One Little Word 2015 – year in review

One Little Word 2015As I wrote here, I chose Deliberate as my One Little Word for 2015.

With this word, I wanted to practice awareness and mindfulness, and be deliberate about how I chose to use my time and put in my days. I wanted to be mindful of what is important to me, what I wanted to achieve or learn, and intentionally make room for it. I wanted to be deliberate in how I worked, how I created, how I loved my closest ones, how I connected with others, how I took care of myself.

At the beginning of the year, I set out intentions and wrote about it here. Below, in italic, is a summary of my intentions for each area of my life, followed by a short review of how I did.

Health & Well-Being:

I want to be healthier. Who doesn’t, really?! At this point in my life, it mostly means healthy eating and resting properly. I’m not so good at either, at least not in a consistent way, and especially not on weekdays, when it is easier to become overwhelmed by work-related stuff… Eating healthy meals at work is a major area of focus. I tend to rely far too much on the nearby convenience store. Getting enough sleep and good rest (unwinding) is the other one. I want to pay particular attention to reducing my stress level this year, and I feel good rest is a good place to start.

→ I kept mindful of resting properly along the year: more sleep, fewer crazy late nights, more proper resting time, more relaxation. I feel this positively impacted my stress level in a big way and I’m sure it helped me feeling less overwhelmed along the year. I also experimented with daily meditation: anywhere between 5 and 20 minutes a bit before going to bed. I kept at it for about 7,5 months before I fell off the wagon. I have since started again here and there, but nothing close to daily. This habit, while it was daily, had a clear effect: I felt calmer and more positive. Not a doubt about it. I will experiment with daily meditation again in 2016 for sure. I’m thinking about varying the time depending on that day’s schedule.

Meal-wise: I did very well in the Spring, and overall I think I did improve the way I eat, especially at work. This was definitely a year of experimentation, and if nothing else I learned that it was possible to choose healthier options on weekdays. I want to keep on choosing better and better.

Creativity & Heart:

I want to consistently make time for creativity. It nourishes my soul, it nurtures my heart, it puts my monkey mind to rest. I don’t even have enough words to express how good it is for me.

I am a photographer at heart, so I want to keep on exploring, improving, having fun with my camera. I have also been dabbling into art journaling for a little over a year, and this is something I want to discover more of and dive deeper into. It mixes together elements that are dear to me like color expression, word journaling, drawing, and all sorts of things I have not a clue about like collage and so much more! I would also like to experiment with documenting life, through visual journals or minibooks I’m not quite sure yet.

→ During the 1st half of the year, I very deliberately took time to spend in my art journal. I used lessons from Life Book and prompts from The Documented Life Project. I have loved LifeBook for the very detailed lessons and all the learning that came with it. It stretched me technically and creatively as I embraced prompts that I wouldn’t have done on my own. I really enjoyed The Documented Life Project for how open-ended the prompts were and how I could made them my own while still stretching myself. Great framework.

During the 2nd half of the year, I didn’t manage to make time anymore and my creative time became less regular. Needing a bit of a push and excited by the project, in September I registered for the 30 Lists project, a month of daily list prompts. I completed my first mixed media minibook with this lovely project and loved every minute of it: trying something new, the documenting, the community on Instagram. I am now completing the December edition of the 30 Lists project in a very different style, very simple minibook.

Work:

So, in order to get on with it, I want to create a (work-related) writing habit. Again, I want to focus on the process of doing something about it every workday. My only job is to show up, instead of thinking of the quality of the end product. I want to let go of the excuses (no time, no material, no momentum, etc.) and of resistance by focusing on creating a habit of “just doing it”. I have actually experimented with this in December and it went pretty well, so I’m hopeful that I’m on the right track. I will write about this again in more detail, because the whole process of habit formation is just fascinating to me !

→ I did write and submit a paper, and in the couple of months leading to submission did spend almost daily research time. This in itself is quite a victory. Still I wish I had managed to make this a more consistent practice and will work on it in 2016.

Relationships:

I want to connect more and better with the people around me. I live in Japan, but most of my family and some of my closest friends are in Europe, so I’m constantly in between here and there (hence the name of this here blog!). And then I have these brilliant friends here too, and on the web as well, and I want to be better at reaching out and staying in touch! I also want to get out of my comfort zone and reach out to people I don’t know.

→ I enjoyed tremendously my local friends and colleagues and made time to go and/or initiated monthly diners with the girls. This was really great and made me feel connected. On the other hand, I didn’t do very well in keeping in touch consistently with my friends back home, especially during these last few months. I sometime find it difficult to find ways to be present in my relationships on both sides of my life: the one back home and the one here, in Japan. However difficult it may be, I do want to keep on looking at ways to make it work.

