Tag: xacto knife

Visual Journal Page 11: Take Responsibility

Visual Journal Page 11-Take Respondsibility

It was the time of year when hot sticky summer nights transition into the cool crisp fall. It’s my favorite time of year, witnessing the changing season through every sense. The air smells crisp, the air moves from warm to cool, the leaves crunch under toe, and goosebumps come and go as the changing atmosphere tickles my skin. It was the perfect fall evening, and I decided the best way to fall asleep was to the sound of the great outdoors, with a cool breeze coming through a slightly cracked window. Or so I thought.

As I finally began to settle and felt the first drifting of dreams coming in, a low howl rose to our second story window and in through the crack. It gradually pulled me from the brink of sleep to full awake, until I could no longer focus on anything but the howl. I tried my best to ignore the sound, to cover my ears, and once again find sleep, but it kept finding a way in.

I couldn’t stop thinking about that poor dog. While it was a beautiful night, not a bad night to be sleeping outdoors, I knew exactly which dog it was, and this wasn’t the only night they would be spending outside. A sweet pup down the street, on the corner, confined to a backyard wrapped in a chain link fence. Whenever my pups and I walk past the house, we stop for a moment and visit. Tails wagging, huffing and sniffing sounds exchanged, everyone excited to see a new face. I have never walked past that house without seeing her outside. Whether it’s in the dead heat of summer or the frigid chill of winter, there the dog sits. I have never seen another human interacting with her. I have never seen another dog playing with her. She is all alone, most likely kept only to keep others out.

Why spend the money to have a dog? Why spend the money to feed a dog? Why have a dog if you aren’t going to enjoy the amazing company they can provide? If you are concerned about security, make a one time purchase of an extra bolt for your door, a fence for your yard, a sign advertising an alarm system, whether or not that system exists. Why subject a living being to a lonely existence? Even if said dog was well feed and watered (which was questionable in this situation) they are still lacking the basic need of interaction, contact with another living, breathing being.

That howl haunted me all night, until I had no choice but shut the window, and attempt to ignore the situation down the street. I wasn’t able to sleep with the window open again, the howls continued, and continued to break my heart, until one day my pups and I passed the house, paused for a visit, and she was gone, never to return again. I can only hope she was taken to a loving, happy home. We have very active neighbors who rescue stray and abused dogs in the area, and this particular situation had been a recent topic. I choose to believe my neighbor was able to take action, and rescue the sweet girl. I need to believe that in order to maintain some belief in the existence of humanity, and to be able to walk past that house everyday. At the very least, she hasn’t been replaced by another “security system” doomed to the loneliness of an empty backyard.

When you choose to own a pet you choose to be responsible for their physical and mental well being. Your animals rely on you to meet their needs. They need food, water, and play. They need love, snuggles, and kisses. They need to be pet and held as much as they need physical sustenance. There is nothing like the connection between a dog and their owner in a happy home. I would recommend it to anyone, I think my life would be a little emptier without my babies in it. As much as I give to them, they give right back in every wag of the tail and desire to be near me. But, you must take responsibility.


  • Visual journal
  • Tissue paper (black, blue, white)
  • Silver sharpie
  • Book page paper
  • Pencil
  • Prisma markers
  • Fine and extra fine sharpie


To create this visual journal page I decided to use a variety of material. Other than sharpie, I hadn’t experimented with art markers, and decided this could be a good opportunity. Living with a landscape architect husband means I have a whole separate set of art materials to test out, and his Prisma colored markers were just what I was looking for.

I decided to draw the back of my house, focusing on the left side, second story where our bedroom is. I sketched it out in pencil first, then went in with the markers. To maintain an even look, I applied one layer at a time, and always continued my lines off the page, rather than stopping in the middle, and accidentally crossing marker lines, creating a darker color where they cross. Once I filled the drawing in with color, I went back over the detail lines with an extra fine sharpie.

Once I completed my marker house, I cut it out. I decided to cut out the window of our bedroom, to emphasize the fact that it was open. To create the background I decided to layer strips of tissue paper. I love the texture it creates, and by including both blue and black, I hoped to show it was dusk, just after sunset, but before total darkness fell.

Once I glued down the strips of tissue paper and the house cut out, it felt a little empty. To add interest, I drew a tree silhouette on white tissue paper with sharpie. I carefully cut the tree out, leaving a thin white outline around the tree. I glued it to the left side of my visual journal.

To visually represent the howling, I used a silver sharpie to write “howl” all over the page. To complete the visual journal page I wrote “take responsibility” on a ripped out piece of book page, and layered it on a cut out piece of black tissue paper.


Create a visual journal page about something you want to take action on. It could be as small as helping your elderly  neighbor or solving world hunger.

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Visual Journal Page 41: Scratch, Scratch, Scratch…


This visual journal page, like many of my visual journal pages, is based off of a work of art. This began as an example for a scratchboard project, and turned into a mission and a failure. It was trying, exhausting, tedious, rewarding, therapeutic and in the end I gave up.

Scratchboard is an assignment I do every year with my Introduction to Art class and Drawing class. It is a great lesson on shading, hatching, cross hatching, stippling, and contrast. It is also a great assignment because generally the majority of my class ends up with a successful project in the end. I always strive to have every student create something they are proud of, while this isn’t always the case, I do have a handful of projects up my sleeve that can help get them to that point.

I never give an assignment I haven’t first tried myself. I had dabbled with scratchboard in the past, but I really wanted to challenge myself with this example, I wanted to hit the roadblocks my students would hit, so I can guide them through tough spots. To do this I chose a relatively complex image. I felt good going into it, I really loved the image, but by the end I was over it. I was sick of this stupid black and white door.

I hit roadblocks, I made mistakes, but what really got under my skin was how tedious it was. This was slow moving. Any spare moment I had in class, I planted myself to my chair, got out my Xacto knife, and began scratching a tiny section, slowly removing the black top layer, and exposing the white. After hours were poured into this I set down my Xacto knife, never to return to this image again. It still sits, hidden in some notebook, incomplete. I reached a point where I couldn’t move forward, and I developed a very real sense of empathy for my students. I have since encouraged them to go smaller and more basic with their images. I still encourage them to push themselves, but I never want them to reach that point of no return, the moment when they don’t care what grade they receive, they just can’t scratch anymore.

Since this project I haven’t touched another scratchboard. I have my example complete, I know my tips, warnings, and project guidelines. However I hope one day I try it out again, or even return to my 3/4 finished door to finish the last section. Although the scratching was terribly tedious when I found my rhythm it felt good, therapeutic almost, I could zone everything out and focus on the next crumb of black I was about to scratch away. Perhaps in the near future I will feel an urge to pull it back out, and rediscover my rhythm.


  • Visual journal
  • Rubber cement
  • Image print out
  • Scissors
  • Thin sharpie


When the moment came that I finally gave up on my scratchboard I decided to hang onto the image I was using as a reference, and incorporate it into a visual journal page. Rather than glue the whole image on one side of my book I decided to cut it into three strips and spread it out between the two pages to create a more interesting composition. I used rubber cement to glue down the pieces once I was satisfied with the layout.

After the pieces were glued down I began writing with a thin sharpie. I repeated the word “scratch” up and down the sides of the cut outs, as a reminder of how much time I spent scratching away at my scratchboard. This image was simple enough to create, but it did take thought and planning before hand to create the best possible layout. Off center images and images that break space up into thirds is much more pleasing to the eye than images place in the dead center.


Create a visual journal page about a project or work of art you gave up on. Consider it a memorial for a dead project.

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