Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Heroes - Dan Eldon

Dan Eldon was born to an American mother and a British father in 1970, and at an early age he and his family moved to Kenya. Despite his extensive travels, he always considered Kenya home. As a child, Dan received his first camera and developed an interest in photography that he would pursue for the rest of his life becoming one of the youngest photographers for the international news agency, Reuters in 1992.

Moved by stories of famine in Somalia, he travelled to the country to see for himself. He stayed in Somalia as the civil war raged on documenting the strife and the UN’s attempts to manage the situation. His photos find their way into Time and Newsweek. Dan’s life was unfortunately cut short at the age of 22 by a mob that turned on him as he was trying to cover a bombing in Mogadishu.

Dan is probably best known for his 17 volumes of visual journals that he began keeping around the age of 15. He filled his journals with newspaper clippings, photos, labels, writing, and much, much more. He poured his life into the bulging books as he cut, glued, painted, and drew. He included pictures of his family and friends and evidence of the places he travelled and visited. Dan’s mom, Kathy shared a wide selection on Dan’s journal pages in 1997 in the book The Journey is the Destination: The Journals of Dan Eldon published by Chronicle Books. It quickly became a great source of inspiration for many, many people who were moved by Dan’s story and his rich journal pages.

These layered pages hint at a life filled with passion and adventure, and Dan documented the people he met, the places he went, and events that took place in his life. As a photographer, his journals are filled with many of his own photos, contact sheets, and negatives which he often cut apart reimagining the pictures and the stories of his life.

Dan’s journals and his life have inspired me greatly as I have tried to record my life and to think about the kind of legacy that I will leave behind. In many ways, Dan’s short, yet inspiring life makes me wonder about what I have done in my life and the impact that I have had on the world. Dan seemed to have lived life to the fullest, and his journals reflect that packed life in rich, luminous detail. I am constantly amazed that Dan filled 17 volumes of journals in about 7 years. He put so much time and energy not only into his journals, but into the art of living.

It is because of Dan Eldon that I continue to work in my visual journals and that I continue sharing with anyone willing to pay attention. In continuing Dan’s legacy, I hope that in some small way, I am changing and challenging the world.

For more information about Dan, his life, his activism, his art, and his journals, visit

Monday, February 23, 2015


David and I spent the last couple of months working on our part of the 21 SECRETS project for this spring. We are joined by twenty other talented journal artists in this ebook and online workshop by Dirty Footprints Studio. Over the coming weeks we will be giving away two memberships to this awesome venture. Stay tuned.

Our Workshop:
Rethinking the Page: Creating Interaction and Connection Within Your Journal

The Journal Fodder Junkies guide you through an open process that will transform your mundane journal pages into surprising, interacting, and secret filled spaces. Using an arsenal of prompts, techniques, and ideas, David and Eric take you on a journey that will have you delving and discovering, painting and writing, cutting and ripping as you transform the static surface of your pages into dynamic places filled with cut outs, fold outs, flaps, pockets, hidden spaces and secret passages. This workshop focuses on the use of prompts to guide you through a creative process that will have you engaging and transforming your pages in a whole new way.

On April 1, 2015, the 21 SECRETS ebook will be released, but pre-orders are being taken now, and you can even save if you act fast. Order now, and you will receive the following in the spring:

A downloadable 150+ page eBook that contains 21 art journaling workshops packed with videos, full color photos, printouts and instructional content.

Unlimited access to all the workshops at once! You pick and choose which ones you do when and go at your own pace!  There is no time limit--these workshops are yours to keep!

Membership to the private 21 SECRETS Facebook community where you can share your art work, be inspired by others, and receive warm, supportive feedback from your peers.  In the 21 SECRETS community we celebrate everyone's unique expression while supporting each creative spirit to become more confidant as an artist.

The opportunity to learn a variety of art journaling approaches, techniques, and processes that will energize your creativity and touch your Soul while in the comfort of your own home or studio!

To find out more about the artists, their workshops, and general information about 21 Secrets, click here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Art Unraveled 2015

If you missed our latest workshop, don't fret. We have plenty of things coming up in the year, and we keep adding more. Here's one of those things.

Although registration has been opened for a while, we are pleased to announce that we will be returning to Phoenix for Art Unraveled this August, and we're looking forward to teaching three new classes, one of which is a night class - our first time doing a night class at AU.

