Thursday, December 29, 2011

Wisdom Circles

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands, but in seeing with new eyes." 
~ Michael Proust

We're very quickly approaching the end of 2011. I could talk for hours about what this year has meant to me, but what's more interesting is what it has meant to you.  It's in the last few days of the waning year that we usually cast our minds back to the year gone by, but my mind is already focused forward to 2012, and the endless possibilities and opportunities that lie on the horizon for me.

One of the programs I'm doing next year is Effy Wild's "Book of Days".  It's a year long adventure in journal art and memory keeping, and what's more is it's free. To begin this program, everyone is encouraged to choose a word for the coming year.  One that is relevant to them, and will help guide their art journaling journey throughout 2012.  The word I have chosen is "DESIRE".  It is also the foundation for my portion of the upcoming "21 Secrets" workshop.

Through adversity and euphoria I have learnt two very important things: life always gives you what you want; and, life never gives you what you expect. I've found that understanding and articulating my desires, then opening myself to life's offering, regardless, is the key to happiness. If I look around, I have everything my heart desires, I mean truly desires.  All I have to do is look with new eyes. 

Can you imagine how happy we would all be if we could recapture that exceptional wonder we experience when we see something for the first first time? First time experiences often fuel desire, and desire shapes our decisions. Through desire, our actions become cemented in ambition. But the question is, are our desires rooted in authenticity? Do they drive us in the right direction? 

Desire has two faces; the mean, selfish face of craving, impulsiveness, addiction & power mongering; and the kinder face of self-determination and self-responsibility.  In her book, "Women & Desire", Polly Young-Eisendrath explores the compulsion that our need to be desired, and therefore desirable, undermines our self-esteem.  Have we learnt to skillfully hide the meaner face of desire, even from ourselves?

At the very essence of what is means to be human is 'freedom'.  The freedom to change our course, alter our perspectives, and grow in a different direction.  But this change can only effectively be realized when we know and recognize our own desires.  We need to cast new eyes over our intentions, and open our hearts to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, some of our intentions are grounded in the meaner face of desire, rather than the kinder.

In my portion of the "21 Secrets" program through Dirty Footprints Studio, I will explore the concept of "Desire", and through story telling and visualization I will encourage you to cast light on your desires and see them with new eyes. 

Finding ways to express our desires, to gently acknowledge both sides of the 'desire' face is integral to our ongoing growth and pursuit of an authentic life. It is through art journaling, and the creation of mandalas, that we will give form to our desires. The patterns found in mandalas can help us describe the very nature of desire, while the circle itself helps us contemplate the core of our own reality, and what is at the 'true center' of our desire.

"21 Secrets" is an online self guided workshop where 21 talented, inspiring artists each share their art journaling secrets. Each class comes in a downloadable pdf, with video and personal feedback.  It goes on sale next week. But what is so amazing about this course is that it is only $59, which includes all 21 workshops. I am so excited to be a part of it, and I will be giving away a place on this course to one you. Click here to learn more about "21 Secrets" and stay tuned for this wonderful giveaway in the weeks to come.  

Thanks for checking in.  xx

(All the pictures in this post are from "The Mandala Book" by Lori Bailey Cunningham. For picture credits please see page 308 of this book.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Reef At Christmas

It seems that at this time of year my homesickness peaks as I struggle once again with a cold white Christmas.  I know, I think I'm insane, isn't a white Christmas the jackpot?  Well, yes, it certainly is beautiful, and all the images of Christmas that we see make sense when I look out my window, but in reality Christmas is different all over the world.  There are loads of countries where Christmas marks the beginning of summer vacation, Australia being one of them.  I guess it all depends on what you grow up with.

I remember childhood Christmas' spent in the coastal town of Torquay, Victoria.  We'd spend Christmas eve running around the back yard while Dad tended to the BBQ and mum laid out a feast of salads, fresh tropical fruits and cakes.  We were so excited because we were allowed to stay up to attend mid-night mass. Once we got older we started the tradition of coming home from mass and opening one gift from another family member, just one! 

I remember trying to fall asleep, giddy with excitement and anticipation, restless from the heat of a hot summers night, listening to the crickets chirping and the waves lapping up on the darkened beach. I could hear laughter and music drifting through the air as the calidescope of holiday makers celebrated the season in true Aussie style...bonfires, bbq's,and beer.

Christmas morning was always an early start, as it is all over the world for families with children. We'd race in to wake Mum and Dad, who would both linger in bed, trying to stretch out the excitement that little bit longer.  The joy of gift-giving was intoxicating, but as a kid, receiving was even better.  Our presents usually included swimsuits, beach towels, flip flops, buckets & spades, and the occasional a bicycle or go cart.  We reluctantly put our gifts down to march off to church yet again before heading either home or to a relative's for a spectacular Christmas lunch with hoards of family and friends.

