Thursday, December 31, 2015

Shifting Momentum

One year ago, I struck up a plan to change my life. I had spent 18 and a half years working in a job that was bringing me more and more misery with each passing year. Instead of things getting better the way you think they would as you gain experience and skill, things seemed like they were steadily getting worse. I was simply miserable. I was filled with anger and resentment, and I despised going to work everyday. I had dreams - big dreams, that weren’t coming true. But I was stuck. When you have a mortgage and bills, you need a way to meet those obligations. Teaching was my way, but it had turned into something that I dreaded. I was fighting against it, banging my head, longing to be somewhere else.

My life had become filled with a lot of “what if”s, “only if”s, and “if only”s. I wasn’t living the life that I wanted. I needed a shift. I needed a way out. For years, I had kept saying, “When I save enough money” or “When I can book enough workshops, I’ll step away from teaching and live the life I keep imaging”. But life had a habit of getting in the way, eating up extra money, and keeping me stuck in a job I dreaded. How could I step away from this misery and into the life I dreamt about? I needed a plan and I needed to shift my momentum.

So, a year ago, I came up with a plan. I’d give myself another year and a half to shift the momentum and find an exist strategy. I’d put in other year and half of teaching, for a total of 20 years, and I’d step away. I just couldn’t see teaching another eleven or twelve years before I was eligible to retire, and I needed to shift things. If things continued the way they had been going, I’d never be able to step away. So, I thought long and hard. I journaled and I brainstormed. I had to figure out what I wanted and how to make that happen. The simple fact is that I need to make money to meet my obligations. But how to do that as an artist, writer, and workshop leader?

I finally figured that if I could get something steady going - something that was in some way reliable. Selling art, teaching workshops here and there just isn’t all that reliable unless you can sell a bunch of your art and sell out the classes you teach. I needed something else. Something that I could do while I continued as a teacher. I hit upon the idea of offering online workshops. Dave and I had done some small things - webinars for a variety of organizations, video tutorials and workshop type stuff for some other folks. We put together PowerPoints and videos, and I kept thinking, “Hey, we could do something like that for ourselves.” That was it. If I could offer a series of online workshops, that might be somewhat reliable. So I gave myself a year - a year to cobble together an online workshop. I decided that this needed to be part of my bigger scheme to shift momentum and step away from teaching.

Over the last twelve months, I’ve slowly worked on a workshop here and there when I’ve had time. I had to figure out a whole lot along the way because I really had no idea what I was doing - I still have no idea. I don’t know how it compares to others, but I really don’t care. I’m doing my thing the best I know how, and I know there are people who will like it, love it, and share it. I’m putting it out into the world - tomorrow actually. We’ll see how it resonates with others.

But this isn’t about the workshop. This is about what has happened in the mean time as I have shifted my focus. The thing is that through a lot of little things - tiny steps, I have seen things slowly change for me and the Journals Fodder Junkies. We’ve attracted nearly 400 new followers to the JFJ Facebook page. We’ve been booked to do more workshops - especially Art and Soul in Portland, Oregon and Virginia Beach, VA. I’ve posted more on the blog, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Instagram. I’ve made the JFJ a bigger presence in the world of social media, and I’ve made a lot of artwork. But those are just statistical successes - outward appearance type things. 

The biggest surprise has been the change within myself over the last year. I realize that I have become more present lately. I have become more focused on the Now - the moment that is happening right here and right now. I realize now that a lot of the misery that I felt was because I was so focused on how things hadn’t worked out in the past, and how I wanted to be somewhere else entirely. I was caught resenting the past, and worrying about the future. I had no energy to focus on the Now. I was creating the misery and the suffering by not being in the present moment. But that has shifted. I have become much more aware of the here and now.

I still have a goal for the future, but I’m focusing on the practical and tangible steps that I need to do right here and right now. As long as I focus on that, as long as I realize that I can only be where I am, then things seem to go more smoothly and I am much more at peace. Actually, I have discovered just how happy I am. The misery that I felt over the last few years has faded. This has actually been one of my best, if not the best year that I’ve ever had as a teacher. There are still plenty of frustrating things that happen and are happening in the teaching profession, but as long as I stay present, and not let the complaining and moaning overtake me, I am much more satisfied. I am no longer waiting for the day when I can do what I want. I am doing it right now. I am creating the life that I have been dreaming about for so long. I’m still teaching. That’s something I need to do still to make the bills, but I have a plan. The momentum is shifting, and I am finding joy and happiness by staying present. I need to remember that the journey is the destination, and I have to be where I am and not resent where I have been and worry about where I will be.

Here. Now. That’s all there is. I am finding ways to share, to connect, to have purpose right here right now.

