Thursday, December 31, 2015

As The Year Winds Down

Typically on this day of the year (December 31st), we look back and reflect on the last twelve months and look forward to the year ahead. We all have our regrets. We remember all the good times and the bad, the people who left us forever and those we wish we had spent more time with. And we resolve to change things in the New Year.

For me, 2015 has been a year full of changes, challenges and crisis (the car accident comes to mind). My pain levels have increased and my mobility has decreased. I've been separated from people and places/events that I used to look forward to. My company, Jasper Moon, is no longer generating the extra income it was and I've been struggling to make ends meet. For the first time ever, I've actually contemplated using the local food bank.

Rudy & Minoux both passed away within 3 months
of each other. I miss them both a lot.
Being a member of the 'working poor' is not a comfortable place to be in and I am forced to do without a winter boots, haircuts, etc. Many things that I took for granted before are no longer available to me, things that many would classify as essentials. Though I have never been one to covet new clothes or shoes or handbags or fancy household accutrements, I have had to learn to 'make do' with less.

What keeps me going is the knowledge that there are many in the world who are in much worse situations, in war torn countries and refugee camps, their homes destroyed and family members killed, not knowing where their next meal is coming from or if they will even be alive to eat it. I cannot imagine living under those circumstances.

I am so grateful to have a roof over my head and food in my belly. I'm gainfully employed with a steady, though meager, income. I have drug and dental benefits from work which is a major blessing and the national health program covers my basic medical needs. I have a lot to be thankful for and I try to focus on the positive.

What will 2016 bring for me? Brighter days, smiles and giggles, love and friendship...these are a few things that I hope for. A big lottery win would be nice too, or at least a raise on my paycheque. *smile* I have no idea what the future holds for me but maintaining a positive attitude through all that happens will carry me day to day.

In closing, I hope that you and yours have happy & healthy New Year in 2016. I wish you all the best!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Dance A New Dance

I used to love dancing. I used to love going for long walks in the woods. In fact, there are a lot of things that I would still love to do, if I was able.

But I'm not.

My body is failing me; not keeping up to the active mind that I have. And certainly not keeping up with my hopes, dreams and desires; all the things I 'want' to do.

I thought we did not get 'older', but were supposed to get 'better'. That's what the commercial said, right? And what about Freedom 55? What kind of cruel joke was that on a naive and unsuspecting public? *smile*

One thing that I have learned, and finally accepted, is that older is not necessarily better. Older is definitely 'different', and sometimes different can be better. But it is always different than anticipated or imagined.

Frankly, it's not what I expected at all, nor is it how I envisioned my life would be. The dream is not playing out in reality. The movies have it all wrong. People do not always live happily ever after and maybe we're not supposed to.

Those ups and downs help us to learn and grow; expands our horizons; introduces us to new concepts; brings new people into our lives; points us down a different path.

It's time for me to learn to dance a new dance; to find creative ways to add joy to my life; to venture out in a new direction; to share my love with others; to help as I am able.

So, come along and dance a new dance with me. We'll have a blast!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Perfectionism and Me

I struggle against perfectionism tendencies all the time. Lines must be straight and clean. Everything must be symmetrical and balanced. Everything must be 'perfect'.

Yes, in my intellectual mind, I know that there can be balance and beauty in asymmetry too, but I really have to work hard at it. It makes my brain hurt and my hair turn grey.

A friend of mine, who knows about this struggle, challenged me to make an ATC with TORN PAPER only!! I was not allowed to use scissors at all.

Not only that, I had to incorporate both words and flowers on it. Oh my gosh, I was getting edgy just thinking about it. I wasn't sure that I could do it.

But, I decided to give it a try. I used paper from an old magazine that was lying around. I selected the background, ripped the paper, and applied it to a pre-cut ATC chipboard base. Here is the front and back of the ATC.


Then, I thought that the background could use a bit of colour. I tore a narrow strip with bright autumn colours and pasted it diagonally near the bottom.

Next, came the vase of flowers and the two words torn from pages of the same magazine.

And I survived the experience! How amazing is that? The world did not fall apart because I ripped paper, instead of cutting it. I'm not sure that I 'like' the end result but I did take the challenge and succeed at it.

I cannot tell you how tempting it was to use a paper trimmer or rotary cutter during this process. After all, they are not 'scissors', right? That did not seem to be in the spirit of the original challenge, however, so I did not use them. *smile*

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Home By The Moon ATCs

I watched a video on YouTube last night that has inspired me to create a set of ATCs similar to the ones shown above. The video was originally posted online in May 2015 by createART1. You can check out her YouTube channel here.

You don't really see how she created the initial background for her ATCs so I'm just going in my own direction with this. I started with a background experiment on cardstock that was less than successful in my eyes.

