Tag Archives: The Documented Life Project

The Documented Life Project (Catch Up): Week, 8, 9, 10 & 11

As I mentioned in my last post, I am trying to catch up (fast as I can) to show the work that I’ve done in my Documented Life Project journal. If you want lots of pictures, including in progress shots, be sure to check my Instagram feed.

Week 8 – Add a Flap

Week 8 - Added Flap

(Watercolored newsprint, watercolor flaps, photographs printed on a color printer, collaged tags, ink, washi tape)

For some reason, it never occurred to me that I could add more flaps to my journal. Even though I spent my winter break adhering one flap to each week’s planner page, I never thought of adding more flaps. During week 8, we were prompted to add a flap to our flap. I went a little haywire and added five.

I decided to take pictures throughout the week as a document, then adhere them in their own flaps. For each picture, I designated a word that represented the image. (I chose Accept, Nourish, Breathe, Bend, and Shine.) Then, I printed the photos on a color printer and adhered some directly to the journal page and others to small flaps to fold in. The flaps were watercolored and doodled with markers. I used torn newsprint as a background, which I watercolored. Finally, I wrote each word’s definiton on a little tag, which I collaged into the pages.

While this page is bulky and frayed at the edges, I love how the colors work together. I love the jagged edges of the newsprint. And I love how it keeps unfolding, from the edges, adding extra canvas and layers to the collage.

Week 9 – Recycle an Element

Week 9 - Recycle

(Pepsi labels, printer paper packaging, postmark, canned tomato label, security envelope, acrylic paints, ink)

This page proved to be quite a challenge for me. Some time during this week, I learned of the technique of applying paint to a page then using a gift card/hotel key card to spread it, to make a mashed up background. So, I decided to try it…and failed miserably, I overmixed and turned the pages into an ugly brown. In the meantime, I had found recycled elements that centered on a red theme. Nothing deep, just I saw red everywhere, so I saved it. Even though I didn’t love the background, I adhered my recycled pieces to the page, hoping it would improve. It didn’t. I added doodles and made it worse. Finally, I decided to paint the whole thing black, hoping to at least cover the ugly. The result is that the red elements suddenly popped and looked geometric. So, I learned this week that I can actually rescue a page, when I needed to.

During the week, I had really struggled, personally. It was very emotionally difficult. So, I found two quotes that really resonated with me. They were:

“Don’t let your thoughts toss you away.” — Katagiri Roshi
“You’ve seen my descent. Now watch my rising.” — Rumi

They were a good way to put a finishing touch on the pages and move on from the week.

Week 10 – List of Words That Describe Me

Week 10 - Me List

(Watercolor pencils, ink, newsprint, washi tape, acrylic paint, photograph altered in PicMonkey and printed on color printer)

After the last week, this prompt was freeing. The goal was to include a list of words that describe me. I took watercolor pencils and drew some boxes and circles on the cover page, as my canvas. Then, I wrote my list in ink, which was really closer to a list poem. Done and done…except that I still had 2 more pages to do. So, I took some newsprint and painted over it, except for a few select words. Then, I drew doodles in between the words, painted the doodles, and then added washi tape accents. Lastly, I took an old selfie and superimposed the list poem over it and added it to the interior page. This page felt easy and organic, much more so than my previous attempts.

Week 11 – Put a Bird On It

Week 11 - Put a Bird On It

(Acrylic paint, Creative Commons Bird Images printed on Xerox paper, hand-lettering on watercolor paper, ink)

Last week, I had a conundrum. DLP prompts are released each Saturday at noon and they normally take me a full week to complete. I was leaving for a trip on the following Monday and I was terrified of not completing before the next week was released. Should I wait until I returned on Thursday? Should I rush and complete the whole thing before the trip? Should I bring art supplies with me and work during my free time? I chose option B and it actually went pretty well.

The prompt was easy enough – add a bird to the page. I found a nice line art image of a hawk, which I collaged in several different ways on the page. First, on the cover I adhered the bird 5 times to the page in a row, then did the scraping paint technique (successfully) on top of it. I added a few paint doodles and a word that occurred to me while working (SOAR). On the interior cover, I did the scraping background again, this time adding blue, which made it (I think) overly dark. I added more printed hawks, which I watercolored. Since the page needed some serious lightening, I added the bright blue circle with orange and yellow rays. But it still needed something. Thanks to my trusty friend Google, I found the below quote, which I hand-lettered and added:

“Soar, eat ether, see what has never been seen; depart, be lost. But climb.” — Edna St. Vincent Millay

All told, this took me 2 days to finish. And I couldn’t be prouder. But then, I spent the whole week missing my art practice during the trip.


