I have been working on a ‘top secret’ project as Beaumont calls it.
I laugh at myself when I type that phrase “as Beaumont calls it”. Fact is, Beaumont doesn’t actually speak so he can’t call it anything. All he knows is that I have been back in my studio again.
And that’s a good thing.
I forget when I take long periods away from ‘arting’ how restorative, healing and calming it is to spend time immersed in the creative flow. How fulfilling it is to play with colour and texture, mediums and papers. To let my mind disassociate from the everyday to become embraced by the magical
I can’t write about the project… it wouldn’t be top secret if I did (and my daughters tell me I can’t keep a secret. Ha! Can too!) 🙂
What I can write about is the pure joy of losing track of time and space to become one with the moment, fully embodied in the wonder of now.
What I can tell you about is how when I begin each page of a new art journal, I don’t have a clear vision of the outcome. I simply have a vision of the ‘feelings’ I want it to evoke. The emotions I want to capture, the sense of there being room to breathe freely in this busy, chaotic world I want to create.
Every page is an emotional response to the moment, and on every page, I lay down not just paint, but those very emotions I want to evoke, examine, escape, embrace… show and know
Emotions that sometimes have no words. No space to breathe. No space to be simply because their ability to hide is greater than my ability to know them clearly — and so, I paint them out in an effort to set them free. Or at least, set myself free.
And that is what always happens.
In painting them out, I set myself free to be the light I want to see in a spacious, beautiful, calm and loving world.
Arting. It’s a gift that keeps creating the more of what I want in my world. Love. Joy and Beauty.
Usually, when I create in my art journal, the words drift into substance dripping with paint and creative sweat somewhere along the path, after I’ve begun the page.
Yesterday, as I sat and contemplated one of the backgrounds I’d created for the art journalling course I taught at Kensington Arts, the words landed before I’d even set up my paints, with a clear and resounding note of “Here I am”, demanding a page upon which to appear.
So much of the fun of art journalling is in the ‘allowing’ of ideas for words and imagery to materialize from somewhere deep within – without judging, limiting or condemning each thought.
So often, as I created this page, I stopped and asked myself, “What am I afraid to try?” And then, I did that.
Like adding gold pearlescent powder to the leaves and birdcage (hard to see in the photo) I haven’t worked with those types of powders in years — it took a lot of opening and closing of cupboard doors and drawers to find them – but it was like encountering an old friend you haven’t seen in a long time. The familiarity, the comfort, the excitement, the remembering of things you’ve shared, the experiences you created together, the memories you built — they’re always there, enriching each step of your journey. As you begin to laugh and chat and share stories, the time apart evaporates and you are left with that wonderful knowing that a friendship like this is not measured by time. It is woven forever into your hearts, spinning songs of joy and laughter through time shared and time apart.
I danced with the muse yesterday. It was an old, familiar tune we played. In its familiarity, woven into each strand of melody, sweet notes of possibility filled my heart, calling my wings to spread and grow stronger.
The first thing I told the attendees in my art journalling workshop on Wednesday night was that I was so excited to be there I came a day early.
’cause that’s what happened.
On Tuesday, I packed up my two rolly bins, loaded them into the car and drove across the city to Kensington Art in anticipation of greeting 12 people into my class.
Except, I realized when I got there I’d somehow put it onto the wrong date in my calendar on my phone. Me and technology… know what I mean?
After laughing with the staff about my excitement, I wheeled everything back out to my car, loaded it up and drove home, laughing all the way.
On Wednesday night, I repeated the driving there but this time, I set-up and after the staff member checked people in along with verifying their vaccination cards, we dove in.
It was fun. Exhilarating. Exciting and challenging.
It’s the first in-person workshop I’ve given since Covid lockdowns began in March 2020. Fortunately, no one balked at wearing a mask throughout the evening. Though I must admit, teaching with one on is… different.
Different is ok. I can either resist or accept. My choice. I chose to accept with grace to ensure each attendee received value from the workshop and felt safe and supported in their exploration of their creative expression.
