Saturday, January 31, 2015

Keeping It Simple

There are some who seem to think that being creative is all about expensive materials and complicated techniques, and this becomes an excuse for many people to stay stuck in their creative ruts. When faced with the expense of materials or the intricacies of the process, it’s easy to say, “Why bother!”

Creativity, though, has never been about materials. It’s about ideas - specifically about having new ideas that have value, and we don’t need a special kind of paint, or the latest stencils, or that expensive acrylic medium to have these ideas. Actually, limiting ourselves to simple, inexpensive materials is a great way to push our creativity and develop new ideas.

By keeping it simple and keeping things cheap, we can feel more open to playing, experimenting, and trying new things because we don’t feel like we’re wasting our precious materials, and when we open ourselves to the possibilities of exploration and creative play, we can discover new ideas for how to use these materials.

This type of play and openness are the keys to unlocking creativity, not brand new materials and following someone’s recipe for how to use them. Too often, when we shell out big bucks for new materials or new equipment, we feel too much pressure. We might not want to waste our new paint, or we might feel that we won’t make something worthy. It then becomes too easy to make excuses and not push ourselves or our work, and then we shut down our creativity and close ourselves off to the possibilities.

Creativity is a way of thinking and making connections. By wondering, “What if…?” or “What would happen…?” we begin the process of trying different things. We build off our experiences and construct new ideas. It’s hard to do that when we’re worried about messing up and wasting our supplies.

Of course I’m not saying that we should never buy expensive materials or try those complex techniques, but if we develop our creative confidence first, we might find that we are more prepared to handle these new supplies or we may find that we don’t need them at all.

All of the images in this post have been simple, watercolor layering experiments on 6”x8” mixed media paper just to see what would happen. I have no idea where they're going, but I have been having fun with them.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Accidentally on Purpose

I was once a great, big ol' perfectionist. I would spend hours on my art trying to the get the smallest of details just right causing myself a lot of anxiety and grief, and though I have loosened up over the years, I sometimes feel those perfectionist tendencies creep up. A great way to stay loose, is to embrace the imperfections, and one of my favorite things to do is to use my journal as a means to capture unintentional and accidental marks as I work on other pieces of art.

On the page that I started above, I placed 6"x8" papers on the 11"X14" page as I worked on a multitude of smaller works of art. In essence, my journal became my paint table and collected the marks, spatters, and run off as I painted the small papers. Some of us my lay down a drop cloth or a large scrap of paper to keep the table clean, or we may just wipe up any messy paint that happened to get on the table. Instead of doing either of those, I have started a page in my journal with the random and haphazard marks that happen as result of painting to the edge of those smaller works.

This allows me to start and work on the smaller works that I am fond of, but it also allows me to add to my journal without consciously adding to my journal. This technique is not for everyone because it really does take an openness to the process, but I feel that there is a certain beauty in the imperfections that result.

I will continue to add to this page, both consciously and unconsciously, and I can't wait to see where it will lead.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Free Fodder

I'm at it again - giving away stuff. This time, it's a free, hi-res PDF download of Permission and Initiative Prints and Cards that I have worked on recently. I showed a sneak peek of the Permission piece in my Mixed Media Fun post, and shared the images in my Permission and Initiative post.

The image below shows a quick peek at the 5-page document.

The download includes two 8"x10" prints, four 4"x6" cards, and eight 2"x3.5" business-sized cards. The two sheets of 4x6s and 2x3.5s are meant to print back-to-back so that you can have double-sided cards.

So, give yourself the gift of Permission and Initiative. Download the file by clicking here, print them on card stock or photo paper, and have fun.

Hang 'em up, glue 'em in your journal, or laminate 'em so you can always be reminded that you have both permission and initiative to create. You never have to wait around for someone to say so.

You can check out other free downloads that I have on the JFJ site by going here.


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Heroes - David R. Modler

One of my goals for 2015 is to spotlight people who have had an impact on me in some way and who have inspired me and helped move along my path. Some of these heroes I know personally, some I have met briefly, some are internationally known, and some have long left this earth. They are from all walks of life and are from very different backgrounds, but they all have impacted me in some substantial way, and I want to acknowledge and honor them.

It is only right and fitting that I start with my fellow Journal Fodder Junkie, David Modler, for it was he who helped set me on the path I am on now. Without Dave there would be no JFJ, no books, no traveling and presenting, and my art would probably be much, much different.

