What's in the box?

a box coverend in blue velvet, with gold colored metal framework and closure

Does anyone own the box? Where did it come from? Where was it found? Who made it?

Now go play. Give yourself 10-15 minutes. Write or doodle whatever comes to mind. It does not need to be "finished" or "perfect", just get the ideas out and play.

What is this? I'd like to offer up an opportunity to play and just let your mind wander.
Please enjoy.

Letting my mind, and eyes, wander while looking at random textures or patterns is something I really enjoy doing. Growing up, my bedroom had both textured walls and ceiling so I had all sorts of creatures and scenes to look at.

James Gurney did a great post on this in 2008 titled Pareidolia and Apophenia:

According to
1. the imagined perception of a pattern or meaning where it does not actually exist, as in considering the moon to have human features"

I enjoy finding things in old concrete, wood panels, anything with some sort of texture, or strange shaped vegetables long lost in the potato drawer.

I've tried making random scribbles and then making something from them but for some reason I find that particularly challenging and it seems to work better for me if someone else makes the scribble. Just closing my eyes while scribbling helps a some but not much if I'm holding the pencil in a regular writing or drawing grip.

I've been experimenting with ways to lessen my control of the scribble and mentally detach from it more. Holding the pencil loosely by the end, then closing my eyes and scribbling with a fully extended arm helps some. So does using my non-dominant hand with closing my eyes. Lately I've been experimenting with another way. I drop or drag thin threads on a piece of plexiglass spritzed with water. The water catches the string at random points so helps create a less controlled scribble.

Here's the latest one. What do you see?

thin thread or string dragged over a wet piece of plexiglass

pencil doodle drawn from random string

Painting Minis, also to be referred to as "Wadya mean the world isn't flat?!"

I blame my husband. Well, I blame him and our friends Cathy and Jim Wappel. And by blame I mean thanks for the mental shake-up. Painting the minis has been an enjoyable way to refill my creative well.

It all started with a game that we now have in which there are some amazing detailed Cthulhu themed resin miniatures. They're all the boring grey resin color so I, being the artist in the family, was tasked with painting them. I thought it would be fun. What the heck, why not.

Then I went into "serious" mode.

I researched paints, picked Jim's brain (go check his blog, he's an amazing artist) and my local resource (Source Comics and Games).

I picked up a few Reaper Bones series miniatures on which to practice. Here's one of them.

reaper mini silverhorn unicorn bones painted by christine mitzuk
The Silverhorn Unicorn from the Dark Heaven Bones series of minis by Reaper. I decided to paint it as a creature of fire. Approximately 2.25"x2.75".

Painting something someone else sculpted has been kind of relaxing. The gesture and "bones" of the composition are figured out. I just need to figure out how I want to enhance it with value and color. There's also no environment to figure out, but I think part of the trick is going to be to hint at there being an environment acting on the figure.

Anyway, if I waited till they were perfect, no one would see them so here's what I have so far. I've been painting them when I feel like it in the evenings. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the creatures, the ones below (Hastur and Yog-Sothoth) are mentioned in H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos.

Hastur Mini painted by Christine Mitzuk
He's only maybe 2.5" tall. Hastur. Just don't say his name out loud.
Yog-Sothoth Mini1 painted by Christine Mitzuk
Yog-Sothoth, also about 2.5" tall. Let's call this its front.
Yog-Sothoth Mini2 painted by christine mitzuk
Yog-Sothoth, also about 2.5" tall. Let's call this its back.

If you're curious, I've been using mainly Reaper Mini paint, except for Yellow Ochre from Vallejo. For the palette I went with a warm and cool of yellow, red, and blue, plus a few colors I can't mix (Magenta, Turquoise, Black, White, Yellow Ochre, and "Redstone Highlight" a kind of dull Venetian Red). To paint I've been using mainly a #4 bristle filbert, a #8 synthetic round that no longer comes to a point, a #4 and #3/0 synthetic round.

I think I'm going to have to go back and buy a few intense greens. I do have a Cthulhu to paint after all.


April was International Fake Journal Month (brain child of Roz Stendahl, a Twin Cities based artist and graphic designer). As I understand it the idea is to do something different. If you draw dogs all the time, draw cats. The project could also be as elaborate as a visual journal written and drawn from a character's point of view.

For my Fake Journal, I took a few weeks to decide what I was going to do. I usually gravitate toward organic things. I've always liked spacescapes but never really attempted any. I have been amazed and delighted at what people come up with for space craft. As for media, I wanted to get better at handling gouache and I wanted to experiment with some Golden brand acrylic mediums. Other ideas were tempting but eventually I picked one.

gouach spiral galaxy sketch created by Christine Mitzuk for international fake journal month
This is page one and 2 of my 2014 Fake Journal. I started with "home". Note the little "You are here..." in the upper left near the date.

