Wednesday, July 27, 2011

BRAND NEW! The Tiny Book of Memories PDF Class

It's finally here!  This is a project near and dear to me that I've been working on so very hard over the last few weeks, and I'm so excited that I can finally share it with you!!

 The Tiny Book of Memories
A 35 Page PDF Class for All Levels
By Tessa McSorley of

This class is all about nostalgia and memories. It will bring back those happy moments on the back porch at your grandparents' house, catching fireflies in the crisp summer air. You will take out your paints and your favorite writing pen, and together we will create a new memory by making this simple keepsake book from scratch. We'll fill the pages with art and writing all inspired by the past while you work at your own pace using inexpensive materials that you most likely already have on hand. Let loose, have fun, and let's create something special together!

We will be creating the front and back cover of the book plus 13 interior pages in this class, and we will put it all together using a very simple binding method.

I hope some of you will join my new class!  It's not a live online class, just an informative, photo-filled PDF that you can print out and work on at your leisure.  I have also set up a private Flickr group so that everyone can share their work, and you can comment on your classmates' pieces as well.  I can't wait to see you there...

Click here to my Etsy shop where you can find out more and purchase the PDF (it's only $10.00!!).

Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Artist Interview: Amy from Fate-Filled Times

I met Amy in May of this year on Prince Edward Island in Canada.  We were there to attend a workshop taught by one of our favorite artists, Sabrina Ward Harrison, and our time on the island was beyond magical.  Amy is kind, creative, and full of positive energy.  She is simply a joy to be around, and I think you will be inspired by her artistic journey and her words found below...  Visit her blog, Fate-Filled Times, for more of her lovely writing and inspiration.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. 
My name is Amy, and I live in Toronto. I'm a registered social worker, currently working with children and youth at a prominent Canadian performing arts school. My two passions are people and art/expression. I truly believe we are all artists.  

How do you express yourself creatively?

I struggled with my own identity as an artist growing up because I was surrounded by talented fine artists. When I was very little, my father learned how to make stained glass windows, which my dear mother ended up picking up as a lifelong hobby. My father moved on to refurbishing and rebuilding antique cars. My brother inherited my mother's artistic skill of sketching and painting. He also picked up the art of making stained glass windows along with handmade wooden frames. Lately, he has been working with found objects. Being surrounded by people with obvious, undeniable artistic skill, shaped my idea of what an artist was. Until my 20's, I sure didn't see myself as one.

In my early years of university, I found my inspiration in the books of SARK (Succulent Wild Woman, 1997) and Sabrina Ward Harrison (Spilling Open, 2000). I started to see how I could use my personal expression (I've kept journals since grade 4) and blend it with collage and paint in a way that was messy, honest, raw and focusing on the power of connection between people. I started to see how I could be an artist, too! 

In reading the works of SARK and Sabrina, the power of connection between writer (artist) and reader is such a strong and moving force. This is evident when you look at how many books these lovelies have published and the grand following they have of other sensitive souls seeking connection. After reading my first SARK book, I set out to make my own book. That first book turned into close to ten books that span over a decade.   

I express myself mostly through journaling and then I tend to build the collage around it. Sometimes I start with the collage or the paint and then work the words into it. I work in vintage journals and on canvas. I have many art bins that are overflowing with scraps of paper, ribbon, lace, paints, vintage wallpaper & wrapping paper. I usually throw a quilt on the floor, grab a bin and just start ripping up papers and gluing them to the page. I never really know what kind of images will spill from me in these sessions, but I consistently find myself in a meditative space when I explore my creativity in this way. It is a quiet and peaceful time. 

Where do you find your inspiration?
I find that art is usually a necessity for me. If I am going through something difficult or I feel "off" and I'm not sure why, I know I need to express myself. It helps me to cleanse myself of the pent up feelings. As a sensitive person, it is easy for feelings to get trapped in me. This leads to ruminating, stressing, feeling guilty, jealous, frustrated and sad. In order to get these toxic feelings and thoughts out of me, and in order to pinpoint what I am feeling, I write and I create. It is all a part of my healing journey.

What are some of your creative goals and aspirations for the future?

My passion is to blend social work and art. I would like to be able to help people help themselves through their own creative expression. I would to eventually be an expressive arts therapist.

What do you consider to be bad art? What is good art? 

All art is expression and therefore, in my opinion, is good. Whether or not a person likes a piece of art is subjective. What I want to hang on my walls is probably not what you want to hang on your walls. I can appreciate all art, but the art I like the best is the stuff I want to hang on my walls.

What completed creative project are you most proud of in your life so far?  