Here’s to the continued shift in momentum and to staying present.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A Look Behind the Scenes of an Online Workshop

Almost a year ago, I began a journey of putting together my first online workshop, Cultivating Creativity. I gave myself a year knowing that it would be a lot of work, and with teaching full-time, providing seminars and workshops all over the place, and not to mention making my own art, I knew it would take me a while to get it all together. So, with just two and a half weeks until the workshop launches, I wanted to share a peek behind the scenes.

I began the journey in late December of last year, by plotting and scheming in my journal. I wrote, I made lists, I made mind maps, and I brainstormed. I decided to take a workshop that David I had designed for Art Unraveled, and use it as a basis for my first foray into the online workshop world. I expanded the content, added more techniques, and developed a sequence.

After the initial planning, I decided to dive into making some of the step-by-step written directions that would accompany videos. For some of the initial photoshoots, I even used my phone, but switched later to a tripod mounted digital SLR.

Once the photos were done, it was time to begin creating the PDFs of the written directions. I've decided on making step-by-step directions similar to what can be found in our books, but with a lot of new and different ideas. I also decided to include cheat sheets - a "techniques at a glance" kind of thing.

And then came the filming. Using a Flip Video camera that I got several years ago that I mount on a homemade arm attached to my tripod, I film each technique. I work in silence with the plan to add a voiceover later, but you will hear the occasional airplane flying over or dog barking. Filming in my studio presents several problems. First, my studio is an uninsulated garage, and it gets stifling hot in the summer and freezing in the winter. Second, since there is no insulation, outside noises and sounds can filter through, so I always have to pick a time when the neighbors aren't mowing their yards, or our dogs aren't in the backyard barking their little furry heads off. Lastly, the garage is detached from the house with no running water or bathroom. But it's all working out well.

One of the final things is to edit the videos and do the voiceovers explaining each technique.

I wish that I could say that I'm finished with everything - that I have used the last 12 months effectively, but I can't. I still have a whole lot to do over the next two and a half weeks. I still have a few videos to film and about half of the instructions to make. But I am confident that I'll have it up and running come January 1. With a two week break from school starting this weekend, I have plenty of time to get the work done.

If you missed out on the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, you can still save on the regular price of the workshop. Check out the website for more information.

Monday, December 7, 2015


Over the past few days, I felt compelled to reflect on recent tragic events. What follows is my rambling reflection on the state of our world that has lead to repeated death and destruction across the globe.

I am tired of the fear, the anger, the hatred, and the ignorance that is so prevalent around me in the world today. My soul hangs heavy as my heart beats with anxiety and sorrow, and I see a world full of conflict and division. How did we get here?

In our contemporary times we are all so separate, so isolated. Despite the wonders of technology that keep us connected to news, to information, and to each other 24/7, and despite the proliferation of texting and social media, we find ourselves more and more isolated and more and more disconnected from each other. This technology adds layers of insulation between us and those we interact with, and unfortunately, loneliness, depression, fear, and anger run more rampant in our technological age. This technology can never replace heart-to-heart and face-to-face connection. By relying so much on this technology, we become so much more removed from one another, and our tribes, families, and relationships have disintegrated. We are left with feelings of hollowness, mistrust, and dread, and we can feel so lost and disconnected in our lives.

This technology has also brought about another problem. We long to connect, yet we are fed a steady diet of anger, fear, hatred, violence, and destruction. It pours out of our tv, computer, and smart device screens. We are constantly bombarded with the endless chatter of hate and anger, and we are continually exposed to flashing images of war, death, and destruction. It makes us anxious, afraid, and uncertain. We begin to think that isolating ourselves is a good idea. We begin to seek distance and separation, the opposite of connection. We want to separate ourselves from other people and distance ourselves from those who are not like us. Our egos feed on this drama and misery. We are consumed by the vitriol of people spouting anger, bigotry, and fear. It gets inside of us, pits us against others, and makes us fear and hate. We lash out at others. We rant and rave, complain and vent, and the world becomes a scary place. The endless droning from the electric screens and the endless voices in our own heads convince us that it’s us against them - that people who are not like us are to be feared, hated, despised, and attacked. Hate fills us as we look at others as our enemies. We sling expletives, insults, and hurtful epithets.

Our egos feed on this separation, negativity, and sense of Us vs. Them. The ego puffs us up making us feel that only we are right, only we know the truth. The ego builds us up with the sense that we are superior and the others are inferior. The others are wrong, and worthy of our anger, our venom, our rage. But the ego also can break us down leading us to wallow in the misery as we convince ourselves that the world hates us. We build up the fences and walls to protect ourselves - to keep ourselves safely locked away - to keep the others out. There within our fences and walls, we feed the ego the anger, the misery, and the hatred, and we build the fences higher and the walls thicker. It’s us against them. We’re right, and they're wrong. We’re so lost in our own stories that we are beyond any hope of having a meaningful dialogue. We have shut out any kind of sense or rationality. We are right! They are wrong! Period! End of discussion! And the ego feeds and flourishes on this strong sense of identity. We lose our conscious mind, and the ego has complete control. We lose all sense of love and compassion. We only identify with those who feed our delusion - who feed the anger and the isolation. We cannot hear words of love and connection anymore.

