Category Archives: Art

Fun Venture Cafe Event

Art journal pages projected on screen as part of a slide show featuring art inspired by science.
Art journal pages projected on screen as part of a slide show featuring art inspired by science.

Last week some of my science inspired art journal pages were in a slide show as part of an event called “Science of Creativity”. I’m a believer in the fun and benefits of adult coloring and art journaling so it was very rewarding for me to show some of my samples and also participate in coloring activities on at the event. Venture Cafe activities are kind of like mini conventions and happy hours where you can attend presentations and network with people in a low-pressure situation.

Read more on the Schnarr’s Hardware blog:
Exploring Where Art and Science Meet at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center

Self-help techniques for depression

Last year at this time I was fighting major depression as a result of abuse. I am thankful that this year is much better for me but I know some people who are really struggling right now. I vividly remember how last year’s Holiday season made me feel worse. Winter weather and less daylight contributed to the struggle also. I had counseling and intensive outpatient therapy to help me recover. I learned some new techniques and tips to help me pull out of depression and here are some actions that I found to be the most effective for me. Please keep in mind that I’m not a professional therapist or a doctor and I needed professional help along with the following practices I could do on my own to recover. Please get professional help if you are suffering from depression. If you are afraid that you might harm yourself, please call 911 or a suicide hotline immediately. Here is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number – 1-800-273-8255.

Action #1
Help someone else who is suffering – No matter what your situation is, there are always going to be people who have it even worse than you. I’m not saying this to invalidate what you are feeling because you feel how you feel no matter what other people are going through. Maybe you can visit a lonely person or make a phone call, make someone a nice baked good or homemade gift, do a good deed for a neighbor or volunteer for a charity. No matter how humble you think your gifts are, someone out there can use them. I know that one of the most depressing thoughts you can have is that you don’t matter or no one would care if you are gone. It’s not true, even if other people have tried to make you think that. Doing things for people helps you prove that to yourself and the gratitude you get is very healing.

Action #2
Explore DBT skills for emotion regulation – DBT stands for Dialectical Behavior Training. While in group therapy we practiced some DBT techniques which helped me out a great deal. The concepts were new to me and I wish I’d known about them earlier in life. I kept printouts about the anger and sadness emotion regulation techniques hung up in my bathroom for months so that I could perform normal life functions and do things I needed to do for recovery. I recommend you get the workbook and if you can, take classes. When I was feeling overwhelmed with emotions the techniques on the worksheets were invaluable.

This slide show provides a good overview of distress tolerance and includes some good techniques: DBT Distress Tolerance Skills

For example, I had to learn to tolerate distress because I was in a situation that I could not fix. You can’t make the trauma not have happened. There were people in group therapy with me that were rape victims, crime victims, were homeless and in other situations that could not be undone or fixed quickly. You have to learn to tolerate your situation to avoid making it worse. For example there were many times at work when I had to run to the refrigerator to put a cold drink on my head and do breathing exercises so I could do my job – that’s an example of learning to cope to avoid making things worse. It wouldn’t help my recovery to add financial and career problems to the trauma I already had. I was left with a huge therapy bill, enough to buy a good used car, and adding unpaid bills to my other problems would not make me feel better!

Intrigued? Here is some more information about DBT.
Dialectical Behaviour Therapy

Action #3
Attend support groups – Some people tell me that support groups are not effective for them but I find them valuable. It’s a good place to discuss painful things with people who understand some of what you’ve been through and will listen without being judgmental. Sometimes there is no one else in a person’s life to provide this. If you do have people in your life who will listen you have to be careful not to burn them out. It feels good to provide this service to other people in the group because you know how valuable it is. Also you can learn from the other members’ experiences and get good information about resources you may need.

Action #4
Use AND statements in your internal dialougue – I learned this in a support group and it’s one of the most helpful things anyone has ever told me. “I feel ______ AND I’m going to _______.” This is a good way to remind yourself that there are a lot of things you can do despite how you feel.

