Monday, September 18, 2017

DIY: Watercolor Journal



Hello friends! What have you all been up to the past...three (four?) years?? I'll save the what I've been doing with my life post for another day and get right down to basics. 




This journal.

Around last Christmas, I found myself in need of a new creative outlet. I had spent the previous 3.5 years working on my master's degree (and traveling the world!), which didn't leave much time for creative pursuits. (I haven't sewn a single piece of clothing in YEARS, outside of a t-shirt refashion this summer!)

But in December, I graduated, and suddenly there it was. FREE TIME. I don't like to be idle. I like to learn and think and practice. I'm weird that way, and it's why I've always been such a good student. Rather than jump back into sewing, I wanted to learn something new. This all coincided with something else, a recent interest in pursuing more traditional art, inspired by a friend's participation in the month-long drawing challenge "Inktober" that takes place every October. 

I haven't drawn in YEARS. Well--I doodle. I'm a doodler. So if we count doodles, I've drawn since I could hold a pencil. But I had never considered my doodles "real drawing" or "real art" before, and for some reason I had this silly notion that I was too "old" to draw or learn something that I should have pursued as a young person "if I was ever going to be good". 

NEWSFLASH: Everyone can do art. It's never too late to learn something new, and that includes drawing and painting. The pursuit of making art is not about being "good". It's about making something and enjoying the process. That's what you used to do as a child, with crayons and pencils and paint and a fresh sheet of paper, and somehow that simple enjoyment became eclipsed by the need to be "good". 

I didn't do Inktober last year. I was still struggling with the "I'm not good enough" mindset and I was smack in the middle of writing and editing my thesis. But it niggled there, in the back of my mind, the memories of drawing and painting, an after school art lesson or two from my art teacher (when my parents probably didn't really need to spend the money). 

I bought a sketchbook and some pencils. Then I bought a few more. Then I bought a different sketchbook because I realized I didn't really love the first one. I started watching YouTube tutorials on drawing and sketching and fell in love with one adorable artist named Fran Meneses (frannerd on YouTube) who used a lot of Copic markers and watercolors. I had never learned watercolor; in school we painted with acrylic and oil. Watercolors were those long trays of ovals with a skinny plastic brush and not a lot of payoff. But what Fran was using was different and I was intrigued. I switched my YouTube viewing from sketching and drawing to watercolor painting. 

My friends, I was hooked. 

Since December, I've amassed a nice collection of watercolors and sketchbooks (still searching for the holy grail), signed up for Skillshare, bought half a dozen books, and watched a million tutorials. 

I totally suck. It's the most fun I've had in years. 

Which brings me to this very brief and non-tutorial-y DIY: That beautiful sketchbook up there. 

Over the past several months I've discovered a few things about my watercolor-loving self: I prefer transparent watercolors (Schminke might be my favorite) and hot press paper. The Schminke I've got covered (after saving up forever) but the hot press paper CAN. NOT. BE. FOUND. in a journal form. It's become really important to always have a sketchbook or journal with me, and carrying around full size paper pads or blocks isn't practical. 

So I made my own. I have this Cinch binding machine, from a Hobby Lobby gift card and 50% off coupon two years ago: 

It's  on the pricy side (about $79 on Amazon), but if you love making papercrafts and photo journals or the like, it might be worth watching for a sale. It was REALLY easy to use. 

I used this pad of Arches hot press paper in 9x12 sheets: 



There are 12 sheets in a pad (for about $10 on Dick Blick's website); I cut each sheet in half for a 6x9 finished book size. I kept the paper pad's back cover too, which is a nice piece of firm cardboard, and cut it in half to make the journal covers. 

I used the Anna Griffin Garden Party scrapbook paper pad in 12x12 size (also purchased at Hobby Lobby for 50% off) to cover the cardboard pieces: 


Here's the inside of the covers, with a coordinating print: 


Binding the book was a cinch (ba dum tissss). No but really, it was easy. The Cinch machine punches the holes (even through that thick, scrapbook covered cardboard cover!!) and has a little hole-holding doo-hickey that ensures all of your holes are aligned. (If you want a tutorial on using the Cinch, let me know and I'll do one!) The side of the machine has hooks to making placing all the pages and covers on the O-wire simple, and the back of the machine has a "cincher" that squeezes the O-wires closed. 

Voila. finished sketchbook. 

It's still empty, but it's only 48 hours old. I'll confess I'm still getting past the "not good enough" mentality and it can be a struggle to put pen or brush to paper sometimes, especially GOOD paper. 

On the other hand, what's a sketchbook without art. That pad of Arches has sat in my craft drawer for going on 8 months, untouched, because of fear of failure. Here's the thing though: this is mine. No one but me ever has to see it. It was made for me, by me, and I'm the only one who ever has to peek inside. 

I may never show you my finished pages. But I will finish them. 

And that's the point. 

Friday, September 09, 2016

Australia. It's real.

And all these years I thought it was just a myth.

