Making Peace With the Past: Taking My Time

My main project for 2018 is recycling painful past journal entries to create new art and make peace with the past.

I started keeping journals in the summer of 2000, just after turning 13. My first attempt at journaling was quite cute, really. It stemmed from boredom at having to be dragged around the country watching my younger brother play cricket. I was still slightly too young to stay home alone, so 3-4 times during the summer holidays we would stay in hotels for 2 or 3 nights at a time and visit different cricket grounds around Wales and England. To amuse myself, I would provide a running commentary of our travels while writing about my favorite things (namely The Offspring, my cuddly toys, wrestling, and boys – it was a simpler time) and also fill the book with little doodles – I was sort of art journaling before I even knew the term!

July 21, 2000 – An excerpt from the original first entry in my first ever journal

I decided to start this project with the journal from 2000 not only because it made sense chronologically, but because I thought it would be an easy one to deal with. I was barely a teenager and my writing was still very upbeat and optimistic (even though I was bored and hated not being at home on the computer!). However, I still found it difficult to start this process.

July 23, 2000 – A drawing of a school near the cricket ground my brother was playing at

It took me two weeks to finish the first spread, which was frustrating to me. During my Year of Creative Habits project last year, I got in the habit of making journal pages quickly and often. I think this is going to be a good lesson in slowing everything down and taking my time. I will have to keep reminding myself that this isn’t something I can just finish in a day, week, or even a month. Just because I am able to complete pages quickly, it doesn’t mean I necessarily should. I want to make sure I do this right and in a way that I won’t regret later.

I made the decision to do my best to preserve any art I made or ephemera I kept from the time. I am also keeping a note of anything I think might be important for me to remember, with the rest being torn up and covered over. Here is how the first spread turned out:

The page turned out messier and busier than I would have liked, but I think it was because I started pushing paint around in frustration. I wanted to start but I didn’t know how. Slapping paint on haphazardly meant I was at least doing something with it.

I was tempted to update the doodle and make it bolder/better, but ultimately thought it was better to keep it the way it was drawn the first time. I think it gives that part of the page a dreamy, “in the past” look. I also kept the Offspring clip art I was so proud of!

Hopefully now that I’ve made one page, it won’t be so difficult to carry on… but I’m also allowing myself to slow down and take as much time as I need.

Making Peace with the Past

The Six of Chalices from James R. Eads Prisma Visions tarot deck in front of a blurry stack of journals

Last month I traveled back to Wales and was reunited with my old written journals from my teenage years. All I had to do was pack them into my suitcase and I’d be ready to start my main 2018 project: destroying the journals and making new art from them in an attempt to make peace with the past.

However, I received some unsolicited opinions on one of my Instagram posts about the project and, being the indecisive person I am, was thrown back into doubt. Am I going to regret this in the future? Will this turn out to be a huge mistake? I was plagued with the same old questions, but I packed the journals in my suitcase nevertheless.

I tried to remind myself of the last time I was sure I wanted to start this project. Just before I moved cities in October, I saw that my favorite band from my teens (The Offspring) were playing shows near my new place. Not only that, but they were playing an album that had been really important to me and got me through some tough times – I had to see them! I was a little apprehensive that they would be washed up and nowhere near as good as I hoped, but any worries about that disappeared as soon as they hit the stage. They were phenomenal and it was one of the best concerts I’ve been to.

A mixed media art journal spread from 2017 with a drawing of Dexter and Noodles from The Offspring

Just before the band played a special stripped down version of one of my favorite songs (Gone Away), Dexter Holland talked briefly about how the song had changed for him over the years and how it means something different to him now. The version they played was beautiful and I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried my eyes out. I was crying because of how amazing it sounded, but I was also crying because I knew exactly what he meant. During their set, I could feel the songs take on a whole new meaning to me. I will always remember the pure joy of that night whenever I listen to their songs now, and not the sadness that I used to feel. I felt like I was making peace with part of my past and I wanted to continue.

Even though I reminded myself of this, almost a week after New Year, I still hadn’t touched the journals. I almost put them in the closet to forget about, until a couple of days ago when I was pulling tarot cards for the year ahead. When I revealed the card for the overall “theme” of the year, I couldn’t help but smile. I pulled the Six of Chalices (Cups). I’m still in the process of re-learning the meanings of tarot cards, so I consulted the little book included with my deck to confirm what I thought it meant. I liked this extract:

The world can be harsh and unforgiving, and it’s easy to let the sorrow and grime of daily living dull the vibrant shine of your existence. But the river that flows through the Six of Chalices offers a chance to buff it clean. Renew yourself. Break the cycles of suffering… ~ James R. Eads

I’m sure the card will mean even more to me as the year goes on, but I took it as a sign that now is the time to start this project. I don’t want to erase memories (trust me, as long as I am capable, I will always remember my past) but I want to extract the positive, break cycles, and make peace. It also wouldn’t hurt to make my embarrassing angst a little more cryptic in case the journals fall into the wrong hands!

I just need to make one last decision… which journal do I use?!

Illustractions Release Party & Art Show

One of my goals this year has been to submit my work to zines, so in March I came across a call for a new Los Angeles based zine called Illustractions and decided to submit a few pieces for consideration. Ari got back to me pretty quickly to tell me that one of my pages was to be included, which I was over the moon about! A few weeks later I had an email with an update on the zine and that there was to be a release party for the zine in May at Junior High in Hollywood. I started to get nervous about it, but I accepted the invitation and decided I would just go for it; you have to take these opportunities, right? I also agreed to do some quick portraits of the people at the event – eek!

The show was last night and I’m so glad I went! I was super nervous the whole time, but it was pretty amazing to see my art on the wall and in a zine, to meet some new people, and enjoy a night of stand-up comedy, music, and art. Here are some photos from the show:

Me with the zine and my art!
The wall of portraits I made with two other artists
Junior High – such an awesome art space!
I really liked this

Unfortunately it doesn’t seem like the zine is available to buy online, I think they were just given out for free across Los Angeles, but it it was really fun to be involved in!