Visual Journal Page 62: A Harvest Moon

Visual-Journal-Page-62-A-Harvest-MoonThis visual journal page is probably my favorite page I have made so far. I am very pleased with how it turned out visually, and although it doesn’t represent the most meaningful moment in my life, it still represents an important memory, a feeling I had and can relive when I look at it.

This page represents a road trip to Kiawah Island with my Nick, a long six hour drive, and a sudden harvest moon surprise.

We were on our way to a much needed vacation. We were meeting a handful of our friends at one of their parent’s beach house, we were looking forward to the relatively low cost beach vacation and a weekend away from home. After work we ran home, threw our bags in the car, and headed on our way.

Friday after work is already a challenging time. I start crashing as soon as I get home from another long week, around 9:00 I’m ready for bed and lam already thinking about sleeping in the next morning. But here we were, ready to hit the 5:00 rush hour traffic, prepping for a 6 hour drive, willing to stick it out for an extra day of vacation.

Sometime after the sun went down, a few hours into the drive, the sleep began to hit me. My eyelids felt heavy, my attempts to be a good, entertaining passenger began to dwindle as we feel into sleepy silence.

Driving down the windy, two lane country roads there was little civilization, and little light. It was a dark night as we wove through the woods towards the coast. Just as I began nodding off we made our way around a curve, and a massive orange, harvest moon greeted us on the other side.

It was a moment that took me by surprise. I wasn’t expecting this beautiful sight, I couldn’t believe how huge the moon looked, and I almost missed it as sleep tugged at my body. We sat in silence admiring the view until another curve took as away and the moon settled behind trees. As we continued our journey the moon continued to follow use, peaking through the forest, from behind buildings, and every now and then showing itself in open spaces.

Although the moment came and went, and may seem insignificant, it made an impression on me. It woke me up for the remainder of the drive, and kept me watching the scenery as we continued on. As much fun as we had that weekend the moon is what I most remember. I love that I still have moments of awe, amazement at how beautiful this place is that we live.

SUPPLIES

  • Visual journal
  • Rubber cement
  • Scissors
  • India ink
  • Book pages
  • Gesso
  • Watercolor
  • Paintbrush
  • Xacto Knife

HOW TO

Before I even began making this visual journal page, I already had a plan for it. I knew I wanted a completely black and white page, with only the massive moon in color. I knew I wanted to recreate the scene, the winding road, forest lining on either side, and the moon at the center. I opted to use India ink to create the black foreground and background, since it has such a rich, dark color. India ink is such a liquidy, wet material, it absorbs through everything. Because of this I decided to layer extra book pages together outside of my journal, paint the pages, then glue it into my journal.

After I layered the base pages I painted a solid layer of ink for the sky. Although India ink is very dark, it can also be very streaky. As I laid down the ink with my paint brush I made sure I evenly space the lines, and kept it as consistent as possible. After the background dried I took gesso and splattered it over the background to create stars.

After the sky was complete I began painting the trees on a different set of book pages, followed by the road. Once they were dry I cut out the trees, glued them down onto the left and right sides of the page, with the cut out road in the middle. I knew I wanted the moon positioned at the end of the road, so I left areas where the trees and road would overlap the moon unglued.

I wanted to make sure this moon had almost as much impact as the actual moon I saw. I decided to cut out a circle and layer gesso on top to create a three dimensional look. After a day or two of drying the gessoed moon was finally read to be painted. I began with a light layer of gray watercolor, which settled into the groves and low areas of the gesso. I then layered orange on top. After just two coats of paint, I took a step back and to my surprise I realized the moon was complete. I carefully glued the moon to the background, and glued the remaining edges of the trees and road. My beautiful moon inspired visual journal page was complete.

CHALLENGE

Use thick layers of gesso to create a more three dimensional look on your next page!

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Visual Journal Page 61: Walking Down this Path

Visual-Journal-Page-61-Walking-Down-This-Path Visual-Journal-Page-61-Walking-Down-This-Path

Hilton Head Island is my second home. When I think back to my childhood many of my memories stem from this small island off the coast of South Carolina. Learning to ride a bike, collecting sea shells, playing games, and as a teenager trekking down to the Marriott to meet boys.

Since I can remember my parents have had our house off of Hickory Lane. It was purchased when I was barely walking, and we still own it today. Even though the house is split between good friends and extended family, the 6 weeks we have every year makes it feel like our house.

It feels like our home making the 4 1/2 hour drive down familiar interstates and roads, pulling into the driveway, seeing the screened in porch, the gray/blue color of the house. Every moment is nostalgic, with glimpses of past years. What really completes this sentimental feeling is the first walk to the beach. After quickly unloading the car as a family we walk to the beach. Down our street, across Pope Avenue, and finally down the path.

