That time Christy Tomlinson came to play with us in Australia

Christy Tomlinson & Me. Love her!

Christy Tomlinson & Me.
Love her!

I arrived at Jane Davenport’s “The Nest”.  I’ve been here before and every time I walk up the driveway it happens.  The world just falls away.  My shoulders relax, a wave of bliss washes over me and I feel myself exhale.  Truly exhale.

This time, I was there to play with Christy Tomlinson.  As in THE Christy Tomlinson.  Of course, she has the same magical aura around her as Jane.  She is so down to earth and funny and welcoming and happily gave out hugs to everyone that arrived.  She is completely oblivious to her rockstar status.  Ooh, I love her already.

20141001_204642 20140930_210027She introduces herself to us and I show her my belt bracelet and teaspoon bracelet I’m wearing that I learned from her workshop.  She was so excited to see what I’d made.  Over the weekend, I had lots of the girls saying beautiful things about them.  I even had a stranger in town compliment me about them as I waited for my fish and chips on the last night.  They asked if that’s what I did for a living…. ooh, I like their thinking.

20141006_170104The first day, we did a flower girl.  I’m not really a flower person, so I did leaves and stars.  I did berries on the sketch too which looked super awesome until Christy told us what we’d be doing in the next step.  Okay, scratch the berries.  They’re gone.

20141006_170116I struggled to do a ‘Christy’ face after spending the last 18 months practicing my ‘Jane’ faces.  I thought all that practice meant I’d gotten better at drawing in general but it was a real trick to make my mind and hands do it the Christy way.  Some of the girls did faces their way because they have such a gorgeous style of their own, but I really wanted to do it Christy’s way to get the most out of the experience with her.  To try a different way and expand my learning and drawing.

20141003_172234At the end of the day, I gave her a present.  It was a belt bracelet I’d made for her (love her Belt Bracelet workshop).  I used an old tourist teaspoon and punched in the words Soul Work and gave her a letter explaining why I’d chosen those words.  She gave me 3 hugs as she put on the bracelet and read the letter.  She was so excited and grateful and happy.  I adore a girl that hugs with such genuine love.

20141004_101444Day 2 and Christy started with a story that had us all in tears.  I managed to hold it together until she got to the part about doing what you love.  That went straight to my painful point.  My ache.  And it took all my might to hold back a gasping sob.  At the end of the day I told Christy how important that part had been for me and of course, I kept it classy by bursting into tears.  Christy had to hold back tears too.  I got myself together and Jane confimed to her that I always cry at these things which gave me some credibility and didn’t make me seem like a complete nutter.  (If you’ve read my posts from my previous workshops with Jane, you’ll know how much I get out of them.  It’s not just fun for me, it’s transformative and soul nourishing.  It’s like an awesomeness overload that results in happy tears).

20141004_152121Today we are making the famous She Art girls.  Other girls brought a stash of paper and kinda winged it with their layering.  Having seen what the girls had done the week before, I did my typical square bear thing and planned it out.  I’d chosen a colour palette I had on my pinterest board.  Peach and midnight blue.

20141006_17000920141006_165921Everyone’s she art girl was so different.  There were big and small canvases, some were shabby chic and vintage, some were pastel and some had ears.  I’d practiced the wings on the jotter at my day job the week before, playing with different styles.  I’m not a cutesy person, so landed on feathers as her wings.  Love love that part of my girl.

20141006_170021Both of my girls ended up being set to the side.  Kind of a rule of 3rds thing.  Before I knew it, the day was over.  The weekend was over.  Nooooooooo…

Meeting and learning from Christy was super awesome.  A girl I’ve followed for forever.  A girl who blew my mind open about mixed media.  And she was so sweet with a heart as big as Idaho.  Ben was great to talk to and super lovely.  Her daughter Allie was divine.  And Preston was a cheeky monkey which I loved.  It was so nice to meet all of them.  I’m so grateful they came all this way to see Jane and that Christy spent a few days of her holiday to share her stories, her art philosophy and her gorgeous heart with us.

Miss her like crazy already.  Kinda hoping she misses us like crazy too.

Coral.  xo

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Art Is You – Part 3

You read about the amazing community of like minded girls (and one guy).  You’ve read about my class with Andrea Matus DeMeng.  Now my class with Michael DeMeng.

AIY13I did a class with Michael 5 years ago and he remembers me.  He remembers I flew down to Sydney.  He remembers my name (plus it was probably on his class list) but he puts my face to the name quickly.  I’m thinking that’s pretty damn awesome and I feel excited to learn from him again.

We start with some examples of Michaels work at which point I abandon part of my idea already, determining it too cutesy wootsy for a DeMeng class.  We get some tool instructions and painty information then go back to our desk to start work.  First thing I do is accidentally snap the head off my barbie doll.  Michael tells me not to panic, it’s easily fixed.  He calls me over and helps me repair her, saying he knows I’ll fret until we fix it.  Obviously done classes with lots of girls before.

