Journal Your Way to Happiness

Journaling is included in this TED talk about the “happy secret” approach to living a more fun, productive, rewarding life.

It starts with how you feel, and how positive you are.  Your emotional level — how happy you are — determines how happy your life events are.

Click the Play arrow to watch it.  The video is about 12 minutes long, and very worthwhile.

If you’re in a hurry (though I hope you’re not), the screenshot below shows you the point to fast-forward to.  Start at about the 11 minute marker.  (The graphic, below, is a screenshot… click on the video above, to watch it.)

All of those suggestions can help.

Of course, “meditation” will mean different things to different people.

Journal your way to happiness - studies show that it works!They may include things like:

  • Prayer
  • Conscious meditation
  • Admiring art in a museum, gallery or studio, or even
  • The simple act of “being there”… being in the moment.

I believe the more of these elements you can include in your life, the happier you’ll feel.

Journaling each day — making notes (words, images, a recording, etc.) about one happy event of that day — can make a big difference in your happiness.

The studies were based on a 21-day practice of… well, whichever of those choices seem most appealing to you. 

Sometimes, people will become happier the first day.  Others will need to develop the habit, and — somewhere around day 21 — the person will pause and realize that she (or he) is feeling happier.

Colors seem brighter.

There seem to be more opportunities, more fun, and more whimsy in daily life.

Serendipity is in your favor, and life is better.

Maybe you can journal your way to happiness. It’s worth trying.

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Art Journals – Beauty is in the eye of…

not coloring in my art journal... yetToday, I was browsing some sites where people have posted their art journals (or artist’s journals… same thing… it’s a term always in transition).

I quickly found a wonderful series of pages, and the artist  (Zom) muses if they’re part of an ugly art journal.

I want to say, “No! Those pages are lovely!” but I hold back.

It’s sort of like when I was pregnant.  Each time, I’d refer to myself as “the fat lady.”  At the time, it amused me.  Obviously, I was pregnant, not fat, but the size of my stomach… well, my humor runs to sarcasm.  Telling me I wasn’t “fat” made me question the vision of the observer.

Hello.  60 inch stomach…?  Fat! *chuckle*

But, of course, I understood the point.  They just didn’t understand mine… which was also okay.  Often, people don’t get my humor.

So anyway…

I look at these pages in all their loveliness.  I absolutely love the juicy colors and the choice of images.

However, if Zom wants to call them ugly… well, it’s her journal.  My opinions are different, but that’s my experience, not necessarily hers.

Moving past that semantic moment…

I love it where she says, “I don’t know how much of a connection I am feeling with this art journal. Is the form no longer relevant?”

That resonated with me.  For a long time, I didn’t connect with my artists journals.  I looked at them, tried to add to them, and generally felt a sense of ennui before completing even one page.

I became a different person over the past several years.  The reasons I’d kept an art journal, years ago… they weren’t there any more.  It was a different context altogether.  For starters, I’d been driven to keep my journal… it was a manic, almost “outsider” thing, for years.  It was how I kept my sanity during challenging years.

Since then, my world gradually shifted.  It wasn’t quite like watching paint dry, but it was very slow-moving.  I didn’t want to articulate it because the changes — even the minute ones — were radical, but — at the same time — they were constantly in transition.

What I’d say one moment might be totally different, even an hour later.  I suppose they were very subtle ah-HA! moments.

So, I’d put things down on paper and, later that day or sometimes a few days later, I’d shred them.  They weren’t me… not a “me” that lingered for more than a few minutes, anyway.  And, with such fleeting changes, I didn’t want to keep art around that represented that.  It took me back in time, uncomfortably.  It wasn’t a real ME-me, if you get my meaning.

I do like to document the process, no matter what the process is.  However, there are times when the changes are like trying on a huge stack of clothes in a fitting room: By the time I find what fits me and looks good, I’ve pretty much forgotten the oh-dear-heaven-that’s-not-me stuff, now at the bottom of the pile.

I don’t want to save some of those half-baked journal pages any more than I’d take photos of myself in unattractive clothing in the fitting room.

They’re not me.

They don’t have significance in my life, even as process.

Keeping those pages would be making the moment more than it was.

Perhaps I should journal about those pages.

Anyway, this blog entry (linked below) is wonderfully, deliciously thought-filled.  Click to read the pages.  They’re very good and some may resonate with you as they did with me.

pinch me to see if you’re dreaming: An Ugly Art Journal

pinchmetoseeifyouaredreaming.blogspot.com10/13/11

I don’t write as often about my art journal as I used to. I think my AJ and I have been going through a difficult phase. I knew things needed to change, not because anything was ‘wrong’ but because, for me, the innate nature of

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Saving Images for Your Collage Art

Saving collage photos, papers and ephemera… it’s always a challenge. But, I’ve found a system that works well for me. It might help you, too.

Step One: Sort collage elements by themes

I save my collage elements – especially magazine photos – by color, in manila folders. I start with the major color groups (red, blue, green, etc.) and then expand (lime green, turquoise, etc.) as my collection of saved images becomes too large for anything simpler.

