A Fortunate Find: A PhotoArt Journal

“A Fortunate Find.” PhotoArt by Diane W.

One of the most gorgeous mail packages I received this year came from my photog friend and art journaler, Diane W, aka midteacher on swap-bot. If you’ve been following along for a while, you might remember that she enjoys working her photographs into mixed media works of art using paint, fabric, paper, washi tape, and other materials.

“Mail Call.” PhotoArt by Diane W.

Over the years, I’ve watched her skills develop and evolve and her projects become more and more complex and beautiful. Sometimes the beauty is difficult to convey through photos.

“There Is Beauty in Simplicity.” PhotoArt by Diane W.

Such is the case with a photo journal she sent early this year for a “Favorite Photos of 2018” swap. The swap invited photographers to look through the photos they shot the past year and select those that brought them the most pleasure.

“Went Off Bravely.” PhotoArt by Diane W.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to share this project on my blog for months! Beyond the visual, there’s the heart that goes into her work, and that can’t be captured.

Diane is attentive to every detail–from cover to cover.

Photojournal Cover by Diane W.

On the binding, she “dangled” charms that feature my interests and personality–an owl, (sun)glasses, leaves (trees!), and of course, a camera and a sunflower!

“Charmed Binding” by Diane W.

I know Diane chose her favorite photos, but her selection aligns with my loves–sunsets, vintage/unique mailboxes, [places of] solitude, leaves, rusty old things, autumn, and sunflowers.

“There Is a Strange Fascination.” PhotoArt by Diane W.

I l-o-v-e the way she arranged the elements on pages. I also love, love, love how she affixed to each page a phrase perfectly matched for the featured photo. How did she do that?

“Just at the Moment.” PhotoArt by Diane W.

I’ve placed [photos of the] pages throughout the post, but I’m not convinced this is the best way to share.

After the fact, I realized I could have created an “unpacking video,” so you could experience my glee and the heart and soul that went into the journal. Unfortunately, I don’t pause long enough to think of a video when I receive mail– especially when beautiful envelopes like this are pulled from the box:

My original plan was to write individual posts for each page of the journal, but after reviewing my backlog of “to be blogged” materials, I decided to choose a few. Soooo…I look forward to giving the four below their hour in the sun. [Click an image fo a closer look].

And guess what! I have another art project from Diane that’s been on “blog hold” even longer, so we have that to look forward to also.

Diane has been encouraging me for a couple of years now to venture out of my digital comfort zone and start “making a mess” with my photographs. I have far too many creative irons in the fire, but I’m beginning to see how this can work with my writing.

I’ll get there, Diane. Eventually. I will.

You can find Diane blogging about photography, her art journals, and “a focused journey” on her blog and on Instagram. I’m sure she’d love for you to follow and play along.

Have a fantastic week!

Still. Covered.

“Be Still,” mixed media art by Lisa Larson

Thanksgiving Break ends today. The break I looked forward to since September. Time to be still and allow at least some healing to take place. A little time to just be and allow my grief to spill out without having to hold back or rein it in, without the persistent demands of first-year students or the expectations of colleagues.

But.

That didn’t happen. I’ll spare you the details of the “instead,” but tonight, I was noting how things sometimes come in a torrent. Without warning. The storm beats on us relentlessly and we can hardly catch our breath between lightning strikes. We want to do something, but the only thing we can do is take cover.

And that’s what I did.

I took cover from doctors who spoke doom and gloom. I took cover from the constant barrage of questions and requests from students (yes, during the break). I took cover from fear of all the “what ifs.” I took cover from the emotions that surged to the surface when my bestie told me she lost yet another person in her life to cancer. I took cover when my other bestie got a “not good” prognosis for her mother’s condition. I took cover when yet another bolt of lightning struck just yesterday. I took cover when the little frustrations of life were sure to be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

I took cover in the Word of God, in the knowledge and experience of who He is, and I rested in His embrace.  I found shelter there because when faced with the impossible, there’s nowhere else to be.

