Gateways to art journaling was both a creative and a personal journey for me. I learned new techniques, used new materials and supplies, got cues from the different participants as to what works best with what…but I also learned about me. I was lucky enough to have 8 complete days where all I had to do was listen to me and take care of me. As someone who holds many of her family’s secrets, who tries to be there as much as she can for her friends and loved ones, I needed to get away and process a lot of what has happened in my life lately and in the lives of those closest to me.
That is why this time with my art journal was so meaningful. This time with my art journal, surrounded by so many beautiful, open and interesting women was just what I needed. I feel I am still processing a lot of what I learned that week, about where I am at and who I am – as well as what inks mix well with matte varnish!
Anyway, on to the pages. This spread was made in many steps. First the paint was layered, dried and sanded, then two holes were cut out, then the journaling began. This spread went very deep and I love that Orly gave us this opportunity. To tune into our hearts and what they need or desire. To be explicit about things we have trouble saying out loud. This is why art journaling is so important. Hide/reveal.
The journaling around the top hole is about how this is a hole from the past. The bottom one is a hole of the present. Note that I wrote ‘whole, instead of ‘hole’ in the second one! I decided to leave it as is.

The left page was for us to journal about how these two holes are really the same. This helped us to see that there are undercurrents that carry us along and that we can be aware of them and change course. If we want to.

The last step in the making of this spread was using the thread to mend the holes. I wanted to link up the two pages which I did by using masking tape and cutting it to look like surgical tape. Because these holes are still mending. What I learned from this spread : if you are open and willing to let go, to tell your story, you will be filled with love if you are surrounded with like-minded people. No story is too small or ridiculous. I feel this definitely happened to us. We were a great group, a real tribe. We all listened and we all talked.

The next page was filled with circles. We used elements from our personal epehemera stash and had to work one circle at a time. Orly expertly burned holes into our pages, as many as we wanted. I loved working on this spread but looking at it now I feel it’s a little too busy and blurred.

We tried our hand at cutting out our own papel picado (or snowflakes).
What I learned from this spread : when you stop planning or trying to fit into a style, meaning emerges even without you knowing it. This spread ended up being about my father. He passed away last March. It’s only after I looked at my pages when they were almost done that I noticed that most of the vintage pictures I used were of men. Men with children, men leaving, men arriving. Mustashioed skeletons (my father had a lovely mustache, almost Dali-like in its heyday).

I will be forever grateful to have learned this, the important of letting what needs to be emerge from the page organically.

On to our last formal spread. Like the others, it was done following many steps. First we were joyfully invited to play with some of Orly’s stencils (available here). I got mine this week, the hardest decision was choosing which set to buy! We used modeling paste to make the designs stand out. I used the skeletal head and roses on the right page. Both are strong personal symbols for me.

We then had lots of fun using plumbing tape to create a doorway on the left page. Once that was done we covered the whole thing with black gesso. Whaaaat? Oh yes. I am definitley more open to this type of ‘drastic’ step than I was before! We used sand paper to bring out the modeling paste and the silver tape. I used another stencil and added the skeleton coming through the doorway.

Once that was done we did a group exercise where we wrote down someting very personal on a sheet of paper that we loved. We tore up the papers, threw them in the air and let them fall like confetti. That was already liberating, but there was more. Each of us picked up some of the pieces of the paper….this way each of us is carrying a part of someone else’s story. (Plus we get to have everyone’s handwriting). How cool is that?
I placed all the pieces of my friends’ stories as a crown around my skeletal girl’s head. She is me; I am forever carrying other people’s stuff. I am happy to do it most of the time, but there are moments when that crown is just too heavy.

On top, I placed phrases from a poem that was given to us to use. Let’s just say that EVERY LINE spoke to me.

That is why it is everywhere on my pages. What I learned from this spread: having regrets is good, it means you are giving certain events the importance they should have. Admitting that you have regrets in this ‘no fear, let it go, no regrets ever’ society of ours is very scary. Having others help you carry these regrets is amazing.

One final spread. This one was a ‘bonus’ page. One evening, four of us decided to work on our pages after supper. Orly suggested we play an art journaling game. Each one of us would tell the others what to do on their page. For example : draw a window, glue this face somewhere, cover 10% of the surface with gesso, etc. At the end of the evening, I hated my page! It all looked disorganised and unfocused. So, a little angrily, I spread black gesso over the elements I didn’t like, in a super messy way. And lo and behold! It all came together.

What I learned from this spread: elements on a page can and should interact with each other. In doing that, new meanings and shapes emerge. A new visual language is right there for you to discover.

It’s hard for me to write a conclusion because I don’t want it to end. I have many ideas circulating around my head. I long for quiet time with my journal. I want to keep fanning this spark so it roars to life. I am so, so happy I signed on for this workshop. I cannot recommed this experience enough. If you are on the fence, do it. You will learn so much and probably not what you thought you would learn in the first place.
Thank you Rebecca for assembling this wonderful group of women and for your words on life and love and for showing me that the time is NOW. Thank you Orly for your time, your teachings and your friendship. Thank you to my art sisters, it was a pleasure and a privilege to be with you. And thank you San Miguel for being amazing!