Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Word for 2016

For the last few years I have picked a 'word for the year'. The word for this last year has been flourish and I have enjoyed contemplating what it really means to flourish. This contemplation has led to thoughts about resilience, knowing myself, tending to the roots, storing up for the lean days, and rising above circumstances. It has been enlightening.

In previous years I've had the words grow, stretch, then flourish. So what comes after flourish? I thought about this over Christmas. Several words popped up, but none of them seemed to encompass what I was feeling. Words like persist, remain, abide. They all held aspects of the word that was on the tip of my brain, but they just weren't it.

Then continue came along. And it sits well. It holds aspects of remaining and abiding by persisting and persevering. It also includes journey and movement and growth, along with starting up again with something that was interrupted.

If faith is 'a long obedience in the same direction' (Eugene Peterson) then continue seems like a good word to sit with for a year.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Peppers - Neocolor II

With the busyness of the season and the heat we're experiencing here at the moment, a quick addition to the pepper series in the last post was the ideal bit of creativity to fit in. This one is done in Neocolor IIs washed over with a little water.

Now, what shall I use next...

Sunday, 20 December 2015


One of the great things about having a clear-out is that you find things you'd forgotten about. These renditions of a red pepper - or capsicum as they call it here - are ten years old. I wanted to look at the difference using a different medium made to the same subject. So above we have coloured pencil.

This one is oil pastels.

And this last one is collage.

Nowadays I have a lot of other media I could try out as well. Maybe I'll add to my little series.

Do you render the same subject in different media sometimes?

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Silly degrees

Well, it's silly degrees here at the moment - over 40C for four days in a row, which is a December record, apparently - and the paint dries on the brush. So this page is a very quick and simple one. I stuck down a gelli-print I had already done, along with some pieces of printed greaseproof paper. A round sticker and some dribbled paint - Golden fluid acrylic used straight from the tube - and a tiny bit of doodling to make a flower, and this page was ready for the journalling.

Think I need a lie-down in a cool room, now...

Monday, 14 December 2015

Giving and receiving

At this time of the year there is much giving and receiving. It is a joy to give - especially when you find that perfect gift that you just know they are going to love, that gift you tracked down and finally secured, or made with your own hands and lots of love. 

It is a blessing to be able to give a gift without any expectation of receiving something in return. But admit it - when you receive something from someone you haven't made or bought a gift for, you feel a little bit guilty, as if maybe you should rush out and get something for them. As if this giving and receiving of gifts has to somehow be balanced at the end of the day. 

Receiving without reciprocating can be difficult, especially if you are in no position to give something back. But we have to learn to receive graciously. If you believe that God will provide for you, you have to be ready for Him to do it through other people, even if that embarrasses you. That's one of the wonderful things about God - He could miraculously provide for us with a suddenly full cupboard, but instead, He often chooses to use someone else to do it. I've been in both positions, and it is a blessing to be on either end. 

If it is more blessed to give than to receive, then we need to let others be the blessing to us as well. 

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Flourishing in winter

Although it is summer here, I am thinking about winter, because for me, Christmas happens in winter. My northern hemisphere upbringing has imprinted a cold, dark season on me for this time of year.  So when I came across this photo in an old calendar it made me think about winter and how to flourish in  that season.

When the weather is cold, the ground is hard, and there's not much food around, how do you flourish? What does flourishing even look like in winter? It is hard to tell, with deciduous trees, whether they are surviving or not. It isn't really until the spring that you can see whether they are still alive.

One way to stack the odds to keep yourself going through a cold, hard winter is to squirrel stuff away when it is plentiful. Journalling is one way to store up the things you can live off when times are lean. Remembering how you made it through a previous hard time, looking at the promises for the future, and staying rooted in the Word even when it is hard and you feel wrapped in silence .

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Brown paper and a brayer

There's something very therapeutic about brayering paint on to a large piece of paper. I had eight sheets of brown paper that I wanted to turn into a journal. As you can see from the sheets at the bottom in the photo below, I started out with a gelli-plate and stencils, patterning the paper in a delicate (sort of!) way.

