Karen Abend designs greeting cards, illustrates and creates books, and organizes and hosts the online workshop, Sketchbook Revival , an exploration of daily creativity in community. She recently featured me for her bi-monthly Sketchbook Revival newsletter.
FEATURED ARTIST: JANET LAIRD
I'm delighted to introduce our amazing community member, Janet Laird, from Western Kentucky, USA. Janet grew up in Kansas where she married her high school sweetheart 40 years ago. She's lived in several states as well as Germany and lived in California for 23 years as her husband managed federal recreation areas.
The lovely Janet Laird
Can you tell us about your creative journey?
As a child when the other children were ordering story books through the Scholastic book club, I was ordering the craft books. I would experiment with the inspiring book examples. As a teenager, I would collect quotes that spoke to my soul and would tape them up on the wall to keep me reminded of the inspiration.
I loved making art with my kids and as they got older and moved out, I transformed their rooms into art studios as I shopped in thrift stores for supplies. I continued throughout adulthood to attempt various art techniques that I admired.
After reading Barbara Ganim’s Visual Journaling, I realized I am an expressive artist who can trust and be satisfied with my own creativity. Seena Frost’s SoulCollage was influential to me. I use the IFS (Internal Family Systems) therapy model and use cards to express emotions and parts of myself. After making some photo scrapbooks, I stumbled onto Mixed-Media Girls with Suzi Blu and then it just exploded with Tam’s Life Book adventures and being exposed to so many fabulous mixed artists. So it is not hard for me to see inspiration and exciting ideas/techniques to try. I never run out of ideas. I am drawn to abstract and loose art rather than portraits.
Art Journaling was a perfect fit for me as I delved into psychotherapy expressing words and art together therapeutically. I took the ARTbundance Creativity Coaching program from Marney Makridakas at Artella Land. Then I created my own art curriculum I call, “Art for Insight” to bring deeper meaning and insight for one’s W.R.A.P. (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) which is a self-management plan for health and wellness. I was a W.R.A.P. facilitator for many years and incorporated art in my wellness workshops and presentations at international mental health conferences.
I am energized by modern art museums for inspiration as well as Facebook groups and YouTube videos. I love exploring how the various mediums move and interact with substrates. I never lack for creative ideas to try out. I love anything paper related. I especially love the flow of watercolors.
For several years, I’ve been creating unique, inspirational mixed media, paper art banners with encouraging words similar to fabric prayer flags. I’ve made dozens and dozens of the banners in all colors and mediums.
I also enjoy making handmade books and junk journals using ephemera and painted papers very much. My art making journey has had many different passions along the way.
Handmade Mandala Books
Can you tell us about your creative practice now?
Mandala Period!!! Since November of 2020, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying
making watercolor and ink mandalas on watercolor paper that vary in
size from two inches to roughly six inches across. I was influenced by
Cynthia Hauk at “Mindful Creative Muse” on
YouTube, Louise Withers’ Moodles at “Junk Journals and Mindful Mixed
Media Art” Facebook Group and Amy Maricle at the “Mindful Art” Facebook
Group. I like the organic and loose aspect of my unique mandalas that
have an asymmetrical shape to them, reminiscent of cells. They have
evolved over time. I participated in the 30 days of practice in
Sketchbook Revival and The100Project and just kept going strongly,
making mandalas every day reaching over 1200 little art mandalas at this
time. I find them
meditative and symbolic. I enjoy the mix of colors and shapes. I love
that I can’t do them wrong and each one is very unique. I have made them
into books, cards and collages. What I have not given away or sold, I
have stored in little boxes and tins.
To watch a 7 minute video demonstration of Janet's mandala making process, click the link below.
I especially enjoy making my unique Gratitude and Grieving Garland Kits adding the mandalas on the cover for a meditative element. The tri-fold paper kits have narrow strips of paper inside that can be used to create a garland or paper chain to represent memories of a loved one that has passed or as a gratitude practice. The recipients have been very appreciative of this one of a kind art gesture.
Grieving and Graditude Garland Kits
Could you tell us a little about your creative process?
For my mandalas, I use Brushos watercolor powders and very fine point black ink pens on watercolor paper to make my simple mandala shapes. I sprinkle some Brusho powders in plastic Red Solo shot glasses then spray some water inside to make a puddle of paint color. I paint a rough circle shape in various colors and hit it with the heating tool to dry between layers. Sometimes I use water-soluble markers or fabric dye for the colors.
I make up several color pieces to be drawn in later in the evening as I watch TV with my husband on the couch with my little Yorkie beside me. I use simple black pen shapes to fill in the color pieces such as little rice shapes, straight lines and ovals before cutting them out. They are pretty loose and relaxed with little worry about perfection. I am not bothered by going outside the lines and allow my sometimes shaky hands to be free to move at will. I intuitively follow the waterlines to create one of a kind pieces of art.
I use a gifted Zentangle turntable to have a comfortable angle to work on my gems. I love making little envelopes from atlas pages for my mandala books and cards. Sometimes I use dyed book pages for the envelopes, too.
Mandala Making Supplies
Do you have a dedicated space for making art?
When moving into our present home, my husband suggested that we sleep in a smaller bedroom and use the larger master suite for my art space which has a shelved walk in closet for supplies and a bathroom close by for clean-ups. A few times a day, I sit at my art table that looks out at our six acre forest and create art of various kinds. Seeing the changing of seasons along with the wild animals throughout the forest is calming and pleasant which helps with creativity.
My art studio space
What's been helping you to keep your practice going?
I love taking classes and participating in the many complimentary art summit type experiences online. Every day I receive many emails from artists who I have found through these art offerings that share their classes and techniques and I pick out the ones that speak to me as doable and fun to try. I often purchase classes from these artists as well.
Every day I go into my art room and see what I have left undone or start a new piece that sounds interesting to me. Sometimes my previous night’s dreams influence my creativity. I have lots of materials to choose from and a comfortable space to create in with lots of ideas to try, so there is nothing keeping me from creating art. Having scheduled classes that I am committed to supports my devotion to my craft of daily art making.
I enjoy discovering what I like and what feels satisfying. Growing up, I was not given much choice or asked for my opinion so I didn’t develop that skill of living in my autonomy.
I like to experiment and see what art method feels nourishing in the moment. I don’t have much of an inner art critic. If creating a piece is satisfying, I enjoy it without needing a flawless end product. It is the process of exploration rather than a standard of perfection. As Kiala Givehand talks about in bookmaking, I consider my art experiments as a prototype to practice with and don’t expect a piece to look like one that I have made dozens of times. My art making is for my satisfaction and enjoyment. It is satisfying to hear when it also appeals to others.
Thank you, Janet for taking the time to share your beautiful creative life, passions and process with us. Your free-spirited and joyful approach to creativity is such a wonderful example of wholehearted creative living. Anyone else feeling inspired to create a mandala in Janet's honor?