December 2016 art journal pages

While cleaning out my craft room I rediscovered my list of intentions for 2016.  I’d not done many of them – perhaps because I lost the intention list.  Can’t get anywhere without a map. Some I had done, and was glad.  Some I’d forgotten about, and have refocused my commitment.  One thing on it was to make an art journal page at least once a week.  I had some time off from work so I decided to catch up a bit.


“Fragile” – 12/12/16 – 12/15/16       Distress Ink, ephemera, gel pen


(detail of “Fragile”)


“Doppelganger” – 12/15/16  Distress ink, ephemera, colored pencil, gel pen, water


(detail for “Doppelganger”)


“To be a queen” – 12/16/16   Distress ink, stamps, gel pen, colored pencil


(Detail – “To be a queen”)


“Paramecium” made around 12/22/16   copied images from 100 year old Biology textbook, Distress ink, broken glass glitter, gel pen, matte medium, Sharpie, white gel pen


(detail, Paramecium)


“Shamash” – 12/28 and 29th, 2016   5th and 6th nights of Chanukah.  Distress ink, stamps, gel pen, Sharpie


(Detail, “Shamash”)



Travel (by) stamps

Some journeys are private…

1 …where we venture out alone, with few provisions.

2 Everything is a surprise, or a delight,or a wonder, or a challenge…

3 to be enjoyed or dealt with on our own.

But sometimes we travel with others. Then there are more decisions to make.

4 How shall we travel? How shall we move from here to there?

5 By helicopter? Or skis?

6 Or the unknown and as-yet unnamed?

7 Perhaps we will take a plane…

8 …to Spain?

9 Or a tiny boat with only room enough for five…

10 …to visit a mountainside where homes crowd atop each other.

11 Perhaps we will sail away in a ship out of the mists of time…

12 …to an island fortress long forgotten?

13 Or take a rickety, rumbling cable car up a hillside…

14 …to discover a medieval village unaffected by modernity?

15 Warmer climes, you say? Then we will travel by camel…

16 …and stay with Bedouins…

17 …perhaps enlisting the help of a local herdsman…

18 …to enjoy the wildlife…

19 …from a safe distance…

20 …for them…

21 and for us.

22 Then maybe you’ll tell me you can fly

23 …and we discover a land forgotten by time.

24 Maybe you’ll prove to have secret talents and we will travel in a small black box…

25 …to visit a large black box.

26 While there, we fall in love with minarets…

27 …and towers…

28 …even discovering that we now notice towers (bell, clock, and otherwise) in Western climes.

29 We are grateful for the new eyes our travels have given us.

30 We can fly to islands…

31 …where animals outnumber people.

32 There, we can ride a horse into the forest…

33 …to discover those who stand out …

34 …and those who hide.

35 Or we can take a canoe…

36 …along the shore…

37 …to see animals at a safe distance,
both large…

38 …and small.

39 Even America has undiscovered lands…

40 …filled with animals who are majestic and rare,

41 or common and equally beautiful.

42 p42

43 Travelling further, we see beauty everywhere we look.

44 Some of it stark…

45 …some of it serene.

46 We decide to take some of the beauty home with us, to decorate our table.

(This was assembled by hand in a 65 x 80 centimeter travel book. I wrote the words on the left side, and glued the stamps to the right. The book was purchased at least 12 years ago as a Christmas gift, yet it never found a home. It stayed in my gift basket all that time. Most of the stamps were given to me by a friend in a massive box from an estate – it was a man’s entire lifetime collection, unsorted, some glued together from damp. I sorted them into categories over a long weekend. That alone took at least 10 hours. Then I sorted out the stamps for this and worked on it over the course of a few weeks. I scanned, cropped, and uploaded this in a day – that took another three hours.)

Island adventure (with stamps)

My friend Kate and I decided that we wanted to go explore the Island across from us. We live on the mainland, and going to the Island has always been our dream. Nobody that we knew had been, so we wanted to be the first in our group of friends.

It isn’t something that is done casually, we discovered. It turns out that you have to apply for permission to go there. We didn’t know this and almost got into a lot of trouble.

We set sail on a sunny morning in September. We paid our fare to ride on a sailboat out to the Island. The captain must have thought that we had all of our papers in order because he didn’t ask us any questions. He could have saved us a lot of trouble.


There were many different kinds of sailboats in the water between the mainland and the island. When we got closer, we noticed that there were actually two islands. From the mainland, it looked like there was only one. We sailed for about an hour, enjoying the salt air and the sound of seagulls. The captain offered us tea and cookies but we declined. Having never sailed before, we were a bit queasy. Also, we’d packed a lunch for later that we were looking forward to.