Examples of AND statements I’ve used to motivate myself:
“I’m angry AND I’m going to give this customer extra good service and make their day easier.”
“I’m sad AND I’m going to take a walk and enjoy nature.”
“I’m tired AND I’m going to go grocery shopping so I have nutritious food to eat.”

Action #5
G.R.A.P.E.S. – This is an acronym to help you remember to take steps each day to help recover from depression. When you are really depressed, it’s difficult to take any kind of action. I learned from experience that if I did everything on this list daily I would improve. It was hard. It took a long time. But it did work!

  • Being Gentle with yourself
  • Relaxation
  • Achievement
  • Pleasure
  • Exercise
  • Social

I made a set of felt ornaments for a friend to put little pieces of paper in as a reminder of which activities have been done that day and motivation for getting as many as possible completed each day. I suggested she start with the papers on the sun side and move them to the moon side as they are finished to get more out of the cycle of each day. I also made a set for myself. The patterns for the sun and moon came from the book “Forest Fairy Crafts”.

I made a PDF file that includes reminders that you can print out on cardstock or on clear sticker paper to incorporate them into different systems that you might use for motivation such as calendars or planners. I threw in some motivational sayings that are designed for cards the size of ATCs (artist trading cards). Some people call these “self care cards”.
Download PDF here

Action #6
Light Therapy – Other people can explain better than I can the science behind improving your mood with light. I just know that it works. I give myself exposure to a natural light lamp and try to get natural sunlight on me as much as possible. Of course that is difficult in winter when you have to cover up to be outdoors but I use the outdoor activities I enjoy and gardening to motivate me to get what sun exposure I can.

Action #7
Meditation – I never tried meditation before I was in group therapy. I was having severe sleep problems and a group meditation session got me closer than I had been to sleep in quite some time. I decided to download some apps to help me meditate on my own and I’ve enjoyed using them ever since. There are guided meditations designed especially for problems such as sleep, anxiety and depression. Meditation has been a great discovery for me!

Action #8
Collect motivational and comforting sayings – fighting depression feels like you are fighting your own brain and your own thoughts all the time. Putting an input of healthy thoughts in my brain is helpful. I put some of them in my journal where I can use them for inspiration, a journaling prompt or just a reminder to get my thoughts in a healthy direction. You might put such sayings on the wall, on a fridge, on a computer slide show, on a Pinterest board or wherever it’s convenient for you.

In a support group meeting that I go to, we read affirmations at the end. We are supposed to pick ones that resonate with us at the moment. Sometimes I or other people have to look at the list a long time before we see one that we think is the truth. I know what it’s like to read an inspirational or motivational saying or affirmation and think “yeah, right”. Give it a chance and give it time and maybe more and more of them will seem true to you.

Action #9
Try new activities with a group – Doing something fun with a group of strangers may not be a substitute for having a close friend to do activities with. However, I think it’s much more likely to lift your mood than staying home alone. You’ll also get the opportunity to make some friends. For example I do a lot of activities with groups on Meetup.com. There are groups you can join for every interest and activities for every budget.

Action #10
Journaling – there are several ways my art journal helped me fight depression.

I wrote down thoughts which helped get them out of my mind. Once expressed, it was easier to get my mind on something more pleasant.

I gained new insights through writing. Forcing myself to organize my thoughts by writing them down made me understand situations better.

I kept track of my tasks. I found it much more satisfying to do what I needed to do to get better if I made a task page or some kind of task listing for it in my journal/planner. I found it motivating to fill in or mark completed tasks as opposed to just keeping track in my head. Seeing tangible evidence of the completed tasks made me feel proud.

Do artwork that expresses your feelings. Some of my best artwork was made when I was really having a bad time. It makes me feel a little bit better to know that if I had to go through the feelings, I at least got some strong artwork out of it. Here are a couple of art journal pages that I did Christmas Day 2016. I hope I never feel again like I did that day but I did get quite a bit of satisfaction out of my artistic expression.
“Going Cheap”
“Secrets”

I made gratitude lists. It’s easy to forget about the good things we still have – referring to a list of things to be grateful for is a good reminder that life isn’t all bad. As an exercise when I felt like I “hated everyone and everything” I decided to go through two magazines and make a collage out of things I was grateful for. I realized that even if I could not enjoy them now I would again in the future.

