Category: Journals

These posts deal with my visual journals. To create my journals I reuse old hardback books and collage, draw, and paint in them. They are also referred to as altered books. Every page has an important connection to my daily life, which is way I call them my journals.

Visual Journal Page 22: The Fall & Visual Journal Page 23: Ouch

This visual journal page was created to represent my clumsiness. Not only am I clumsy, but I also bruise easily, which means I am in a constant state of being covered with bumps, scratches, and lovely shades of purples, yellows, and blues. I don’t think I ever quite grew into myself, my limbs still feel like they are longer than they should be.

Specifically, this page is meant to represent a particular incident of clumsiness, a tumble down the stairs. When I move from point a to point b my goal is to move as quickly as possible without breaking into a run. My fast walking combined with my long legs makes it look like I’m always in a rush. The same is applied when I am going up and down stairs. I don’t take them one at a time, carefully watching my step, I generally jog up and jog down. I blame my need for speed on my father who was the type to wait in the car, with the car running, until everyone finally piled in to leave. I always felt rushed, and that has continued into my adult life.

95% of the time my jog up, jog down stair taking is successful. However, the remaining 5% of the time means I miss a step or slip on a step either falling up, or falling down the stairs. On this particular day I hit a step heading down, my foot slipped out from under me, and down I went.

Unfortunately, the slip happened towards the top of the stairs, so I had a long way to go to reach the bottom. It felt like a cartoon, my butt hit the next step, and there was no going back. I literally slide down the stairs until something stopped by downward fall, which happened to be the side table next to my front door.

My next visual journal page represents my husband’s point of view. He was sitting on our sofa, watching TV, minding his own business, when all of the sudden I came tumbling down. All he heard was bam, bam, bam, bam, as my various body parts hit step after step, followed by a final smash as I collided with our red side table. The commotion was followed by back and forth rock of the table as it tried to rebalance after my collision.

I had to lay there for just a minute to allow my brain to catch up to the events and my body to recover. My big toe made contact with the table first, and absorbed the weight that followed behind it. It caused a bruised toe and cracked nail. My right arm made the first, and only, attempt, and fail, to break my fall and stop the ensuing events. That resulted in a big bruise on my forearm. After the tumble and a moment of recovery, I couldn’t help but laugh at myself. I could be so careless and I had no one to blame but myself.

Despite the sequence of events you can still find me jogging up and down stairs and falling 5% of the time.

SUPPLIES

  • Visual Journal
  • Rubber cement
  • Pencil
  • Gesso
  • Paint brush
  • Water
  • Charcoal
  • Charcoal pencil
  • Pastels
  • Red acrylic paint
  • Book Pages
  • Laser printed images of table
  • Packaging tape
  • Scissors
  • Sharpie

HOW TO

To create these two visual journal pages I wanted to create two very different looks. I wanted the actual fall to look dark and more serious. For the aftermath, I wanted it to look as silly as I felt. I started with the fall page and decided early on to shade on top of a gesso base. Since gesso is a wet material, I opted to rip two pages from my book so I could work on them without the risk of the gesso bleeding through to other pages.

I sketched out the design first using pencil. My staircase at home is simple and straight, but I wanted to create a more dramatic effect so I opted to exaggerate the style. I sketched out the twisting staircase, and centered the final set of stairs between the two pages. To the left of the stairs I drew out my right hand and right foot, to show my injuries. Once I had the base sketches ready, I added water to my gesso, to make it more transparent, and filled in the shapes.

Once the gesso dried I began pulling out details using the charcoal pencil. I added purple and brown pastels to create shadows on the stairs and the bruise on my arm and toe. I added black charcoal around the staircase to make it pop. To create a blended look with the charcoal I colored more heavily at the edge of the stairs, then used my finger and a paper towel to blend the charcoal away from the steps and into the background. I continued to build up details with the charcoal pencil and push my shadows with the pastel and black charcoal.

Once I finished shading I painted my toe nails bright red using red acrylic paint. I liked the sudden pop of color and it created a great attention grabber. I used a thin brush and gesso to add the crack in my toenail.

Once the page was finished I sprayed it with fixative, to prevent the charcoal from smudging, and glued it on top of pages still attached in my visual journal book.

For the second page I wanted a more playful look and I wanted to create a sense of movement in the table. I decided to create 5 packaging tape transfers of the same image of my side table, then overlap them to make it look like it was moving. To do this, I printed 5 copies of the table on a laser printer. I taped clear packaging tape to the front of the pictures, then cut out the table. I then ran the cut outs under water until the paper started to separate from the tape. I carefully rubbed the paper off using my fingertips until only the ink from the printed image was left on the tape. I dried it off using paper towels and set them aside.

