Sunday, December 30, 2007

Thoughts and Ideas About Journalling

I have been thinking about journal keeping and artist journals.

There are so many opinions about what should and should not be in a journal. I'll talk first about what I've read and my own experience and at the end I'll share my new opinions.

I began keeping a diary of writing when I was nine years old. It was the type that held five years of information in it yet only gave you about four lines to write in. I still have this diary and re-read it recently. In it I documented the weather, what I ate for dinner and what special things happened that day, like a big snowstorm, or me being sick and staying home from school. That diary didn't last long. I remember feeling that I wanted to write more but was breaking the rules if I wrote more than the four lines.

When I was a teenager I began keeping another diary. I found this in my saved papers about a week ago and was horrified to see what I had written. I was surprised that I was so honest with some very private details. I was also using a lot of profanity and saying things I'd never want my parents to read. The date indicated that it was September of my ninth grade year which put me at age 14. The crazy thing is I hope that my own kids are not the way that I was back then. Is that a bad thing to think?

I had kept a few journals in my adulthood but tapered off. I was using those as a brain dump type of journal where I'd complain and write out the bad stuff going on in my life to 'get it out of my brain'. However I'd never want to re-read it as when I looked back on it I thought I was over-reacting. Other things I was embarrassed about and didn't want anyone to read.

I was inspired to keep a different kind of journal after reading two books by Danny Gregory: Everyday Matters and The Creative License. Danny Gregory feels that we should look to the bright side of things and to document what we see and feel, but the good stuff, not anything negative.

I read some journals by artist Dan Price and in those he documents things he sees and does. These are simple things. These are not complaints or journals filled with negativity. How to Make a Journal of Your Life is about journalling and shows some of his journals. The other two are copies of his journalled entries for your reading pleasure (Moonlight Chronicles and Radical Simplicity).

In reading the journal pages of artist Teesha Moore, I see she documents a combination of what is on her mind, what she is doing and seeing and other times focuses on making art on the page then putting down a quote she likes in fancy artful lettering. (See Moore's website for examples of her journals. She publishes and has published zines and magazines which you can buy through her site

In reading The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, I see that Edith Holden's nature journal was filled with exquisite watercolor drawings of things seen in nature. She also documented things she saw, the weather, and poetry related to the season or creatures she saw. This diary is very intimidating as many of us regular people cannot draw or paint in this manner. The last thing I'll say is that Holden went out in a way that is unbelievable: while on a nature walk she fell into a stream and drowned. At least she died doing something that she loved!

In the book Wild Days, homeschool mom of a bunch of kids Karen Skidmore Rackliffe writes of spending days in nature with her children to escape from the stresses of regular life. The whole family is encouraged to keep a nature journal but each child does the journalling to a different degree. The author keeps her own nature journal and has taught herself to become a good artist using the power of observation and practice.

In Sabrina Ward Harrison's books, (Spilling Open, Brave on the Rocks and The True and the Questions) the first two which are copies of her journal pages, we see honestly and raw thoughts. We see the good and the bad, the fears and the worries, the happiness and the joys.

When I read Wide Open by Randi Feuerhelm-Watts, I was seeing new ways to journal and to be honest. That would open up journalling to yes, include negative thoughts or to document stressful things. We were encouraged to be real in our journalling.

In True Colors we see copies of some pages from artist journals. These journals were part of a round robin journal project where each artist started a book and chose a color combination. The journal rotated through 14 artists and each had to make an entry using those colors. That book is a visual feast. It is more about making art filled pages in colors rather than writing and sharing thoughts in a written word format.

The last book I read about journal keeping was Journal Revolution by Linda Woods and Karen Dinino I read encouragement to journal our thoughts, whatever they may be. We are encouraged to write out and make art about the negative things in our lives, too.

There are so many other books about art techniques that can be used in artist journals. Those talk more about technique itself, giving ideas or teaching certain techniques. The ideas in those books can be used in many different applications. Some of my favorites are The Complete Guide to Altered Imagery by Karen Michel, Alphabetica by Lynne Perrella and Artist Journals and Sketchbooks also by Lynne Perrella.

