Following my heart continues

If you're visiting,  you may notice I seem to have vacated the premises. If you've been here before, you may recognize a pattern. Blog for a while. Stop. Blog for a while. Stop. Sorry about that—I'm actually a terrible blogger. Not that my posts are so bad (although some are, yes). I actually have a few pieces that are quite useful,  interesting and possibly even entertaining (the three horsemen, I think, that usher any good blog down the webstream). It's just that I seem to have a problem with consistently showing up. Here.  I don't have a problem showing up elsewhere in my life: for my family and friends, to my art journals, my art group and now art classes I'm teaching...and give me a new creative project and there I am, running with it. I can count at least 15 different projects I'm working on at the moment. And just so you know I'm no slacker (okay, let's be honest, to remind myself) here's the list:

15 Current Projects

1. AJ Daily Practice - at least something in my art journal (most) every day.

2. 52 Fiber Art Squares - yep, I'm still making a square a week; I'll take some pictures and share soon.

3. I'm editing a full length memoir (not mine) to be published

4-5. I'm taking two online classes

6. Learning to draw faces continues

7. I'm working on a canvas

8. And a group collage canvas

9. I still make ATCs

10. And handmade mixed media book(s)

11-12. I'm really getting into visual journaling (both study and practice--I count this as two projects)

13. I have an erratic sketching practice

14. And an occasional exercise in learning to paint

15. (not yet announced)

I feel bad about not keeping Hello Heart going. I'm sorry about that. But here's the thing: when you have to force something, it's not right. If you're heart isn't in it, you shouldn't be, you know?

So I've been wrestling with my blog regret (and shame) all the while I didn't blog these last few months and all the while I've been joyfully creating and learning and collaborating in my face-to-face life...and of course!

I AM already doing what I need to do in the world:

Beginning with my art journals, I'm empowering my creative self  to lead the way in my life to all kinds of creative projects and collaborations...to my creative life.

And I'm teaching others to find their own  power with their art own journals to give their creative selves the same license to do what they want to do in the world, too.

What I need, I realized, is a different kind platform that will allow me to help more people.

And what was truly an immediate, intuitive flash, I saw:

My Next Thing.

I'll be announcing it soon.

 

 

 

52 Weeks—52 Fiber Collage Squares #5-7

52logoThis is my little weekly fiber arts project.  Find out more about it here.

Weeks Five, Six, Seven

fiber weeks 4-6These fiber squares above are actually from week's four, five and six. I already posted week four here. But I wanted to show the full series. Here is the fiber collage for week seven:

fiber week 7 sm

I'm still really enjoying my weekly challenge of creating a 4X4" square of any fiber scraps, found objects and thread. However, I think it's not very interesting to post about each square each week. I imagine if I find it tedious, so would anyone else, so I'm going to fall back and post groupings of them after I accumulate several weeks' worth.

These fiber squares don't take me more than a few hours. My routine begins by designing them toward the end of the week and then working on them in spare hours over to the weekend to complete. It's really relaxing to sit in my chair with a glass of wine and stitch away.

I'm remembering how to embroider and that's fun, and I'm definitely working with composition. Doesn't matter what kind of material. What I learn as I fuss with balance and unity and contrast, etc. in fabric/objects/thread is definitely what I take to any other art project on paper or canvas or whatever. Overall, just a low-risk, relaxing set of exercises, really. Like weekly sketching or any other practice. Here's some close-ups:

fiber week 5

fiber week 6

Fiber week 7

AJ Daily Practice: February Pages

Back story: Day by day, I add to my art journal. Over several days I complete a spread. And then I begin again. These are my notes where I reflect on my pages and record what I learn.  If you're curious about how much time I spend and generally why I spend time in my art journal, I can tell you this:  Some days I spend only five minutes, some days I look up after an hour or more, and some days—yes, I skip. But most days, I art journal.  I do not art journal to record time, but to make it a practice to BE in time. Time to be creative, to experiment, to play and to learn. It’s a regular date with myself. Like what I used to do on the yoga mat. Breathe. Check in. How are you? How’s the universe? What should we create today? This is my practice. Time to catch you up with the pages in my art journal this month.

February 1-5: Nothing else is more fun

AJFeb1-5-15

I began the month just playing in my art journal. I threw some ink on the background and then just played with stencils, stamps, collage, pens and paint. Completely abstract and fun. I love the colors most on this page and the fact that I did let loose a little (one of my challenges for sure). I really like the doodling on this page and enjoyed doing it—it's relaxing. I admire others' work when it includes a lot of doodling and I look to doodle myself, so I definitely need to do more of it. The challenge is to slow down long enough and often enough to fill a page with small marks.  I could have gone further, layered more, doodled more. Still more loosening up to be done for sure...that is my journey.

February 6-8: Swan song

AJ2-swan-15

So I've been holding onto this image for a while now--something about it grabbed me and wouldn't let go. I pulled it out again and decided that rather than use the image for collage or a photo transfer I wanted to paint it. I used ink in the background to catch the likeness of the wetlands and I think it worked well. Ink is just the right translucence. I'm just a beginning painter and I have to say I surprised myself. It's certainly not a masterpiece, but I did think when I finished it: "Huh. You can do that?"

(Yes, I do talk to myself and I just now realized these conversations are in the second person! Odd? Normal? Not sure. Don't care.)

To finish the spread, I tipped in the original image to keep a record of the photo reference. Oh, and during those days I worked on the swan, I went with my daughters to the DeYoung to see the Keith Haring exhibit before it closed (what a genius he was in his short life!). So I stuck my museum sticker there in the corner as a date reference.  Anyway, huge learning just in the doing. I am reminded that really, the only way to learn is to do.

February 9-18: Filled with The Blue Horses

AJ2-bluehorses-15

While I was working on the background on this spread, I listened to the Mary Oliver interview with Krista Tippett on her On Being podcast (if you haven't listened to Tippett before—oh my gosh, you must listen. Go right to ITunes and subscribe!) I spent several days messing with the background using tissue papers on top of paint on top of neocolor crayons on top of more tissue and stamps and more paint...I didn't know where I was going with it the whole spread, but I think I played with the colors and lines a bit longer than I would have if it wasn't for that interview (which I listened to twice, both the edited and uncut versions). Oliver read several of her poems at Tippett's request, but I was struck with the one she chose to read herself, Franz Marc's Blue Horses (scroll down on that link and you can hear her read it.) With my background as far as I could take it, I decided that I'd make this spread about the poem. Note that I made the decision after my background had been completed. That's important because I next went to find the poem AND the painting she is talking about...and it's a little coincidental that the color palette I was working with is pretty much the one Marc had used! I love serendipity! A little nod from the universe...Anyway, I'm not thrilled with the wheel thing or really the aesthetics of the whole page—but this page reminds me that sometimes working is my art journal is about so much more than "pretty".

