Posted in bullet journal, Bullet journaling, creativity, Planning and journaling

Setting up my Bullet Journal for August: birthday themed month

It’s my birthday next month and I will be sharing my special day with my niece, Lexi. On the 3rd August, I’m going to be 43 (and still thinking and behaving like a kid) and Lexi will be 9 years old (and probably feeling really grown up). So, for August, I chose to do a Happy Birthday theme and include cakes, presents, balloons and banners in my decor. Here are my spreads for next month:

Cover page

As I’m still developing my drawing skills, I was keen to have a go at a hand-drawn birthday cake so I took to Google and found a simple cake tutorial. It was really easy to follow even for a beginner like me. The tutorial came with a YouTube video but on this occasion, I just followed the pictorial and written instructions. I also added bunting and a banner as well as the word August in brush lettering, then finished it off with some party popper paper ribbon pieces (I’m sure they have a name but I can’t think what it is!). The banner is painted using some Winsor & Newton watercolour and the rest of the illustrations are coloured in using my Tombow ABT brush pens.

Image credit: Laura Jones for Keeping it Creative

Month at a glance

My monthly calendar has the same structure as usual with 6 by 6 dot boxes. Although I don’t have things to write each day, I do like to have plenty of room for when I do make entries so have stuck with doing a two page spread. I’ve also just started a distance learning course run by my local college, Mental Health Level 2, and so I have assessment deadlines to meet each week so I’ve recorded when I have to submit evidence of my learning. Again, I’ve decorated the spread with birthday related items.

Image credit: Laura Jones for Keeping it Creative

Exercise logs

I’ve kept my steps tracker the same but will be using colours from my palette for the month. I’ve changed up my log of different workouts for this month, so instead of a calendar style that I did in May, June and July where I recorded the minutes I spent on each workout, this time I’m going to be creating bars which show how many workout minutes I’ve done each day and what type of exercises I’ve done. This will help me to see how active I’ve been on a particular day. Another change, is that I’ve split up fat burning and cardio as this is shown on my Fitbit tracker and so is easy to record. This will enable me to see when I worked a little harder during my walks and my Zumba workouts. I’ve included an example I made on MS Word to show how it will look when it’s filled in.

In hindsight, I wish I’d done the key on the right hand page to make it easier to use but it’s done now and I’ll be able to alter it next month if I choose to use a similar spread.

The Get Fit stickers are actually a shiny gold colour but they look black in the photograph above so I took the bottom of the page at a different angle.

Image credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative

Habit Tracking

For August, I’ve also decided to go back to using a habit tracker. I previously used one but tracked so many things on it, I’ve found it really overwhelming to fill in and often got behind. This time, I’m just tracking six things which should make it a bit easier to keep up with. I want to make sure I study regularly as there are a lot of reading materials for my course and written activities to complete. I also want to make time to meditate each day. I currently do a mindfulness meditation set up by my local recovery college but this is only twice a week so I want to use my Calm App and my Fitbit App where I have a premium membership trial on the go. I have free trials on both of them and I’m currently not making the most of them so hopefully the tracker will help me.

Image credit: Laura Jones for Keeping it Creative

The rest of the habits are related to my Etsy shop, my blog and creativity. I want to make sure I do some blogging and shop work each day so I wanted to track when I do blog related research, reading, post writing and checking out blogs of the people I’m following. I also want to squeeze in a little creative task most days such as drawing, painting, journalling and papercrafting.

As I’m a leftie, I got absolutely covered in Tombow ink whilst working on my spreads and managed to smear some on the bottom of the habits page. I tried to cover it up using white gel pen, Tippex and my white Posca paint marker but it didn’t really work. The mark will annoy me for the whole of the month. Maybe I should have included a habit where I try to embrace imperfection in my spreads!

That’s all of my spreads for this month. I hope they have inspired you to get creative in your bullet journal. Let me know what your theme is for August and if you’ve featured your pages in your blog I will definitely go check them out.

Happy bullet journaling!

Posted in bullet journal, creativity, gardening, Planning and journaling

Setting up my bullet journal for July: Meadow flowers and grasses theme

This month, my husband and I went to a local place called Rainton Meadows which is a nature reserve run by Durham Wildlife Trust. It’s somewhere we go regularly for walks and to spot the variety of flora and fauna there. There’s so much to see, including a variety of water birds on the wetland areas, woodland birds from the new hide, ponies grazing on the grass, dragonflies around the water, along with butterflies and stunningly beautiful wild flowers in the meadows. For my July BuJo spreads, I decided to take inspiration from my visit to the reserve and the flowers and grasses we saw. I did want to take some my grassy and wild flower finds home with me so I could do some observational drawing but unfortunately, it started to rain heavily just before we left and we had to run back to the car. I had, however, taken plenty of photographs and was able to find line drawn images online to help me with my sketching. So, here are my pages for July. I hope you like them.

