Back to the Art Journal

Dear Liza,

Last October, my friend Ruth got me (and a bunch of other friends) started on an art journal. She posted ideas for each day…. draw a ghost, or a tree. It was fun and kept me thinking about new ways to draw familiar images.

Mixed Media Mummy

November brought a different sort of challenge. The ideas weren’t for WHAT to make, but what to make them FROM. Threads, junk mail, bubble wrap, all became part of the repertoire. That was another sort of mental stretch, and was more challenging. I started looking at everything with the thought, “Could I use this?”

Junk Mail portrait

In December, I’m sure there were suggestions, but between bracing for the holiday and being on my own ‘circle’ binge, I didn’t pay any attention. While I like what I made with circles, it is time to come back to the art journal and get out of my own head.

I went in circles for a while….

January is still pretty new, but I like where we are going. So far, the prompts have been concept-based. “Celebrate” and “Sunshine” are what I’ve gotten done, and as you can see, I’m still enjoying circles.

Celebrate!

I happy to have things to pull my brain from its rut.

Sunshine

Love,

Grandma Judy

Going in Circles

Dear Liza,

I have told you about the art journal I have been working in.

In October, Ruth Inman urged us to make pictures following prompts like “haunted house” or “sea life”.

Sea Life

In November we were given loose lists of supplies like “junk mail” or “cranberry can label”.

Junk Mail Art

One of my favorite pictures was one made with a printed photo of Cousin Kestrel, a fruit bag, and bits of magazines. It shows her as a flower fairy, which is just about right.

Cousin Kestrel as a nature fairy

On my own, I’ve been working in the Journal. As a matter of fact, I am on my last page! For my last piece in the book, I have returned to a favorite shape. Yesterday, I borrowed Auntie Bridgett’s ek 1 1/4 inch hole cutter and started chopping circles out of papers in my recycling box.

ek cutter and its bounty

But, art being art, when I laid down the background with acrylics and various textures, it looked like outer space! I would need other colors.

Layers of color and pattern for background

I found an old Sunset magazine and looked for cool toned colors and patterns. After lots of playing, I figured where I wanted to put the ‘planets’, and Mod Podged them into place. A few more white flicks from an old toothbrush, and I was done.

My “Winter Universe”


I can’t tell you how much I enjoy doing art everyday. With fewer outside adventures to keep me busy, being creative and having fun have allowed me to be active and learn something new every day.

Love,

Grandma Judy

The Other Dandelion

Dear Liza,

Yesterday I told you that I had made two sketches of a dandelion, and only used one. Here is what I did (and learned) with the other one.

I put in watercolor green for the distant lawn, but it looked flat and not ‘distant’. And the fence wasn’t right.

But I fiddled with it. I think this ‘fiddling’ is what they call The Artistic Process. Auntie Bridgett showed me how to shade the grass so it would recede, and I played with the fence to make the boards look more like boards.

By the time I was mostly happy with it, Grandpa Nelson was ready to go for a walk. We enjoyed the cool fall sunshine, changing leaves, and tiny weeds growing from our latest rains.

And then I saw it. My mistake.

I had drawn a dandelion and put on the wrong leaf! Dandelions are so-called because someone thought their leaves looked like the tooth of a lion (dent du Leon). And I had put in a leaf that was more of a langue du chat. Could I fix it?

I could try. I picked a leaf and took it home to trace. I cut and colored and placed them as best I could over the wrong leaves. And it is better.


My mother always said that since we got smarter when we made mistakes, she must be the smartest woman on the planet. Today, I learned about leaves, paying attention to details, my own capacity for patience, and the myriad ways to correct errors.

So, educationally speaking, it was a good day.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Mixed Media Journal

Dear Liza,

I have started an art challenge: To make a piece of art everyday for the whole month of October. My friend Ruth Inman posted a list of things to give us ideas, like ‘bread’, ‘sea creatures’, ‘salt water taffy’, and all sorts of things.

Auntie Bridgett, who is very sweet, gave me a big hardback, spiral bound notebook to use. It has nice heavy paper so I can draw, paint, or even glue things down to make a collage!

The cover of my Fall “Art Journal”

I started with decorating the cover in Fall colors. All our magazines are full of oranges and browns, so it was easy to put together. I even found a nice picture of Multnomah Falls to be right in the middle.

First page…

The first page came from my own need to make something seasonal and orange. Crayons, then watercolors, then some words, and taaa daaah!

The first of the challenges was ‘bread’. When I think of bread I go straight to a French baguette, eaten on the banks of the Seine at sunset. This piece is watercolor, colored pencils, and waterproof ink.

Bread…..

Ruth’s second challenge is “alcohol”, so I thought of wine enjoyed while looking out the window of a classic California winery… yummy.

Wine….

The one I did this morning was my favorite so far, because it was about YOU. The actual topic was sea creatures, but I painted them at the Aquarium, with you.

Liza at the Kelp Forest…

I am going to take a break for the evening and not look at the challenge for tomorrow…. until tomorrow.

Keep making art!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Mixing It Up a Little

Dear Liza,

Human beings are creatures of habit, they say, but I have always disagreed. I like to go on adventures…walking eight miles to Sellwood, bussing across town for a hike, taking the train to Vancouver and biking around the city. But as we go along in the quarantine, I realize how much I am leaning on my habits. Especially in uncertain times, we feel the need to do normal things in the normal way.

Starting simple

Here, that means morning coffee with news on the sofa, writing blogs, then crossword puzzles, then French practice on Duolingo.

The recent addition of online watercolor classes with Ruth Inman in Illinois has helped fill Tuesday and Thursday mornings with art and conversation. It has also given me courage to make more art.

Little flowers are less daunting

The other day I painted my first sunflower. I had been doing little daisies and simple roses, which feel less daunting. Sunflowers are imposing. They are flower royalty that literally looks down on everyone. They have gravitas.

Floral royalty

And when I got it done, I felt pretty good about it. I asked Auntie Bridgett. “It’s not bad,” she said kindly. “But you could use some colored pencils to bring it out more, to make it pop.”

My first thought was, “What if I screw it up?” But I slapped that thought down, stepped over it, and moved on. We walked to Collage down on Division Street and bought me some Vera Thin pencils along with more watercolor paper.

Painted, penciled, and almost done

I started playing. Painting like before, but with the knowledge that some parts would be enhanced or shaded with pencils. I learned about complementary colors and how to use them for emphasis, that shadows are never black, and that short lines can make lovely curves. It is another tiny step outside my comfort zone.

Back to daisies, but with more oomph

This using of paints and pencils, or pastels and collage, or crayons and paint, is called mixed media. You mix bits that you already know, some you don’t, and come up with something new. This is an interior adventuring, and one I am enjoying very much.

Maybe it will keep my adventurous muscles strong for when I can go adventuring outside again.

Love,

Grandma Judy