AJdemonwhirringbrain

February 19-28: Demon Whirring Brain

I splashed paint randomly on these pages first with this new color palette I'm really liking: primary red, cadmium yellow light and bright aqua green (Liquitex Basics). Added some white, too. The background colors really inspired me. I added the paisley stencil on the left first, then collaged in the two images, and from there the doodling and painting continued. I find I'm in a really creative swirl right now. I have so much I want to do and I can't seem to work fast enough or often enough...and so clearly this page became about me defeating—who else but "demon whirring brain"! I like the background a lot and the fact that the dates fit in the boxes is bonus. This was just a fun page. Not sure I learned anything—except to be reminded that sometimes arting is such a good way to process what's going on in my life...gotta remember to do more of that.

 

AJ Daily Practice: Love Feels Like Beauty

AD Daily HeaderBack story: Day by day, I add to my art journal. Over several days I complete a spread. And then I begin again. These are my notes where I reflect on my pages and record what I learn.  If you're curious about how much time I spend and generally why I spend time in my art journal, I can tell you this:  Some days I spend only five minutes, some days I look up after an hour or more, and some days—yes, I skip. But most days, I art journal.  I do not art journal to record time, but to make it a practice to BE in time. Time to be creative, to experiment, to play and to learn. It’s a regular date with myself. Like what I used to do on the yoga mat. Breathe. Check in. How are you? How’s the universe? What should we create today? This is my practice. ajlovefeelslikebeauty

January 28-31: Beauty Feels Like Love

On a mission to experiment more with ink, I used liquid  permanent ink and water to create the bright multi-colored background. Then I painted my first face with acrylics to appear in any of my art journals. I've been avoiding faces—I'm not really interested in making whimsical faces or realistic portraits—but I've decided that I'd love to develop a stylized woman of my own someday to represent parts of me in my artwork, and I know that must come after I learn how to paint  a basic face. First steps first.  So that's one of the reasons why I'm focusing on faces in my February mastery series and that's why I painted her here in this spread. What better place to learn than in my AJ? I studied a few videos first, particularly Effy Wild's lady in the fourth week of her current Book of Days workshop series (of which I am a member) as well as Andrea Wolford's guest post on Donna Downey's blog. Both were very helpful to get me started!

How I mixed the media

Dr. PH Martin's Bombay India Ink, acrylic paint, permanent ink black pens (Farber-Castel & Micron), stencils, stamps—and oh, there's some negative stencil stamping in the background that was clean-up from a prior page...

What I like about this page

◊ The colors of the ink in the background. India ink is both transluscent and saturated, bright color. And permanent so of course any wet media on top is fine.

◊ The quick journaling around the edge - captures the time I worked on this spread.

◊ I do like my first girl, despite the fact that I also have many criticisms. But I do like the nose and mouth and the shading...and the purple irises (which was in the background, not painted in)...and the blurred lashes.

AJ love feels

What I learned

◊ How to paint a face! It's not perfect, but I understand the magic, now, of blending paint.

◊ Ink and water is a nice way t spread rich color around.

What I could have improved

◊ Well, the eyes aren't right, I know. Way too big and out of proportion--and actually in a style that isn't compatible with the rest of her features (whimsical in more realistic face, I think).

◊ I really don't know how to paint hair!

◊ Shading skills still need development.

◊ The ink background could have been blended better. Ink dries super fast, even with water, so it will take some practice.

◊ I could have worked with the background to develop the landscape more.

ajlovefeelsstart

Notes for future

Continue taking risks. Practice with more faces. Play with the techniques used in the facial features.

AJlovefeels close

I hope my notes give you some ideas for your own creative work. Thanks for stopping by!

AJ Daily Practice: Crazy Sunburst

AD Daily HeaderBack story: Day by day, I add to my art journal. Over several days I complete a spread. And then I begin again. These are my notes where I reflect on my pages and record what I learn.  If you're curious about how much time I spend and generally why I spend time in my art journal, I can tell you this:  Some days I spend only five minutes, some days I look up after an hour or more, and some days—yes, I skip. But most days, I art journal.  I do not art journal to record time, but to make it a practice to BE in time. Time to be creative, to experiment, to play and to learn. It’s a regular date with myself. Like what I used to do on the yoga mat. Breathe. Check in. How are you? How’s the universe? What should we create today? This is my practice. AJ23-27crazysunburst

January 23—27, 2015: Crazy Sunburst

I just had fun adding more patterns each day of this spread. The base began with gesso and then splashing watercolor around randomly. I then sketched in the basic sunburst using a jar lid and a ruler and adding secondary lines within each beam. I took my time over those several days to journal and then filled one or two sets of sunbeam segments at a time using mostly stamps and stencils and also doodling. It took more time than you'd think as I had to mask off each segment using two recycled sheets of plastic on either side of a beam, sticking them down with painter's tape and then laying my stencil down or stamping across the open section. I collaged the girl in the end as a final image.

How I mixed the media

Gesso, watercolor, ink pads, acrylic paint, stencils, stamps, ink pens, collage

What I like about this page

◊ The color! I think it's a good balance of pinks grounded by blues.

◊ This page makes me happy. The patterns and shapes please me.

◊ The collage piece. She looks like she's lying on a rug in her bedroom. Me in sixth grade...

AJ2-23-27-15close

What I learned

◊ Masking off sections and then stamps and stenciling over the edges is more challenging than I thought it would be, but the effect is worth it.

◊ Striped patterns insidea  radiated image doesn't work. They compete with the diagonal lines which I guess are also stripes. Had to paint over those segments (the darkest magenta areas) and add a different stamped pattern.

◊ I liked the saturation and transparency of the ink used both for stamps and through stencils. I want to experiment more with ink after this.

AJ2-23-27-15closeb

What I could have improved

◊ I could have added a bold sentence around the center circle to summarize the page. Hmmm, maybe I still will.

◊ I probably could have worked in the collage more by layering other elements on top of the image to make it truly my own..

Notes for future pages

Play with more ink! I realize I haven't really used different kinds of ink or liquid ink much...

 

52 Weeks—52 Fiber Collage Squares #4

52logoThis is my little weekly fiber arts project.  Find out more about it here.

Week Four

2015fibercollage#4

So moving on after last week with new materials. This collage features a muslin background and polka dot cotton fabric (which is a actually a lighter salmon color than appears above as you can see below). I embellished with stamped muslin, lace and silver metallic thread. It's pretty simple—I admit I didn't take a lot of time with it and I can't say I learned anything—but it was fun. I'm taken by the polka dot print/color and I like the metallic thread a lot! Next week, I think I'll play some more with these same materials and try for a little more complexity and interest...

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2015fibercollage#4closeb

 

Mastery Series January: Lettering

monthlyserieslogo3What I'm doing:  This year,  I take one mixed media skill or medium each month and I practice and learn in one month's time. Then, at month's end, I share what I made  and what I learned...and that's when you get to check in with your own inner artist who will most likely be saying, "Hey, if she can do it, anyone can!"

