Five things to be thankful for

It’s Sunday evening and like every Sunday in my daily readings from Kerygma Family, I look back at the blessings of the previous week.  I was sort of sidelined by a bad infection which threatened to take over my immune system but I made a strong come back after resting it away at home.  No fever, but my neck ached liked crazy due to swollen lymph nodes.  I’m okay now but still exhausted — so I’m trying to take it slow.

Tonight, I’m thankful and happy about…

1.  Finally some good temperatures that are not in the teens and which actually allowed us to go out with jackets but no scarves today.  (40s!)

2.  Getting Angelo’s science project going.  (We conducted the experiment but still have halfway to go with his partner, Ryan.)

3.  Finding a ring I had misplaced.  I wear three rings daily — and I take them off when I do my chores.  One, somehow, found its way to another bin away from the two, but they’re a happy threesome again.

4.  Family lunch at Waterzooi, a place we used to visit and went back to again.  Loved their Baked French Onion Soup (upper right picture in the collage below) and shared Alan’s Paella Moules Frites (bottom pictures).  Ended up eating Angelo’s burger, but I’m not complaining.  The promise of doing things differently.. keeps me hopeful.
Food trip: Waterzooi Belgian Bistro fir lunch and Banana Nutella Crepe for snacks on Super Bowl Sunday

5. Completing my “HOPE” multi-page layout for Art Journal Every Day in my altered book.

Art Journal Every Day: Hope Multi-page Layout (pre-journaling)This one was done quicker than I had thought it would be, although I’ve had to retake the layout graphics over and over again because of changes to the drawings. The journaling pretty much stayed as is, then I had to blur them out.  I’m happy to be able to work consistently on journaling no matter how short my window to work on the pages may be.

I’m now working on another multi-page layout, “BELIEVE”, but will write a feature on “HOPE” before I post anything on any other work in progress.

Another week and another month ahead… can you believe January has ended?  And yes, we’re officially into the Year of the Horse which is my year although my element is Fire…  That only means I’m turning 48 (because I’m certainly not turning 60 YET)… another year.

Thankful and happy, and feeling blessed I am.

 

My Art, My Altered Book

My Altered Book: Multi-page layout - Flower spread up close

My screensaver these days here at home is a simple black and white square graphic of some inspiring words from Kurt Vonnegut:

“To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow.  So do it.”

Indeed.  So I keep trying.  I am actually setting to put this quote on a mini-canvass and put it up on my desk.  Coming soon.

I’ve been working on my altered book which has been on a semi-break most of the previous week.  I was busy trying to catch up with the Artist Trading Card (ATC)  swaps and work has totally exhausted me at the end of the day.  I even left the book at home most days knowing I wouldn’t have the energy nor the time to do any work on it.

I’ve made up the last two nights, creating this multi-page doodled flower.  It’s been tricky cutting the pages but I figured I can always trim it smoother.  The layout is not quite finished but I’ve worked down to the final two-spread background page.  I just need to finish the doodled petals.  I’ve also switched to using Sharpie Ultra Fine Point Permanent Markers instead of my usual V5 signpens.  I’ve noticed that the signpen ink doesn’t dry completely when written over acrylic paint, and so far, the sharpie permanent marker has not stained the other page it closes against.

I have been making progress and I know I’ve been saying that I will start journaling and writing my happy stories, but I haven’t had the chance just yet.  That’s one reason the section devoted to my altered book here in the blog has lain dormant.

Soon.

On with the happiness journal

My Altered Book: Work in Progress - Happy and Hysterically Happy

One of the problems I’ve had with the altered book is that I cannot drench it in too much water so watercolor has to be applied sparingly from here on, and not without protecting the spine by adding a layer of masking tape.  But I like working with watercolor.  So here’s the work around.

Last night I experimented on painting watercolor on some adhesive labels, printing the outline of letters and cutting them out.  (Yes, letter by letter.)  I actually liked how it came out.

It takes some effort to cut each letter but it was worth the effort.  I also plastered them onto the page without any lined guides or anything.  I like the casual “feel” of the piece.

I am actually thinking I’ll be journaling soon.  Up to this point, I’ve been creating journaling pages and journal prompts by plastering happiness quotes on the various layouts in the book.  The idea is for me to have a book to write about happy thoughts, memories and occasions.  This book is supposed to serve as an anchor during those times when challenges come my way, and I need a ‘reminder’ of the good and all that I’ve been blessed with.

