Friday 29 April 2016

LifeBook Week 18: Reframing Your Story

I was going to complete a couple of LifeBook lessons that had I skipped over Easter, but when I saw this week's lesson by Effy Wild, I was so inspired that I had to do it straight away.

This lesson consists of two pages: a "skeleton page", which contains a possibly traumatic experience from our past, and the main page showing how we have overcome the negative effects of this past experience. The story is written in a continuous, scribble fashion, which makes it impossible to read, but has a great visual impact as a background for the the main page. I would like to share my story here on my blog, as I think it may have influenced my entire life. This will be a little long-winded, so feel free to skip to the photos at the end of this post.

My story

Like for many of us, my story goes back to my childhood. When I was about 9 or 10, in year four at primary school, I had a teacher who was a bully. There's no other way to describe her. I didn't realize at the time that she was a bully, because children don't question adults - they just accept their authority. To this day, I find it hard to believe that back then, in 1979, it was possible for a teacher to treat young children like she did.

Every now and then she would pick on one of us and humiliate us in front of the class for no reason at all, other than she must have hated children. She called it "being on stage". We would single someone out, who had to stand up while she told them how useless they were and how stupid they looked. I remember once she told me "if you could see yourself now" with disgust in her voice at which point one one of my classmates produced a mirror from her bag and shoved it my face. You don't ever forget something like that and it has a huge impact on your self-image. A couple of weeks later, she would move on to bully someone else and you were glad that it wasn't you anymore.

Sometimes the whole class got punished (for god knows what) and she would make us stand in silence for the entire lesson. We obviously didn't do any learning while this was going on.

In our traditional classrooms back then, we had the desks arranged in three columns: one next to the window, one in the middle of the room and one by the wall. She would put the "bright" kids in the "light" next to the window - I'm using her own words here! - the "medium" kids in the middle, and the "dumb" kinds in the "darkness". I'm not kidding! It wouldn't take long for a kid to realise that in a class of 30, there were only enough seats for 10 bright kids by the window, so if you had been relegated to the darkness, you had no chance of ever being promoted.

I still find it incredible that she got away with this! She never should have been allowed to teach children, or anyone else, for that matter. The funny thing is that the parents were in awe of her - they thought she was the best thing since sliced bread. I have no idea what image she projected of herself during the parent-teacher conferences, but it was obviously very different from reality.

I wonder what I would say to her if I was to see her again. She must have retired by now - she was in her twenties when all this took place, at the very beginning of her career. I would like to know what happened to her. I think her methods were misguided at best, and sometimes downright abusive. I wonder how much negative impact she had on children's development and how much psychological damage she caused throughout her teaching career. I certainly feel that my self-worth and self-confidence suffered a great deal as a result of her actions.

Of course, this happened a long-long time ago. I have since had many positive experiences as well to counterbalance the negative influences, which moulded me into the person that I am today. Granted, I'm not the most self-confident person in the world, but I know I'm good enough, which, incidentally, is the title of my page!

My Page

I followed the instructions rather closely for this lesson. However, instead of a human skeleton, I used an image of a skeleton leaf. To me, a leaf signifies a person's life - the veins being all the experiences we go through, both good and bad, intertwined throughout our lifetime.

I used the same colours as Effy on my main page: copper, gold, green gold, quinacridone nickel azo gold and burnt orange. At first, my page looked a bit flat, as there's not much contrast between some of these colours, but the outlining and a little shading made a lot of difference. The dots were made with Perfect Pearls.

This has been a very cathartic experience for me - thanks Effy for such a meaningful lesson! Here's the page I made built around my story.


If you're interested in joining  LifeBook, check out this link. Tam's already working on LifeBook 2017, but it's still not too late to sign up for 2016! 

Wednesday 20 April 2016

WOYWW #359: Digital Play

Hello lovely, crafty, arty people on this beautiful April morning (although it might be midday by the time I publish this post). WOYWW is the name of the game and everyone's welcome to join Julia's fun blog hop on the Stamping Ground!

I took this photo of my desk yesterday afternoon while working on a LifeBook project. I've since blogged it - you can see the finished page here. (Please don't feel obliged to follow the link - I know some of you have painfully slow connections and it can be frustrating waiting for stuff to open in a new window. The link is there for people who may be interested and are blessed with superfast internet!)