I made a list of my progress. Seeing what I’d achieved in recovery then referring to it when I felt frustrated by my seemingly slow progress was a great motivator for me. I had been taken down so far by abuse that performing normal, everyday activities became milestones. Keeping track of them DID help me realize I was slowly getting better and gave me determination to keep working.

Action #11
Spiritual practices – In my life I’ve gone back and forth from having religious faith to having serious doubts. I’ve resolved my doubts for the most part at this stage of life but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy for me to take time out for prayer and worship. However, I’ve found spiritual practices are one of many things where if you don’t “feel like” doing it, if you do it anyway the feeling will follow. In other words, let feelings follow the actions, don’t let feelings dictate your actions. Is this proof of the existence of God or just how the human brain works? Either way, if you’re open to it spiritual practices have been a source of strength and healing for me. I’ve prayed for strength in many tough situations and received it and I am very grateful.

Finally Finished My New Year Cards!

For many years I’ve responded to Christmas Cards by sending out New Year cards – I explained why I do that in this previous blog post: Why I Send New Year Cards Instead of Christmas Cards.

I started this year’s design by collaging small pieces of paper onto scrap paper strips that were about 3/4 to 1 1/4 inches wide. I began with the numbers “2018” which I cut from the 7gypsies papers Paddington Blackfriars and American Vintage: 12×12 State Plates Paper. I filled in the paper strips with assorted scrap papers from my small scrap box.

Next I rubbed on some images from the set Architextures™ Parchment Rub-On – Build which were a good fit for my chosen theme “Let’s build a great 2018!”. I added a bit of Tim Holtz paper tape.

I trimmed my strips with scissors to make the edges as even a possible then I scanned them and used Adobe Photoshop software to refine my trimming job and arranged some of the strips into a rectangular digital collage for the front of the card. I made a selection outline of all the areas with the year numbers and turned up the contrast so that they would stand out more. I added some grid designs and hardware looking graphics using Adobe Illustrator then I saved a PDF file of my cards to take to the printer.

While I was working on the collages for my New Year card, I also completed a project for Canvas Corp Brands. I’ve been selected for the 2018 CCB Creative Crew , the design team that makes samples and comes up with projects for Canvas Corp Brands products. Our first challenge was to decorate a 4 x 4 inch canvas in a way that highlights our personal style.

To create the above decorated mixed media canvas I cut three of my collage strips to fit the 4 x 4 inch stretched canvas from Canvas Corp.

I squirted some StazOn Timber Brown permanent rubber stamping ink onto an old food lid to use as a palette. I used the side of an eraser to print a line of Timber Brown along the edges of each collage strip.

I painted my canvas with yellow acrylic paint and allowed it to dry.

Then I applied Tattered Angels Color Wash paint in Rose Gold with a brush along the sides and around the edges of the canvas.

To finish my canvas, I glued the collage strips to the front with Turbo Tacky Glue and nailed tiny tacks into the corners of each paper piece. All done!

Come see me at the Fall Art Walk in Old Webster – October 6-15, 2017

Old Webster Fall Art Walk

Stamping and Printing with Found Objects

I hope you can visit Schnarr’s Hardware in Webster Groves Missouri between October 6 and 15th to see my display for the Old Webster Art Walk!

The theme of my show will be things made from recycled materials. If you’re into upcycling and repurposing, you’ll get a lot of ideas! On Saturday October 7 and 14th, I’ll also be doing a demo in the store from 12-4 pm. On the 7th, see how to make art prints with recycled and found materials. On the 14th, I’ll show you how to make fun fall greeting cards.

Come join us for a self-guided tour of many different area businesses in Webster Groves, all with a different artist and art display. For more information: https://oldwebsterartwalk.com/

Make a Storage Box Out of Recycled Mat Board

 

storage box out of recycled mat board

When matting artwork, it’s common to have a lot of mat board scraps left over. I had a number of scraps that were large enough to make small open top storage boxes. If you would like to make one similar, here is how I did it.