This grand drama becomes routine. It’s us vs. them. We’re good, they're evil. We’re in the right, and they’re in the wrong. Hate and anger pour from us. We verbally attack, and all sides spew their hatred, and spew their propaganda. We cannot hear through the noise. We cannot open our minds or our hearts because we are under a constant barrage as others incite us, insult us, rile us up, and unload their hatred. We retaliate. We bombard our enemies with our own wounding words, our own justifications, our own bigotry and hatred. We look to cut into our enemies, to hurt them with our words, to denigrate and insult. It becomes a shouting match. He who shouts loudest wins!

And at some point, it all boils over. The anger and hatred burst forth in some act of violence and death. Are we truly surprised at the mass shootings and acts of terrorism and aggression that happen on a regular basis? How can we be, when we have spent so much time and energy cultivating the hate, feeding the anger, and pushing people away? We create the world in our own image, and these acts of violence and aggression only go to prove our point. We spiral deeper into the hate separating ourselves even more. We demonize and dehumanize those who are different. It makes it easier to spew the venom and anger filled rhetoric. It makes it easier to attack, maim, and kill.

No wonder it’s an easy leap from words to bullets and bombs. Our egos have convinced us that we are purely in the right. So, we go to war. We justify killing and death both on an individual level and on a national level. That ends the conversation, and it puts a dramatic exclamation point on our argument. We justify death and destruction because the voice of the ego has fed on the drama, the hate, the justifications. The voice convinces us that we are irrevocably right, and so we are justified to act out. We are justified in our own minds to kill - to end the life of others because we are so intwined in the fantasy of us vs. them that pulling a trigger or detonating a bomb is the only logical thing left to do.

In our day and age, how is it that we are still at this point where individuals and nations see that the only viable solution is violence and killing? Our history is filled with this death and destruction. Why have we not learned, grown, and evolved?

We all begin our journey in this world seeking connection. Early in life, we all want the love and the comfort of our mothers and fathers. We all want the acceptance and respect of our family and our peers. We all seek connection, but if we’re not careful, we end up seeking separation and conflict. We find isolation, fear, and loneliness instead. We find a strange comfort in aligning ourselves with the hate and the anger of others, and the cancer of violence grows and spreads. Separation feeds the cancer.

That’s not the world that I want to live in - one of hate and fear. I want connection, love, and compassion. I want to build a community of diversity and respect. I want a world of light and love, not hate and darkness. Connection, compassion, and understanding are the only way to end the cycle of violence and fear that grips our world.

I will continue to seek connection, and I will continue to spread love, compassion, and understanding.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Black Friday Preregistration Sale!

Preregistration is now open for our January 1 online workshop, Cultivating Creativity! Purchase your registration by midnight tonight EST, and save $40 off the regular price. That's more than 25%!

Go to our webpage for more information and to register.

Act fast though this offer is only good today!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


I've been working on these two pieces over the last few weeks when I have gotten some time. I began with 9in by 12in Strathmore Mixed Media Paper, and I have been slowly layering Derwent Inktense pencils. There are seven layers so far, and I plan on adding more in order to create some rich colors and textures. Once finished with the Inktense, I plan on using colored pencil to strengthen edges and develop the color further.

Friday, November 20, 2015

I Believe: First Layer

Today, I began a new two-page spread in my visual journal by responding to the prompt "I believe". This is a staple in the Journal Fodder Junkies prompt arsenal because it can yield a great variety of responses.

Using water-soluble graphite, I wrote across two blank pages until I covered them from top to bottom making certain to press hard and to write big. I then brushed clean water over the writing allowing the graphite to spread and bleed.

Although this technique seems a bit counterintuitive since some of the writing gets obliterated, it is an easy way to get something started on the pages and perhaps establish a theme. Keep in mind that it's not important that you can read what you wrote. It's important that you wrote it.

I'll share more as this spread evolves.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Cultivating Creativity: Black Friday Sale!

Have you started looking for that perfect gift for yourself or someone creative in your life? Well look no further. The Journal Fodder Junkies are launching their first online workshop January 1, and you can enjoy big savings for the holidays. This one-day sale will happen on Black Friday, November 27, from 8AM to Midnight EST. Plan ahead, so that you can save more than 25% off the regular price. See below for details.

Workshop Title: Cultivating Creativity: Working with Spontaneity and Wonder

Regular Price: $150          Sale Price: $110

Workshop Description: This straight forward workshop is for anyone looking to connect with their creativity, whether you’re a beginner looking for fun ways to begin your creative journey or an experienced maker looking for new direction. Everyone can benefit from inviting a bit of randomness and chaos into their art making as a way of opening up and sparking new ideas, and this self guided course is designed to do just that. It will have you loosening up and looking at the unpredictable and the messy with a sense of possibility and wonder as you begin to purposefully cultivate spontaneous acts in order to set aside your fears of making mistakes and to spark creative leaps in your art.