I am most proud of my Master of Social Work thesis paper which was completed in 2009 at Ryerson University. It is titled Expressive Arts as Holistic Healing: My Journey. I wrote about art and healing based on my own journals and connected it to current research. It was the first time I really exposed pages of my journals to the public. I realized in writing it that art can be used as an effective tool for healing, not just for me, but for others too.  

Name a few creative individuals you admire and explain why. 

As noted, I adore:

Sabrina Ward Harrison, master of photography, collage, emotional honesty...and embodying an artistic life:

SARK, master of self-esteem, self-love and living juicy:

I am also very excited to explore a new book by Pia Jane Bijkerk called My Heart Wanders:
I love these women because they have successfully blended their very personal and raw experiences and feelings with artistic expression. They make a living by embracing the bumps along their paths of life and also diving into the spontaneous moments of life that offer insight, laughter and inspiration. They share with the world their internal dialogue. This allows the reader to feel they are a part of the author's personal and revealing world, sharing their secret thoughts and feelings. When the reader feels those moments of connection, there is a wonderful realization that she is not so alone in the world. 

What are some of your current obsessions? (Art, craft, musical, or completely random.) 

My current obsession is homemade iced tea. I have a fancy steeping pot ( for loose leaf tea, which makes it super fun! My current favourite teas for iced tea are Midsummer Night's Dream ( and Northern Lights (

Any non-Canadians can order from David's Tea online ( They happily ship internationally.

Do you collect anything?

I collect everything! Rocks and crystals, jewellery, tea, art, vintage dishes, pottery mugs, bits and pieces for crafting/art making and dresses.

Recommend some inspiring books/websites/music/movies to us... 

Books: Currently reading the Artist's Way by Julia Cameron for the first time! Thanks to the recommendation from friends I met on our PEI adventure workshop with Sabrina Ward Harrison. You can read about the adventure here (

I am excited about:
For a good laugh, I love Regretsy: 

Music: Forever and always, I will love and support my favourite Canadian band, The Be Good Tanyas! Also, check out Frazey Ford's solo album Obadiah (, and all of Jolie Holland's ( solo albums. These ladies are divine. 

My So Called Life (the tv series from the 1990's)

Do you have any advice you could offer to someone who wants to start expressing themselves creatively but doesn't know where to begin? 

"A work of art is good if it has risen out of necessity.” - Rilke

You want to express but you don't know where to start? Start anywhere! Grab a journal (and a pen) or a canvas (and some paint) and start playing. When using paints, I usually use my fingers rather than brushes. When writing, I often compile lists. Start with the basics! Just try to enjoy yourself and don't over think what you are doing.

Use your life as the base to your art. It is important to begin with what you love and grow into other new artistic areas. Don't make it overly confusing or technical.

Make sure to create an artistic space. This might include a certain type of music, or even silence. It might occur during a certain part of the day, maybe at home, or maybe on public transit. It is wise to keep a small journal handy in your bag or save notes on your phone. I find many ideas spring to mind when I am on the go. As much as we all want an art room, for many of us it is not realistic. Use what you have! A local park bench or cafe are great spaces most people can access. 

Also, don't try too hard to make art for others. I find this leads to perfectionist tendencies, which are usually not helpful. Create for your own enjoyment... or think like Rilke and create because you need to...and see where it leads you. 

An excellent book for creative inspiration is Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke. 


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Dreaming of Art

Do you dream in color?  I know I do...

Lately, I've found myself dreaming of art - for example, last night, I was in a Glee-style duet with one of my favorite artists, and today I wake up to find out I will be able to meet that same artist in person at an event I am going to in a few months! Maybe next I will dream up some winning lottery numbers...

My favorite type of art dreams are the ones that involve actual art pieces in them.  Since they are my dreams, I know I am the one who came up with some of the great art I've seen in dreams.  One of my favorite dreams was going to a store full of art that I had made in the future.  It was full of portrait paintings, finished sketchbooks, collages, refinished artsy furniture, and more!  So much fun and so visually stunning.  I wish I'd written down more about it when I woke up so that I'd remember it better.  And I wish I'd sketched out some of those dreamy future artworks!

Here's a little creative art/writing prompt for you!  Keep your journal close to your bed, and write down your dreams as soon as you wake up.  The sooner, the better, or else you might forget them!  If your dream ended abruptly, write down what you think would happen next…  Sketch out a few of the scenes in your dream to the best of your ability.  Don't worry too much if the drawings don't look perfect, just get something down for prosperity's sake!

I took the photo above using an app for my cell phone that lets you do two exposures in one frame - a little digital lomography!  It's a photo of my living room and my bedroom in one.  So much fun...