The series for January was Lettering

Jan Mastery Collage

The bar was low, very low.  Three years ago, I had almost forgotten cursive handwriting and I sat down to re-learn it after decades of scratching with a self-created cursive/print hybrid.  I still don't have capital "Q" or "Z" down, although I'm proud to say I don't hate the cursive capital" I" anymore.

Re-learning cursive didn't improve my handwriting.

Last fall,  I'd purchased a package deal I couldn't refuse from Cloth Paper Scissors: both book and video  by the whimsical lettering champion, Joanne Sharpe, plus a blank journal and several Faber-Castell ink pens!  I read the book and watched the video.

The lettering journal is still blank.

And oh yes, I have a Lettering board on Pinterest. That counts, right?

But honestly, all I could do was some grade-school outlined and block letters at the beginning of January, so I was learning lettering from scratch. I was bound to learn something.

I set three objectives for January's mastery series in lettering, as you might recall:

  1. improve my handwritten text and headlines in my AJ
  2. increase my repertoire of handwritten fonts and styles
  3. improve my skill level, from fine motor skills (better lines) to lettering design.

So how did I do?

Well, as I had hoped, I learned a lot!!! I would say that I definitely met my objectives to some degree (although as I said, the bar was low). I wanted to be able to use text in my art journal more artfully, and I've pushed that needle further for sure. I definitely know more fonts and styles now. And I've improved my skills a bit.

Yet, I really hardly started. I filled just 16 pages in my mastery series journal, and some of those pages were notes about lettering, not lettering itself.  I spent maybe the first week just studying the art form (reviewing the book and video as well as hundreds of Pinterest examples). And then I mostly worked on lettering in the evenings while watching tv.

So, am I lettering wizard now? Absolutely not. As with all things worth doing, I still need much more practice and time. But—wow. Overall, it what a great month! I feel like I learned a bunch and maybe most importantly, I'm primed to continue my quest for improvement.

what i learned

Studying has its place—but then you just have to do it

Could it be that I possible study something first as a stall tactic? Hmmm.  I didn't know where to begin with lettering so I surveyed the field, first. That's how I like to learn things. I read up and got advice from experts and then did a few exercises they recommend as warm ups. Now, I think it's important to understand the art form and its possibilities and all this was good work. But did I need to spend 25% of the month doing it? Maybe not. Let's face it. Yes, I was nervous so I stalled.

studyletteringthree

artful dodger

Lettering is drawing. Handwriting (caligraphy, cursive, print) is writing.

This was one big takeaway. When you're lettering, you draw letters, and compose those letters into words or sentences on a page. You are working with lines and marks. Handwriting, on the other hand, is training your hand to compose uniform letters over and over again. Creativity is spent on the content of what you're trying to express. The content of lettering is pre-determined in your mind and you're focusing your creativity on drawing the forms to fit that content. I think I kind of understood this before, but now I really get that lettering IS drawing .

Unattended

Tools are critical and I learned much more about what kind of tools work best for different jobs

First:  If you're composing letters/words into any kind of form on the page, it's absolutely essential to use a ruler or T-square, pencil and eraser.

ambitions

Second: I've come to love permanent, black ink pens. You can erase pencil marks and use water media over permanent ink (although as you can see in these exercises, first you must use an eraser to actually erase the pencil lines. Oops!).

art&life

Third: I now have much more knowledge about kinds of pens and "the point of their points". I almost abandoned Faber-Castell fine points because I was trying to write with them. But you have to hold Faber-Castells at a 90 degree angle so they are not meant for handwriting.  They are meant for drawing rich black lines with their black india ink.  Micron pens are my favorites and I quickly learned the difference between the different point sizes, from .01 through the .08. The smaller the number, the more fine tipped and of course—of course—you need different widths for different widths of lines.

luxury

Fourth and finally: color.  So far, I haven't found that I like colored pens for lettering. I love black ink. But I hardly tried, and I did learn that I do like to add color to black ink. I prefer watercolor.

seriousaboutjoy

I didn't like adding water to water-soluble Tombow ink pens to spread color. They are harder to control and too bright for my taste. I have much more to learn about color and lettering.

gowithyourheart

Whaddya know? When I want to get creative and make new letters, I can!

This has to do with my ongoing struggle with my inner critic, who tells me I am not innovative or imaginative.  Yet, when I sat down and created from my own mind, I could definitely come up with new ideas.

whimsicalalphabet

I'm particularly thankful to Megan who was featured on Alisa Burke's blog just last week (serendipitous timing!). She suggested the exercise of forming 100 different versions of the same letter shape—and I did!

60 As40AsThis exercise was quite an eye opener. First, yes, the possibilities are infinite! Second, like I said, I was surprised to find my creative mind actually works. And third...I can see how it would be fun to make a whole alphabet from some of my favorites...hmmm...

Sketching with pencil first is critical when I create a complete composition, but not so much when "just" drawing letters.

Pencil sketching really helps place the letters on the page and also, when I'm forming letters over the pencil, I'm more confident and actually change shape/placement of lines on the spot because I can see where the pencil marks needed correction. However, when I'm just drawing a letter? No pencil necessary.

There's a lot of room for correction by thickening in ink.

And that brings me to the last lesson. What's nice about drawing letters  is that all you really have to do is start with simple lines and then add from there—and it's very forgiving.  If lines aren't  straight at first or even with one another, you can thicken the lines to straighten them.

language of the soul

What i still need to improve

Oh, there's so much!

Fine motor skills

My line/mark-making is still wobbly. It helps to slow down (also something I learned), but the truth is I don't have as still a hand as I'd like. Maybe it's my age or my inexperience and lack of practice. I'll go with the latter right now and continue to try to improve.

More creative lettering in words/sentences/compositions

I really didn't create that many lettering compositions, but the lettering in the ones I did are pretty similar to one another. I need to practice more and work outside my comfort zone—take risks.

Go bigger.

I feel this need to make fatter letters. That's where I feel the biggest urge, right now. I need to let loose with bigger/fatter letters both in rich, black ink and also experiment with fat colored markers.

All in all, as you can see, I think I made great headway toward my objectives. I have a few more tricks up my sleeve, which I'll be taking to my art journal where I hope we'll see a lot more (and better?) lettering going on as I practice more.  Not only is lettering a useful skill, but it's also quite engaging and fun. I strongly recommend embarking on your own learning adventure with lettering!