In this mixed media workshop, you will learn to embrace the surprises that arise from giving up a little control as you give yourself a chance to play and reconnect with your inner child. There are no prescribed outcomes or finished projects, giving you the room to discover and experiment without the fear of doing it wrong. Using a variety of basic materials, you will discover how unintentional marks and creative accidents can open you to the beauty of imperfections and break you out of your comfort zone. You will learn to use unconventional and unpredictable techniques, like dripping paint, dragging string, and bleeding marker, to jolt yourself into new artistic directions. These creative beginnings will have you embracing the messier and more chaotic side of life and art making.

What You Get for the Price:

  • 100+ minutes of HD video instruction that explore more than 40 techniques
  • 40+ pages of instruction with high resolution photographs and step-by-step instructions
  • 10+ pages of printable fodder and inspiration that include creative inspiration cards, collage sheets, and technique cheat sheets
  • Private forums and discussions to share with fellow classmates
Stay tuned for more information.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Journal Fodder Junkies Invade Arizona

Dave and I just returned from Arizona where we presented the keynote speech and a hands-on workshop to the Arizona Art Education Association at their annual conference. We had a great time, and enjoyed the hospitality of our hosts very much.

The AAEA conference was held at Camp Pinerock in Prescott, AZ, and we were treated to quite a range of temperatures and weather during our trip. We witnessed a beautiful and intense double rainbow on our derive to Prescott. The picture doesn't due it justice.

The temperature dropped dramatically as we gained elevation the closer we got to Prescott, and snow fell quite heavily at times our first evening. Who would have thought that we would experience our first snowfall of the season in Arizona? The snow did melt, and the temperatures did warm a bit as the sunshine returned for the remainder of the trip.

We enjoyed our time at camp mixing and mingling with Arizona's art educators for a few days. We had some great conversations, and we're glad to have spent time in such wonderful company.

Prescott was a cool and funky place with good shopping and good restaurants. We were able to get out and take in the sunshine one of our days in Arizona as we wandered around town. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Prescott, and we would love to go back.

We want thank all of the teachers who joined us in Prescott, and we want to extend special thanks to Tracy Perry and all of the other AAEA board members for the invitation to present. We look forward to catching up with everyone in Chicago in March for the National Art Education Association's annual convention.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

More Maps

I recently completed several works that use mapping marks. As with my previous post, these are mental maps or maps of contemplation. They don't represent a specific place, though the above piece has a collaged map of Scottsdale, AZ from my summer thrip to Phoenix for Art Unraveled. They are just artistic musings about documenting the journey of life.

These are all mixed media pieces on Strathmore 400 Series Mixed Media paper using Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolor, ink, Derwent Intense pencils, graphite, collage, and Derwent Coloursoft pencils.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Journal Fodder 365: Chinese Version

I had a bit of an unusual surprise when I got home last Thursday. David had already posted about it on Instagram, so I wasn't surprised when I got home to find two complimentary copies of Journal Fodder 365 in Chinese. This is the first, I have seen of one of our books being published in another language. It's a bit surreal to look through the pages, but pretty awesome.

Sunday, November 1, 2015


Journal Spread

I am enthralled with maps. There's just something about them that intrigues me, and so maps have been an element in my art for quite some time now. I've explored maps and map-like images in my journal and in my art for quite a few years now. I've consistently collaged maps into my journal pages as a means of remembering the places I have visited, and I've experimented with using actual and imaginary maps as inspiration for my art. My "Home" series comes immediately to mind.

Journal Spread

So, lately here, when I haven't been creating little monsters, I have been exploring how to use mapping marks as a mean to build up layers and explore where I am right now. These are made-up maps, mental maps. They represent no actual place, but using lines that represent "roads" and "streets" and shapes that represent "borders" and "boundaries", I have been building maps of my journey, my thoughts, and my reflections.

Work in Progress

Maps help us locate ourselves in space. They give us insight into location and distance. They help us navigate our way in the world, and that's what I want my mental maps to do. But like all maps, this artwork is a superimposition of a structure onto something that has no real structure of its own. We see a brightly colored map with its borders, boundaries, labels, and lines, and the world seems like a very orderly and definable space. But take a look at what the area looks like in satellite imagery, and there are no pink countries, or bright orange states, or big dashed lines telling use where one place ends and another begins. Maps are superficial structures that we arbitrarily impose on our world to make the abstract concrete. And perhaps that's what I'm trying to get at with my art - trying to manifest abstract ideas into concrete form, but only yielding arbitrary and superficial forms.