Sunday, August 9, 2015 - 9:00 AM - 4:30 PM
Building Layers: A Mixed Media Approach

Monday, August 10, 2015 - 6:30 PM - 9:30 PM
The Journal Stripped Bare

Tuesday, August 11, 2015 - 9:00 AM - 4:30 PM
Cultivating Creativity: Working with Spontaneity and Wonder

We're planning on participating in the Shopping Extravaganza and Saturday Evening Gala as well. Make your plans now, and we hope to see you in Phoenix.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The JFJ Invade Galax, VA and the Chestnut Creek School of the Arts

Dave and I spent a journal filled weekend in Galax, VA teaching workshops at the Chestnut Creek School of the Arts. The school calls a renovated bank its home in downtown Galax and is a great space for a workshop. The original vault door was very cool.

We were put up for the weekend at Mary Guynn's cabin, and we checked out Creek Bottom Brewing for pizza and good craft beer. Being originally from the Pittsburgh area, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the brewery carried Iron City Beer.

When not teaching at the school or hanging out at the brewery, we enjoyed the fireplace at the cabin as well as playing cribbage and enjoying a beverage or two.

But the highlight definitely was the enthusiasm and energy of the ladies in the classes. We had a great time sharing our ideas with Penney, Kathy, Glenise, Deborah, Debbie, and Kavi. On Saturday, we shared a lot of ideas for working in the journal, and on Sunday, we shared ideas for creating interaction among the pages. The ladies dove into painting, writing, drawing, cutting, and gluing, and was so nice to see them so open to exploring and experimenting.

We thoroughly enjoyed the the weekend, and we are hoping that it will turn into an annual event. We would go back in a heartbeat. Thank you to Penney Klaproth for organizing the weekend, to Mary Guynn for the hospitality of her cabin, and to Debbie, Deborah, Kathy, Glenise, and Kavi for spending time with us.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Staying Engaged

I have been staying engaged with my journal a lot more recently, and I have been pretty good about working in it nearly everyday, even if it's just a few minutes before bed. That engagement has carried over into other areas as well, and I have been posting more here on the blog as well as on the JFJ Facebook page. I have also been more fully engaged with life in general.

This has all been an attempt to stay more connected to myself, to my art, and to others, and I am sustaining the momentum.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Keeping It Simple

There are some who seem to think that being creative is all about expensive materials and complicated techniques, and this becomes an excuse for many people to stay stuck in their creative ruts. When faced with the expense of materials or the intricacies of the process, it’s easy to say, “Why bother!”

Creativity, though, has never been about materials. It’s about ideas - specifically about having new ideas that have value, and we don’t need a special kind of paint, or the latest stencils, or that expensive acrylic medium to have these ideas. Actually, limiting ourselves to simple, inexpensive materials is a great way to push our creativity and develop new ideas.

By keeping it simple and keeping things cheap, we can feel more open to playing, experimenting, and trying new things because we don’t feel like we’re wasting our precious materials, and when we open ourselves to the possibilities of exploration and creative play, we can discover new ideas for how to use these materials.

This type of play and openness are the keys to unlocking creativity, not brand new materials and following someone’s recipe for how to use them. Too often, when we shell out big bucks for new materials or new equipment, we feel too much pressure. We might not want to waste our new paint, or we might feel that we won’t make something worthy. It then becomes too easy to make excuses and not push ourselves or our work, and then we shut down our creativity and close ourselves off to the possibilities.

Creativity is a way of thinking and making connections. By wondering, “What if…?” or “What would happen…?” we begin the process of trying different things. We build off our experiences and construct new ideas. It’s hard to do that when we’re worried about messing up and wasting our supplies.

Of course I’m not saying that we should never buy expensive materials or try those complex techniques, but if we develop our creative confidence first, we might find that we are more prepared to handle these new supplies or we may find that we don’t need them at all.

All of the images in this post have been simple, watercolor layering experiments on 6”x8” mixed media paper just to see what would happen. I have no idea where they're going, but I have been having fun with them.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Accidentally on Purpose

I was once a great, big ol' perfectionist. I would spend hours on my art trying to the get the smallest of details just right causing myself a lot of anxiety and grief, and though I have loosened up over the years, I sometimes feel those perfectionist tendencies creep up. A great way to stay loose, is to embrace the imperfections, and one of my favorite things to do is to use my journal as a means to capture unintentional and accidental marks as I work on other pieces of art.

On the page that I started above, I placed 6"x8" papers on the 11"X14" page as I worked on a multitude of smaller works of art. In essence, my journal became my paint table and collected the marks, spatters, and run off as I painted the small papers. Some of us my lay down a drop cloth or a large scrap of paper to keep the table clean, or we may just wipe up any messy paint that happened to get on the table. Instead of doing either of those, I have started a page in my journal with the random and haphazard marks that happen as result of painting to the edge of those smaller works.

This allows me to start and work on the smaller works that I am fond of, but it also allows me to add to my journal without consciously adding to my journal. This technique is not for everyone because it really does take an openness to the process, but I feel that there is a certain beauty in the imperfections that result.