You will need:
5 square mat board pieces of equal size
An assortment of collage papers
An assortment of tools for decorating paper – I used stencils, rubber stamps, paint, printmaking ink, markers and colored pencils
Yes Paste
Clean scrap paper
Bone folder or Squeegee multipurpose tool
Old credit card or your favorite glue-spreading tool
Acrylic medium
Paint brush
Tim Holtz Idea-ology Metal Box Corners – they come in a package of 8 and you’ll need 4 corners per box
Pencil
Awl
Chunk of old wood
Metal corner braces
Old belts or strips of leather or faux leather
Metal brads

First take your five mat board pieces and decorate both sides with collage papers combined with the paper embellishing techniques of your choice. Use water resistant inks because you’ll be applying acrylic medium over your collages later. Yes Paste is my favorite glue for sticking down large pieces of paper that have to look flat and free of wrinkles. I apply the glue with a credit card to get a nice thin layer then after laying down the paper piece I’m gluing I put a clean piece of scrap paper on top and burnish with a bone folder or Squeegee tool to get a tight, flat seal.

While working on this project at Perennial, another member asked me where I get my paper ephemera. The short answer to that question is that I’ve been collecting papers since the year I first got turned on to making collages – 1985! A more involved answer is to suggest some of the following sources of interesting papers:

  • Old magazines and catalogs.
  • Is someone you know doing some major cleaning? Offer to help in exchange for keeping interesting papers. This is a good way to get old graphic design samples, newspapers, books, maps, photos, negatives, stamps, envelopes, tickets – all kinds of neat stuff.
  • Purchase some reproduction ephemera from a craft supplier.
  • Save your art and paper craft “failures” and experiments. Whenever you have extra paint or ink, add a little more embellishment to your scraps until you get something you like. Toward the end of this article are examples of some great results I got using this method – Fun With Stencils.
  • Check thrift stores, estate sales, garage sales, flea markets, etc.
  • Shop a teachers resource recycling center like Leftovers, etc.
  • Make your own with any paper technique that you like, or a combination of techniques, such as rubber stamping, stenciling, painting, printing, making paste paper, rubbings, handmade paper, computer printouts, cyanotypes or drawing.
  • Use the decorative paper pads commonly sold for scrapbooking. There are designs for every taste and decorating style.

When you are satisfied with your designs, brush both sides of your mat board pieces with acrylic medium for durability and let dry.

Next start assembling your box from the bottom up, using the box corner hardware and the metal brads included in the package. Use a pencil to mark where the holes go and punch out the holes with an awl. An old chunk of wood is handy for protecting your work surface from the awl point. Be carful with the awl and aim it away from yourself while pressing down and through. Push brads through holes and spread the tines from the inside of the box to assemble the four bottom corners.

At this point the top four corners are loose and flapping so you’ll need something to stabilize them and keep your box shaped like a cube. At Perennial I rummaged through the spare hardware bins and found a couple of metal corner braces which worked wonderfully when attached with brass brads. There were only two available so I looked for something else for the other corners. You can buy metal corner braces at a hardware store and use them on all four top corners if you like.

Storage box with pieces of old belts on the corners
Storage box with pieces of old belts attached to some of the corners with metal brads

At Perennial there is a box of old belts and belts have holes! Idea! I selected some to cut down and use on the other corners. Attached with brads, they work well with the “grunge” look of my boxes. If you lack old belts, you can use a variety of materials that can be cut into strips and have holes poked in it – plastic from old lids, scraps of faux leather, scraps of real leather, thin metal – what do you have lying around that you want to try?

Fun at Perennial – a place, not a plant

Mary with two of her jewelry display boards that she built
Mary with two of her jewelry display boards that she built

Perennial is a non-profit community workshop and store with the mission of building a creative culture of sustainability and turning discarded items into valuable resources. As an artist and craftsperson who already is enthusiastic about using recycled materials, I was delighted when my friend Mary (pictured at top left) invited me to meet her there and try out one of the community workshop sessions.