Detail of a Work in Progress

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Cultivating Creativity: The First Official Online Workshop.

Life, as usual, has gotten extremely busy. The school year kicked off at the end of August, and the last two months have been a blur. Along with my full time teaching gig, there's been a webinar, a virtual art education conference, a guest speaker spot, an AP Studio Art workshop, work around the house, and of course making some art. And somewhere in all of that, I've been working on the JFJ's first official online workshop. We've done workshops for Strathmore Artist Papers and 21 SECRETS, and we've done webinars for a variety of folks. But this is our own thing hosted on our own online community.

I'm on track to launch the first workshop on January 1, 2016, but pre-registration will open November  27, 2015 with a special Black Friday sale. So if you're looking for the perfect gift to give yourself or someone you know, in one month you can buy our first online workshop at a great price.

So, it is my pleasure to share some information with you to tease what's in store!

Workshop Title: Cultivating Creativity: Working with Spontaneity and Wonder

Workshop Description:
This straight forward workshop is for anyone looking to connect with their creativity, whether you’re a beginner looking for fun ways to begin your creative journey or an experienced maker looking for new direction. Everyone can benefit from inviting a bit of randomness and chaos into their art making as a way of opening up and sparking new ideas, and this self guided course is designed to do just that. It will have you loosening up and looking at the unpredictable and the messy with a sense of possibility and wonder as you begin to purposefully cultivate spontaneous acts in order to set aside your fears of making mistakes and to spark creative leaps in your art. In this mixed media workshop, you will learn to embrace the surprises that arise from giving up a little control as you give yourself a chance to play and reconnect with your inner child. There are no prescribed outcomes or finished projects, giving you the room to discover and experiment without the fear of doing it wrong. Using a variety of basic materials, you will discover how unintentional marks and creative accidents can open you to the beauty of imperfections and break you out of your comfort zone. You will learn to use unconventional and unpredictable techniques, like dripping paint, dragging string, and bleeding marker, to jolt yourself into new artistic directions. These creative beginnings will have you embracing the messier and more chaotic side of life and art making.

This self-paced workshop is broken up into four parts with videos and written instructions so that you can spend as much time as you like immersing yourself in these experimental techniques.

Part 1: Playing with Paint
Part 2: The Unpredictable and the Accidental
Part 3: Randomness and Chance
Part 4: Where to from here?

The workshop will take place through the Journal Fodder Junkies Ning site, our online community. Membership to the community is free, and there are a lot of goodies on it now including a free workshop on basic watercolor and watercolor pencil techniques. So, if you haven't signed up, what are you waiting for?

I've got a lot of work to finish up for this workshop, but as I wrap up, I'll share more information.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Little Monsters

I've recently begun down a different road artistically. Inspired by several of my elementary students, I have begun a series of little monsters as a fun diversion from my I normally thing. And I have definitely been having fun with them. It's such a connection to my childhood, and with Halloween just around the corner, they're timing is apropos.

As a kid, I loved Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are. Actually, I still love it. I admired Sendak's illustrations so much, especially the Wild Things. As a teenager, I spent a lot of time copying characters from the daily comics, and I even went so far as to develop my own cartoon and comic characters.

But monsters and characters were something that I abandoned as I got more into drawing from observation wanting to make my drawings as realistic and naturalistic as possible. But it's good to let go, and have some fun with my art.

I first sketched these little guys on some drawing paper working out their shape and details. I then redrew them onto some Strathmore mixed media paper, and used my paint markers filled with Golden High Flow Acrylic to paint them. Each of these is 4in by 6in, and I'm hoping to put them up for sale on the JFJ website soon.

I really like how they turned out, and I am looking forward to making more. Let me know what you think of them.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

A Couple of Videos

I've recently been honored with a couple of videos posted by others that I wanted to share. If you follow the Journal Fodder Junkies on Facebook, you may have already seen these, but I wanted to share here on the blog.

The first video (above) is a conversation that I had with Connie Solera of Dirty Footprints Studio. Connie is creator of 21 SECRETS - a mega-online journal workshop that features 21 different artists presenting 21 different workshops. David and I were fortunate to be part of the Spring 2015 21 SECRETS.

Our conversation covered my art making, my journaling, and my motivations. It was a joy to talk with Connie, and I hope you enjoy the video.

The second video is from Dan Fisk. Dan is a Virginia singer and songwriter, and he invited me to be part of a recent Painting the Music event in Leesburg, VA. I had to paint Dan's song "Little Things" as he and other performers did their thing for two hours. It was a fun challenge to marry my style with Dan's song. It was also a fun challenge to try to complete a painting in just two hours, but I have a feeling that I'll work on this painting a little more before calling it complete.

I hope you enjoy the time lapse video of the painting process. It's interesting to see the painting evolve.

I want to thank to Connie and Dan for including me in their endeavors.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Purchase the 15 for 30 Challenge Now!