My Concluding Thoughts
In the end I think we all should do what we want to do regarding what, how, and why we journal. Our journals can be mostly writing or mostly art or a balance of the two. We can choose what we want to put in them. Those who choose to document their lives including the not-so happy parts are free to do as they please. Those who want their journals to be all happy and light can do that too.

If we choose to journal we should use the journal for our own means. We should not feel pressured to copy what others are doing. We should not feel constricted by rules. We should do what we want and have fun with it.

If a certain artist likes to use paint we should not feel mandated to use paint. If a certain artist prefers watercolor but we don't use watercolor paint we should not feel then that we should not journal. If an artist likes vintage images in collage we should not feel we have to use vintage images.

We probably would all be more creative and free if we allow ourselves to make our own rules.

I encourage you to take in as much inspiration and information as you desire. Feel free to take away from these books what you like and want to emulate. Feel free to leave behind what does not appeal to you.

I encourage you also to find your own voice rather than just copying or imiting what some published artist is doing.

Do what feels right and good and have fun with your journalling. The minute it becomes stressful it is more like work and a hassle and keeping a journal should not be like that, I don't think!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Currently Reading: Art & Fear

I have heard this book recommended and quoted all over the place: Art & Fear by David Bales and Ted Orland.

I finally own a copy. I got it through

I began reading it a few days ago. I absolutely LOVE IT. Since so much of the book concentrates on the process of making art and the challenges and emotions with the process itself, I am really connecting with what the authors have to say.

I am reading this with a pencil in hand. I'm highlighting different passages that speak to me and marking notes in the borders. I don't do that with all books but when I feel the need to do it, for me that means the book is very good.

The book is easy to read and enjoyable. I'm half way through the 120 pages or so and figure I'll finish it in the next 2-3 days.

I can't recommend this book highly enough!

Update: I should have also mentioned that this book is often required reading in art classes at college for art students. So this book is well known in the artists' world and it is a well respected book.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Doing Art Journaling

Today I spent a few hours working on my art journal.

In the magazine Art & Life issue #9 Teesha Moore recommended using a certain Sharpie paint marker to write on top of water soluble oil pastel crayons. She recommended using Sharpie Poster Paint markers. I had an error in my memory and ordered Shaprie oil paint markers, so I'm using the oil paint markers.

Inspired by Teesha Moore, and needing a portable art material, I decided to finally do more art journaling with the water soluble oil pastel crayons. Today I made about 12 backgrounds for pages.

Then later when they were very dry I wrote for the first time with the oil paint markers. Wow they were great. The white was opaque, going down darker but drying quite opaque. It was too hard to read on the color background that I tried.

The black Sharpie oil paint markers are fan-tas-tic!

I don't know the pound weight of the paper that this journal has. Whatever it is, these markers bleed through to the other side.

I also tried writing with a regular fine point black Sharpie marker. That worked for a while then it got clogged up. Darn.

My younger son was curious about the work I was doing with the water soluble oil pastel crayons. I let him do some of the work. He liked the part where I was smearing the crayons with a damp facial tissue (instead of using a paint brush).

I plan to also collage on top of these pages. Tomorrow I think I will have even more time to make some backgrounds.

I am really feeling the drive to do more art projects just for me rather than being tied to swapping with other mail artists. It feels great to just play and not have it connected to a deadline.

Monday, December 17, 2007

My ATCs: Phone Book Paper

I took part in an artist trading card swap that required the use of phone book paper in it, in some way, any way. The swap was related to use techniques in the book by Bernie Berlin called "Artist Trading Card Workshop".

I usually don't make numerous ATCs with the same general design but this time I made three, the fruit bowls.

Fruit Bowl 1

Background: glossy white cardstock which I colored with Ranger alcohol inks and the gold version of the alcohol inks. Colored phone book paper with ink pads and used scrap papers to collage with.

Fruit Bowl 2
Background: crackle paint technique made with crackle medium and acrylic paint. Colored phone book paper with ink pads and used scrap papers to collage with.


Background: glossy white cardstock which I colored with Ranger alcohol inks and the gold version of the alcohol inks. Colored phone book paper with ink pads and used scrap papers to collage with.


