Inspiring me

Inspiring Me Icon.jpgThis week is a bit different to how I have been doing it.  If you read the blog in the past week or have read my Facebook page in the past week you know I am loving the books by Austin Kleon at the moment.

I have read two of his books in the last week. Steal like an Artist and Show your Work. Oh my gosh.  I wrote copious notes in my planner after reading these books.  I have also had copious thoughts running through my head.  Crystallising what I write about and where.  What do I share.  How do I share it. What do I include?  What do I leave out?

So many thoughts.  SO.MANY.THOUGHTS.

They are not long books, at all. I read both of them in a couple of days but I am still processing them, and still thinking about them.  They are really straight forward plain english speaking reads.  No extra words that are not necessary.  His words that he has therefore pack a bit of a punch.

I did not resonate with all of the bits in the books, but honestly who the heck would??  We are all different and in different places and do different stuff and will all get out different takeaways from what we read.  What I did get out of his books is so much more than enough.  I feel like a light was turned on for me and I got it.

In the way we assimilate information and the way it influences us.  The way we look at influences and the way we are inspired and grow as artists. Also what that says about us as artists or creators and what that says about us.  Allowing another form of connection and another backstory to our work.  How we contribute to growing that influence that inspires us.  What we bring or add to that story.

I feel like I was half way there, floundering in the dark a bit, but all of a sudden a light came on.

The Show your Work book had a similar moment for me.  The front half of the book just turned up the illumination I was already feeling.  I took so many notes from the top half of the book.  All into my planner, sparkling so many ideas and realisations and potential new directions.  I felt really motivated and excited to get started which I realise now may have influenced how I felt about the second half of the book.  Like I was speed reading it so I could get started with the doing.

So I have just decided to reread this book, to see what I missed in my Austin-Kleon-Inspired frenzy. :)  I suspect as I reflect while I write that I did see the last half of the book as an obstacle to get through while I was so inspired to begin.  I really was that excited.

My takeaways from this book were about the actual sharing.  How that is done.  Why you do it.  And the fact that it is not just about me showing you finished products or what I am working on.  It is about letting you see me, letting me add to the story.  Allowing you also to not like me which is a bit scary, especially to a people-pleaser that likes to be liked by everyone.  Keeping it real rather than censoring parts of me that may make you realise I am not for you (and hoping that is not because I am a bad person ~ because that is where my head goes to).  In doing that though I will find the people who really are for me.  Inviting much deeper connections.  Still scary stuff though!

It is not just about posting every day but about the quality of what you are posting.  Not the quality of your work in any sort of judgment frame of mind but in the quality of the connection you make.  It is that missing piece that is so hard to capture.  You can show your work every day but unless you are also connecting (and it is a two way street) then you are missing half of the picture.

Anyway. I am going to stop here. I don’t want you to think that is all the book is about so you don’t have to get it.  It isn’t, I have paraphrased wildly from one section of the book, gotten distracted, and missed out all the really juicy stuff.  I think if you share any work online then you should read this book.  Fullstop.

As a refresher and refiner if you are doing it right and as a light switch if you are half way there and don’t know what the bit is that you are missing but feel you are missing something, or you are not sure where to go.

Also I have now turned into an Austin Kleon stalker and found these which I have also devoured.


Here is what has been inspiring me the past week!  :)


Truth card

Here is this weeks Truth card that I am finishing…or rather redoing, because there is not really that much of the old card that remains.

Truth card #4 (Before)

When I drew this card out I was not sure what I was going to do.  I painted out the background with some white and hoped inspiration would hit.

It didn’t.  This is where I am glad to have a blogging schedule of some kind now because it acts like a deadline and forces me to act, when before I may have procrastinated and waited for inspiration to hit (which it may never have done).  So…knowing I had a deadline coming up I knew I had to do something on the card.

While I was reading (and procrastinating a bit more) I had this wave of inspiration.  I had recently seen this video by Tammy, and I had been wanting to try it, so I figured I would do it on the card.  Since my base coat was acrylic paint, I put some clear gesso over it, to give the card some tooth so the watercolour would work, and also to protect the text a bit more so that I could blot it down a bit if I wanted to.