The 15 for 30 Visual Journal Challenge was a huge success, and I am grateful for everyone who participated. I had several art educators contact me about the possibility of using the challenge in their classrooms, so I have created a suite of items for purchase.

But it's not just for educators. Its for anyone wishing to push their journaling further, and it includes several extras and add-ons that the original challenge didn't have.

For just 5 bucks you get the following:

  • a 40-page PDF of the Challenge. Print it out for handy task cards.
  • a 32-slide PowerPoint ready to go in any classroom.
  • a 3-page PDF of progress charts to keep track of the challenge and to create your own.
  • a PDF of 22 inspiration cards. Print them out and cut them apart for simple creative nudges.
All delivered via email to your inbox.

So head on over to the JFJ Shop to purchase yours today!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Art is not a Competition

Dave and I just got back from Art Unraveled in Phoenix, where we had a great time connecting to people and teaching a few things about our process, but there have been several things that have come up that have me thinking. I want to share.

Life is not a race.

Art is not a competition.

So often we get tangled up in our thoughts about our lives and about our art, that we get lost inside of them building up stories and scenarios in our minds. We run the scripts through our heads so often that we begin to really believe in them. We begin to spiral uncontrollably in them, and we can’t escape them.

These are stories of lack and comparison. Over and over, I have heard these stories from others and from myself, and they are stories that keep us stuck as we look for someone or something to blame.

When we step out of the present moment, when we start to think about where we’ve been and where we’d like to be, we quickly fill our thoughts with all the things that we don’t have and all the people who have it better. We waste energy thinking that if we just had more money, or lived in a different area, or if we just had the breaks that others had, then our lives would be different - our art would be different. We waste our energy spinning these stories around in our heads, and we go nowhere. We stay stuck spinning our wheels.

I have been experiencing such thoughts myself. For years now, I’ve been dreaming of making it as an artist. By making it, I mean making a living off of my art. I would like to step away from being a public school teacher, and live my dream of making and selling work, traveling and teaching classes, and writing books and articles. I do a little of all of those things, but not to the extent I would really like. I do sell a little of my art. I do travel a little to teach, and I have co-written a couple of books. But in order to keep paying the mortgage, in order to keep paying the bills, I have to keep working a full time job that can be demanding and draining. And all the while, I think about all the things that I don’t have, all the things that I have to do and put up with, all the people who I think have it easier than I do, and I continually get lost inside of these thoughts. I compare myself to others and think about all that I don’t have. I tear myself down and bury myself under the weight of these ideas.

What if I let go of my stories? What if every time I began to think of what I don’t have, I let it go and thought about what I do have? What if every time I began to compare myself to others, I let it go, and thought about who I am? This would mean that I would get present with myself. If I focus on where I am right now and what I can offer right here, there is no room for those old and tired scripts.

And so that is what I am working on - staying present and knowing that I lack nothing and that life is not a competition.

When we tell ourselves stories of comparison and lack, we diminish ourselves and our art, and we make ourselves small. We can only do what we can do, but we must do it with an eye on growing, connecting, and inspiring. I shared a bit of advice with someone recently, and I think that I need to heed it as well.

Never diminish what you do, and never make yourself small. Make and create boldly.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Making Space

I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus from the blog and social media during the month of July needing to have a bit of down time, as well as time to focus on other things, but I am back!

One of the key things that I have discovered recently is that I need to make space in all aspects of my life. I’ve been feeling a bit bogged down with the clutter and the chatter of life, so I have been on a mission lately to make space and to declutter mentally, emotionally, artistically, and physically.

I think that we live in an age where so many things vie for our attention that it’s easy to feel a bit lost in the fray. There are many things pulling me in a multitude of directions, and I need to bring some openness and calmness into my life so that I have room for myself and room for what really matters.

Physically, I have been trying to declutter the spaces that I inhabit, and I have begun sorting, trashing, organizing, and rearranging so that these spaces are more open and more conducive for connecting with myself and my creativity. I have also been trying to get myself moving by walking more and being out in the openness more. This is allowing me to bring freshness and energy into my life. And I also just got back from a wonderful vacation to the beach where the vastness of the ocean and sky allowed me to reconnect with openness and space in a very literal way.

Mentally and emotionally, I have been trying to declutter my mind by letting go of much of the judgmental self-talk. I’ve been trying to drop the script when my inner critic begins ranting and raving. I’ve been trying to divorce myself from excuses, criticisms, and judgments. I have also been trying to watch less tv, and read and meditate more. All of this has been an attempt to keep my mind clear and focused and my heart light and open. It seems to be working.

Artistically, I have been trying to declutter my art by simplifying my images and processes. I have a tendency to create complex and complicated spaces, but I’ve been wanting a more meditative approach to my art. So, I have gone back to some old forms and ideas that I explored in my Excavation series trying to reconnect to myself through my art. I have experimented with a couple of small pieces - white colored pencil on black paper - getting back to my drawing roots.