The captain expertly steered his sailboat right up to a dock and waves us off. We thanked him and started to look around. There wasn’t much activity going on here. This must not be the commercial area. Perhaps this side of the island was just for tourists like us. It looked like we were the only ones today. This was surprising, since it was such a beautiful day and school was out. Where were the families? Where were the young couples?

Then these guards came up to us.


It was hard to take them seriously with their huge coconut helmets. They must be twins too. Look at all those awards! They have to be wearing these for show. No real soldier who means business would wear all of that nonsense on duty. We relax. Maybe everything is going to be fine.

He takes us to the guard booth and makes us wait. We can’t go further on the island until he can confirm our story, and he can’t do that until he can get a translator. He picks up a phone and tries it.


No signal. He picks up an older one. He has the same result. He picks up the oldest style and it works.

After about ten minutes another guard comes.


He looks at us suspiciously and speaks to us in a language we’ve never heard. When he sees that we don’t understand it, he tries another. And yet another. It is just like with the phones – no connection. By the fourth try we have something that will work. It isn’t a first language for any of us, but it will do.

He interrogated us for about thirty minutes. Somehow we managed to say all the right things and we are free to wander the island without an escort. This is the best possible outcome. We were afraid we’d be sent back home. Maybe he thought we weren’t a security risk because we were school age. Whatever the reason, we were grateful that our adventure could continue.

They had a few rules we weren’t aware of. We weren’t allowed to take pictures. They took away our cameras while we were on the Island, only letting the captain of the ship give them back to us when we were back at sea. We weren’t even allowed to draw pictures of what we saw. They are sure secretive! They didn’t exactly swear us to secrecy, but they sure didn’t want us talking too much about what we saw. Maybe some of our friends had been here, but just had been too afraid to tell us.

I decided to write letters back to myself on the mainland, and use their stamps to illustrate what we saw. They are certainly different about keeping in touch here! They don’t use phones very often. Nobody has a computer. They communicate in person or by mail. They are really thrifty too – they use stamps from all over. They don’t make their own. There is probably something about security in this idea too, but I haven’t thought about it much.

There are no maps for this island. It isn’t very big so you can’t get lost for long. We decided that we wanted to see as much variety as possible, so we went wandering. We went walking into the forest first.

2bonsai forest

There certainly was no fear of getting lost in this forest. It was composed entirely of bonsai trees. These beautiful old trees only reached to our knees. After about ten minutes walk the trees started to get bigger, but still not so tall that we couldn’t see our way through. There were wide easy paths to walk on as well. It was beautifully laid out and made for an easy stroll.

While walking in the tiny forest, I noticed this huge blue dragonfly.


He sat calmly on an immense fern and let me get really close to him. I marveled at how shiny he was and how he sparkled. He looked like he was made of gemstones, but he was alive. Maybe this was why this island is so well guarded.

Shortly afterwards I saw a lovely box turtle.


He was walking away from an unusual orange flower. I think he was trying to eat it, but didn’t like the taste. The turtle reminded me when I was a child. I used to rescue turtles who were crossing the road. Sometimes they didn’t make it to the other side. Sometimes they made it to my house instead. Boy, were they surprised! I left this one where he was. If they didn’t want me taking pictures, I’m pretty sure they didn’t want me taking wildlife.

We came upon a hillside covered with castles.


Normally hillsides are covered with flowers. These weren’t anywhere near as welcoming as flowers. Maybe this is what they were trying to protect. There were five huge stone castles, stacked almost on top of each other. We turned away, sure that we’d not be welcome here.

By this point, we were getting very hungry. We sat on the hillside that had the castles, but not in view of them. I put down my poncho so Kate and I could have a sort of a picnic. She took out our peanut butter and jam sandwiches from her satchel and we quietly ate them, thinking about how unusual our trip had gone. Our lemonade had gotten warm, and it wasn’t that sweet anymore. We looked around and saw just over the hill a large field of strawberries –

2 strawberries

and blueberries.


We ate ourselves sick on them, and curled under a normal-sized tree for a nap.

When we woke, we were being stared at by a bunch of black birds.


They were all the same, and all chirping animatedly at us. They looked a little ominous, with their sharp beaks and shiny black feathers. More started coming so we left the area and kept on exploring. We were concerned that their cries would draw attention to us and we’d not be allowed to stay all day.

Soon we found another tree to sit under. This one had three birds sitting on the same branch.

2tree birds

We liked the fact that they were all different and all getting along. We thought maybe this was the nicer part of the island.