I include all kinds of papers in my folders. So, when I want something blue, I open my “blue” folder and I’ll see my primarily blue magazine images, but also blue tissue paper, maybe some bits of blue ribbons or fabrics that I intend to use in collage, and so on.

Of course, my collages are usually more color-driven than image-driven, per se. So, organizing by color makes sense to me.

For someone else, it might make more sense to organize by other themes, instead of (or in addition to) by colors.

Your categories might be “faces” or even more specifically, “women’s smiling faces,” etc. Or, “nature,” “dark-looking castles,” “cute cottages,” “kissing,” “fast cars,” “vintage images,” or whatever.

Step Two: Store the folders in a big portfolio

Artists portfolio for storing collage images
Click to see this budget-priced portfolio at Amazon.com

All of my manila folders are stored in one large, flat old-fashioned artist’s portfolio. You know, those huge black folders made from heavy cardboard, covered with a black, textured surface.

If it’s inexpensive (under US$20) and comes with a handle or shoulder strap – like the one at right – that’s ideal.

(Collaging the outside of that big portfolio is optional.)

But, any good, big portfolio will work fine.

In my studio, my portfolio fits nicely on top of my chest of drawers that holds my fabric art and mixed media supplies, like my iron, fusible webbing, frequently-used fabrics like muslin, etc. (It’s a small chest of drawers that fits underneath my sewing table. So, the big collage bits folder is pretty much hidden unless I’m looking for it.)

You can also hide the folder under a bed, behind a door, between or in back of bookcases, and so on.

I’ve tried many organizing systems for my stacks of wonderful papers and collage images. This has worked the best for me.

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Composition Book Artists Journals

 

Mead composition bookA composition book art journal is any journal that’s kept in a composition book. Those are generally school-type, saddle-sewn (along the crease) notebooks with cardboard covers… similar to exam/test booklets, but a little more permanent.

Composition books are inexpensive, so many people like them especially for informal journaling. It feels less intimidating to use a journal that doesn’t cost much, and is familiar from our years in school.

They’re so affordable, you can buy several. Put one in your car, one in the baby bag, one by your bed, and so on. Then, you’re ready to create a journal page when you have some free time. The journals are so inexpensive, you can rip completed pages out and bind them into your more formal artist’s journal.

(“Binding” the loose page can be as easy as taping it into your other journal. Or, you can glue it, sew it, staple it, etc.)

Composition books have lots of lined pages in them… as many as 100. They come in a variety of sizes, but the traditional ones are about 8″ x 10″ or so. The traditional ones often have a b&w cover that looks sort of marbelized.

You can also find composition books with red covers, plain manila covers, green covers, and so on. You may want to choose one with a color that reminds you of your childhood. (But, the color may not matter if you’re going to cover it with art anyway.)

Also, it’s easy to embellish the cardboard covers. I’d still use something (such as fusible interfacing) on the back so that threads don’t pull through, but you can sew through the cardboard with a crewel needle. Then, you can embroider on it, add beads & buttons, etc., in addition to other embellishments.

(For more about sewing on your journal pages and covers, see Sewing on Journal Pages.)

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ACEOs – Production-line shortcuts

ACEO - in progressI’m trying some oil paintings as ACEOs.  (That stands for Art Card limited Editions and Originals, a kind of artists’ trading cards.)

Because traditional art cards (including ACEOs) are the same size as other trading cards (like baseball cards, etc.), the 2.5″ x 3.5″ ACEOs can be tricky to work with if you’re painting with oils or acrylics.

My first attempt revealed a few flaws that I’ll fix with the next batch.  However, here’s what I did:

First, I covered a masonite sketch board (shown below, at right) with newspaper, held in place by a Very Big Elastic. (The elastic comes with the sketch board when you buy it at any arts or crafts store, or you can simply use one from other packaging… but you may not need it at all.)

Then, I positioned a series of blank ATCs (artist trading cards) approximately where I figured they should be, to mask them. (Michael’s and other stores sell these canvas-textured blanks in the same aisle as their fine art drawing & painting supplies.)

Next, I used blue (easy to peel off) painter’s masking tape to tack blank ACEOs in place.

After that, I laid down strips of that same tape, masking the edges of the cards, usually about 1/4 inch.  (That’s not shown in the photo.)

And then, of course, I painted them… at least with an underpainting (my signature cadmium red) and then the first layer of oil paint.

Impatient to see how they’ll look, I peeled off the long strips of masking tape.  The result is in the photo on the right.

One card tore slightly as I was peeling off the tape.  (The tear was a small surface tear and it can be repaired with glue.) I’m not sure if that issue can be wholly avoided with this process, but I’ll keep experimenting.

I tweaked some of the cards while this first layer of paint is wet.  I wanted to cover the cadmium red that had seeped under the tape more than the oil paint did.  Alas, some of the tweaking ventured into the ACEOs’ white margins.