After three sheets, I decided to just squirt the paint directly on to the paper and have fun with the brayer and some large arm movements. I put three colours on the sheet at the same time and just brayered through them, mixing directly on the paper.

Once they were dry, I cut the large sheets into 4 x A3 pieces. Because the paper isn't particularly thick, I'll fold each piece and bind them at the cut ends, so each folded piece becomes one page. I like the way that the pages will blend because they came from larger pieces.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015


This page just seemed to be crying out for the column stamp I carved a while ago. Once the columns were on there, it set my mind to thinking about building.

Lots of ruins are still around from Rome, but they aren't fit for purpose any more. If you're going to build, you need to invest in something that lasts. Moths eat through things, rust destroys, thieves steal (Matthew 6:19). The best thing to build up and invest in is people.

Who will you invest in in the new year? Who will be given your time, encouragement, financial investment?

Sunday, 6 December 2015

New toy!

What do you get when you take a bunch of envelopes that won't stick down anymore, a gelli-plate, some paint and stencils, and a brand new Zutter binding machine?

Five colourful, long, thin journals!

In the process of purging my studio, I unearthed a big stack of old envelopes. Of course, I could have just recycled them by putting them in the recycling bin, but I chose a more creative recycling option.  I tell myself that this way I have used up useless envelopes AND some paint. Purging of a sort as I have made both into something useful :) Plus, I got to try out my new Zutter binding machine, which was easy and fun to use.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Stencil play

I've been having fun playing with stencils on some larger canvases and pieces of card that have been lying around my studio. Each of these three makes use of the technique of removing paint through a stencil using a baby-wipe.

The piece above was fun to do as the cardboard looked smooth on this side. However, when I applied paint with a plastic card, the underlying corrugations started to show through. This made for some interesting unexpected texture.

The silhouette was actually a leftover. When I used a mask cut from a magazine and sprayed it with black ink, I used the ink left on the mask to make a print on greaseproof paper. That's why the colour isn't perfectly smooth.

This canvas is quite large - 30 x 20in - and I've been enjoying adding bits and pieces over time, building up the different colours bit by bit. The canvas has been gessoed over and I removed some of the gesso layer through a hand-cut grid stencil. I then used the same stencil to spray through, print with, and remove paint through. For the moment it is sitting in the studio and I'm deciding whether it's done or not. There are some close-ups at the bottom of this post.

This third one uses mostly the paint removal technique, although there are a couple of pieces of greaseproof paper gelli-print there, too. Not sure if it's finished, yet. 

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

The season of waiting

Advent is the season of waiting, but there are different ways to wait.

We can wait with bad grace, letting frustration build. We pace, but don't actually go anywhere, spending energy to no purpose. Or we sit passively and get nowhere. We get impatient. We try to move things along in our own way, thinking we know best, rather than waiting for them to unfold in due time. We are eager only for the end result.

There's a better way to wait.

When we wait with grace, we see the waiting as a time of preparation, a time of learning. I like to think of this as active waiting. It is not time that is wasted, but time that is spent preparing for the next step, gathering resources, and being ready. It is waiting with expectation rather than frustration. It is understanding that the waiting is necessary, even when it feels like it's never going to end.

During this Advent season, wait with anticipation, with expectation, with patience. Then you'll be ready when the time comes.

Sunday, 29 November 2015


There are seasons when I feel the need to purge. Spring is one of them. So I'm looking through the drawers in my studio and throwing out or passing on the things that I don't use, don't need, haven't looked at in a long time. Trying out lots of things is good. It pushes you to be creative. But there are just some media that you find you don't gel with. There are things you reach for all the time, and things that you just have no affinity with. So the latter are getting the boot.

And there are times when I need to purge the thoughts that run the hamster wheel in my head. Art journal pages are great for that. The journalling, when it's messy and running together, adds its own texture to the page, thus having two uses. When the words are on the page somehow it stops them from running in my head. It pins them down and I can deal with them better. 