Monday, July 18, 2011

Art Movies Galore

Need some inspiration?  Time to put on an art movie...  Here are a few of my favorites from my collection:

*Art 21: This is a great series by PBS that follows some wonderful contemporary artists, sharing their art making process and describing the artists' motivations behind their work in their own words.  I have seasons 1 & 2 (They are sold together.) and can't stop watching the Margaret Kilgallen segment - she made such amazing art!

*Art City: Another documentary similar to Art 21.  I'm obsessed with the Lari Pittman and Elizabeth Peyton segments on this on!

*Beautiful Losers: A fun documentary focusing on Street Art and the DIY Movement in the early 1990's.  Features artists like Barry McGee, Margaret Kilgallen, Shephard Fairey, and many more.

*Exit Through the Gift Shop: I'm sure you've heard a lot about the Oscar Nominated Banksy film...if you haven't seen it yet, now's the time!

*Who the #$&% is Jackson Pollock?: A woman buys a painting for $5 as a joke gift to her friend...turns out if could be a Jackson Pollock painting.  Watch as they attempt to authenticate the work and decide if it is authentic to the artist.

*My Kid Could Paint That: Another mysterious documentary: a child art prodigy creates amazing works of art, but it's hard to capture her actually making them on videotape.  Is she painting all by herself, or does she have a little too much guidance from dad?

*Born into Brothels: A beautiful documentary about children living in Calcutta's red light district who are taught to create photographs as art by an American photographer.  Inspiring and touching.

*Art School Confidential: A hilarious depiction of art school that you have to see if you went to art school or have ever thought about going to art school.  I love the critique scenes...

Not in the mood for a movie?  Here are a few bits of inspiration and how-to's that I found on the web:

*The Jealous Curator:  Great collection of art that makes you wish you had come up with those art ideas first!

*Making a Doll Face: Wonderful tutorial by Paola Zakimi.  I love her art! 

*Crackle Finish with Elmer's Glue: Another fun tutorial.  I love using crackle finish on things...

Hope your day is a creative one!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

How to Get Out of an Art Funk

I think I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, and before I knew it, I had spent the entire morning watching talk shows (ugh!) and not doing anything productive/creative/useful… 

I know I will feel better if I just started working on a painting or a drawing, but sometimes I get into an “art funk.”  It’s that feeling you get when you want to make something, but taking that first step is just so HARD.  Sometimes you feel like starting a piece of creative work would be like climbing a mountain.  Maybe it’s been a while (Weeks? Months? Years?) since you’ve drawn or painted, and you need a little help getting back into it.  Maybe you saw some artwork that blew you away, and instead of finding inspiration in that, you feel like your art doesn’t measure up.  Maybe for some reason, your inner critic just won’t shut up today.  Or maybe you’re like me, and you just woke up in a funk for no particular reason.  What are some things you can do to break out of the art funk?  Below are a few tricks I’ve used over the years.  Leave a comment and tell me some of your tricks!

Take Photographs: Often, taking photographs will reawaken my sense of composition and color, making me want to get back into the studio when I’m done.  Not sure what to photograph?  Try just documenting your life and taking some photos of where you live, the people around you, your pets, or even of yourself.  When we are little kids, our parents often fill album after album documenting our cuteness, but once all of our adult teeth start to grow in (dare I say, when we lose some of our cuteness), the cameras get put away, coming out less and less every year.  I’ll bet it’s been a while since someone made an entire photo album documenting your life nowadays, so why not start one today?  It might also give you the jumpstart you need to start creating again, and the photos themselves can be seen as art.   
Extra Tip: Bored with your camera?  Download some fun apps onto your phone that will make even your camera phone an artistic photography tool.  Try doing a search for, “Top Photo Apps for (Android/iPhone)” and see where it takes you.

Paint Something a Solid Color: Now’s the time to bust out that furniture repainting project you’ve been meaning to do, or maybe you could prime some canvases…  You might find that by keeping things simple and easy and not over thinking anything, you will slowly become comfortable with the feeling of a brush in your hands again.  Next thing you know, you might end up back in the studio.

Start with a Silhouette: Not feeling confident enough to draw and paint?  Again, try keeping things really simple by leaving out the details and starting with a silhouette.  You can do this by tracing the outlines of a person’s body or profile onto some tracing paper.  Now fill in those outlines with a sharpie, and you’ve got a finished piece of art.  Keep doing this until you feel a bit more confident, then leave the tracing paper behind.

