is a big issue – I mean, if you don’t believe in yourself you’re not going to make optimum progress (at any age).  This DVD is so jam-packed full of material designed with increasing self-esteem in mind and I can’t wait to use it!  It’s school holidays now so I have to be patient – and that’s not a strength I have when enthusiasm strikes.

I’ve watched from the point of view of a teacher who perhaps doesn’t have much experience in art but knows that kids love to experiment and express themselves.  There are enough wonderfully clear demonstrations, explanations, PDF materials and templates for even the most cautious student and teacher to create something unique that reflects their thoughts and feelings.

I can’t wait to use the DVD with teachers and students and I’m certainly recommending it very highly to a friend who works in an alternative school.    Actually, if you’re new to art journaling at any age, it’s a terrific resource.  Get Violette’s book Journal Bliss as well and you’re on your way!