Do you use your journal to purge?

Thursday, 26 November 2015

You're not the boss of me!

It's one of those things that comes out of the mouths of irate toddlers who don't want to do as they're told. And sometimes - let's be honest here - it can be what we think, accompanied by that mental foot stomp. 

Yes, it may be childish. 

Sometimes it's the right reaction.

A lot of the time we acquiesce to requests to keep the peace. And that is what they are - requests. But if we're not careful, we can let ourselves be manipulated, especially when those requests insidiously turn into orders and the person involved expects you to jump to their command. It is too easy to abdicate responsibility where we should stand up to the person involved. There comes a point where we have to say, 'Enough!' 

Sometimes we allow people to have power and authority in our lives that is not theirs to have. 

Make sure you know whose orders you're willing to follow. 

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Advent quilling

Over the last five or six weeks I have been working on some artwork for the season of Advent. During Advent - the season of waiting - many churches light candles in an Advent wreath each week up to Christmas and look at some of the people involved in the Christmas story.

This year we will be looking at Elizabeth, John the Baptist, Mary, and Joseph. In keeping with that, I have quilled representations of those people to go in the panels of the communion table, along with a depiction of the Light of the World for Christmas Day.

Although time-consuming, I found the rolling of the strips of paper to be quite contemplative. I may do some more in the future. And if you want to see some expert quilling, go and look at this. Amazing.

I'm linking up with Carolyn Dube's Play Date. Hop on over to see all the play that's happening.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Do you prefer swings or roller-coasters?

Personally, I get motion sickness, so swings are OK but a roller-coaster is a no-go. I don't even like watching them. But life can be roller-coaster-like. The ups and downs I can cope with. It's when they come with twists and turns at the same time. Then I just have to hold on and hope I don't vomit.

Thursday, 19 November 2015


There are some things that are quintessentially summery. A tomato is one of them. We have beautiful Roma tomatoes in the shops at the moment - those are fresh plum tomatoes. In a few weeks there will be tomatoes of many shapes and colours available. Tomato salad will become an exciting and colourful meal. 

I'm working in an old cookbook at the moment - a cheap one from the library. I couldn't bring myself to cover up the tomato when I did the background, and when it sat there on the page, the only thing I wanted to add was the word 'summer'. So I did. After all, it's my art journal and anything goes :)

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Enjoying the breeze

A couple of days ago I was enjoying the cool breeze. Now we're in the middle of a mini heatwave and I'm nostalgic for that cool breeze...

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Fun with drawing

This month I've been receiving interviews with artists in my inbox through Heidi Easley's Creating From Your Soul free online event. Each artist shares about their work, gives a tip, and often a giveaway  as well. 

One of the artists was Tamara LaPorte. Her tip was about making eyes look more life-like. Of course, I wanted to try this out, especially as she pointed out various things that I hadn't thought about but wanted to apply. So above is an eye I drew with reference to a photo in Drawing Lab for  Mixed-Media Artists by Carla Sonheim, and below is a face using what I learned. There are a lot of things I can see that could be better, but over-all, I'm pleased with the progress I have made with faces. 

Here is a face I did a couple of years ago, for contrast:

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Shel's journal

Shel's journal finally arrived with me this week. It's the last one for me to work in for the circle journal. It's both sad and satisfying to come to the end of a project. 

Shel's journal is titled Nature Spirit. As with all the journals, each artist gets to interpret the theme in their own way. For me, it made me think of trees. Lots of blogs are talking about autumn and its colours. As it is spring here, and the weather is getting hotter, I get nostalgic for a British autumn where I can shuffle through crispy leaves while there is a crispness in the air - what I am used to for November. 

For inspiration I used a poem I wrote after visiting a botanic park during autumn. There were pools of brightly coloured leaves gathered at the base of the trees that looked like reflections of the canopies above them. 

As there were some empty pages in the journal, I did a second page - hope you don't mind, Shel! - a sketch this time, of a Banksia seed pod. They look as if they're covered with little mouths. 

