Category Archives: Journaling

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.

Continue reading

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.

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.

Sarcastic Pencil Portraits

I’ve been working on a series of portraits as a method of working though my thoughts and feelings surrounding the Orlando Massacre. I started the series using BIC pens but they seemed to colorful for the grim theme, and I switched to pencils pretty quickly. These images have almost exclusively been drawing with Palomino Blackwing pencils. I’ve used the MMX (original Palomino version), Pearl, and the 24. I’ve also used the Casemate’s Premium as well as a few Pentel Sign pens*. I am drawing all of these images in a Hand Book travelogue series sketchbook- 5.5×7.5 in size. Each image is takes up roughly one spread in the book, with the bulk of the image on one page.Doing a portrait series like this is a GREAT way to get drawing portraits. As these people are relatively well known, there are loads of images available via Google.

I look at about a dozen images and use them to create a single image. I might use the eyes from one image, the nose from another, and the mouth from another. Finally I look at how the lighting affects the shading of their face and I take this into account. I am NOT trying to create flattering portraits. They are meant to be unflattering and harsh. Think Alice Neel’s realism. If I were to use colors there would be a strong pink, yellow, and orange coloration in these images.shitbag

I try to spend no more than 10 to 15 minutes per drawing and I try not to erase unless I need to bring out a highlight. This is going to be an image heavy post, so I’ll hide a few image after the cut.shitbag shitbag shitbagshitbag

Continue reading

More Unflattering Portraits of Presidential Wannabes

I kinda decided that none of these portraits would be flattering. IN fact I went out of my way to find reference materials that were unflattering. Many of the candidates have what I call the “petulant little repuglican repuglican repuglican repuglican repuglican democrap democrapboy frown.” You know the look a little boys, around age 5, gets when they don’t get their way? Some of these candidates get that, so often I was sure I’d painted a few of them previously, only to see they were photographed making the exact same tight lipped frown as another candidate. Go figure.

Organization: Pocket Notebook Set Up

I often refer to  how I set up my Field Notes on social media, but I’ve never done a full blog post about my set up. I keep waiting for a time when I have just set up a new book but not written much yet. I am finally at the perfect moment- I have just started a new book and have only filled a few pages.FNindexedI start by numbering each page, preferably with a red Uniball Signo 0.38. If I can’t find the red I’ll use a black ultra fine pen. I use the Signo for it’s waterproof ink and super fine writing capability. It also does not feather or bleed on any paper.

The first page becomes my index. I fold the page in half and write 2- 48. Each line represents a page in the book. As I fill the page, I log it on the index page. I try to stick to simple one or two word descriptions. This lets me find pages with ease. On books with a large top margin (Ambition/Word.) I’ll write an expanded description on this line, otherwise, nothing.FNindexedI have a few set pages that I put in each book. Page two is always a catch all page. This page captures quick info; phone numbers, passwords, websites, words, page numbers, and the like. Specifically info that is ephemeral and I may not need to dedicate a full page. Page three becomes my shopping list. Generally, this isn’t for things like bread and milk, but larger items we run out of less often; light bulbs, laundry detergent, or things like staples, glue, etc… The things I might forget to buy when I’m in a store like home despot or target.  Pages four and five are my to do lists. Four is usually dedicated to my blog while five is my school and life. Page forty-eight, the final page of the book, is always my pen and pencil testing page. This lets me test out pens or pencils in store to see how they will work on this particular paper. Then page forty-seven is where I log the types of brews I’m using for my coffee.  How much coffee to water was used, how did the brew turn out, etc.FNindexed FNindexedFNindexedThe final addition to the book is a 3 month calendar. You can find them online or as a word template. I print one off and then cut out 3 months. I use washi tape to stick it into my book over my address section. I cross off the days as I remember, but this has become very useful when I’m planning things for classes and meet ups with friends and I don’t want to drag out my planner.FNindexedAfter that the rest of the book is a free for all.