AJ Daily Practice: Into the Wild

AD Daily HeaderBack story: Day by day, I add to my art journal. Over several days I complete a spread. And then I begin again. These are my notes where I reflect on my pages and record what I learn.  If you're curious about how much time I spend and generally why I spend time in my art journal, I can tell you this:  Some days I spend only five minutes, some days I look up after an hour or more, and some days—yes, I skip. But most days, I art journal.  I do not art journal to record time, but to make it a practice to BE in time. Time to be creative, to experiment, to play and to learn. It’s a regular date with myself. Like what I used to do on the yoga mat. Breathe. Check in. How are you? How’s the universe? What should we create today? This is my practice. AJ1-16-15

January 16th: Just Feel

I completed two spreads in about a week. This is the first one—and I won't spend too much time on it now. Completed in one day, I tore pieces of several different papers—a napkin, scrapbook paper scraps, old papers/copies of old journal pages—and then stamped the numerals and quickly wrote a note.  I worked  on a four column grid (which looks more like eight, I think, now that it's done). I planned to layer on top of it—but then I decided it was complete the way it was. It reads: Some days you don't wanna think—Just Feel! That about sums it up.

 

AJ into the wild

January 17th-22nd: Into the Wild

Oh boy, this spread just kind of took over and became itself! I started by collaging some random papers in the background and then adding paint. From there I chose a few images kind of without thinking and before I knew it, I had this story going on. It's interesting that the main figure looks both afraid and shocked and also excited--like being on  roller coaster, maybe (if you like roller coasters, which I do not!) This page developed intuitively and I like how all those emotions fit. I took my time with this spread over six days (a little here, a little there), and overall, I like how it turned out—although I definitely have some criticisms (see below).

How I mixed the media

Collage papers and images (both in background on on top), gesso, acrylic paint, ink, stencils, ink pens (gel, Micron, Uniball),

What I like about this page

  • The images and the story they tell, expressing some of the complexity of feelings and experience.
  • The doodling of the hair (which was originally a purple flower), the wheel, the hearts...
  • The wings, the hearts, the black body...
  • The collage elements peeking through the background.
  • The use of black across the spread unifies it.
  • The text lettering.

What I learned

  • It really is more interesting to "cover up" elements and let them peak through, even though it means losing some images/marks altogether--as a result, there is more depth to the background.
  • I played with tints and shades of the main color (purple), which is so much more effective than just one hue.
  • I played with india ink on the leaves, mixing it will water and acrylic paint. The leaves aren't that great (see below), but I can see where ink, paint and water CAN mix for interesting effect. I need to experiment more with that.

into the wild close A

  • Both the doodling and the lettering are not techniques I use enough and I was happy that I pushed further beyond just the collage. It really incorporates the collage into the page and makes it my own image.

into the wild close B

What I could have improved

  • The background is too dark and muddy. What I really need to to do is learn how to make my backgrounds more light and luminous. I need to learn how to do that!
  • Ugh, the leaves. They really didn't turn out well. Yes, they do the job of symbolizing "the wild", but overall, it's a hack job. Next time, I need to make lines thinner...maybe draw with pencil and then  fill in...

Notes for Future Pages

    • Keep doodling! I think I resist whimsical because I don't see that as my style...but maybe I'm attracted to ink embellishment and I want to push that further.
    • Tell more stories with collage. It was fun to find the images, combine them and make them my own.
    • Work on backgrounds and use of paint. Go lighter and find out how to do luminous!

52 Weeks — 52 Fiber Collage Squares #3

52logo This is my little weekly fiber arts project.  Find out more about it here.

Week Three

2015 Fibercollage#3

This is the third square of the year, and the third in a series using the same materials: cut up pieces of two old silk ties, a curtain swatch and embroidery thread.

foundfibers#1-3fiberseries#1-3

I can't say I LOVE any of these pieces in this series, but I did enjoy the process, I learned quite a bit—and I do like some elements.  Now that I've used each fabric for a background, I'm done with this series and will move on, but I expect I will do more series in the weeks to come.

One thing is for sure. Although like i said, I don't think these are all that handsome, I sure had fun. From design to sewing, it was a deeply pleasurable process and not very time consuming. I kind of developed a process that made it really easy. First, early in the week I gathered the materials, did some cutting of pieces and played around with how I wanted the design. I pinned them in place. Then, during several sessions later, I did the sewing/attaching while watching a video on my iPad or listening to a podcast. It's very relaxing.

fibercollage#3close

What I learned
  • Well, first, as you can see my smaller square is not level/square with the outer square. I thought I pinned it straight, but by the time the hand stitching was complete, it was definitely crooked. So keeping things straight is harder than it looks! Next time, I'll tack down the corners diagonally, first, and then stitch around.
  • The swirly silk tie was way too flimsy to stand as a background by itself, so I pieced together some of the canvas-like material (from the structural inside of the tie) into a square and fused the silk around the square using double-sided fusible interfacing. I don't like the effect, though. It's too rigid and texture-free. I prefer the uneven edges and more free-flowing backgrounds of the non-fused squares so I'll probably stick to that in the future.
  • A cardboard 4"X4" template makes it much easier to cut out a square (rather than measuring it out with a ruler each time!)
  • I didn't even know I remembered embroidery stitches I'd learned as a child.
Elements I like

I do like that swirl echoed again in embroidery  and I like the clean, more graphic lines of this design.  I also like the embroidery outline around the inside square.

All in all, I'm glad I started this project, but I have to say I look forward to using all new materials next week!

AJ Daily Practice: Into the Mystic

AD Daily HeaderBackground: Day by day, I add to my art journal. Over several days I complete a spread. And then I begin again. Some days I spend only five minutes, some days I look up after an hour or more, and some days—yes, I skip. But most days, I art journal. These are my notes where I reflect on my pages and record what I learn. I do not art journal to record time, but to make it a practice to BE in time. Time to be creative, to experiment, to play and to learn. It’s a regular date with myself. Like what I used to do on the yoga mat. Breathe. Check in. How are you? How’s the universe? What should we create today?  Into the Mystic

January 12- 15, 2015

Into the Mystic and Back Again

Before I started this spread, I read this wonderful piece by Susannah Conway about our preoccupation with the external and not the internal. I felt a huge need to spend some time in my writing journal about that topic and others I've been thinking about lately and I ended up clarifying some thoughts around art as one important pathway to greater consciousness (and how society's devaluation of artists is a reflection of our devaluation of the internal/spiritual). I know, not the lightest stuff in the world. But in any event, that's where I was when I turned to my art journal that day and the title of the spread is a good one. Into the Mystic I went for a while...yet, as the week progressed I shifted back to concerns of the days and I was able to capture "back again."

Mystic close A

How I mixed the media

Acrylic paint, Andirondack spray (dye-based), stamps, ink, permanent pen (Micron), stencils (handmade and purchased)

What I like about this page

  • Teal circles that ended up looking like planets (to me) on left side filled with some sentences from my writing journal.
  • The check boxes for my list of creative tasks those days, especially how I carried over the unfinished tasks
  • As the journaling continued that week, I left the ideas of the "mystic" and came back to the here and now - and the checkboxes/list reflect that nicely. A full circle.
  • Yellow stars — I carved the small one to repeat in lines to demark the days and echo the large stencied stars already on the page
  • Composition of patterns across the spread framing the empty middle of the page.
  • Layering of stamps and stencils, paint and dye spray.