Writing in a journal used to be a means for me to air out my mood or thought of the moment, but this journal is special because it focuses on the positive.  Working on its pages has actually afforded me a daily exercise of browsing for quotes on happiness, which in turn have brought a smile to my face and to my heart.

In the every day struggle of life, we often forget that we have been so blessed, and I am only human to admit that I need a reminder every now and again.

My Altered Book: Work in Progress Cut Out Letters - HAPPINESS

Meanwhile, my multi-page layout is “getting there”.  I’m still “repairing some pages, but I’m actually seeing the word “pop out”.  I’ve sort of stopped a layout or two after this and have concentrated on sprucing up the pages before it.

Another day ended, and another week ALMOST ended. Friday. (That made me smile.) I just wish this headache that’s crowding my head would go away. I’m glad I have a ride home — although it means a stop at the Filipino restaurant for dinner and maybe some supplies from the Filipino store — the car as against a nap on the express bus when I’m feeling like I’m feeling is a welcome respite.

Back to my altered book. I am going to do some “repairs” on the pages I’ve been working on. I completed another multi-page layout today (the set with the tags) by putting a quotation on each spread. They came out rather nicely and made the pages “journal entry ready”. (Pictures tomorrow.) I also love the set of quotes I grabbed from my now favorite quotations webside, The Quote Garden.

My swaps have been put on hold for the moment, but I will be busy writing a few postcards tonight. The Artist Trading Cards will have to wait until the weekend.

The only thing I don’t like about the evenings is that I usually get the urge to work on the altered book as I wind down closer to midnight. So sometimes when I start painting at 11:30pm perhaps, I don’t finish until a few minutes after midnight. I usually just let the layout dry anyway until the next morning.

Working on the altered book has really helped me to focus on the positive. There are moments at the start of the day when negative or heavy thoughts threaten to crowd my heart, and all I have to do is reach out for the book and open to the page of quotes and read two or three of them for a nudge to think about upbeat thoughts. It’s like an extra shot of espresso on the morning commute or anytime during the day.

Hits and misses

My Altered Book: Layout in Progress: HAPPINESS Multi page layout

This is the current layout I’m working on and as you can see, it is far from finished.  There are some mishaps that need correcting (like my “H” seems a little wobbly and will need some “beefing up”), and I might have made a mistake painting the panel across “S” in red in the same color.  Of course I can always cut out that portion that is not agreeing with the final look I have in mind so I can have the last “S” in bright yellow green over a different final background.  (I know I am making sense only to myself.)

I wanted to take a photo of the layouts uncut but I got too excited and cut it up over lunch today.  =(  I haven’t been good with the updates, but the other layouts have come out rather nicely.  I have the photos, I just haven’t had the time to write a blog post. 

The boy, for one, has sequestered my laptop over the weekend (since it was a long weekend because of Columbus Day today), and while I like typing on the iPad with my Zagfolio keyboard, it isn’t quite the same.  I have gotten used to editing pictures straight from my memory card, uploading to my Flickr account, then posting it as a graphic here, and no matter how others rave over the tablets, I still think they work best in helping us enjoy what’s online, but creating and pulling things together require more than they can offer.

I have proudly finished five ATCs (Artist Trading Cards) but I failed to take into account that today is a holiday — hence, no post office.  I dropped them off at the mailbox anyway, hoping to send them off on their merry way.  And I picked up some beautiful Yuzen Origami sheets for some Oriental ATCs due on Wednesday, and try as I might to find a suitable origami geisha or kimono doll tutorial, I am leaning towards doing a simple collage.  Sometimes I wonder if I’m in over my head with the swaps I’ve signed up for over at Swap-bot, but save for one major mistake in my pea-brained misunderstanding of instructions for one swap, I’ve been having a blast.

In fact, I got a surprise message today from a swap-partner-to-be for one of the ones I signed up for who appears to be reader number 8 of my blog.  It was one of those simple messages that made me smile and almost want to jump up and down for joy and do a happy dance.  Small world.. I did warn her, though, that she might have the wrong blog. (I thought I only had 7 readers.)  But the truth of the matter is, I am so amazed at what a small world this is for us to have actually bumped into each other on Swap-bot.  See, my blog is identified in my profile, and swap etiquette dictates that one should check out the profiles of the people you are sending out to to make it an extra special swap by taking into consideration what they want and don’t want.  And she found me.. or rather, we got assigned to be swap partners. =)

Bitten by the creative bug

I’ve been busy the last 48 hours just creating.  I wish the next phase could be for the store for a change.  (Need to make money on that investment!)