In preparation for the workshop, I created a number of backgrounds in one of my art journals as examples of ‘where to begin’ to show the class. I find it both cathartic and medicative to spend time simply layering on paint, texture and contours. The objective isn’t to think about what I’m doing. It’s to simply let whatever is seeking to appear, appear.
The first background I started with however, kept calling me to dive in. Three hours later, I had a completed page.
Ooops! I hadn’t meant to take it all the way! But I’m glad I did!
I still needed some sample backgrounds so I dove back in and consciously pulled myself away when I felt the urge to keep going. (Believe me. That’s not always easy when I’m in the flow!)
Yesterday, I opened my journal to the first background and began to play.
And that’s where the magic and the muse found me.
Perhaps it was the influence of the stunningly beautiful full moon of the night before, or the fall Equinox, or both… because somewhere at the edge of night, walking beneath a golden moon, breathing in starlight, wonder and awe, magic embraced me and I let go of thinking to allow what was seeking to be known and seen and experienced appear.
I taught an art journalling workshop this week. My first in-person workshop since March 2020.
It was fun. Exhilarating. And a great reminder to let go and be present in the fullness of the moon and the stars and all of life, to bathe in the wonder and the awe of this moment right now.
PS. I’m teaching another workshop at Kensington Art on Wednesday, October 27 — if you’re in the Calgary area and want to join in, it would be lovely to see you!
It is done. This journal I began several months ago with my mother’s prayer cards. It is done.
When I began my intention was to honour my mother’s life journey through using her prayer cards as a collage element on each page in the journal. I wasn’t thinking about healing. Or growth. Or change.
I was focused on diving into the creative field of creating an altered book art journal with her cards.
And then… Transformation beckoned.
Which makes sense, given that the premise of an altered book art journal is using an existing book to transform it into something else.
Don’t you love how art mirrors life and how when we open up to creative expression, life awakens in all its magnificent hues like a crystal prism hanging in a window refracting and reflecting rainbow shards of sunlight?
Through working on this journal, I have found myself falling with grace into all the colours of my human emotions. Grief. Joy. Sorrow. Gratitude, Regret. Compassion. Denial. Appreciation. Sadness. Joy. Anger. Love…
As I’ve written on one of the pages, “There are no mistakes in the human heart. There is only Love.”
In the end, and in the beginning… there is only Love.
There are no mistakes in my life. No paths not taken I wished I had. No roads wandered I wish I hadn’t.
Every path, every road, every step and word and gesture and action and encounter have all added up to create this space in which I live today. Breathing deeply of the divine nature of life.
It is here I find myself floating on a sea of gratitude, waves of joy and love and friendship and laughter and harmony and grace washing over me as I bathe in the waters of sacred communion with Life.
And so I say the prayer that stirs my soul and fills my heart with gratitude. “Thank you.”
For the past two days I have been working on a flip through video of the book.
On each page I share the words that are most evocative of that page.
I am pleased. The book has turned out better than I imagined (Yes Jane. I’ll say it. “I did a good job!” 🙂 )
But, more than how the book has turned out, I am so very, very grateful for having taken this journey. I began without expectation of an outcome. I end with gratitude for the transformation that has appeared on my path through stepping into the creative exploration of My Mothers Prayers.
A note on the cover — my mother loved baubles and bling. She always wore sparkly things. On her fingers. Around her neck. In her hair. On her wrists. The original cover was orange – not one of my mother’s favourite colours. I painted it purple, covered that with gold spray paint and sprinkled gold dust over the entire thing. The jewelled pieces were my mother’s earrings and on the back, the embroidered bird is from excess fabric from the skirt I wore when C.C. and I were married. Made of hand-embroidered silk from India, I felt it would bring my mother to our wedding as she was too frail to attend. Underneath the bird is one of my mother’s prayer cards.
My father was a curious man. He read voraciously and always replied to questions such as, ‘How do you spell ___________?” or “What’s does _________mean?” with the response, “Go look it up in the dictionary.”
Of course, I’d try to find a ‘smart alecky’ answer like, “If I don’t know how to spell it how can I look it up?
It never phased him. He’d make me think about the spelling, what I thought it was, and work from there.