I added some black paint, just a bit, and spread it all over the page with a baby wipe. I was not sure that improved it at all, but what the heck, I'm committed now.

In for a penny, in for a pound...I decided to apply antique white paint with a piece of bubble wrap next. Now it is starting to look usable. I'm fairly pleased with the result.

Time to cut it down into ATC size units and adhere them to the pre-cut chipboard bases so I can continue working on them. I ended up with ten ATCs, the nine you see below and one other to practice on.

Time to head to my scrap paper box and start cutting out narrow strips of various sizes for the houses. I'm not going to add the extra layers of torn paper and tissue to the background as she did. I won't be creating the moons the same way either. I'm not really sure what product she was using.

So, here is the prototype/practice 'Home By The Moon' ATC...

I've decided that I definitely want to invest in a REALLY good fine line marker before going much further with the rest of the ATCs. The dollar store one that I used, while inexpensive, was not working well for me. Live and learn, right? 

I will punch the moons out of cardstock, instead of paper too. You can see the background through the paper and I don't like that. I will also make the houses shorter so that more of the background will be visible.

Now comes the fun part...I challenge all of my artistic friends to watch the tutorial and create your own set of three 'Home By The Moon' ATCs. Send me photos of them when you are finished and I will post them on a future blog entry, along with mine. Who wants to join in the fun?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Peggy Sue Got Married

Peggy Sue Got Married is a 1986 comedy-drama film starring Kathleen Turner as a woman on the verge of a divorce, who finds herself transported back to the days of her senior year in high school in 1960. The main question that this movie poses is, "If you could do it all over again, knowing what you know now, would you change anything?" This is a question that I've often asked myself.

Ultimately, Peggy Sue makes the same choices and for the same reasons she did originally. Upon reflection, I'm not sure that I would change much either. Not all of my choices have turned out as well as expected or hoped, but with each unique experience I've learned something new about myself or the world around me. I've become a stronger, more determined person, wiser than before.

The culmination of all those experiences makes me the person I am today; well rounded, tolerant, accepting, generous, kind, etc. Who would I be if I had not been through everything that I have been? I don't know. Do you?

Pondering this makes me grateful for both the good and the bad that has been in my life. And I'm not afraid to face whatever is ahead because I know, good or bad, I will come out on top as a better person.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Grass Is Greener

'The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.' This Old English idiom typifies the way we tend to look at other people's lives and the 'things' that we don't have.

In our eyes, their 'grass' is better looking, healthier and greener than our own. We are, in fact, only picking out the 'good' in their situation and comparing it to the 'bad' in ours. Our narrow line of vision keeps us from seeing the whole picture.

The funny thing is, once we take the leap to the other side, to that place we thought we'd be happier, we discover that it is not as wonderful as we imagined it would be. And then we start looking over other fences.

This cycle of being preoccupied searching for a better life, a different life, or another life undermines our mental health. Trouble comes when we are taken over by envy, believing that other people have all the good stuff and we have nothing. We become depressed and anxious and allowing our greed to want more and more and more intensifies those feelings.

Our main focus should be to make the most of what we do have. Don't waste your time making yourself miserable fretting over things that you don't have. Be mindful of what is around you and find happiness where you are, with what you are doing, with what you have and who is in your circle.

Take each day as it comes, embrace every opportunity that presents itself to you and stop thinking that the grass is greener on the other side because it never really is.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Family Heritage Scrapbook

I've taken it upon myself to start working on a history of our family in a heritage scrapbook, in between everything else that I'm doing. It is a huge, daunting prospect! Many hours have been spent doing research both online and through conversations with older members of the family.

My fathers' mother on the left
with her brother and sister
as teenagers
I regret not tackling this project sooner. A lot of information has been lost forever with those who are no longer with us. How I wish I'd spent more time with my grandparents, asking questions about their lives and listening to their stories.

Luckily, there are some histories written down from different branches of the family that I will be able to draw information from to fill in some of the blanks. There will, however, be information more challenging or impossible to retrieve at this point. I'm very sad about that.

A LOT of my time has already been spent scanning old photos shared with me by cousins and aunts. I must say that it's been worth the effort though. What a treasure trove of visual reminders of days past and lives well lived! I hope I will be able to do justice to them in the end.

My mother, aged 3-4,  with
her paternal grandparents
Unfortunately, so many of those photos are in pretty rough shape; faded, torn, folded, water damaged, etc. It's a miracle that they are still around, I suppose, but I would love to restore the worst of them for my scrapbook before they are beyond saving.

As I said before, it is a pretty daunting task that I have taken on. I pray that I am up for the challenge. I'll tackle it one page at a time and with luck be able to scan and make copies to share with other members of the family down the road.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Time to Clean Up

When my eldest son, one of the most 'casual' housekeepers that I know, tells me that my office/craft room is messy and needs to be cleaned up...I know it's time.

