How My Past Has Shaped Me

It’s week three in my art journal workshops and I’m already behind! It’s not bothering me much though. These workshops are free, I’m not being graded and no one minds if you post late. I think my favourite one so far is the 2015 Art Project. The theme of this workshop is stress management and positive change. It’s the smallest of the three workshops, so everyone was able to introduce themselves. It seems like they all have their own set of struggles, myself included. For some reason this makes me feel at home and unafraid to share my work. I feel like they’ll be kind and give me constructive criticism without being mean about it. I’m a little nervous about posting my pages to the other groups.

Week one was all about how your past has shaped you as a person. We were to think of some of the main experiences in our lives (good and bad) and come up with positive qualities we gained from those experiences. It was pretty easy for the good experiences, but it was hard to focus on the good that came out of a bad situation. I think this is a really good exercise. My bad experiences weren’t as traumatic as some, but it still gave me perspective. It made me feel like there was a reason I went through the bad stuff rather than just needlessly suffering. Anyway, back to what I was saying, the positive qualities were then used to cover your body in a self-portrait journal page. I did a two page spread because I wanted to include the initial exercise in the journal.

2015-01-15 16.10.28

On the right side I scrawled my life experiences and the left is my “self-portrait”. It really looks nothing like me, lol. Well, maybe the hair is pretty close. Here is a close up of the left side.

2015-01-15 16.10.16

The experiences I chose were

  • Strabismus (crossed eyes) – If you want to know about that experience, read this post. The positives I pulled out of this one were self-aware, unique and more confident.
  • Living with depression – This one was hard to work with, but I came up with modest, empathetic and grateful.
  • Meeting Hubby – We had a rocky beginning which made me more honest (blunt, haha) and communicative. Once I figured out how to just talk to him, we were great! His influence has also made me more adventurous.
  • Adrian – He is a former boss who was interesting to work with. I think emotionally and verbally abusive about sums it up. I haven’t written much about him on the blog. Maybe I will some day. I hear that he is mellowing out in his old age. Anyway, from working with him, I got self-sufficient, placid and determined. He used to feed off of your reaction. If your voice cracked while he way yelling at you or you turned red when he singled you out, it just made thing worse. I learned to speak to him with confidence, a blank face and no reaction despite what he was throwing at me. Eventually he got bored with me and saved his drama for the people who reacted to him.
  • University degrees – I think this one is obvious. Disciplined, hard-working and determined.
  • Bullying – It was hard to put a positive spin on this one too. I came up with self-aware, kind and sociable. Sociable sounds odd right? The person doing the bullying was actually a friend, or I thought she was at least. This forced me to find a new circle of friends, so I was being more sociable and I met some great people.
  • Moving to Montreal – I came up with adaptable, versatile and loyal. I really learned who my friends were when I moved.

And here is a close up of the right side.

2015-01-15 16.10.06

I started with a layer of white gesso. I should have done two coats because I definitely missed spots with just one. Watercolour pencil crayons were used for the background and the figure. The figure is also outlined with gel pens to cover up the pencil lines. The clocks are from a stamp I found at Walmart. The letters and swirls are stencils, also from Walmart. I’m not very good with stencils. They tend to come out kind of mucky. I think my paint brush is too wet? The writing is in Sharpie paint pen, the water-based kind and Uni-Ball Signo pens. I like the Uni-Ball Signo pens because they write well on top of paint without getting destroyed. My Sharpies tend to stop working if I use them on paint. What I don’t like is that the Uni-Ball pens bleed when anything wet gets near them. Does anyone know of a pen that writes on paint, but doesn’t bleed if you want to go over it? I tried the Uni-Ball jet stream pens, but they don’t write on paint very well.

If you think you want to give it a try, you can find instructions on the 2015 Art Project Blog. So far I’ve found the exercises and interpreting them into art very therapeutic. I’m learning more about myself. Also, don’t worry about skills and supplies, you work with what you have!

The Documented Life Project – Week 2

The Documented Life Project – The Journal

The Documented Life Project encourages you to make a record of your everyday life. There are many ways to do this, I went with the art journal. It’s pretty simple. Art to the 5th provides an art challenge and a prompt every week. You get to interpret the prompt however you like.

Week 2
Art Challenge – Gesso
Prompt – “The beginning is always today.” – Mary Shelley

I missed the first week of the DLP journal project. I might go back and do it later. The art challenge was to use book pages though. I don’t know if I can do that. I think I’d have a really hard time dismantling a book. Maybe I can cheat a bit and use a magazine. Anyway, this post is about week two!

This quote made me think of starting over for some reason. Maybe it’s because I often mess up with my goals and have to start over again. This means there are a lot of beginnings in my life. My favourite starting over quote is from Anne of Green Gables. “Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it.” It gives me hope. If I screw up on a goal today, I can begin again tomorrow with a clean slate. I don’t have to wait for the New Year or even a Monday. There’s no reason why I can’t start tomorrow. I depicted the starting over idea with a sunrise.

2015-01-15 16.11.59The background was done with watered down acrylics. The grass and some of the flower petals are made with washi tape. The rest of the flower petals are done with Neocolour II watercolour crayons. The details are done with gel pens and the writing is in an ebony pencil crayon.

Gesso is something I’ve never used before. It’s basically a primer that you put on the page before you paint. It gives the page “tooth” (texture) and prevents the paint from being absorbed by the porous paper. When I started this page, I didn’t have any gesso. I wasn’t going to let that stop me from participating though, so I started my page. I ended up buying white gesso half way through the page, so I used it as the centers for the flowers.

2015-01-15 16.12.13

Journal52 – Weeks 1 and 2

Journal52 is an art journal workshop whose aim is to get you doing art all year long. You get a new prompt every week and you get a creative license to to do with it as you will.

Week 1, Prompt: Pathways

I interpreted this to mean the path I was on. Since I gave up on life in September, I’ve been re-evaluating the path I am currently on. I’m feeling really trapped by my Ph.D. I’m not making progress and if this is the way things are going to keep going, then I need to get out. I don’t want to give up on it, but you don’t stay on a sinking ship. I’m not really sure what to do. If I did decide to leave, then what would I do? There are so many options and so few, all at the same time. That probably doesn’t make any sense to you, but that’s how it feels right now. I wanted this page to reflect the chaos my life is in right now and how I feel like I’m being pulled in all different directions. I think the variety of colours and the busy-ness of it do that.

2015-01-15 16.13.03Background in watercolour, doodles in watercolour pencil crayon and Sharpie, writing in gel pen.

Week 2, Prompt: Just Be

“Just Be” makes me think of all the things you can be. The possibilities are endless, it just depends on you and what you want for yourself. That’s why I chose to paint a shooting star with the words “Reach for the stars”. Just being what you want is never that simple though, is it? You start thinking about what other people want you to be, what you think you should be and what society says “perfect” should be. At least, that’s my line of thinking….I end up forgetting what I want to be. So maybe, “Just Be” should also be something simpler, like just existing. Forget what everyone else wants, forget the “shoulds”, forget society. “Just Be” means you can be anything, but you don’t have to be everything. Sometimes it’s ok to just exist.

2015-01-15 16.12.37 2015-01-15 16.12.46This page was done with acrylics. Some of the background stars are drawn with a Sharpie paint pen. I smudged gesso over the starry background to write on top of it with a pilot black pen (which smudges!!).

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Follow Somber Scribbler on


%d bloggers like this: