SSS: Shut Your Monkey

This week’s SSS is the amazingly fun book “Shut Your Monkey” by the entertaining Danny Gregory. If you aren’t familiar with Danny Gregory, quickly run over here and check out his blog. He’s the guy behind the book Everyday Matters  and The Creative License, and Sketchbook Skool. This 160 page volume is designed in a wonderfully fun way. Much like Gregory’s other books it’s filled with art, but this includes images of crudely drawn monkeys and a great deal of Gregory’s lettering. In short it is a quick and fun read.SYM

Gregory breaks down the inner critic/monkey in a way which many therapists will recognize as the ubiquitous “negative self talk” he also explores some of the classic methods of combating negative self talk- but with a fresh perspective. His perspective is purely pointed at creatives. Rather than telling people “You are an artist, “or “I give you permission to create,“ He explores real and creative manners for the artist to scoot past their inner monkey/critic/demon and start making art. He avoids all that paternalistic bull shit so many in the art journaling community* perpetuate onto one another and gives real working tools for creativity and getting work done.
SYMI’ve long railed against the garbage spewed by so many in the AJ community that rather than empowering others to create, ties their fan base to them in a never ending cycle of enabling rather than empowering. I’ve struggled to put a name to this phenomenon for years- boiled down it is a mix of enmeshed enabling and a need for encouragement of the fans… I digress on that topic, I could rant forever and this is about Shut Your Monkey not my issues with art journaling teachers who perpetuate enmeshment rather than empowerment.

Next week I’ll rant and write about Shaun McNiff’s “Art Heals.”

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SSS: Rising Strong, Brene Brown

Brown is best known for her TED talk on vulnerability, which is very very good. I’ve now read all 3 of her books, and if I’m going to compare the 3, Rising Strong is my least favorite. That said, I picked it because it links in really well with what I’ve been working on with folks in therapy groups lately- that as people have begun to recover from their mental health problem- depression, substance abuse, anxiety or some other problem and the question of how to cope with the change between illness and wellness is occasionally overwhelming.BrownRS

What Brown does in RS is explore how as a culture we sanitize our stories of healing- “I fell down, but I got up again, and I’m okay.” When the real story is, “I fell down, skinned my knee, got bloody and bruised, rolled around in the mud for a bit crying, then got up, cleaned up the blood and mud, applied some ointment and band-aids, healed, and not I’m doing okay.” The former is easy to hear, but people get uncomfortable when friends and family talk about the blood, bruises, and ointments used in healing. We don’t tell the necessary stories because they hurt to tell, it’s easier to gloss over that info and move on with out lives. (This is where therapy comes into play, and hopefully if you need to talk about the blood and ointment of the healing process you have a therapist or group where you can share your stories. Of course, there is always your JOURNAL…)

Pages 5- 11 details Brown’s “rising strong” process. Much of this deals with how to heal, how to look at the process, the use of creativity, and honoring the struggle. Page 10 begins my struggle with this book. In her past books, I never notice a mention of any spiritual practice or religion anywhere, however on page 10 Brown states, “Rising strong is a spiritual practice.” In my mind, spiritual is a loaded term, one that implies religion or religiosity. As a therapist I have ethical qualms around bringing spirituality into practice, unless the client does so first. The topic is explored in a non denominational manner and more of a earthy crunchy hippie manner, which makes it much more tolerable. The aspect of spirituality runs through the book- as it is part of the 10 point process of rising strong this is to be expected. Religion is much more closely connected to the process later in the book, and I think detracts from the effectiveness as well as ability to generalize the book in it’s usefulness to more people.*

On page 19, Brown explores the amazingly useful phrase, “The story I’m making up….”  She does this with a personal anecdote, but the story perfectly explains how people miss connections with one another and make up stories in their head to explain the missed connection. This is, I think possibly the most important page in the whole book. It has vast possible uses with clients and in our own lives. If we stop to think to ourselves, “The story I’m making up is…” How would that change how we interact with people? I suspect it has vast consequences for relationships.