I will continue to add to this page, both consciously and unconsciously, and I can't wait to see where it will lead.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Free Fodder

I'm at it again - giving away stuff. This time, it's a free, hi-res PDF download of Permission and Initiative Prints and Cards that I have worked on recently. I showed a sneak peek of the Permission piece in my Mixed Media Fun post, and shared the images in my Permission and Initiative post.

The image below shows a quick peek at the 5-page document.

The download includes two 8"x10" prints, four 4"x6" cards, and eight 2"x3.5" business-sized cards. The two sheets of 4x6s and 2x3.5s are meant to print back-to-back so that you can have double-sided cards.

So, give yourself the gift of Permission and Initiative. Download the file by clicking here, print them on card stock or photo paper, and have fun.

Hang 'em up, glue 'em in your journal, or laminate 'em so you can always be reminded that you have both permission and initiative to create. You never have to wait around for someone to say so.

You can check out other free downloads that I have on the JFJ site by going here.


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Heroes - David R. Modler

One of my goals for 2015 is to spotlight people who have had an impact on me in some way and who have inspired me and helped move along my path. Some of these heroes I know personally, some I have met briefly, some are internationally known, and some have long left this earth. They are from all walks of life and are from very different backgrounds, but they all have impacted me in some substantial way, and I want to acknowledge and honor them.

It is only right and fitting that I start with my fellow Journal Fodder Junkie, David Modler, for it was he who helped set me on the path I am on now. Without Dave there would be no JFJ, no books, no traveling and presenting, and my art would probably be much, much different.

David and I met over sixteen years ago in the fall of 1998. I had just moved to Leesburg in Northern Virginia to start teaching in Loudoun County Public Schools. We met for the first time at a training session for elementary art teachers, but we were never formally introduced. It was only a couple months later when we met again at an artists’ reception that we were formally introduced, and I was first introduced to the visual journal when I noticed the small, bulging sketchbook that Dave carried. I had no idea then what an impact it would have on my life at the time.

Dave and I quickly became friends, and he introduced me further to his art and to the visual journal. I was deeply impressed with the fact that here was a guy who taught art in the public schools like I did, but he was finding the time to make his own art. Dave was the first art teacher that I had ever met that was also an artist, and that’s exactly what I wanted to do.

Over the first few years of our friendship, David was very much a mentor to me, both as an artist and as an educator, and though it took me a while to find the courage to begin a visual journal, I embraced the process once I did. My art began to radically change under Dave’s influence, and anytime we learned or discovered something new about the visual journal, we eagerly shared it with each other. Even after Dave moved to North Carolina in 2001, it became our habit to exchange journals first thing when we got together. At the time, we were just two artists sharing a passion for art and the excitement of working and learning in a new form. We had no idea where this was all heading.

Things began to take off in 2005, when we teamed up and began presenting together at a couple of art education conferences and officially became the Journal Fodder Junkies. Things expanded when we presented at the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT) on five separate occasions and were able to work with some wonderful North Carolina educators. NCCAT was an amazing experience, and it only happened because of Dave had the opportunity to attend NCCAT as a North Carolina educator. Other presenting and workshops followed at various schools, mostly in North Carolina.

It was during this time that David quit teaching in the public school systems, and went back to school and obtained his MFA. In many ways I felt like I was going back to school with all the discussions that we had about art. Dave shared his grad school experiences with me, and I tried to absorb as much as I could. He talked about the theories he had to read about, the artists he was exploring, the critiques he had, and of course, the art that he was making. All of that got me thinking about my art and my motivations. Once again my art began to radically change as what Dave was sharing with me got me to delve deeper into my work and to question that things that I was doing.

Two books and countless presentations and workshops have followed. We have been fortunate to travel all over the US and to Canada, and Dave has even gotten to travel to Australia. We have met thousands of people and hopefully inspired and motivated a few, and to think that it all started in a computer lab with a group of art teachers more than sixteen years ago.

David is one of my best friends, and I consider him a brother. I am so grateful to have an accomplice like him, and it has been an awesome experience to share the JFJ’s journey with Dave. He has pushed me to grow as a person, as an educator, and as an artist. I look forward to seeing where we go from here.

Thanks, Brother. It was been quite adventure.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

I Want...

As part of shifting my momentum, I have been thinking a lot lately about what I want - what I really want. There have been a couple quotes bumping around in my head.

"Get busy living, or get busy dying." - Shawshank Redemption

"Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life."

I want to live a life full of passion and purpose, making art and sharing with people. I definitely feel that I am on the path. Here's to finding my way.