Hilton Head is a very bike friendly place. Bike paths parallel streets, wind through trees, and take you anywhere you want to go on the island. The beach consists of compacted sand, unlike the white loose sand of many coasts. The compact sand allows bike trips up and down the shoreline. Because so many beach goers are also beach bike goers the beach paths have to accommodate the bikers; and the houses along our beach path decided strips of discarded carpet was the way to go.

Layers upon layers of carpet has been laid on this path for years. Slowly the carpet began creeping from the entrance to the beach all the way to the intersection of Pope Avenue. Covering tree roots, and loose sand blown back from the beach, the carpet does wonders for a bicyclist trying to reach the beach.

On our first night I always take a minute as we hit the path and consider how strange it is to have a carpet trail leading us to the beach. The moment we hit the end of the carpet, the beginning of the sand, and crest the final slope allowing us a glimpse of the ocean, I truly feel like I am home. I have come from home number one in the city to home two on the beach. Even though walking down that carpeted path to the beach is leading me away from my house it some how feels like I’m going home.

SUPPLIES

  • Visual journal
  • Rubber cement or mod podge
  • Old book pages
  • Water color
  • Paint brush
  • Water
  • India ink
  • Colored pencil

HOW TO

To create this visual journal page I started with a base of layered book pages put together outside of my visual journal. Since I knew I wanted to use watercolor I decided it would be best to paint it on separate paper, then glue it into my journal. By doing this I avoid wrinkly pages and the color accidentally seeping through this journal page and staining others.

I used rubber cement to glue the pages together to create a base. I then got out my watercolors and got to work. I wanted to keep it loose, so rather than sketch everything out first, I went for it. I started with the sky and layered blue watercolor. Every now and then I took a paper towel and dabbed area of the sky, pulling the blue paint back up. This is a good technique to create clouds. Next I painted in a slightly darker blue for the ocean, followed by green lines for the tall grass. I decided to leave the path unpainted, letting the color of the pages in the background define it.

After I had my base painting down I went back in with gray to create shadows in the grass, and yellow to create the tops of the sea oats. I then used India ink to better define areas. I painted a loose line between the ocean and the sky, and used short, wiggly lines to bring out the shoreline and waves. I randomly scattered black lines in the grass and outlined the tops of the sea oats to create shadows.

After the background was complete it was time to add the words. I wrote them out with pencil first, then outlined them with a black colored pencil. They looked a little too plain, so I outlined them with a yellow colored pencil that matched the yellow in the sea oats.

CHALLENGE

Create a visual journal page about your nostalgic childhood vacation spot or home.

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Visual Journal Page 59: Thank Yous

Visual-Journal-Page-59-Thanks-

It had been a few days since my interview. A few agonizing days of not hearing back. I knew it would be at least a week, after all I was the first interviewee, and they had 2 more to interview the remainder of the week. Despite this knowledge the days passed slowly, I checked my e-mail and phone constantly, I just needed to know one way or another.

After a few days of waiting I decided it was time to find a way to keep myself busy. I knew there was no way I could stop thinking about the what ifs following the interview, so I opted to do a project that related to my worries.

It was my last chance, my last ditch effort to convince them I was right for the job. It was time for heartfelt and handmade thank you cards, sent the old fashion way through the mail. I gathered a few supplies during a lull in class, and began constructing my final plea.

I felt slight guilt making these cards in class. As my students came and went from my table during class they left behind a layer of oohhs, ahhs, that’s so cute, and what are those for? I couldn’t tell them the truth. I couldn’t tell them I was considering leaving. I simply brushed off the compliments and satisfied them with vague explanations. I continued my work trying not to consider the past or the future, focusing on the present.

I felt satisfied with my final products, 3 quirky, fun, and obviously meaningful cards. One card would make its way to the principal, one to the sculpture teacher, and one to the drawing and painting teacher. I added personalized messages to each, thanking them for considering me, gushing about their program, and between each line I hid a little bit of job seeking desperation, please hire me, please hire me, please……

I went home that afternoon, cards in hand, addressed and stamped. I tucked them into the mailbox and let go. I couldn’t have done any better, I couldn’t have done anything else, this was it. If I didn’t get the job I had to accept it was meant to be. I would like to say I mailed off my worries, anticipation, and angst with those letters, but the next three days were just as slow and long. But in three days I would have my answer and I could finally move forward.

SUPPLIES

  • Visual journal
  • Rubber cement
  • Scissors
  • India ink
  • Thin paint brush
  • Book pages
  • Construction paper
  • Watercolor
  • Blank cards
  • Sharpie

HOW TO

For this visual journal page I recreated my thank you cards using the left overs from the original. After I completed my set of cards I gathered up the ripped up paper, extra watercolor splatters, and set them aside for this page. When it came time to put it together I began by gluing down three blank cards I had on hand. I wanted the cards to still maintain their individual characteristics, but come together to create one image. I felt the best way to achieve that was to overlap the cards at the top and fan them out at the bottom. To help the cards blend into my book I glued down ripped up book pages and pieces of construction paper around the edge of the cards and overlapping the cards.