David and I met over sixteen years ago in the fall of 1998. I had just moved to Leesburg in Northern Virginia to start teaching in Loudoun County Public Schools. We met for the first time at a training session for elementary art teachers, but we were never formally introduced. It was only a couple months later when we met again at an artists’ reception that we were formally introduced, and I was first introduced to the visual journal when I noticed the small, bulging sketchbook that Dave carried. I had no idea then what an impact it would have on my life at the time.

Dave and I quickly became friends, and he introduced me further to his art and to the visual journal. I was deeply impressed with the fact that here was a guy who taught art in the public schools like I did, but he was finding the time to make his own art. Dave was the first art teacher that I had ever met that was also an artist, and that’s exactly what I wanted to do.

Over the first few years of our friendship, David was very much a mentor to me, both as an artist and as an educator, and though it took me a while to find the courage to begin a visual journal, I embraced the process once I did. My art began to radically change under Dave’s influence, and anytime we learned or discovered something new about the visual journal, we eagerly shared it with each other. Even after Dave moved to North Carolina in 2001, it became our habit to exchange journals first thing when we got together. At the time, we were just two artists sharing a passion for art and the excitement of working and learning in a new form. We had no idea where this was all heading.

Things began to take off in 2005, when we teamed up and began presenting together at a couple of art education conferences and officially became the Journal Fodder Junkies. Things expanded when we presented at the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT) on five separate occasions and were able to work with some wonderful North Carolina educators. NCCAT was an amazing experience, and it only happened because of Dave had the opportunity to attend NCCAT as a North Carolina educator. Other presenting and workshops followed at various schools, mostly in North Carolina.

It was during this time that David quit teaching in the public school systems, and went back to school and obtained his MFA. In many ways I felt like I was going back to school with all the discussions that we had about art. Dave shared his grad school experiences with me, and I tried to absorb as much as I could. He talked about the theories he had to read about, the artists he was exploring, the critiques he had, and of course, the art that he was making. All of that got me thinking about my art and my motivations. Once again my art began to radically change as what Dave was sharing with me got me to delve deeper into my work and to question that things that I was doing.

Two books and countless presentations and workshops have followed. We have been fortunate to travel all over the US and to Canada, and Dave has even gotten to travel to Australia. We have met thousands of people and hopefully inspired and motivated a few, and to think that it all started in a computer lab with a group of art teachers more than sixteen years ago.

David is one of my best friends, and I consider him a brother. I am so grateful to have an accomplice like him, and it has been an awesome experience to share the JFJ’s journey with Dave. He has pushed me to grow as a person, as an educator, and as an artist. I look forward to seeing where we go from here.

Thanks, Brother. It was been quite adventure.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

I Want...

As part of shifting my momentum, I have been thinking a lot lately about what I want - what I really want. There have been a couple quotes bumping around in my head.

"Get busy living, or get busy dying." - Shawshank Redemption

"Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life."

I want to live a life full of passion and purpose, making art and sharing with people. I definitely feel that I am on the path. Here's to finding my way.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Chestnut Creek School of the Arts Workshops Feb 14 and 15

Dave and I are pleased to announce that we will be teaching two workshops at the Chestnut Creek School of the Arts in Galax, VA Valentine's Day weekend, Saturday, February 14 and Sunday, February 15. Each day is a separate workshop, so sign up for one or both.

On Saturday, February 14, we will be offering Visual Ammunition for the Art Addict. Based on our first book, this workshop will feature a barrage of techniques and concepts that we employ in the journal. Workshop price $150

On Sunday, February 15, we will be offering Transitional Spaces, which will focus on manipulating pages and creating pockets, doors, windows, and much more. Workshop price: $150

For more information and to register, visit Chestnut Creek’s website.

Space is limited, so make sure to sign up so that you don’t miss out. We hope to see you in southwestern Virginia in February.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Permission and Initiative

Many people are drawn to the act of making. They want to paint a picture, sew a quilt, knit a scarf, write a novel, or throw a pot. This urge goes back to childhood, and as children we made without hesitation creating pictures, toys, stories, and songs. As adults, we are much more hesitant, and our fear holds us back. We may be afraid of not being able to do it at all, or we may be afraid that we can’t do it well. We may feel that we have no ideas or that we don’t know how to start. Unfortunately, many of us give into the doubts as we hem and haw, complain and moan about not being talented, not being good, or not being artists. These are only excuses - ways of saying that we are not allowing ourselves to make and create. So, many of us just sit idly by as if waiting for someone to tell us that it’s alright - it’s ok for us to create. And so, many of us just sit and wait and never make.