Mystic close B

What I learned

  • Carving stars—especially little ones—is difficult because of the internal angles. I had to make a few attempts before I could come up with a non-nicked little star. I learned that you have to start at the points and carve INTO those angles.
  • Writing at length in a writing journal gave me ideas and images to work with in my art journal. I've done that before, but now I see how powerful a process it can be and I should do it more often.

ystic close C

What I could have improved

  • The stamped title is a definite oops - no space between "the" and "mystic". I'm proud of perfectionist self for letting it go, though!
  • Too much plum in background—overwhelms page—especially the dark spray through stencil on right side
  • Waaaaay too much blank space in the middle between the journaling. I think the spread would be aesthetically pleasing if the text filled the space and looked like one element.
  • I'm just not risking much on this spread—again—which really means I didn't learn much, either.

Notes for future pages

  • Stretch myself! Try new things. Risk failure! What I especially need to do is have the courage to cover up and layer over elements that I like too much. That's where I stop the most and I then don't get the depth of layers I'm looking for.
  • If I'm using a lot of text (journaling), fill the space so it becomes one element to the eye. Maybe go overboard at first before I find a happy medium...

If you have anything more to add as constructive critique, I welcome your comments below!

52 Weeks - 52 Fiber Collage Squares

Fiber Collage I'm going to create a small, 4"x4" fiber collage each week in 2015!  Today, I'm going to introduce my fiber collage project and talk a little about the what and the why before I share my first two pieces made the first two weeks of January below.  Yay! For the rest of 2015, I will share each piece here as I complete them, one each week.

What? Why?

As someone who has yet to choose which media she likes best in all this mixing, I do know that one of my favorite mediums is fiber. Fabrics and thread and natural materials. This love goes way back to my childhood when I learned to crochet and embroider from my very special great grandmother Vaught (a master artisan in her own right). I never caught on to knitting although she did try to teach me, but I did love to sew and I created many garments and window coverings in my youth and into adulthood.

While I've always swooned over fiber art at museums and in galleries, I never seriously considered doing my own creative exploring with fiber arts (why, I'll never know) and I eventually, I'm sad to say, I even gave up sewing altogether after my trusty old Singer sewing machine broke down for the last time.

Back to the beginning

A couple of months ago, our weekly mixed media arting group started exploring fiber arts and I found that I couldn't get enough of it. Completely inspired by the  mixed media and fiber artists out there sharing on the internet (thank you, Pinterest!), I created three small pieces out of mostly found materials—shown in the picture above—and in the making I rediscovered how much I really do love fabrics and thread and natural materials.

It just makes sense to dive in and really learn what I can do, and that's how I came up with my weekly project for this year:

52logo52 Weeks - 52 small Fiber Collages

My goal is to complete one 4"x4" square collage each week. These will simple (small) and rough—something I can do each week easily, a little here and there when I'm sitting. My objective is to learn and grow my repertoire of techniques and skills in fiber arts.

I'm sticking to 4"x4" squares, any fiber or fabric, so that at the end of the year I'll have a collection of multi-textured, same-sized collages. The emphasis will be to use a majority of found and recycled materials for each collage, and I hope to use many mediums besides fabric—thread, paper, beads, metal, paint and ink. The plan is to design each square at the beginning of the week and complete it slowly by the end of the week. Knowing me, I may fall short some weeks and have to play catch up. But I really, really want to accomplish my goal of creating all 52 squares by the last week of December...I will share my progress here throughout the year.

Fiber Collages, Weeks One and Two

52 week 1

52 week 2

Again, these are just 4"x4" squares.I played with three different found fabrics and embroidery thread, switching backgrounds each week. I think I will try the third fabric as a background this third week and create a three part series.

The blue loose weave fabric was a curtain swatch (I'm not sure of its content) and the two printed materials are silk ties, but woven completely differently, which I brought home from the thrift store and cut up. I enjoyed playing with the different weaves of all three materials. The embroidery embellishments were inspired by the swirly colors of the colorful silk tie.

Here are some closeups:

52 week 1 close

52 week 2 close

 

AJ Daily Practice: All These Impermanent Things

AD Daily HeaderBackground: Day by day, I add to my art journal. Over several days I complete a spread. And then I begin again. Some days I spend only five minutes, some days I look up after an hour or more, and some days—yes, I skip. But most days, I art journal. These are my notes where I reflect on my pages and record what I learn. I do not art journal to record time, but to make it a practice to BE in time. Time to be creative, to experiment, to play and to learn. It’s a regular date with myself. Like what I used to do on the yoga mat. Breathe. Check in. How are you? How’s the universe? What should we create today?  impermanent thingsAImpermanent thingsB

I'm loving this new-to-me process of building the pages slowly over several days as a daily practice. Julie is right. It really fits into life, as I can add one thing in five minutes if I'm rushed that day, and spend longer on other days when I have more time. This whole spread began with my random thoughts about our (my) impermanence. The first images that came to mind were bubbles—so I painted them in.  From there, Peter Himmelman's song kept running though my mind, so it became the title of my spread and I tipped in the lyrics. Midway through the week, I happened to do SoulCollage with our weekly art circle, and I made my flying fish sprite—an intuitive process that never fails to surprise and enlighten. "I am one who is comfortable in both elements of air and water", my intuition told me. Rational thought and emotions (Tarot),  Spirit (air) and Life (water). And it's true, I realized, I am not troubled by impermanence, like Himmelman; I am in fact comfortable with it (at the moment, at least). Something tells me that it's all the way it's supposed to be—and while I am here I'm going to swim andfly!

How I mixed the media

  • Watercolor, acrylics, collage, image transfer, ink pens, Neocolor II crayons

What I like about this page

  • The watery, cool background in watercolor and then acrylic and watercolor bubbles.
  • Collage elements. It took a long time eacy to find coordinating numbers in magazines, all in pink and white—but I love them. I had the the other collaged images lying around for a while now—including both flowers are actually photographs I took and had printed a while back.
  • I like the contrasting warm colors of red and yellow against the cool—and white.
  • Grunginess of page, including the transfer borders around page title.
  • I like the white script writing of quotes and phrases from Himmelman's lyrics on the blue background.

What I learned

  • I experimented with image transfers on a background. I had cut into strips a laser printed image of girls in bright dresses holding bright flowers and prepared to do image transfers of these rainbow strips around the page title—until I remembered that I would be adding water to layers that aren't waterproof. To solve the problem, since background was watercolor and collage pieces were paper, I sprayed page with fixative before the transfer with gel medium.
  • I was reminded again about waterproof layers when I attempted to put matte medium over water-based ink. "Tuesday" and "Wednesday" were originally written in pink, non-waterproof ink—you can see pink smudges by the dates still, as the rest got washed away. Oh well—good learning and of course adding black (waterproof) words largely solved the problem.
  • Beware of dark backgrounds as they are more difficult to layer words later. I had to add white gesso areas to write in text. But that was too stark, so I basically had to make new backgrounds for the text areas (stamped with mini-bubble stamps (blue and gold acrylic) and washed with pink watercolor). It worked, but each day I had to do it again for the next day, which meant getting out that set of supplies again and again, so it was more time consuming than it should have been. I should have planned and created all the text areas at one time...lesson learned.