I highly recommend Brown’s first 2 books, this one is okay, but not my favorite. It’s worth a read and has many useful passages that can be used in therapy or for self care.

Next week I’ll comment on Danny Gregory’s “Shut Your Monkey.”

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SSS: What it Is, Lynda Barry

With school starting I decided to pick the Barry book “What it Is” as my Secular Sunday Study. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Lynda Barry, she’s an award winning cartoonist and a professor. I want to say “of art” but her class is soooo much more than just art. You can follow her class, and even participate by following her Tumblr or Twitter account. She utilizes social media in a very interesting way. Anyway, everyone should follow her tumblr and buy a BUNCH of her books.

This book in particular is a facsimile of pages of her journals and sketchbooks along with her writings on art, creativity, and the nature of images. The whole package is a delight in both images, Barry’s voice, as well as her writing. If you took this book and wrote and made art around the main topics or questions she’s posed for herself, you could spend years thinking about art and life. BarryPG38I chose to muse on pages 38 and 39. I’ve included a few image of these pages so you can think on them too. I think page 38’s quote, “But paper and ink have conjuring abilities of their own. Arrangements of lines and shapes, of letters and words on a series of pages make a world we can dwell and travel in.” Is there a better description for journaling ever written? As a child I drew and wrote in my journal as way to escape the boring reality of rural life, and liven up my mind with things I thought great. I wrote poetry (bad) and stories (better) and drew. I wrote letters to friends that I never sent and glued them into the pages of my journal. I lived in my journal but I also had impossible adventures. In a way, I continue these adventures to this day by adding more lines, shapes and words to the pages of my journal and envisioning new adventure.
barryPG39The quote I’ve included from page 39, which is too long for me to copy over, includes the phrase that comments on adults dealing with children who are sensitive, “ when these two come together you get a fairy tale, a kind of story with hopelessness in it.” This is just such a wonderful commentary on our (US centrism here) cultural obsession with making kids hard, less sensitive, and =able to deal with the realities of this world. Rather than teach kids that their sensitive emotions are useful, we smash it out of them, make ‘em tough enough, hard enough to make their way in the world. Not realizing that allowing a child/person to be sensitive to the world around them allows them to experience the world in a full and meaningful manner. No one needs to be hard to live, but in fact by learning to feel we can learn to live fully.

I had more musings but I’ll leave it be, ‘cause it’s up to you to read through this book (and you really must) and have your own musings. The final 72 pages are devised as a workbook that works quite nicely with Barry’s book Syllabus or it could be used on it’s own. Either way, it’s a good book. You should get it.

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Open Letter to the AJ Ning Community

Hi Everyone,

Change is inevitable but we are a fortunate group. Ning, the company we use to host Art Journaling has raised it’s prices but we are paid for the next year so we are good on Ning until June 2017.  another group I am a member of cannot afford the price hike and is shuttering at the end of October.

This is the second major price hike, where the group went from free to a reasonable price, to expensive (and why we run a yearly fundraiser) to now absolutely outrageous. The price went from $239/year to $588/year, more than doubling for next year. My frustration with this price hike has much to do with the fact that Ning has made little to no improvements in the years since the last price hike, so we are getting double the cost with zero improvements. Ning made plenty of promises after the last price hike, and lost many groups, particularly those like AJ Ning, but we persevered.
While we have a year to decide the fate of Art Journaling, right now I feel that the best choice is to move the site to a new host and using a new software. I’m leaning toward WordPress social media site but I’m open to other ideas, so long as it is less expensive than $588/year. I do not want to make a HUGE change like this without your input, as always because this is a community site, movement matters little if it is not done without YOUR thoughts, ideas, and feelings taken into account.

Please head to the site and join the group “Movement and Change” to discuss the option and feelings around this potential change.

I have a  little heart ache over the idea of moving from Ning, but I also feel like together we can make AJ Ning continue to be amazing and a resource for all the new and old art journalers alike. Again, even if you decide not to head over to AJ Ning (I really hope you do) I appreciate all the input, ideas, and art we’ve shared over the years. Please join in on the discussion and share your thoughts.