After our midday feast was respectfully devoured we'd all gather up our buckets, spades and beach towels and head off to the beach.  By mid afternoon the sand was ablaze with heat and adorned with families.  All the grassed areas above the beach were packed full of extended families cramming under the shade of gum trees.  A chorus of BBQ's sizzling away as topless, beer bellied fathers would whack cricket balls around with their kids, while Mum's and Grandma's would sit happily on their fold up-chairs sipping wine and chattering away, grateful that they didn't have to cook a roast on such a hot day.

My head is full of glorious summer Christmas memories, but none better than the long evening walks along the beach at the end of Christmas day.  Dipping our feet into the cool water, feeling peaceful and satisfied with our lot in life, ready for bed and feeling the excitement creep up on us once again as we thought about doing it all again on Boxing Day, with the other side of the family.

What are some of your childhood holiday memories?

I've shown snippets of this page before.  It's a prismatic mandala of my beloved memories of the reefs that surround my homeland.  It's done in Twinkling H2O's and ink.  My workshop for 21 Secrets is called "Wisdom Circles" and is all about infusing these sacred circles with your memories, dreams, and desires. Click here for more information.

Thanks for checking in. xx

Friday, December 16, 2011

Strawberry Flower

My online workshops with opened for registration this week and my two classes "Mastering Twinks", and "Watercolor Pencil Workshop" which will both run in the early new year, have attracted a lot of interest.  Most of my recent posts have been showcasing "Twinks", so I thought I'd change it up a bit and give you a peek into my Watercolor Pencil class.

I think watercolor pencils are one of the most underestimated, yet versatile mediums you can use. Especially if you like to travel and art journal on the go.  They're easy to pack, not messy at all and require very little maintenance, work well with other medium and are always reliable.  Did I mention they were versatile.

I use them is so many different way, and I always have a set with me when I'm art journaling.  I often use them to enhance watercolor pages, but I find that sometimes they are my primary medium.  I've done several watercolor pencil classes in the past few years, most recently Cathy Johnson's mini class, and I'm always learning new ways to use them. Everyone has their own style and preference when it comes to getting the best from them.

Of course some brands are better than others, but often it depends what effect you're looking for.  As part of my workshop I explore lots of these different brands, and lots of different ways to use them. We work through a number of step by step projects that help guide participants as they get to know these little sticks of beauty.

Once again I use nature as my muse.  This page, done in Derwent Inktense watercolor pencil in my watercolor journal, is of strawberries and their flowers.  I draw over the subject with pen as a way of shading and defining and as part of this class, I offer tips on effective line work over watercolor pencil.

Enjoy your weekend and thanks for checking in. xx

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tutorial: "Cupcake" Christmas Card

If you’re anything like me you’ve probably left sending out Christmas cards to the last minute.  It’s the same every year, Christmas sneaks up on me and by the time I start thinking about it, there is only a week or so left.  So last night I sat down in my little studio and whipped up some Christmas cupcakes.  Not the delectable edible kind, rather the twinkly visual kind. LuminArte have released some gorgeous new holiday colors in their Twinkling H2O range, so I thought I’d try them out.

These 12 new colors are deep, rich and highly glamorous. Vavoom Red, Sugar Plum, Raspberry Wine, Twilight, Mystique, Harvest Sol, Desert Clay, Spanish Moss, Moon Beams, Emerald, Ice, and Golden Nugget. These are shimmer on steroids and they are perfect for so many holiday projects.

 I thought I share a little of my process. Here’s how I did it: Start with a quick pencil sketch of a cupcake.

Sweep a light wet wash of “Spanish Moss” over the cupcake pan.  Let the pigment and mica play over the paper and encourage it with your brush to settle into what will become the ridges of the pan.

Next, using “Emerald” gently fill in the holly leaves applying the same technique.  Use a little more water if necessary and watch as the mica moves around.  Again, as it’s drying, just encourage the shimmer to settle into the areas that will be ridged or shaded.  Use a paper towel to dab out the excess from the areas that will reflect some light. I used “Hot Cinnamon” for the berries, with a flash of “Vavoom Red” for dimension.  The berries are so small that it’s important NOT to over work them.  One layer of “Hot Cinnamon” for color and one or two light brush strokes of “Vavoom Red” for dimension.

Next, fill your brush with a very wet, but light coating of “Harvest Sol” and run it around the edges of the frosting. “Harvest Sol” has a beautiful strong pigment and you only need a small amount of paint. Only cover the edges at this stage as you’re trying to bring out the shading.  Let it dry before the next coat.  Fill a clean brush with a generous coating of “Ice” and wash it all over the frosting.  “Ice” is colorless, but you’ll definitely see the shimmer take form as you lay it down.