When the book is filled I log it into a master index book and file it away. The master index is another field notes book where each page looks like the index for each book. Each book is logged on it’s own page. The descriptions are expanded slightly to be more descriptive, but only if they need to be. If the index states “paper,” it is expanded to state, “Theories F14,” so that I have a better idea of which paper it refers. However if it’s logged as “journal,” there is no need to expand upon that , unless the journaling deals with something specific that I may need to refer to later. This system lets me grab my index book, flip to about where I think I logged something, scan through quickly and find that “Theories F14” entry and pull the right book in less than a minute.

Of course this system works because I’m only searching through an index of 20 or so books. (I did not go backward and index my older books, I’m not quite that neurotic.) As my index, and number of books, grows searching will become more difficult and more time consuming.While I was a wiz with the card catalog when I was a kid, I don’t relish the idea of combing through multiple index books. At some point I will need to digitize my collection of notebooks. I’m resistant to this now, but I do see the need for it later, as I amass more and more books. I’m not sure what application I’ll use to do this- Evernote, OneNote, or some other platform. Who knows what will be available when I do finally decide to digitize.


I’ve been toying with the idea of adding reviews of my other other passion, coffee to this blog for awhile. I haven’t gotten around to doing it, but the idea is still sound. Of all of the things that come and go in my studio, coffee is a constant.  I cannot remember a time I did not create with out a good cup of coffee somewhere nearby.

Over the last few years I’ve had to cut back on my coffee consumption. I was a full  pot a day kinda woman, only I found that it was making me jittery and was interfering with my sleep. I’ve cut back to 1 or 2 cups of good coffee a day. Occasionally when pulling a late night study session I will have an additional cup. But most days I’m down to one cup.

Because I cut back so much I decided that I wanted to drink even better coffee than I was before. I began exploring higher end coffees and micro roasts. Though I spend more per pound of coffee I’m spending less than I was before because I’m drinking less. I’m also enjoying it more. I’ve also gotten very picky about the brews I’ll drink. I could tell you stories about the undrinkable swill I bought at a Starbucks on the Maine Turnpike or the delightful cups I’ve purchased near school.

Basically, I like coffee a lot and I’ve spent the last few years learning about different brewing methods and good coffee, maybe I should write about that. Maybe not. Maybe this stuff should go on a whole new blog, but I kinda feel like coffee and art go together like peanut butter and chocolate.

Reflection: The BEST Pencil, EVER

After getting the weird bendy extruded pencils*** (by empire? eagle?) several years in a row I vowed that when I had control over my pencil purchasing power to buy better pencils. I was also older and used pens as much as I possibly could. That is a whole other story*. Anyway, I think it was 8th grade when I discovered the various colored Eberhard Faber Americans. They came in red, blue, and green. After years of messing around with crappy bendy nasty writing pencils I suddenly had pencils that sharpened and wrote well. It was a miracle to not struggle with my pencil.ECOwriterAs I entered my second year of high school I had been reading about ecology and recycling and though of myself as a budding tree hugger. That school year I purchased my first batch of Eberhard Faber ECOwriters and  the pulpy gray recycled paper that went along with them. The paper was a dull gray had green ruling and a little recycle logo in the bottom right corner. It was terrible paper for pencils, but was great for ballpoint pen. The ECOwriters were briefly available at my local drug store (I think back then it had changed from Welby’s to Rite-Aide) and I could pick up another 12-pack anytime I wanted them. When it wasn’t back to school time they were ridiculously expensive but I always splurged. **

I used the ECOwriters for a couple of years with much happiness. I bought one of my last packages in college and thought nothing more of them, until I ran out. I had squirreled away a few packages of them, but for the majority of college I used art pencils and roller ball pens or various art pens. It wasn’t until I was teaching that I had a need to get another pack of ECOwriters. I went to my local drug store, and found nothing. On a weekend I took a trip to the far away box office store, and found nothing. I went to box stores, nada. I looked for them on and off for a few months before I happened onto another package I can’t even remember where I found them, but I remember being confused, the pencils said “ECOwriter” but it was accompanied by the brand PaperMate.***

I got them home, tore into the package for instant sadness and disappointment. The core was gritty and not smooth. Sharpening them was a painful experience. Back then I sharpened with a knife 99% of the time and that was just an awful mess. My art sharpeners, even new sharpeners left a terrible mess on the pencils. It was as if the pencil that I had loved was crumbling before my eyes. I think I left these in my classroom for kids to steal rather than use them.