I decided to use book pages from two different books to create a space for the table to sit in. I used the lighter, wider book pages first and glued them to the center of my visual journal page using rubber cement. I then layered two smaller, darker book pages in the center of the ones I just glued and also glued them down with rubber cement. Next, I placed my table packaging tape image transfers on the right side of the book spread. I used Elmer’s glue to glue them in place, the chemicals in rubber cement will cause the tape to ripple.

Next, I decided to add another thin bar of the light and dark book pages to the top and write “bam, bam, bam” in Sharpie across it. To balance the layout I added one small section of layered book pages to the right page below the table and wrote “ouch” in black Sharpie.

CHALLENGE

Create a visual journal page about an unfortunate accident.

Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog! Help me spread the word about visual journals and art in general by sharing with others. Thanks for stopping by!

Visual Journal Page 21: The Perfect Combination

I have said it many times, I have the sweet tooth of a 7 year old. My sugar palate never seemed to mature to the dark chocolates of my peers, I have always loved the 100% sugar, fruity varieties of candy that are marketed towards children. For many years, Skittles have been my reigning favorite, a fact that my hubby knows well.

Nick will periodically come home after a grocery trip with a share size Skittles bag. When we go see a movie, no questions asked, Skittles are the staple after popcorn. On road trips he will stop for gas, even if we don’t really need it, just to go get me a bag of Skittles.

Over the years, not only has Nick stored my favorite candy somewhere in his brain, he has also noted my favorite color combination: purple and red. I don’t know what it is about purple and red, it is the most perfect flavor combination out there. I don’t seek out purples or reds to eat individually, it is a combo deal, otherwise any color will do. I can’t even refer to them as their flavors, because a skittle flavor is unique to it’s color, and trust me, purple and red is it. As Nick and I snuggle up on the sofa to watch TV or sit in a movie theater, he will pass along Skittles to share. Without fail, if he ends up with a handful that has purples and reds, they come straight to me.

This is not something I ever made a point to tell him I needed. It was never a discussion, argument, or requirement. It was just something he noticed I liked and did for me unprompted. Moments like these define our marriage. It’s not the buying of houses or birthing of children, it’s the fact that I get every purple and red Skittle Nick comes across. The little things matter the most, because the little things add up to better days, weeks, months, years, and a continued growth together, not apart. The little things mean the other person is still paying attention, wants to know more, and do more to make you happy. Not because you are supposed to buy that house or procreate, they do things to make you happy just because they care enough to want to.

It’s scary how well you know me.

SUPPLIES:

  • Visual journal
  • Gesso
  • Paintbrush
  • Water
  • Pencil
  • Watercolor
  • Thin Sharpie
  • White colored pencil
  • Rubber cement

HOW TO

For this visual journal page, I decided to focus on the colors of the red and purple Skittles. I brainstormed different ways of including them, an avalanche of purples and reds, a Skittles package with nothing but purples and reds, but I ended up deciding that it isn’t the quantity that is important, it’s the combination of a single purple and a single red. Once I decided on just two skittles, I opted to draw hands cradling them, as if they were something delicate and special, not something I am about to chew up and digest.

To create the visual journal page, I started by ripping a page from my visual journal book. I did this because I wanted to make the arms and hands stand out against the page and decided to use watered down gesso to do that. Since gesso is liquidy, I didn’t want it to soak through the other pages of my book. I lightly sketched the outline of the arms and hands, then filled them in with gesso. Once dry, I added details and shading with a pencil. Gesso creates a nice, smooth surface to draw on top of.

After I finished my hands, on a separate sheet of paper I drew my skittles and filled them in with watercolor. I didn’t add much water to the pigment so I would end up with a nice, vibrant color. While waiting for the Skittles to dry, I moved onto my paint splatters. I added more water to the watercolor pigment, painted a thick line on a sheet of paper, and blew it at an angle to make the paint splatter. After the skittles and paint splatters dried, I cut them out.

I glued the skittles down first, then added a highlight and the “S” using a white colored pencil. Next, I alternated red and purple splatters around the hands, and glued them down with rubber cement. Last, I used an extra fine Sharpie to add the words on top of the paint splatters.

CHALLENGE

Dedicate a page to your favorite sweet.


