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Breakfast with Amy

Amy Grennell is overflowing with creative mojo. Not only does she have a beautiful blog, fabulous art journals, altered photos, and many other creative interests—she’s due to give birth to her second child in a matter of days. We’re so glad she had time to join us for Breakfast before the baby comes, sharing her ideas for getting started with art journalling for the uninitiated. You may want to rush out and get your hands on a journal posthaste. Enjoy!

CC: Please give us an intro to who you are, what you do, and your family headcount.
I am a 33-year-old stay-at-home mom who spends her “free” time doing lots of creative projects, from painting and photography to art journaling. Family: Me, my husband, 3-year-old daughter Melody, and Baby (coming September 3); miniature schnauzer Odin and four hens (Lucy, Glenda, Irma, and Betty).

CC: Tell us about your many creative endeavors and what’s on the offing in your Etsy shop.
AG: I do painting, drawing, collage, journaling, photography, jewelry-making, and sewing. It rotates a lot according to my mood or current interests or even the time of year.

I started off doing some mixed-media type collages using free images a couple of years ago and I have always done photography. I took a quilting class in 2004 and made a quilt before getting into sewing a bit more.

My creativity sort of blossomed from there and I ended up doing altered books and then teaching a class at a local paper store. I also started making jewelry because I could make it very easily and even sell it to make some extra money. Then I got into art journaling last year as a way to do some mixed media with my own images and handwriting as sort of a scrapbooking meets collage-type of expression. I really liked the outlet it gave me to create a little something every day to represent that day (even if I don’t always do it every day).

As my daughter got more into painting and collage herself, she was spending up to 30 minutes doing her own artwork at the dining room table and so I experimented using her supplies too. Now I do mostly art journaling as well as some painting and photography. With the photos I have been doing a lot of altering in Photoshop to make them look a bit more surreal or artistic. I would like to experiment more with combining photography with watercolor too.

In my Etsy shop I sell jewelry as well as a few other items like prints of artwork, photos, and soap.

CC: How did you get started with your beautiful visual journals? Any tips for those of us who may not be “artists” but would like to start an art journal?
First off I don’t consider myself an artist so when I first started one I called it a “visual journal” because I was so worried about using that “a” word. I really didn’t know what I was doing but I liked the idea of incorporating more than just writing into a journal entry. I had been doing altered books with images and text but then was inspired by some art journals I saw by Randi Feuerhelm-Watts, Mary Ann Moss, and Kira Harding.

I had already collected random images from magazines and such for use with collages so I just got a Moleskine journal and started drawing or doing rubber stamping at first along with some other images every day. From there I found that I like using white cardstock and a three-hole punch to make a larger journal that I could keep the pages in or out of while working on them.

To get started, all you need is some paper and a pen and maybe a few things to color with or even a few images you like. The basic things that I use are: white cardstock, black Sharpie or Pitt artist’s pen, cheap acrylic paint, some sort of images, scissors, and a glue stick. Most people have these basic items on hand anyways.

Don’t compare your pages to anyone else’s and don’t share them with anyone if you don’t want to.

See how you feel about journaling this way and then keep at it. When you look back on older pages you will see not only that you are “getting better” at it but are able to fine tune which symbols, colors, and themes you are using.

CC: What prompted you to start a blog? What keeps you going?
I think I just started reading quite a few and then realized that it would be a good way to keep track of my creative goals. If I shared a project on my blog then I would have to share the end result as well. This has really helped me get things finished.

I try to share things that I love and hope to inspire others while I am at it. I think of myself as a positive person and if one reader gets a smile or feels a similar feeling I think it’s very meaningful.

CC: Where do you do your creative work?
The dining room table really. I had set up a space in what will be Baby’s room and then never really did a lot in there. I still don’t do much where my supplies are so I tend to carry them around in a tote bag or keep them on the table or a side table in the family room area.

CC: Do you have a schedule for your creative work?
Not really, just that I usually do things in the late morning because later in the day and the evening I am tired and just feel like reading before bed. My husband usually takes my daughter out for a walk in the morning for a while so I often get a little “me time” then or work on something when my daughter is playing or doing her own painting at the table. I also try to have my camera with me all the time, especially in the backyard so I can take a photo or two every day.

CC: Any planned strategy for keeping your creative fires burning with a new baby at home?
I think my outlook is realistic in that I know everything is going to change and I really won’t have time or energy to do much. The weekends hold some promise but also I have been trying to sketch or write down ideas for things as they come to me right now so that when I do get a little time and I can’t remember something I wanted to make, I can just look at the sketch or the notes. I do a lot of things in short little spurts of 5 to 10 minutes—especially on the couch—so I think I can squeeze some time in here and there.

CC: What do you struggle with most?
Trying to narrow things down in my creative life so that I can just focus on one thing. I know that this isn’t really possible for a lot of people, but I seem to have a hard time with identifying who I have become in the last couple of years. I was a writer; then I pushed some of the creative or artistic limits I had imposed on myself after my daughter was born. I look at the time spent at home raising our children to be partially a time for me to hone my true life’s purpose. I know that sounds a bit cheesy. This is easier said than done because I have so many interests it’s always challenging for me to really narrow myself down even though I would like to a little more.

CC: How much does guilt factor in your life?
It used to, when I would be working on something and really wanted to finish it but my daughter was whining and pulling on me. I realized that creating things makes me feel better so I am a better person and parent overall because of it. Also when I sell something and go to the post office now with my daughter to mail it off she asks “who I am mailing it too?” I explain someone bought that necklace or earrings I made last week. They gave me money for them so I am mailing it to them.

CC: Where do you find inspiration?
Nature and my daughter, as well as children’s books.

CC: What are your top 5 favorite blogs?

CC: What is your greatest indulgence?
Chocolate and naps.

CC: What are you reading right now?
Tao of Watercolor by Jeanne Carbonetti, Painting From the Inside Out by Betsy Dillard Stroud, and All Year Round by Ann Druitt.

CC: What advice would you offer to other mothers struggling to find the time and means to be more creative?
I think being creative is an integral part of everyone’s life whether they think so or not. Doing something creative every day no matter how small is a great outlet for stress and expression so you are doing everyone a favor if you spend some time doing a creative project every day. I don’t think guilt or frustration should factor in. Plus you can always involve your children too in a project if you simply can’t do it alone.

CC: Thank you, Amy!

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Cathy #

    love your artwork, amy! it’s official, you are, indeed, an artist!

    August 29, 2008
  2. love your blog amy! i could spend hours looking at your journal pages and altered photographs. gorgeous.

    August 29, 2008
  3. Good luck with next week or so Amy! I loved your interview and your blog and “visual” journals! You are definitely an Artist with a Capital “A”!

    August 29, 2008
  4. Wonderful! I adore Amy and have bought many special creations of hers and they are treasures to me. It’s wonderful to get to know her even more here.

    August 30, 2008

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