Monday, December 29, 2008

Artistic Accomplices

It has been a strange and wondrous few weeks since NCCAT, and my head still seems to be spinning. The idea of connection has been on my mind lately - for the last few months, and with some time off away from teaching school, I have been thinking even more about it as I have been working in the journal and on my own art more this last week. Art is an amazing way to connect with others, and I am a firm believer that anyone has the capacity and the creativity to create visual art. Too often I hear people spout off about not having talent. But I believe that "talent" is just an excuse not to try. "I don't have the talent, so why bother even trying," these people seem to tell themselves. But that's another topic for another post.

But it seems that more and more, we are coming into contact with people who simply have not created in a long time, and the visual journal has allowed them to reconnect with the creator within. It seems all too easy for people to lose touch with their inner artist, crafter, or creator. Inertia has them running here and there or simply vegging in front of the tv or simply neglecting that part of themselves. It has always been a great gift to have Dave as an Artistic Accomplice - to keep each other motivated - to urge on the creator - to help each other stay moving artistically. The above two-page spread in one of my small Moleskine was a collaborative piece between Dave and myself. It was probably started at some restaurant with being passed back and forth while waiting for food to arrive. It's nothing grand, but it is a way to stay connected with each other and with art.

Finding artistic accomplices and creative collaborators is a key component of the Journal Fodder Junkies, and this, in part, drives this blog. Unfortunately, I don't post as often as I wish I could, but inertia is difficult to overcome whether it's working in the journal or posting to the blog. But it is my sincerest wish as 2008 winds down, that I can be an Artistic Accomplice to others out there, and urge on the artist within. We do not create art in a vacuum. We create art as a way to connect to ourselves and our humanity.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Connection and Growth

This two-page spread was stated over the last two days in reaction to my week at NCCAT. It began as some spontaneous spirals and curves thinking about the connections that I have with people both existing connections and new connections. The curving, spiraling lines represent growth - the ability to grow where you are planted, and the squares and straight lines represent structure and how it is only under the right conditions that this growth can happen. I am just so grateful to all the connections and re-connections in my life - grateful to all the people who have touched my life in some way. And all these connections are chances for me to grow - to become more of who I am - to reach out and connect with others and help others along their personal journey on planet earth. To know how you have changed the world and touched lives is an important gift. So this spread, although in just the beginnings of its evolution - its growth, is dedicated to all those people who have come into my life, who have shared their journey with me. I thank you all for the ripples that you have left in my life.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

JFJ Rock Cullowhee and NCCAT

For the fourth time Dave and I presented a week-long renewal seminar at the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT) in Cullowhee, NC in a mountain retreat setting. It is truly heaven on earth for teachers as a place to go and to get some valuable professional development. We are honored to have presented our Visual Journals:Where the Image Meets the Word. This time around we had 22 educators from across the state from a variety of curricular areas - many feeling that they were not artists, but were wanting space and time to renew their spirits.

As is usually the norm with the NCCAT experience, we had many epiphanies and cathartic moments during the five days. Tears were shed as these teachers got back in touch with the most important things to them. It is an amazing and emotional experience with many finally getting much needed time to find themselves. And this past week was exceptionally powerful - for some it was a life altering experience, and many strong connections and friendships were forged.

The above photo is from the last day as participants spend a few last minutes looking through each other journals.

Another important aspect of NCCAT is not so much the content, but the time to be with one another, and it has become our tradition to indoctrinate willing participants in the game of Farkle (also spelled farkel). It is a dice game played with 6 dice that Dave learned, and we have played it for years. It can only be described as Yahtzee "on crack." There seem to be different versions out there, and we have set rules that we play by. The strange rules, the fun, and the laughter, are all a good compliment to the emotional days, and Farkle becomes an important aspect for some participants. Above is Bean's beautiful six-dice Farkle - when no dice score - and the first of the evening.

We are grateful to the center for allowing us the opportunity. We are gratefully to Center Fellow Donna Glee Williams for bringing us there and Program Associate Tootie Watson for all of her work throughout the week. We are also grateful to the 22 courageous individuals who now share the visual journal journey. More info on NCCAT can be found at

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Product of the Week - Art Print: Find Common Ground

This two-page journal print is color laser-printed onto 11"x8.5" acid-free, matte laser photo paper and is packaged in a clear poly bag with a stiff, acid-free cardboard backer. The print is not attached to the backer allowing for multiple framing possibilities.

It is only $15.00 plus S&H and is available on our website here along with other prints and merchandise. Using Paypal, we are able to accept PayPal as well as all major credit and debit cards.

Friday, December 5, 2008

IF - Similar

After hustling this week to get everything ready for NCCAT next week, I was able to have a relaxing day working in the journal, and I was able to begin a response to this week's topic: "similar".

This page was started with some watercolor pencil, and I then did some stream of consciousness writing about how many people want to be the same or similar to others. I mentioned how many identify with a group collective like a university, a place of work, or a sports team. For many people being a part of this collective is key to their own personal identity. I have always had trouble identifying with the group and have always preferred to identify with the individual.

For example, I am a devoted Pittsburgh Steelers fan with growing up in the Pittsburgh area during their first 4 Super Bowl wins. But I own one t-shirt, one novelty sign, and one button, and I don't say, "We won" or "We lost". I'm not on the team. I don't receive a check from the Steelers.

But many people do identify strongly with these groups. And advertisers and big business try all they can to get people to buy and consume the same things. Think about the iPods dominance on the digital music device market.

Conform and Consume became words that I was attracted to and I stenciled them in. I then built up several layers of watercolor and watercolor pencil, as well as ink and collage. The packaging tape transfer of the Dalai Lama came next, and it created a strange juxtaposition next to the words "conform" and "consume". But then I turned each into a phrase - "Consume experiences" and "Conform to your own principles". The blue ink lines were really the last big things I added. They remind me of rivers or blood vessels or even roads. But they represent the connections that we have with others.

We need to celebrate our differences and our uniquenesses while understanding that our similarities are much more general and basic - our humanity, our compassion, our desire to be happy, our resilience, and our ability to overcome our differences. We cannot break into factions and groups with an us versus them mentality.

This page is unfinished, but I wanted to post it before I left for the weekend. I'm sure it will evolve.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Search for New Ideas

The visual journal is a great place to explore new ideas and to work out artistic stagnation. Often times it is a matter of working with a new material, working in a new location, or working on a new idea. Sometimes its simply about diving in and tryring something without much thought.

Sometimes it's just a matter of being around new and different people. And Dave and I will have the chance to do all of these when we travel to Cullowhee, North Carolina to teach for a week at the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT). This will be our fourth year to teach a visual journaling seminar there. It is always a great experience, and we are looking forward to it.

So, even though you may not have an NCCAT to go to and recharge and overcome creative stagnation, break out, dive in, dig deep, and search for new ideas. Look online, join a group, splatter paint, and have fun.