Thursday, December 20, 2012

Time to Heal

This top image is perhaps one of the most powerful and beautiful journal pages that I have made in quite some time, possibly all year. It is certainly the most important for me. This last year and a half of dealing with the combined effects of Adrenal Fatigue, Hypothyroid, painful and limiting Plantar Fasciitis, as well as a move and many other life questions and uncertainties has been a hard road.

I have found that these issues have featured in my work prominently over the last couple of years. When my journalling relates to my health and my body, it falls into one of two categories, pain or healing. There are the "I'm so frustrated, when is this gonna get better" pages, but lately a new kind of grace has entered my work. Gratitude, acceptance and healing. It can be a long road to recovery, but what has changed most for me is my appreciation of this time. No longer angry and frustrated I am starting to see the gifts that being unwell has given me. It far outweighs the pain and frustration. Murkiness and stuckness begin to clear and with limitations comes new intentions. I hope you are all having a wonderful holiday season and that we can all be grateful for where we are, no matter what it looks like!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Where I Work

This is where I work, seek refuge and find inspiration. This photo is of my well used cutting station, where I crop photos and cut pages for making books. Above is a pin board filled with photos of friends, family, and tidbits of inspiration.

 Another, larger pin board that at the moment holds my collection of all things piratey and of the sea! I love looking up and being inspired by the beautiful art of others.
This is where the journaling happens! I sew here as well as paint and collage in my books. On the opposite wall is wire shelving and across the room there is more studio space. It's a peaceful place for me and I am grateful to have this expanded space to work in!

Monday, December 3, 2012

I'm back from a wonderful Birthday weekend celebration! We headed to Denver for the weekend to cram in as many fun things as I could think of.

This birthday included a stop at the Holiday Handmade Craft Fair, yummy food, fun shops, a matinee of The Nutcracker, and the cherry on top of the whole shebang, strolling with hot cider in hand to see the Denver Zoolights. This is just a glimpse of what was a truly full and magically unforgettable weekend!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Fall NME

Here's a little of where I've been and what I've been up to. I swear, if it weren't for my NME journal I would forget all that I have done and accomplished. It's blank pages, staring at me daily hold me accountable, and my completed pages remind me that I am not frittering my days away, but rather that something is getting done. I SWEAR by this process created by Gina Armfield, it had added so much to my daily life in the form of life record as well as creative testing ground. If you haven't listened to me yet, NOW is a great time to start. The BEST time. Gina's 2013 program is ready to download and there is plenty  of time to get your book set up. Which is such a fun process!
Chad and I recently celebrated our 10 year wedding nniversary. So lucky and so proud!

Halloween. We went as Suzy Bishop and Sam Shakusky from Moonrise Kingdom of course!

Friday, August 31, 2012

A Little Bit of Birding...

I've been dabbling in Gina Armfield's Creativity in Flight watercolor class as of late. Here's a little example of how the image starts as a simple sketch and then gets layered with paint. This pice isn't quite done yet, I plan on adding some journaling to the background. It's super fun and relaxing. I hope to get in some more paintings while on vacation in Hawaii soon!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

It's Been a Wes Anderson Sort of Summer

It's Been a Wes Anderson sort of Summer. Here are some recent pages from my NME journal. The top spread I did after I saw Moonrise Kingdom and had the inexplicable urge to draw each of the characters. Now I have the same desire to illustrate all the characters from each of his films. I attribute this to Scott C. Campbell who draws brilliant showdowns of movie heroes and villains. I am waiting for his rendition from the movie, which SURELY will come. I am deeply in love with Scott's book Amazing Anything, and I'm chompin' at the bit for his next release, The Great Showdowns.

 The bottom spread is a sort of tribute to The Royal Tenenbaums and Moonrise Kingdom. In typical Wes fashion I slammed the title over the images in Futura. There are general tidbits and things that remind me of MK and TRT. The lighthouse card on the left is by artist Becca Stadtlander and found a comfy spot on the page. For more info on the NME process, take a look here, and there is a cool video of it here as well.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Wild Contradictions

Has anyone read the book Steal Like an Artist, by Austin Kleon? If you haven't yet, give it a try. It is  one of those books that gives you permission to be just who you are as an artist. And that involves "stealing" from other artists. Not in a plagiaristic, copy-cat, I don't have any ideas of my own kind of way. Rather in an I'm influenced by many things, many artists, and genres all thrown in a blender sort of way. I love the concept of embracing our wild contradictions as people and artists. It is what makes us interesting as humans, though we often fight our divergences and contradictions as flaws.