Background: Weather map from newspaper. Colored phone book paper with ink pads.

Still Life with Wine
Background: watercolor paper with acrylic paint applied with old credit card. Cancelled postage stamp supposed to look like a painting on a wall. Tabletop, wine bottle and wine glass from phoen book paper colored with rubber stamp inks.

Fruit Bowl 3: Used in Swap for theme "Gather" for CMP Circle ATC Swap

Another with crackle medium used with acrylic paint for the background. Paint sample chip and scraps used to make the ATC. Phone book paper colored with rubber stamp ink.

He's A Player
Background acrylic paint in several colors applied with stipple brush. Rubber stamped image. Names from phone book paper applied. Hand lettering. My least favorite.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Brothers (Photo of the Day)

My boys at the FIRST LEGO League regaional competition.

I think their cozy body language tells a story.

Photo taken by ChristineMM, December 2007.

Haiku Monday 12/10/07

The North South Virus
This is what I was fighting!
The battle was lost.

Hard to mother them
When I need to be tended.
Glad husband was home.

Haiku by ChristineMM

(Once I was feeling better I wrote this for the 'Creative Mom Podcast Circle' Haiku Monday challenge to write haiku about something relevant to our lives on this day.)

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Thoughts About My Visit To Barnes & Noble Today

For the first time in over a year I took a trip to a brand new Barnes & Noble store. And I was alone. I was free to browse!

I had a gift card that I was willing to use if I found something worthy. I am so unused to buying books at the local B&N that this thing has been sitting in my wallet for four months unused!

I have an educator discount card which they give to home educators and teachers. However my 'store cards' are over an inch thick and somehow in changing pocketbooks last summer I misplaced all of them. I was thinking I might have to re-apply for a new card. I hate renewing time as the staff always asks me for further proof of homeschooling above and beyond my homeschooling ID card. They usually want a 'letter from the state'. Well no such thing exists in Connecticut. They seem so worried of fraud with people pretending they homeschool that it is ridiculous. Actually to be more fair the local Borders (Fairfield CT) has really harrassed me about my purchases. Asking for every book, "Are you sure this is for homeschooling?". Duh, it is a children's history book, a science book, so on and so forth. Well guess what local bookstore cashiers, you've driven my sales to With Amazon I get larger discounts than their educator discounts, I get free shipping and I don't pay the 6% sales tax, and I don't use gasoline or waste my driving time either.

First I glanced at the magazines. I was really surprised at how so many people were sitting there reading the magazines. But worse was the guy reading a newspaper (that he didn't pay for) and he was making a mess of it. That takes gall.

I then selected three arts and crafts books to look at. I had not been able to tell when viewing the info on Amazon from the Internet if they were worth owning or not, if I could really use them or if they were not of interest to me.

One book I skimmed is about making books (binding one's own books). I have an issue with written directions. Sometimes they make no sense to me. Sometimes the accompanying illustations are helpful and sometimes they are confusing. I found a great book that I would love to own. I saw some that are in that category of books that I'd never be able to understand. So now I have a book on my wish list that I want "How To Make Books" by Esther K. Smith. I really, really want this book. It has such a range of projects and teaches the copic stitch among other things.

I have blogged in the past about the book "Stupid Sock Creatures" by John Murphy. I was surprised to see a tabletop display that had three different books that make odd looking creatures out of socks and/or gloves and/or fabrics. Since I love John Murphy's book so much I wished it was on the table with that display so maybe he'd make some sales. These are the books I saw there which I'd not known about before.

1. "Sock and Glove: Creating Charming Softy Friends from Cast-Off Socks and Gloves" by Miyako Kanamori. Most of the examples in the book were with white socks or cream colored socks with accent colors and resembled twists on the old sock monkeys. They were so white they all looked like they were made with brand new socks by the way. Very cute and muted. Not too 'weird'. Publshed November 2006.

2. "Plush-o-Rama: Curious Creatures for Immature Adults" by Linda Kopp. Cute and wacky and weird creatures, all colors. Published May 2007.