What I could have improved

  • Journaling with script handwriting is pretty messy. Maybe printing would be better.
  • Currently, I'm still sticking close to Julie Balzer's model for her Daily Art Journaling. I like to learn by first starting out with a model, but eventually I know I will find my own way. Like I said, I love her process of adding a little to a spread over several days as a daily practice—I'm committed to art journaling as a daily practice now—but I think I will probably stray from the textual focus on days and maybe look at how I can play with themes or express more in images more, text less. I don't know.
  • I will probably continue to include the dates, though - I like the graphic elements of numbers and months, days of week. I need more stamp/stencil options, though, and also pre-clipped numbers from magazines, etc. so I can be at my finger tips when I need them. It takes too much time to search for numbers.

Notes for Future Pages

Trust the process - it works.

I now have an art journal gallery!

I figured I might as well put the pictures of all my art journal pages in one place. I didn't realize how easy it is to add a photo gallery to a Wordpress blog (just comes down to a good plugin).  Now, I have all my art journal pages together, beginning with the very first ones I ever did to those I've made most recently—and then all the rest I make in the future, into the gallery they will go. You'll find a tab for my Art Journal Gallery in the main menu. I can't tell you how good it makes my inner obsessive organizer proud.

Who is also making me share here the last couple of spreads I made in 2014 which didn't get shared in blog posts like all the others (and that would be imbalanced and disorganized, ya know...)

So here you go. Here are two spreads I like a lot that I made this fall that I didn't write about...I'll spare you any commentary, except to tell you that the first one is about Artemis, who it turns out is my main Goddess archetype (according to a great book I'm reading called Goddesses in Everywoman by Jean Shinoda Bolen).

Artemis Art Journal Spread

Artemis closeAnd the second art journal spread captured an amazing run I had...I'm a new runner (at my ripe old age of 53) and I finally learned that it actually feels great—and sometimes, like that day, even magical!

Art journal - slow time magic

slow time magic close

slow time magic close B

I hope you enjoy my art journal gallery. I should also have a mixed media gallery coming soon, too.

AJ daily practice: building pages organically

AJ Daily header2Background: Day by day, I add to my art journal. Over several days I complete a spread. And then I begin again. Some days I spend only five minutes, some days I look up after an hour or more, and some days—yes, I skip. But most days, I art journal. These are my notes where I reflect on my pages and record what I learn. I do not art journal to record time, but to make it a practice to BE in time. Time to be creative, to experiment, to play and to learn. It's a regular date with myself. Like what I used to do on the yoga mat. Breathe. Check in. How are you? How's the universe? What should we create today? 

gift of year

January 2 - 5, 2015

Spread: Gift of a Year One Day at a Time

This page came together so organically. The torn fuschia and green strip of paper top left called to be included with the image of the surprised woman (even though they didn't seem to go together). Then somehow over the days I saw that this spread expresses how I feel about the year as it begins. Remembering that each year is like opening a present—because of course life is a gift. Making this spread was the time I needed to feel gratitude for receiving this gift ...and yet I had no idea that's where this page was going when I started. Completely unplanned! Love that!

How I mixed the media

Dabber and other acrylic paint (non-gessoed page), collage papers, carved and purchased stamps/ink, gel pens, permanent black pens (Micron), stencil

What I like about this page

  • I love the warm color combo of orange and yellows. The background makes me happy.
  • I enjoy the grey-lime green  against that background and then black as a strong accent.
  • Love me my dark black swirls—the swirly January makes me happy and echoes the other black swirls, bringing the spread together in fact (I didn't add "January" until the very end.  I kept wanting to do it, did some second guessing, but the inclination was persistent.)
  • I do like the composition, with the swirly blacks and black in general balanced across the two pages, and the two focal points also balancing each other on either side like a teeter totter.

What I learned

  • I carved one number stamp a day for this spread and it was super easy and do-able. I printed out a computer font I liked (numerals 0-9) , transferred it to the rubber and away I went day by day.
  • The paper in this (Dylusions) journal soaks in paint without gesso--harder to move around. So I guess gesso is the best ground for acrylic paint.
  • Trust the process. One thing does lead to the next!

What I could have improved

  • Composition. Should have carried that green to the other page. I wish I'd had more of that collage strip, but I could have carried the green in other ways (the way I did at the bottom of the left page).
  • I stopped too soon. The spread needs more embellishment.,, especially around the largest swirls, bottom of right page. I often stop too soon (fear of ruining).
  • It's actually pretty safe overall. I could have risked more...

Notes for future pages

  • Use that orange/yellow and grey lime green again. Like that color combination!
  • Use my number stamps again (and carve the rest of the set soon!)
  • Risk more (and learn more).

 

 

About my Monthly Mastery Series 2015 - January

monthlyserieslogo4This year I set three intentions for my creative year and one of them is to gain mastery and develop mixed media skills. You can read more about my Creative plans for 2015 here.   Basically, I want to learn and improve in a very intentional way and so I've created a project for myself that I call My Monthly Mastery Series. It's a learning adventure! Today I thought I'd share how this is going to work.

What I plan to do is focus on one skill each month by learning more about it and practicing with a series of exercises. My goal  is to complete 12 different series over the course of the year and I will share both what I learn as well as the exercises for each series here on the blog each month.

Just in case you think I'm crazy, I'm not committing to completing an exercise every day like so many people out there in the blogosphere seem to do. I can't imagine that kind of output, especially on top of my art journaling which IS a daily practice and my other creative projects and—oh yes—the rest of my life! But I am committing to learning as much as I can and practicing as much as I can between the beginning and end of each month.

So what can you expect here? As the months roll in at the beginning, I will share the mastery skill of focus and I'll identify some objectives for myself. Then, at the end of each month I will provide a status report where I share the series and talk about what and how I learned, including how well I think I met my objectives.

I'm sharing My Monthly Mastery Series mainly for my own benefit—it's really a record of my learning and progress over the course of the year—but I do also hope that my series might inspire others to step out onto their own creative learning paths, too!

January 2015 Mastery Series

Lettering

I've chosen lettering for my first skill to develop for several reasons. First, like a lot of people I don't like my handwriting and hope to improve it. Second, I'd like to have a larger range of handwritten fonts and styles to use in my Art Journal because I want to add more text - including headlines and subheads - and because to date, my handwritten words in my journal are pretty sucky! And finally, I want to improve my lettering skills because I do love the graphic elements of typography, and handwritten or not, lettering is still typography -and I want to be better at it!