However, that urge can linger. We can feel the draw of the clay or the allure of the yarn, and it keeps pulling at us. Finally we can’t stand it any longer, and give in. We give ourselves permission to initiate something - to get started. For many of us, we look at what other people have made for inspiration. We think how great it would be to make what these other people are making. There’s a safety factor there. We see that it can be done and it has been done, so we might, just might, be able to do it, too.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s great to be inspired by others and to want to learn from them, but we have to be careful because we can easily fall into a trap. When we look to the things that other people make, we can feel like we can only do it their way - that there is a right way and a wrong way. We get caught up in doing it exactly right - exactly like that person, and there’s the trap. Whether we follow step-by-step directions or we simply mimic the work, we give ourselves permission to copy someone else. Why? It’s safe, everything is figured out, and we don’t have to come face-to-face with our massive doubts. We started AND finished something. We made it, but we didn’t create it. We didn't come up with the idea. We didn’t develop the process or the sequence. We merely followed the recipe that someone figured out or copied their example.

If creativity is about coming up with something new that has value, how is copying someone - doing exactly what they do - creative? If we really want to step up our game - if we really want to initiate something that is uniquely our own, we need to give ourselves permission to do more than just copy other people. We need to be open to our doubts, our fears, our hopes, and our dreams.

To that end, we are the only ones who can give ourselves the initiative and permission to create.

We must give ourselves permission to:
be vulnerable
not know what we’re doing
not be perfect
express what we feel
open up

We must find the initiative to:
get off our lazy butts
break out the tools
make the effort
trust our own ideas
learn from others
not to merely copy
accept where we are
lean into our fear
make a mess

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Artists' Reception at Old Ox Brewery

If you're in the Northern Virginia area, come out Friday, January 23 from 6-9PM, to Old Ox Brewery  in Ashburn, VA from 6-8PM. We're kicking off the inaugural exhibit of Loudoun Arts Council's artWorks program. Come out, enjoy some great local art, and have a pint of great local beer.

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Mixed Media Fun

I've been working on more things. This time it's for a free download that I want to make available. Hopefully by the end of the week, I'll be finished and have it uploaded for people.

I layered a variety of watercolor techniques, along with some watercolor pencil and ink. I can't wait to share the finished project.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Works in Progress

As the new year begins, I am shifting my momentum so that I can connect more with people both face-to-face and online. To that end, I have been working on various ideas for potential projects for myself and for the Journal Fodder Junkies, and I have rededicated myself to helping others connect to their creativity. I have already begun putting a lot of energy into the shift, and I am hoping that I can sustain the energy throughout the year. I am excited to share a little peek into what I have planned.

One of my big goals for 2015 is to create a series of online workshops as a way to allow people who have been wishing to take our workshops but haven't been unable because of cost, location, or circumstance to share in the experience. The online workshops will be at a much reduced price than the face-to-face, but they will contain a lot more content.

Here’s my plan. By the end of the year I would like to have everything in place so that come January 1, 2016, the first official Journal Fodder Junkies online workshop can launch. I know that’s a year away, but there’s a lot to do. And I do have a day job, so if I get things done before then, I can launch earlier. I just don’t know how it will work out, so I'm giving myself a year to get it done. The workshop will be self guided, and the image above is a peek at what I have been working on. Participants will have 24/7 access to a series of videos, written instructions, and a whole lot of extras including discussions and forums allowing everyone to work at their own pace and share their progress and struggles.

The first step is to set up a platform that enables workshops. My first thought is to create a Ning site. A lot of people that I admire like Traci Bautista use Ning, but if anyone has taken an online workshop through another platform and has another suggestion, I am all ears.

If the first workshop is successful, the next step would be to add more workshops. I also envision a section that is open to everyone with free videos and downloads. Dave will join in when he can, and between the two of us, I hope to be able to offer a wide range of topics and techniques.

I know that there are a lot of online workshops out there for visual journals and mixed art, but I think that we can offer something a little bit different. Our goal is to keep it simple, and share ways to allow individuals to discover and enhance their creativity and tune into their own voices. I think that is what sets our books apart from many out there. We don’t dictate an end product, but we share a wealth of ideas, and individuals use these ideas as they see fit to make the art they want to make.

Along with online workshops, I’m hoping to put together more videos for YouTube, create a series of freebies and giveaways - downloads and other goodies, work on more book ideas - both solo ideas and ideas with Dave, and post more frequently sharing a variety of ideas, inspiration, and news.

And to give you a taste for what’s to come, I wanted to look to the past and share a tutorial that I made a while back. It’s all about how I made a two page spread about Change, and I offered this to people before. You might already have it, but I did make some minor tweaks. It’s more things like this that I want to put out into the world. So, please click the link and enjoy a free PDF download. The link should be a direct download to the file.

Please leave feedback in the comments letting me know what you think.