Whew! I am all caught up now. Hopefully, I can post more regularly going forward, but I know better than to promise. This week’s prompt is up, so now I’m off to start another weekly page.


The Documented Life Project (Catch-Up): Weeks 5, 6, & 7 Prompts

When I started The Documented Life Project, it was my sincere goal to keep up with the weekly prompts and blog weekly about my work. And then, life kicked in. The semester started, I began teaching my class, and suddenly, it was all I could do to keep up with weekly prompts. I’ve been sharing my work on Instagram and in the project’s Facebook group, of course, but I haven’t updated this blog much of late. Writing has taken a back seat to mixed media and frankly, I regret nothing. This project is such a blessing to my creative life that I (almost) don’t feel guilty for writing every two weeks.

But now, I have an evening free and I’m ready to provide some updates on my journal. It’s already getting big and chunky, full of mistakes and unexpected fun. So, without further ado, here’s what weeks 5-7 have looked like. I’m only providing collages of my images in these catch-up updates, so if you want to see more pictures of in progress journal pages than you probably need, head on over to my Instagram profile.

Week 5 – Add a Doodle Border

Week 5 - Doodle Border

(Pen, Watercolor, collaged creative commons image and tissue paper)

To be honest, I kind of hate this page. I have never considered myself a draw-er, so the doodle border scared the heck out of me. For the whole week, I practiced doodle upon doodle. I experimented with shapes, lettering, and shading. Finally, I settled on this winding vine, which I really like. But then, I had to have the rest of the page. Oops! I tried to layer on some acrylics, which ended up looking really muddy, so I ripped out the page and tried again. I settled on this simple border with a watercolor page and a xerox line drawing of a maenad, covered in yellow tissue paper. The only blessing of this page is that I loosened up on my doodling a bit, which I think will help me down the line with this project.

Week 6 – Pinterest Inspiration

Week 6 - Pinterest

(Acrylic paint, watercolor pencil, watercolor, ink, washi tape, stamps, tissue paper)

During Week 6, we were encouraged to go to Pinterest for inspiration. Personally, I use Pinterest to catch all of my food recipes. I very rarely use it for art. I could have scrambled and tried to find some art on Pinterest to imitate, but instead, I found myself thinking about why I don’t use Pinterest that much. Pinterest stresses me out – it feels like the place where I eat healthier, exercise more, parent better, wear cuter clothes, and on and on. It’s not a place of fun for me. So, I tried to encapsulate that in these three pages. The cover page (bottom right) was my version of my Pinterest dashboard. The interior cover (top right) was a direct reflection of the image for this Vegan Samoa recipe. The interior page (left) was inspired by the image for a self-help article. This page felt like a turning point for me in this project, because I used new techniques and stretched toward a more emotional reaction to the prompt, rather than a literal reaction.

Week 7 – Repeat a Shape – Add Color

Week 7 - Repeated Shape

(Dot markers, washi tape, ink, watercolor and acrylic paints)

After the doodle week, I began doodling in earnest. And my most doodled shape was circles – piles and piles of circles. When the prompt was revealed for repeating shapes, there was no question what shape I would pick. I also had been dying to use my daughter’s “Dot-Dot Markers” to create a background. The technique that I am most proud of in this set is the watercolor shapes. I painted watercolor paper with watercolors then cut them into different-sized circles, then added white acrylic paint for an accent. They ended up looking really interesting, against the dot backgrounds.


Stay tuned for the rest of my weeks. hopefully to be posted soon.

The Documented Life Project: Week 4 Prompt

Week 4 Interior

lovely weetzie

The prompt for this week’s Documented Life Project journal page was to write a secret message to yourself and cover it, leaving only a few words visible. I feel like such a broken record saying it, but this prompt couldn’t have come at a better time for me.

This week, I had to put down my beloved cat, Weetzie Elizabeth Bat. She was almost 16 years old. She had developed a collapsed lung, probably from undiagnosed feline asthma or a bronchial infection. I had raised her from a rescued kitten into a cantankerous old lady. And she had raised me, from a fresh out of college 21 year old to a 37 year old mother and wife. Over our 15 years together, we had lived in 3 states and 6 homes. She gained a cat companion, Said, who she hated, and my daughter, who she pleasantly tolerated. She will be missed.

It was a hard week, an emotional week. I felt (and still feel) a lot of grief and guilt in Weetzie’s passing. I know that she was elderly and it was her time, but it’s an intellectual knowing. In my heart, I am grieving the loss of a constant presence in my life. I’m also grieving the passing of an era, the time when I grew from a young woman into an adult with a real job and real responsibilities. It was a week I needed to write a message to myself.