During lockdown, I’ve been addicted to watching plan with me videos on YouTube and I came across a vlogger who had done something similar to the idea I had in my head for my meadow and I took inspiration from her layout for my cover page. I had intended to have a go at creating a watercolour painting but I liked the effect of her designs with felt tip markers and fineliners so I decided to have a go.

For my calendar page, I stuck with a two-page spread as I like plenty of room to write down when I have published as blog post and any appointments or birthdays. I did a mini meadow in the bottom right hand corner and used one of the grass colours to for my boxes. The ‘make it work’ sticker is from a Happy Planner sticker booklet and I thought it finished that side of the page off nicely, whilst reminding me to keep going and find pleasure in life despite the restrictions due to Covid.

I kept my exercise trackers the same as June but changed the colours and added floral decoration to my workout chart. I found they worked really well for me last month and I was motivated to keep up with filling them in each morning and night.

Finally, I created a Garden Jobs for July double page spread so that I know what to focus on for the next month. I used the Gardener’s World and RHS websites for this as they both contain really helpful advice.

I would love to know what theme you have chosen for your bullet journal spreads for July. Let me know in the comments and add a link to your blog if you have one so that I can take a look.

Wishing you a wonderful July,

Posted in creativity, life hacks, lifestyle, Mindfulness, wellbeing

Monday matters: 7 mindful hobbies for stress reduction and relaxation

Hobbies are a great way to focus on the present, reduce stress and anxiety levels, leaving you feeling calm and relaxed and with a wonderful sense of achievement. What’s more, they’re an excellent form of mindfulness which is proven to benefit you in a number of ways both mentally and emotionally. Here’s some hobbies that I currently enjoy, have tried and loved in the past and one that I would love to try in the future.

Zentangles

I had a go at producing some Zentangles quite a few years ago when they were featured in a magazine (I think in Breathe). I found information from the article that I’d cut out in one of my journals a few days ago but I couldn’t actually find the patterns that I did. I do remember that I found them really relaxing to do and was pleased with the results so I decided to give them another go.

The Zentangle method was created in 2003 by an American couple called Maria Thomas and Rick Roberts. They describe it as an ‘easy-to-learn, relaxing, and fun way to create beautiful images by drawing structure patterns’ which they call tangles. The three and a half inch tangles are drawn on a small square of paper, and are made using a combination of dots, lines, simple curves and orbs. You have no idea what your finished piece will end up like as you focus on the process rather than worrying about the results. To find out more about the method and to see some beautiful examples visit the official website. For now, here’s some from a complete beginner (me!):

My first attempt at Zentangle in a long time. Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping it creative.

Birdwatching

I love birdwatching in my own garden, whilst out for nature walks and from various hides in local reserves and parks. It’s such a relaxing activity yet one which requires plenty of concentration and patience. Although our back garden is relatively small, we have a range of feeders in a little wildlife area and have recently purchased a new covered table which the birds are just starting to take to. We also have a small pond, several bird baths, plenty of shrubs, plus a fence covered in ivy which is full of spiders and their webs. Our space has recently become really popular with a range of small and larger birds and we even had a sparrow hawk visiting last month!

I bought a pair of binoculars last year so I could see birds up close when I visit the hides in nature reserves across the North East but you really don’t need to have any equipment to enjoy birding – just your eyes and your ears, making it a cheap as well as mindful hobby.

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping it Creative

Journalling

Mindful journalling is all about the act of expressing your thoughts and feelings on paper and is a wonderful tool for reflecting, evaluating and processing all that is going on in your life. Done regularly, journalling has many benefits including stress reduction, improved mood, emotional regulation, more self confidence, better immunity, a sharper memory, increased productivity and the ability to empathize with others.

I’ve been journaling for a long time now and it has become a part of my daily routine and something I would really miss if I stopped doing it. I mainly tend to put pen to paper in the evening as I like to reflect on my day, record what I grateful for and write about what I’m looking forward to the next day or what I’m anxious about (click here to see my previous post which describes the ‘putting the day to rest’ technique in detail).

I do sometimes do some journalling in the morning as a way of starting my day on a positive and creative note and find the book ‘Five Minutes in the Morning – A Focus Journal’ provides some great prompts to help me decide what to write about. I managed to pick it up really cheaply in my local bookshop but it’s also available on Amazon as an ebook which you could use if you bought a special notebook to write in.

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping it Creative

The journal is split into different sections, each with a particular focus and considers topics such as the power of writing, creating clarity, considering what’s important in your life, developing an attitude of abundance, solving problems and challenges, productivity and goal setting. It’s up to you how you use the book, you could either work through each prompt in order or you could just pick and page at random and see what you find.