Some time last week, I received the card above from one of my dearest and most constant friends. It felt like a warm and much-needed hug, the hug that says, “I know…and this is the way through.”

I’ve been on a journey with stillness for years now. Some days, I’ve mastered stillness. Others…I stand in place, fretting and fidgeting. The card arrived when I was feeling the full brunt of all of the impossibilities that life has become, when all the disappointments were dancing before me and taunting, tempting me to fall apart. It was my call to do nothing. Be still. Relax against the onslaught and simply hold on to the God who will not, cannot let me go.

And that’s where I am tonight as I face the grueling last days of the semester with all the stuff that was there before and all the stuff that came up since…

Still. Covered.

Re-liberating the Re-liberated Art

Well, I promised I’d be back with a post on the bonus Liberate Your Art package I received.

At the end of the LYA blog hop, Kat held a giveaway for participants in the hop. As noted on her blog, by random drawing, she gave away:

  • One 6×9″ fine art print of this year’s final celebration image, “Art brings Light to the World”
  • One copy of the second edition of her book, Art with an iPhone: A Photographer’s Guide to Creating Altered Realities, which was published at the end of 2017.
  • Eight packets of postcards from other participants. These were extra postcards participants sent to give to Kat’s helpers on “swap day.” There was a lot of love and appreciation left over.

Guess what! I won a set of postcards!

I know you want to see the “bonus” postcards. Right?  Be sure to read to the end because my blessing could become your blessing.

There was an eclectic set of seven postcards in the envelope–one a duplicate of a side swap, one similar to a side swap, and the rest new to my eyes. Here they are:

Natasha P’s “Peony Party” was featured in yesterday’s blog post.

“Peony Party” by Natasha P.

So was one of Janice’s angels–though this one is different.

“Winging It” by Janice D

Check out my previous post to find out more about these artists and their work.

The first “new to me” piece was made by Jennifer Calvin.

“What Is It?” by Jennifer C

Have you figured out what this is? It’s handmade paper! Jennifer makes paper. How cool is that? You can find all sorts of paper and other artsy stuff she makes at Wild Oaks Studio.

The next one was made by Karen J. It’s a mixed media project that won first place at the Ohio Montgomery County Fair.

“Variety” by Karen J.

What is the art made of? According to Karen:

the underlying paint is acrylic. Attached are various round items including: giant checkers, backgammon blots, tiny spools, buttons, tiddlywinks, jewelry pieces, slices of a huge woody vine from my backyard, faucet handle.

The next postcard came from L. Hudson, I assume.

Art by L. Hudson?

I have no information on the art or the artist, but the person included an email address and a printed message on the back:

Now go make something happen with your art!

Carolann  shared a multi-view card featuring scenes from Western Ireland.

“The Best of Ireland” by Carolann M

Carolann dedicated this year’s card to:

the beauty of Western Ireland and the open hearts of its people. It is truly the land of a thousand welcomes [and] to the Moores of County Mayo Ireland [family].

I like that phrase, “a  thousand welcomes.” She added a blessing, of course:

May your heart and your art be filled with Irish blessings.

Last, but not least, a lush autumn scene shot by Nick H.

“Autumn Glory” by Nick H

Nick writes–

This card is from a scene from the area where I am lucky to live in Yorkshire.  I enjoy traveling and making new friends around the world but I especially love to come home to this beautiful part of England.

Yorkshire is indeed beautiful. And if you know how much I ❤ autumn, then you know that you might see this photo again in a few months.

Now that this art has been liberated by the artists, again by Kat, and liberated again by me, I want to liberate the art even more! The postcards need writing and postal marks, evidence that they’ve traveled. Don’t you think? Sooooo, I’m sending these out into the world AGAIN.

Two are already claimed–I promised a friend the peonies and I’m keeping autumn (sorry, not sorry). 😉

That means the other five are up for grabs! If you want one, let me know in the comments. I’ll write a note and send one on its way to you. First come, first served. No strings attached.