After obsessing over Wes Anderson this week (after watching Moonrise kingdom twice, and re-watching The Royal Tenenbaums at the Boulder Outdoor Cinema (outdoor flicks are a deep love of mine), I can see how well he exemplifies this principle. His influences are wide and varied, familiar and obscure, intellectual yet nostalgic. We don't often see them coming even when they are pretty straightforward. All this input goes through some sort of Wes filter and comes out utterly unique to his vision. That was my big takeaway from Steal Like an Artist. That it's okay to have influences and to emulate, because whatever we do with authenticity is utterly marked by ourselves. Liberating isn't it? What if we tried embracing every flaw, contradiction, inspiration within us and worked really hard, imagine what we could create?

Needless to say, there are several other huge, eye opening ideas in Steal Like an Artist. I think I could read this book every week just to absorb it deeply enough to live it. If you are interested in some Wes Anderson influences, take a look here. Feel free to comment on this post, let me know who's out there!

Sunday, July 15, 2012


I recently saw a sculpture by an incredible local potter of a woman floating over a seal. I took my breath away. The figure was hovering above, supported and protected in a way by the seal. It was called Unsinkable. I can't tell you how meaningful that was for me. It is an image that I haven't been able to get out of my head and I knew there would be a journal page in it. I like this page a lot. The figure isn't perfect, but there will be chances to work on this idea more. I love stories of selkies, and I identify with seals (and otters) for their playfulness. They remind me of who I want to be and how I want to live.

 I created both of these pages in Juliana Coles' Altered States workshop. This page was a bit of a surprise for me. I was trying to do the assignment, but this page really evolved on it's own. It really became about the loss of my first home a year ago. I know it sounds silly, I live in a really great home in Boulder. There is so much that I love about it, my studio, the space, the deer that wander through my backyard. As a girl who moved around a lot growing up I've never really felt rooted, or like any place was really my own. Even when I moved to LA it was temporary, for grad school. I knew I couldn't stay there long term. Moving to Colorado was for me, for us, and my little house in Old Town Longmont was so me. Everything I always wanted. But life moves forward, and as much as I resisted, so did I. I wasn't ready to let go and move on, but the timing was right and we did it. I still mourned the loss of that home like it was a person, a part of me. And it was.

After that, things came to a head. My foot, my health, I felt like my whole life was unraveling. Where I'd felt rooted before, I began to feel untethered and unattached to where I was. Now I understand that while these feelings were valid, they were also symptomatic of what my overtaxed body was dealing with. But I get that this is a healing house. The place where I am learning my limits and am forced to change. And one little change opens up a world of options. My life is here now, but there is no telling where it will end up. Will we make our way back to the sea, closer to friends and family one day? I hope so. But there is no way to see that when you are in a warm cocoon with your eyes closed. I feel a bit like the phoenix rising from the ashes of destruction. A dramatic comparison for sure, but how can we get where we're going without a catalyst?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Altered States

I'm currently signed up for Juliana Coles' online class, Altered States. First we choose a book and then go through a process of adding various tabs to connect us with our books, make it our own, but mostly it's just a lot of fun. I took this class when it debuted and had so much fun prepping the journal and started the assignments but didn't finish. So I'm back for more. I thought I would just work in my earlier book, but the the tabs were so fun I had to make another. This book really isn't anything special, I obsessed over which one to use, and then found this one at the library and just love the size, 7" x 9 3/4". It just felt right. There was no imagery to be attached too, only these cool, bold, retro chapter numbers. When adding tabs today I realized that there are 34 chapters, which is also my age. If I had known this before I would have probably tried to keep all the numbers and plan it out to make it perfect. It's so much better this way. But now my book feels potent, and I guess Juliana was right, I chose it, or it chose me for a reason.

I somehow whittled down a rather large collection of tags, tabs, papers, and misc crap to what you see here. Old crusty things mixed with bright shiny things. But my favorite just may be the old box of 4th of july poppers. There are plenty more bits and bobs in this book that will be fun to share once I get to journaling in it!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Pirate Friday

I stumbled upon this artist and I just love everything about her work. Obviously I am drawn to the particularly nautical and piratical ones, but they all are amazing. I have a weakness for illustrations of tattoos. Not sure why, but there's something about it that gets me every time. The style of these dance somewhere between tattoo and embroidery, which is a beautiful combo. For me, these pieces, like the tattooed body are full of stories and symbols. Some symbols may resonate, some may not, but collected there is a story, a body map. I've always had a thing for americana/pinup tattoos, and have know for a while that if I ever made the leap, it would be a pirate pinup for me. But look at that mermaid skeleton! Maybe one for each arm? You can see more of Liz Clement's work here and here. if you are inclined to order a print from her, (which I am!) you can do that here as well.