Another book that I really love for prompt ideas is ‘Mindful Journaling’ by Tara Ward. The focus of this book is on exploring mindfulness in a variety of ways and then recording and evaluating your experiences of doing the different tasks. Recently, I completed an activity where you put something in front of you that you would like to eat and reflect on how the food stuff reached your bowl or plate and all of the processes involved in sourcing the ingredients and creating the product. I chose some Crunchy Nut Cornflakes and had so much to write about and it made me eat them much more mindfully afterwards too.

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping it Creative

Sketching

I used to hate drawing as I thought I was no good at it but recently I’ve started to really enjoy developing my skills. My favourite things to draw are plants and other aspects of nature such as leaves, berries and fruit. I always really take my time and focus in on the outline shape of the objects and then add detail carefully. Apparently this style of drawing is known as a ‘Zen method’ which is all about observing and following the contours of the object with your eyes whilst letting your hands draw. You can find out more in renowned Dutch artist Frederick Franck’s book ‘Zen seeing, Zen drawing’ which I have neither seen or read but it sounds like it is focused on mindful drawing as a meditative technique for observing and discovering the world around you.

My first attempt at still life fruit sketching! Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping it Creative

Watercolour painting

As those of you who follow my blog will know, I got into watercolouring about 9 months ago and have enjoyed experimenting with different techniques including creating washes, wet on dry and wet on wet methods. Now I’ve learnt the basics, I’ve started to try out my skills on creating actual art pieces. This is my first try at wet on wet poppies and adding stems using wet on dry. In order to create my piece I spent some time looking at photographs of poppies and the work of other watercolour artists. I then really focused on the process of mixing colours, getting the right consistency of pigment to water and then allowing the colours to blend on the page. I wasn’t concerned about the finished look but I think it turned out well, for a beginner anyway!

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping it Creative

Pottery

I’ve done two ceramics courses at a local wellbeing centre and found them to be amazingly beneficial. I met some wonderful, like-minded people who I got on really well with and involving myself in playing with the clay to explore different techniques and then designing and making my own pieces was so relaxing. The sessions were three hours long and in that time, I found that my mind was fully focused on the tasks at hand and the level of concentration required helped me to switch off from my anxious thoughts and feelings. Most weeks, we also got some of our freshly fired work back and it was so exciting to see our pieces at various stages of the making process and celebrate what we had achieved as we developed our skills.

Obviously, at the moment, there are no ceramics classes available which you can attend due to lockdown restrictions still being in place but it is certainly something I would recommend looking into in the future if you enjoy getting creative with your hands.

Flower arranging

This is a mindful activity that I would love to have a go at in the future as I imagine it’s really interesting to learn the various techniques involved and you can produce some stunning pieces to decorate your home and bring you joy. There are loads of free video tutorials and tips available online from florists and expert flower arrangers if you want to discover the basics or if you sign up to Skillshare you can do a full online course at home. I know my local college usually offer beginner’s floristry sessions but it may be a while before they are able to start them up again.

Photo credit: James Coleman, Unsplash

Do you do any of the activities I’ve listed already or do you have other favourites? Have you found you have more time to do hobbies because of the lockdown restrictions?

Posted in art, bullet journal, creativity, Planning and journaling

Setting up my bullet journal for June: Summer fruits theme

This month I’ve gone for a bright and colourful Summer fruits theme and have included my own little fruit watercolour paintings which I scanned in and worked on using Photoshop on my computer and then turned them in to little stickers. I’ve not totally got to grips with all of the different things you can do on this program but I followed a great little tutorial which I’ll share below.

For my front cover, I created five different fruits, namely papaya, orange, kiwi, cherries and pineapple. I started by sketching them with pencil and then when I was happy with how they looked, I went over the outline and some details using a 0.2 UniPin fineliner. I then mixed colours from my Daler Rowney travel set and used a tiny brush to paint them. Each one is less than 4cm so I really took my time to ensure accuracy and it was a great mindful watercolouring activity. After scanning the paintings, I edited the background to make it white and removed some minor blemishes. Check out this great tutorial on YouTube for how to do this.

For my month at a glance I used the same kind of layout as usual with 6×6 dot boxes and again made my own stickers from some fruity artwork. I successfully covered up part of the date using some paper washi style stickers as I accidently wrote the beginning of the year as 200 instead of 2020. I did the spread late in the evening and think I was overly tired and that’s when I tend to make lots of mistakes. I also messed up on the next page too with is why I have a red paper background to the words ‘exercise tracker’.

As you can see, there’s a distinct lack of things happening in June due to the continuation of lockdown restrictions! My husband and I have started to go out to places but we tend to go on a whim rather than pre-planning.

I’m continuing to monitor my workouts in June and have just made a few small modifications and changed the colour scheme to fit with the Summer fruits theme. I’ve decided to make the steps tracker larger and have changed the scale on the graph to make it easier to fill in.