Flush Away the Negativity: Write down all those negative thoughts that say you can’t or shouldn’t make art.  Now flush them down the toilet.  Literally.  When I was in college, one of my professors pulled me aside into her office and sat me down to tell me I should never draw again, not ever.  She said I was so bad at it, and I’d never be good at it, so I should just give up.  I was nineteen.  I was crushed, and for the next few years, I took her advice and made art with found photographs because I was too scared to make any imagery of my own. I didn’t feel comfortable drawing at all until I found an awesome new professor a few years later in the drawing department who encouraged me with her positivity and her fun assignments.  Even though it’s been ten years since that bad professor told me to stop drawing, I still hear her words sometimes when I bring out my drawing supplies.  It’s important to acknowledge those negative voices, so sometimes I journal about the negative things to get them onto paper and out of my head.  It’s also an important skill to be able to reshape that negative energy into something else.  For example, when I think of that bad professor, I often push her words out of my head by thinking of my positive drawing experiences in the good drawing professor’s class.  Maybe a similar mindset will work for you.

Kick Procrastination in the Butt:  For me, procrastination can be a huge enemy.  The best time to do something is NOW.  Get off the computer and into your sketchbook, even if the drawings will come out bad for a while.  You can always paint over the ones you don’t like later…it’s fun painting things a solid color, right? Don't think, just make...

Writing When You “Should” Be Drawing: When you’re ready to start a new page in your sketchbook, but you don’t know where to begin, use stream of consciousness writing to decide what to work on, writing directly on the page you wish to draw on.  Write until you come up with your subject matter, then leave the writing there and use it as a background for the image you will draw.

Start a Drawing Progress Log: Often, our drawing abilities become better and better, but we don’t see it happening, so start a sketchbook today that will be dedicated to your drawing progress.  Choose three photos of people you admire.  Maybe you could pick one author, one artist, and one musician…  Spend five minutes drawing a portrait of these people every day for a month (it’s ok if you skip some days!).  It’s fun to look back at your drawings and see how far you’ve come.  The photo above is a picture I drew of author Charles Bukowski, and below is the same picture drawn a few days later.  The sketch improved a little bit, and the page layout definitely got more interesting!

Did none of these things work?  Sometimes it’s best to ride out the funk and indulge yourself in some non-art related de-funking activities: 

Bake a Cake: The act of making something, anything, can be really satisfying.

Go for a Walk Outside: Gets your body moving and often gets your brain going too.

Try Something New: Go to a new store, restaurant, or someplace you’ve never been before.  This will not only get you out of the house, but it also exposes you to something new, and who knows what will come of that?

Do Something Nice for Someone Else: This is guaranteed to give you some good feelings and good karma too.

Read a Good Book: Great for getting your imagination going and for getting lost in a storyline other than your own.

Watch a Funny Movie: Nothing dilutes a funk quite like laughter…

Put on Upbeat Music: Turn off Radiohead, and put on The Donnas.

Rearrange Your Space: Even if it’s just rearranging your desk, it’s fun to shake things up sometimes.

Good luck getting out of your funk!  I think I will take my own advice and take some pictures for this blog post now…

Monday, July 11, 2011

Artist Interview: Lauren Faulkenberry

I met Lauren Faulkenberry a year ago while she was assisting Steve Miller's class at Penland School of Crafts.  Not only is Lauren one of the nicest people you'll ever meet, but she is also an amazingly talented artist and writer.  We share a mutual love of all things paper and book related.  I hope you will enjoy reading her insightful thoughts about art, printmaking, and artist's books. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.

I'm a printmaker, writer, and book artist. Lately I've been fairly obsessed with the fragmented nature of memory-how we remember things so differently from other people, and how we remember the same events differently at different points in our lives. And how certain patterns develop in our lives. I've also been pretty fascinated by the nature of romantic relationships, so lots of my books can be boiled down to how love can shape us--build us and rip us apart. My site:

For those of us that do not know, what is letterpress?

Letterpress basically refers to a certain kind of printmaking, which uses partially mechanized presses that have a bed that holds metal type, woodblocks, linoleum blocks, and other such things that are "type high". That "height" is the height of metal type, which was commonly used in these presses. The most popular of these presses are the Vandercook and the Chandler & Price--both of which were first introduced in the early 1900s. Paul Moxon maintains an excellent site devoted to info on the Vandercooks at

You are currently doing a "Kickstarter Project." Can you explain what is and tell us a little bit about the project you have proposed?

Kickstarter is this amazing site that essentially allows people to invest in a creative project in its early stages. Artists propose a project, set a budget, and from there it's an all-or-nothing endeavor. If you reach your goal by the deadline, you get all of the money you raised, minus a small cut for Kickstarter and Amazon. If you do not reach your goal, no money changes hands. This is great because it doesn't force the artist to create something sub-par in order to fulfill obligations to a project that was not funded enough to allow the artist to create what she envisioned to the level of quality that full funding would allow.

