Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Tuesday, March 29, 2016


Despite being pretty exhausted, I needed to make a little art tonight. I decided to doodle in a sample sketchpad that I got from the Strathmore booth at the NAEA Convention.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

More Fodder

More sorting and more gluing today. This is the spread that I started yesterday, and I added more random pieces of fodder, and a layer of green watercolor paint.

Saturday, March 26, 2016


fodder, noun
1. something fed to domestic animals; especially: coarse food for cattle, horses, or sheep
2. inferior or readily available material used to supply a heavy demand, i.e. fodder for tabloids

While cleaning up the studio the other day, I realized that I have an inordinate amount of fodder stockpiled in the studio in bins and trays and in piles and heaps. With all of my recent travels, I've collected even more fodder, so I decided to sort through some of it and use it in my multiple journals. Along with starting this two-page spread, I added fodder to my shared journal with Sam Peck, a small journal that Erin Keane made for me, and another large journal that I am currently wrapping up. It was good to have a big old glue session tonight in the studio.

I've got to make a better effort to glue in the fodder as I collect it.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Studio Clean Up

Now that my recent bout of traveling is done, I can focus on the next big thing, the Western Loudoun Artists Studio Tour which happens the weekend of June 18 & 19. Though it's a couple months away, I need to get busy making some art, and getting the studio ready for visitors.

The first step is to clean up the studio a bit so that I have some room to work, so I spent some time tonight cleaning and organizing. It's amazing what happens to accumulate in the studio over the months, and I have the habit of simply moving piles around. The studio has become quite cluttered, so I began the preliminary process of sorting and organizing, and hopefully I'll soon have a functioning studio again with space to work.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Taking the Leap

Over the past three weeks, I have made an exciting announcement at my various workshops and presentations, and there is nothing more daunting and more liberating than standing in front of an audience whether it’s a handful of people or over 300 and declaring your intentions. So, I thought that I would make that declaration even more concrete.

After 20 years of teaching in public schools in Maryland and Virginia, I am taking the leap and stepping away from that profession to pursue being an artist/writer/speaker/workshop presenter full time. It’s a scary transition fraught with risk going from a secure job with a salary to a calling that is going to involve a lot of uncertainty, a lot of hustle, and hopefully a lot of reward.

For seven or eight years now, I have dreamed of the day that I could walk away from my career as a public school teacher, and I kept waiting for the perfect time and the perfect circumstances. I made plans only to see the plans derailed. So, I’ve decided to stop waiting. If I wait for circumstances to be perfect, for the time when there’s enough money in the bank, or for that big break, I’ll be waiting a long time. So I have come to the decision that the time is now. It is with much excitement and a little trepidation that I announce that my 20th year of teaching will be my last so that I can follow my dream.

For 20 years, I have stuck with a trying and challenging job that has brought me little satisfaction, and one that no longer resonates with me. I began my career in the late 90’s teaching in inner city Baltimore. To say it was challenging is an understatement, but I figured the challenges and difficulties were from being a new teacher in an inner city school. I survived those two years in Baltimore, and landed in Loudoun County, Virginia - the polar opposite of the inner city. I passed off the difficulties that I then faced as being a fairly inexperienced teacher, and I expected that over time, things would get better. As I gained experience, as I gained insight, I would rise above the challenges.

But teaching has changed so much over the last 20 years. Students have changed, the requirements of teaching have changed, the environment and the expectations have changed. If I could simply teach, I’d continue being a teacher, but all of that other stuff gets in the way. There are so many particulars that I won’t even get into, but simply, I feel that I disconnect with my authentic self when I walk into my classroom. I feel that I do not belong there. Yes, I have days when my students amaze me and bring me great joy, and nothing beats that moment when a struggling student “gets it” and you can see the light bulb go on as the look on their face changes, but those moments are few and far between. I am tired and drained from all the meetings, mandates, data collecting, grading, and extras that have nothing to do with teaching. How can I get my students excited to be in my class when I’m not excited?