So my specific goals for My January Monthly Series:

  1. I want to improve my handwritten text and headlines in my AJ
  2.  I want to increase my repertoire of handwritten fonts and styles
  3. I want to improve my skill level, from fine motor skills (better lines) to lettering design

My daughter gave me this cute little Strathmore Art Journal for Christmas. It's a great size for lettering exercises and the 36 sheets of nice quality watercolor paper will do nicely. I hope to get it filled with lettering by the end of the month. I'll let you know!

lettering journal

AJ daily practice notes: first spread 2015

AJ Daily header2 Background: Day by day, I add to my art journal. Over several days I complete a spread. And then I begin again. Some days I spend only five minutes, some days I look up after an hour or more, and some days—yes, I skip. But most days, I art journal. These are my notes where I reflect on my pages and record what I learn. I do not art journal to record time, but to make it a practice to BE in time. Time to be creative, to experiment, to play and to learn. It's a regular date with myself. Like what I used to do on the yoga mat. Breathe. Check in. How are you? How's the universe? What should we create today? 

 AJ2015-Mastery600px

December 29 - January 1, 2015

Spread: Year of Mastery

This is the spread where I celebrate clear goals for the new year and a renewed sense of mission. No, scratch that. A clear and focused mission for my creative life--for. the. first. time. ever! I was super excited about gaining this clarity and I think it shows on the pages--happy glow.

Mediums

Watercolor, acrylics, collage (ephemera from the week--christmas wrap, bags and a special Christmas card I'd received), markers

What I like about this page

  • The colors. Transluscent, light watercolor background, bright acrylic accents, rich colors in the collage elements, too
  • Bold graphic headlines with varying fonts (love 2015 numerals)!
  • Including meaningful ephemera from the week, organically. It wasn't planned. I just grabbed what was present. I especially love Patricia's note as focal point on the right page--along with the "Make Something" in the right colors from a paper bag I kept. Fits right in with my week!
  • Using the acrylic gold as a resist beneath watercolor elements.

What I learned

  • Using watercolor as a background and as transparent layers on top of other color, whether acrylic resist OR other watercolor. I haven't worked with watercolors in my journal much before--a whole new medium!
  • Black accents always work.
  • Using acrylic paint as a resist underneath watercolor.
  • I've resisted journaling as a daily diary for a long time. I am not a memory keeper (seems like writing in the wet sand on the beach). But once I could see journaling as a daily practice, a time and place to be in time rather than record it, well, it makes sense to add dates, days of week--and even times when journaling (for later reference). It's going to be fun to play with all the numbers as the weeks go by.  I need more number stamps!
  • I don't like to write with Faber Castell Pitt pens. Yes, they're waterproof--but you can't write at an angle with them. They only work if the pen is at a 90 degree angle to the page. Need to use other waterproof, black pens—and find the ones I like best.

What could have been better—or I could do another time another way

  • I tried using other colors than black for the journaling (Pitt pens). I'm thinking colored pens just just miss something. They're too transluscent. Maybe black is the better choice after all because it is opaque.
  • Writing my own numbers for days of week. These are the weakest elements on the page in my opinion.
  • Handwrittten headlines - ehh, kind of sloppy. I need to work on my lettering skills.
  • Speaking of lettering, I have the "outlining script" technique down--time to learn other ways to letter headlines.
  • I need to experiment with other creative ways to demark journaling sections.

I look forward to sharing my notes on each completed spread as a final part of the process of my daily art journaling practice. I think over time I will value having recorded my thoughts and learning. I also hope sharing my process will help others find their own!

 

Chains of metal bird clips and what I've done with them

Bird Strings I found these strings of metal bird clips while poking around the historic Ballard neighborhood in Seattle a few weeks ago. It was a cute little boutique that carried import goods, but unfortunately I can't remember the name of the shop because I failed (yet again) to keep a travel/art journal while traveling. What a great example of WHY a travel/art journal can be useful—not only do you get to make a cool book out of all the maps, cards, brochures and other ephemera of your trip, but you also record the details of your travels. Which can come in handy when you want to tell people about this great shop where you found chains of metal bird clips.

But I digress. I need to talk more about travel art journals and why I want to (but cant seem to) keep them(yet), but that will be another post.

For now, I want to share my bird clips. Because of course as soon as I saw them I knew they would be perfect for displaying my ATCs (Artist Trading Cards) in my art studio. I purchased two strings, each featuring metal clips attached to the back of metal birds, one chain in distressed  grey and the other in distressed white. I strung them up, as you can see, on the blank wall above some art supply containers.

birds on wall

As you can see, this wall isn't finished yet. I will have other art above these chains eventually. I am slowly filling all my walls in my art studio with my own art attempts. One day, I hope every wall will be filled to bursting with my color and expression.  I'm still working on the furniture and storage, though, and of course on the art, so the room is taking some time to become itself.

Just like me.

And I'm okay with that.

Here are some close-ups of the clips. I imagine this is a temporary "installation" and I will change out what I want to look at from time to time. Maybe the birds won't always hold ATCs. If you look closely, you'll see that I've slipped each card into a plastic sleeve (made for trading cards and purchased for next to nothing on Amazon). That way the cards are protected and are ready for storage in some kind of permanent display box I intend to keep for my growing collection of ATCs.

As a final note, here's a quick idea for you: it would be very easy to recreate these metal clips for yourself. You can buy the clips at any hardware store and it would only take a little imagination to attach any kind of embellishment (out of any material) onto the clips and then attach them to a chain or even good, strong string.

Birds Closeup A

birdscloseB

birdscloseC

birdscloseD

Why don't you make your own "clip art" too?!

Until next time...

 

 

 

 

 

Playing with ATCs

I've been side tracked lately. A few weeks ago I decided to start making Artist Trading Cards because I thought it would be a fun little exercise. Each card is only 2 1/2" X 3 1/2" in size and because each ATC is so small,  I figured I could make a few on the side with scraps of whatever else I was working on. Besides the fun factor, I also thought it would be a great way to practice composition and layering and letting go—all those skills we're trying to build in our art making. Or at least I am. Well, anyway, soon enough these little cards took center stage on my art table. They are totally addicting! I found that I can lay out several at a time and before I know it I'm engrossed in all of them...

If you're not familiar with ATCs, creatives have been making Artist Trading Cards for years and years as a way to both create and share what they create with other artists. It's a big underground thing, I think. I understand there are Swap Clubs, even. ATCs are meant to be traded—thus their name—but for now, as with everything I do, I am just learning and I do not plan to trade them.

Here is what I've made so far:

ATCs Set 1

ATCs Set 2

ATC Set 3

If you'd like to make your own ATCs, it's very easy. All you need is cardstock of some kind cut into 2 1/2" X 3 1/2" rectangles. I recycled some old postcards and also watercolor scraps. Then, of course, what you make is entirely up to your imagination! You can find some good basic information about ATCs here.

And here are a few closeups:

ATC abstract tree

ATC love is all

abstract vase

abstract shapes

ATC live up to potential

Hah! A not so secret wish, I guess...

Until next time!

