Friday, May 30, 2008


I've been reading Spirit Taking Form by Nancy Azara and at the moment I'm enjoying the chapter on Visual Diaries. Azara speaks of the workshops she used to run called Consciousness-Raising, Visual Diaries, Artmaking. A group of women gathered weekly to discuss topics relevant to women such as the essence of birth, life as a woman, the traditional ways of working, crafting and arting etc. During these sessions each person would draw and doodle in a personal diary while listening to the discussions, making visual conversations , using colours, signs, symbols, shapes, marks and "primitive" drawings. These drawings were personal diary entries to be shared only if one chose to share.
"It was thrilling to be part of their discovery" writes Azara "I watched women change their processes, many returning to art after years of being stuck. Others shifted gears and made more authentic images. We drew and made collages, built up pages in our books, and made substantial and powerful diaries." "In these books were new visions, ideas, ways of seeing - shadows from the past".

Hickory with hands - by Nancy Azara. Carved and painted wood with gold leaf and encaustic.

She goes on to suggest incorporating these diaries into daily life, keeping a blank notebook at hand and markers and crayons or whatever else takes ones fancy to record feelings and happenings by means of images.

Leaf Alter for Nunzia - by Nancy Azara. Carved and stained cedar plank with aluminum leaf.

Joan Arbeiter, one of the first participants in the workshops, writes that her visual diaries were made from the "stuff of my ordinary daily life. Mundane notions such as shopping lists, appointments, and phone numbers were used along with philisophical commentary, overheard bits of dialogue, and other sayings that came my way. These words were often grouped into shapes that 'read' as images along with doodles, designs , and sketches. It was in fact soon after the workshop that I began to integrate these ideas into my own large format paintings and drawings".

Although I don't belong to a discussion group I think I have been doing something similar whilst having long phone conversations or listening to audio books. While my mind is engaged with the discussion my hand creates intricate designs which are often intriguing. Abstract doodles, created without interference from my inner critic. These I tear out and glue in my journal where I sometimes develop them further. As Azara experienced, I am coming back to the same forms over and over again. I suppose it's a way of discovering one's own personal symbolism or art vocabulary.

"I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way - things I had no words for." - Georgia O'Keeffe

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Another perfect Autumn day. All is quiet except for the rushing stream, a Wagtail calling for company and the rythmic sound of chisel slicing through wood.

"I have visited this quietude before but I often forget that it is a subtle fertile healing place that offers up new ideas and insights." - Shelley Klammer

Friday, May 9, 2008


In Africa there are secret portals where objects used for rituals and ceremonies are hidden. Some sacred objects are viewed only by those who have the proper rank and knowledge to do so. I carved these doors with secret portals in mind..... pondering about treasures that are kept hidden behind closed doors.

Ancient scrolls are hidden in small Axumite chapels nestled in caves high above the earth. The Tabot (representation of the Ark of the Covenent) is said to be hidden in an Ethiopian monastery and guarded around the clock.

For centuries ancient manuscripts have been kept secret in Timbuktu. Recently archaeologists, archivists and treasure hunters have been pouring into Mali hoping to excavate volumes buried in desert caves and underground chambers. There have been amazing discoveries. Suddenly the world is taking interest and are wanting to help save the manuscripts before it is too late.

"Curiosity is lying in wait for every secret." - Ralph Waldo Emerson.