Tuesday, April 24, 2012

I'm Glad You Came

Please meet my mostly-done inspiration journal. I started working on this guy about a year ago, as my young students were making similar journals in our Art + Writing class. Working off a series of kid-friendly topics, I designed weekly assignments that encouraged us to explore what inspires us through writing, drawing, collaging and other forms of art. 

I love to do projects alongside my students; not only do I have fun, but it's a great way to wordlessly guide their work while allowing me to riff off their creative mojo. Unfortunately, during class I am often so busy answering the ongoing pleas for help..."Mrs. Streicher! Mrs. Streicher!"...that I don't get much of my own work accomplished. 

So I worked on this journal at home. Sadly, summer came before I finished it, and life moved me on in different directions. Now that I have it before me again, I'm inspired to share it with you and then tackle the rest of the assignments and finish him up before another summer begins!

 To make the covers of the book, I relied on a favorite pastime of my childhood: looking through magazines and finding pictures of things that I love. My mother had this same fascination before me, and I remember that she had a special box full of pages ripped from magazines that she had seen and loved. We would look through it together, talking about each picture, sorting them into piles this way and that. I've seen fit to take this interest to the next level by cutting up the pages and gluing my beloved images into pleasing arrangements. 

As you can see in the top photo, I am inspired by memories, skiing and cooking. (See the tiny handwritten labels?) You may also infer that books, stacks of interesting boxes, and white-on-red polka dots do it for me as well. 

The first topic we explored in this journal was the seasons. I'm a fan of books that have funky little half-pages, tabs, pockets, fold-outs and other structural anomalies. So I watercolor painted a half-page with the word "seasons" to introduce the category.

Flipping over the half-page, here is a full view of the first page. As you can see, it shows a little collage of fall-inspired images and words, and across the top, you see four half-circle tabs, with the names of the seasons. But notice the little rectangle of white-on-red polka dots? It's actually a tiny handle. Grab hold and pull up on the page...

...and watch what happens. What appeared to be a single page is actually the front of a series of accordion style pages, and the tabs spread out to indicate the particular season illustrated on each fold.

When you flip the whole thing over, there is a second series of collages on the back side, corresponding again to the tabs at the tops of the pages.

 Once the panels are folded back into place, this is how it looks from the back side.

Using preprinted images for an art project is a good way to start my students' (and my) creative juices flowing. Now that our imaginations were bursting with visual thoughts about each season, our next challenge was to create our own drawings. I used Prismacolor pencils to make these sketches of three flowers and a pumpkin.

The brilliant colors and complementary pairs inspired me to do this painting of watercolor squares. Watercolor paints are one of the most rebellious and unforgiving materials in the world of art media, and I have a weird obsession about forcing them into strict geometric regimes. 

On the right side of this spread, you will see a pocket page that holds a smaller book, wrapped round with green ribbon. The cover of the book is a drawing of colorful poppies, which were inspired by the beautiful art of Ling Chang. For some reason, I was compelled to use the floral drawing on the front cover of the mini book, and then made a striped piece in corresponding colors for the back cover. Both the front and back are watercolors with Prismacolor pencil work over the top.

Sadly, the inside of the book is still blank. I'll work on that.

Here's a collage of the notoriously difficult-to-spell names of the months, and on the right, we made lists of our favorite words to describe each of the seasons. 

Another watercolor painting of squares. This one reflects my interest in the colors of spring; I love the way the pale greens, watery blues and earthy browns give way to the vivid yellows, pinks and reds of spring blooms. 

On the right begins a section of seasonal photographs that I have collected over the years. Gathered mostly from old-school mail-order catalogs, these babies have been in my picture stash for years and I decided it was time to give them a proper home in my journal. But as beautiful as the images are, each page is tainted by a sprinkling of text that, to me, kind of ruins the impact of the picture. I can be fussy like that.

So I hit upon the solution of copying our little writing assignments, quotes and bits of poems onto scraps of paper and gluing them over the offending words and titles. The little boxes and rectangles may look a bit jarring to your eye, but I am very happy with the finished look.

These pages range quite a bit in shape and size; rather than trying to cut them to a standard shape, I just left them in their irregular glory. Some are funny little half-pages, others are fold-outs. Their quirky shapes create an element of surprise, which is a nice quality for a journal to have. 

 Next time, I'll share what I've done in the section on holidays...and then it will be time for me to get inspired to finish the book!

This song will surely help. It pumps me up.


  1. This is so fabulous! Next time my kids tell me they are bored, I know just what we are going to do. :)

  2. That's so great...I hope these pics will inspire them!

    Oops..just be sure not to show them the music video. Even though I love the beats, the images are definitely rated R. :(


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