A year to be glad in…

The New Year

A year to be glad in,
Not to be sad in,
A year to live in,

To gain in and give in;
A year for trying,
And not for sighing,
A year for striving,

And hearty thriving;
A bright New Year,
Oh, hold it dear;
For God Who sendeth,
He only lendeth.

Happy 2017!

I absolutely LOVE a brand new year, don’t you?

I think it’s that “fresh slate” thing.

Nothing like a new planner, a new calendar, or a new sketchbook to get me “up and doing.” And a new old project to bring to completion.

Or maybe “completion” isn’t the best word to use?

Since art journaling is kind of a lifelong project?

It’s basically a “get you started” project that I’m finishing up.

Anyway, the long-awaited, updated and revised, packed neatly into a printable PDF, Art Journaling Through the Seasons book is on its way!

Each month’s page will be posted at the beginning of the month (I’m shooting for the first Monday of the month!), along with some posts that will elaborate on the monthly activities.  The printable PDF will be available by the end of January, along with a Facebook group you can join if you’d like to share what’s happening in your (or your kids’!) art journals.

Speaking of kids… theses pages were originally created for homeschooled children, but kids of all sort have enjoyed them. And many moms are keeping art journals now too! They’re also created to be a springboard for your own journaling adventure… feel free to add your own ideas, search for poems or quotes that touch your heart or stir your senses, and draw whatever catches your eye! Permission granted to hop down any bunny trails that look fun!

And without further ado…

(Click on the image below for a printable page!)

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Art Journaling… Making a Start

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing;
Learn to labor and to wait.
~ Longfellow~

Getting started with journaling can be a little intimidating. There you sit, with all those white, blank pages staring at you, and with no ideas whatsoever about what to put on them. So what’s the cure for artist’s block?

Just begin.

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I think I said that before about art journaling, but it’s really, truly the place to start! If the first few pages are too scary, then open up to somewhere in the middle, and sketch something, even if it’s just your coffee mug and the lines are wiggly because you’ve not consumed enough caffeine yet. Then, the journal is no longer perfect, and you no longer have that for an excuse!

I just pulled out an empty sketchbook, and thought about what it felt like to start art journaling for the first time. I tried to think of some activities that might help ease the stress. So. here goes…

Create a cover! Some journals, like the Bare Books Plus (Great starter journals for kids!) have blank covers, just waiting for you to add some art. Here are a couple of my old art journal covers…

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If don’t have a journal that has a blank cover, make a Title Page! This gives you a chance to tackle one of those white pages with a purpose… be sure to include contact information so your journal makes it back to you if you leave it somewhere!

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And if the markers you use bleed through to the
other side of the page, make the best of it!

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 As you can see, this is not museum quality artwork. Just a bunch of doodles. I drew a very light oval as a guideline, and then began sketching very simple flowers and leaves. Tasha Tudor, one of my favorite artists, often draws lush borders around her pictures, so I borrowed that idea for the title page.

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On this old journal, “Through the Seasons” brought thoughts of different activities and celebrations around the year, so I sort of went with a “Tasha style” monthly theme around the oval. If you enlarge the picture, you’ll see that none of the sketches are anything really grand. The greenery (which sort of looks like rosemary or short pine) is really just a bunch of little lines coming off a main branch all in the same direction. Really not hard at all to draw!

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Finish your cover or title page by adding some color it, using markers, colored pencils, or even watercolor pencils and a dab of water!

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Art Journaling… Some Resources

Hello everyone!

I’m hoping to really focus on getting the art journaling posts
updated and moved over here during the next few weeks!

I thought I’d list a few really good resources for art journaling!

The books below are on my shelves at home…
They’re great resources, but I’ve discovered a few of them are
out of print as I’ve searched for links so you can purchase them.

You might be able to find a used copy
on Amazon, or find them at the library.
Perusing through them might help you get some ideas
and tips as you begin your art journaling journey.

The book that got me started with art Journaling…
The Student’s Guide to Keeping an Art Journal  by Barry Stebbing

And another favorite… It does have some “spookety”
pictures, like scary fairies and goblins, on a couple of
the pages toward the back, but it’s a great visual resource:
How to Keep a Sketchbook Journal by Claudia Nice

This one has a more loose, sketchy feel to it,
but it is a great resource for page layout ideas:
Create Your Own Artist’s Journal by Erin O’Toole

For those who are into nature journaling,
there are several really great resources:
Keeping a Nature Journal by Claire Leslie & Charles Roth

And a great resource for getting children into discovering nature:
Wild Days: Creating Discovery Journals by Karen Skidmore Rackliffe

And for those who wish to journal with a historical bent…
this is one of my favorites, and is quite “dog-eared” I must admit!
And we know a couple of the folks in the sketches, which adds to the thrill!:
Living History: Drawing on the Past by Cathy Johnson

Also, check out her other nature journaling resources on her website!