I am hoping to continue making space in my life even as I know things will be getting very busy. David and I will be in Phoenix this week to teach at Art Unraveled (there are still spaces left in our workshops, though you'll have to sign up in person). And my school year will be beginning in a couple of weeks, so I’ll just have wait and see how I hold onto this newfound space in my life.

But for now I am feeling more open, more clear, and more energized.

Thursday, July 9, 2015


What kind of journals do you use?

This is a question that we get a lot, so I have posted a video about the two brands of hardbound journals/sketchbooks that we use. Check it out for more info and a peek into a couple of my journals.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Thank You! But Now What?

I want to thank everyone who participated in the JFJ 15 for 30 Challenge. I can't believe the 30 days are over. I am so grateful to everyone who participated and shared their work on their blogs, on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter. It's so humbling to see so many folks actively engaging in the journal, and I am glad that I was able to give people a creative nudge. I think a lot of people were surprised at how much they accomplished, and found that they spent more then 15 minutes each day. And that was one of the major points of the challenge - to build a daily habit of journaling even if it was only 15 minutes a day.

The challenge was a bit of an accomplishment for me as well. First, I was able to sustain the challenge - both the journaling and the posting. No matter how busy or tired I was, I made sure that I completed each challenge in my journal, photographed the results, wrote, and posted each day's challenge the night before. Thank goodness for scheduled posts. That way, the challenge posted at 8:00 AM everyday. But I also accomplished my other goal - to connect to and to inspire other people. There was definitely a sense of community that built up around the challenge, and I checked Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram multiple times each day to see what was being posted. I loved seeing how people took simple ideas and made them their own.

With the end of the challenge, many people are wondering, "Now what?" Well there are three things that can help you sustain your creative courage.

First off, The JFJ challenge has sparked another challenge. Tim Needles, a fellow art educator we met several years ago who participated in the challenge, has launched his own daily challenge for the month of July. You can find Tim's challenge at the blog The Everyday Renaissance. You can also follow Tim on Twitter.

Second of all, David and I will be conducting several workshops this summer.

  • If you're in the Austin area, David will be teaching a two-day workshop the weekend of July 25th, at Jerry's Artarama. 
  • In August, David and I will be conducting workshops in Phoenix at Art Unraveled. We will be teaching three different workshops August 9-11. Check our Events page for more info. 

Finally, I am pleased to announce the launch of the Journal Fodder Junkies official online community.  This community is a place where we can share our online workshops, resources, videos, news, and more. We also want to give people a chance to connect to one another and to share their experiences, their processes, and their journaling with one another in a safe and closed community. You must sign up for membership to enjoy the benefits. Your membership is completely free, but it must be approved. Once you sign up, I'll try to approve your membership within 24 hours if not quicker. Once your membership is approved, you will have access to a number of free tutorials, downloads, and resources. Eventually, we would like to house our paid online workshops there as well. I've been putting together the last bits and pieces over the last few days, and things might be a little rough and sparse for now, but I plan on offering more as time goes on. Please click here to check it out and to sign up. I'd love to get some feedback.

Thank you once again, and please keep the journaling habit moving forward.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

JFJ 15 for 30 Challenge - Day 30: Reflection

We use the journal to reflect on our art, to reflect on our lives, and to reflect on our relationships. The journal helps us figure out what’s important, and it helps us figure out what we want and where we need to be. It is a valuable tool for living and learning.

Spend time today reflecting our your journey. You might want to reflect on specifically what you have done over the last 30 days or you might want to reflect on your life or your art in general. What is going well? What needs work? What is an area of strength? What is an area for growth? If these questions don’t work for you, come up with your own. Write, collage, paint, and/or draw.

Don’t forget to share! #jfj15for30

Monday, June 29, 2015

JFJ 15 for 30 Challenge - Day 29: Connection

Through journaling we connect to ourselves, and we connect to the places we inhabit. Through sharing we connect to others and we build relationships. It is through these connections that we begin to see our place in the world and figure out what is important to us. The journal grounds us in our lives as we discover the ties that bind us.

For today focus on the idea of connection. Explore the connections that you have made to yourself and to others over the last twenty-eight days. Focus on how these connections have brought about clarity, confusion, questions, and answers. In what ways have you connected to yourself, to places, and to others? In what ways have these connections affected your relationship to yourself and to others. Write, paint, collage, and draw. Respond in any way you see fit.

As always, share and strengthen those connections. #jfj15for30

Sunday, June 28, 2015

JFJ 15 for 30 Challenge - Day 28: Drawn Text

As we’ve mentioned before, words are an important part of our journaling practice, and we use words in a variety of ways. Sometimes we want the text to become more graphic in nature, and we could use collaged or stenciled words. But drawn text is a great way to bring a graphic and a personal flair to our words.