For the secret message on the bottom page, I used a quote a close friend had posted on my Facebook, after learning of Weetzie’s passing:

“Sometimes you fall, spinning through space, grasping for the things that keep you on this earth. Sometimes you catch them. They can be the hands of the people you love. They can be your pets- pups with funny names, cats with ferocious old souls. The thing that keeps you here can be your art. It can be things you have collected and invested with a certain sense of meaning. A flowered, buckled treasure chest of secrets.” – Necklace of Kisses, Francesca Lia Block

(My friend knew that Weetzie was named after Block’s most famous character, Weetzie Bat. If you haven’t read the Dangerous Angel series, please do. They will not disappoint.)

When making the page with acrylics, I painted over most of the words, except grasping, hands, love, souls, flowers, secrets, kisses. I then wrote a new message, based on these remaining words:

“Our grasping hands seek love. Connection with other souls. Our hearts are flowered secrets. Blooming with kisses.”

I then tried my hand at a little collage and doodling, using scrap paper from my very old stash and doodling pens. I don’t know how happy I am with the doodling, since I don’t know if it’s my “style”. I don’t know if I have a style, so in trying new techniques, I am uncovering it.

My extension for this week is an envelope, so I enclosed in the envelope a PicMonkey altered picture of Weetzie from about 4 years ago. I covered the front of the envelope in the same scrap paper, with a cutout heart.

Once again, I’m grateful for this project and the ways it is helping me address the events in my daily life. In the past, I may have just grieved quickly and moved on to the next thing, because sometimes that’s what I have time for in my busy life. But art journaling through this week has given me a tangible way to express myself, to process, to remember and to hopefully move on.

The Documented Life Project: Week 3 Prompt

Week 3 Cover

Week 3 Interior 1

Week 3 Interior 2

For The Documented Life Project’s Week 3 Challenge, we were encouraged to use an envelope that we received in the mail somehow in the art journal page. It could be whole or in parts, altered in any way. I feel like this challenge really prompted me to go more slowly and thoughtfully, as I waited for the “right envelope” to come my way.

This challenge also came at an interesting time in my new year. For most of my life, I’ve lived in places where I don’t have family. I’ve built and created families out of close friends. Since I’ve recently moved to a new place, I have my newly created community here, but then I have friends and family across the country. This week, I had two long distance friends contact me for help and one friend send me her “save the date” card for her wedding in June in New York. I spent most of my time this week thinking about these friends and how I can remain connected to them.

Enter the envelope challenge. Envelopes feel to me as a way to both bridge and mark distance. They bridge distance by sending notes from afar, like my friend’s save the date card. But they also mark distance in the postmark, the literal mark of their travels. As I was thinking about this, I thought about maps. On Flickr, I found a Creative Commons licensed image of maps, which included the lines “Maps are Not True for All Purposes”, “True Distance, ” and “These Are Distortions”. Building on these lines, I wrote:

Maps are not true
for all purposes.

These are distortions.

True distance is measured
in the tension created
when you stretch your heart thin
across a continent.

When your heart traces
frequently traveled routes,
a flight map of memory.

I travel this path,
all too often.

I took a photo on my way to work, of tire tracks in the snow, then altered it in PicMonkey so that most of my words were overlay-ed on top of that image. Then, I made a separate version of that image for the pocket of the envelope, to include the last lines. Based on the color scheme of my Flickr picture, I used blue and green acrylic to accent my pages. I also created a “flight map” for my front cover, which shows the states where my closest loved ones live: California, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York.

This week’s challenge felt more like a journal to me, a way to process what was an emotionally full week. In year’s past, I would have just kept trudging without really thinking about the ways my distance from family and friends is both connecting and isolating. Once again, I find myself so grateful for this process and project. It’s really becoming a center for me throughout my weeks.

The Documented Life Project: Week 2 Prompt

Week 2 original selfie blue with blur

Week 2 front

Week 2 inside

The theme for last week’s The Documented Life Project prompt was “selfie“. We were encouraged to incorporate a selfie into the page, along with our word of the year, if we pick one. I loved this prompt, even though I feel like my pages could use some work (to be nice).

It’s been interesting to read the comments on the Facebook group, as there is a whole contingent of members who are uncomfortable with taking selfies at all. Personally, I feel like selfies are my jam. My Instagram features a lot of selfies. Like a lot a lot. After taking a self-portrait class from Liz Lameroux last year, I use selfies as a way to check in with myself, see myself in a new life, and document my life. It was a transformative experience for me, to learn how to feel comfortable enough in my skin to see myself through self-portraiture.

