Visiting Art Journalist: An Overview of Ideas

Visiting art journalist Sabrina got her jumpstart in mixed media art journaling when she was a ministry intern three summers ago at the church where I am senior pastor. She quickly became immersed in the Christian education and outreach activities, many of which involved mixed media art.

We also did art journaling as part of the supervised practice of ministry debriefing sessions, and she later went on a mission trip to Mexico with me which involved more mixed media as well as art journaling.

Now she teaches what she's learned to high school students in an after school program. The reflections featured here are some of her examples from her teaching experiences or her reflections on her own learning journey.

Listing Priorities

It is an excellent use of an existing journal page to top the art with lists. In particular, write lists which help to organize (and prioritize) where you are, who you are, and what you want to (still) do along the journey called life. I used the simple collage piece (below) as a catalyst for rethinking and reprioritizing my current job description for what will be my new. The important reminder (above) came during writing my lists.
Letting go: Create a list for how it is now( another list for how it needs to be; and a third list that clearly defines what must get cut in order to make the new happen. 
Transition time begins when you name what you are letting go of so you can be the new you. 

Paper Mâché Bowls for VBS

We made paper mâché bowls during VBS and called them "faith bowls." They symbolized bringing our tithes, gifts, and offerings to the Lord. I covered a ping pong table with plastic table cloths and the kids stood around the table. We used strips of plain newsprint paper so the bowls would be easier to paint. The kids covered an actual paper bowl with the paper mâché and I separated/pulled off the paper bowl the next day. I also cleaned up the edges by using sharp scissors and trimming the rim of the paper mâché bowl. The kids did the paper mâché on day one; painted the side with acrylic paint on day two; and painted the other side on day three.

Prayer Board for VBS "Hand Prayer"

We used a four-step mixed media process to create layers of art as prayer during summer VBS. Each day the kids added art elements to their prayer board. 
Day one they drew around their hands with a neon colored oil pastel and then sprayed watercolors over stencils. 
They had the option of adding a second layer of stenciling. 
We talked out the significance of shapes as symbols on the second day, and they added stamped images to their prayer boards. 
The kids added words to their payers on day three (teens & adults helped the little ones). 
The prayer board was art-accessible for all ages and art sill levels. 

VBS Teaching Tool for Mixed Media Art Prayer

Creating a teaching tool which shows the (daily) art steps makes it easier to "show and tell" how to do the various steps of a layered mixed media art project during a weeklong VBS. The visuals teach the children and also show the adult helpers how to assist the children. It requires four boards cut to the size the children will be using.

As you develop the project, the bottom layer goes on all four boards. The second layer goes on three boards; the third layer on two boards; and the final layer only on the fourth board. The graduated layers also helps kids see what they missed (and how they can catch up) if they skip a day of VBS. 

Experimenting and Working up Artsy Theology Projects

I love the idea of reworking (salvaging) an overworked art journal page to transform it into something altogether new. Here's an idea from Dina Wakley on resurrecting an overworked page. Draw a pattern on it that serves as a mask and then paint over the entire rest of the page. 
Cover the background with white (acrylic) paint. 
Then top with a second color (without waiting for the white to dry). Add a third color on the outer edges of the page the create shadow and depth. 
The lines inevitably get blurred in the painting (above). Add another layer to deepen the lines. Use a white Gelli Roll pen to add journaling (or doodling). 

Modifying Art Tools & Supplies for Immigrant Art Inside a DetentionCenter

The straight-edged strips were pre-cut; the tiny detailed pieces were made on site by the women with punch tools.

