Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Running on Empty

There's nothing like enjoying a few days away to gain some perspective on life and how one lives it. Over the last two weeks my husband and I spent the best part of 10 days at the Oregon coast, doing practically nothing. Oh I had plenty to work with, took so many art supplies that I was informed that I'd be rationed the next time we leave home, but I didn't use much of what I had. I managed to sketch quite a bit but nothing memorable was created. I got away from home and turned into a bit of a slug, and now, looking back, I realize that I wasted a good part of my life with nothing to show for it. I don't like that. All my life I've been She Who Makes Things but something has happened lately that I don't like... I'm not producing much. Believe me, that's going to change. And as I write this I realize that perhaps this was a time of rest that I needed, a time to re-charge, a time to shake myself up and start again. Do you ever feel like that? Do you run out of gas, finding yourself running on empty? I'm sure it's a common condition for all us creative types.

Somewhere in that time I did another of my Sermon Notes, one about Romans 2 where Paul writes about being judgmental. The scan isn't the best, nor is the work (see how self judgmental I can be!), but it'll have to do. I work on a 9" X 12" block of 140# watercolor paper and my scanner bed is 8 1/2 by 11 so it cropped off the left side.

It occured to me that you might be interested in my process for creating these pieces and let me say first that they are difficult and take a long time and hours of thought and prayer, but they are the most personally rewarding work I've ever done. A friend commented on how nice it is for me that I've found a niche... yes, a niche, and also a calling, a focus, and even an obsession of sorts. I'm rather scatterbrained about my work, wanting to try every technique, to work in many ways and themes, and most of my life I've sought a focus in my work, something to say and a way to say it, without ever finding what it is that I'm to do that is mine alone. With these Notes I've finally been shown the way I'm to work, at least for now. So I'll keep with it until, well until it's clear that I'm done.


So here's how I approach doing a piece... this is what I will be doing this morning as soon as I publish this post. The first thing I do is pray... mostly it's asking for God's help as I work.

1. gather my handwritten notes from the sermon/sermons. (I'll insert a scan at the end of this post.)
2. read the chapter in the Bible and read my notes
3. do a mind map about all elements... design, composition, color, materials, drawings, techniques, text
4. get out collage papers and play with them as I
5. listen to the sermon on my iPod, downloaded from iTunes.
6. determine which scripture to use, choose a main statement, choose supportive statements.
7. type out all text on the computer.
8. print some of text on Thai Kozo paper and spray with a fixative. Print some onto painted papers.
9. Sometimes I start by journaling directly on the white paper, private words which will be hidden with collage papers.
10. Make the art work (collage or painting).
11. Add the text using my own handwriting/printing, alphabet stamps and stencils, or printed text.
12. Sign the work. Scan it. On the back write about the work with scripture references and date. Post to Flickr and take it to my photographer. Say thank you to the real Creator.

That's what it takes to do the work and the same hold with other artwork I do... lots of planning and thinking and prayer. Sometimes the piece comes together quickly but usually I'm at it for about a week. Often the work is spread out over several weeks, and sometimes it lies fallow for a period of time until I'm ready to begin again.

This stack of paper on the right represents what I take away from church ... printed and handwritten pages of notes that remind me of the message. We don't have preaching, we enjoy listening to an excellent Bible teacher.


  1. Jo, there's an old "Shoe" cartoon that has to do with Cosmo Fishhawk's muse and it's relationship to having a deadline. I'll look through my saved cartoons someday and see if I can find it for you. I'm still awestruck at your artistic output and would agree with the "time to recharge" portion of your musings.
    As for scanning, our office copier does a good job of scanning up to 12x18 and it's open to you at any time. (Be a good reason to say howdy in the winter when there's no market.)

  2. I just might take you up on the scanning offer one of these days, Ted, and catch up on what your tribe is doing these days. Beaverton Farmers Market doesn't open until May 9! This year I'm planting more of a garden.

  3. Dear Jo;
    Thanks for posting about your process with the sermon pieces.

    You are one of the most productive artists I know! So take time off as needed and come back refreshed and ready to go. I look forward to seeing whatever you do next.


  4. Jo,

    Thanks for sharing your process. I had forgotten about mind mapping.

    You were very productive when you had an open studio scheduled. Perhaps you should schedule another one??


  5. What a great process describing and collaging sermon notes.
    My pastor loves it when I post a sermon collage on FB


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