For at least 15 minutes today, draw words and text. Perhaps you highlight some of those operative words with drawn text, or perhaps you illustrate your favorite quote. Perhaps you create a specific theme word for your page. Use any stye of lettering you want such as block, bubble, or graffiti letters. Feel free to draw or sketch your letters with pencil before using materials like pen and marker.

Keep sharing those responses. #jfj15for30

Saturday, June 27, 2015

JFJ 15 for 30 Challenge - Day 27: Tearing

Who needs scissors? Tearing and ripping can create interesting lines and textures, and we, at times, tear pages and fodder as we work in our journals. Tearing a series of pages creates a lot of interaction and surprise. Ripping fodder brings in a lot of contrast to the straight and uniform lines and shapes we normally use. We try to be purposeful and careful as tear and deconstruct images, pages, and text. We then are free to reconstruct the images, pages, and text in any number of ways.

For today focus on tearing as a means for working in your journal. Try tearing off parts of pages. You can even tear a series of pages. Try ripping up colored paper, pictures, or old artwork and gluing in the parts and pieces. Think about tearing up some of your writing and randomly gluing in pieces so the meaning becomes obscured. Begin tearing and see where it goes.

Don’t forget to share! #jfj15for30

Friday, June 26, 2015

JFJ 15 for 30 Challenge - Day 26: Translucent Surfaces

Layering is an important part of our journaling practice and using translucent surfaces such as vellum and tracing paper is an easy way to add layers to our pages while allowing lines, words, images, and textures to show through the collaged material. We often write and draw on these translucent surfaces and glue them into our pages to create additional visual interest.

If you have them, experiment with translucent surfaces. You can draw, write, or print on the paper first, and then collage it onto your pages. You can cut and glue to create see-through shapes of colors, or you can use vellum and tracing paper to cover windows and cut-outs in your pages. See what type of layering effects you can create with these semi-see-through surfaces.

Keep sharing your responses. #jfj15for30.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

JFJ 15 for 30 Challenge - Day 25: Self-Portraits

Self-portraits can intimidate some people, but if we rethink the what and the how, we can use ourselves as the imagery in our journals whether drawn, traced, or collaged. We don’t have to stick to realistically rendered drawings, we can use photographs, templates, and image transfers as ways to include ourselves.

Today, focus on using yourself as the subject matter for your journaling. Feel free to draw yourself as you look in a mirror, but if you lack the confidence or initiative to draw yourself, rethink what the self-portrait can be. Print out selfies, trace photographs, and scrounge around for old drawings. Use photocopies to create image transfers or cut yourself out of a photograph and use it as a template to trace. Experiment with different ways to include yourself in your work.

Don’t forget to share some of your results on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media. Use the hashtag #jfj15for30.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

JFJ 15 for 30 Challenge - Day 24: Tracings

Tracing is often seen as “cheating”, and you may have been scolded by someone not to it. But tracing is a viable and valuable technique for including images in the journal. Besides stencils and templates, we often trace ordinary objects such as tools, rolls of tape, and scissors as a way to document our surroundings. We also trace our hands and the hands of friends and family as a way to record our connections with ourselves and with others. It’s a direct way to include people in our journaling process. We can even trace pictures and photographs as a way to include images that we may not want to take time and effort to draw in more conventional ways.

Focus on tracing things for at least 15 minutes today. Since we’ve focused already on stencils and templates, use ordinary objects like pliers, scissors, keys, or kitchen gadgets. Look for something that will give you an interesting and complex shape. You might also want to trace hands - yours and the people around you. If you have tracing paper, you can trace images and photographs. We like to use photos we have taken to keep the imagery as authentic as possible. Then you can glue the tracing into your journal. Look around to see what you have available for tracing, and experiment with using these items in your journal.

Share your responses to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media. Don’t forget the hashtag so we can see what you’re up to. #jfj15for30.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

JFJ 15 for 30 Challenge - Day 23: Painting with String

Watercolor is a great medium for the journal, but the basic techniques can get a bit boring after a while, so we like to spice things up and add a bit of unpredictability and chance into our pages. Using string to apply the paint is a fun and exciting way to bring some surprise and unusual textures into our journal pages. This technique can be very messy so we are careful of our work surfaces and our clothing.

For today use string to apply your paint. Any thick string or yarn will do as long as it is absorbent. Dampen the string first, and then drop it into a heap on a palette or plastic plate. Then apply the paint to the string with a paint brush. Try dropping the paint saturated string on the page, dragging the string, and even stamping with the string. You can even close your journal on the string, leave the ends of the string extending off the edge, and pull the string out of the closed book. Experiment with the string in anyway you want. Can’t think of anything, do a quick Internet search.

Don’t forget to share. #jfj15for30