My plan became spacescapes, inventing spacecraft (machinery which is opposite of my organic leanings), monkeying with some mediums, and painting in gouache. A nice mix of something somewhat familiar, gouache, plus three other elements that were unfamiliar. Make that four. To make pictures unlike my usual gouache mark making, I bought some flat brushes.

Blue Spacescape
Blue themed spacescape sketch painted with gouache.

Why do all this? My inner critic needed to be taken down a few notches. I wanted to train my inner critic. I wanted to quiet it down and let it pitch in ideas instead of drive the bus.

Originally the idea was to make the inner critic shut up. After reading Chris Oatley's blog post about Karaoke and Your Inner Critic I changed direction a little from tamping the critic down to working with it. With four unfamiliar elements, spacescapes and spaceships being unfamiliar territory, the inner critic wasn't a know-it-all. It didn't try to tell me how things "should" be drawn. Instead the inner critic was allowed to give some aesthetic opinions (composition, values, colors, and it piped up a little when I was designing space craft). It also tried to tell me that the nebulae were "wrong" but I decided to ignore that input. My goal wasn't to reproduce NASA photos star for star. My goal was to invent, explore, and just plain see what happened. Plus because it was unfamiliar territory, there weren't many rules I felt I had to follow. The journal became my playground.

I also tried to set expectations before I began work (per Roz's advice). I worked in my journal 15-30 minutes a day, giving myself time off on weekends. Or using weekends to catch up if I missed a week day. I also gave myself permission to work on a page a second session if the page was getting detailed or turned into a 2-page picture.

Purple and green themed spacescape sketch painted with gouache.

The one thing that threw me off at the end was the number of pages I actually used. I thought I would fill most of the book but I didn't (I didn't count all the pages and days ahead of time and I made several 2-page spreads). Next time I will define the number of pages I will be able to cover and whether they will be 2-page spreads or single pages. Now that I've done it once, I'll be better able to gauge how much time I will need.

The inner critic is still a bit noisy for certain projects but less than it was before. I highly recommend taking on a Fake Journal project for anyone with a loud, and pushy, inner critic.

More information on International Fake Journal Month can be found on the official blog

Note: I have not included images of my Golden Acrylic Medium page experiments. I didn't want to scuff my scanner glass.

The sketchbook I used was a hard cover 5.5"x8.5" Delta Series Extra Heavy Weight Paper book from Stillman & Birn. I chose it to withstand my predicted heavy use of gouache and the various acrylic mediums I wanted to play with. The paper and book have stood up to the heavy use beautifully, although it's a little difficult to close now that I've thickened some of the pages with various medium.

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gouache study of an apple
Gouache study of an apple done in my watercolor journal by hand*book journals. I bought it at Wet Paint in St. Paul, MN. I like the minimal tooth of the paper. It ripples a little from my heavy handed gouache application.

Monday night I tried something new. I went to a Visual Journal Collective meetup at MCBA (Minnesota Center for Book Arts). FYI, the next meetup is March 17. I went hoping to glean some insight on visual journaling. I got a LOT more. I was inspired.

Mary Jo Hoffman ( was the guest speaker. She shared quite a lot about her artistic journey thus far following the idea of

1 - do good work

2 - put it where people can see it

3 - earn a place at the table

(1&2 originally from Austin Kleon

Some insights in navigating the social media options. Plus books and resources that helped her on her way.

Most inspiring and my biggest takeaways are the following:
Making choices of making things that lend to simplification not complication of life.
I can use a visual journal as a place of INCUBATION.
I don't have to show it to anyone. There don't have to be perfect, finished pieces on every page. Heck, they could just be little doodles and scribbles.
Setting some restrictions on what goes in it could drive creativity instead of leaving it open-ended and getting stuck with the blank page. So I've thought up some themes based on things I like and aspects of my process I want to work on...

  • Pattern/Notan
  • Abstraction as foundation for image making
  • Rocks and other Natural objects
  • Landscape/Environment
  • Faces
  • Costumes
  • Gouache

Maybe I'll have multiple journals going at once. Maybe I'll just focus on one aspect at a time. The best thing about it is that I think this can be a place to ignore all but one rule/theme. I feel like that will take a lot of pressure of having to make something "good" and doing it "the right way". I'll get to make my own way and hopefully that will spill over into my more polished works.

Big thanks to Roz Stendal for telling me about this event. You might enjoy her blog . Lots of great information and insights! Plus she has written up a thorough review of the meetup. Check it out.