So, I am stepping away.

I come alive when I make my art, when I write about my art and my process, and when I step in front of a group of people and teach them about my art and my process. I have so enjoyed exploring my art over the past few months, and teaching these last three weeks in Portland, Galax, and Chicago. All of these experiences, whether making art in my studio or standing in front of 300 educators, resonate with my spirit. I feel at home, and the most connected to myself during those times. No grades, no committee meetings, no administrative mandates, no extra b.s. Just me connecting with my art and hopefully inspiring other people.

And that’s what I’m going to do - make art, write about art, and teach about art. Several things have already begun aligning to reinforce that I am making the best decision for myself. I am setting my intention and preparing to take one of the biggest leaps of my life. I am ready to start a new chapter in my life - a chapter of authentic living and following my heart.

Here’s to taking the leap!

Monday, March 21, 2016

To Chicago and Back Again

The whirlwind that has been my March has finally subsided, and I am finally sitting and relaxing at home enjoying the beginnings of my Spring Break. I have been going nonstop for the last three weeks with trips to Portland, Oregon; Galax, Virginia; and lastly Chicago, Illinois. Though I have had some down time during these trips, nothing beats sitting on my own couch, in my own place, with my animals curled up beside me.

Chicago and the National Art Education Association's 2016 National Convention were a blur of activity, friends, and connections. As I said in the previous post, Dave and I began the Convention by teaching two Pre-conference workshops, and things just got pretty crazy after that.

During the first official day of the Convention, we got to sit in on a few sessions, before presenting to approximately 300 people on the visual journal. Our talk, Scaffolding the Visual Journal, was all about advising teachers how they could guide and mentor their students to a richer, more meaningful journal practice. At the end of the session, a teacher in the back stood up and gave a touching testimonial for visual journaling and how much it has impacted not just her students, but also her, as she dealt with the recent loss of her mother. Dave and I are not certified Art Therapists, but we have experienced and witnessed the power of the journal first hand.

For the second and third days of the Convention, we spent at least three hours each day at Chester Book Co. in the Exhibitors Hall signing books and connecting with people. Going to sessions and giving talks is a valuable part of the Convention, but I often feel that the biggest impact happens during those one-on-one moments. We are very thankful to Al Krysan for inviting us into his space. This is the 4th year that Al and Chester Book Co. have offered us a chance to sign copies of our books. Thanks again, Al.

Dave co-taught a hands-on session with our friend Michael Bell on the Seven Deadly Sins, bright and early on the last day of the Convention. Though it was at 8AM, Saturday, they had a sold-out group and the energy and enthusiasm was a great kick off for their day.

Our final day in Chicago was a lot more slow paced, and after sleeping in, we enjoyed a rooftop brunch with some Canadian friends at Cindy's at the Chicago Athletic Club. Afterward, we enjoyed a nice stroll around Millennium Park and part of the city.

A late night flight got us to Baltimore and eventually home. We are so grateful for all of the new connections we made, and all of the reconnecting that was done. We are genuinely touched by the people who came a day early to take a pre-conference workshop with us and by the number of people who attended our presentations and who came to talk to us during our book signings. We can't wait to do it all again next year in New York.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

NAEA National Convention - Day 1

We had a packed first day of activity at the NAEA Convention, and we taught two hands-on Preconference Workshops sharing tips for collaboration, drawing games, and disruptions.

Both groups were small and intimate, but very enthusiastic. It was nice to connect with new folks and reconnect with people we've met before. We hope that we left the participants with lots of ideas that they can take back to their studios and classrooms.

After the workshops, it was dinner and hanging out with friend and fellow educator/artist Michael Bell. It was definitely a good first day.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Chicago, Here We Come!

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind, and it isn't slowing down yet as I get ready to head out to Chicago for the National Art Education Association's National Convention. Art Teachers from around the world are descending on the Windy City for three days of Art Education fun, play, and serious learning.