Broken neck barbie... coming soon to a store near you

Broken neck barbie… coming soon to a store near you

The repair lasts until I get back to my desk, at which point I then snap her neck off.  Bloody hell, this is not going to plan at all.  The girl next to me has barely started and hers looks awesome already.  She is a new art friend who is super sweet and we have a giggle together about my disintegrating Barbie.  If I was at home, I wouldn’t have been laughing but something about being here makes me take it in my stride, shrug my shoulders and keep on going.

I struggle with putting her back together.  I eventually pour heaps of glue down here neck then wrap her neck in masking tape.  Cause that looks natural…?!  I decide to soak some netting mesh in matt medium and wrap it around her to cover the snapped neck and masking tape.  Hey, that actually looks pretty awesome.

As Michael gives us instruction, a guest of the hotel with kids walks past just in time to hear Michael talk about mutilating toys.  You can imagine the  look on his face – it was priceless and had us all in fits of laughter.  Oh yes, we’re deMented.

I work for ages on my Barbie, turning her into a mermaid before discovering the materials we are using are not designed for heavy handed angels like me.  It looks like a clay pinch pot I made in grade two.  Okay, lets put that aside and focus on altering the frame.

AIY20Paint just doesn’t seem to be happening, it’s missing something.  I ask Michael how he got a certain look on one of his pieces and he gives me a lot of time on my own to help me get my head around the technique.  I take a break for afternoon tea and come back knowing what I want to do next.  One layer added and I start to understand how it works and am happier with how it’s coming together.

Before I know it, the class is finished.  My work is no-where near completed and I wonder if I will know what to do to finish it off at home.  And if I’ll be brave enough to finish it.  But Michael’s chant on the process stays with me and I have the confidence to just keep following his technique to make it happen.  He tells us taking a step back will help us see where we need to add something next.  And that sometimes happy accidents are what makes a piece come together.

His suggestion of walking away the moment I feel frustrated sits well with me.  I very rarely work from start to finish in one go.  I work until I’m feeling lost and awkward.  I walk away and come back to it later when I have an idea for what to do next.  So nice to hear he works the same way.

“And one guy’s” wife comes and Michael and the other students welcome her into the classroom so she can hear the critiques.  Even the spouses get welcomed with open arms.   Isn’t that awesome? Love that Michael invited her to join us. She has some awesome skulls on her top, so she fits right in.

Michael gives a critique in the nicest possible way and we all learn so much from each others piece.  Some of the work is just stunning.

I ask Michael my favourite question – about finding your own signature style and how to step away from your teachers so your work becomes your own.  He gives me a fantastic visual answer that satisfies my curiosity.  My table mate and I take turns taking photos with Michael and then it’s over.  Not just the class but the whole weekend.

AIY7We walk away having spent 6 hours in a class that only felt like 6 minutes.  Excited with ideas on altering things.   Of symbology and mythology.  I love that all of Michael’s pieces have a story.  One of the things I love most about his 2 art books are the stories.  Maybe it’s because I love fairytales?  I asked him to tell me the story behind some of his pieces to help me decide which one to buy at the Art Trunk night.  I am thinking I need to incorporate this idea of story more in my artwork.  I’ve kinda had it in the back of my mind for a little while but this class has made me see how much more connection and meaning there is when it has a story.   And the direction it can give you.  Think this might become a big part of how I work.

I’m sad the class has ended.  Wondering how it all went so quickly. But so, so grateful for the chance to learn from him again.  Hoping it’s not another 5 years before I get to do more A-sem-blaaage with the master.

Coral. xo

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Art Is You – Part 2

So you read about the awesome girls (and one guy) I met.  How they made the weekend all the more awesome.  About the friendships and connections.  So what about the classes I hear you ask. Tell us about the classes!

AIY6So, day one is with Andrea Matus DeMeng and her Marquis De Scroll class.  I’ve seen her examples of this online for a couple of years now and was desperate for that to be one of the classes she taught in Queensland.  My victory dance when I got a place in the class was brilliant.  Take my word for it.

She doesn’t muck around and gets us working straight away.  She has us working fast but somehow has a very zen vibe so we never feel frantic.  While we wait for stage one to dry we do the usual intros and Andrea teaches us some art theory and paint mix-y stuff.  Love the art theory side of things.  Then the fun begins.

She tells us that whether we have a clear idea of what we want to make or haven’t planned anything in advance, it doesn’t matter.  She’ll be helping us and pushing us out of our comfort zone.

