Thursday, January 31, 2013

Art Journal Tip: The Objects of Memory

For today's post I'd like to explore the second suggestion from Art Journal Class, My Favorite Tips: Write about a cherished object.

The first time I tried this prompt, I ended up writing about a seashell that belonged to my grandmother. She told me it was from the Gulf of Mexico--a place as foreign as Mars to me--and I used to spend hours holding it to my ear to "hear the ocean." Although I have no idea what happened to the original shell, I do have one very much like it: dark brown, gray, and cream stripes on a swirly, spiral sort of mini-conch (I don't know how else to describe it, apologies to the marine biologists out there!). Regardless of my inability to scientifically categorize the shell, writing about it, and then drawing an accompanying picture into my journal released a flood of memories that in their turn became further journal entries. It also reconnected me to a time that was very special in my life and one that I'm sure contributed to me being the writer I am today.

It doesn't really matter how you approach this exercise. You might want to choose an object first and then write about it, followed with a drawing or a collage of the object; or you could choose to first write about a specific memory that brings to mind an object you want to illustrate. Have fun with your choice of mediums: colored pencil, watercolor paints, crayons, or even a photograph you then photocopy and alter in some way with pencils or paint--it all works. Don't forget to add playful embellishments to your page(s): fabric swatches, scraps of lace or trim, glitter glue, feathers, buttons, pressed flowers or leaves--use whatever appeals to you and helps re-live the memory. There's no such thing as a right way to do this!

Some ideas for objects to spark written and illustrated memories can include:
  • A favorite item of clothing: dress, shirt, shoes, hat, etc.
  • Your first car.
  • First pet (not exactly an object, but you know what I mean).
  • A favorite book, especially one from childhood
  • A treasured piece of jewelry--the one you love regardless of monetary value.
  • A vacation souvenir.
  • A photograph.
  • A tree or plant in your garden.
  • Childhood toy.
  • A family heirloom.
  • An item from childhood that you could only play with or hold on special occasions.
  • Holiday decorations.
  • A religious or sacred item.
  • A random item quickly selected from your shelf. It reminds you of -- ?
An interesting switch to this exercise is to write about an object you dislike or that bothers you on some level. For instance:
  • A detested item of clothing you were forced to wear, e.g., a school uniform or an unflattering bridesmaid dress.
  • A gift you didn't want. But had to accept.
  • A piece of clutter you want to get rid of, but can't.
  • A broken appliance still hanging around.
  • Housework tools: mops, brooms, sponges, buckets, ugh.
  • Most disliked food.
  • Something owned by a person who gets on your nerves.
  • An item owned by that same person that you wish was yours (especially when you think they don't deserve it, LOL! Getting deep here....)
  • Weeds or dead plants in your garden.
  • Your worst photo--ever.
Working through negative emotions can often turn into your best and most enlightening journaling sessions. And who knows, it may also bring you to an entirely new perspective on both the object and the memories surrounding it.

I find that aiming for at least 500-1000 words is a good goal for this exercise; it's enough to really sink into the subject. However, once you've written your piece, you might not want to keep absolutely all of it. You may want to grab your scissors and cut (or tear) out your best or most important lines, and then paste them into your drawing to create a collage. Another technique is to take those lines and turn them into a found poem--rearranging your thoughts and adding more lines as they occur to you. And if you'd prefer total privacy along with some instant artwork, stacked journaling is always an exciting approach to fully express yourself.

Tip of the Day: Wherever you are right now, pick up the object nearest to you. How does it make you feel? Why is it in your life? Where's it from? What does it remind you of? It doesn't matter how small or insignificant the item is--just explore and write down your feelings. Use this as a practice session, although it could very well turn into just the right piece to add to your art journal.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Art Journal Tip Redux: Start With a Letter

For today's blog post I'm starting out with a Thank You, as well as the beginning of a series of posts that I'll be continuing for the next few weeks. The "thank you" is to all of my great readers who have read, and re-read, a post I wrote several years ago titled, Art Journal Class, My Favorite Tips.

The series I have in mind is to expand on each of these tips, starting with the first: Write an Illustrated Letter.

Before I begin however, I thought it might be a good idea to clarify how art journaling relates to  my writing. For me, art journaling is simply a way to enhance my journals with color, surprise, and a deeper expression beyond words. As a professional writer, I gravitate toward the written word, but I also love art: drawing and painting have become essential to my creative process. So if I can somehow combine words and pictures all in the same space, I feel like I've hit pay dirt. It's a real win/win for me.

Writing an illustrated letter in my art journal is a basic technique that can be both attractive and cathartic--in fact, the added pictures can sometimes say much more than I could ever say with words alone. And that's what I'd like to share with you today.
Ideas for letter "recipients" can include:
  • Yourself as a child.
  • Your current self.
  • Someone who has hurt your feelings at any time in the past or present.
  • Your current manuscript or WIP.
  • A project you are trying to complete but that keeps eluding you.
  • Your muse.
  • A favorite or influential teacher.
  • Someone who told you that you "can't" do something.
  • A pet.
  • Your inner critic or editor.
  • An actual editor (who rejected your work?)
  • A thank you--to yourself, the world, anyone to whom you feel grateful.
  • Your readers.
  • Your favorite author.