Question about the meaning of life, or things or processes were always answered with, “Go look it up in the Encyclopedia Britannica.”
The EB was the fount of all knowledge when I was growing up. If it wasn’t in the Encyclopedia, it wasn’t worth knowing.
Because French was my mother’s native tongue, I seldom asked her those kinds of questions. For her, I reserved my curiosity about God.
“Why would God place a sin on an unborn child? Aren’t we born perfect and whole in God’s image?”
“Why do dead people have to wait it out in Purgatory for prayers of the living to release them? Doesn’t God forgive all sin? Isn’t that why Jesus died?”
To my mother, my constant questioning of God was an assault on her faith and her being.
I didn’t intend it to be but, because so much of what I learned about God as a child was fear-based, I wanted answers so I wouldn’t feel so afraid.
I didn’t like feeling afraid, especially if the adults around me didn’t have ways to assuage my fear.
And I definitely didn’t like the anxiety of waiting for ‘the Hand of God’ to come crashing down from the heaven’s above and knock some sense into me. Which is something my mother often wished for, at least that’s how I translated her entreaties that I ‘be like the others’ (my 3 older siblings) and stop disobeying her constantly.
“God knows everything,” my mother would say. “He sees you and hears you and he is angry at you for being so bad.”
And she would cry and wonder out loud what she had done to deserve such a difficult child as me.
After years of therapy and inner child work and personal development courses and journalling and a host of other practices to make sense of the mess I felt was ‘me’ inside, I understand how my mother and I walked on such unsteady ground.
How could she keep me safe from the world if I was constantly putting my eternal soul in danger by questioning God’s will?
How could she have peace if I was constantly searching for answers to the things she did not want to speak of?
One of the gifts of art journalling is its invitation to experiment. With products, process, perspective…
Awhile ago, I watched a video on using Vaseline with alcohol inks. I wasn’t using Alcohol Inks on this page but was curious what would happen if I used it with acrylic inks.
The vaseline acts as a resist so that when I spray onto the page, where ever I’ve applied the vaseline, the ink doesn’t adhere. When the ink is dry, wipe it off and voilá! (Ok. The wiping off takes patience but it’s well worth it!)
The lighter spaces, including within the dark image on the left which was the photo on the page I was working on, remain untouched by the ink.
For me, this page speaks to the mystery of my mother’s faith, of life, of relationships, of the universe.
I see the scrolly piece at the bottom as the filigree frame that separated the penitent from the priest in the confessional.
The lone figure walking towards the lit area of the image on the left is me, searching for answers while staying true to myself — which was not always easy when my path took me far from the Catholicism of my mother’s way.
And the entreaty to, “Be. Here. Now.” is the reminder that the past is not alive in this moment, nor is the future.
Life lives in the now. It is here where the mystery flows with grace into the mystical nature of life, creating magic and wonder in my life today.
Now is where Life happens.
Celebrate it. Cherish it. Create beauty within it.
I have a memory of my parents. They are in their kitchen. My dad is making one of his famous stews, or perhaps bread. Dirty dishes cover the counter. There is lots of noise. My father was not a quiet man.
My mother is fluttering around him. She is trying to clean up his mess as he cooks.
“Leave it,” he mutters. “You’re getting in my way.”
She ignores him. He keeps muttering angrily. She stifles her tears at his angry words and keeps doing the dishes.
It was their way.
The kitchen was his domain. Keeping it clean was her contribution, except for those times when he would give way to her desire to prepare her ‘fancy’ dishes. He’d grumble and mutter about ‘fancy food’ being a waste. About how the aromas bothered his sinuses, especially garlic. You shouldn’t mask good, hearty food with that garbage, he’d continuously blurt out whenever mom prepared one of her beloved curries or special dishes redolent with the aromas of India and France spicing the air and dancing together on the palate.
Whenever my mother came to visit she would immediately gravitate to my kitchen and start to clear away dishes and wipe down counters.
Helping out was her way.
It was not my way so I’d shoo her away.
It was the story of our life.
My mother wanting to help out. Me rejecting her help.
I am still that way. I don’t like people in my kitchen. I don’t accept help easily.