She slowly walks around the room, giving each of us attention.  Helping with our questions, making gentle suggestions and my favourite part – explaining why it would work.  I tell her I am one of the ‘planner’ people and she gives me a wry smile.  I discover what this means about 1/2 an hour later.  My ‘plan’ does not come together (A-team reference for those of you who are children of the 80’s like me). She smirks… almost like she is saying “gotcha” but in a way that makes her excited.  Because she knows I’m gonna learn from this.  I have to figure out something else.  Ah yes, she got me already with the big push out to the edge of my comfort zone.  This square bear now had to work out what else to do.  My usual  next step would be to panic and get flustered and upset.  Usually followed by throwing my art in the bin.  Somehow, Andrea’s zen-like personality makes me just go with the flow and push through and find my way.

Much trying of this and that comes to an end with a ‘scissors down’ command from our fearless leader.  To be fair, she gives us a one song warning but it goes by quick.  Kinda get distracted by the front half of the class singing the Muppets “Ma-na-mana” song and join in.  Seriously, how can you not join in?

AIY15She shows us the next layer and I go back to my desk.  My whole original idea revolved around pirates and “Red sky and night, sailors delight”.  My pirate ships had looked rubbish once I cut them out so they had been discarded for the moment.  Then I put blue at the top of my scroll instead of the red I’d planned on.  Aaaaaargh!!!!!  One of my new arty friends asked if I could just turn it around but alas, the collage I had put on had text on it which meant it would all be upside down.  2 disasters.  Okay, go with it.  The reason I put the blue on was because it’s my automatic colour choice.  I put on my collage and realize later that some of the elements are crooked.  Obviously crooked.  Wouldn’t be mine if it wasn’t so kinda feel disappointed that I rushed it but also feel like it’s very me.

Andrea comes around and gives me some colour advice and nods in agreement at my suggestion to balance the piece.  She says my questions are easy to answer and I feel the excitement she has for me as my piece starts to come together.  I start to understand why her suggestions work and get excited about how it’s transforming.  I remember art theory I’ve learned from other teachers which helps me compose my elements together and I’m pretty chuffed.  The three circles at the bottom are the only 3 I have of that print.  I carefully tear the last one to keep the starry sky and tree as part of it and end up super duper loving that part of the piece.

Andrea shows us her main way of doing shading and some alternatives.  I go with one of the alternatives because I do it that way in my art already.  After my two disasters so far, I decide to stick with what I know.  Now it’s starting to really become a cohesive piece.  The gorgeous girls (and one guy) in my class say how nice my piece is.  One girl in particular keeps saying how much she loves it.  I want to keep her and take her home with me.

Over the course of the day, we all walked around, looking at each others work.  The thing I loved about this class is everyone’s was so different.  And none of us copied the teacher.

More art theory and gorgeous examples from Andrea.  I think I’m in trouble…. I think I’m gonna get hooked on these things.   Oh gosh I love her work.  And I love all the sneaky little tips she gave us to really pull a piece together.  Adored that.

AIY17At the end of the day, we lay our artwork out so we can all look at each others and Andrea gives a beautiful review of each piece, finished or not.  We learned so much from that.   Seeing what others ideas were, the elements Andrea highlighted on each piece explaining why they worked so well.  More art theory love.  Andrea jokingly says she should lie down so she is surrounded by our artwork.  We all think it’s a great idea.  She’s wasn’t so sure, but after much cheering and egging her on, she does.  Damn she’s a good sport.

I was one of the few with a finished piece.  I barely remember the words, but I know she said it was a beautiful piece and really good work.  Ooh, gold star from the teacher.  It meant so much coming from her.

AIY14I got to see her artwork up close  (divinity personified) and I bought some art from her.  Yes, an original Matus DeMeng is now in my possession.  She happily poses for a photo with me too which is super cool.

I loved loved this class.  I think I was especially happy because I managed to finish mine.  If I’d just had another 1/2 hour….

The next morning at our ‘heart starter’ session, I am chatting with some of the others from class and we get excited about what we could do with the next one.  I’ve already bought an Alice in Wonderland book and Peter Pan is next…… Oh, yes.  I loved this class.

Coral. xo

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Art Is You Queensland – Part 1

Where to start, where to start……

[Warning - this is gonna be a long one]

Art is You Queensland

Art is You Queensland

I arrived at Novotel Twin Waters Resort in Queensland.   Had to do a lap of honour because all the parks at the foyer entry were full.  So I walk over from the guest parking section.  Not quite the glamorous movie start style entry I was hoping for.  I go to check into my room and get treated like someone important at the check in desk.  Oh, I could get used to this.  I drive around to the carpark for my wing.  Didn’t even have to do a u-turn and I didn’t get lost.  Bonus!  I realize my bags are heavier than I thought they were as I lug them the not very far distance to my room.  Over the course of the weekend – I will discover I actually packed very light.  One girl had a furniture moving trolley stacked high with plastic boxes.  When I express how impressed I am, she replies “Oh yeah, I’ve done this before”.  Bless her, I think she was onto something.