After the base layer was complete I began recreating the components of each card. I used India ink and a thin paint brush to paint the tree and branch silhouettes. I painted them on a separate white sheet of paper, this way if I messed up I could easily start a new one without ruining the entire page. Often when I create these small painting I paint a few versions, and pick my favorite to use on the page. After the pieces dried I cut them out using scissors and an Xacto knife.

Before gluing down the silhouettes I layered construction paper and splattered watercolor to add decorative elements to the cards. After the base layer I carefully glued down my India ink paintings. To complete the page I added one more tree silhouette to the bottom right side of the page and wrote the word “thanks” next to it in sharpie.

CHALLENGE

Create a thank you card on your next page. It can simply be writing, thanking a person, place, or thing for something significant in your life. You could add an actual card and write in it, or you can create your own card and leave it blank. Take time to think of what you are thankful for and include it in your journal!

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Visual Journal Page 52: Hummingbirds

Visual-Journal-Page-52-Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds remind me of my grandmother. She loved all things hummingbird, and had various trinkets, jewelry, window hangings, and decor that reflected her love. As a child I remember identifying her with hummingbirds because of these items and because of the feeder, set just outside her screened in porch, that attracted hummingbird after hummingbird. I still think of her, 13 years after her death, when a hummingbird flitters by.

When I moved into my house I couldn’t wait to hang my bird and hummingbird feeders to add some wildlife sightseeing to my backyard. I excitedly filled up my feeders and spent the day walking by my windows, periodically sneaking a peek, looking out for my winged visitors.

I was happy to see my bird feeder was getting a lot of attention, almost too much attention. I have to fill it up almost every other week just to keep up with the apparently starving birds that live in my neighborhood. However, the hummingbird feeder was not the case. I was disappointed after day one passed with no hummingbird sighting. Eventually day two and three came and went, followed by weeks, and even a couple of months.

Tired of continuously emptying, washing, and refilling my feeder for no apparent reason, I decided I would set it out one last time. If no hummingbirds came, I would have to declare it a lost cause. I set my feeder out one last time and forgot about it until one night when scenes of a single hummingbird discovering my feeder drifted into my dreams.

It was a lovely dream with a beautiful little bird and remnants of my grandmother. I woke in the morning in a good mood, ready to start the day. While finishing up some cleaning, out of nowhere Nick yelled at me to look outside, I quickly turned my head and out of the corner of my eye I caught my dream-turned-reality hummingbird flying away from my feeder.

Since that moment I have yet to see another hummingbird visit my feeder and I have slacked on my feeder filling chore. It still hangs outside of my window, empty, slightly dirty, and in need of the bright red liquid to fill it again. Although I am disappointed my hummingbird feeder wasn’t a success, the split second I saw the hummingbird was worth it all in the end. I like to imagine it was my grandmother, seeking me out, answering a dream, and stopping by to say hello.

I am pretty sure I dreamed you into existence…

SUPPLIES

  • Visual journal
  • Scissors
  • Rubber cement
  • White paper
  • Pencil
  • Prisma colored pencils
  • Watercolor
  • Extra thin sharpie

HOW TO

To create this visual journal page I decided to create the hummingbird feeder out of watercolor, to reference the liquidy look of the red sugar water, and the hummingbird out of colored pencils, to contrast the feeder. I started with the feeder by looking up a picture online. Once I found one that looked like the one I had at home I began sketching it onto a white sheet of paper. It is always best to start with pencil first, because you can erase mistakes, and add materials once you are satisfied with the base drawing.

After my sketch was complete I went in with watercolor. I painted the browns of the copper top and stand on the bottom, then moved to the red of the flowers and liquid. As I painted the liquid I added a lot of water to give it more of a light, transparent look. I added a little more red and a hint of purple at the bottom to give it a sense of dimension. Once the painting was complete I let it dry, then cut it out.

Next, I moved onto the hummingbird. Once again I found a picture to reference first and created my pencil drawing. After I was satisfied with the drawing I began coloring it in. I chose a medium green colored and completely filled in the bird. Next I used darker greens to create shadows and pull out details in the wings and tail. Then I added lighter greens, yellows, and blues to pull out highlights. As I built up my colors I kept coloring in small circles and didn’t press down hard. Rather than trying to rush filling something in by adding one solid color try slowly building and layering different shades of one color. It creates a much more realistic and interesting end result.

After the hummingbird was complete I cut him out and glued him and the watercolor feeder down using rubber cement. When I looked at everything put together I decided to feeder wasn’t popping enough. To add detail back in I used a thin sharpie to scribble along the edge of the painting and in recessed areas to emphasize the shadows. To finish off the page I added the words along the crease using a thing sharpie.