Crazy play time in my art journal

I spent the last week doing what I can only call crazy play in my art journal. I just had this strong pull to go bold and wild and bright. So I did. I turned to a couple of pages that already had some background going on and went to town with craziness. Crazy play AJ spread

In this first one, I was playing with shapes that caught my eye on this past weekend on the streets of Seattle.  I used watercolor on top of acrylics to color the squares.Crazy One Close C

crazyonecloseA

crazyonecloseB

And then for the second spread, I really went wild with my gelly pens.

crazyplaytwob

I actually had a blast making this page. I listened to music on my iphone and just doodled away. As I doodled, I started to think negatively about the page (it is kind of wild, which makes my inner critic scream sometimes!) But then, I thought, what is the right way...

crazy close A

No! There is no one way...

crazytwocloseB

There really is only the...

crazytwocloseC

Thanks for stopping by!

An honest blog critique

You may have noticed that I spiffed the place up around here. My blog has a new design—and a new approach. I’m not done with the “remodel”, so you can expect continued changes to come, but I thought I’d give you a little glimpse behind the scenes. I started with a blog critique. I sat down and looked a few of my favorite bloggers  and I analyzed why I like their blogs so much and how my blog compared.

Yes, that’s right, I compared.

But not as a way out of my own work—“I wish I could do that” or “I wish I could BE that” (while waving an imaginary little wand). But as a way in and a way to learn. Not “I wish”, but, “Oh, maybe I can try that in my way to be more of who I am.”

Note: if you’re not interested in this kind of blogging shop talk, feel free to stop here. On the other hand, I do think what I discovered about my blog applies to creating anything, so you may find yourself applying these lessons to your own creative work, even if you don’t blog.

Content, Presentation and Connection

I think I can fairly say that there are three elements of any blog that require (a lot) of care—and my blog, I decided, definitely needed attention in all three areas: Content, Presentation and Connection.

Since I don't blog to generate income like many bloggers these days, monetization is not on the list. This is a hobby blog, something I create for others because I love to write and share.

I hope you find what I share here useful and interesting and that you will make something awesome of your own. That in a nutshell is my goal.

Besides, I don't believe monetization should have anything to do with the quality of a blog. There's nothing wrong with bloggers who run businesses, but the only interesting blogs are those that share and help others, regardless of whether earning a living is also a goal.

When it comes to creating anything, I've always believed that if you’re making it for other people, make it for them.

Um, I know that's what I believe...but that's not what I've done—yet.

I admit, Hello Heart hasn’t really hasn’t been for other people.

If you look back at the early stages of my blog in 2011, you will see someone in the early stages of creative recovery. Shaky. Unsure. Seeking direction.

Much of my blogging since has been about exploring as I worked to find my way. I put out those early steps in my journey of recovery for others to see, but let me just be brutally honest (with myself).  This blog has been about me.

But now I think I learned enough, I’m strong and clear and sure enough in my own creative recovery that I now have something to give to others. Wow! I can't tell you how good that feels. I’m ready to share what I have learned and what I will learn,  and I can now make this blog about its readers.

This is why I conducted a blog critique—to see how I might create a better space for readers. So here's what I found:

Content

Like I said before, it's critical to create content for your audience.

Clearly, from length of posts to topics they choose to photos that engage, my favorite bloggers keep the needs of their audience in mind. They’re respectful of audience limited time and attention. They all keep most of their posts short and to the point. And when posts are longer, there’s good reason for it: they know their audience will be interested in the details.

They share relevant, useful and interesting content. Let me just say that again: Relevant. Useful. Interesting. Truly the secret sauce.

My favorite bloggers are dependable and consistent—whether they blog once a week or all seven days, we know we can expect the next post soon—and we look forward to it.

Finally—they are fun to read. They each have a distinct, authentic voice and as a result, their personalities shine through everything they create.

How I will apply what I learned

Because I was mainly creating for myself,  I would have to say my content was not audience-focused. So that’s the first revision I am making to my blog: going forward, this blog is for you.

I will be working on improving length (shorten, shorten).

I will be working on creating great content for you. I have a whole line up of ideas, techniques, tips and tutorials.

I’m also upping my game with much greater dependability: I am committing to blogging at least 3x a week. This is a commitment I know I can keep because I've been testing a new writing/publishing routine that works for me (and it does).

As for personality and voice, well, I am committed to giving you the real me.

Often I worry (in real life and on screen) that I can be too serious and philosophical, and I’m always balancing the fine line between sharing and preaching.

But you know what? I’m also curious and enthusiastic and even funny now and then in a dorky way. When I get excited, I am passionate and obsessive—and this is who I am.

While bad behavior can always be improved, our personal qualities are innate and singular and not up for self improvement. If anything, we just need to be more of who we are and stop hiding qualities we fear others won’t get.  And definitely don’t try to be someone else (fortunately, I quit that game decades ago).

So there you have it: you 'll be seeing more of the real me.

Presentation

I took a long hard look at the blogs I most enjoy and I saw that my blog's design could do more to help readers enjoy my content and to make it more useful to their lives. Again, it’s all about what best serves readers.

We are becoming such a visually-sophisticated world, aren't we?  On all our screens and in print, too, we communicate with image and visual design. I studied techniques these bloggers used, especially looking for common threads, and I did my best to improve the presentation around here. However, this is just the beginning.

How I will apply what I learned

The fact is, I need to up my skills and learn more about coding for Wordpress (my blog platform), iphonegraphy and graphic design.

Lucky for me, I love to learn! I’ve committed to a learning adventure over the next few months to build these skills—and I hope you will see and enjoy any improvements in use of images and graphic design in the coming months.

connection

I look at my daughters who all use their phones like their own social mobile bat caves and I know I am so Out. Of. It. My lifestyle is not mobile. I’m either home working, creating—or driving. I don’t commute. I don’t “hang out” much, which seems to be prime i-screen time.

I blog—so that's one social media platform I've chosen. But my favorite bloggers blog and they ALL show up on other platforms, too. They share and engage with people.

How I will apply what I learned

Connecting with others online has been my greatest fail to date. Like most introverts, I always need to push myself to be proactive and reach out to people, both in “real” and “virtual” life—and I haven't yet online. I know that I need to go the extra mile and do it because geez, I’m here to connect!

So I'll be connecting more.  On my blog, on other blogger's blogs, and on my two favorite social media platforms, Instagram and Pinterest. (I don’t love Facebook—but eventually I suspect Hello Heart will have a FB page, too.)

 So that's my blog critique

As can see, big changes are underfoot around here and it should be interesting and useful (content), better looking (presentation) and more engaging (connection). Won't you connect with me? (See, I'm proactively reaching out!) You can subscribe to my blog and follow me on Instagram and/or Pinterest—and then I can follow you, too!

Finally, I'd also love your feedback. If you have any suggestions or questions or curiosities, let me know in the comments below. And you can always email me, too.

I am here for you.

Until next time...