There are SO MANY resources out there! These are all of the “how to” sort of books, full of methods and ideas for art journaling, what to take with you into the field, how to design a page, etc. You may want to find a good resource for inspiration purposes, but the most important thing to do is…

Just start!

It doesn’t matter if you think you’re good at drawing or not, or if you have the perfect art journaling plan or not, or if you have all the tools you need or not. Grab a pencil and some paper, and try your hand at sketching something! Allot a few minutes each day to drawing, and don’t get mad at yourself if it doesn’t turn out the way your mind’s eye had imagined. Drawing is a learned skill and improves greatly with practice. Yes, there are a few talented folks out there that drawing just comes naturally to, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the world can’t learn to draw well if they devote a little time & effort to learning the basics. You can do it!

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Knowing your “why”…

Sometimes there’s a really good reason to slow down.

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The clearing of your schedule,
and the decluttering of your days,
and the un-obligating of your time
can be for a specific purpose…

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Your “why.”

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And sometimes it takes a while to figure out what your “why” is.

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For many years, my days were filled with simply living life with my family. When things got too busy, we trimmed back activities so we could live more purposefully. But as the girls grew older and eventually married and moved away, my days filled up with many different things. At first it was the incredible opportunities that came our way as a family and the many activities that come with teenagers and young adults. And weddings! And then there was finally time to start working on my art again, and to explore some things I had always wanted to do, and to finish my college degree. All good things, but for about five years, I seriously overloaded myself. I rarely said “No” to anything, and eventually I was in way over my head. And I do not swim very well… literally or figuratively. It was beyond the back float, beyond treading water. More like a furious doggy-paddle to get to the side of the pool, but the current was way too strong. Somebody needed to throw me a floatie. And fast.

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I knew deep down that I wanted my “empty nest” years to be just as fulfilling and purposeful as the filled-up nest years… but how and what and who were the big questions. It sure wasn’t a filled-to-the-brim calendar, or a massive to-do list, or packing and traveling to shows, because those things were draining me. So I started praying, and reading, and thinking, and journaling, and blogging, and eventually began paring back the things that weren’t necessary so I could have time for my “why,” whatever it was.

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I knew I loved working with kids, but wasn’t sure how that could fit in this stage of life. Teaching art classes or Sunday school?  Helping homeschool families? Volunteering with 4-H? A full-time job as a teacher?

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And then we had the wonderful opportunity to babysit a tiny little girl… sometimes even overnight… and a light bulb went on. Hubby and I absolutely loved having kids around, and we realized that kids were what this home needed. And we soon discovered there were lots of kids that needed a home. So we made a phone call, sent some emails, attended an information session, and suddenly found ourselves taking classes, being home studied, and finally approved to be foster parents. And life has not been the same since.

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It has been the hardest “job” I’ve ever had, but also the simplest. You have to ride a crazy roller coaster of emotions and behaviors and visits and court appearances and doctor appointments, but you also have to just plain love on them like they are your own and make lots of peanut butter sandwiches.

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And that empty calendar is needed, because a phone call can come at the most unexpected time. A fellow foster mom might need a weekend away. Or a social worker needs to place a child tonight… “Do you have room in your home… in your schedule… in your heart?”

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And there is still balance to be sought… There must be time for your kids and grandkids, for your family and friends, and for your church family, for yourself and for your spouse. Sometimes the pendulum swings far in one direction, and then way back to the other side, but knowing your “why” helps keep it ticking away gently in the center.

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What is your “why?”

Slow Down…

I read a blog post this morning about finding yourself.

Having turned 50 not too many days ago, it struck a chord with me… It made me think of the times in my life I needed to find myself again. Not a “new self,” but the real me that sometimes gets lost in busy-ness of life and the opinions of the crowd and the pressure of calendars and things-to-do.

Living for half a century definitely gives you a bit of
perspective and makes you reflect on the things
that you were purposed to do and designed to be.

And that’s when I start thinking about this lady.

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Nana Anne.