Using another coating of  “Harvest Sol” bring out more of the shaded edges by blending it very softly into the ice.  You’ll be able to see that as the mica builds up around the edges of the frosting, the light plays in a way that it begins to look three-dimensional. That’s the beauty of Twinkling H2O’s. 

Now you have your primary layer on your cupcake, from here on, it's all about subtlety. This is where it is important to use less water on your brush and more paint, but remember a light hand will give the best results, and keep a paper towel close by for dabbing.
Start with “Emerald” and put in darker lines over the case for ridges.  Just work the paint in a way that it ‘looks’ right to you.  Follow any contours of the cupcake and keep the lines parallel and consistent, but not too perfect. Lightly wash a little more of the “Emerald” around the edges of the case adding shadow and form. Dab away the areas that reflect light, giving it the impression of a round case and let it dry between layers.

Apply the same layering principle over the rest of the picture.  Adding a little more paint in areas that are darker or shaded and dabbing away at the lighter areas. If you want to lift away some of the darker paint, just use a wet clean brush, run the water over those areas and dab away with your towel.  The Twinkling H2O’s are remarkably easy to lift in this way.

When you’re happy with the result, let it dry, then pick up a fine black marker or pen and use it to define the cupcake.  Keep the lines small, clean and unobtrusive.  This stage is just for definition; don’t let the black lines overtake the entire picture, but instead use them to help bring out the edges of the cupcake.  

As a final step, I mixed “China Black” and “Siam White” to make a creamy matte gray.  These two colors are the only non-mica colors in the Twinkling H2O range. I use them a lot, especially for background shading.  The matte of these two work in perfect harmony behind a shimmering subject to make the piece “POP” from the page.

Be very careful when using them though, the pigments in these two colors are very rich and even though you can mix them with the mica-based colors, they can easily and quickly over power the mica if you use too much. Lightly wash the gray behind the cupcake, starting your stroke against the edge of the cupcake, pull the color out with you brush and lots of water, dabbing away at the edges to keep it smooth.

As a final tip, scan or copy the finished cupcake and print it out onto card stock. Then, using just the main colors, lightly brush a layer of Twinkling H2O onto the copied version of your cupcake. 

Cut around the edges and stick it onto a blank greeting card. This makes it easy to produce many shimmering glittering copies of the original, and perfect for bulk Christmas Cards for all your family and friends.

And, as a little Christmas gift to you, here is a scanned copy of my finished Christmas cupcake. Please feel free to download it, print it onto card stock and then brush over it with your own Twinkling H2O’s.  It’ll make a fun Christmas card, or gift tags.

Have a yummy, twinkling Christmas, and thanks for checking in. xx

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

LuminArte "Artist of the Month"

This past month has been a dizzying time for me.  It seems that I'm being engulfed in a wave of good luck and positive energy. Life certainly does wax a wane in it's offering and it's about taking the good with the bad.  Right now, after years of worry and distraction I'm drinking in the joy.

Firstly, and by far, most important, my toddler, who has has been facing medical challenges beyond reckoning, has settled into eating quite nicely.  It's been several weeks since he completed "Eating Boot Camp" and I'm happy to report that he's eating up a storm.  He even has a little belly starting to show.  For any mother, ensuring that their kids eat properly and healthily is one of THE biggest worries she can have. So you can imagine that after two and a half years of this child refusing to eat in any way beyond a bottle, well, I'm feeling just a little relieved and eternally grateful!

Secondly, I have been receiving so much support and encouragement from my beautiful art community that I feel like I'm airborne. It's a very big deal to me that so many of you take the time to give me feedback, show me your support, and encourage my journey.  So often I feel undeserving, and I want you to know that I am profoundly and humbly grateful for every little comment, email, and "Like" you take the time to give me.  I love your blogs, your FB posts, your journal pages, your ATC's, I pour over them all, even if I don't comment nearly as much as I should.  I love hearing about your own journeys, the challenges, the triumphs, and the learning you face.  We have so much to share with each other and the in my mind, the world is a much better place when more creative individuals spread their beauty and spirit.

Finally, this past week has seen my workshops with open for registration and I have been overwhelmed by positive feedback and excitement.  Artists and creatives alike are signing up and I'm so excited to be given the opportunity to share with them some of my processes and techniques in this way. I've also been invited by LuminArte, the makers of Twinkling H20's, Radiant Rain, Silks Acrylic Glaze, and more, to be their December "Artist of the Month".  WOW..what an honor, what a twinkling honor. Today is an introduction to who I am, and in the coming weeks I will be posting some tutorials and tips using their delicious products...which I love anyway.  So be sure to pop on over to the LuminArte Blog and check them out.  They have an incredible family of artists and contributors and it seems once again, I am standing on the shoulders of giants.

Thanks, as always, for taking the time to check in. xx