2016 is just a few hours away, and I am ready to welcome it, filled to the brim with gratitude for 2015!

One Little Word 2015 – Lost and found

One Little Word 2015The summer and fall months have gone in a blur, and along, I have lost my direction a bit. Nothing dramatic, just quiet exhaustion bringing a light fog over everything. I have felt quietly overwhelmed (is there such a thing?), somewhat calm yet restless, craving direction and focus yet unable to sustain it. It felt very much like a mild form of burnout.

In years past, my solution would have been to push through, forcefully so, with not much result other sheer exhaustion. This time around, I chose no to put pressure on myself to have it all figured out, and focused solely on being present.

I wish I could have quickly gotten back to the habits I worked on implementing during the 1st half of the year, mainly  daily meditation, balanced eating and regular creative time, but it took some time. Honestly I felt a bit disgruntled about that, in a “what’s the point anyway” kind of way. My plan though was to simply give myself time to ease back into things, and to be kind to myself. No guilt, no pressure

I started to feel like myself again mid-Fall, as the first whiff of Winter air could be felt. Choosing not to drown myself in guilt surely helped 🙂

During this foggy time, my One Little Word, “Deliberate”, remained a reliable  companion, reminding me to be present, to be mindful in my daily choices. Mostly it reminded me to take care of myself. I learned a lot during this journey with my word, notably how not to ignore my own needs (an ongoing battle for me), and am so grateful for it.

See you in a bit for a closing review of my 2015 One Little Word!

Mixed Media Journey – Life Book 2015 – Image transfer explorations

In 2015, I’m taking part in Life Book, a yearlong mixed media art class held by Tamara Laporte.You can see all Life Book related posts here !

What a rich lesson it was. Jeanne Oliver packed it full of interesting techniques, and made it all feel so approachable. Lovely! I tried image transfer a while ago with very mixed results, and this time went much better.

DSC07446I’m not in love with the end-result, and it feels oh so weird to have my own face (sort of) on a page, but I have loved every single step of the process! It was really interesting getting to layer in a way I had never done before, and step away a bit from my beloved paint!

DSC08512I was pleasantly surprised at how the elements glued with gel medium and even the transferred ones took watercolor crayons. I actually liked the monochrome effect, but wanted to add just a dash of color here and there for a bit more depth and interest.

In my art journal – Colorful layers (+process)

Going a little back in time, here’s another page from my small art journal, the one that has become dedicated to the Documented Life Project!

art journalingI believe I did this page for one of the February prompts. The theme for February was “Layers You Will Love!”, and the specific challenge for that week was to use at least five layers, while the journal prompt was “Give Me a  High Five”.

I generally don’t get caught too much in the journaling prompt, and don’t worry about making it obvious or literal. Here, I just wanted to make the page energetic and joyful, like a high five moment! Focusing on layering was a lot of fun and I chose to keep things simple by mostly layering paint and a little bit of stamping.

Art journalingThe process went like this:

  1. Background wash  in light pink (acrylic paint)
  2. Building depth with another layer of bolder pink, mostly on the bottom half of the page (acrylic paint)
  3. Adding another layer for more depth with a mix of pink, red and yellow, here and there at the bottom and top of the page (acrylic paint)
  4. stamping a light grid pattern all over with a mix of red and pink (acrylic paint, the “stamp” is a silicon pot holder I got at the local equivalent of a dollar store)
  5. Adding the big scallop shape on the right edge of the page (mix of fluid and regular acrylic paints in blue and blue green), and another one on the bottom edge with what’s left on the brush.
  6. Balancing the whole thing with dark turquoise brush marks (gouache paint) on the upper left side, then adding a bit of depth by layering the same color over the big scallop shape, and a bit of dark blue on the brush marks (is it confusing yet?! 😉 )
  7. Adding lighter brush marks in white and light blue (acrylic paint)
  8. Adding yellow accent marks on top of the white ones and randomly (acrylic paint)
  9. Some line action with a white posca pen to highlight a few shapes
  10. And, to add a a bit of movement, a few splatters of white and light blue acrylic paint!

That’s a lot of words for a very simple art journal page!

art journalingI had a whole lot of fun with this simple, colorful page! Interestingly, it completely sparked a deeper interest for the layering process. Since I did this page, I’m a bit more deliberate about my layering. I’ve also started a couple of art journal pages just exploring  layering in the same color family…but more on that later!