If she had a calendar in her home, it was to mark off days that had gone by rather than to tell her what to do next week. Nana got more things done before the sun came up than I could do all day long, but she never had a to-do list or a schedule, and you sure couldn’t pin her down to “every Thursday.” It was hard to pin her down to anything, for that matter, but she was always there when you needed her. She loved to go places on the spur of the moment, but somehow she was always home when you needed to raid her fridge for a piece of homemade pie. You were welcome to stop by even if her teeth were out. And there was always coffee. Nana never joined a club and never was on a committee, but she served and loved everyone she met. She would give you the shirt off her back, the food out of her cupboard, or the curtains off her windows if you had a need. And she’d beat you to the yard sales on Saturday morning to replenish her stock. Her theology was plain and simple, and only Nana could totally get away with having a sign next to her door that said “Jesus loves you” and another beside it that said “Be nice or go away.”

Because nice matters.

And Jesus does love you.

When I feel the need to get back to basics or simplify my crazy life or to get my priorities in proper order or deal with pressure to “do more” or “go more,” Nana is the person I think of first. She taught her kids and grandkids and great-grandkids the importance of being present. To enjoy every day and not rush around, ruled by a list or a calendar or the expectations of others.

She taught us to slow down and live life.

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Just finish something…

Some days, my only goal is to finish something.

Anything, actually.

Like ALL the dishes.

Or that last load of laundry.

Or some projects that have been sitting on my desk FOREVER.

With little people running about, work seems to
happen in fits and starts, but some days I actually
see something all the way through to the very end.

I just finished these two special papercuttings…
… and actually got them into frames.

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It was fun to weave the realistic Jenny Wren
and daffodil into the folksy fraktur-style papercuts.

At this moment, the paper cuts are one-of-a-kind,
though I may have some prints made, or do another
papercut version of them at some point in the future.

(They always change slightly when I make a pattern.)

The originals are listed in my Etsy shop…

20% if you buy both… use the coupon code
PERFECTPAIR
when adding each one to the cart!

Row, Row, Row Your… Blueberries?

Folks, there are some incredibly awesome
homeschool curriculums out there.

This will probably “date me,” but many of the now-popular time-tested homeschool curricula was not even created when we began homeschooling our older girls! New programs written just for the homeschooling lifestyle were just beginning to come out, but having grown up in what “school is supposed to look like,” I was definitely wary of trying them out during our first few years. If I did get brave enough, those new methods were tacked on as extras on top of our “real school” workbooks and lesson plans that were completed in our little school desks or at the chalkboard. (I even had a bell to ring to let the girls know our day was ready to begin. I am not kidding.)

One of those new, innovative curriculums was called “Five in a Row.”

Actually, by the time I heard of it, I was fine with trying something new and focusing our school days around the wonderful books we were reading. But… We were always “a little ahead” of the Five in a Row series as they were being released. Our girls seemed to be just beyond the recommended ages.

But…

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…There’s a new toddler (actually four new toddlers!) in our lives, and I can’t wait to use the fun stuff this time around! Thankfully Jane Claire Lambert also came out with Before Five in a Row… a fun volume created just for preschoolers! So we tried our first “Rowing” experience last week!

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It’s blueberry harvesting time on our little homestead, so we thought Blueberries for Sal would be a good book to start with. Our daughter Kate and her two littles came over, as well as my sweet friend Beth who is homeschooling her second batch of kiddos. She’s a Five in a Row veteran, so we sure appreciated her expertise! All in all, we had five little people ages 4 and under. Four boys and a tiny girl. (GrandNana came and stole the girl!)

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Since we had a variety of ages, we took it easy with the activities.
Beth read aloud Blueberries for Sal. The older boys knew the story well, and listened from afar until the bears showed up in the story. One toddler boy had his nose right up against the book as it was being read, and the other toddler boy repeated the word “Mama” every time it was read. The tiny girl seemed more interested in eating the book than listening to the story.

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We figured action was going to be the best plan, so the next thing we did was head outside to pick blueberries. Picking was definitely the highlight of the day! Beth had brought the perfect little buckets, and the blueberries went “kerplink, kerplank, kerplunk” as they dropped in the pails, just like in the story! And, just like in the story, many berries were eaten before they made it into a bucket. The boys also thought it was grand fun to pour their berries into each other’s buckets. There were leaves and sticks involved.

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After the picking, we headed inside for some homemade blueberry muffins and milk. (Recipe below!) Four hungry boys, three Mama’s, and a big sister (actually two big sisters?) gobbled them up! While the kids were finishing their muffins, cut-out “blueberries” were hidden around the family room and the boys had a fun time searching for them! Next, we sorted pompoms by color, making sure we put the “blueberries” in a pot so we could can them and “have food for the winter.”