Leslie aka ComfortableShoes

SSS: Privilege, Power, and Difference

Last week we saw the brouhaha over the University of Chicago’s anti-trigger warning letter, the Tattooed Professor’s response, and generally a great deal of posting that miss the point about trigger warnings.

The big problem that I had with UC’s letter was that it was based on a fallacious understanding of what trigger warnings are, and follows that bad understanding to a rather silly conclusion that amounts to the dean stomping his big toddler foot and shouting, “We don’t support trigger warnings, you big babies!’

The Tattooed Professor explains what trigger warnings are in perhaps the most understandable analogy possible- they are the academic version of movie ratings. To which no one seems to argue anymore, though I must admit that I remember a time when ratings were argued against.

Here’s the thing, what is so wrong or even bad about putting content information into a syllabus? The professors should know the content of the readings (and other materials) they are assigning students to read, so adding a blurb at the start of the assignment for the day that states, “This reading contains the following: graphic descriptions of domestic violence/suicide/homicide/rape/assault/etc. PLease see the professor, privately, if this is a problem.” Or some such explanation. In some cases simply having the warning is enough for someone to prepare themselves to be reading about their particular trauma and be able to complete the assignment.

This links really well into the SSS reading I chose last week. Johnson writes specifically about dominant groups (in this case professors) being able to dictate what is considered normal in their sphere of influence and power (Ivory Tower BS/College Campus) and that when this power dynamic is shaken, the dominating group will fight back (UC Dean). Watching this play out on facebook has been interesting. I have friends who are professors and friends who could care less about college, and some of both groups have been calling the recent groups of college students “cry babies” and “wimps” due to the desire for trigger warnings and safe places.  Interestingly, most of those who respond in such a way seem to think that the desire for trigger warnings is a way for students to get out of work, but in the cases where I’ve seen trigger warnings offered there was always an alternative text or option for reading. Kids aren’t getting out of work by requesting trigger warnings, in some cases they are making more work for themselves. All that is beside the point. The point is that trigger warnings are a cultural shake up in an area that has seen a lot of destabilization in recent years (adjunct unionization, fewer faculty positions, and lower pay all around weeee) so those who are in power want to keep their precious power.

I see this as a good thing for students and universities. Anyone else miss the 90s, when politically correctness meant being kind to your fellow humans, and not the BS that has been assigned to it today?

Sunday Study

Many of the stationery groups I belong to end up with a great deal of religiously based Sunday Study posts. Most of the time these posts are less evangelising and more about the stationery used in the study. I realized that I’d spent the last 3 years of my life engaging in secular study every day of the week. Now that I’ve graduated I’m missing that aspect of school, I know that is a tad bit nerdy but, frankly I enjoy studying. I began to institute a Sunday Study of my own which I named “Secular Sunday Study.”(SSS)

Each week I pick a book off my shelf, one I’ve read before, and chose a passage to deeply read, chew on, and write about in my journal. I typically pick one paragraph or page to really wrap my mind around. If you think this resembles something out of the church, you’d be right. Many churches/pastors chose a section of the bible and a few passages of the week for the congregation to study. Often this forms the basis for the following week’s service. In my case, I’m using these passages to explore myself, without the direction of a minister or pastor.

Thus far I’ve engaged with the following texts: “Poetry is not a Luxury” Audre Lorde, “How to be an Explorer of the World,” Kerri Smith, and “The Portable Atheist,” Christopher HItchens, and “Everyday Matters” by Danny Gregory. This week I’m engaging in “Privilege, Power and Difference,” by Alan Johnson. I realized in each of these texts that I’m exploring the same overarching topic- a way of looking at the world that is slooowed way down. The Lorde, Smith, and Gregory texts are all about being creative even when the world doesn’t want you to be. They are all about looking at the world, slowly and creatively, and changing your perspective on life. The Lorde, Johnson, and Hitchens texts are academic while the Smith and Gregory books are in the realm of self help.