Back then, I didn’t understand my mother’s love language. I didn’t understand that after a lifetime of being told by my father that she was ‘in the way’, she wanted to find a way to be of service in peace.
In her lifetime, I never found a way to let her help out in peace.
In my lifetime, I am making peace with the places where strife stirred our relationship into a mess. I am letting go of the hurts and cooking up a new way of being at peace.
This, “My Mother’s Prayers” altered book art journal, is my path.
Like a coat of white paint covering graffiti on a wall, I am painting the past with beautiful colours that weave a glorious tapestry of acceptance and forgiveness from the memories that litter my mind. Like crumbs leading me home to my heart, I am following their way into peace and harmony.
It is not our differences or all the moments we caused each other pain that matters in my life today. It is the beauty I create to honour their memory that transforms them into joy and peace and harmony.
My mother and I never had an easy relationship. In memory and in life, I am free to let go of the unease and fall with grace into the Love that was always there and always will be. Now and forever.
That is the way of a mother’s Love.
I am off to Vancouver tomorrow to visit my daughter and her beautiful family. For the next ten days, I shall be immersed in the joy of being with my grandchildren and sharing special moments on the coast.
C.C. and I debated about my going. The ‘second wave’ of the Corona Virus is expected to hit soon. Can I do the drive safely?
He was to have driven out before me with a friend, stopping to golf at several different courses along the way. After much consideration, he cancelled his trip but, we’ve decided that as long as I take all precautions, the risks are low. I do the 11-hour drive in one day, stopping only once for gas and calls of nature (which I plan for very carefully).
These are the times in which we live. Given Covid 19s presence and my aversion to flying in its midst as well as winter’s imminent arrival and the dangers of driving high mountain passes in winter months, this is probably the last time I’ll be able to see them until next spring.
I am grateful my daughter welcomes me with such love and grace.
I won’t have much time to post while I’m gone. See you sometime after the 15th.
There is a world of curious ‘mishaps’ beneath this painting. A world of giving into the questions. Like, “Hmmmm…. if I do [this], I wonder what will happen?” Or, “I really like the way it looks now. I wonder what would happen if I let go of the need to ‘like it’?”
Letting go of the need to ‘like it’ is hard for me. I want my art to be pretty. To be pleasing to the eye. To not disturb.
And that’s why I art journal. To strengthen my ‘letting go’ muscles.
I like to create ‘pretty’.
Pretty doesn’t always serve me well. Pretty can mean I’m playing it safe. Playing it for affirmation. Playing it for the outcome – which will hopefully become something I can sell.
Art Journalling isn’t about creating work to sell. It’s about selling yourself on the idea that creating for the pure joy of creating is a form of meditation, revelation and restoration.
This page had a couple of iterations. The first one above, which I really, really liked. The one on the right, which I hesitated to share because it makes my creative nerves shudder. And then the final one which makes me smile.
The really, really liked one got buried beneath the shudders one because I was curious about what would happen if I painted botanicals on top.
The final piece, which is all about experimentation – and a lesson in letting go – is because I felt compelled to cover up the ‘shudders’.
The blue petals are created from the masking tape I used to block off the edges of the page in my art journal. Its patterns were made as I monoprinted on the paper.
When I pulled them off the page after the paint had dried, I didn’t immediately crumble them up and throw them into the wastebasket. The patterns that had developed as I monoprinted fascinated me so I carefully hung them from the edge of my worktable. I didn’t have any idea what I would use them for, or if I would use them for anything. They simply intrigued me so I decided to save them.
It wasn’t until I ended up with ‘the shudders’ on top of the original monoprinted background and thought, ‘Oh my. Now that’s not particularly pleasing,’ that I thought about using the saved blue masking tape.
Which meant, I had to dive in and pull another monoprint of the page and start reworking it. (The white striated background)
And here’s the thing.
How we do one thing is how we do all things.
I was afraid of ruining the monoprint I really liked and hesitated to do anything else to it. But, I also knew my hesitation was fear-based and wanted to confront my fear – which I am very familiar with.