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We had a couple other activities planned, including “Follow Your Mama” and an art project, but we decided with the extremely hot weather and quickly approaching naptimes, we’d better quit while we were ahead! All in all, we had a really fun time “Rowing” our first Five in a Row book with this little group of friends! Can’t wait to try it again!

Nana’s Sweet (Blueberry) Muffins!

Sift together 2 cups Flour, 1/2 cup Sugar, 2 teaspoons Baking Powder, and 1/2 teaspoon Salt. Add in 1 cup Milk, 1 beaten Egg, and 1/4 cup Oil or Melted Butter. (I tend to go for the butter, but I add it to the cold milk to cool it down a bit so it doesn’t cook the egg!) Stir until just mixed and fold in about 1/2 cup of fresh or frozen blueberries. Spoon into a greased muffin pan (12-cup) and sprinkle a little sugar on top… Raw sugar looks really pretty! Bake about 15-20 minutes at 400°. Take them out when they smell awesome, are firm on top, and are just beginning to brown. Serve with butter if you like!

This is adapted from my Nana’s Sweet Muffin recipe,
and they are every bit as good without the blueberries!
Nana Anne always made these with Jiffy Mix, but I fiddled
with the recipe until I got it as close as possible to hers!

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Special thanks to Kylie for her picture-taking abilities!!!

 

 

 

Encouraging Young Artists…

IamanArtistOne of my favorite children’s picture books is I Am an Artist by Pat Lowery Collins, In it, the author quietly shows children that they can be an artist by observing the world around them, noticing interesting things about nature. 19th-century educator Charlotte Mason, whose methods are followed by many of today’s home educating families, also stressed the importance of observing nature and the world around you, and recording discoveries and sketches in a journal

You can teach your children to have an eye for art by making it a habit to talk about the things you are seeing.

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“How many legs to you think that creature has? What colors do you see in the sunset? Does that painting look warm or cool? Do you see the water sparkling like diamonds? Questions such as these, that encourage children to talk descriptively about what they are seeing, will help them develop an artistic vocabulary and also help them look for details themselves.

When it comes to children’s artwork, it is also important to be very encouraging. Younger children, especially, have difficulty getting what they want to draw from their heads to their hands. When their drawings don’t turn out as they envisioned them, kids will often get upset. Interspersing drawing “lessons” with times of doing their own artwork will gradually build their fine motor skills, but be sure to be encouraging about each drawing, and sympathetic to their struggles. Depending on the child, they may need a little help in getting started with a sketch or straightening out a line or two. In classes with kids, I make a point to ask them if they want me to help fix a drawing on their paper, or show them how on a scrap of paper, and the answers are quite different from one child to another. It’s also a good idea to ask very young children to explain their art to you… It’s much better if they tell you that they drew a cat climbing a tree, than for you to mistake it for the monkey you saw in the zoo last week!

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Make it a point to encourage the children in your life
to be the artists that they were created to be!

And go grab a copy of this beautiful book for your library!

Art Journaling… Choosing a Journal

The beginning is the most important part of the work.
~Plato~

Where do we begin with art journaling? Well, probably the most important place is finding a journal to work in! What type of journal is best? There is no right or wrong answer to that question, but each artist needs to evaluate their journaling needs, and you may end up with several different kinds of journals. I have a main journal that I’m constantly working in. It is medium-sized, about 7” x 10”. It’s not too small to limit work, but also not too large, so it’s easy to carry with me wherever I go! I also have tiny little sketch books tucked into my purse and in the vehicles…. just in case. They are often filled with notes and grocery lists as well as sketches, but they’re accessible at all times for impromptu drawings.  Tucked safely in my art studio, I have several “formal” journals, dedicated to finished botanical drawings, folk art and fraktur sketches, and drawings of people.  There are thin little journals that I use to study single subjects. There’s a historic-looking leather journal that the girls gave me (probably another Mother’s Day!) that went with us to historical reenactments. And, there are plenty of smallish sketchbooks tucked in drawers around here that can be shared with little folks who want to doodle. You can never have too many, but below are some ideas to consider when choosing an art journal…

The choices for art journals are many… Handmade books, spiral bound sketchbooks, bound or loose-leaf, lined or unlined pages (or a mix of the two!), quad-ruled, fancy & beautiful, or plain & utilitarian. I’ve tried them all, but my number-one personal requirement is that the journal should open flat so you don’t have to fight with it just to draw. (My leather historical journal does not meet this standard, but I figure life was tough back then, and the “fight” is part of the reenacting experience!) Choose a journal that makes you happy… One that feels good in your hands as you carry it around, one that makes you feel artistic or studious. Choose a journal that you will love for a long time, because it takes a while to fill them up! And, if purchasing a journal for your kids, buy one for yourself as well and join in the fun!