A little reading this afternoon while waiting for the promised thunder storms. #secularsundaystudy #sundaystudy

A photo posted by LC Harper (@originallcharper) on

Anyway, I hope to ease back into this blog thing with some monthly posts about SSS. Feel free to join in by posting a pic of a book you’ve enjoyed and are reviewing on a sunday with the hashtag #SecularSundayStudy or #sundayStudy. If you follow any of the linked pictures over to instagram you can follow the project there by following me. You will also get images about my garden, Pokemon Go, and stationery images.

All links in this are Amazon Affiliate links. I get a small amount of change if you purchase through the links and it doesn’t affect your price at all. If you don’t mind making the purchase via my links, I appreciate it very much and it helps to keep the site running.

Just a Pencil

Some of the heat that has been received over these posts has amounted to a minimizing and invalidating shout of, “It’s just a pencil!” Now I detailed my issues with the BWV and BW marketing over here so I’m not going to get into that. Instead i’m going to write about the statement, “It’s just a pencil.”

A Dixon HB #2 is just a pencil, as is the Casemate’s yellow HB #2, as is the Casemate’s Premium HB #2. These  three pencils and so many others are “just” pencils. There is nothing special about them, they don’t even have any remarkable marketing. They are just pencils. Graphite, wood, glue, paint, aluminum, and an eraser. They’ve been given no life beyond their aesthetic appeal, simply pencils.

Just pencils.

A photo posted by LC Harper (@originallcharper) on

The Blackwing Volumes  in complete opposition are not just pencils. Each has a story attributing it’s finish to someone. They are given a story. These are commemorative pencils, a tribute to the particular person they are designed around. These pencils are all about the story, not the pencil. The pencil is secondary to the story. The story is what sells the pencil. The pencil is just a pencil without the story. With out the story the 725 is the sunburst, the 211 is unfinished, the 1138 is gray scale, 24 is blackout, and 56 is pinstriped. Without the story these are pretty boring, yet expensive, pencils.

Pencils with stories attached. i.e. NOT just pencils.

A photo posted by LC Harper (@originallcharper) on

See now you can come back at me and tell me that Field Notes are just notebooks, because, let’s face it Draplin divorced the story from specific people and made them about things and the process of making the notebooks- night sky, beer, winter, etc. concepts and process not people or even specific things. That makes the FN just notebooks, whereas it’s much harder to tell me that the BWV are “just” pencils. They aren’t because BW decided to make them about the story.* Because for them, the story is what sells the pencil, never mind some of us have to actively divorce the story from the otherwise cool pencil to enjoy it. 

The other end of the battle cry of, “It’s just a pencil,” is that we’ve pissed in the sandbox because we focused our thinking around women and people of color. We’ve now been told that we’ve “ruined something that was once great.” Apparently suggesting that the party include women and POC ruins everything and holy shit, we brought women and POC to the party, well it’s completely ruined now. Might as well set fire to its corpse.

This “What do you think the next BWV will be? You know what would be cool?” literally occurs before EVERY single release, but for some reason this time it pissed people off. The only reason I can find for this anger, and this is supported by the comments section on Andy, Dee, and Johnny’s blogs is that we wrote about women and POC.

Maybe what we need to set fire to is the fragile little egos of those who complain at the suggestion that maybe some of us would like to see women and POC memorialized, perhaps because we are women or people of color, or maybe our loved ones are women or POC, maybe our families are made up of POC? Maybe I look to heroes that aren’t like yours?
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Tribute Pencils: Buffy Edition

I’m a huge Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan. I remember when the movie came out but didn’t watch the show until it was no longer on the air. I’ve made up for lost time by watching the entire season when I can’t figure out what I want to watch. Needless to say, with all this talk of commemorative pencils I started to thinking, “What would a BtVS tribute pencil look like?”

Would it be a #2 Faber Castell American, like what she used to slay the vamp while studying? Or would it look like a stake?

For this pencil modification I chose the stake route.