As you may remember from my last post (last year!), I am part of an incredible scholastic opportunity, a master's education program called Global Field Program (through Project Dragonfly and Miami University).

This year my studies took me to the literal other end of the earth: Queensland, Australia.


Firstly...Australia is every bit as magical as you would expect it to be. It's beautiful, it's rough, it's hot, it's dry, it's cold, it's humid--it's all things and it was quite incredible to experience the unrelenting loveliness of its surroundings and its people. 

A large portion of my time in "Oz" as it's colloquially called, was spent in the Reef HQ Aquarium in Townsville--what an experience to be able to sleep with the occupants of the Great Barrier Reef! At one point we were even allowed to snorkel right alongside those aquarium occupants (to familiarize ourselves with data collection instruments when later we would venture out onto the Great Barrier Reef). 


One of my favorite experiences was the day we spent at Mungalla Station, now an educational center about the aboriginal people and their culture. I was surprised (although after, I was surprised at my surprise!) by my instant connection with the people we met there. I don't know what I was expecting...someone "foreign" perhaps, but what I found was a group of native people who were just like me. Growing up in the Cherokee Nation and of Cherokee heritage, I have often felt an instant kinship to other Native American people in my travels, but last year this also translated to the native Hawaiian people I met. And, again, in Australia, one of the only times I felt calm and at peace, "okay" because I was with people "like me", was at Mungalla Station. These experiences have made me very interested in personal connections to place and culture--maybe something for further study (because apparently I'm never going to stop going to school!)


When tasked with choosing a destination for my final GFP conservation trip, I knew Australia was going to be in my number one position. I fell in love with the ocean and marine life many years ago, and it's also one of those places where I'm instantly at peace. One day I will live close enough I can step onto the sand any day I need that soulful rejuvenation. 

The Great Barrier Reef is everything I had hoped it would be. It is beautiful and wild and so so so far out from land! 


It is also filled with creatures you don't get to see every day in Oklahoma. 


Our last stop was Magnetic Island..where these beautiful animals live. Definitely a highlight and something I can't imaging being topped in any other experience on an Earth Expedition!


Unless of course, it's having the opportunity to see this little guy:


video

Yes, that's a platypus, and it's something of a rarity to spot one in the wild (and get good footage! I was blessed!)

Australia is a long, long way from home. I knew that each and every day. But, the sweet generous spirit of her people, and the gorgeous landscapes and amazing wildlife are something everyone should have in their bucket list.

Even though I can cross it off of mine, I might secretly add it back. For reasons.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Aloha ‘āina

For the past two and a half years, I have been privileged to be part of a very unique graduate degree
program through Miami University, the Global Field Program (GFP). Through the GFP, I have the opportunity to participate in three Earth Expeditions (EE) conservation and learning trips throughout the globe.

For my most recent EE in July, I went to the big island of Hawaii.



Hawaii is a truly magical place. To stand on a lava flow is to stand on the birthplace of an island, to witness a landscape in constant flux. It's incredible, and surreal.



In my travels I've found that  many people of Native ancestry, particularly those who live on Native lands, have a connection to the people and places of their heritage. I know that I personally grew up surrounded by the cultural aspects of the Cherokee and I have always experienced a pull, or gravitation, toward like tribal people and places. It's a recognition on a metaphysical level, and there is a measure of comfort in those moments that I have rarely found comparatively anywhere else.

I found that peace in Hawaii.

Leaving my home and family for 10+ days is never an easy task, and an EE typically requires that you push beyond your comfort levels even further, moving that boundary past the point you thought was the end, again and again, until you look up and you're standing some place you never thought you'd find yourself.



It's both terrifying and addicting.

In Hawaii, I'll admit I was surprised to find the same sense of peace that I encountered on the Hopi and Navajo reservations of New Mexico and Arizona. The Hawaiian people have such a rich and beautiful culture; if I have any regrets about my trip amongst them, it's that I didn't spend nearly enough time in their midst, learning their message and beliefs about their lands. My brief moments spent in their inspiring presence still resonate with me.


With this EE more than any other, I think I have thought more about the people, rather than the place. The place is beautiful! Make no doubt!


But the Hawaiian people are what make the islands such a wonderful experience, and I found myself thinking about them, about their struggle to maintain their own historical and cultural connection to their lands, on my return.

Thousands of people visit the islands every year, and I would wager most take the islands for granted as simply a pleasure spot. What damage has this obliviousness wrought? What a double-edged sword for Hawaii and its people: the profitable tourism industry versus the eventual destruction of their home.


And yet, they welcomed us, and taught us the importance of kuleana, and were grateful and generous of spirit in accepting our offers of help during our brief stay.

My visit, our visit, to the island of Hawaii reinvigorated my decision to dedicate at least this portion of my life to conservation. More importantly, though, it served as a gentle, peaceful reminder, that the people are as beautiful and deserving of my attention and time as any singular place.


Mahalo!