You can also see some fluid matte medium on my desk, which had just got delivered. I will be experimenting with those later. The Liquitex ultra matte medium is particularly good for muting the glossy shine of acrylic paints and can be used as a final coat as well. I haven't tried the Golden yet - it seems to be more fluid and less opaque.

As I haven't got anything else to show you at the moment, I thought I'd share some of my digital play this week. In my LB project above, I used some of my own digital paper. I did it by applying a 'bubble' filter to the photo of one of my palette papers. I printed it and used it as collage material. It's hugely satisfying to use patterned paper that you made yourself! Here's what it looks like:

I've also been collecting feathers for another project and took a photo of it. I ran a PhotoShop action on this one that I downloaded from The CoffeeShop Blog

And finally, no WOYWW post of mine would be complete without a photo of Oreo. I gave him aqua coloured eyes here! I know it's a bit cheesy, but I couldn't help it! 

Thanks for visiting! Wishing you all a happy Wednesday and a creative week!

Tuesday 19 April 2016

LifeBook Week17: Your Story, Your Altar

Week 17 of LifeBook brought us a thoroughly enjoyable lesson by Roxanne Coble. I adore her style! She combines intuitive painting with collage materials and applies a lot of doodling as a final layer. I did this project in record time and totally enjoyed it. This makes me think that I may have been doing intuitive painting the "wrong" way all this time, which is perhaps why I struggled with it so much. Could it be that using collage is what helped me break through the barrier? It definitely gave me direction and purpose, instead of staring at my flat painting asking 'what now'?  I will definitely explore Roxanne's technique further.

The lesson is titled 'Your Story, Your Altar'. It's made personal by the symbolism in the focal image. Roxanne asked us to think of a few milestones in our life and find imagery to symbolize those events. I put all my imagery into one symbol. The tea cup symbolises my move to England (a bit stereotypical, perhaps!), the triangle of equal sides is my marriage and family life (symbolising balance, compromise and harmony, not a love triangle!), the three port holes are the three of us in my family, the boat symbolises my journey through life (including my creative journey) and the circles around it stand for all my life experience so far, guiding me across the sea. Pretty powerful stuff, huh?

For the collage, I chose a magazine image of some sort of jewellery, which is now unrecognizable. I also used some stencilled tissue paper, scrapbooking paper and my own digital paper, which I'd found in my stash. Since none of my white pens worked, I used a china marker instead - I quite like that chalky look. I'm very happy with this page and I can't believe how easily it came together, considering that these types of "intuitive" projects used to wear me down completely.

Here's my completed page (photo #1), and I'll also show you the stage before adding the doodles (photo #2), as well as some close ups.

Sunday 17 April 2016

Image transfer onto canvas

I've been playing with my photos lately and I thought it would be nice to transfer some of them onto canvas. I have a whole bunch of small canvas boards that I bought a few years ago and wasn't sure what to do with. They're about 7" X 5" in size and perfect for this purpose. I used an acrylic gel medium transfer method, sticking a laser copy of my image face down and removing the paper by rubbing it off with wet fingers. If you're not familiar with this technique, you can see a video of this process here.

Here's my photo before and after editing. I used a free texture and action from my favourite Photoshop resource website, The CoffeeShop Blog to alter it for a muted look.

This is what I ended up with after transferring the image onto my canvas board. These gel transfers are seldom perfect, which is part of their charm. Because of this distressed look, they're better suited for transferring images of  objects rather than portraits. Although I have had successful transfers with portraits in the past, they are always a bit risky in case you accidentally remove the colour from strategic parts of the face, like the eyes, lips etc. With objects, it doesn't matter that much. And of course, always remember that your transfer will be the mirror image of the original, so flip it in your image editing program beforehand. I always forget this part, as you can see below!

The key to success is making sure there are no trapped air bubbles between the print and the substrate because that almost certainly will lead to an incomplete transfer. Some small parts of the image will inevitably rub off, but you don't want large chunks missing. 

The other mistake I sometimes make is not letting the gel dry completely. The waiting is undoubtedly the hardest part in this process! It's best to leave it to dry for several hours, or preferably overnight, however hard it may seem! 