Enter eBay, the flea market for champions of 90s nostalgia. A seller on eBay has lots of these beauties, true vintage Eberhard Faber ECOwriters from the 90s! I was surprised to get a package from a friend containing a baker’s dozen true EF ECOwriters, in not only  the traditional yellow but also the color version. Best early birthday gift ever! I immediately sharpened one up and used it all day. It was rad. I’ll do a full review, remember it’s colored with nostalgia.

Continue reading

Reflection: Not Just Any Pencil Will Do

On the Erasable podcast group awhile ago the question was posed, “When did you first notice that there were differences among pencils?” Since I’ve had far too much caffeine than is good for me* and I can’t sleep I’m going to answer this question with 2 answers.USA BondedBack here I told you about my Grandparents traveling to far away place in the US and coming back with unusual things. One of these trips went south, where my Grandparents toured a pencil making facility, what one I don’t know, but in my head I’m sure it must’ve been Musgrave.** Mostly I believe this because they went to Tennessee. This was back in the earlier to mid-eighties. With 5 grandchildren my Grandmother took it upon herself to bring back a bag of pencils. Not just ANY pencils, but misprints. My grandmother’s thriftiness is well known, and for her misprints or not, these were a good deal.

In this bag there were pencils with erasers and without. There were marbled pencils, pencils with flat paint, and shiny paint. I suspect that she purchased a gross pf pencils. It is likely that she got them for very little money, on account of her thriftiness. In this mixed bag of pencils were a few with no paint or finish at all- round wooden pencil naked and showing off their gorgeous cedar glory. My cousin chose the marbled and the “cool” pencils. When it was my turn I picked  the naked pencils and one of the few marbled my cousin turned down. Eraserless and smelling strongly of cedar I remember these pencils being a sharp contrast to the pencils that I’d gotten for school that year- they smelled good, and unlike the crappy extruded pencils they didn’t bend, the marks were darker and smooth.

After this, not any pencil would do.

There were quite a few pencils left over in the bag and my Grandmother would put a few more into her pen and pencil cup every now and then. I remember once that she was babysitting my brothers and I and we had to sit at the kitchen table to do our homework. She passed us the pencil cup we carefully chose our pencils and started to do homework. I remember putting the pencil I was using back because it was too scratchy. Then picking another with the same issue, then another. Finally, my grandmother said, “Leslie, what is the problem!?! Pick a pencil, any pencil will do! Do your homework!”

Of course there was no lip to be had so I picked a slightly less inferior pencil and did my homework. I remembered to always bring my own pencil after that.

Story will continue tomorrow

Continue reading

You Might Notice

So the last 2 reviews on here were missing ther images. that was purely my fault. I shot photos, loaded them to my computer and then… Well forgot about them. Yup. So I’ll get photos onto those images… Sometime in the next day or so.

This school year has me fried. I’m getting accustomed to head in to my internship 2 days a week and into class 2 other days and then getting my schoolwork done in the rest. I don’t get out of class until 930pm on Wednesday nights and I can only catch the 1040pm train home. I don’t get home most nights until 1130pm. Of course I’ve had a heaping wallop of coffee so I can’t sleep. As I write this it is 140am. Yikes.

However, I’ve got one class that is blowing my mind. The whole premis of the class is about storytelling, and how to use storytelling as a medium to help the client to heal. It’s an amazing concept backed up by plenty of research. Which I won’t borre you with here, but to say that telling our individual stories is enormously important to our mental health.

Tonight (or this morning) I go out on a limb and ask you to explore your stories in your art journals. How can you explore that story?  When you are finished do you explore your story? Collage, writing, painting, drawing? Patterns? Doodles? By slinging garbage onto the page and seeing what sticks? Torturing the page into submission*? Whatever you need to do to explore your story in your art journal do it.

This is a pencil, I share it for shits and giggles and so that wordpress won’t share the big W on facebook.pencils, because

Continue reading