Journal Excerpts

Aug 22, 2002

A rainy and damp day.  I find myself searching endlessly for sources of inspiration.  Not finding any, my search turns into hours of procrastination.  I am looking to find something  externally that would probably be better found inside.  Sometimes it becomes so hard to leave my computer and get back to the real world, the one where there are things to be done, people to call, paperwork to tackle.  I really struggle with starting.

My friend Wendy just dropped in and told me this little anecdote.  She was saying to someone recently, "I'm an overachiever, I do too much."  to which this person replied, "that usually results in under achievement."  I had to laugh at that one.  I do know this to be true, I've seen examples of it in my own life.  The things that I try to control end up being a lot of work for little reward, and the things that I really enjoyed came easily and ended up to be my greatest successes.

So it was time to retreat to the journal, a place that allows the good stuff to flow, (from the inside out.)  Just the act of writing...writing anything...gets me motivated enough to feel I can do anything.  Maybe it's like going for a walk, you get moving in a different direction and you start to feel revived, and freed from your current way of thinking.  Sitting with a box of watercolours and just filling the pages lets me feel freed.  An exercise I have been working on (inspired by Jack Kerouac): 

In your journal start painting quickly.  You can do this with any medium, writing, collage, etc.  Let your intuition guide you.  Do whatever "comes up", it might be things like "add a purple border", "glue a star here".  Do not give yourself time to second guess or correct (even if you think it's wrong.)  Jack Kerouac did this with poetry, he called it "automatic writing", straight and honest, no censor.  It takes a lot of courage to try it, but the process is very fulfilling.

This week I sat down with "The Diary of Frida Kahlo", actually I had to trick myself into taking some time out for the experience...I left it on a bench in my hallway so everytime I would go to the studio or the bathroom I would see it sitting there, a reminder to take some time to sit.  I smiled at my cleverness when I found myself walking by it with a little "oh yeah", then thanking myself for the subtle hint.  When I finally did open it I drank in the pages like a dehydrated person.  Her colours are so saturated and primary.  I love how she just let them bleed and run, how she added a layer of black inky detail over top of the washes causing the imagery to jump out and grab you.  I am excited that she allowed the pages to bleed through into the other side leaving ghostly illustrations with writing over top.  The pictures seem the ultimate in not worrying about the outcome, just letting it happen, she had never intended for anyone else to view them.  Things are crossed out, blacked over, corrected, redrawn, it was like she devoured the pages with paint and ink.  How I wish to have her gusto, her garishness as a journal writer.  She lets her love and anger lash about the pages so rampantly that I am overcome by the rawness of it.  And I am humbled.  Thank you Frida.

Some recent sightings...

-in a shop window of a beauty salon, a series of 9 yellowed photos from the late 50's of very involved looking hairstyles, all with strange names most of which involve a flip or backcombing.

-the blue heron, I am in love with this bird and obsessed with seeing it up close.  Little glimpses in the woods, then seen in town flying high above the gas station.

-a donkey shaking his head, yes!

-large green frogs hiding in my garden.

Last night we enjoyed...

-a dinner of pasta with fresh basil and tomatoes, french stick with olive oil & red wine.  I set up a table with chairs outside in front of the fire pit, lit lots of little lamps, and stared up at the stars.

Keri Smith is a free-lance illustrator and native of Toronto.  A graduate of  O.C.A. she has a wide following of clients in North America and Japan.  She currently resides in a “magic” cottage in Flesherton, painting, illustrating, creating, writing, and living out loud.  Her first children's books, entitled Story in a Box have just been published by Chronicle Books.