One Little Word 2015 – May – “I am” cards

One Little Word 2015This year, I’m taking part in Ali Edwards’ yearlong workshop One Little Word (OLW). The idea is to pick a word for the year, one that reflects your intentions, what you want to invite into your life. My word for 2015 is Deliberate.

You can see all One Little Word related posts here!

One Little Word The May prompt was all about choosing words to describe yourself at this point in time, where you are in your journey – with your word and in general.

One Little WordI loved the creative element of this one, and I had a lot of fun making my cards. It took me a much longer time to actually select 9 words…what can I say, I’m on the wordy side 😉 Once I got my cards ready, I was a bit scared to actually write on them, that I may not like the final product. I pondered stamping the words, but didn’t like how that looked when I tried on a scrap piece of paper. I eventually got over myself, as you do, and went the handwritten route. Quite honestly, the irregular letters  drove me a  bit crazy for a minute there, but I got over that too! Getting over my senseless, paralyzing perfectionist tendencies is a big topic here, as you may have guessed!

One Little WordMaterial I used:

  • gesso
  • liquid acrylics (in yellow and magenta)
  • Posca pens in black, white and gold

Mixed Media Journey – Life Book – On the page and in life

In 2015, I’m taking part in Life Book, a yearlong mixed media art class held by Tamara Laporte.You can see all Life Book related posts here !

mixed media portraitI did this page for week 15 of Life Book 2015, which was a content-rich lesson by the lovely Tamara Laporte. One of the focus point was the use of contrast.

For me it all started with this sketch below, and wanting to fill in the blank space on the left side with a variety of elements and patterns.

Art journal mixed media portraitAs I started adding color though, this first impulse was kind of lost, and I ended up sparingly adding just a few elements that were speaking to me at the time. A few birds, stamped with an eraser stamp I carved years ago, a few lotus flowers, which are dear to my heart, and gold details here and there, just because.

Art journal mixed media portraitI layered colors and layered again, mixed it with a bit of stamping, to try and give the whole page more depth. Now that I see it with fresh eyes, I am not sure I managed to really do that, but let’s say this is all a process!

Art journal mixed media portraitIt seems to be a recurring theme, but I ended up with a much more controlled piece than what I was going for when I first started. The more I progressed, the more cautious I became, the less I felt inclined to add elements – probably for fear of … wait for it … “ruining it”.

Art journal mixed media portrait DSC00358

art journalt detail DSC07493

 

It’s a journey, for sure, this letting go! I’m thoroughly enjoying it though 🙂 I feel like I’m discovering more with each page I do, about what I like, what I want to learn more of, about myself too, and, at the risk about being a wee bit dramatic, about life in general. So much of the difficulties I encounter on the page, I deal with in life as well, so often the lessons from the page are applicable to the rest of my life… Am I making any sense at all?!

Art journal mixed media portraitSo, to another page full of discoveries, and to the next one!

 

Mixed Media Journey – Portraits and perseverance

This all started with a Life Book lesson focusing on painting an expressive portrait by the lovely Jenny Wentworth.

Art journal mixed media portraitIt’s not so much the portrait part that got me nervous, but mostly the “painting” part. Playing around with acrylic paints, I can manage: it’s all messy and free and so gloriously abstract. Painting a face, for me, feels like a totally different ballgame. Apart from playing around in my art journal, I mostly have no idea what I’m doing with paint, so the idea of painting a portrait felt quite daunting. But hey, my art journal is for experimenting, and so I went with it, as you do 😉

Art journal mixed media portraitI ended up with this portrait above. Though I like the colors, I find it very stiff – well, it is- and very…I don’t know…controlled? Like she needs to relax a bit, you know. Or more likely, like I need to relax a bit, you know 🙂 The face itself is kinda slanted, which I hadn’t even noticed until it was done, but it’s the stiffness that really bothers me.

Art journal mixed media portraitGoing in, I wanted to emulate the very organic way in which Jenny’s painting came together. Let myself go at it loosely, touch by touch. Turns out: not so easy for this control-loving gal! So I started another page in my dear art journal and stayed focused on “allowing the ugly”, if it makes any sense. I payed special attention to my wanting to “correct” and “smooth out”, and instead just allowed things to happen. I started painting her face with my fingers, then switched to brushes, but to be sure not to slip into controling territory again, I deliberately chose to start the shading with a bright blue that felt completely uncomfortable but that I was drawn to. Weirdly, I think this choice helped me let loose a bit.

Art journal mixed media portraitI ended up with this second portrait, less polished, less smooth, but so much more what I wanted to get to! So, this became a lovely journey in embracing the ugly and rolling with discomfort, and of course, I’m so glad I pushed through! I feel like I learned how to manipulate acrylic paint a bit more, and how to trust the process, that not every move needs to be tidy or controlled.