And the nesting doll, really?!! Two of my favorite things, combined. love it.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Pirate Friday

I have a tiny book that is handmade by Tracy Moore which hangs on a cord to wear around my neck. It is made of metal and leather and was a very special gift to myself a couple of years ago. When I got it, I knew I needed to do something special with it, so I decided to collect drawings in it. When I meet an artist, or take their class I try to get a drawing from them. The top image is probably my favorite spread. The one on the right was done by friend and fellow pirate Juliana Coles, while Miss Mindy did the one on the left. She knows I'm a pirate girl and the personalness of her drawing really touched me. This book is a bit of my pirate treasure for sure!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Over the Weekend

Photo above: My hubs, occasional guest star / model for this blog. Photo below: Aforementioned Polaroids taken with my SX-70 Land Camera using expired film. Yummy!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A little bit of Summer

Is it really Summer already? I still feel stuck in Spring, but clearly that's come and gone. Here are a few pics from my start of summer. Chad finally got to drive his vintage truck last weekend. I thought I had to compete with fly fishing, but I can see this is to be a whole new love affair. Been playing with polaroids and expired film, I'll share those pics later.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Pirate Friday

A few years ago, I was blessed to embark on an experience that changed my life completely. I attended a School of the Sea, Piratical art retreat hosted and taught by now dear friends, Lou Ann Granger and Juliana Coles. At the southernmost point of Florida, I met my soul sisters Captain Morgan La Fey, First Mate Falcon La Grange, Fearless Iron Gem, Pinky La Rouge, and Juana La Loca. We lost Juana La Loca only a few months later, and Alvida Black Viper joined our crew and filled a void that was so deeply felt. These women are my Brethren, know me, and just get it. It was at this retreat that I recognized that I was an artist who had abandoned her art, and not long after that, I accepted my fate and left my day job to figure it all out. I am Quartermaster Jessie Starling, the namesake of this blog where I helm me ship and sail open waters.

I am a pirate, it's true. A pirate for love, life, and art. It is possible that my love of all things pirate and of the sea would wane after that trip in 2009, but as the friendships and artwork grow deeper, so does my pirate soul. The extension of this is of course, pirate art and a healthy obsession with all things skallywag. I stumbled upon a blog that celebrates Pirate Fridays with piratical blog posts. In true pirate form, I decided to commandeer the idea for me own!

Here are some new journal pages, the first is about the Devil Whale. Pirates are lured to it and embark upon it thinking it is an island. Once they realize their mistake, the Devil Whale takes them down. This got me thinking about being capsized, and the truth is, sometimes we have to sink in order to sail. Sometimes the pieces of our life that just don't work anymore have gotta go. It is hard to let go of those parts of ourselves, we feel stripped bare, but it is the only way to grow and move forward. As in life, one thing lead to another, and the Devil Whale lead me to the next page. I have realized that I have been the rock in so many of my relationships. The calm grounding force. It is who I am, but not all that I am. This last year and a half journey through pain, and change, and health questions has been a trip through stormy seas. I have only recently gleaned any clarity, and am learning so much about myself. I can see now that things had to fall apart, I had to be forced to let go. My whole life I have wanted to be freer, to surrender. I just didn't realize that sometimes something has to happen to get you there. Iv'e really had to learn how to say no, and to teach myself how to ask for help and to surrender to the helping. I have also seen that you can be reaching out, without the proper words, and people still miss it. So where words have often failed me and walls have served better, I am trying to let the guard down and speak the truth more. How can anyone know you, your brightness or your pain, if you are unwilling to share your truth.

Needless to say, this comes after what feels like a long muddled time of questions, confusion, and searching. Sometimes my pages have more wisdom than I do. Sometimes the answers are lost until you can read the clues. Sometimes it's about so much more than just liking pirates.

"The only way out is through."

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Silhouette Stories

I am so excited to share my article from the 2012 issue of Pages magazine with you! I find myself drawn to silhouettes, and use them in my journal work often. I wrote this article to demonstrate how to bridge the gap between nostalgic and modern, and also give examples of different ways they feature in my work. I was thrilled to see the layout, and how many samples of my work that were used. You can order a copy here or pick one up at Barnes and Noble. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Oh Artfest

