I love the ideas of using recycled items and I found a kindred spirit in jennibellie from the UK. She has lots of great video tutorials, and I am working on her idea of creating an art journal out of greeting cards. I also want to try making one of her all-in-one travel kits.

Since I was in my Paris state-of-mind, I was pleased when I discovered this Belgium artist, who calls herself France Papillion.
She posts a weekly art journal inspiration each Monday. Her style is more romantic than mine, but I like how she incorporates one word onto her page. Here's a link to her video archives. I also love that she posts in English and French, so I can practice my French reading skills! (I took French in High School and one semester at the community college.)

I also fell in love with deli paper this month. I took Julie Fei-Fan Balzer's online deli paper class.
She also has a free tutorial on stencils. I have found her books and videos at our local library. I really enjoyed learning about carving stamps and would love to own her book: Carve, Stamp and Play...

The Journal Fodder Junkies are offering free online classes through Strathmore in May (definitely want to try our their classes next month)

I have been saving plastic bags from cereal, grains and popped rice cakes and was wondering what I might use them for. Here's a cool tutorial from Gwen Diehn on recycling a chip bag to make a slipcover for a small journal.

Who's inspiring you?

April paints herself with lilac, stark white dotted with yellow and fancy fuchsia.
Spring offers me a vibrant palette to mix with my grief. Loss suddenly interrupts. My flights of fancy to spend "April in Paris" crash to the ground. How will I pick out the good from the bad?

I look around me. I read a story about apricots in Paris, by my mentor, Eric Maisel, through his book, A Writer's Paris. He recounts how he finds himself in a fruit stall choosing apricots, following the lead of a savvy woman who is picking out the good ones from the green ones, the hard ones, the rotten ones. The vendor gestures for her to stop; he can't afford to sell at such good prices, if she only chooses the good.

Maisel stops choosing and just scoops up his apricots for purchase. He captures a metaphor. He likens the scooping to writing and creating:

"In order to create, you must take the bad with the good. You are bound to write many bad paragraphs along with the good ones. That is the eternal law. You can get rid of those bad paragraphs later, but first you must write them. Otherwise you won't write anything."
On my piano, I collect sympathy cards and get-well cards. Sympathy expressed as we mourn the death of my father-in-law. Get well wishes for my husband, who fell and broke his elbow in the midst of the grief. Bad upon bad, it seems. I want to discard the cluttered reminders of our grief.

But I watch a video, and I am inspired to keep them.

To reuse, to revisit and  to repurpose them. To savor the grief.

I let the handwritten messages and handpicked words massage my deadened heart. I will make good out of the bad.

I follow the lead of YouTube artist, jennibellie, who demonstrates how to make an art journal out of greeting cards.
Come back later this week, and I'll share photos of my process and the finished art journal. This was such a meditative way to remember the goodness of life in the midst of hard times and the reality of death and brokenness.
A couple weeks ago, I embarked on my "April in Paris" adventure. I was on a quest to spark and stoke my creative fires.

Soon after this, life took a little detour. My father-in-law "expired" while grocery shopping. (Please note, I am not being disrespectful, this is how his wife of 54 years explained his passing to one of her granddaughters.) His was a life well-lived, true to his wife, a model of servant-hood to his family and fond friend to all who met him.
We are sad to see him leave this world, but are assured he is truly with God now.

On the same weekend that we celebrated his life, my husband took a tumble off the path, which we were strolling along on one of those first balmy days of spring. To catch himself, he landed on his elbow, fracturing it to the point of needing surgery to reattach the bones.

So my leisurely "stroll" through April with Paris in mind came to a halt, sort of.

Since I had set my mind on this way of living, I was on the look out for pockets of time to feed my "inner creative explorer
," even in the midst of stressful circumstances.

In Eric Maisel's A Writer's Paris, he describes a very French way of life called: flanerie, the art of strolling. Paris was engineered in such away that the main city remains  compact and accessible, even though they have their own version of suburban sprawl.

The fair city of St. Louis has experienced this sprawl over the years, and while strolling around downtown may not appeal to some, we do have "arrondissements" for practicing this art, whether its hiking in a county park or ambling along the streets of Central West End or the Delmar Loop.