Truth Card #4 (After)
I am not thrilled with my mandala, I want to get better at them, but I am happy with the card, and pushing though one of my previous bad habits.  Structure and routines are leading to much more creativity.

It brings to mind something I read last night.  I have had this book by Austin Kleon on my kindle for a longish while but have not gotten around to reading it.  I began last night, it is a short though punchy read so I am nearly finished.  In one of his chapters, and I had a brief look right now, and I can’t find it immediately so I hope my paraphrasing is roughly correct.

Essentially he said that while blogging and the internet can be about sharing your finished work, it can also be about the process and snippets, and the dots.  And you can let people connect those dots however they please.  That is I think what I want this space to be about.  My dots, and sometimes that will be finished works and sometimes what inspires me, but essentially my dots, and hopefully there is value to another somewhere in how they connect them.

Also that point while mentioned is not what I actually was intending to paraphrase (truly I got a lot out of the book that is busy percolating in my head clearly), but what I wanted to say was that your online space and blog can be motivating in and of itself to our creative work.  It can push you in the need to create to post about it.  To give you something to post.  You can think of our blogs as containers that need to be filled, and the work we do is what we fill it up with and it can inspire and motivate our work, in a big cycle.  This space can act as the motivation for creating work, as the need to finish this card led me to doing a watercolour mandala today when I was absolutely stuck for what to do for a good few days.

Essentially that is what he said…but a lot crisper and better written.  I recommend the book even though I have not yet finished it…in case you were wondering.  :)


Book Review: The Pulse of Mixed Media

The Pulse of Mixed Media

by Seth Apter

I have long being a fan of Seth’s blog (The Altered Page), but I was undecided about whether or not to get this book.

The description reads:

Listen closely…can you hear it?

Can you hear the voices? Thoughts, insights, confessions from the creative community sharing ideas, trading secrets, venting frustrations; asking and answering questions such as, “What color rarely shows up in your work?” or “How do you express vulnerability in you art?” Or “What is one current trend that you wish would go away?” As artists, we are curious by nature and there is a longing to see inside the hearts and minds of artistic souls of our own kind. That is the beat of our lives—the Pulse of Mixed Media!

Having now read it I was pleasantly surprised by how much I did like this book.  I knew it wasn’t an art technique or project book, so I had no expectations of that genre.  I love hearing people’s stories and view points on their work and so this book was really interesting to me from that story gathering point of view.  I didn’t agree with all viewpoints (far from it in some cases!), but really you don’t agree with everyone in life, so why would I expect to in a book.  :)

Their was a good range of featured artists, many of whom I was familiar with, and also some new faces which I loved.  I was really impressed with the works and some really inspired me.  Which is what I want when looking through an art book, any art book.

I really like Seth’s writing, and would have liked to have known more about his thoughts, rather than acting solely as a facilitator for the other contributors as he did her here mainly.

I also felt that the last section, which was compiled from a range of people submitting their work was not as tight.  There was clearly a large number of contributors to that section and so not as much of their voice was heard, and that was a shame I thought.  You didn’t get to connect as much as you did with the featured artists.  It felt like I was missing some sort of flow.  It was a nice idea, and I saw the original call out and almost contributed so it was nice seeing everybody who did.  I just didn’t connect as much to that part and it felt like it was missing something.  Less may have been more, it didn’t feel like a consistent pulse.

Overall however I did really enjoy the book.  It was interesting seeing where I was in agreement, and where I wasn’t.  I did go back a few times and reread what a particular person said again in light of later responses and the questions were interesting as well I thought.  Worthy of some thought from ourselves in our journals.  Definitely thought provoking, and so I would say in that regard Seth was very successful. :)

Book Review: Artist’s Journal Workshop: Creating Your Life in Words and Pictures

Artist’s Journal Workshop: Creating Your Life in Words and Pictures

By Cathy Johnson

This is a beautiful book. It is in the vein of recording the moments of your life with illustrations, and Cathy Johnson makes the distinction of using an “artist’s journal” rather than an art journal. It is a personal journal kept by you as an artist, but don’t think you need to be an accomplished artist because that is not what she is saying at all. This is merely a book for recording your life, elevating the everyday aspects that contribute towards the whole of our lives, whether that be the way the light catches a flower in the garden, our shopping lists and numbers we collect, to the way our child looks when they are sleeping. All ideas and experiments welcome!