Oh Artfest, It is bittersweet to see you go. You have been there for me for what feels like a very long time. You have found amazing art friends for me that live near and far. I have looked to you each year with eager anticipation and you have left me fulfilled with joy. What will I do without you? Another Artfest passes, and it's even more poignant, as its the very last one. How lucky I've been to have made it a part of my life. As usual, it was a fantastic experience, filled with great classes, learning, journaling and laughing into the night, and reuniting with friends new and old. Spring is already a beautiful time of year, but it was a treasure to spend it in one of my favorite places with the cherry blossoms and tulips in full bloom.
Day one of classes with Michelle Allen creating "Dolls and Dudes". Super fun. I loved making these creations out of air dry clay and can't wait to make more. Michelle is a talented artist (and art journaler!) and you can see more from the class here.
Day two with Miss Mindy. I am in love! With drawing, with Mindy, with creating kooky characters that only make sense to me. This class somehow made me feel like I was in middle school again, drawing Disney characters and dreaming of being an animator, while also satisfying the grown up side of me that's in to pinups and pirates, and also dreams of creating a children's book one day.
I roomed with my hubby Chad, and dear friends Jennifer Joanou, Susan Elliott, Jennie Cook, Gina Armfield, and Alice Joanou in an Officer's house. Jennie is an incredible Chef and prepared ALL of our meals! So our dining table pretty much looked like this at all times, fully covered with journals, food and wine. I miss those journaling nights so much. These peeps are all incredible artists and makers, and inspire me always. Check them out.

The last day, painting with Miss Mindy. More love. Today we added color and paint to our vaudeville inspired creations. It was about the mercat all weekend for me. I'm thinking it's time for me to draw more, and keep developing these characters. Maybe these piratical, sea worthy guys will become my children's book one day. Or a comic? Zine? Paintings? We will see! Thank you Teesha and Tracy!!! There are hundreds of us indebted to you and now connected because of you. It's been a pleasure.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Healing: Part 3

After several months of foot pain and a relapse where I felt like I was at square one (physically and mentally), my body wizard comes to my aid again. Further testing revealed low thyroid and adrenals. Ta da! Basically I don't metabolize well enough to produce the energy needed for regular, day to day stuff. This combined with poor sleep and stress was partly why my foot just wasn't healing, and also why I wasn't feeling like myself for some time. It wasn't just the move, change, or pain, but a general slowing of my systems. Why calm, mellow Jessie felt raw, emotional, and UNGROUNDED. Why I felt intense where I was always playful, albeit quiet and introspective. Why I felt like I wasn't dealing with my life with any kind of grace. That's tough to admit, and something I pretty well kept to myself, while nursing my injuries alone "protected" by my candy coated shell.

So that's it. It's been all about the body and now I'm allowing myself to set limits, take it slow and really figure out how to heal. I am not looking for solutions here people. I need support, but not "you're doing it wrong" advice. I find that when I do share, people get freaky about it. Which is hard for a girl who has always been guarded and quiet, to let it out and get that kind of feedback. It doesn't help. I'm putting it out there to release it, so that it's not my secret burden anymore, and also to give context to my journal art. Now I can see what it was really about.

Healing: Part 2

Next came the move back to Boulder. A dream come true, right? More space, a beautiful home near the foothills... and all the grief and loss over letting go of my first home. HARD. I had no idea. For a girl who moved a lot growing up, with no input, no choice, my first home was a really big deal. My choice. My desires. The change, transition, growing pains, whatever you want to call it was rough. A wise friend told me that "every big change feels like a big mistake". Thank god for smart people. To let you know that you aren't crazy, just human. Not to mention I found myself with a pretty serious case of plantar faciitis brought on by all the packing.

I am not teling you this to whine, have a pity party, or to seek sympathy. Typically, I am not a good sharer. I'm not great with trust and vulnerability. I could tell you that I like to be mysterious, an enigma, but mostly I've just needed to stay inside my protective walls. Like I told you before, I now understand the work I've been doing and all these personal details give context to this work. So then comes the stage of a big new move, but hardly being able to to walk, and the pain keeping me stuck at home instead of enjoying this new community. Not yet seeing that other physical and emotional factors were what was really keeping me stuck. To be cont...

Healing: Part 1

These are pages from one of my journals. This is a healing book. It is my ongoing journal from 2011, and I have had a love hate relationship with it. I now know why. It is full of pain, loss, and confusion. That is why it made me cringe to look at it, yet I was pulled to work in it nonetheless. It's been an emotionally full year and a half. I came back from another amazing visit to Greece in September 2010, and was saddled with intense neck pain on the flight home, which lasted on and off for several months. Enter phase one of pain and the emotional toll that physical pain takes on you over time. I met an amazing acupuncturist/naturopath/body wizard that within minutes of meeting me discovered that my gallbladder was the culprit. I'm not kidding. I went back and forth, up and down, in and out of pain with that one. But the pain is gone and my gallbladder seems happy. To be cont...

A Little Inspiration

Michael Pitt, I am a fan of everything that you do. The fact that you do this as well, makes me like you even more. There's just not much more that needs to be said on the matter. Just watch.