Happy Day!

Liberate Your Art: Side-swapping Shindig

It’s always a bit of a challenge when Liberate Your Art ends, but side swaps help participants extend the camaraderie a little longer. I was so insanely busy when the postcards for side swaps started coming in that I just placed them in an envelope to enjoy after grades, reports, and meetings.

That time has come!

I received 13 cards via the extra swaps, plus a bonus package I’ll share tomorrow. Would you like to review them with me? Here goes…

Sherry H. of Amook Island Creations sent a reproduction of a mixed media piece accented with a Matisse quote:

“Always Flowers,” by Sherry H.

There are always flowers for those who want to see them.  –Henri Matisse

She encourages us to “look to nature for inspiration.”

From Terry O, an “in-progress” project:

“Slow Stitch” by Terry O.

This is a “slow-stitch” project. All of it is done by hand. Terry “attached a worn, paper thin vintage handkerchief to a sturdier fabric–a pink linen tablecloth, thereby creating a new piece.” Isn’t it pretty? I’m impressed that it was stitched by hand.

My penfriend Lisa C sent a “city shot” as she describes it.

“City Shot” by Lisa C

I almost didn’t notice the buildings because I was “lost in the clouds.” Interestingly, the postcard Lisa sent last year also featured clouds.  She shot this from the parking lot of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

You can find more of Lisa’s work on her blog and her website, Chasing the Sun.

Christine B, my faithful friend, sent two. Here’s the first one, a macro shot of a dragonfly.

“Dragonfly” by Christine B.

My hubby added this one to his collection. [He says, “Thanks, Christine!”]

Kathy and I agreed to swap before I received her card as part of the main swap, so I was surprised (and elated) when she sent another mixed media piece.

“Heart in Hand” by Kathy Mc

Like the first one (see LYA 2018 post), this one also started as a magazine page. She altered the page with oil, pastels, acrylics, citra solv, and monoprint. You can find more of Kathy’s work via Sol Sister Studio, her Facebook page.

As expected, Janice D sent a gorgeous mixed media piece–an angel, this time.

“Winging It,” by Janice D.

Her note, appropriate:

We’re all winging it. That’s what angels do.

You might want to go and take a look at last year’s Dreamer again and her LYA blog post to see more of her angels.

From my blogging friend Louise of Drops of Everything:

“Dancing Clothes” by Louise M

Until I read Louise’s caption (“Dancing Clothes”), I was prepared to entitle this one “Linen and Things.” 😉 She added a quote to the back:

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.  –Mother Teresa

I remember hanging up clothes to dry outdoors during the summer when I was younger. I was not yet into “seeing” or photography, so it didn’t strike me as “artistic,” but I had lots of fun running and playing through the drying clothes. Louise’s image makes me wish I could recapture those moments from my childhood.

Check out Louise’s blog for more of her photography and art.

My neighbor, PJ, moved away, but she remembered to reach out for a side swap (She used to live in Tennessee, not too far from me, but moved to Kentucky earlier this year).  She sent mountains:

“Flyover to Oaxaca” by Patsy J (PJ)

The painting is part of a triptych PJ created during a Paint Fearless Mexico retreat last November in Oaxaca. She was inspired by the mountains she flew over to get there.  I’m loving the color combination and would love to see the other parts.

My blog friend, Sheila D, sent a lovely bouquet of flowers.

This piece, a giclée print, was featured in UPPERCASE Magazine. She’s a celebrity! Sheila is seriously productive. You can find more of her work on her blog, at Society 6 or on Instagram.

In keeping with the floral theme, Natasha P. sent a peony party:

“Peony Party” by Natasha P.

This appears to be a mixed media piece. Natasha added a quote on back:

Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.  –Mary Lou Cook

After visiting Natasha’s blog, I realize that I’d received one of her postcards–a peacock–the first year I participated in LYA. In fact, she was featured in my first “real” blog post. How nice to reconnect! Natasha has a thriving henna business in San Diego.