 

Visual Journal Page 20: Breathe In, Breathe Out

There are many nights I lay in bed, my body exhausted, eyes heavy, and mind racing. The endless to do list scrolls through, the what did I forgets start haunting, the stress from the day just can’t seem to find a way to subside.

When I first started teaching I had many restless nights. Fear kept me awake. Fear of what the next day would bring. Fear of sleeping in. Fear of not being prepared. Fear of forgetting something. Fear of failure. Fear of my students. Many days I felt like a hoax. I had no idea what I was doing. That year, everyday was the first day for me.

My first year anxieties lessened with each passing year. I learned a lot, found projects that were reliable, and developed systems for handling my students. As my stress levels were reduced, my nights of sleep got better. However, I would still periodically have those moments where I would lay in bed, stuck in limbo, unable to pass into sleep or wake up enough to do something else. In those moments I fall back on my old restless night strategies. I would lay still and focus on my lungs. As I would breathe in I would feel my lungs expand to capacity. I would imagine the folds filling out and pressing into my other organs as they expanded. I would breathe out. My lungs would slowly collapse pushing all air out, until they were tiny, limp, and deflated. I would repeat this until I finally drifted beyond the middle into sleep.

This method has helped me through many of my most restless nights. It’s my off button for my brain. A simple strategy to put focus on my most basic body function, breathe in… breathe out…

SUPPLIES

  • Visual journal
  • Scissors
  • Rubber cement
  • Black bleeding tissue paper
  • Gesso
  • Paint brush
  • Water
  • Sharpie
  • Old book pages

HOW TO

This is one of those visual journal pages that was fairly simple to create, but had a lot of impact once it was finished. It was also one of those pages that I visualized in my head before starting and it came out just as I expected, if not better, which rarely happens.

I knew I wanted to create an image of a lung. I started this journal page by looking up medical drawings of lungs to reference. I wanted to make sure it was accurate. Once I settled on an image I began thinking about the look. I had recently completed a page about a black widow (check it out here) where I used black bleeding tissue paper and gesso. I loved the look the wet gesso created on the paper. A red hue would bleed into the white gesso from the black tissue paper. I decided this would be a good material to use for this visual journal page as well.

Once I had my image, a sheet of black tissue paper, paintbrush, and gesso, I was ready. I freehanded the painting of the lungs. I started with a loose outline of the shape and went into the bigger sections first, which was the white block in the heart that expanded to the veins in the lungs. I carefully planned around sections that needed to stay black and moved from one area to the next. For the arteries of the heart I used curved lines to show the shape and to give it texture to separate it from everything else. I liked the look of the lines and decided to carry them into the spaces between the veins in the lungs to fill out the shape. I mimicked the circular tissue pattern from the original image into my painting as I moved to the bottom of the lungs. To define the esophagus I used short, hatch lines, that also curved along the contour of the shape. I decided to make it longer than I needed, just to make sure it filled the page.

As I painted each section, the color from the bleeding tissue paper would bleed into the white. I loved the look it created, it added much more interest to the color than a stark white. Once the painting was dry, I cut the shape out of the rectangular bleeding tissue paper sheet. I carefully glued it into my visual journal using rubber cement and trimmed off the excess esophagus.

I overlapped sheets of old and discolored book pages to the top with ripped out pieces of black bleeding tissue paper on top. This tied the top section to my lungs visually, while also giving me a space to write words. Even with the detailed painting, I still felt the background was lacking. I decided to cut out rounded shapes from the book pages to mimic the shape of the lungs and create a sense of movement. I glued them into the background, which helped further tie the book pages into the entire piece.

Last, but not least, I used gesso to paint the words “breathe in… breathe out…” over the ripped up tissue paper. In the sections where the words extended beyond the bleeding tissue paper, I went over the letters with black sharpie to help them stand out.

CHALLENGE

Create a visual journal page about your method to falling asleep.

Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog! Help me spread the word about visual journals by following and sharing with others on your social media site of choice. Thanks for stopping by!


 

Visual Journal Page 19: Fancy Days

visual-journal-page-19-fancy-days

This visual journal page was inspired by an image. It’s hard to remember exactly where I first discovered this, but I know it must have been from one of the many art school catalogues that arrive in my school mailbox at least weekly. While I tire of constantly throwing out half the items that find their way into my box, I never tire of looking through student artwork.

This woman in her fancy dress is an example of one of the many moments I have as I flip through these magazines. I’m always so impressed with the range of style, level of talent, and crazy creativity people have. These college art catalogues are put together to show the wide range of talent they attract, so you get a piece of each department. An illustration here, a graphic design there, an oil painting in between. So many of these images pique my interest and pull on my heartstrings. When I have a moment with one I carefully tear out the page, and stow it away in my visual journal folder.