Then we went to the shoreline and looked at the fish. We saw some large fish that looked like they were fencing with each other. I wonder how they decide who won, with three of the fencing at the same time?

2sword fish

Then we saw a huge school of fish, all swimming in the same direction.

2peace fish

We wandered on a little further and found a cove with only pink sea life.

2pink fish

Well, they all looked pink. Maybe it was just the light at that time of day. The sun was starting to go down, so we knew it was time to leave. We were told when we arrived that we had to leave before the sun set – no exceptions. There were no hotels on the island, and they didn’t like the idea of putting us up in a private house. We wondered how (or why) anybody moved here.

As the sun’s light was fading, we sailed back to our home. We loved the fact that the island was so large that it took two stamps to illustrate it.


One day wasn’t enough to explore all of this island. I’m sure there were more curious parts to it. If only we had more time. If only we were allowed to stay. If only never gets you anywhere, though. I’m just grateful there was a way to show you what we’d seen that honored their requests.

Memory postcard 3, Me the astronaut

This is what happens when I remember a picture but I can’t find it. I put things together in a way that remind me of it.


One of my favorite pictures of me as a child was me standing on my grandparent’s porch wearing a plastic astronaut helmet. I’m not sure why that was part of the toy collection. It was larger than my head by far, and had a green visor that could open up. So I could see the world with a green tint, or not.

I can’t find that picture, but I can find this one. It was from around the same time.

I considered making an astronaut helmet for me in this picture – watercolor paper and pencils, green acetate – but then I realized if I did that, my face would be obscured. There is enough of that in the other two memory postcards.

Here is a closer picture of me.


Then I added the “Women in space” stamp. I’ve used a photocopy of it for another project, but here I’m using the real thing. I love her smile.


Here are the fortunes.


I included things to remind me of my childhood and also point towards the future. What instructions would I like to give my former self and my future self?

My aunt mockingly calls hearing from God – at least when my Dad (her brother) did it – getting “Messages”. I think that she mocks it because she has never heard from God.

…lost penny…
My Mom was big on shiny pennies. She’d give me them for good luck. I’d almost forgotten that. It also reminds me of the parable of the lost coin – how God will go out of the way to find it. We are the lost coins, and we are precious to God.

…Never be less than your dreams…

Seems like a good message for then, now, and future me. My dreams are something to aspire to. And, they are like the mustard seed – from small things can grow big things. I just have to remember that Jesus tells us we have that energy inside us. If God gives us the desire to do something, we can do it. It isn’t just a fantasy – it is the seed of a reality. We have to give it energy to make it grow, and trust the process.

Collage, not painting

          I finally figured something out.  I don’t have to paint fine details.  I can do collage.  I can draw what I want separately, using watercolor pencils on watercolor paper.  Then I cut it out and glue it to the painting.  This is such a relief.

          One of my problems is that my ideas far outstretch my abilities.  I’m not very good at painting yet.  I’m trying, but it is going to take a while.  Meanwhile all these ideas keep coming that would work best using painting.

          I have taken only one art class, and that was in high school.  I don’t really know what I’m doing.  I feel like a feral child, wanting to communicate but I don’t have a language.  So I’m making it up as I go.

          One of my fears with painting is there is no “undo” button.  If I make a mistake, it is hard to fix.  It isn’t like working digitally.  Plus, it doesn’t work well with my schedule.  If I only have 20 minutes to work on art, there isn’t really enough time to paint and clean up.

          I have a space painting I was working on.  I’d created the black background earlier.  Just remembering to paint the background first was a big deal.  I thought I was going to paint planets and stars on it.  In the meantime, I started sorting stamps and fortune cookie messages, and came across an old packet of just space stamps.  They are pretty awesome, and I thought I should use them here.  But since they are so rare and I’m so unsure of my abilities, I went ahead and color copied them.

          Yes, I wrote a whole blog post about not doing that.  Yes, I did it.  Whatever makes the art happen counts.  I used funny scrap-booking scissors to cut the edges.  It is more interesting than a plain square cut, and it sort-of gives the impression that it is a stamp.  I looked for scrap-booking scissors that cut like stamp edges, but I didn’t find them.  I had these, and I used them.

          I really liked one stamp of a lady astronaut.   I plan on mixing in other stamps and calling this piece something like “Can’t we all get along / In Space” and having Space be the place where women and men are finally equal and respected.