Cathy’s use of pen and paint is stunning. Her pen work is beautiful. There are also other artist’s pages scattered throughout the book.

There are boxes of “tips” and ideas to try, but mostly this book is just fill of inspiration that makes you want to begin recording your own life. There are no step by step projects, but she does go through all sorts of potential materials at the start of the book with a commentary on how to get the most out of your art supplies.

The book has 5 chapters. Chapter one is devoted to the basics including potential supplies and you figuring out what sort of journal you want to keep and what the purpose will be. Chapter 2 is about testing out different supplies and experiments you can do in the pages to see what your supplies can do and work out what supplies call to you. It also covers some design and composition ideas.

One of the most genius common-sense things I got out of this book is the experiment she did with an artist grade watercolour set and a student set, and the difference it makes prewetting your palette. The colours, no matter what set was used were so much more vibrant with just a quick spray of water a minute before you are ready to get started.

Chapter 3 looks at the different potential journals you can have including daily journals, travel journals, memory journals, nature journal, dream and imagination journals, and reportage journals. Chapter 4 covers making journaling a habit and ideas for integrating journaling into your daily life. This chapter asks a lot of questions of you to get to the heart of what you want your journaling experience to be. This chapter includes ideas for different spread layouts and how you can begin.

Chapter 5 is titled ‘Pulling it all Together’ and it does!! She considers questions of style, favourite techniques and subjects of the featured artists and herself, and also recognising what doesn’t work for you. It also contains ideas for going forward and new things to try.

There is also a good resource spread in the book, with featured artist information, books and classes you may want to look at.

The book is really well written and is very clear, the information is very fulsome, and complete.

As well as Cathy’s work which I loved, (her portraits of her husband are beautiful), I was particularly inspired by the work of these artists that were featured in her book:

I really recommend this book, it has something to inspire beginners to more experienced painters and good ideas for sparking your creativity and developing your skills.

Book Review: Experimental Painting: Inspirational Approaches for Mixed Media Art

Experimental Painting: Inspirational Approaches for Mixed Media Art

By Lisa Cyr

Lisa’s writing is an art form in itself. Her use of words is a wonder that led me to reading random sentences aloud just to hear them spoken.

“Ideas ignite from within, prompted and propelled by one’s interests and surroundings. The manifestation comes to the surface only when all the necessary components are available to bring it to fruition. The coalescing of the internal and external spurs an inspired thought to take flight, and it is up to the artist to recognize and make sense of the relationships that begin to unfold once it surfaces.”

“Unveiling a world beyond the picture plane, the dimensional landscape takes on a more expansive, symbolic role in the pictorial realm, making a visceral connection with all who encounter its presence”

The book takes you from the initial stages of creating, the planning and sketching, through to gathering the tools and materials (and good ideas about using found items and altering existing tools), through to the stages of a painting, and a myriad of demonstrations of different techniques and constructions.

The depth of information was incredible. Beyond the actual painting she even discusses the marketing of you work and creating sustainable series of work and creating multiples. In terms of sheer information there is a lot in this book.

You also get to admire and ogle Lisa’s work which is quite frankly stunning. Her storytelling is inspired, and seeing the actual story behind her works, and then how she translates the story to images and symbols to bring it to life was insightful. Down to the way the work is presented and how that adds to the story, she gave me much to think about.

She does not show you step by step how to create one of her works, because this is not what the book is about, it isn’t learning to paint like Lisa. You can see the level of work she has put in to produce the images she does and that comes about through your own practice and dedication, not something you see shown in a book and reproduce. But there is so much more in the book that will help you tell and illustrate your own stories.

Her use of texture, and where and why she used it was illuminating and I had several “lightbulb” moments. She goes into creating textures a wee bit and some of her techniques seem so linear and obvious I was left wondering how I had never made the jump myself. Her work is truly representative of the term mixed-media in a way that I have never seen so completely in single pieces before. The combinations of materials, and the range she uses will inspire you.

Sometimes the writing was almost overwhelming, particularly at night sometimes after the children were put to bed, the words (as much as I also loved them! :)) had me turning to other books because I just wasn’t up to this book all the time.