This image sat in my folder for a long time. It took awhile to find a purpose for it. I knew I loved the image, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why it appealed to me so much. One day, while in a visual journal idea slump, I flipped back through my saved images, and had another moment while looking at this one. I loved the petal dress that transformed from flower to traditional dress to flower again. And what an absurd, yet beautiful, neck adornment. It took me back to my childhood. To my constant wish to live in the “olden days” so I had a reason to where outrageously puffy dresses everyday. Even as an adult I love the special occasions that call for fancy dresses. Although my preferred daily attire are jeans or pajamas, some days just need to be fancy days.

SUPPLIES

  • Visual journal
  • Rubber cement or Mod Podge
  • Magazine cut outs
  • Xacto knife
  • Scissors
  • Book pages
  • Packaging tape
  • Newspaper

HOW TO

To create this visual journal page I started with the original image of the girl. I cut out it out, and glued it to the right side page. I wanted to emphasize the image, so I cut the yellow pattern background of the original image into strips that went along the contour of the image. I glued those down using rubber cement.

On the left hand page I decided to write the sentence: “some days just need to be fancy days.” I wanted to mimic the over the top, decorative style of the dress in the text, so I typed the sentence into a Word document, and choose the frilliest, fanciest font I could find. I printed the text, and carefully cut it out using a combination of scissors and an Xacto knife.

Rather than glue the text down and be done with it, I decided to create a equally decorative page on the left side of my visual journal spread. I ripped out and glued down a strip of lighter book page paper in the center of the left page. I ripped out a page from the actual visual journal book, tore it into two strips, and glued them down on either side of the lighter book page. I then created newspaper tape transfers by taking a piece of packaging tape, sticking it to newspaper, and pulling the tape back up. The ink from the newsprint stuck to the tape, and I then taped them down around the lighter center strip of book page paper.

Next, I glued a thin strip of darker brown, older book page paper in the middle of the center strip. I emphasized various areas with small pieces of the old book pages. I then used more of the yellow, pattern background of the original image to create a scalloped pattern around the strips of book page paper. Last but not least I glued the text on top of the center section of the left page.

CHALLENGE

Flip through a magazine and rip out the image that you find most interesting. Create a visual journal page about it.

Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog and read about visual journaling! Help me spread the word by sharing with others. Thanks for stopping by!

Visual Journal Page 17: Fear Itself

visual-journal-page-17-black-widow-phobia

I have heard the saying, “the only thing to fear is fear itself,” (by Franklin D. Roosevelt) many times in my life. It’s a positive saying, a tool to motivate, a way to conquer your worries and move ahead. It makes sense. After all there are many things in life that cause unnecessary concern. Perhaps the only reason you hold back is to avoid the uncomfortable feeling of fear. It’s often the feeling, the knot in your stomach, heat rising to your face, that causes more distress than the actual thing or action. Once you conquer the sense of fear you can conquer the fear.

But, what happens when you are faced with the fear, you experience it, you survive it, you move on, and the fear still lingers? If facing your fears is supposed to conquer them, why am I more afraid than ever?

Let me rewind.

It was just another morning. I was at Nick’s apartment in Athens, GA preparing for my first class of the day at the wonderful, beautiful University of Georgia. I had just gotten out of the shower, I grabbed my jeans that were draped over the weight bench in his room, got dressed, and quickly took his dog (now our dog) Kody for a walk before heading to class. I had only made it a few apartments down before I felt a burning sensation on my leg. I lifted my pant leg to investigate when suddenly a spider fell to the ground right in front of me. I didn’t think much of it, my leg was a little red, but no big deal. The spider was very creepy looking, but I continued on the walk.

As I rounded the turn at the end of the street my leg suddenly felt like it was on fire. I checked one more time and a welt had appeared next to my knee. It was a sensation I had never felt before and my mind started turning trying to figure out what had happened. I suddenly connected the dots back to the spider. Could that have fallen out of my jeans? What type of spider was it? I decided to backtrack to take a closer look. The spider was still there, laying half dead on the sidewalk. I bent down to take a closer look and my heart dropped. A bright red hourglass decorated the belly of this very black spider. It was a black widow, it was in my jeans, it had bitten me.