There is some debate about choosing a bound journal verses a loose-leaf journal, especially when choosing a journal for children. I personally love bound journals, but we’ll look at the merits of both options below…

Reasons to use a Bound Journal

  • For the sake of seeing growth in art, a bound journal will keep several years’ worth of sketches, and you and your children will see how much their art has improved. All our work is in one place, and we can look back at it for reference, or to remember a sketching session.
  • We tend to respect bound journals more than loose-leaf journals because they feel more book-like. Each sketch becomes part of a permanent record, and the journal is something to treasure for years to come, to be placed on the bookshelf, or tucked into a trunk-full of memories.
  • Bound journals are more portable. We can grab them and go, without worrying about losing pages or gathering fresh paper. If we also have a little sketching kit at the ready, we’re prepared for any time we might want to sketch.

One negative aspect of bound journals is that they may seem a little intimidating at first. Artist’s block can quickly set in as you contemplate the first drawing on the first page of a brand new beautiful journal! If that frightens you a bit, I’d recommend getting a plainer journal if you think you’d be afraid to mess up a brand new fancy one. Or, open up to a center page to do your first drawing. Also remember… and communicate this to your children.. that “mistakes” in sketching are what we learn from, and there are plenty of mistakes in the journals of professional artists. If you really are upset by a mistake, you can make another drawing on loose paper and glue it on top of the one you can’t stand to see on the pages of your journal. Or, if it’s a true disaster, use a craft knife and carefully cut out the page. (I’ve done that with journals that I began and then decided to use for a different subject, by removing the first few pages and starting over!)

Now the advantages of using a loose-leaf notebook…

Reasons to use a Loose-Leaf Journal

  • Loose-leaf journals, such as three-ring binders, work well for group art classes, because they can also hold class hand-outs and notes, and can be added to easily.
  • Messy artwork, like pastel and charcoal drawings, can be included and contained in sheet protectors. Spray a bit of fixative on the artwork and let it dry well before placing in the protector.
  • Artwork that needs to be on display later can also be kept in sheet protectors. If you child will be entering a drawing in the state fair, or if you’d like to frame it eventually, it’s ready to go!
  • Loose-leaf binders can double as a portfolio, as the “best work” can be included. If you use a “Clear View” binder, you can change the cover art at any time. Again, spray some artist’s fixative on the cover art so it doesn’t smudge inside the cover.
  • Artists with perfectionistic tendencies will experience fewer melt-downs over messed-up journal pages.  (Of course, I don’t personally know anyone that’s had a complete and total melt-down over a drawing-gone-bad… Do you?)
  • Homeschooling students that have been raised with a “notebooking” mentality will feel right at home with a binder! We kept yearly portfolios as part of our school records, and also encouraged our children to “notebook” subjects of interest.

And Who Says You Can’t Have Both?

When working with younger students in a classroom or homeschool situation, my choice is to use both a three-ring binder for assignments, finished masterpieces, and class hand-outs, and to also have a small, flat journal for doodling and on-the-go sketching. That way they can keep their best work neat and organized, but can also learn to be free and creative within their journal. Also, a thinner journal won’t be so intimidating for younger students, and they will be able to experience the joy of a completed art journal.

A Favorite Resource…

Years ago, I found a great resource for journaling at a homeschool conference… Bare Books! (BareBooks.com) Our girls filled up many, many, many, of these blank books with sketches and stories, and they come in many shapes and sizes. My favorite item is their Bare Book Plus Journal. It has more pages than their regular Bare Books, and makes a great size for beginning art journaling students. The Bare Books Plus Journal is a great size to use with this curriculum… If you count out several pages per month, your students will be able to fit an entire year’s worth of art journaling in it, giving them a great reference journal. I’d also recommend getting a journal cover to fit, which will protect the cover art you’ll be inspired to add.  The regular Bare Books are also good for short-term art journaling projects, such as a unit study or camping trip. Just for fun, check out their whole website… they have a lot of really neat stuff!

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(This journal met with an unfortunate accident that involved a red candle and a hot mini-van.)