Finally, this month I’ve decided to make a record of the plants we’ve bought at the garden centre this year and include key information from each of the labels that came in the pots. I’ve also added a small drawing and coloured it in for each entry so that I’m also practising my drawing skills. The art work isn’t perfect but I’m getting better the more I give sketching a go. The layout of the spread is inspired by Emma at emusing-emma.blogspot.com who did something similar for her houseplants a few years ago in her bullet journal.

That’s all my spreads for this month. I have more plants to add to my record but won’t get them drawn until later on. If you would like to see more of my plant information, let me know and I’ll add them on to my BuJo set up for July.

Take care and stay safe everyone,

Posted in art, creativity, watercolour painting

7 simple but effective watercolour techniques using the wet on wet method that you just have to try

A few weeks ago, I shared my experiences of using the wet on wet method for watercolour washes. Today, I’m going to show you the results of some really cool wet on wet techniques using a range of household items which you should already have readily available to you. Let the fun begin…

Applying cling film

This technique is so easy to do but creates some really amazing effects. Simply wet your paper with water and then apply either a single paint colour or blend several together. Next, apply your cling film over the top, allowing it to crinkle in various places. Place a weight over the film e.g. a heavy book and leave it to dry. Remove the cling film and admire the weird and wonderful results (left hand image).

You can also work a different way where you place the cling film flat onto your table, add some clean water and then apply pools of paint directly to the plastic wrap (you could try maybe two or three different colours. After doing this, place your watercolour paper directly on top of the cling film. Flip it over and then either leave the plastic wrinkled where it is or move it around slightly to disperse the colour. When you’re happy with your creation, carefully remove the cling film and leave your paper to dry (right hand image).

Salt

For this one, you need to search for some salt in your kitchen store cupboard or pantry – any kind will do but I used some coarse sea salt which we had in our mill. I attempting this technique quite a few times and I got different results, some more interesting and effect than others. Begin by wetting a small piece of paper with clean water. Now paint the area with one, two or three colours. Ensure that the area is damp and shiny but not too wet. Dry off any excess with small amounts of kitchen towel if you have any puddles. Add a small amount of salt either by pinching and sprinkling it or using a mill like I did. Let the paint dry and leave the salt to work its magic. Brush off the salt with your hand or use a small ruler to gentle scrape it away.

Applying rubbing alcohol

This was one of my favourite techniques. Rubbing alcohol AKA surgical spirit is usually part of our first aid kit (I use mine to clean my silver earrings too!). But did you know, you can use it to create some interesting effects on wet watercolour paint? Place a small amount of rubbing alcohol into a dish and put aside for later. Wet the area of your paper you want to work on and then add some paint. Now, dip your finger or a cotton bud (I used a cotton bud for the first example) into the surgical spirit. Tap your finger or the cotton bud onto the painted area. Repeat as many times as you like. You can also use cotton wool balls for larger blobs (as shown in the second piece).

Lifting paint with paper towel

This is also a good technique to use if you make a mistake in your work or you have excess pooled paint or water on you paper. Mask off the edges of your paper for a clean line around the edge. Wet the whole surface until it is shiny and then apply a wash of colour. Use a scrunched up piece of kitchen towel to blot away the colour. As you can see, I made little cloud shapes in my mid blue sky wash. Doesn’t it look great?

Feathering

You can feather the paint in a range of different ways. The first example (on the top and bottom paper) involves wetting a section of the paper and then applying a single stroke of slightly diluted paint in a downwards motion. This causes the colour to spread to create a feathery effect. For the second examples (number two and three on the top paper and in the middle of the second paper, I applied a strip of pinky red and then applied another colour in the same shape, touching the very right hand edge of the first colour. This causes the first colour to feather into the second and vice versa. The wetter and more diluted your paints the more it feathers. For the final example on the second piece of paper, I applied yellow paint and then rain a strip of pinky red down the centre.

I thought these techniques would be good for using to create variegated tree bark and petals. Do you agree?

Blooms and drop colour

Another really simple but effective technique is to drop colour onto a pre-wetted piece of paper. You can either apply lots of drops using a large brush to blend the colours or you can drop small blobs of paint and watch them bloom. Again, the wetter the paper and more diluted the colour, the more the paint will spread.

As you can see, I had a little bit of a problem with the paint leaking under the masking tape on the second one. I’m not sure if I applied too much water or if the cheap three rolls of tape for £1 didn’t help the situation!

Splattering

I covered this technique in my wet on dry post but as you can see, the splatters look different when applied to wet paper. On this example, below, the paper was wetter in the centre and so the splatters there spread further than those at the very edge of the area.

I hope you have enjoyed looking at my watercolour experiments. I had great fun exploring the different techniques and found it really calming and relaxing. If you’re looking for something creative to do during lockdown I would totally recommend giving it a go and I think it would be something great to do with kids too.