The monsoons hit Phoenix this week. Monsoons are Arizona’s dirty little weather secret. The rest of the country thinks “dry heat” and we’re swimming through dew points in the 80s. The air is sticky, sweat doesn’t evaporate and sudden, violent rains rip through normally-dry riverbeds. Accompanying microbursts shred palo verdes and tip over palms. No one outside Arizona hears about it.
We escape the heat with Art Unraveled. The art retreat is held each year in early August, lasts a week, and is stuffed with a huge variety of workshops–from making a ribbon bracelet to, well, Raw Art Journaling.
My two classes (One Sentence Journaling and Journaling for Perfectionists) were originally technique classes–a chance to learn and practice something, but without the pressure of completing a project. But no matter how deep a class is, participants like to have show and tell. Instead of having participants write in their own journals, we’d make a simple pamphlet journal in class and fill it. I decided this would be a gift to students–I’d give them the materials for free. Raw art journaling is about working with what’s at hand, and while the norm is to charge a kit fee, I wanted to model the generosity of creative sharing.
I also wanted to give each participant (many travel across the country) a chance to experience the monsoon without having to stand in the rain. As the monsoon approached, I watched for the incredible colors that develop–pesto greens and berry purples, butterscotch yellows and scuffed denim blues. Using inks that matched the colors, I spattered watercolor papers and then placed them in different positions–in the grapefruit tree, in the aloe vera hedge, flat on the ground and let the rain pelt them, spreading the color. After one storm moved over, I’d reapply the ink and let another cloudburst finish the job.
The results were amazing. The papers that had been through the most violent rain had the best blending of colors. Papers hung from trees whipped back and forth splattering nearby papers with color. Those on the ground had small branches and leaves stick to them, creating a subtle batik effect. Papers put out at the end of a storm had rivulets of ink around the edges, where the ink pooled, but was not washed off.
I ironed the pages to get them back into shape, and the color is not quite as vibrant as in the photo, but they are patterns and blends that nature provided. Now each student can take a bit of the monsoon home without getting drenched.
–Quinn McDonald is an artist, writing and raw-art journaler who teaches workshops across the country. Her book, Raw Art Journaling: Making Meaning, Making Art will be published in June, 2011 by North Light Books.