The dimensional fabric paint was a big hit with the immigrant women who created these "Garden of Gratitude" art prayers.
The strips of pretty paper were pre-cut before going inside the detention center.
Sabrina's art journal entry which inspired Jardin de Gratitud (Garden of Gratitude).
Guest artist Sabrina created this mixed media art journal entry by following the art instructions in two art journal books. 
I modified the combined concept so it could be used within the parameters of a so-called family detention center. Limitations include no easy access to water; limited access to electricity (one outlet where I plug in one hair dryer to force dry the art); no scissors; non toxic materials; and generally 30-40 minutes per person to complete the project. Sabrina's detailed and beautiful example was gradually created over several days and includes materials and tools which could not be used inside the detention center.
Instead of the detailed cut-work of Sabrina's example, the revised version includes hand torn shapes. (I later found a source for Spanish language newspapers and magazines for the women to use for their art.)
Paper punch tools provided the detailed cut pieces. The "holes" became a stencil and provided another layer.
Tempura paint (non toxic) provided the base for the immigrant art version.
The "smooshing" technique for the background called for plastic wrap, but waxed paper proved to be much easier.
Paper punch tools provided the small details for the cut paper collage additions.

Gratitude Garden: Examples of Immigrant Art Inside a Detention Center

The examples here were created by immigrant women seeking asylum in the USA from the violence in their homelands. The guided art mediation included naming the people who have been instrumental in each woman's safe arrival to the USA and/or persons who are beloved for whatever reason. The cut flowers represent the special persons. The duration of the art reflection time was a prayer of gratitude for the blessing of these (named) persons in one's life.

Jardín de Gratitud [Garden of Gratitude] Immigrant Mixed Media Art

When I do art as a ministry of presence (AKA "art therapy), I seek to find an intentional way for a guided meditation which includes mixed media art and theological reflection. I particularly like to focus on blessings and to name the presence of God amidst the trials and suffering of life. I am not naive or blissfully ignorant of the difficulties of life. Rather, I believe that when we invite God into the pits of life (those pits which we all inevitably find ourselves) then those pits become holy ground. Keeping mindful of God's presence amidst trials is at the center of my ministry of presence inside a detention center for immigrant women and children seeking asylum in the USA from the violence in their Central American homelands. Occasionally I facilitate a project which includes identifying the suffering as a way to name and then claim healing. More often then not, I choose to keep the focus upon on assuming that the suffering does of course exist and then looking for God's care and providence amidst the unpleasantness. The project "Garden of Gratitude" names the important people in our lives, especially those who have been particularly helpful in ensuring our safe arrival to "this point in time" (whatever/wherever one is at the moment).

The first step is to prepare a sample series which shows the phases of the mixed media art reflection. It also is helpful to make a simple one-page instruction which shows pictures of the steps and includes basic directions. 

When I first began this ministry I made a sample of the art reflection and a simple bilingual how-to instruction sheet. I found that it is much better to make a set of four teaching samples which show the significant steps along the way. For my context, it is not realistic to have "one" teaching time. Rather, there is a steady flow in-and-out of women and children starting and working through the project at varying times over the duration of the designated time frame. Instead of explaining the project over-and-over, it is much easier to have a set of visuals which show the process. The one-page instructions with more photos fills in the gaps. I bring diverse art tools and supplies. For many of the women and children it's the first time they've had access to Hobby Lobby and Michael's art materials. The examples and photos help make the new experience non threatening and fun. 
Artful reflection blends traditional art and journaling ideas with theological reflection on a particular person, event, and/or context. It is art with a theologically reflective purpose. 

Rubbing Plates with Oil Pastels and Watercolors

We had an afternoon of experimenting with rubbing plates, oil pastels (or crayons) and watercolors. I had made what I thought would be a tool for mono printing. I used thick acrylic medium on a piece of corrugated cardboard and pressed it with various stencils to created a textured surface. Once it dried, I had expected to use it to create impressions on a Gelli Art printing plate. It did not work out well because the dried acrylic was no porous enough to create the deep impression needed for mono printing. An artist friend transformed my "failure" into a great success by using it as a rubbing plate. She peeled the paper off of a black oil pastel, placed a thin piece of watercolor paper over the plate and then rubbed the oil pastel on the paper to create the textured effect. What hadn't worked well for mono printing created a beautiful rubbing. The rubbings were then painted with watercolors. 
Rubbing plate on left; rubbed image on right.