It’s all about that ‘precious thing’ syndrome. Holding onto things because I deem them precious, or because I don’t know what I might do with them and don’t want to let them go because I fear I’ll be limiting my options later.
Like the blue masking tape. I didn’t have a really good reason to hold onto it other than that it intrigued me. Sure, finding a use for it was a bonus but if I step back and reflect on things I’ve held onto because of the fear of letting go was high, I’d find a wealth of material for personal exploration of my ‘fear of letting go’ syndrome.
Like right now. I fear letting this blog post go because I’m not sure I’ve really explored it adequately.
But, I also know this is a lifelong exploration for me. This post doesn’t have to be perfect or beautiful, or even witty.
In fact, it doesn’t need to be anything other than a reflection of where I’m at right now and how I’m navigating these spaces.
The biggest ‘fear’ to overcome right now, is my fear of showing ‘my ugly’.
And the ‘shudder painting’ is all about ‘my ugly’.
I don’t like it. I want to ignore it. I want to pretend it didn’t happen.
Life, like art, doesn’t work that way. ‘The ugly’ is as vital to a rich and beautiful life as the pretty.
Finding value in ‘the ugly’ enriches my life. It creats vibrant, unexpected gifts that keep expanding possibility into sacred knowing of the essence of who I am when I let go of being anything and anyone other than who and how I am in this moment right now.
Real. Vulnerable. Embodied in the present moment. Breathing into the joy held within the darkness and the light. The joy and the sorrow. The beauty and the ugly. The known and the unknown.
If you look closely at the painting above you will see it is mostly painted on cloth.
I was having fun playing with the eco-dyed cotton I created last week.
And here’s the deal. ‘Fun’ is the operative word. I was not trying to make art. I wasn’t trying to create something ‘perfect’. I was simply having fun exploring what happens if…
That’s art journalling. Exploring the what if’s of what happens when you let go of needing a purpose or destination to whatever you’re doing and just let yourself fall into the pure joy of self-expression that has no agenda, no intended outcome, no purpose other than to explore your creative essence.
Life is the art of living fearlessly in the beauty of this present moment.
‘Making art’ is just a means to access the creative core that resides in each of us through whatever medium we choose to employ.
For me, those mediums include paint, paper, (fabric too!) dried flowers and leaves (as in the cover of the handmade journal I created out of scrap papers.
My mediums also include the words I write, food I create, table settings, and a host of other everyday things I use to create beauty in my world. It’s all creative expression. My way.
Your creative expression will be different. It is a reflection of you. Your inner and outer world. Your experiences, preferences, likes and dislikes. But make no mistake, whatever you are doing, it is a creative expression of YOU! And because it is a reflection of you, it is, by its very nature, beautiful. You are beautiful just the way you are.
Make it Beautiful is both my motto and achilles heel. I struggle to keep in mind that sometimes my self-expressions aren’t so much ‘beautiful’ as much as one big beautiful mess.
Like this handcrafted journal I created at the beginning of August and continue to sporadically work on. It was an invitation from an online forum/art group I belong to, “Get Messy Art“.
Its pages are all bits and pieces of scrap paper. Different sizes, textures, colours, heaviness. The beauty of it is its ‘mess’.
And… confession… I struggle with the ‘mess’ of it all. I struggle to let go of my judgement of what is beautiful . I want to create pretty pictures. Not beautiful messes.
Which is why I’m sharing it here. To find the beauty in all of it… The places I judge as the good, the bad and the ugly.
It’s my invitation to ‘loosen up’. To give me the freedom of letting my not so ‘pretty’ parts show too. To quieten that voice within that likes to hiss in my ear, “What will ‘the neighbours’ think?” Or, one of the critter’s favourites, “They’ll laugh at you and not take you seriously.”
And that’s why art journalling is so powerful. It not only gives me a medium to express myself through words and art, it allows me to dive into those spaces within where I find myself hiding out from being ‘real’.
Being real to me is more than just ‘being authentic’. It means I allow myself to be vulnerable in my beauty and my beast nature. I allow all of me, warts and wounds and wisdom to be seen – because as this art journal so beautifully expresses for me, we are not just ‘the good’, we’re also the pieces of ourselves we want to hide. The scraps and broken places where we fear that if others saw them, they’d laugh at us, or mock us, or shun us.