          The stamp is a bit disembodied though.  I didn’t want just her head floating around.  So I wanted to paint a body for her, but again I felt like I would mess it up.   Then I had a flash.  Draw it separately using watercolor pencils and cut it out.   I put the stamp on the paper for scale and drew around it.  It worked great.


I’ve been using watercolor pencils for a year now, so I’m comfortable with them.  I pulled out an older piece that I don’t really like and tested the fixatives on it.   I used decoupage glue on one section, and matte medium on another.  From that I learned what will work best and how to apply it.  I also used some of the matte medium on a color copied stamp to see if it would affect it.  I know it works great on real stamps, but this is different.  So I put it together and I can’t be more pleased.

          I don’t really know why I didn’t think of this sooner.  Matisse did something like this in his later years.  He cut out construction paper and glued it together.  Eric Carle does this – he paints big pieces of paper and cuts them out.  This isn’t quite the same, but in a way it is.

          I am also working on a painting with inuksuit – the Inuit rock sculptures.   They aren’t just sculptures – they provide direction and tell something about the area.  One will indicate a good place to hunt.  One will indicate a beautiful thing to look at in the distance.  One will mark an initiation area.  Each different shape has meaning, and is often the only way to navigate in a snowy land.

          Here is a picture of one that indicates a direction to travel. It reminds me of a Japanese torii gate.



I was going to draw the whole thing with this new technique and then I had another idea. Draw the stones separately, and assemble them.


Sure, I’ll work on getting better at painting using brushes. That is the only way to get in any detail. But in the meantime, I’m glad I’ve discovered this.

Memory Postcard 2 – My Mom and me.

Mom and me

I decided to make another memory postcard, but this time with a picture of my Mom and me. I find it interesting that in both of these memory postcards my face is hidden, and water is involved. In the one with my grandmother, my hair is wet because I’ve been swimming in the pool at the Holiday Inn. In this one, I’m totally wet because I’d been swimming in the ocean.

More like near-drowning instead of swimming. I wasn’t a very good swimmer. I’m not a great one now, but I know enough to swim only in pools with lifeguards nearby.

This picture really tugs at my heart. It is really hard for me to look at, because of the look of love in my Mom’s face. I can tell that all of her being is locked right into me in this moment. It has been twenty years and I still miss her.

I felt like I had a great childhood. Some anomalies are rising up, though, that let me know it wasn’t that wonderful. I obscured a lot. I forgot a lot. I also didn’t know what I was missing.

What I was missing was some education. My Mom didn’t teach me how to take care of myself. Gardening, cooking, keeping house, sewing, – she did it all and kept it to herself. I don’t know why. Some of it might have been her attitude of “It is easier to do it myself”. I have some of that attitude. I need to work on it.

I’ve started to talk with my Mom and make peace with her while I bake. I bake banana bread every week as part of our breakfast. We connect this way. It is our time together. In a way, I’m teaching her what I needed to know. I’m becoming the Mom to my Mom, while re-parenting myself.

I mounted it on art paper that was made using dried flowers. I’ve had this paper for at least ten years. This is the first time I’ve used it.

Here’s a shot of the stamps.

I used a lot of stamps because I feel like it is a long way between her and me, and it needs a lot of postage. I put the one with the Queen first, because Mom was English. I like this one especially, because the building looks like it is Mont-St.-Michel, which is the original of St. Michael’s Mount in Cornwall. I visited there when I took Mom’s ashes to scatter. She couldn’t decide if she wanted her ashes in the backyard in her garden or in England. Cremation is easy. You can do both.

I’ve since moved, so I can’t visit or tend her garden. I have only visited England that one time.

I put a rose stamp because her ashes are mixed with the ashes of her parents and grandparents in a rose garden in Manchester. I put a morning glory stamp because it is beautiful and temporary, and they grow wild in my yard. This links there and here, where I am. This also reminds me to appreciate beauty wherever I may find it, and right then, because it won’t last long.

Here’s a close-up of the two of us together.


Such a shining smile she was giving me. I probably didn’t see it at the time. I was probably freaked out by the ocean. There are way too many experiences with me, my Mom, and uncontrolled water in my life.

Top left corner –

“A fond memory will soon lead to a renewed old friendship.” – I’m learning how to see my Mom as a friend and a guide. I’m learning, slowly, how to forgive her.

Lower left corner.

“Rely on long time friends to give you advice this coming week.” She advises me, now.

Lower right corner.

“Now is a good time to call a loved one at a distance from you.” You can’t get any further away than where she is, yet she is as close as my thoughts. I have to remind myself to keep the connection open.

“A friend will soon reveal an exciting secret to you!” – I felt like this was relevant. Perhaps prophetic?