As the autumn colours also fulfil the challenge at Art Journal Journey, I will be posting this there as well. 

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Leaf on the wind

A bit of a mixed metaphor, this page :) When I looked at the image, a line from the film Serenity went through my mind: I am a leaf on the wind.

This leaf actually looks like it's on the water, but the same sort of thoughts apply: whether floating on the water or on the breeze, you can put up some sort of sail - whether it is a cloth one on a mast or a 'chute like a skydiver has - and harness the wind.

Will you be at the whim of the wind, or will you use it's power to get to where you want to go?

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Stamping and doodling

A little bit of stamping and doodling fun. I cut the new rubber stamp on the left, then remembered the smaller one I had made previously. The two work well together, I think. I coloured the insides with Neocolor IIs and then used the same colours on other areas of the page.

A lot of the background is made from bits of gelli-printed greaseproof paper so you get transparency and mixing of layers. You can see on the left, under the bigger arrow stamp, some that I doodled on as well, before tearing and sticking. I'm thinking that I might use the doodle pattern to make a stamp.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Decade of Mission project

I worked on a project in July/August that I can now share with you. The Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia recently held a Decade of Mission conference. They put out a call for artists to create a piece of art inspired by the Lectionary readings for one of the days in Advent.

Although the other artists were from New Zealand and Polynesia, there was a day left over and I was given the chance to participate. The date left was December 11th. One of the readings for the day was Psalm 1, which was the one I used to base my art on, especially verse 3: "He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does he prospers."

I had to keep reminding myself as I worked that my art was just as valid as anyone else's. Yes, I'm the one who is always telling everyone else to embrace their style and not compare, and here I was, talking down the nagging voice in my head :) Anyway, I gagged the voice and got on with my art.

Each of the art pieces was photographed and turned into a postcard. These were available to purchase as a set at the conference. On the reverse of each card was a thought or a question for contemplation during Advent. As one of the artists, I received a set of cards. It was wonderful to see the range of art styles and media - photography, collage, printing, drawing, painting, lettering - that were used by the wide range of artists involved.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

The flowers still grow

As a clergy wife there are a lot of emotional things that you have to hold loosely because they are not your stories, but the emotion involved still affects you. I find journalling helps me with this. This last week has been a hard one, including some personal stuff and some congregational stuff.

I find myself thinking about events - surgery for cancer with unexpected anaesthetic side effects; a father suddenly rushed into hospital with an infection; unplanned car repairs; a sudden death away from home and the planning of the funeral; an expected death and another funeral to be planned; waiting to hear about a job; visitors staying for a month; creative preparations for Christmas; a couple of people coping with spouses with Alzheimer's; a couple of birthdays.

And the over-riding thought?

Life goes on.

Amidst the unexpected, the loss, the grief, the worry, birthdays still happen, and the flowers still grow.

Sunday, 1 November 2015


Recognising the problem is only the first step, though a significant one.

Working out the 'how' may take a little longer.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

I am responsible for what I say and how I say it, not for what you do in response.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Just… playing

Sometimes you just need to play with no agenda whatsoever. I put on my painty shirt and had fun with a child's toy - a Twirl 'n' Paint. 

Because it is powered by pressing madly on a button to make the table go round, you don't get the even spread and flow of the country fair /electric versions, but that just makes the results more unpredictable. To start with I was using some fairly thick acrylic inks. The spread wasn't good, so I squirted on some water as well. That made things flow better.

Then I thought, What if, instead of just water to make things flow, I use a more watery paint? Well, I have some spray inks sitting on my desk, so I grabbed those and combined them with the acrylic inks I was already using. As you can see, this gave a much better colour coverage and a nice mix of light and dark colours. It even allowed me to add a spot of colour afterwards that just flowed with the watery movement of the inks before they dried. 

And here are the cards I made from them:

If you have trouble letting yourself just play, why not sign up for Carolyn Dube's Permission to Play workshop? It's free! Look out for details of it coming up on her blog. Thanks, Carolyn :)