I met Mary at a Creative Arts Fellowship last year and got to know her better at some subsequent events. Mary’s art and mine have a lot in common – we both like upcyling materials and taking apart old jewelry to make new. I enjoyed teaching a class with Mary recently at one of her Women’s Upcycled Jewelry Jams. I’m looking forward to more opportunities for Mary and I to collaborate. A gifted artist and teacher, Mary creates under the name Sanctified Studios.

I knew I’d love Perennial after being in there for about two minutes! Seeing all the nice work space, supplies and tools was exciting but what really sold me was the console stereo! Clearly my retro-loving, thrift-shopping, dumpster-diving self was going to feel comfortable here.

Look at all those wonderful woodworking tools!
Look at all those wonderful woodworking tools!

At my first work session I cut up some wood for an upcoming class I’m going to be teaching on building garden pollinator houses. Then I put together a wood tray that I’ll be finishing and writing about later.

You can become a member of Perennial to access the work space and use the tools when they hold open sessions. Different levels of membership also give you discounts on classes and other events. Perennial accepts donations of materials. You can trade or purchase some of the materials for what you think is a fair market value. They also make craft kits that are for sale in the shop.

Some of the supply stash on the left and the sewing area on the right.
Some of the supply stash on the left and the sewing area on the right.

Art and crafting can often be lonely activities. Working around other artists is really healthy for social interaction and for the stimulation of being around new ideas. I’m looking forward to many happy times while I enjoy my new membership!

Creative Arts Fellowship at DaySpring School of the Arts

I saw a notice for an event called Creative Arts Fellowship, an event for Christian artists to share art and faith. Both my faith and my art needed some help so I decided to attend and see what it was all about. Besides just being curious I was ready for some spiritual and emotional healing. When you’ve been emotionally abused by someone who puts themselves out there as a Christian, it can really shake your faith. I don’t want to let one person ruin how I feel about God any more than I want one person to make me look down on myself or lose faith in the possibility that some people are capable of being good to you.

We watched some short inspirational and musical videos. Some of the participants joined in with a form of dance. We heard some very good preaching which was on topics that I really needed to hear about. For someone like me used to a more formal style of worship it was refreshingly different. The content is from a non-denominational Christian perspective. We did some discussion and sharing, both about personal issues and about art issues. I believe the arts are inherently healing and sharing art in a kind and supportive atmosphere is even more so – the art world in general can be pretty unkind as any artist knows. All forms of art are encouraged here, participants shared visual arts, crafts and poetry. The art shared does not have to have specifically spiritual content.

I was treated with love, understanding and acceptance at the event and I made a lot of progress in how I feel about my faith and other human beings. We all need a reminder that there are people who want us to succeed and won’t put us down for trying to use our creative gifts. This past summer a person I loved tried to destroy my self confidence by attacking me for just that reason. He knew me well enough to know what would damage me the most. Right after that the studio I was renting closed (it was extra frustrating because my hard work over the last several months was just staring to pay off financially) and I didn’t need that when I was already feeling worthless and like a failure. When you’re in a state of heightened emotions it’s easy to see everything as being a personal attack on you even when it’s not. Sometimes it’s just life. I believe creativity comes from God. The God I believe in would not give me creative gifts if he didn’t want me to use them. I got some affirmation that it’s ok for me to use my gifts and some ideas for outlets where they might do the most good. As I get stronger I believe I will be led to opportunities to help others heal through art. Art therapy is not a new idea to me but art ministry in the form of this meeting kind of is – I want to learn more!

Future dates for Art Fellowships are on selected Monday evenings from 7:00 – 9:00 pm at DaySpring School of the Arts at 2500 Metro Blvd, Maryland Heights, MO 63043.
September 19, 2016
October 3, 2016
October 17, 2016
November 7, 2016
December 6, 2016

I’m planning on coming back for more fellowship nights! DaySpring School for the Arts also has classes for adults and children in the fields of Music, Theatre, Dance, Visual Art, Crafts and Design. They have space for rent for special events and parties. I didn’t see all of the facilities but what I saw of the building looks very modern and stylish. For more information go to: dayspringarts.org.