ATC: Collage backgrounds

I’m making more Artist Trading Card (ATC) collage backgrounds.  Been tearing up colorful layouts in the magazines and creating a linear collage, then painting the whole canvas a single pearlized color. (I’m going nuts about metallic paints and glazes!)  It’s been pretty enjoyable and not much effort.  I had the finished backgrounds sit beneath three reams of paper today at the office to “flatten” them out and “air out” any bubbles underneath.  Now I can continue to work on them.

Water color Paper Tags

I’ve also been painting paper tags with various shades of watercolor and trying to go for more sombre and darker tones.  The top one with the doodle art was a single attempt at drawing and scribbling on a tag.  I ended the day with around 40 tags.  (4 sets of 10 tags in 4 different color schemes.)

My Altered Book has also progressed nicely, with this cut out layout pictured below:
My Altered Book: Cut out Word Art: HAPPY MEMORIES

This is actually a multi-page layout I did the alpha for freehand, then I cut them out yesterday.  I will retouch the fuschia pink page which shows some “scratches” from the scissors I used, but I like the over-all effect pretty much.

I’ve had a pretty productive day work-wise, too, even if I’m tired and sleepy from staying up an extra hour last night to do the collage backgrounds on the ATCs.  It’s also been quiet.  (No negative energy or difficult conversations today.  I know it was prayer that did wonders!)

I’m wrapping this up because I want to get on the bus earlier tonight.  It’s one of those few nights when I can actually do it.  =)

Scraps and My "Happiness" Journal: A Happy Life

I hate throwing away paper.  In fact I’ve been rather careful saving the bits and pieces of My Altered Book (a.k.a. My Happiness Journal) that I’ve been cutting out.  They might come in handy for “repairs” or do-overs, or I might need them for a totally unrelated layout.  Paper is paper.  When I like working with a certain “surface” or texture, I will save even the cut-outs.

I have painted flowers on such scrap papers with watercolor, drawn and defined them with a sign pen and then cut them out.  The idea is to use these flowers (most of them cartoon-like and whimsical) as embellishments for the “happy” pages of my book.  While I was doing these flowers, I was rather pleased with the way they came out and I am seriously thinking of doing a video of how I produced these embellishments.  Nothing so out of the ordinary, but rather a video for non-artists like myself to show that hey, we CAN do this, too, even if we don’t have the skill and talent of those artists whose works and layouts we drool over.

I even finished a card that is now on its way to my dear, dear friend P.  Watercolor background, and a collage of layered watercolored flowers.

Hand-painted card for P

One thing I’ve learned is that it helps to browse these great pages and look at the beautiful layouts of the real artists for inspiration.  While I cannot duplicate nor equal those masterpieces, they show me what colors I can look at working with, what styles I can try — and then render them in my own way, crude as it may be.  I try not to pressure myself about producing masterpieces — I just have fun.  (I know, it’s so cliche and sounds so “American Idol” like. LOL)  And I AM having fun.  Seeing my book progressing and the layouts taking shape one by one is very fulfilling, and that by itself helps to bring a smile to my face.

The Happiness Journal is a good way to force one’s self to look for optimism.  I end up browsing at least once a day for a happy or happiness quote I can add, and when I find one, I scribble it down or work on a layout that will represent it in my happy book.  At the end of the day, you find yourself remembering those positive thoughts and it actually stays with you.  No matter what happens that upsets that positive energy as your day unfolds, or when something allows frustration to creep into your heart, the “happy” exercise stays.  And at the end of the day, there is that time when I browse the pages yet again.  Even if it’s to paint another page a special color and do a certain layout, or just so I can see if the pages are holding up, the happy vibe stays with me.

I haven’t had the chance to do much today except “retouch” a few things I’ve already put in, and stamp one layout with a floral border.  I brought home a word art “block” I rendered in Microsoft Word with very elementary word art and I want to slap it on to one of the pages to get the journaling going.  Perhaps before the night is over.