Peonies seem to be the thing this year. I’m seeing photos and art of peonies everywhere I turn. I even “discovered” some peonies I shot some time ago. I’m not sure they’re worth sharing though. Maybe, I’ll play around with them…

Val vdP of Mellowood Studio sent a beautiful winter-themed watercolor:

“Shadows in the Snow” by Val vdP

Isn’t it just perfect? Val works with various forms–watercolor, acrylic, mixed media, monochromatic, oil. She even does lessons and paint parties. Find lots more of Val’s work on her website: Mellowood Art Gallery. Check out her blog too!

While we’re on the subject of watercolors, Christine sent a pair of sandpipers:

“Sandpipers” by Christine B

Confession–I had to “google” sandpipers to make sure I had the right bird. This watercolor is spot on! 5 green stars, Christine!  I think we should talk Christine into starting a WordPress blog, so she can share her art and photography with a wider audience.

And lastly a “butterfly on deck” from Teresa H.

“Butterfly on Deck” by Teresa H.

I coveted this postcard when Christine posted it in the LYA 2018 group on Facebook. Fortunately, Teresa had one left and she kindly sent it to me! The quote is perfect.

But on paper things can live forever. On paper a butterfly never dies. –Jacqueline Woodson, Brown Girl Dreaming

Teresa wrote that the butterfly is “about the size of your palm and glides slowly and majestically from blossom to blossom, so it’s easy to get good photos.”

Though it was my first time swapping with Terry, Natasha, Val, and Teresa, I’ve “side-swapped” with the other artists before, and some have become blog friends and regular penfriends whom I’ve come to cherish over the years. I’m looking forward to building more friendships as we move along this artists’ road.

Tune in tomorrow to see the contents of my surprise LYA package!

Be Kind to You!

Be gentle first with yourself if you wish to be gentle with others. –Lama Yeshe

Today’s kindness postcard features a mixed media piece by Colette K. of Pennsylvania.

“Count Yourself In” by Colette K.

Colette sent her artwork with a piece of advice worth heeding:

Next time, when you think of beautiful things, don’t forget to count yourself in.

The common misconception is that loving ourselves is self-centered and weak, so we pour all our energies and kindness into others and leave little or nothing for ourselves. Many of us typically miss that the fine point in the “second great commandment” is to love others as we love ourselves (Mark 12:31). If we reserve only scraps, disapproval, and unkindness for ourselves, eventually this starvation of self-love will manifest in our acts toward others.

Hollow and mechanical acts of kindness don’t always feel like kindness. So love yourself. Be kind to yourself and you will find that the kindness naturally spills over into your interactions with others.

If you’re looking for some ideas, Marelisa of Daring to Live Fully offers a list of ways to get started: 17 Ways to Be Kind To Yourself.

You can also find a lot of ideas on my self-care board on Pinterest:  Take Care!

If you haven’t already done so, be sure to check out yesterday’s post: Be Kind.

Until tomorrow…

Be Kind.

The last few days have been more unkind than usual as we’ve navigated one disappointment and heartbreak after another each time we listened to national and international news, read an article, or skimmed social media posts. Louise Gale’s choice of theme for the latest Global HeART Exchange–kindness–was almost prophetic, as if she knew that the chaos and madness of the world would need to be softened during these first few weeks of summer with kindness winging its way throughout the world.

Although I missed the signup deadline for the art swap, Louise kindly pointed me to others who would be interested in swapping postcards with me–two who also missed the deadline and one other who made extra cards. I also received kindness from faithful penfriends.

Instead of sharing all the postcards I received in one post, I’m going to “spread” the cards  (including my own) throughout the week, a small effort to “sprinkle a little kindness” every day.

Today’s post features a postcard created by Carolyn H., an artist and yoga instructor who hails from Ohio.

“Be Kind” By Care H.

Care’s mixed media postcard was inspired by the lyrics of Jewel’s song, “Hands” and included a quote from the song:

In the end only kindness matters.