'Someone Else' aka Me
Seriously, I'm not sure how long the dirty dishes would remain on the coffee table if 'Someone Else' didn't take them to the kitchen. And then they'd sit on the counter for who knows how long after that if 'Someone Else' didn't wash, dry and put them in the cupboard.

And the dirty laundry rarely hits the hamper unless 'Someone Else' puts it there. But I digress, let's get back to the job at hand...trying to clean up my office/craft room.

I managed to get through some of it last night. I shredded a whole bag of scrap paper and filed a mound of paid bills, bank statements and other stuff in my filing cabinet. Not a bad start but still a long way to go. I've let it slide far too long.

There are a few ATC swaps that I want to sign up for but I need to have a place to work/create. The chaos is cluttering my head and my creative energy is stymied by the disorganization.

Ideally, I'd like to have a craft room like this...

...but it is currently more like this.

Okay, I admit it's not quite that bad. I can see it getting that way if I don't tackle it now though. Here's hoping that I can find the bottom of the piles this weekend, so there is still time to sign up for the swaps.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Handmade Halloween Greeting Card

Making my own greeting cards is something I've been wanting to try my hand at for awhile. I've received so many lovely handmade ones from different artistic friends over the last couple of years and I really cherish them. I appreciate all the effort that went into making them for me.

Front of the card
I recently decided that it was time for me to quit stalling and delve into it too. I signed up for a handmade Halloween greeting card swap, then started my online quest for ideas. Normally, I don't sign up for a swap until I have a clear plan in my head of what I want to create. But not this time.

The base of the card is black cardstock, with the yellow cardstock cut slightly smaller and glued on top. The 'netting' is actually drywall tape painted black. The 'sign' on the front is mounted onto the card with double sided sponge dots to give it dimension. The bat sticker in the top left hand corner was an after-thought. The card did not look 'finished'. I knew it needed something else to complete it. A friend suggested that a single bat might do the trick. She was right.

Inside of the card
The design is relatively simple but I'm quite pleased with how it turned out. I hope that my partner will be too. *smile*

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Decorated Shipping Tags

I really enjoyed decorating this shipping tag at the mini workshop at Scrapfest in September so much that I bought whole box of them at work today. One thousand blank shipping tags are now waiting for my creative talents to turn them into art! That should keep me busy over the winter months.

Once again, I will be scouring the world wide web for images, videos and tutorials to see and learn new and innovative ways to turn these plain old tags into works of creative genius.

Well, perhaps I'm over-estimating my abilities a wee bit here but one thing is certain...I'm going to have a lot of fun! Maybe I can interest some of my artistic friends to experiment along with me and then we can swap with each other too.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Artistic Experimentation

Take my access to YouTube away! I've seen so many fabulous videos lately on various tools and techniques to create mixed media journal pages and ATCs. And I want to try it all!

I've done a bit of experimentation over the last couple of weeks from knowledge gleened from some of these videos. My 'success rate', however, is questionable.

Background #1
Take the homemade gesso I made. Seriously, please take it away! It sounded easy enough to do. One part white glue, three parts water and six parts baby powder...put all ingredients into a jar and shake until blended.

Instead of smooth and creamy, it came out runny and grainy. Adding more baby powder made it worse...sticky and lumpy. Gesso is used in artwork as a base or primer for paint and other materials that are applied over it. This stuff is not going to do the job.

I've played around a bit with mixed media backgrounds, using torn paper, craft paint, stencils, rubber stamps and ink pads. They make it look so easy on the videos combining multiple materials and techniques for fabulous end results.

Background #2
Am I happy with the first attempts at it? No, not really, but perhaps I'm being over-critical of my own work. That happens a lot. Or perhaps I just need to keep working at it, refine my skills a bit. Practice makes perfect, they say, right?

I'm almost afraid to tackle the next project I had my eyes on...making a homemade gelli plate which allows you to create beautiful monotypes without a press, using materials anyone has in their studio. They are available commercially but are fairly expensive and not really in my budget right now

I found a recipe/formula on one of the videos I watched to make one using vegetable glycerin, plain gelatin and boiling water. Once again, it sounds simple enough to make but will it really come out as advertised? I guess there is only one way to find out. I will let you know how this one goes another day. Wish me luck!

Monday, October 12, 2015

A New Year Begins

This is me as a Peanuts character
No, I have not lost my mind nor have I been time-warped to January 1st, 2016. Today is my birthday, so technically, I am beginning a new year on this planet.

And how else would one begin their day of celebration but to be at the laundromat at the crack of dawn. *smile*  At least that task was finished early enough that I can enjoy the rest of the day.

One of my goals for this year is to post to the blog more often, perhaps not daily, but several times a week at least. Sometimes it might only be a quote that has inspired me, some days I may ramble on for what will seem like an eternity. Please bear with me through it all.