A person who strolls is called a flaneur. Eric Maisel shares his insight into the purpose of flanerie:

The flaneur is an observer who wanders the streets of a great city on a mission to notice with childlike enjoyment the smallest events and the obscurest sights he encounters.
While my husband waited for a walk-in appointment, I left the hospital for a simple soup and salad lunch. During lunch, I searched the local area on my phone. A favorite bookstore was about a mile away. I had time on my hands, so I decided to stroll up Euclid Ave to Left Bank Books. On my way, I took note of the sights through the "lens" of my smartphone. Here are some of the obscure sights that I cataloged that day.
Five For Future Reference...

1. ihanna's DIY postcard swap ( fun adventure + maybe I'll get a postcard from Paris! + anticipation = something to look forward to)

2. Jeskmom's personal geography lesson (beautiful prose + discovery of self + journal keeper = inspiration)

3. The Blitz Cycle (ingenuity, innovation and inspiration + action = great model for entrepreneurs)

4. The Pie Lab
(Good old-fashioned love in action + pie = awesomeness!)

5. The Documented Life Project (planner+art+journal= all in one place)

Bonus Link: Journal52 (weekly prompts + inspiration + free = more art fun

"Paris is a physical place defined by its beauty and its openness to strolling.  Paris is a place of associations: It moves the mind, stirs the heart and resonates forever. More importantly, Paris is the place you go when you mean to put your creative life first." (A Writer's Paris,Eric Maisel)
Photograph of my art studio, enhanced with Picasa tools (pencil sketch and drop shadow).
Surroundings sway my mood. Today found me lounging around in my pied–à–terre contemplating this month's little adventure, while I enjoyed the relaxed mood of lazy, rainy Monday.

In my art studio, surrounded with supplies, tools and inspiration, I can find peace and energy in the same space. Recently, I converted my 19th century settee into a daybed of sorts. It actually is a precursor to the hide-a-bed couches we have today. I recycled some memory foam to give me a comfy place to stretch out; it has become my thinking couch and my blogging spot.

At first, I wasn't going to allow our cat to share my perch. (She tends to claim my sitting areas!) But today, I found her curled up next to my scattered art supplies. So, I let her be. Here she is preening herself. Lovely!

"Paris has served as muse to generations of artists, even to those who have never visited her. Paris feeds an artist, motivates her, galvanizes her, and makes her murmur, "This is my home." (Eric Maisel)
Where do you find yourself most at home? What type of surroundings cause your created self to flourish?

I leave you with a question from Eric Maisel in A Writer's Paris:
"What might it mean to your creative life if you included, as part of your education . . . a risky experience like running off to Paris...?"
Storming into the year, April has announced her arrival. March tramped along quite briskly, and I am stunned by the fierce beauty of April. Celebrating life and lamenting loss at the same time. Longing for the fullness of February's love and days filled with art making. (28 Days of Being YOU!)

In my quest to remain creatively engaged this year, I discovered two weekly creative prompts to document and explore life...The Documented Life Project and Journal52.
I create to keep me primed and inspired. I am a writer-teacher-artist. So I want to impart knowledge and inspire others to make art, too. It's in me to generate ideas and write words. To follow the Creator into creative pursuits, as part of living out of my true created self.

As I gaze through April's portal and into the following months: May, June, July and August (favorites for certain) and the mellowing of autumn and the certain arrival once again of lumbering winter, I wonder what lies ahead for the rest of this year.

I have always wanted to visit Paris. The city that's made of writers' and artists' dreams. A retreat to Paris is the stuff of my imagination. I would rent a pied-a-terre (a small living unit, as a secondary residence) overlooking the Siene. I would bring blank journals and a few art supplies to sketch, paint, draw and write about my days in the fair city. I would drink cafe au lait every morning with a croissant and jam. I would rent a bike for transport, surveying all the sites and back alleyways; off the beaten path.

But alas, this is only a daydream.

Yet, I have my imagination and all the creative stash a person could want . . . so why not create my own "April in Paris" right here in my own fair city, St, Louie!

Yes! I already have my own little room, my studio with the view of Paris on my storage closet, French music and cafe au lait. Maybe I could learn to make croissants from scratch. I will be transported through my journal and pen, various art supplies and Eric Maisel's A Writer's Paris: A Guided Journey for the Creative Soul. (Who knows I may even discover some new French roots right here in St. Louis.)

I hope you will join me. Choose your own city, your own creative place that evokes daring adventures in your soul. Pick up your journal and pen, and a few art supplies if you so wish.

Leave me a comment to let me know how you plan to spend April in pursuit of you
r true created self! Bon voyage!

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