I encourage you to take a moment and listen to this song. Its message is timely, one many of us need to hear today.

May your week, in Care’s words, “sparkle with art and kindness.”

4-4-4: Four Weeks, Four Topics, Four Notes

Building a snail mail relationship through (random) swapping isn’t always easy.  Quite frequently, I receive from or send to a person knowing we won’t hear from each other again until years later when one of us is randomly selected as the other’s partner again. In some cases, never.

A couple of years ago I hosted a four-week, four notes photography swap to deal with this problem.  The swap, called 4-4-4, invited participants to select four topics from a list of 12 and send one photo representing each of the four chosen topics to their partners every week for four weeks. The photo was just one part of the swap.  Swappers also had to make the photo part of a letter, notecard, or postcard in which they explained or provided details about the photo, technique, inspiration, or the story behind the photo.

This was one of the best swaps for me. I really got to know my partners. I learned about their photography styles, their families, their careers, their personal philosophies, and more.

I decided to host the swap again.  This time my partner was Diane of A Focused Journey, Midteacher on swap-bot.  Diane and I communicate regularly through swaps and “random acts of mail,” but I learned a lot more about her life and her creative work.

Diane’s chosen topics were beauty, color, alone, and fragrant.  Take a look:

Week 1: Beauty

Outside of “Beauty” Card by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

“Beauty” by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

The “beauty” photo features a weeping pine that sits outside Diane’s kitchen window. She fell in love with its unusual form when she saw it in a friend’s garden.  She, then, took on additional work at a local nursery to purchase the tree.

She especially loves how the raindrops form on the tips of the needles, so the theme “beauty” is appropriate for the photo.

Diane sent oversize postcards for weeks two and three.

Week 2: Color

“Color” by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

The scan doesn’t capture the colors in this postcard very well.  The postcard features a photo of “clouds in color” that Diane duplicated in the background she created for the photo. She captured the photo one afternoon when the sun was “sending rays of beautiful colors as the clouds were moving across the sky.”  She wrote that she must have taken 30+ shots trying to capture the light and color.

Though I’m sure this was not Diane’s intention, I like how the quote underscores the selection of this photo–it’s not perfect in the eyes of the shooter, but it is a wonderful image.

Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.

Week 3: Alone

“Alone” by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

The theme isn’t obvious on this one.  The yellow tulips hold a dear place in Diane’s heart.  She had a pretty difficult autumn one year.  The school that she loved and where she taught was closed due to budget cuts, and she was sent to a school that was challenging or “hellish,” as she describes it.  Then her son, a marine, was deployed to Afghanistan.  While out shopping and downcast, she found yellow tulip bulbs on clearance.  It was past planting time, but she bought all three bags and planted them.  The following spring, the tulips bloomed beautifully bringing her joy.  Eventually, her son returned home safe and sound.

She writes in sum:

I felt alone that fall, but every spring these tulips remind me otherwise!

Week 4: Fragrant

I  was almost sad when I saw the week four envelope.  It meant our weekly exchange had come to an end, but when I opened the envelope, I smiled from ear to ear. Sunflowers! Such a beautiful and appropriate ending to our swap.

These brightly colored flowers–miniature carnations and sunflowers–posed brilliantly on the island in Diane’s kitchen. The fragrance filled the air and greeted her each morning and as she passed throughout the day.

Diane can’t know how much I appreciate her for sending three different versions of the photo–the original and two edits.  They now have homes on my inspiration wall at home and at work!

As I mentioned many times before, I admire the way Diane works her photos into mixed media art.  Although we have very different approaches to photographic art, she and I share a mutual appreciation for each other’s work and we learn a lot from each other.  We often share tips and ideas, and because of my curiosity about how she crafts her photos, she recently recommended a book on photographic journaling techniques.  It’s on my list for the summer.

Look forward to my “trial and error” mixed media posts in the next few weeks.

Until then…

Have a happy mail day!