Chicago is a special place for the JFJ, because ten years ago Dave and I attended our first National Convention together as the Journal Fodder Junkies. We weren't scheduled to present, but we did an impromptu presentation when someone didn't show leaving a room full  of participants pondering how they were going to get into another session. So, Dave and I jumped up and said, "We've got something to share." We introduced ourselves, and shared an activity based on Angeles Airren's book Signs of Life.

When several people came up to us and said that it was one of the best presentations they had been to, we knew we were onto something. If two schmucks could jump up with nothing but some scrap paper they picked up off of the table, and give a compelling presentation to a room full of people, they must be doing something right. And for the last ten years Dave and I have been spreading the word.

Chicago is going to be awesome! I can't wait. I get there tonight, and we hit the ground running tomorrow with pre-conference workshops.

I am completely awed to think of the hundreds and thousands of people that we have met, spoken to, and inspired. Who have thought? Ten years and going strong.

Here's to 10, 20, 30 more!!!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Chestnut Creek Workshop

I spent the weekend in Galax, VA at the Chestnut Creek School of the Arts teaching two full-day, mixed media workshops. I had such a good time, and it was awesome to be surrounded by such good people and such good creative ju-ju.

Galax is a quaint place in south eastern Virginia near the North Carolina, and you wouldn't expect to find such a place as Chestnut Creek, but I am glad it's there. My two classes were small, but I had participants from near and far. David and I taught there a year ago, and we very much enjoyed it. I was happy to be invited back. Unfortunately, Dave could't make it, so it felt a little odd.

The workshops went extremely well, and time each day just flew. We didn't have a chance to get to everything that came up, but a good thing about small, intimate groups is the ability to adapt and change based on the whims of the students.

Both days looked like an art bomb had gone off in the room with materials, fodder, and journals strewn all over the place, and I had a chance to experiment, play, and journal along with the participants.

I even began a new journal - number 23. That's the first page above.

We had some journaling veterans and some newbies, but I think everyone got something out of the classes, and had a good time. That's Patti's pages above exploring some watercolor techniques and a tape transfer.

The first day was about opening to our creativity - about playing, experimenting, and exploring materials and ideas. The second day was about building layers. I shared a bunch a ideas and let everyone run with them. It was so gratifying to see how different everyone's work looked. I was able to develop a two-page spread in the new journal quite a bit (above).

A bonus of teaching at Chestnut Creek is being able to stay in The Cabin. This cabin, owned by board member Mary Guynn is a great place to stay, and definitely beats a motel. Although the weather was quite mild, I stoked up a fire both nights of my stay. It was very relaxing to sit and unwind by the fire.

I am very grateful to Penney for inviting me back, and I hope to teach more in the future. I am also very grateful for everyone who came out and spent time with me and shared their art and their stories. It was quite a magical time.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Shifting Momentum

Today I wanted to share another two-page spread that I began in Portland last week. This spread was begun during our workshop on Sunday - Alternative Approaches to the Self-Portrait. I've been contemplating a big life change lately, and I have been working hard to shift the momentum of my life and my circumstances.

If you like what you see, think about signing up for a class or workshop. We have a current self-guided online workshop. I'll be Galax, VA this weekend. We'll be in Chicago at the NAEA Convention. We''ll be at Art and Soul in Virginia Beach in the Fall. And we'll probably be at Art Unraveled in the summer. As new venues and dates are added, I'll post them!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Pages in Progress

I began this two-page spread my first morning in Portland last week by gluing down fodder that I had collected from walking around the day before, which I shared in this post. I haven't done too much to it yet, but over several days in Portland, I added the rectangles and a little bit of watercolor paint and watercolor pencil. I also started about eight other pages with fodder, writing, and color since then. This is how I primarily work - I get a lot of things going, and then I slowly build up layers, materials, and ideas. I look at my art as an accumulation of actions, and I don't plan out the work. It is spontaneous and flows from the making.