As a child I have a very distinct memory of my dad bringing in a mason jar from outside. He gather my sister, brother, and I around the kitchen table and showed us what was inside. It was a very frantic spider he had captured from the wood pile next to our house. He explained it was a black widow. He flipped it over with a pencil to show the distinct hourglass marking that immediately identified it. He warned us to never play in the wood pile, it was full of them, and they are poisonous. He then took the pencil and killed the spider. Life lessons before dinner.

From there on out my sister and I would always joke about black widows to try and scare each other. The thoughts of them in my bed, crawling over my face, poisoning me with there venom would keep me up at night. A very real fear began to develop. As I grew older I never encountered another black widow. My sister and I stopped teasing each other with the possibility of middle of the night spider attacks, and my fear moved to the back of my mind, where it stayed and ruminated until this morning my junior year of college.

Despite not thinking about these creepy crawlies for years, the first thought that popped into my head was my worse fear was becoming a reality. I honestly had no idea if I was going to live, die, get sick, or be fine. I was a healthy adult, the spider had obviously seen better days, it bit me on a lower part of my body, it wasn’t near my heart, my leg only burned a little, I was going to be fine, I was going to be late to class, I needed to go ahead and seek medical help just in case, I better get in the car and go to the health center, what if I passed out on the way and get in a wreck?, I need to go, screw this spider!! After the long train of panicked thoughts my next action was to stomp on the spider many more times than was necessary to ensure its death before I loaded myself into the car to get to the university health center.

I could barely follow my own frantic thoughts as I walked into the building, when my spinning mind was interrupted by my roommate. It was the most random coincidence that she was in the parking lot at the exact same time as me. As soon as I saw her and registered her “what are you doing here?” question, I burst into tears. I realized right then that I was more afraid than I realized, my eight year old phobia had never diminished, it had just relocated to a quieter spot in my brain.

Elly walked my mess of a self into the health center, sat with me through the visit, and helped me home. I still don’t know why she was there that day, but I’m glad she was.

To make an already long story less long, I was told I would be just fine and to go home and take Advil for the pain. After hours of full body muscle cramping I called back to the health center to see what other options I had, they told me to come back in, and immediately sent me to the emergency room after seeing me. After arriving at the hospital, where a shocked staff wondered why I didn’t come in hours earlier, I was hooked up to morphine to help with my high level of discomfort and I spent the night. Despite the bite mark continuously beading with sweat for weeks after, I was just fine.

I survived. A black widow bit me, I saw the perpetrator up close, I confronted the spider (unfortunate for the spider), I survived. I was fine. No big deal. Yet, to this day I am even more afraid of black widows than ever before. I lived for years without seeing one between my dad’s introduction and my one on one meeting, but now I find them everywhere. I find them in every nook and cranny outside. I have seen them in my garage, in the doorway to my house, scrambling under my dishwasher. I’m fairly certain they are stalking me.

So I ask you, Mr. Roosevelt, if the only thing to fear is fear itself, why am I more afraid than ever?

SUPPLIES

  • Visual Journal
  • Rubber cement
  • Bleeding tissue paper
  • Gesso
  • Acrylic paint
  • Paint brush
  • Water
  • Sharpie

HOW TO

I knew from the beginning that I wanted this to be a dark visual journal page. I had worked with bleeding tissue paper many times in the past and I knew the black that came in this pack would turn a red color when wet. It was the perfect combination of colors, the black, black with the blood red. I took a sheet of black and splatter water to encourage some of the red to come out. Once it dried I decided I wanted to splatter gesso to create a creepy looking web. I dipped a brush into watered down gesso and began splattering the paint across the tissue paper.

As I worked I realized the white gesso was being dyed a pinkish hue from the pigment in the bleeding tissue paper. Although I had planned on a white web, I liked the look. I allowed it to dry and began working on my spider.

I sketched it out with pencil and painted it in using black, white, and red acrylic paint. I wanted it to be realistic and creepy. I added some shadows and highlights to help it look three dimensional and left it to dry.

While the spider was drying I glued the now dry sheet of water and gesso splattered bleeding tissue paper into my visual journal. I carefully cut out the spider and glued it on top of the gesso web using rubber cement.

Next I used a thin brush and more watered down gesso to write the words on the bleeding tissue paper. I wanted to make sure the words were legible while still blending into the background. I wanted to make sure the spider was the main focal point. Because of that, the gesso was the best material to use. I chose to write some words with sharpie, to help it stand out against the layers of gesso, and to outline the gesso words with sharpie to help them pop.

CHALLENGE

Create a visual journal page about your biggest fear. Perhaps journaling about it will help you conquer it. Although despite facing my fear, journaling, and blogging about it, I am still pretty fearful of black widows.