I open the door to my room and discover super crisp sheets on the bed, nice deep bath, big TV, cute patio.  Oh, yes indeed, I could get used to this.  I unpack and get set up.  Spend 20 minutes working out how all the lights work – don’t laugh, it was more complicated than you would expect.  Then…. the waiting.  Finally, it’s time to walk over for the Art Trunk.  For my very first taste of Art Is You.

Michael DeMeng original

Michael DeMeng original

I walk in the door and spot someone I know.  Big smiles and hugs.  Then I see another.  More smiles and hugs.  Then I see someone I did a class with once about 4 years ago.  More smiles and hugs and so good to see you.  Then I get a tap on the shoulder.  It is Michael DeMeng.  As in, THE Michael DeMeng.  I did a class with him 5 years ago.  Without even thinking, I give him a huge smile and ‘hi’ and throw my arms around him in a big hug.  I get to talk to him about his art and I buy one of his pieces.  Yes, I now own an original DeMeng.  I even got to talk to him all by myself for about 1/2 an hour.  He showed me his sextant (sounds dirty but it wasn’t). He’d been junking and wanted to show me his latest find.  It was beautiful.  My grandfather served in the navy in WWII and I am on a pirate phase at the moment, so loved that was the junk he showed me.  I took it as a good sign for the weekend.

Kecia Frazee Deveney Artwork

Kecia Frazee Deveney Artwork

I saw Sallianne – one of the organizers.  I went up and said Hi and instantly got chatting. What a sweetheart.  Then I spoke with Kecia Frazee Deveney and bought some of her artwork too.  Wishing I had been smart enough to remember there was an ATM in the foyer and bought one of her bigger pieces.  I didn’t realize Andrea Matus DeMeng and Seth Apter were showing their work in another room, so missed out on that.  Damn it!

Next thing I know, I’m having dinner in the bar with a whole bunch of awesome girls who are all super friendly and just as giddily excited as I am.  I get the feeling this weekend is gonna be epically awesome if the first two hours are anything to go by.

A group of girls walk back to my wing, dropping each of us off along the way as we get to our rooms, our voices floating over the lagoon as we chat easily.  I feel contentedly welcome.  I snuggle into the bed, a queen bed all to myself.  And…… I am wide awake.  Feels weird without a cat on the bed or a husband filling up one side.  And all I can think about is how long I’ve waited for this weekend to arrive, what class I’m doing tomorrow, how awesome everyone seems already and thinking of what has already happened on the first night.  Manage to sleep for 2 hours before I’m awake again.  More thinking before I manage to drop off to sleep again to get a total of 6 hours sleep.  It appears I’m functioning on adrenaline when I wake up, so I don’t feel tired.  I meet up with some of the girls I met the night before for breakfast.  They are even more awesome than they were last night.  Haven’t done any art yet and I’m already having the time of my life.

We all meet in the sunken lounge room and have our “heart starter” session.  I imagined star jumps and whooping it up to get our “heart started”.  Instead, it’s an intimate discussion with the other girls about art.  The word tribe is so over used, but I feel like I am with ‘my people’ as we talk.

Me at the end of the first day

Me at the end of the first day

At the end of the first day, I end up at the bar again for dinner.  More stories, more connections, more laughter until I had tears running down my face and had a mini asthma attack.  Around this time, I realize I haven’t brought my asthma puffer.  Pfft, suck down some water to quell the coughing and keep on going baby.

Wander off to bed not too late and snuggle into bed.  Think I should be making notes from my class but decide it will keep me awake.  So I close my eyes and drift off to sleep pretty quickly.  2 hours later, I am awake again.  My legs and butt are hurting from leaning over my artwork all day.  I toss and turn and try to go back to sleep.  I contemplate writing my notes again but worry it will keep me awake.  I contemplate having a bubble bath at 2am but worry it will either keep me awake or that I will fall asleep and drown in there.  I finally get back to sleep about 3am.  I wake up early so I can pack for checkout.  This time I’m running on about 5 1/2 hours sleep.  I’m usually an 8 hours of sleep girl, so I am feeling it today.  Nothing a Coke won’t fix though.  As I get to the foyer for our last “heart starter” session, I notice other girls have the same idea.

At lunch , I go up to Sallianne to thank her for organizing this weekend and bringing it to Queensland.  I get about 3 words out before I burst into tears.  So much for keeping it classy.  She jumps out of her seat and pull me aside so I don’t shame myself out in front of everybody, gives me multiple hugs and back rubs and says “I know” alot.  Told you she’s a sweetheart.  Guessing she’s seen this before, but I felt like a bit of a boofhead.  But I wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t such an emotional person.  I usually cry at these damn things.

Before I know it, my second class is done and the weekend is over already.  I feel this wave wash over me. The realization it’s ending. I see girls taking last minute photos and promising to stay in touch, saying their goodbyes to the teachers and organizers and slowly packing up.  It was like we were holding onto the weekend by our fingertips, not wanting to let it go.  And then, as dusk fell….. the silence.  As some wandered back to their room for one last night of luxury and others walked back to their cars scattered throughout the resort for the long drive home …. silence.  No encouraging words and laughter that had bathed us for the whole weekend.  No arty sisters by our sides cheering us on.  Just silence.  Deafening silence.