Overall however, the book was inspiring and educational and I recommend it to people as a glimpse in how to add not only texture to their work but a real depth and combine the two to tell their stories.

Book Review: The Complete Guide to Altered Imagery: Mixed-Media Techniques for Collage, Altered Books, Artist Journals, and More

The Complete Guide to Altered Imagery: Mixed-Media Techniques for Collage, Altered Books, Artist Journals, and More

By Karen Michel

I have had this book sitting on my wishlist for a while, but I was very on the fence. When I saw it at the library I was quite excited, and now I have read it, I will need to grab it at some stage for my own bookshelf. The book is split into 4 chapters covering altering actual photos, printer/scanner images, other found imagery and prints. There is also an artist gallery with selected featured artists.

I really liked this book, and there were lots of ideas that really excited me, with good images and clear explanations of techniques. She also includes useful tips for further extension of ideas.

I had never seen many of the techniques and it was interesting to see how to get similar effects as some photo apps with photos. Increasingly I am putting more photos on to some of my art journal pages and using more images so it was interesting to see the techniques here, that I will also be able to experiment with.

I particularly loved many of the techniques she shared on altering and integrating found images into your work. Karen’s journal pages are stunning with her layers of paint and gesso and juicy yumminess, and full of meaning.

Spreads of her journals are given with clear guidance, however the spreads are not shown so you can recreate her pages but rather so that you can create your own pages and go off in other directions. I was particularly inspired by her bird images and the use of found imagery.

The print making section also greatly inspired me. I particularly want to try her gum dichromate printing process, which coincides with an exhibition I saw recently that really intrigued me. She also went over lino printing, mono prints (many of the ideas would work with gelatin printing that is currently exciting a lot of people). The ways she pushed monoprinting was exciting and filled me with ideas for how to take it further. I also really love the monoprinting effect.

The artist gallery was filled with images, artist’s profiles and artist’s tips. Some of the artists that really inspired me were:

This are no “project-based” works with step by step directions, so if that is what you are looking for than this book is not for you. The images are also altered a lot, and I have read a comment alluding to the destruction and vandalism of images, so if you are looking for new scrapbooking formats, then this book is probably also not for you.

It is about utilising images, some of which you won’t ever put into an album, to give the images new meanings, or to emphasise the meaning you want to convey with the image. It is not about preserving images for family histories, so if that is what you primarily want to do, this is not the book for you either.

The book also uses a lot of paint (which I personally love), and is not primarily about collage, which is another complaint I have seen. So if you are looking for a straight collage book, then this is also possibly not the book for you. :)

I would really recommend this book, I really loved it. There are a lot of techniques in this book, and the work inspires you to push your use of imagery to new directions.

Book Review: Collage Playground: A Fresh Approach to Creating Mixed-Media Art

Collage Playground: A Fresh Approach to Creating Mixed-Media Art
by Kimberly Santiago

This is a good introduction to collage. I may have found it more useful if I came from a scrapbook background, but I am primarily a painter and so that has influenced how I viewed the book.

Kimberly‘s writing style is friendly and conversational and really easy to read. I liked her emphasis on playing. Which was evident throughout the book. Having fun, trying new things. There is a good basic introduction to art supplies that would be helpful in collage. Then Kimberly went through some projects to create collage elements. There were a couple of sections I found interesting in here. Particularly the weaving sparked a few ideas for me.

Kimberly then takes you through numerous projects, illustrating different ideas that she is highlighting. While there are some other media, the primary media is collage, which I guess is only natural in a collage book. Some examples were stepped through, and some weren’t, but all the explanations were clear. Most of her examples were geared towards finished works and canvases, but there was plenty I saw that could be translated to an art journal. Her use of fusible webbing as an adhesive is genius!

I wonder if it is my particular painter-bias, but I did feel that many of the projects felt a bit busy and paint by numbers (and there is nothing at all wrong with that, if that is what you are looking for), and I didn’t get a clear sense of story telling through the works created (which is something I was looking for). I was left thinking that I would have taken things further and the projects felt a bit unfinished to me.

I do want to stress that I felt there was a strong scrapbooking/craft influence and I think it will be wonderful for you if that is your style or preference.