Materials were as follows:

  1. General’s Cedar Pointe #1
  2. L.A. Looks Endless red fingernail polish

I removed the erasers from the pencils and brushed on a generous coating of the polish. At the end I put a large dollop of polish on one facet and allowed it to run down the side of the pencil. Then I stuck it into a box so it stood up and could dry overnight.IMG_0143

I searched for a nail polish called “Harlot” but could not find one, however I think Endlessfits the bill and is the right blood red color.IMG_0144

Why the blood red? “Cause it’s always got to be blood….  blood is life.” IMG_0146

Anyway, this is my BtVS tribute pencil.

Memory Sparks

It seems that bright colors and stripes are all the rage in pencil fashion these days. I’ve waxed philosophical about the neons in both Wopex and Ticonderoga in the past. This year Dixon has introduced striped Ticonderoga pencils in 5 colorways. Green, blue, yellow, orange, and magenta. Each pencil sports 2 shades of the color- one bright the other pastel. Each has an eraser to match the brighter color and that traditional green and yellow Ticonderoga ferrule. All that bright cheery goodness is wrapped around good old American cedar. These are all made in their pencil manufacturing facility in China, so don’t be fooled that these are American made. That is the only thing that could make these better. The core inside is their soft HB which reminds me more  of a B than anything else.IMG_0138

I dig these bright colorways so much. I am most taken by the green. It reminds me of school bus seats in buses dating back to the 60s, like the one I rode back in 1980 when I first went to school. They remind me of the old supplies in green cardboard boxes my teachers had in their pale tan cabinets. The dark green color is also nearly the same shade as the enameled tin boxes that tools would be in before molded plastic became popular and cheaper. The outside of the tin would be a mottled green color and inside the tool would be set into a thin plastic molded shelf. I used one of those metal tool boxes as my pencil and pen case in high school. It also served to protect my fancy graphing calculator from harm.*

The green striped pencils evoke memories of early childhood and school for me. The yellow reminds me of the school bus- the dark shade is just right for the rickety school bus I first rode.

The  final three colors, the magenta, blue and orange remind me of summers as a child. That blue perfectly encompasses the color of the sky reflected off the oceans and lakes I swam in. The orange is the sand and sun beating down on us. The magenta is the color our skin turned after a few days in the sun. IMG_0141

These bright cheerful pencils are awesome and nostalgic.

This post was inspired by Brandon’s over here. Continue reading

Pencils for Heros

Yesterday’s post, and the responses to it across the other 2 blogs and the Erasable community got me thinking. I wondered, “What currently produced pencils would I assign to each of these people or things that I feel embodies them?” If I think about my pencil collection and each of these people/things, which pencils match up? This list is my imagination and doesn’t take into account what the person would have or does actually use. I base this list off my readings of the person listed and out of my imagination.

With the old in with the new. #pencil #penaddict #stationery

A photo posted by LC Harper (@originallcharper) on

Lois Lane. I think Lane would use a tough, serviceable pencil like the USA Gold. Not the natural but the old fashioned yellow, made in the USA, USA Gold. It’s a smooth, tough core that lasts and lasts. I think she’d need that for writing in her reporter notebooks.

Hannah Hoch. This was an easy one. Hoch is the Staedtler Norcia, black with a white eraser. A hint of goth but it’s too cool for that. It’s got a hint of controversy too. Perfect pencil for this brilliant artist.

Sojourner Truth. Ticonderoga Renew. It’s got that renewable thing going for it, raw wood, smooth core with the occasional scratchiness. It’s remade into something awesome, and if there is one person on this list that is awesome, It’s Truth.

Audre Lorde. General’s Cedar Pointe #1, Raw, tough, serviceable, signs of use are easily visible as the sweat of one’s labor stains the barrel.

Softball. Eberhard Faber EcoWriter. A pencil that took years of work and research to create, but wasn’t around long enough  and is now gone, gone, gone.

Ellen. Nataraj Pop or Ticonderoga Stripes. Both pencils embody her bright, cheerful and positive attitude. The Pops sold out here in the States and the Tic Stripes on well on their way to being a best seller.

If you were to honor someone you admire with a pencil that is already on the market, who would it be, and what pencil would represent them?