When making my page, I used a guiding phrase that I wrote while taking my selfies for this prompt on Instagram:

“When I try to embody my word of the year, I plant my feet on the ground and I cover my heart with my hands, because my center comes from both places.”

This phrase is incorporated into my the front of my extension, hovering over each leaf. There are elements of this page that I really like – the color scheme, the layers of techniques that I use, and of course, the guiding phrase. But, I found while making this page that I got sucked into over making. I couldn’t put down the paint and I covered or obscured elements that I really liked.

However, I don’t want to focus on this part of the page. Instead, I want to focus on what I learned from this process.  I learned a lot about art journaling, just by going a little too far and acting too quickly. But, what I learned most while making this page is that my word of the year – CENTER – is something that I feel in my body. I know when I’m centered, I can feel it in the set of my shoulders. I can feel it in the way I breathe. I can feel it in the way that my feet connect with the floor. As I work through this year finding my center, I can keep myself true by checking in with my body. How do I feel in my day to day life, disjointed and itchy or stable and grounded?

So far, I’ve found that engaging in this project has helped me to feel more centered. By spending my snatches of time writing, taking pictures, and making art (even if imperfectly), I am connecting with a central part of who I am. At my center, I am someone who thrives on making things. I need this background hum of creativity in my daily life, in order to feel more like my self.

The Documented Life Project: Week 1 Prompt

Week 1 Cover

Week 1 Interior 1

Week 1 Interior 2

I’m a little behind on my postings for The Documented Life Project, so I’m hoping to share both Week 1 and Week 2 today, in separate posts. Week 1 was released on January 1 and Week 2 was released on Sunday, January 5, so I’ve been a fast and furious art journaler.

The first prompt for The Documented Life Project was to create my front door. I spent most of the first week of 2014 thinking about doors and doorways. It was an interesting way to start the year, as I was crossing the year’s threshold. As I was thinking about all that I wanted to be in 2014, the following phrase came to me: “I often live in the liminal space between opening and closing.” After a few moments journaling, I arrived at this poem/fragment:

She knew her body
was a door with an iron handle,
cracked open.

I often live
in that liminal
space between
opening and
closing, entering
and leaving.

I am threshold.

Instead of hovering,
I want to embody home,
to be the golden living room
at dusk. To be the moment we
sit down and play.

My vision for the page was to have a woman’s body peek out from behind a door. I created a woman’s shape using watercolor paper, painted it with watercolors, and enhanced the outline with white acrylic paint. I used the last stanza as inspiration for my color scheme, so I used orange, red, and yellow as my main colors, with black and white as accents. As I continued to work on the page, I adapted my vision along the way. I traced outlines of keys and added layers of tissue paper, in an effort to add texture.

At the center of this page, for me, I think is my desire to live from my center this year.  How does living from my center feel?  It feels like digging into the centers of my experiences, rather than hovering on the outside. It feels like being centered in my interactions with my daughter, my husband, my friends. It feels like knowing who I am at my core and acting from that core. It is rooting myself in a place of love and joy.

Spending My Year with The Documented Life Project

In progress

Like most people, I like to use January to realign my life. I look for opportunities for course corrections and I’m always super ambitious. This is the month that I’m most likely to do the 30-Day Fill in the Blank Challenge: planks, green smoothies, small stones, photos a day. All at once. Because only in January, I can do it all. After January, I struggle to propel this energy through the rest of the year. This year, I’m joining a year-long challenge… of a sort.

Over the holiday break, I found through an Instagram friend a year-long art journal group called The Documented Life Project. It’s facilitated through a closed Facebook group and accompanying blog by a group of artists called Art to the 5th. As a group, we are starting by altering a Moleskine Weekly Planner by adding extension pages and decorating the cover. Then, each week, we will engage in a weekly prompt and share it on Instagram (with the #documentedlife) and/or in the Facebook group. 52 art prompts in 52 weeks, resulting in a beautifully documented year.

This project came, for me, at the perfect time. I found it in the middle of a 17 day break from work, which meant that I had time to learn how to prepare my journal and buy supplies. If I had been immersed in work, I would never have considered joining the challenge. Lucky for me, I did have time and I threw myself into journal preparation. I haven’t spent this much time on an artistic endeavor in months, if not years. Hooray for mothering a young child. I already have the carved out in my day (mostly when Nora is sleeping) and now I have the practice to engage in during that time. The bonus is that it’s connected to a very engaged group of women artists. I’m looking forward to building some creative relationships in my life.

I’ve already finished preparing my journal and completing the first prompt, which I’ll share in two consecutive posts. After that, I’ll share my progress with the weekly prompts as I complete them. I can’t wait to see how my journal develops, as I work on it throughout my (documented) year.