Bits and pieces.

The pages are a work in progress simultaneously.  I am even skipping a whole set of pages to work on another layout first.  I have groups of pages all relating to one layout, and yet in those pages, you will find different entries.  (Eventually, that is.)  Time to sleep…

Happy thoughts

I seem to have found a new routine which sees me writing on the bus.  I’m getting the hang of typing on the iPad and then posting later in the day.

Bryant Park - 13 Sept 2012
Bryant Park - 13 Sept 2012

Gorgeous weather in New York today.. makes me smile and look forward to the rest of my Thursday with optimism.  It helps when I go in armed with a cheery countenance because it helps me to deal with whatever challenges come my way.  And it’s going to be a busy day… and there are moods to tiptoe around.

My Altered Book: A Happy Life - Happy ThoughtsMy Altered Book is already working its magic as I opened it to my “Happy Thoughts” page.  I tried to think of other things that make me happy for additional blurbs on a “captions only layout I’m working on.. I managed to put two in yesterday: “How can you go wrong with CHOCOLATE?” and “Sleep in”.  While on the bus, I thought of “Butter Pecan Ice cream” and “Make up”.  (Made me smile again….).  And just now, “Paris”.  (That thought literally made me pause… and smile.)
I realize now that that is the essence of being able to go back to the “happy” in one’s life — it helps remind you that you have been blessed so many times to have felt happy.  And that is a gift in itself, in good times or bad.  I’ve decided I will do random layouts of “Happy thoughts” to reinforce that.  Both the creating and reading parts help me to focus on the positive, from the mundane to the profound.  We often tend to forget the things that brought a smile to our face, or that gave us that warm and fuzzy feeling of joy in our hearts. Sometimes it can be something as simple as a food we crave and love, or something else in our every day lives that lifts our spirits up.

My Altered Book: A Happy Life - All about my Little GuyI work on bits and pieces of the altered book, sometimes putting things in place permanently, and sometimes playing around with the layout by temporarily affixing the embellishment on the page.  On the layout to the left, the picture is already pasted (isn’t he gorgeous?) but the caption which I printed out on brown paper bag scraps is being held to the page by some teeny-weeny masking tape.  I keep going back to this page and see my bundle of joy smiling at me.  That is reward enough.

I want to go about my day today with a smile on my face and a light heart.  I am vowing not to let myself get aggravated by anything inconsequential.  Well, I will try. =)  (Trying to be reasonable here.. Life happens..)

And life goes on…

I’m on page 73 of My Altered Book and I’m starting to write on the first 4 pages of the book.  I want to make my happiness journal a “no-pressure” journal which means I am not stressing out to work from finished layout to finished layout.

My Altered Book: A Happy Life : Words of Wisdom on HappinessFor example, one spread is on WORDS OF WISDOM on HAPPINESS where I am compiling quotes on the subject of happiness.  the other layout is one I’m working on with Angelo as the subject matter, because who else has brought such happiness into my life?  (Even just that thought brings a smile to my face.)  I am working on these layouts simultaneously and will be starting a third.  So each page is a work in progress, just as the book is one.

The outer cover of my book now looks grubby, and I suspect that I will end up doing a temporary  cover over the masking tape.  I am constantly handling the book and it’s always in my purse.

Downtown one week afterI started an Art Journal Every Day layout yesterday on the subject of 9/11 which I just feel I had to because of the significance of the day to me personally.  It is a loss that will forever be felt in New York, even if one didn’t suffer a personal loss.  The experience of that tragic day is enough to stir feelings of grief, one I will always carry and feel strongest on this day.

Everyone speaks of healing but there is really no set formula on dealing with grief or with pain.  We each cope our own way.  Just like the events of that day affected us in different ways.

It is perhaps a relief that after 11 years, the way we reemember is now more solemn and personal than ever.  Politicians were not allowed to speak at this year’s ceremony which is befitting.  This day of remembrance should be about the people who lost their lives and those whose lives were forever changed by that loss.  I didn’t watch.  It felt heavy on the heart as it is.  Today I will scan the newspapers for my usual collage postcard.  But these postcards will be different because not only do they chronicle the events of yesterday, tbut more importantly, they will bring me back to the memories of Sept. 11, 2001.

First day of school, etc.