You can write your letter using any method you choose: by hand in ink, crayon, pencil, or special calligraphy pen; or you might like to type it up in a decorative font and then glue it into your journal. The fun part begins with illustrating your letter. Some ideas here include:
  • Before you begin, decide on the color of your paper and/or ink. If you're writing a letter to paste into your journal, you can write on good quality stationery, newsprint, a recycled drawing , or even a greeting card you love. Have fun choosing.
  • What are your feelings as you write the letter? Are you feeling sad, joyous, or confused? What colors reflect those feelings? What images?
  • Sometimes underlining or circling key nouns or phrases will give you ideas for objects or emotions to draw into the body of your letter.
  • Collage is a great (and easy) way to get started illustrating. Whether you want to collage the borders of your letter, or insert tiny pics mid-sentence, or between paragraphs, you can't go wrong.
  • Doodles: hearts, zigzags, squiggles. . . any and everywhere!
  • Try tracing small pictures you can then copy or just cut out and glue into the body of your letter. Tracing isn't "cheating" and can help to boost your confidence if you feel nervous about drawing.
  • Choose a theme to follow throughout the letter, e.g., flowers, sea shells, food, shoes, cats. . . .whatever takes your fancy.
  • If a blank page is intimidating, first paint a watercolor wash in your favorite color(s) onto the paper. Many times you'll end up with interesting cloud-like formations and subtle designs you weren't expecting. Let the paper dry and then write and draw following the trail of new-found designs.
  • The Verithin(R) brand of colored pencils works nicely for drawing small, colorful pictures with plenty of detail.
  • Try using metallic colored pencils. Besides gold and silver, there are many glittery choices available in shades of blue, pink, green, etc. (Metallic gel pens work good too, but can be smear if you're not super-careful. I personally prefer the pencils.)
  • Stickers! They're not just for kids anymore. I love the vintage-inspired ones you can easily purchase from any craft and hobby store. You don't even need glue and scissors for these!

Tip of the Day: Before you write your letter, think about the theme. What's your topic? What do you want the reader (even if this letter is unsent, which it probably will be) to feel or acknowledge after reading? A good starting point can be a line such as: "Do you remember when--?" Another is to write an announcement of some sort: a new home, pet, baby, or WIP. A letter written as a review of past events, such as a family holiday letter, or one covering something like a vacation or workshop can be a helpful starting point, too.

    Wednesday, January 16, 2013

    Pinterest for Writers: 12 Ideas

    My big treat to myself over the holidays was to join (at last) After several months debating if I could afford the extra time to play amongst the pins, I finally decided I couldn't afford to NOT be there.

    Although I'm still a total newcomer to the site (  and still figuring my way around, I'm already convinced Pinterest is a super-helpful place for writers. Whether it's about telling your personal story visually--any story, i.e., your sense of fashion style, where you went last summer, how much you love kittens, or just explaining what your next book is about, Pinterest is a serious way to deliver your message.

    I must say that at first I was intimidated by all the zillions of pictures, and I did have some trouble seeing where I could fit into the mix. But that was last week. Now I can't stop coming up with ideas for "boards": the categorized pages where you actually put up your various pictures. Repinning from other people's boards has been a great way to get started, but I can also see how much fun it must be to find original pins to add to your own boards. (Hope this doesn't sound too confusing to non-Pinterest users--but stick with it--if I can do it, you can too!)

    Right now I'm concentrating on creating boards that fit in with writing, and so far I've come up with 12 ways I hope to use this creative network. I haven't made all of these boards yet, but it's nice to plan for the future! Anyway, my first choices are:
    1. A board just for my various book covers.
    2. A board per book.
    3. A board for my book trailers.
    4. My favorite books, especially those that have influenced my writing.
    5. Writing prompts--quotes.
    6. Writing prompts--pictures.
    7. Writing encouragement and inspiration.
    8. A board per work-in-progress.
    9. Favorite pieces of artwork I'd love to use in a book cover or trailer.
    10. What I'm currently reading.
    11. Literary "shrines" and famous writers I love.
    12. Favorite creative supplies: pens, journals, sketchbooks, art goodies too.
    Of course I'm sure I'll come up with more than 12 ideas as I become more familiar with the site, but I think this is plenty to keep anyone happy for a while. I think one of the elements I like best is being able to pin up a "secret" board that only I can see before I'm ready to release it to the world. I did this for the Overtaken board, and I have a couple of others hidden away at the moment. Oh, dear. Addicted already. (You didn't read that.)

    Tip of the Day: If you're not already a member, do consider joining, or at least visiting, I think you'll find plenty of inspiration, even if you just use it to pin images to jump-start your daily freewriting. If you do decide to join, please be sure to follow me--I follow back! Happy pinning!

    Wednesday, January 2, 2013

    Setting My Goals for 2013

    Happy 2013--and happy goal-setting!

    At the start of every new year, I like to cast my resolutions in the form of goals; things I want to work toward to make the year both creative and meaningful. This year I've decided to go for 3 categories: Writing, Art, and Marketing with three goals each:

    1. Revise and submit my new novel, The Abyssal Plain.
    2. Revise and submit my nonfiction manuscript, A Pet Owner's Book of Days.
    3. Type up my short story and poetry notebooks.
    1. Create 52 paintings--one a week. Sunday will be my dedicated painting day.
    2. Commit to a daily drawing practice--even if it's just for 15 minutes.
    3. This is the year I go professional. Everything is for sale!
    1. Submit my two manuscripts until they're sold!
    2. Create two more book trailers.
    3. Participate in local opportunities to sell books and artwork.
    So that's me--how about you? I'd love to hear your plans.

    Tip of the Day: Goal-setting is all about what you truly WANT to accomplish, not what you think you SHOULD achieve, or what somebody else has told you is the "right move" for your career or personal life. Make sure your goals come from your heart and not some image of what you think fits the "perfect writer or artist."