“Would you come up with something creative we can do together at our next ELA meeting?” That simple question was the beginning of what would become, for me, a fabulous process and product!
It was a crazy time of year. We were all a bit stressed, with tons to do. “Perfect!” I thought. “Let’s take all that angst and struggle, and use it to make something beautiful!”
- sharpie markers (preferably black)
- old gift cards or credit cards
- acrylic paint
- canvas panel
- old magazines
- white glue
- Think of all the things that are making us crazy, or cranky or stressed. As the end of the year approaches, that list can become very long. I encouraged myself, and my colleagues, to think of things from all areas of our lives.
- Write them down, in permanent, bold, black ink, all over the canvas. Be free! Write them one on top of the other. Make lists. Write big. Write small. Print. Write in cursive. Cross them out. Make them bold. Add lots of exclamation points. Curse if you like. LOL!
- Remember this is for you, no one else. No one gets to check it before you add the next step. No one sees it unless you choose to share. Be bold. Be brave. Be honest.
- When done, put the cap on the pen, and set it aside. Look at the canvas. Good? Anything else you want to write? Anything else you want to add? If so, pick up that pen again, and add it. If not, move on to number 5.
- Choose some colors. I like to be free, but mindful, in my color choices. Some colors become mud when blended. Sometimes muddy is good, but other times, not so much, hence the mindful part.
- Put small dabs of the paints on a paper plate or tray.
- Using one of those old cards as a palette knife, pick up some of the paint and get it on the canvas. The card allows for a thick or thin paint application. Thick application can add texture or the possibility to completely obscure your words. Thin application allows for more layering of colors, and causes the texture of the canvas and the written word to be more prominent.
- Be free with the paint application. Don’t fret about mixing colors. Use only one card for the entire work. If you have too much paint on it, or want another color free from any other, grab a paper towel and wipe off the card. Experiment with thick or thin. (I like a thin application so the handwriting can be seen, but when it is your art, use your own preferences.)
- Flip through the magazines to find words or images that are the opposite of the words you wrote on the canvas. Find ones that inspire you. Search for beauty, peace, breath, love, laughter, or whatever else makes you say, “Oh, this is good!”
- Tear them out of the magazine! Experiment with different angles, with how much space you leave around the words, and with tearing in different directions. You might be surprised with all the variations you can get. (If you must, lol, you can cut them out. But, if you can live with the possibility of ripping something wanted, and the less than perfect edges of the tear, then please, tear them. I promise, the results can be beautiful, and meaningful.)
- Once your canvas has dried, place these images and words on the canvas. Explore varying layouts. When you find one you like, use the glue to make it permanent. Be aware, if you haven’t cleaned your hands you may end up with some unexpected color. Don’t worry if that happens, there is one more step!
- When the glue has dried, add one more layer. Find or make a stencil and use it. Add color with your fingers. Grab a stamp and see what you can do with it.
Here is my final product.
Or so I thought!
This is my product, and I love it, but it turns out it was not my final product. There was more. There was the unexpected process and product, and it was fantabulous!
As I drove home, my thoughts returned to the meeting, my colleagues, our process, and our product. So many thoughts, observations and wondering. And then, my thoughts turned to my product.
“I wonder if I can read what I wrote? Maybe if I look really closely?”
There was definitely part of me that wanted to read them again. Hold on to them. Feel them again. Experience their power. Another part of me speculated it might have been better to have completely concealed my words under a think coat of paint. I resisted any urge to pull over and examine my canvas, lol, and reminded myself that the point of the process – outside of pure creativity and joy – was to let things go!
When I got home I pulled my canvas out of my bag, and spent some time with it.
I liked it. It wasn’t perfect, but it was interesting. It wasn’t flawless, but it was beautiful. And those imperfections and flaws? They added to its interest.
I couldn’t read my words, but I could see my writing, and I loved that! The writing added depth and texture to the work.
Then I had an aha moment … my final product (at least for now).
The piece was just like my life. Multi-layered. Not perfect, but pretty fabulous. And those things that make me anxious, stressed or cranky? Endured, survived, embraced, laughed about, cranked about, talked about, prayed about, and released – even if they remain in some fashion – they make me better, more interesting, more awesome, more me.