Letting go seems to be an underlying theme of most of my Life Book pages, and as uncomfortable as it sometimes feel, I love all the discoveries along the way!

Art journal mixed media portrait*In 2015, I’m taking part in Life Book, a yearlong mixed media art class held by Tamara Laporte.You can see all Life Book related posts here !

In my art journal – Experimenting with color

I like that my art journal(s) is(are) a place for experimentation and play, especially this one. There’s no right or wrong, very little expectations (but a lot of hope, always!), and the delicious anticipation of having fun with colors and texture!  art journalI painted this page in my art journal for the Documented Life Project. This was one of the prompts for January:
Art Challenge:  The Color Wheel
Journal Prompt:  “I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way . . . “    – Georgia O’Keeffeart journalI wanted to let myself use all and every color I wanted, without thinking too much about the result, if they would go well together, if it would be too much, etc. I gave myself permission to go crazy with the colors!

art journalI layered acrylic paint and acrylic gouache, and applied fluid acrylics that I then spayed with water to break the very flat block of colors. I didn’t know exactly what to expect when I started spraying the fluid acrylics, but I really like how they gripped to the paper in some places, creating a sort of texture.

art journalThis is a super simple art journal page, basically just color blocking with a twist. And I wonder: is it finished? I have no idea! I may add to it in the future, but for now, I’m pretty content with leaving it as is. We’ll see!

What I used:

  • acrylic paint (Liquitex)
  • fluid acrylic paint (Liquitex)
  • acrylic gouache

Previous Documented Life Project here and here! And more mixed media play here.

 

One Little Word 2015 – May – Choosing the refreshing option

One Little Word 2015I chose Deliberate as my One Little Word for 2015. As part of this journey, I want to cultivate mindfulness, be aware of what is happening, the progress I’m making, what is difficult also, and take actions towards my intentions. So each month, I’m spending a few moments reflecting on how I’ve been doing, to better greet the next one!

You can find all One Little Word related posts here!

May marks the start of one of the busiest period of the year at work. I knew that going in, and I also knew that it would bring a fair amount of stress and tiredness. I somehow thought that being aware of it would be enough to deal with it. And it surely helped. As it turns out though, it wasn’t quite enough. The good thing is that I realized my mistake quite early on, and after walking home after another long exhausting day,  I realized I had to take more active steps in order to save myself from exhaustion and overwhelm.

Unconsciously, as I got busier and busier, I started to revert to old habits: staying up way too late despite having to get up early in the morning, mindless tv watching, greatly shortening my meditation practice, random snacking, etc. All things that seem they would bring comfort or make things easier, but that actually are not truly restorative, and not even “feel-good” when done mindlessly. So once I had this small epiphany, I decided to try and choose the more restorative option by asking myself “will it help make me feel refreshed?”

Eventually, a few things helped: longer meditations, drinking enough water, writing a few words in my planner, being mindful of how much I sleep, reading, being quiet, taking time off ( A 10 min walk here and there, working off-site when possible etc.)

All things considered, I managed to go through May without any major accumulation of exhaustion or stress. That in itself is quite a feat for me! I wish I had eaten better along the way, but I guess something had to give (=trying to be kind to myself here 🙂 ) The biggest takeaway in May was gaining awareness to this tendency I have to revert to old bad habits when I’m tired/overwhelmed/stressed. Definitely something I want to stay mindful of!

In my art journal – To begin, begin

In my art journalThis is one of the first pages in my art journal. Well, one of my art journals! This one is a small sketchbook, in F0 format (142×185mm), which I mostly use for The Documented Life Project. I jumped in this project a bit late, and am now enjoying it at my own pace! I like that the prompts allow for interpretation and flexibility, and end up being a great learning experience.

In my art journalThis prompt was from January:
Art Challenge:  Gesso
Journal Prompt:  “The beginning is always today.” -Mary Shelley

I had had this quote by Willliam Wordsworth (“To begin, begin”) stuck in my head for weeks, and thought it would be great to put it on the page, for a more concrete reminder. I kept the page very simple, with very few supplies. I admit I’m not so fond of the writing, but I like that I tried, and somehow kinda liked how the page turned out in all its green-ness!

DSC00215What I used:

  • acrylic paint (Liquitex)
  • fluid acrylic paint (Liquitex)
  • white gesso
  • stencil (I went over it with the white gesso)
  • gold acrylic gouache
  • Posca pens (in white and gold)
  • and… that’s pretty much it!