Tag: patchwork

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

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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

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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.


 

 

Encaustic Art: A 36″x60″ Commission

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I created this 12″x24″ boat encaustic a few years back. It was one of the first that I tried carving into the layers of melted and hardened wax to pull out an image. I loved how the boat blended into the background yet popped against the colored wax painted around it. This piece has traveled with me to many art shows and is my most favorited piece on my Etsy shop.

In the spring I was contacted through Etsy by a woman interested in the piece. We went back and forth on price negotiations, and I thought the day had come for me to part with my little boat. I was very surprised when Amber wrote me again requesting quotes for a larger version of the piece. I was intrigued by the prospect, I always love a challenge, and it would be interesting to see how it would translate on a larger scale. I sent back a range of prices and sizes, with the largest size at 36″x60.” When setting up commissions I always assume the buyer will fall somewhere in the middle, so I was surprised when Amber jumped on the 36″x60″ size. I was thrilled at first, then slightly scared. Encaustic can be a difficult medium to work with, especially on a large scale, and this was by far the largest size I had ever tackled. But once the wood panel arrived, I was ready to go.

Layer 1

I started with a bare wood panel. When working with encaustic you must work on a rigid surface, such as wood, to prevent the wax from flexing and inevitably cracking. The first step was to coat the entire panel in layers of blue wax and fuse the layers by heating it up with a heat gun.

Layer 2

Once the panel had a good base layer I covered up the blue with thin, art paper. While it is shocking see all the beautiful blue covered up, once I add and fuse another layer of wax the paper ends up being absorbed into the wax and showing a lot of the layer below.

Layer 3

After the paper was attached I added a thick coat of encaustic medium, a clear wax. This was by far the most challenging step of the process. With every new layer I painted on, I had to fuse it with the layers beneath, while making sure air bubbles were smoothed out. The difficult part of working so large is the wax hardens fairly quickly. I would heat one section, move to another, and before I could get the two sections to blend together one would already be hard. It took many layers and a lot of fusing in order to get a solid, smooth layer.

After the encaustic medium was added I loosely painted natural white wax on top and fused it to create a smokey, hazy layer.

Layer 4

While it was still difficult to get a smooth, even look, it was much easier to work with the white since I had well fused and smooth layers beneath.

Layer 4 detail

Once I was satisfied with the general look of the background I carved the boat shape into the layers of wax using a pointy tool that I scavenged from by hub’s tool box. I lightly marked out the shape before carving in the final lines. If I messed up it meant melting and re-smoothing the entire piece. I then pushed Payne’s Gray oil paint into the lines to make them pop.

Boat Progression

Once the white wax was melted into the piece I painted a repeating diamond pattern in the background using oil paint. It added another interesting layer and helped tie the layers together in the background.

After adding the diamond pattern I added the layers of blue to create the water beneath the boat and the layers of white and yellow to create the sky. I loved how immediately the boat popped. At this point Amber and I were e-mailing daily, hourly, as I worked on the final touches. I would send images, she would send feedback, and the piece was tweaked. While it is important for my vision to come across I think it’s just as important for the commissioner’s vision to also be represented. I love working with my clients to get their work of art just right.

Layer 7

I was so happy with the final product and felt incredibly accomplished to have finished such a large piece.

Finished Product

I loved both the similarities and differences between the mini and the macro versions of my boat. It was fun comparing them before the commissioned piece was packed up and shipped out.

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I was terrified as I packed it in many layers of foam and bubble wrap to be shipped from my little Atlanta, GA bungalow to the other corner of the United States, Seattle, WA. I eagerly awaited Amber’s reply when she received the piece. It is a very different experience seeing an encaustic in person. The layered look isn’t done justice through pictures, and I could only hoped she liked it in person as much as she did through the many photographs she had seen.

Encaustic Reveal

Amber was sweet enough to not only let me know when she received the piece, but she also photographed the process of she and her kids opening it up. I felt like I was there during the big reveal.

Hanging on the Wall

In addition to commissioning an almost 3x larger version of the original, Amber ended up also buying the original to give as a gift to a friend. I love that both my boats live near each other on the pacific coast.

I loved every minute of working with Amber and creating this work of art. She gave me the opportunity to put my encaustic abilities to the test, work larger than I ever had before, and see how one of my smaller pieces would translate to a large size. I hope for many more opportunities like this in the future.

Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog! Help me spread the work about all things art, encaustic, and made in the south by sharing on your social network site of choice. I would love to hear your comments about this piece and encaustics in general! Comment below or e-mail me at whitneywpanetta@gmail.com


 

Visual Journal Page 16: Empty Bowls

Visual Journal Page 16-Empty Bowls

Empty bowls was an annual project hosted by the art department at my school. Every year the art students made clay bowls and donated them to a chili dinner hosted at school. Attendees paid to attend the event, and in return they get a hot meal and handmade bowl. The purpose of the bowl is to act as a daily reminder of the millions of people who are hungry each day. All proceeds from the events were donated to a local food bank to help the fight against hunger. Empty bowls began as a grassroots movement in Rhode Island, and has since spread to have an international following. Read more about it here.

When I began working at my school this was an event that was already in place. I loved the project, it was an assignment in sculpture as well as selflessness. Students had to put time and effort into a work of art they couldn’t keep. Many of them struggled with the fact that they couldn’t take their bowl home, which made the lesson that much more important. It was a big event and took a lot of time, planning, and effort. Months in advance we had to start making bowls to allow enough time to create, bisque fire, glaze, and glaze fire them. The kiln would run daily for weeks on end. The event had many moving parts that had to be coordinated and students had to commit to time outside of school to help out. It was a huge project in and of itself, but despite the effort it was all worth it for the good of my students and their community.

My last year at that school I was a solo art teacher, our department was literally cut in half when budget cuts had to be implemented. As I began planning out the year I realized if I wanted to continue the project I would have to go it alone. Many times I considered skipping it, and I honestly tried. However the dinner had become a regular event, something people looked forward to, and those were the ones that wouldn’t allow me to let it go. After giving a number of “maybe” responses to “when is empty bowls happening?” questions, I finally gave in. I was going to go it alone this year, this massive event was going to happen one way or another.

As expected my planning periods and afternoons quickly filled as my to do list grew. It was harder than ever to pull it off, but the night came and went, and was another success. We had a wonderful turn out, delicious food, and hundreds of handmade bowls in the hands of our attendees. My students had another year of learning another valuable life lesson. They are luckier than most. At the very least they get to come to school each day and fill their bellies at lunch. There are so many in the world who don’t always have the chance to eat even one good meal a day. Watching my students work together for the greater good of their community reminded me of the importance of this event. I required them to selflessly give away their artwork and I needed to step back and remind myself that I also needed to learn a lesson, that my time was worth the sacrifice to help out someone in need.

This visual journal page reflects my most hectic and final empty bowls dinner.

Check out my visual journal page about Empty Bowls 2009 here.

SUPPLIES

  • Visual journal
  • Rubber cement
  • To do list
  • Newspaper
  • Yellow notebook paper
  • Colored pencils
  • White paper
  • Scissors
  • Sharpie

HOW TO

To create this visual journal page I started by ripping up and collaging my very long to do list. It felt good to rip up that list at the end of the event, and it felt even better reflecting on the event by creating this page. I used rubber cement to glue down the paper.

After placing the background, I brainstormed the best way to reflect this final empty bowls experience. It was a ton of time and work, I had tons of great help, there were so many hands involved, but one of the things that stood out most was the number of times I had to run the kiln. Everyday like clockwork I would rush to my classroom, unload the kiln, load it back up, and spend the rest of the day bumping the temperature, checking on the progress, and waiting until it shut off to leave for the day. This was an older kiln that used cones to determine the turn off time. Every day before I started the kiln I placed a cone, a cone shaped piece of clay, to support the latch and shut off for the kiln. As the kiln reaches temperature the cone slowly melts until it releases the latch which shuts of the kiln and allows the cooling process to start. I had piles and piles of used up cones by the end of the empty bowls process, and I thought it was the perfect imagery to use to represent the long process.

Using white paper and pencil I sketched out the variety of shapes the melted cones took. After I completed the outline I added color using colored pencils. I used a variety of red tones to give it a three dimensional look. Once I finished filling them in I cut them out using scissors. I glued them down using rubber cement in rows across the page.

Next, I ripped up a picture and story that ran on the front page of the local paper about the event. I was photographed for the picture that ran with the story holding some of my ceramic pieces that were auctioned off at the dinner. I was very touched when the newspaper reached out about covering our event, and floored when I realized they were running my picture on the front page.

I glued down one layer of ripped up newspaper, then layered a circle cut from the yellow notebook paper I used for the to do list on top. I cut out a circle shaped section from the newspaper story, then ripped it into three pieces, and glued it down. I drew the empty bowls logo on top of that with sharpie. Last, but not least, I added a small ripped up piece of newspaper to the bottom right corner, layered the yellow notebook paper on top, and wrote “2011” in sharpie.

CHALLENGE

Create a visual journal page using newspaper. Find an interesting article you connect to and use it as a base for your next page or create a page about the story you discovered.

Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog! I hope you are inspired to start your own visual journal. Help me spread the word by sharing with others. Thanks for stopping by!