Initially, I used a satin varnish to seal the surface, but I found it was too shiny so I applied a top coat of fluid matte medium to tone down the gloss. It worked beautifully! Here are some more photos of my finished project:

Happy Sunday! Hope you have a good week ahead!

Friday 15 April 2016

Inspiration Wednesday: Art is anything...

I'm not sure how I ended up with this page inspired by Donna Downey's Inspiration Wednesday #7, but this is what came out of me after watching the video.

The quote says "Art is anything you can get away with". Isn't that true?! This quote is often wrongly attributed to Andy Warhol, but it's actually by someone called Marshall McLuhan, if the Internet is to be believed. Well, this is my art and I'm trying to get away with it in my very own hot air balloon!

I used collage papers on the background, including brown packing paper based on Donna's idea, but I covered most of it up with subsequent layers. I just couldn't help myself! The letters and numbers were stencilled with a Tim Holtz stencil  and I cut my own hot air balloon stencil. I didn't make it for this page in particular - I just happened to have it in my stash. It was actually added as an afterthought. I stuck in a tag as an "inclusion", which contains the second part of the quote. The butterfly is a napkin transfer with some ball chain for the antennae.

I used Golden's raw umber, teal and quinacridone nickel azo gold colour combo. Perhaps I should start using other colours too, so my pages don't end up looking the same all the time, but these are my current favourites. Here are some photos.  I'm still experimenting with my camera's aperture settings, trying to find that "sweet spot" for the close-ups. Too much blur may not be a good thing.

Of course, Oreo had to muscle in for the last shot!
Thanks for visiting!
Wishing you all a creative weekend!

Wednesday 13 April 2016

WOYWW #358: Multi-purpose dining table!

These past couple of weeks have been a bit chaotic for me due to Easter and the school holidays. I had to share my resources (time/desk/computer) with other members of my family, and I didn't make enough of an effort to keep my blogging schedule on track, even though I could have.

The state of my desk (dining table) reflects this chaos perfectly. This photo was actually taken a week ago. I wanted to use it for WOYWW last week, but I ran out of time to link up. So, it's more like What Was On Your Work Desk Last Wednesday? in my case. It shows my hubby working on the laptop, with my son's SATs papers on the left and my arty mess in the foreground. And we regularly eat at this table as well! A truly multi-purpose dining table!

In the bottom right corner, you can see my latest Wanderlust project. You can see more of it here. There's also a sketch for a LifeBook lesson, that hasn't progressed any further yet. I'm still in a bit of a creative rut, although I get sparks of inspiration here and there. Like yesterday, when I created a tag from one of my ATC sized pieces I showed you last time. I stumbled upon a tutorial by Roben-Marie Smith, where she used similar cards on her tags. I was so inspired, I had to try it immediately. I even fired up my sewing machine which I hadn't used for a year! Here's my tag from two different angles:

You may have noticed that these photos were taken with a different camera. I bought a new lens for my old DSLR, which I have been neglecting in favour of my simple point-and-shoot. I'm trying to rekindle my passion for photography and perhaps develop a sideline of digital art in conjunction with mixed media. 

Luckily, I have a (not so) willing model in the form of Oreo to practice on. Here's a shot I took of him yesterday after I managed to tire him out. It would be a lot easier to take photos of flowers, I'm sure!

Thanks for visiting! 
Happy WOYWW!

Monday 11 April 2016

Wanderlust Week14: Connections (working in a grid)

It's been a week since my last blog post. I've had this Wanderlust project ready for a while, but I only just now felt compelled to blog it. The idea of working in a grid came from Mystele. She used torn strips of patterned paper and book paper to create a grid, filling the spaces with mini works of art.

My take on this was a little different. I filled the grid spaces with further collage and colour, then I used stencils and stamps for the imagery and added some sentiments along the way. The words are all meaningful to me and I tried to use Mystele's idea of making emotional connections between the boxes. This is quite a large piece - A3 in size, which is the largest I've ever worked on. It was an enjoyable process and I'm sure I will use this technique again and again in my journalling.

First, I'll show you the entire sheet and then a few section close-ups, followed by a couple of sections even closer, so you can see the underlying textures better. Just click on the first photo to launch the full screen gallery.

Thanks so much for visiting! 
With the school spring break over, I hope to return to regular blogging this week.