3. "Softies: Simple Instructions for 25 Plush Pals" by Therese Laskey, Leah Kramer, and Laurie Frankel. Silly and odd in the same way as John Murphy's "Stupid Sock Creatures" but using felt and fabrics. Published August 2007.

All of those books on making stuffed creatures are fun and worth buying if you are into that kind of crafting and have the money to spend! They were all different enough and had different visual insipiration value.

Last week I watched a re-run of an episode of "Craft Lab" on the DIY Network. A few months ago, after clicking through art and craft blogs I found Jennifer Perkins blog and read that she hosts this show that I hadn't known existed. The guest was Laura Mika. My boys wanted to watch the show with me as they love working with polymer clay. The big project they did in the book is outlined in her July 2007 book "Mixed Media Mosaics: Techniques & Projects Using Polymer Clay Tiles, Beads & Other Embellishments". I skimmed the book and it was full of inspirational photos and had directions for other projects as well. Once you have the basics down (which I learned from watching the show) you don't need to own the book. This is a book that I'd buy for the inspirational viewing and for easy reference if I wanted to make the various projects as she did. If money was not an object I'd definately buy it.

I also read another book which was very good. My pen was not working so I could not jot down the title and I just knew I'd forget it (darn). It was a nifty book that sought to explore the crafting revolution and to discuss the 'scene' as it has been evolving. The book also had directions to make all kinds of different crafts ranging from paper crafts to knitting to needleworking to sewing. I would not make most of what was in there but it was a very fun book and quite affordable for all that it offered for a full retail of JUST $17.95. Darn now I wish I remembered the title!

I glanced at the books for teachers and was sorely disappointed in their selections. I was hoping to find some of Carol Butzow's books there and was going to buy one or two. I know Amazon doesn't discount them so I wouldn't care about buying them at B&N using my educator discount.

I then visited the manga section for the first time and was blown away. I cannot believe how much manga is out there. My older son is asking to read Naruto (a manga series which is also an anime cartoon and also a trading card game) as he has seen a couple of episodes of the carton while visiting my brother (who was showing it to his then-four year old, who is now five and still watching it). I noted that Naruto series of manga was not rated (some of the manga books are rated T for Teen). However on page 14 of volume one there was a nude woman with the absolute essentials covered but nothing else. That was enough to me to underscore I won't be having them read those anytime soon. (This weekend I also have been emailing with a local homeschooling mother whose 13 year old son I saw reading it last week. That teen said the series is not right for kids and that in his opinion 'none of the manga is'.)

On the way out I saw a big display next to the door for "The Dangerous Book for Boys" and "The Daring Book for Girls" (both for 20% off). I had read some controversy or shall I say complaints on blogs about the book for girls. I'll say this: the glitter on the cover was unnecessary and was a mistake, I believe. That's all I'll say about that. Once I had watched a promo video for "Dangerous" on and it looked cool but to be honest we already own The American Boys Handy Book" which has all that stuff and more. I own other books of 'stuff to do' and even some antique Boy Scout Handbooks which have all that stuff in them. I don't need yet another book with the same old stuff reprinted into a new format.

Dragonology book

Wizardology book

I then noticed calendars modeled after the books "Dragonology" and "Wizardology". They were both gorgeous. My boys don't yet have a need for their own wall calendar or I may have bought "Dragonology". I hesitate to admit this as some of my blog readers will say "I told you so" but after my son read "Wizardology" my older son was acting like the magic was real. He was saying spells and asking questions about spells. I tell my son that they are not real as I don't believe in witchcraft. Interestingly enough some of the customer reviews on Amazon say the spells are not accurate for reference for those truly wishing to practice magic. I don't believe in witchcraft so to me it is not real. However some of my Catholic and Christian friends tell me magic is indeed real and for this reason they choose to not allow their children to read Harry Potter or "Wizardology" and some other books which have magic in them.

Wizardology 2008 Wall Calendar

Dragonology 2008 Wall Calendar

In the children's section, which was GIGANTIC and highly decorated and made into a little sub-room of the store, I noticed new ways of organizing the books. The books have labels such as "grades 3-6 ages 8-11" and then there are books in that category. The books were very nicely separated out. I don't recall that same system in the other nearby B&N stores. It was very helpful. In that category was Harry Potter and Gary Paulsen books among others.