While these cards dry, I’m starting a new batch of ACEOs.  This time, I used a ruler to position the cards and the tape, so it’s more regular.  So far, so good.

The oil paint will take at least a week or two to dry enough for the next layer of paint, so these cards won’t be completed very quickly.   I’m aiming to have the first batch of ACEOs ready to ship in about a month.

However, I see several merits to using ACEOs for oil paint (or acrylics):

1. These allow me to experiment with designs on a small scale, to evaluate them for larger paintings.  These cards are sort of like thumbnail sketches, but more finished.

2. I can sell these ACEOs for far less than my paintings, making them easy for new art collectors to purchase.  (I’m very enthusiastic about the Cheap Art Manifesto as much as it’s practical… while still being a professional artist.)

3. Shipping the ACEOs will involve wax paper (to protect the surface of the card) and some cardboard rectangles as support in the mail.  Then, each card can go in an envelope… cheap and easy!

As soon as I’ve worked out more of the bugs, I’ll create a sheet that you can easily use to layout the blank cards yourself, if you’d like to try a painterly approach to ACEOs.

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Sewing Onto Your Journal Pages

You can sew embellishments onto your paper journal pages.

You can use any page in a book like fabric (to sew on, for example) by using iron-on interfacing on the back side of the page.

Yes, just iron it on, the same as you would iron interfacing onto fabric. It won’t always stick 100%, but it will work well enough that you can sew through it.

(If you try to embroider or sew beads onto regular pages in a book, the thread tends to pull right through the paper, if the thread is tugged.)

You can do the same thing with your journal cover. A strong crewel embroidery needle will usually sew through cardboard… but you’ll probably need a thimble to push the needle through.

artists journals cover - treated as fabricYou can then embroider with embroidery floss, yarn, thin ribbon, etc. You can add buttons, beads, and so on, too.

At left, you can see one of my journal covers that I’ve embellished with sewn-on buttons. (Click on the image to see it larger.) The biggest button is part of the journal closure. When it’s not in use, a string of hemp (secured to the back cover) is wrapped around the button on the front cover to hold the journal closed.

After you’ve finished your sewing (or other embellishment), you can glue a page or fabric over the ironed-on interfacing, so your stitches are concealed. If I’m doing a lot of this in a book, I’ll buy a second copy of the same book, so the “backing” page is what it would have been, if I hadn’t covered the original with interfacing.

You’ll find iron-on interfacing at any fabric shop. It’s usually kept in a bin or on shelving next to where they cut fabric yardage for you.

You can also iron on Stitch Witchery or another fusible adhesive, and that gives you the option of sticking something wonderful on the other side… interfacing isn’t all that interesting.

For example, you could fuse an actual piece of fabric to the paper page.

Then again, after I sew beads onto the page, I like to cover the interfacing side with more paper… maybe a collage.

You can sew onto your journal pages, or turn them into fabric. It’s easy!

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Foam Brush Notes

PaintbrushesPaintbrushes are important for many artists.  I have jars & jars of them for all purposes.

Foam brushes are useful in almost every kind of art I create.

When I’m creating collages, especially torn-paper collages in my artist’s journals, I apply the gel medium — as an adhesive as well as a sealer — with a foam brush.  (That same gel + foam brush works fine for applying glitter or metallic leafing to my art, too.)

I also use foam brushes to apply cheap, vivid, cadmium red paint (acrylic) as an underpainting when I’m working on an art shrine (that I’ll also paint) or a fine art painting.

Stores such as Michaels, A. C. Moore, and Hobby Lobby often feature foam brushes on sale.  For example, from 16 – 22 January 2011, Michaels were selling 14 foam brushes for $1.

Check your local Michaels’ weekly ad to see if the same sale is at your store.  (I don’t know if this link will work for you, but I view their weekly ads at http://michaels.shoplocal.com/michaels/default.aspx?action=entryflash )

Two more notes: I generally get at least three to five uses from each foam brush.  I wash them thoroughly and promptly after using them.

And, if you use the kind with wooden handles, the wood can be recycled in a variety of projects.  (For some of my cloth dolls, that handle is the perfect size to reinforce the doll’s neck, as the wooden dowel will extend from the head through the neck and then into the torso.)

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Artists’ Journal RR #2b – Debbie O’s pages

The following two journal pages are glorious examples of work by Debbie O. of our Yahoo Group, ArtistsJournals.

They’re wonderful mixed media journal pages with fabric elements, and they’re full of personal insights and juicy imagery.

These continue the journey of Round Robin #2b (a larger blank journal) as it traveled across the U.S. and then to foreign lands.

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Alley Hauldren’s Journey to Winchester, TN

After arriving in Tennessee from Arkansas, it was time to continue Alley’s journey.

During the final phase of Alley’s adventures, she reached Winchester, Tennessee.  That part of her trip inspired the next two pages in this round robin artists’ journal.

This transformed this journal into a true mixed-media artists’ journal, as Alley included actual cotton from Falls Mills.

These are her pages, larger:

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