CHALLENGE

Create a page about a lost cause.

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Visual Journal Page 51: AP Due Dates

Visual-Journal-Page-51-AP-Due-Dates

I think it’s hilarious when I hear students say they are taking AP Art because they think it will be an easy AP. As I smile and nod I think to myself, “Soon enough you will realize this is going to be one of the hardest classes you will ever take”…

The thing about AP Art is there is no such thing as cramming for your exam. You could potentially not keep up with your work, not study as much as necessary, and pull an all night study session the night before an AP history, science, or math exam. However, I do not believe it is physically possible to churn out 24 works of art, photograph them, upload them, label them, quickly write up your two artist statements, and submit without a great deal of planning. What students don’t realize is 24 works of art in a single year is more art than these kids will create in any college level art class.

Despite this every year I have students who attempt the cram. One year I had a student complete 6 paintings in one day… on the day it was due… completed an hour before the submission deadline. The level of stress I felt for me and for her as we rushed to tape up wet watercolors to quickly snap a photo, down, to the next one, and on to photo editing, uploading, and labeling was beyond me.

Problem number one with completing this huge task is the number 24 somehow doesn’t seem daunting to students in August when school starts up, after all they have all the way until May to get it done. Piece of cake… I try to explain, I encourage, threaten, hand out zeros, have one on one talks, and still it doesn’t seem to sink in until the week before due-date-day. At the beginning of the year I stand in front of the class and map out our year together, “You must turn in a finished project every week in a half starting now and continuing until May in order to meet the 24 piece requirement”. As the weeks come and go artwork is submitted, half finished pieces here, almost completed there, and the stress builds as I count down to the final day.

I stress for my kids all year long. All year I wait for them to process the amount of work ahead of them, and all year I feel the pressure for them. By the time the deadline rolled around my first year teaching AP, I thought I was going to have an anxiety attack in the middle of class. Too much artwork still needed to be photographed, too much still needed to be completed, Miss 6-paintings-in-one-day was still sitting in the corner frantically churning out piece after piece…

Perhaps I can only blame myself for the level of stress AP Art put on me. After all it is my responsibility to hold my students to deadlines, push them to do their best, ensure they are producing AP quality work, and help them maintain their drive to create art from day one to due-date-day. Two years I taught AP, and while the second year was infinitely better than the first, I still felt helpless as my students became burnt out, lost their inspiration, and their desire to even turn in a portfolio.

Their loss of faith was contagious and spread quickly in the class, my amazing artists were dropping of like flies and eventually I felt it creep into me too. I felt like giving up, letting them give up, but I pushed it aside and continued forward. By the time I hit the submit button on each of my students’ portfolios I felt a wave of relief wash over me, it was all over, we are finally finished. But in this process I always have to wonder how many of them hit the quitting point and didn’t turn back. I have a few students I wonder about, will they ever find their passion for it again? Did AP Art ruin their drive for art?

I continued on to teach AP Art one more year, but when I began my new job I dropped it all together and began teaching sculpture courses instead. I have to admit I am relieved I don’t have that additional stress in the spring and seeing them go through the wave of emotions and doubt in their ability that comes with an outsider evaluating your creation.

After my first year teaching AP I did feel a little cynical as I collected my AP Art memorabilia to create a visual page dedication. As I was shuffling through I discovered a six word memoir from one of my AP babies, it simply said “best class you will ever take”… Perhaps it was all worth it after all.

SUPPLIES

  • Visual Journal
  • Scissors
  • Rubber cement
  • AP submission forms
  • Collected items (post its, writing prompts)
  • Brown paper
  • Colored pencils
  • India ink

HOW TO

To create this page I opted to make a visual journal collage to represent my year of AP. I had a small pile of scrap paper, notes, and signs from the class I could incorporate. I decided as a base the actual AP submission forms would work well since they were large, didn’t have a lot of detail, and represented one of the most stressful days of the year.

After using rubber cement to glue my submission forms down I began placing and gluing down my AP scraps to the top. After gluing these items down I decided I needed a focal point. I immediately thought of the brown AP portfolios used to submit the 5 physical works of art for the quality section. Since I felt like my life was being consumed by this class I decided to make mini portfolio to represent each of my 9 students and have them piled on top of poor, stressed me.

To create the portfolios I cut out brown rectangles from construction paper. To make some of them look like they were in perspective I opted to cut the top and bottom of the portfolio at an angle. I then glued a small white rectangle on top and added details with colored pencil. I glued them down in a pile on my page, colored in the space in the middle, and added eyes using colored pencil.

To create a sense of ground I used a paint brush, India ink, and loosely painted a scribble pattern along the bottom third of the page. To finish off the page I glued down the six word memoir in the bottom right corner of the page.

CHALLENGE

Create a visual journal page to represent a stressful time in your life.