My project focuses on sites in the Southwest that were once in ruins and were then salvaged and restored in order to benefit the community. I was really moved when I visited a couple of these sites in the past--one example is the Jingu Tea Gardens in San Antonio. The site was once a limestone quarry, and when the company went out of business in the 1920s, there was this ugly gaping hole in the city. It sat there for years until the city hired a Japanese architect to transform the site into the incredible botanical garden that exists today. The whole story is quite poignant, but it's a beautify example of redemption and innovation. In short, I find stories like this to be a testament to the creative spirit, and a reminder of how we can evoke positive change in the world and add meaning to our own lives and those of others. My book, which will be an editioned artist's book, will focus on such sites and document what I learn and experience by visiting them.

You can view Lauren's Kickstarter Project here: Not Just Another Roadside Attraction: A Letterpress Book.  Check out the awesome perks you can get by supporting her project!

What makes a book an artist's book?

This is widely argued, and my definition is fairly broad. For me, it's any book that is intensely personal to the maker--it's handmade, not mass-produced, and comes from the heart. It's not edited by someone who's concerned about its marketability. It exists like any piece of art does, and records a personal experience or reaction.

Where do you find your inspiration?

I'm often inspired by nature, but I'm fascinated by people--they way we behave, the way we treat each other, the bizarre things we do. Combine that with my love of archaeology and mythology, and the obsession with patterns in behavior over time, and I've got an endless well. As a writer, I've always been drawn to unusual metaphor, so my most recent work has compared human behavior to certain bird behaviors--as compared to romantic encounters, of course!

What are some of your creative goals and aspirations for the future?

Someone just asked me where I'd like to be in ten years. I said "lying on a beach working on my next best-seller." I'd love to just make books all day--write novels, write stories, make artist's books, and be smeared in ink all the time. I'd love to be able to support myself by doing what I love.

What do you consider to be bad art? What is good art?

I try not to classify things as "bad" art. There is certainly art out there that leaves me cold, that I do not find insightful or inspiring. And there are definitely varying levels of craft, and effort, construction and insight. The art that I remember most is timeless. It's moving to the viewer, and it's insightful, and it's meaningful. It surprises me, and leaves me thinking and wondering about it. It makes me see something about the world in a new light. It stays with me long after I've seen it.

What completed creative project are you most proud of in your life so far?

This book called "The Heart Wants What it Wants" is probably my favorite. It was a real challenge to make the materials (and the presses!) do what I wanted, but the book is a series of three 18 x 24 woodcuts that fold down to a 6 x 6 size. It incorporates the myth surrounding the Greek Furies, and it incorporates excerpts from a short story I wrote. It's about some of my favorite obsessions--love, heartache, loss, and redemption--and is a wild little book that looks fairly tame on the outside.

"The Heart Wants What it Wants"  (set of three books and clamshell case).
Letterpress printed with reduction woodcuts and photopolymer plates, with volumes titled Smolder, Galvanize, and Devour. With a structure similar to a map fold, each book is printed on a single 18" x 24" sheet that collapses to 6" x 6". 
Edition of 70. 2010.

Name a few creative individuals you admire and explain why.

There are so many! Mary Ann Sampson, the book artist--she makes incredible artist's books and sculptural books. Gaylord Schanelic does amazing wood engravings. Douglas Dowd is a fantastic printmaker that has this bold graphic style that I love. Julie Orringer is one of my favorite writers--she's funny and poignant and brilliant all at the same time. Same goes for Nanci Kincaid. I love Neil Gaiman for his wild stories--I'd have to say the same for Alan Ball and JJ Abrams. Also Audrey Niffenegger, who was a book artist before she was a best-selling author. If I could get them all to come to a dinner party, along with Hugh Jackman, I would be deliriously happy.

What are some of your current obsessions? (Art, craft, musical, or completely random.)

Okay, I'll show my hand. I can't stop listening to Amy Winehouse. I have a real weakness for Al Green. I can't stop watching True Blood and the Glades. Wonderfalls is my most favorite show of all time. I just went to New Orleans and saw the world's only voodoo museum--I've always been fascinated by voodoo and Marie Leaveau, and now I can't stop thinking about it. I even bought some gris-gris and put it under my bed. And then I got inspired by this idea of scandalous women in history and started a blog called "No Wallflowers Allowed."

Do you collect anything?

I've got a deep love of cowboy boots. I collect prints from my friends and artists I admire.

Thanks, Lauren!