We are all of who we are — not just the pretty parts we like to show off, but the dark spaces too.
Like the moon needs the sun’s glow to be seen in the dark, we need our darkness to let our true, inner beauty radiate.
That’s what art journalling has taught me. Again and again. To be grateful for the joy and the pain, the ease of passage and the turbulent seas. To be grateful and to express myself in every way my heart desires.
Oh. And to let my judgements go and simply Have Fun!
My mother prayed. A lot. No matter the time of day, situation, pressing need, she would pray.
After she passed away, my sisters and I sorted through her belongings and came across the leather pouch where she stored her many prayer cards.
None of us knew what to do with them so I took them, thinking I’d eventually use them in an art piece.
That time has come.
On Tuesday, I started a mixed media online course with Orly Avineri. Orly is my kind of creative force. Free-flowing. No ‘steps’. Just you, the muse, your intuition. And the courage to take risks.
The first exercise includes an invitation to use whatever papers are on hand, affix them to a page and create.
My mind immediately leapt to my mother’s prayer cards. This would be a good home for them. Not just on the first page, but on every page I create in this art journal.
In this case, the journal is an old book I found in a box that I’m willing to release to the creative forces. It is part of a set of three I’ve had for years. Unique to this one is the way the inside pages are inserted. They are all upside down.
A book with upside-down pages seemed appropriate at this time. The world right now feels a little topsy-turvy. Like everything we once knew, relied on, took for granted is no longer so dependable. So known. So inevitable.
There are no mistakes.
Working on this art journal, “My Mother’s Prayers” is stirring up my thoughts and feelings and memories of my Catholic upbringing, my mother’s prayers and her unshakable faith and our relationships. It is giving me pause to look at it all through different glasses, angles, lenses, perspectives. Upside down included.
Yesterday, I completed my third 2-page spread in the book. As with the previous two, this spread also includes a couple of the cards from mom’s collection.
As I created the page using flowers from the garden that were at the end of their life-cycle, my mind swept back to childhood days when my sister and I would help mom with the flowers in church on Saturdays.
I go back to this memory a lot. As if somehwere in that sacred space I might somehow find the key to where my mother’s and my relationship went off the rails.
Because it was. For much of our life together, not a very well functioning relationship.
In one of Orly’s videos for the course, she talks about how it’s important to live within the gifts, not the trauma of the past.
There were many, many gifts that came through my relationship with my mother. It helped forge the backbone of who I am today and who I am as a mother, an artist, a woman, a human being.
In her final years, the tensions between us eased. In her passing, they fade away leaving behind only Love and memories of the sacred moments of grace we shared.
The gifts in those moments are what fill me up today. They give me peace, hope, faith, Love.
Perhaps, one of its gifts is also in the surrendering of any guilt I may be unknowingly carrying from the past.
And I smile as I write the word ‘guilt’.
How very ‘Catholic’ of me.
My middle sister and I used to joke a lot about our Catholic guilt. We were good at it. Doused in it as children, it felt only natural to carry it into our adult years.
It took me years, and lots of therapy, to realize guilt is not natural. Nor is it constructive.
It can however, be a powerful force for change.
To not carry guilt, I must clean up my messes. It isn’t about tidying up the past as much as honouring it so that I can let it go without feeling… guilty.
And so, I create.
A book of prayers. For my mother. For me. For my daughters. My soon to be born grand-daughter.
A book of prayers that begins with the words I wrote on the very first 2-page spread. Words that surprised me even as I wrote them: “The crosses we carry through the centuries burden us with their blind faith in what to believe in the here and now. Their weighty presence strangles our breath as we struggle to free ourselves of the guilt and shameof a past we cannot change.“
I cannot change the difficult times with my mother.
I can honour our past, all of it, and in the here and now, celebrate and cherish her beautiful thread in the tapestry of my life.
Being the mother she was, her spirit is praying for all of us now.
What a wonderful gift of life and death in an unending circle of Love that remains, as always, nourished by my mother’s prayers.