I'll share more as this spread progresses.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Gearing Up for Galax, VA

I'm back from Portland, but I can't get too comfortable because I head to Galax, Virginia on Friday to teach two full-day classes at the Chestnut Creek School of the Arts  - Cultivating Creativity on Saturday and Building Layers on Sunday. Check out the school's workshop page for more info and to register. Hope to see you there!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Goodbye, Portland!

Today is our last day in Portland. In a way it's a little sad, but it will be nice to get home. Travel is always fun and exciting, but it can be exhausting and taxing.

We taught two full-day classes Saturday and Sunday, and we were able to make it into the nearby Alberta neighborhood for lunch yesterday. We plan to go back today for breakfast before heading to the airport to catch the plane for the east coast.

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to teach at Art and Soul. Our classes Saturday and Sunday were small, but that lead to a nice intimacy with the group. It was much easier to customize and individualize the experience for the students and build stronger connections. We spent Saturday's class exploring a variety of ways to work in the journal sharing materials and methods that we regularly use. On Sunday, we explored alternatives to the self-portrait as we looked at how line, shape, color, collage, and image transfers can be used to convey a sense of self and identity. The images below are from this workshop. The first image is the opening exercise, and the second image is of some of the results from the day-long class.

I am grateful to everyone who came out to take a class with us and who made the trip so special. It was such a wonderful experience, and I am looking forward to coming back to Portland and to Art and Soul. If you missed us in Portland, we've got other workshops and classes coming up! I'll post more about these once I get back to Virginia.

Until next time, Goodbye, Portland!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Adventures in Portland

Our adventures in Portland continued over the last two days as we were able to explore the city a bit more. On Thursday, we wondered mostly around the Pearl District and other nearby downtown spots. We even went back to Powell's City of Books a couple of times where Dave found a copy of our first book. That's kind of rare since North Light Books stopped printing it, and it's now only available through Amazon print-on-demand.

We did venture into the south east part of the city to partake in some vegan goodness at Herbivore ClothingSweetpea Baking Company, and Portobello Vegan Trattoria. Dave's not vegan, but he humors me. We even took a bit of a break at Base Camp Brewing Company for some liquid refreshment and a few games of farkle.

Yesterday we ventured back into downtown to hit up the Portland Art Museum to check out the eclectic collection of art they have there.

An installation by Kenny Scharf was probably the wildest thing there, besides Dave and his goofy faces.

We headed back to the hotel so that we could teach our first class last night for Art and Soul, and we had a good time drawing, doodling, and collaborating with the students for our Journal Stripped Bare class. We're looking forward to teaching our full-day classes today and tomorrow. So far, we are really enjoying our time in the City of Roses.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Good Morning, Portland

Gluing in fodder is how I'm starting the day today in Portland. It's a perfect way to begin documenting the places I have gone, and the things I have seen.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The JFJ Invade Portland

After nearly 9 hours on a plane (we flew to San Diego first, and then to Portland) we arrived in Oregon. We headed into downtown Portland for an early dinner, and the we hit up Powell's Bookstore where we found a copy of our second book.

We're very excited to teach our three classes at Art and Soul this week!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Portland Bound

Tomorrow we fly to Portland, OR for Art and Soul. It will be our first time teaching at this art retreat, and we are very excited to expand our teaching circle. This will be my first time in Portland, and I am thrilled to be able to spend a little time in this city.

There's just something that seems to pull me to Portland, though I have never set foot there. Perhaps it's Portland's reputation as a hipster and art mecca - a place that prides itself on being weird. Perhaps it's all of the vegetarian and vegan places to eat and drink. Perhaps it's the coffee and craft beer. Perhaps it's the proximity of mountains and outdoor adventures. I have it in the back of my mind that I might like to live in Portland. There's just a lot about Portland that seems to gel with my personality and my interests, and I am excited to visit.

But what should we see while we're there? Let us know in the comments.

(The above image was taken from