I also noted right at the entrance a large display of the Pullman "His Dark Materials" trilogy, taking advantage of the movie release to bolster some book sales. The controversy over that continues on the blogosphere, on websites and in emails. In case you are wondering I bought the books used at library fundraiser books sales not even knowing the controversy. I plan to read them to myself after New Year's so I can have my own opinion. So far I don't like the idea of them at all.

So I left the store empty handed. That is another thing that kills me about the gift cards we get for B&N. Local relatives buy us B&N gift cards yet to use them in the local store for no discount plus 6% sales tax kills me. I see today that some books I wanted are far less discounted on B& compared to I would like the biggest bang for my buck and wished that B& was comparable to

Sigh, what to do?

I also had a thoght while walking around. I was feeling a bit burnt out by books. I just have too many around here. (Did I really say that?) There was a time when I'd yearn to own all the books in B&N and to have access to all of that information. But you know what? I already have books here yet unread and I'm feeling that they are overflowing and so I left empty-handed and content.

(Although I do still have this gift card to use...)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Wild Days: Creating Discovery Journals Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: Wild Days: Creating Discovery Journals
Author: Karen Skidmore Rackliff
Format: softcover book
ISBN-13: 978-1576360736
Publisher: self-published

This is a slim volume, a quick read, I finished it in under three hours. The author, Karen Skidmore Rackliff writes in a colloquial manner which is easy to understand. The author tells of how she and her seven homeschooled children spend one day out of every two weeks in nature. When the family (and especially mom) is feeling stressed out by errands and household tasks they pack meals and snacks and head off for a full day in nature. Rackliff calls these “wild days”.

When she decided to have her children keep nature journals, at first she forced each child to record words and images in what she calls a “discovery journal” (what others call a “nature journal”).

She is not ashamed to admit that her oldest son didn’t like this and said she feels that over time he continues to be disinterested. With subsequent children she stated she was less forceful, and simply modeled journaling by (continuing) to make her own journal in their presence. She said she felt that this was key in subsequent children being more creative artistically and with the written word in their own journals.

The author’s approach to their nature journals changed over time to what I feel is more like “unschooling” in which the child is placed in a stimulating environment with art supplies and a blank journal, and where the parent doesn’t really care if the journal is ever used or not. I wondered if the difference in her two sons’ reaction to their use of the discovery journal could possibly be due to the child’s interest or learning style; the son who was so creative with detailed writing entries may have a talent or special enjoyment of composing written journal entries rather than focusing on having more drawn images.

I appreciated the listing of published nature journals that are on the market today and plan to use these lists for future reading “wish lists”. However, being completely untalented in any area of artistic endeavor, I was wishing for some references for books for beginners, to learn basic drawing and watercolor skills. The author made it clear that she taught herself to draw and paint by just doing it, practicing and experimenting and feels we all should do it this way. While the notion of not needing to take classes or read books before starting a journal is appealing, it is actually scary to me. Here again, I think the author’s own learning style preference of just doing it and jumping in as a novice is due to her own learning style, whereas my comfort level-learning style is to learn a little about technique from reading about it to give me some concrete information and some confidence, before facing the blank page.

All in all when I finished the book I was excited at the idea of planned time in nature to observe, relax, and de-stress. I have always wanted to learn to draw and paint and this book has really inspired me. I also appreciated the content to support my continued attempt to have my own Charlotte Mason style homeschooled children keep a nature journal.

I would have preferred a bit more detail about which brands of art supplies are good, rather than her just saying “ask the storekeeper at the art supply store” for recommendations of good products.

I enjoyed the small black and white photographs of the discovery journal entries which ranged from her young children’s art to her own beautiful entries. They were nice to see and helped me get a gist for what is typical of young children’s drawings (when they are not taking formal art lessons).

Note: I bought this book in January 2003. I wrote this review in April 2003. I continue to recommend this book as it is the most ‘real’ book about nature journaling with children that I’ve ever seen. I also have since tried drawing in pencil and ink. I have read other books on art journals and drawing, check my profile to read those.