As I pulled out of the resort to head for home, I wanted to keep the silence so I didn’t turn my music on.  I feel so many things at once as I kick my car into gear and head for the highway.  Excited to see my hubby and fur babies.  Deliciously exhausted.  Creatively full to overflowing.  Loved, truly loved by girls who had been strangers just days before.  And a little devastated it was over.

Yes, the classes and the teachers were so amazingly awesome (more on that in my next post).  But the weekend was so much more than that.  And much of that was because of the organizers and the other amazing girls (and one guy) who were there to share it with me.

Everyone made sacrifices to come play for the weekend.  I left a sick husband behind with assurances he’d be okay.  I met a girl who drove 2 days just to get there.  I met people who were fighting through medical conditions determined to make it through class.  I met a girl who is a full time carer who had a doozy of a time arranging replacement care but somehow made it. This weekend must have felt like a cleansing of the soul for her.  Like a drink from a replenishing fountain.  I met a girl who had a difficult anniversary happen over the course of the weekend.  The girl sitting on the other side of her said – well, you are here, surrounded by love.  How awesomely sweet was that?  That pretty much says everything.

And that is how the whole weekend was.  You often hear the negatives about us girls.  That we can be bitchy and clique-y.  But there was none of that on the weekend.  Not once was there even a hint of it.  It didn’t matter who you knew when you got there.  Everyone welcomed you like you were a long lost friend.  One girl told the story of chatting to someone and another girl came up to them and asked how long they’d been friends.  Her reply??? We’ve only just met!  Oh yes, that was the kind of weekend it was.

There was encouraging words as we worked through our projects from both the teachers and our fellow students.  There was sharing of supplies.  Conversations about art supplies and favourite artists and how each of us approach creativity.  There was courage boosting and friendships that felt truer than true forged.

I’ve never been to a workshop or retreat like this.  It is one of the most beautiful creative experiences of my life and I will be forever grateful.

Can we do it again, next weekend??

Coral. xo

(Part 2, 3 and 4 coming soon….)

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Because sketching is more fun if there is the possibility of poking your eye out

IMG_2334Sometimes on your adventure you hear one sentence.  You meet one person.  And this chance moment changes your whole path.  It sends you in the direction you are meant to go.

I only jumped back into learning from other people about 2 years ago.  Before that, I was flipping through Somerset Studio magazines on my art room floor. Visiting the same blogs I’d followed for years.  But I wasn’t doing any art.  I wasn’t getting inky and painty.

IMG_2337I decided I wanted to play again, to jump in with both feet.  And I started doing online and in person workshops with various artists.  Discovering Jane Davenport has been a huge leap forward for me.  And THAT conversation on her deck during a 2 day workshop at her house has been big.  A turning point.  A lightbulb.  A big flashing arrow pointing me in the direction I need to go.

No-one wants to hear that you get better with practice.  And that the more you practice, the better you get.  I’m the reining Queen of Impatience – I wanna be awesome on the first go.  But the world doesn’t work like that.  When Jane told me to practice my drawing, part of me groaned like a kid being told to go tidy their room.  “Awwww, do I have to?”.  But part of me heard it.  Really heard it.  And now, I’m practicing in a huge $2 sketchbook I had lying around.  I’m sketching with some weird 2H pencil sharpened at both ends that came from my Mum’s house (because it makes sketching more fun if there is the possibility of poking your eye out).

IMG_2339I’m not just copying my teachers which is so, so important for me.  In that sketchbook, I’m exploring.  I’m playing.  I’m trying stuff out.  I’m making mistakes.  I’m doing some really bad sketches.  Really bad.  But it all counts.  You learn from each one.  You figure stuff out.  You play with different styles.  You find what you are drawn to.  You begin to discover the elements that are your style.  And you grow away from your teachers.

IMG_2329I’m playing with faces, body shapes, journalling, props and clothes.  Just throwing it all in there and seeing what comes out in the wash.  I’m just following my instincts and following what I’m called to do next without thinking if it’s going to ruin what I’ve done so far.  Oh, the dreaded “what if I wreck it?”  And somewhere along the line, I feel like I’m getting the hang of it.  Finding my style, finding my personal alphabet, what I love to do.

Hmmmmm…. this practice thing might be more fun than I expected.

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I got tagged which is an excuse to practice my Oscar speech

IMG_1391So, my gorgeous friend and creative cheerleader Robyn from Purple Salt tagged me in some kinda round robin, chain blog post thing.  I’m not really a tag you’re it, pass it on kinda girl.  But I am a chatterbox, so I’m gonna answer the questions but not do the ‘now you have to post something’ part.  Cause that can sometimes feel kinda icky if it’s not done right (and with my social graces I’m not gonna do so great with that part).

