At the beginning of each New Year, I always choose a word to be my ‘mantra’ for the upcoming year – for inspiration, to keep me focused and to challenge me both personally and professionally. To be honest, I had a difficult time deciding on a word to use for 2019… The past year had been a challenge in many different ways with a mix of different emotional highs and lows. Many times I found myself questioning the paths I had chosen and in some regards feeling a lack of direction of where I should be headed in the future.

For those reasons (and a few others), I chose the word DARE for 2019. This word has so many meanings and is very open ended, loaded with so many things to think about for moving forward…. DARE to change the things that I’ve previously thought were out of my control. DARE to have the courage to take new chances to move out of my comfort zone. DARE to question not only myself but others.

The base of this project is a birch (wood) canvas, which I added some upcycled cardboard onto to frame the title word onto. Texture was randomly added across the entire surface, and then a couple layers of heavy white gesso were applied to create a uniform color and to help add a little additional texture to the background.

Next I began to add additional color and texture for the background to the piece. Because this piece is so personal and I wanted it to represent myself, I chose my favorite color palette of blues as the main color for the project. I used a variety of different color washes of mica powders and acrylic paints to slowly build the color, then added additional texture using a couple of my ‘go to’ stencils.

For many years, I have kept a personal art journal that I express my emotions through and these journals help me ground myself and free the emotions and thoughts that I have built up inside. It is a release of sorts to get my emotions out while at the same time serving as the ‘base’ for my projects. I like to simply begin writing down whatever is swirling around in my head at the moment – the good, the bad and sometimes the ugly onto my background without regard for who might see my words or their reaction to my honesty and vulnerability. I then begin to cover my text with whatever colors and mediums to create my journal pages, sometimes allowing some of the text to show through or simply covering the words up completely.

Because I chose the word DARE for the theme of this project, I began to write my thoughts about this word in the moment:

“Learning to be bold enough to make a change, to question what is before me and having the courage to create my own destiny despite the odds, the nay sayers, my own self doubt and relentless searching for that path, my destiny, that place where I’m supposed to be. Meeting my challenges defiantly, facing uncertainty courageously. Proving to this ruthless world that I can prevail, my inner strength, questioning the status quo and proving that I can overcome.”

Knowing how I wanted the text to appear when the piece was complete, I wrote the text onto white tissue paper and used a clear matte medium to adhere this to the background that I’d already added the base color which allowed text to float above the background that I’d already created.

At this stage I slowly added more color and texture to the piece, allowing the texture to direct how and where the color was placed. Once I felt that I had achieved the look and feel that I wanted, I began the encaustic process of slowly adding layers of wax with applications of additional color to pull out the natural texture created by the wax. Lately I have been working more and more with the encaustic process, enjoying the organic nature of this medium and I felt that the slightly opaque nature of the wax (once set) was ideal for this project.

For the focal point of this piece, I began coloring and texturizing some chipboard letters that I had acquired from somewhere in the same manner that I used for creating the background and then adding a couple of light layers of wax to set them. Because I wanted the letters to stand out from the background slightly while not distracting from their importance, I cut down a piece of chicken wire and used this to elevate and frame the letters from the background.

I hope that this has inspired you to select a word that will be your manta for 2019 – that will help clarify and lead you onto whatever path is in store for you to discover.