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I Still Love the Book Wild Days

Last week on the CMP Circle discussion group someone asked about nature journaling and children. I quickly recommended my favorite nature journaling book "Wild Days" by Karen Skidmore Rackliffe.

I was sure I had written a review of it a long time ago, on Amazon. Yet it was not there. Hmmm. My Amazon account showed that I'd purchased the book in April 2003.

Sure enough there was the review sitting on my computer's hard drive. Yes, I have had this computer that long.

In these last four plus years I continue to find Wild Days the most read-able and the least-intimidating book about starting to draw from nature for the untrained person who feels or worries that they cannot draw but that they wish they could.

Today I submitted the review to Amazon.

I wanted to share that if you cannot get a copy of this through Amazon, try buying it from Penny Gardner's website. Penny Gardner is a homeschooling mother, author and speaker about homeschooling and the Charlotte Mason method. On Gardner's site you can read excerpts and even view some pages from nature journals which readers of the book created.

One thing I noted from my original review was I kept talking about learning styles. The reason is that within the two months prior, I had read a book about learning styles and that was fresh on my mind. I feel that learning styles are very important especially in the very early years of a child’s life. At the time I wrote the review my children were aged 2.5 and 5.5. I was homeschooling them and what their learning styles were was influencing how we homeschooled.

Look for my review on the book which I'll publish shortly.

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Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Tokyo Look Book: Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: The Tokyo Look Book
Author: Philomena Keet
Photographer: Yuri Manabe
ISBN 13: 978-4770030610
Publication Date: September 2007

5 stars

Why I Read This Book
I requested this book through the Amazon Vine program and finished reading it yesterday. Although I am not a fashion junkie, I am interested in ways that people express themselves and I’m interested in other cultures. I admire people who can work with fiber and sew their own fashions. I love seeing people take something old or out of fashion and recreating it into something new and fresh. I also was curious to learn of a fashion scene that is not just copying American fashion in another country.

I really loved it.

In The Tokyo Look Book, anthropologist Philomena Keet writes of the full spectrum of Tokyo's street fashion scene. This is the first book to cover all the types of fashion, to cover everything from Goth to high fashion. The text explains of each subculture and gives a bit of information on the people in the photographs, both about their clothing and a little about their lives. There are also spotlight features on specific designers that go into more detail about how they began in the fashion design business.

The photographs are great, showing the true personality of those pictured as well as capturing their clothing and accessories.

The book has a great aesthetic and is interesting to flip through. The paper is thick and glossy and it has a paperback cover.

I read the entire book cover to cover and found it very interesting. This is not just a book of fashion photos. I found Keet's explanation of the subcultures and of how and why they choose to wear these clothes so interesting. Keet received her doctorate degree in Tokyo's street fashion scene. My only complaint is that I would have liked just a little more information on each sub-culture and a chapter at the end to wrap everything up. It seems that Keet is so knowledgeable about 'the scene' that maybe she assumes the reader knows a bit more than they actually do. Keet states this is the only book to cover ALL the sub-cultures rather than focusing on single sub-culture's or a couple of certain ones (as Fruits magazine and the Fruits books do).

This is so different than the fashion scene with American teens and 20-something's. The idea that they dress to synchronize in small groups and cliques and try not to stand out as an individual too much was fascinating. And the idea that they dress up and hang out on a specific bridge so that spectators, photographers and tourists can see them is just something I didn't even know people did for fun! I found learning about and seeing these fashions fun. I enjoyed seeing the creativity of the people featured in the book.

I imagine that anyone working in fashion and curious about the fashion scene in Tokyo would of course be interested in this book. "Project Runway" junkies may like this book too. Those who love Japanese culture would enjoy it as well. Fiber artists and those who like to design their own clothing or those who re-use vintage garments and turn them into something new will also find the visual stimulation and creativity of the people inspiring. People watchers and those curious of other cultures also will enjoy this book as well.

This is a fun and interesting read! This may be interesting as a coffee table book as one reviewer stated but if all you do is flip through the photos you will miss out on the interesting parts that are in the text!