Q: What am I working on?  I’ve been doing lots of mail art lately.  Love that it seems to be making a resurgence with mixed media people.  I’ve met a few girls who all wanted to share art with me all at once.  So I’ve been flat out keeping up with that.  I’m also doing 2 online classes – Joynal with Jane Davenport (love her!) and a Belt Bracelet class with Christy Tomlinson.  Trying to work through it all while going to my day job and all the travel getting there plus looking after a sick husband and keeping the house just tidy enough to not look like we just got robbed.

Q: How does my art differ from others? My artwork isn’t overly fussy and tends to be kinda neat.  Even when it’s mixed media-ish, there’s a neatness to it.  A simpleness.  For a long time, I hated that my art didn’t look like everyone elses when I did a workshop.  I felt like I mustn’t be doing it right.  But now I think it’s awesome.  I love that my style comes through and it’s not just a copy of the teachers work.

With my blogging, I like that my personality comes through in my writing.  I’m a little bit on the ocker side of Aussie (hmm… make that alot) and I think you can tell that when you read my blog.  I find some blogs are a little blandy bland bland and I like to think my personality comes through on mine and doesn’t seem like a robot wrote it.

Q: Why do I create?  I’ve always loved art but was told I wasn’t “good at it” and I believed that for a long time.  Then I discovered rubber stamping, which meant I could be creative without having to be able to draw.  And that was it.  From there, I’ve always done paper arts.  Cards, ATC’s, altered books, mini books, shipping tags, art journaling and mail art.  It’s just one of those things that calls to you.   That you can’t not do.  I’ve had times where I’ve been disheartened with it and just read my Somerset Studio’s without actually doing art.  But it’s always been there.  It’s always called to me.   If you’ve had that calling too, you’ll know what I mean.

Q: How does my creative process work?  I envy those girls who set up their camera on fast forward and film a piece from start to finish.  I so don’t work like that.  I work in layers and stop when the flow is gone.  Then when I can’t get to my art desk (like in the shower or burning down the highway in my dearly beloved little hot rod), I get an awesome idea for what to do next.   So I work in stages.  And it can take a few days to make something from start to finish.  Very rarely, I get in the flow and can make something all the way through in one go.  It usually involves a late night on a weekend and music.  And I’m a recently converted “bin girl”.  I used to throw ALOT in the bin.  Since the arrival of the Art Journal I Can’t Tear The Pages Out Of, I’m figuring out how to work through and occasionally painting over and starting again.

Q: Artists who inspire me?  This is the part where I’m meant to ‘tag’ people to continue the chain.  But I’m not doing that part – I’m just gonna share the artists I really like.

Jane Davenport.  I’ve loved learning from Jane both online and in person so so much.  She’s am amazing artist & teacher and she’s also kinda cheeky & really funny. Perfect recipe for me.  No matter how much I love someone’s art, if they’re as dull as dishwater, I just can’t learn from them or spend too much time with them.  Like fingers down a blackboard.

Maria Pace-Wynters.  She’s been a recent discovery for me.  I love her combination of drawing, painting and using scrapbook papers.  I’ve been doing that for a while and finding a successful artist who does that too was like validation for me.  My first original piece of art is one of hers.  And sometimes she posts montage photos of her process.  Oh yes.

Anahata Katkin.  I’ve loved her art for forever.  Her business Papaya Art and her personal work are so so gorgeous.  Feminine, bold, strong and beautiful.  I have quite a few pieces of hers on my inspiration board.  And I have a book she hand printed years and years ago about the path of creating art including things like personal symbology and working past the stuck stage.  An absolute treasure in my bookcase.

Q: I can’t help but add a question of my own.  Favourite art books?  True Colors by Stampington has to be one of the best.  It has stood the test of time and hasn’t aged.  It’s a go to book over and over when artist block strikes.

Michael DeMeng‘s two books are awesome too.  Not just how-to’s, there is a story to every piece and a story about his travels too.  Are art books supposed to be this funny?  Love them.

I’m a sucker for answering these kinda things.  I’ve been practicing being interviewed since I was 11 for when I won an Oscar.  I’ve you’re gonna dream girls, dream big I say.  I’ve been practicing my autograph too which I get comments on every time I sign something.  Notice I said comments, not compliments…..

So… if you wanna share your favourite artists, how you work that seems different to everyone else or awesome art books that you can’t live without, I wanna hear.

Have an awesome, arty week.

Coral.  xo

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Mail Art – Ocean Girl

Ocean Girl 3So mail art seems to be what I’m working on a lot.  I suddenly have a few gorgeous girls wanting to share their art with me through snail mail which is kinda special.