For those recovering from emotional abuse, these links have helped me – they might help you too.

http://liveboldandbloom.com/11/relationships/signs-of-emotional-abuse – recognizing the signs takes awhile sometimes – it can creep up on you slowly and it can happen to anyone

https://www.psychopathfree.com/articles/10-simple-things-you-can-do-to-support-a-survivor-of-emotional-abuse.335/ – send this link to your friends and family

http://www.dbtselfhelp.com/index.html – emotion regulation

https://www.psychopathfree.com/articles/stages-of-grief-from-a-psychopathic-relationship.138/ – understanding the stages of grief might help you avoid beating yourself up for taking too long to get over it

Volunteer Work at Artists First Studio in Maplewood

Supplies in the paint room after I organized them
Supplies in the paint room after I organized them

I recently lost the art studio I had been renting and combined with some other much worse sad things that happened in my life around the same time, I have had a rough time lately. When you’re feeling bad, one of the quickest ways to make yourself feel better is to help someone else. Artists First studio in Maplewood is a non-profit organization that helps people with disabilities. Their mission is to foster independence through self-expression. These clients need access to an art studio even more than I do. Helping them reminds me that I have a lot of blessings even though I’ve had some bad losses also. I’ve been doing some volunteer work on my last couple of visits helping to organize supplies in the paint room. I don’t know what my next assignment will be but it’s likely in the future that I’ll be teaching the clients how to use some of the supplies. I have some previous experience teaching art on a volunteer basis to people with mental illness and mental disabilities.

For more information about the Artists First studio, here is their web site: artistsfirststl.org. This is a great cause if you have any time or resources to contribute.

paint_room_2

New Year Card for 2016

Here are the results of what has become an annual ritual for me – designing a card to celebrate the New Year!

New Year Card for 2016
New Year Card for 2016

This year there are three versions of the card – see my Pinterest board for a peek at the other two variations.

Making these designs was kind of an involved process. The first thing I did was go through some monoprints I did back in the 1990s that I thought would make good backgrounds. These prints were “rejects” that I didn’t think were interesting enough on their own but I thought might be good as part of a collage some time in the future. Next I used some archival dye-based ink (Ancient Page and ColorBox Archival) to stencil designs on top of the background pieces. I chose this ink because it was translucent and I wanted the backgrounds to show through a little. Most of the stencils I used on the backgrounds were from a series that I cut out back in September consisting of designs inspired by a mid-century modern building I saw on a trip last summer.

I drew a set of retro ornament shapes and cut them out of more monoprint scraps, and stenciled on them with some commercial stencils of geometric design. I thought they complemented the mid-century modern look quite well. I don’t know many more times I can go back to the well of inspiration that is retro ornaments – I have yet to get tired of them!

The next step was to scan the background pieces into the computer and work on them a bit with Photoshop. I altered the colors a little bit on some of these to make them better backgrounds for the ornaments. The real life pieces will be used later in some art projects. I got some more use out of the backgrounds by making them into header images for Google+, Facebook and Etsy – I like to change those seasonally and without the seasonal references I won’t have to change these headers for awhile!

Monoprint leftovers with stenciling on top and a little bit of computer enhancement and collaging.
Monoprint leftovers with stenciling on top and a little bit of computer enhancement and collaging.

Next I scanned in the ornament pieces separately and used various Photoshop tools to trim around them and enhance the color a bit to make the stand out better against the backgrounds. I added a drop shadow and a grunge border and exported each composition as a JPEG to import into Illustrator. The card text and further details were done in Illustrator with the addition of the yellow texture imported from Photoshop. The texture was created with a technique I wrote about in my article Analog to Digital: Waste Paper From Stamping Projects Can Enhance Photoshop Art.

The next step is to get these printed and mail them out ASAP!