I took a day off Thursday because it was the first day of school and (1) I had to walk the boy to school as his Dad is on a business trip to Singapore, and (2) I still would’ve gone to bring him in to sort out the classroom and new teachers and help him lug all the school supplies.  In previous years, I had opted to take a half day or just come in late, but yesterday, I decided I’d cut the stress and just take a day off.  Wise decision.

We walked hand in hand to school and as always, it was a fun walk for me as I relished holding my little guy’s hand.  He is very tactile and expressive like me and loves to walk arm in arm or hand in hand.  He’s all excited about school which is good.  I’m starting to have discussions about outfits and attires for school, though, and just this week, I got an “I’ve got a rep to protect, you know” with a grin from the boy.  He’s growing up too fast!

I had lunch with my new friend, Elaine, which I will write about in another post.  I got to work on a few things and then I had a personal mishap of sorts which caused me to have very little sleep last night, and I had to resort to some major contingency planning.  So I am at work with a headache (for lack of sleep) and not functioning 100%. I ‘ll live.  The good thing is it’s Friday, and I can probably make up for the lost sleep tonight.

My altered book is coming along nicely.  Finally, a title: A HAPPY LIFE.

I have finally found my “happiness” journal which I’ve read about and have been hoping to start.  Many encourage that we keep one because it is a good go-to book for those times when life presents us with its biggest challenges.  So you chronicle the “happy” to help you during those times when you are not or when you find yourself facing one of life’s challenges.  My now favorite author Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia fame suggests that for inner balance, she recommends keeping a journal for moments of happiness as well as sadness.

My Altered Book: Title Page: A HAPPY LIFE

Speaking of which, I’ve momentarily or for a bit now, set aside my “WHAT DO I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY WANT?” writings.  But even if I no longer answer that question on a daily basis, I know the focus of my answer has shifted dramatically.  I will still write when an answer hits me, but right now, I have my sights focused on other things.  (I  can only write and draw so much!)

Artist Trading Cards, etc.

I’ve been cutting up extra freecards (of which I have quite a lot!) into the denominated size of 3.5 x 2.5 inches with my paper trimmer, and have been creating sets of backgrounds, much like I did with my mail art postcards.

I have a few that have been gessoed over, some have been pasted with used brown paper bags and book pages, and tonight, I tried to do watercolor and acrylic paint backgrounds straight on the matte side which is the side you are supposed to address and write your message on. Those pieces are currently drying. I did them in between cooking the rice, frying the petite fillet and heating the roasted potatoes on the stove. Ha! I’m just happy to have had the chance to put together a home-cooked meal for the family which even my usually picky mother-in-law liked.  It’s not that easy to serve her up savory dishes when she has her diabetes and heart condition. We try.  I’d have done more if I wasn’t feeling under the weather. I’m ready to do my first batch of Artist Trading Cards.

And I have my altered book resting on my lap right now. I just can’t stopp myself from going page to page even as I have yet to start with the dedication which I will work on tomorrow.

Except for photographing and sorting postcards in my collection, I did manage to keep away from trading or dealing with the trade like I had promised myself yesterday. I had dropped off quite a bunch of postcards at the post office Saturday with the majority of the cards heading for the Philippines.

I’ve found it very heartening that people are now into postcard trading even if it feels different because of the preference for cards being sent postmarked. Back in the day when I was actively collecting, I preferred to get my cards in an envelope.

With new online projects like Postcrossing where postcard trades are randomly assigned on a pay-it-forward basis (it is not an exchange but rather, participating means you will get a postcard from someone else you don’ t know), I see more and more people participating more for the experience of the exchange rather than seriously collecting postcards. As for me, I am happy to have received noteworthy additions to my maps, lighthouses and Philippine postcard collection. (I am still eagerly awaiting the postcards from the Philippines, which, given the literal snail’s pace that the postal office moves at, should be arriving in my mailbox any day now.)

I’m still trying to learn the basics and rudiments of ATC trading.  Unlike postcards which can be bought to add to your collection,  ATCs are traded.  Postcards are usually chosen, too, by the intended recipient and traded for something the sender prefers.  ATCs may be traded blind, meaning with no agreement as to which piece or pieces will be exchanged.  Swaps can also be of multiples and are sent to and then sent out by the swap host.

Well, I’m still a long way away from trading — give me a couple of days more.  For now, it’s cutting and creating…cutting and creating.