I keep wondering what the postie thinks as they deliver these envelopes we are sharing.  Do they think “ooh wow” or “that’s cool”.  When I posted this one, the lady at the post office said to me “it’s nice and everything but you aren’t addressing it right”.  Seriously?  And the way she said “it’s nice” – what she really meant was “it’s no big woop and you probably think it’s a bit of a big deal but I will let you know by the shitty tone in my voice that I am not the least bit impressed”.  Needless to say…. ouchy ouch ouch.   Hopefully the postie’s on bikes delivering it are a little more impressed.  And the girl that got this one in her letterbox.

Ocean Girl1This is another practice on my faces.  As always, it starts with an ugly 80’s envelope.  Gesso to start, then drawing the face, a little colour on the hair.  Then I layered some decorative paper napkins, washi tape and modelling paste mixed with paint.

Ocean Girl 5

Ocean Girl 2Then the challenge of the face.  The shading of the face.  The shape of the lips and nose.  These are the areas I really struggle with.  Especially getting colour around the eyes.    If you follow me on social media, you’ll know I use the hashtags #EachOneGetsBetter and #PracticePractice.  And that’s the thing.  It’s really true…. each one gets better.  The more I practice, the more I learn and figure things out.  It’s not what you want to hear when you start.  You just wanna be awesome on your first try.  Or is that just me as the Queen of Impatience?

Ocean Girl 3With this one, I’m really happy with the shading around the eyes – using not the usual colours.  Don’t know that I can paint green and blue faces every time though.  So trying to learn from this one.  The lips turned out really well too.  The shape and the colouring.

Ocean Girl 4I’m really chuffed with how this one turned out.  I think it’s really nice but it’s more than that.  I feel like I’m getting the hang of it a little more.  That I can make art ‘good enough’ to send to someone else.  I know that’s bad…. to wonder if you are ‘good enough’ but you know what I mean.  When you are learning, you know you aren’t at the level of your art SHeroes.  That you aren’t at the level you are aching in your heart to be.  But when you feel like you are making steps forward with your art, you feel the courage to send it out to the world.  Even when it’s not ‘there’ yet.  Even though it’s not what you want it to be.  Even though it’s not perfect.  But it’s good enough in this moment.  In this part of your adventure.

And that is enough.

Coral xo

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Mail Art – She set sail guided by stars

Somehow, I’m having beautiful kind hearted souls come across my path asking me to share mail art with them which is kinda awesome.  They are such talented artists.  So encouraging and generous.  Feeling rather spoilt and special at the moment.  I am such a hermit and I usually not the one ‘putting myself out there’, so these girls offering to share art one on one is lovely.

She set sailThis is an envelope I sent as my first exchange with a new art friend.  Her name is Nayana and you can find her at To The Moon – isn’t that name just fabulous??

she set sail 2I was partly inspired by my Owl and The Pussycat envelope.  I used yet another in the never ending pile of ugly 80’s envelopes with acrylic paint for the beginning layers.  I added stars cut out of Christy Tomlinson coffee filter paper, torn decorative napkins, rub ons and scrapbook paper cut out for the sailboat.  It’s my very favourite paper and I am down to my last sheet (cue devestation and mild panic…. what will I do when it runs out??)

she set sail 3I tried out a new while paint pen and it’s really white and wrote over everything including the bumpy napkins.  It did splatter a little as it bounced over the texture.

she set sail 4I kinda sorta had an idea of what Nayana might send me based on a previous blog post she had done.  So I felt like I should make a little something to go with my letter.  So I painted a shipping tag.  It was kind of a happy accident.  I did a rough one to play with some new art supplies and really liked it.  So I did a ‘proper one’ for her.  Super duper chuffed with how it turned out.  You when you are so happy with something you don’t want to send it?  I found it really hard to let this one go but told myself if I can make one, I can make another (a little gem of wisdom from Jane Davenport).

Fish tagWhenever you send off one of these things, you always worry.  I think this is awesome but will they just go ‘meh’ when it arrives.  Or worse…. ‘blech’.

fish tag 2I needn’t have worried.  Like I say, the girls I’m discovering on this adventure are kind hearted and generous and beautiful.

fish tag 3I’m finding courage in sharing mail art.  I always seem to do my best when I am sending art to other people (which kinda drives me crazy…. I want my best in my art journal, not on other peoples walls or in their drawers).  But I’m using it as a chance to practice and grow and experiment.  And always…. learning, learning.

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Finding my own style

PirateI’ve mentioned the beautiful talk I had with Jane Davenport before.  The one about finding your own style.  And while I kinda got what she was saying at the time, it has truly clicked and resonated with me the last couple of weeks.  Like the camera has suddenly came into focus.  Sharp focus.

I’ve wanted my art to be ‘there’ since forever.  You know where ‘there’ is, don’t you? That place where your art SHeroes are.  Where their art is at a special level of awesome.  Where their art is so unique to them, you know it’s theirs as soon as you turn the page of Somerset Studio.  You don’t even need to read the caption – you just know.