This year is going to be better than the last one has been; the last two years, in truth. So much has happened to me over that time, most of it less than desirable, unwanted, unplanned and unnecessary. I will not recount the many trials and tragedies I've endured right now, although at some point I may examine some of them for the purpose of improving my situation. Just know that I'm determined things will be different moving forward.

Accept what is,
let go of what was, 
and have faith in what
will be.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Heart of Art

Most people, myself included, do not think of themselves as 'creative'. We are hesitant and intimidated by the process, afraid that the end results will not be 'up to the standard' of others.

In truth, there is no omnipotent 'art judge' who will condemn you to eternal misery if he/she does not like your work. Art is not only in the eye of the beholder but in the heart of the creator/artist.

Art is an expression of the unconscious mind, helps us to identify our thoughts and feelings. In short, it gives us an opportunity to get in touch with our inner core.

The act of creating also provides a mental refuge. It allows us to take a break from the outside world of obligations and expectations and to focus on the task at hand. It lets us explore a new dimension of ourselves and discover things that we did not imagine possible.

So, don't be afraid to try something different. Experiment with new techniques and unusual components. Put your logical mind aside and let the creative spirit flow through you. You may just surprise yourself, as I have many times.

I made the tag to the right this weekend at ScrapFest. This mini workshop has really inspired me to experiment a bit more. I would never have thought to use hot glue to leave blobs and lines, then use distress paint to make them stand out like this. It was an unexpected and interesting finishing touch. (I do need to learn to control the glue gun a bit better though.)

The heart of art is the freedom of expression it gives us and the therapeutic benefits we receive from it.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Autumn ATCs - Testing Out a New Technique

I saw a video tutorial online this week that really inspired me to give the technique a try. While I did run into some bumps in the road, I’m reasonably pleased with the end result. I’ve documented the process to share with you.

I started off with an 8.5” X 11” piece of kraft chipboard. I save them from the notepads we use at work. That is the base for all of my ATCs.

Orange paint was applied. The chipboard really absorbed the paint and when it was dry, there were a few spots not as well covered as others. I might use a coat of Gesso before the paint next time so that the paint is not absorbed so much. The chipboard curled up as it dried but a couple of hours under a heavy book flattened it enough to work with.

I used a paper doily, a small piece of sponge and black paint to create an interesting background.

Then I used red paint with a paper doily to add more colour.

Next came some strips of beige scrapbook paper, randomly cut and glued on. I used a glue stick, but I should have gone with regular craft glue.

Green painters’ tape was added after that. I was kind of using what I had available and did not really think about it much.

Another paper doily was pulled out and antique white paint was applied with a sponge on top of everything.

Then it was time to cut out 8 ATCs from the decorated chipboard. I ended up coating each card with Mod Podge to seal it and hold all the elements in place. I used my new corner rounder to finish off all the corners. A fine sand paper sponge smoothed out the rough edges.

Being unable to find die cut autumn leaves, I ended up using leaf stickers on heavy kraft paper for the focal point of the cards. I tore the paper roughly around the leaves and used my black stamp pad and a sponge to add definition to the edges.

Here is the end result...not great, not terrible...but a lot of fun to do. And I will definitely use the method again, incorporating some of the lessons that I learned during the process

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Landscape Paintings of Levine Flexhaug

I was listening to CBC Radio in the car on my way home from my mothers’ house and was introduced to a little known Canadian artist, Levine Flexhaug (1918-1974). I found the story quite intriguing and will share a bit of what I learned with you.

Flexie, as he was affectionately known, sold thousands of variations of basically the same landscape. He painted in national parks, resorts, department stores, restaurants and bars across Western Canada from the late 1930s to the early 1960s. Many of those paintings were purchased as soon as they were finished, before the paint even had a chance to dry.

Flexie was born in 1918 on the family farm just outside of the small town of Climax, Saskatchewan. He began painting landscapes in 1938 to help support his family, setting up in front of the local dry goods store each Saturday. His canvas was a beaver-board and his medium of choice was regular oil based house paint. The standard size for his paintings was 8” X 10”, but he did many that were larger, and even a few wall size murals.

He was a speed painter and had a specific formula that he followed every time. Often you would see him painting assembly line style, working on three canvases at the same time. Different seasons and time of day were represented but certain elements were always there...the mountains, the lake and the trees in the foreground. At times he would add a waterfall, a deer, a cabin, a bear, birds or a red canoe in the lake.


More than 40 years after his death, the paintings of Levine Flexhaug will be showcased in a travelling solo exhibition. I sure hope it comes to a gallery close to me this year. I’d love to go and look at the over 450 paintings the curators, Nancy Tousley and Peter White, have assembled, mostly from the collections of two other artists, Chris Cran and David Thauberger.