They have discovered their signature style.  And even though every piece of artwork is different, there is something there that you know is theirs.  They know where to start when they go into their art room.   Oh how I envy that sometimes a lot.

While Jane and I were chatting about this on her verandah, little things clicked for me.  And I realized I have some elements that are my own style already, even though I am learning from my teachers.  I use a spray bottle quite a bit.  And I use my Neocolor II crayons differently to how I see other people use them.  The way I use acrylic paint with my fingers is different (cause I am very heavy handed).  And the way I incorporate scrapbook paper into my mail art and art journal pages.  None of these are things I remember learning from anyone, they just kinda happened as an experiment and stayed.

I recently discovered an artist that uses scrapbook paper in her artwork and I love it.  I love seeing someone use something I consider ‘crafty’ in such a gorgeous arty way.  Go onto Pinterest and type in Marie Pace-Wynters.  You will see her work there.  On Facebook and Instagram, she posts lots of in progress shots and sometimes a collage of her process.  Those are my favourite.  I love love seeing an artists process.

Somehow, seeing her gorgeous artwork using a technique I discovered for myself before I found her, has somehow given me the courage to keep doing it.  Like it’s valid to do it that way.  Which it always was.  But something about finding her has made it feel like….. silent permission.  Like it’s valid.  And it’s giving me confidence to trust my own exploring.  My own discoveries.

And for the first time ever on my adventure to “there”, I feel like I’m finally stepping into my own style and taking a step away from the comforting arms of my teachers.

Coral xo.

This page was an experiment in the Journal I Can’t Tear The Pages Out Of inspired by Mindy Lacefield (Tim’s Sally) with a little bit of Flora Bowley in the mix too.  The quotes are from “The Goonies” – my favouritest childhood movie ever and still one of my favourites.  A classic.

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Mail Art – She longed to run away and join the circus

I have another new friend that wanted to share Mail Art.  It’s all kind of just unfolding in a beautiful way.  Organically and gently and from such a kind hearted place.

Circus topI am currently in love with vintage red and the idea of the circus.  Not the animals – I hate the idea of a circus that has animals like elephants and lions.  But I love the images of girls in hats and stripey legs and hoola hoops and feathered top hats.   Kind of a vintage burlesque-y look.  Think I’m gonna play with that a lot more.

For this envelope I liked the idea of having her dress be a circus tent.  I am still in love with a girl I drew in my journal so tried to do the same idea with this envelope.

I started with another one of those ugly 80’s mustard yellow envelopes from the never ending stash.  To start, I brayered white gesso on to the envelope.  The brayer left little ‘pulled up’ sections of gesso like there was a little too much on it.  As the envelope continued, it gave a crackled like texture that I really liked.

Circus printThe background started with a mono print of blue from a gelli print.  Then I brayered Dyna flow inks and coloured in sections with Neocolor II water colour crayons.

circus dressI drew the girl then started painting.  I did the skirt first because I couldn’t think what to do with the top.  Then I did the top and had to try to replicate what I had done on the skirt.  Hmmm… might just be easier to figure out what I’m doing for the whole dress before I start next time.  I used acrylic paint, watercolour crayon and prismacolor pencils for the dress, arms and face.  For the hair, I used acrylic paint, watercolour crayons, dynaflow inks and pismacolor pencil.  I just kept layering to get some tonality to it.  I umm-ed and aah-ed about drawing a face on her.  I drew a basic outline but hated it, so I just did some pink cheeks with watercolor crayon.

Circus writingThe wording was the next challenge.  I played with writing on scrap paper and hated it, so I stamped a saying on one side of her then wrote circus on the other side – kind of winged it which is kinda scary but I really liked it.  So I washed off the stamped words as best I could, covered up the parts that didn’t come off with gesso and re-did the blue over the top.   Yup, a do over.  I was so excited to do the writing across the whole page.  And then I actually did the writing.  Nothing would write over it.  I think I had lots more watercolour crayon on that side and the waxiness was a little too thick which meant no pen would go through it.  Or it would work for part of a letter then hit a really waxy bit and stop working.  No pen would go through it.  Not the cheap permanent pens I had, not the laundry marker that supposedly writes on ‘everything’ and the ‘go to’ Pilot Permaball everyone calls a 4wd pen.  In the end, I wrote with white paint pen then coloured over it with the black pens.  That did the trick.  I’ve since bought a black paint pen which is much better on these kinds of surfaces.

circus envelope

Grrr…. this photo went blurry. Sorry. Think I left the macro setting on then stood really far away *slaps forehead*

I was really happy with this envelope.  Not sure about my girls though – I feel like they are a little too cutesy, so I might try to add a little more angle to their cheeks and chin.  It’s all learning and experimenting and playing.  Finding my style, what I like, what I would change next time.

I hope she likes it.

Coral.  xo

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