I had to redeem myself and my art journal after the hideous beetle page so I returned to what for me is apparently a favourite subject – skeleton women. I have no idea what in my psyche or imagination keeps compelling me to illustrate these skeletal ladies. I just go with it. This one was an experiment with a colour palette of orange, rusty red, and teal. I like the combination and can see me using it again. While the orange and red suggest rust, the teal suggests verdigris so they all work together quite well thematically as well as in terms of colour.
I probably won’t return to either of my art journals for the rest of this month because I am going to be consumed with other art projects. I am still filling my Brooklyn Art Library sketchbook with zombies and I am also participating in Drawlloween. I have joined in with Inktober the past couple of years but this year I decided to push myself out of the habit of just doing ink linework illustrations by joining in with Drawlloween. I am working bigger than in previous years and I am adding colour. That’s the plan anyway. You can follow the results of both of these projects on my other blog, Pict Ink, or on Instagram.
I used an Art Journal Adventure prompt for this art journal page. The idea had been to use household objects for mark-making. I decided, however, to make an abstract piece by drawing around various kitchen utensils, overlapping the silhouettes, and then (very roughly) filling the resulting shapes in with acrylic paint. It was just the type of quick dose of art I needed on a busy day. My art table is in the kitchen so I was able to create this page while cooking and cleaning in the same space. It’s rough and ready but it was a fun stress-buster to just throw some paint around on paper.
Peaks and valleys. Rough and smooth. Successes and failures. Not every experiment in my art journal is going to be a success. Indeed, most are probably lacking in some way but that’s acceptable to me because they are just experiments and my art journals are for relaxation and play. Some pages, however, are just abject failures. This is one such page. I almost didn’t blog about it because it is so bad but every failure is a learning opportunity so here it is.
My Rainbow Art Journal is a work in progress, evolving all the time. Some pages I complete from start to finish but others are more dynamic and shifting, emerging from leftover paint smooshed here, scraps of collage pasted there, until ultimately I decide what to do with that page. This page had had lots of red, yellow, and orange paint scraped onto it. I had also had to slap on some washi tape to reinforce the perforations. It was a pretty ugly base layer but it was something to work on. Incidentally, the background colour is much more orange than it appears in the photo. I think the metallics throw the camera off. Anyway, unfortunately I didn’t manage to lose the ugly. I painted on a beetle in a pearlescent yellow. The shimmer was nice but the whole thing looked washed out in comparison to the background colours. I, therefore, smudged on some gold to make the beetle a bit warmer in hue and add yet more shimmer. The idiom “You can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear” came to mind. I added some ink and some paint pen for detailing. Nope. Still ugly. That’s when I decided that I hated this page and that I was investing no more time in it. Time to abandon it and call it quits. On to new and hopefully better pages.
My kids and I are Harry Potter fans so, finding time to work in my art journal this weekend, I decided to illustrate wee me at Hogwarts School. I am pretty sure I would have hated boarding school had I attended but I think I could have been persuaded to enrol in Hogwarts, even though the students appear to be in perpetual danger. It’s just a quick ink and watercolour illustration of wee me in my Hufflepuff uniform practicing the Expecto Patronum charm. My patronus is a seal so that is what is emerging from my wand.
One of the interesting side effects of the way in which I create art these days – always short on time, often in multiple stages, often while multi-tasking – is that it has become clear what my automatic go-to art supplies are. The fact that I almost always reach for ink and watercolour tells me that that is my creative “home”. I, therefore, think that I should focus my skills development on those media. However, I still intend to dabble in other media because I don’t like being hemmed in or stuck in a creative rut. However, it is probably good to know that ink and watercolour are my comfort zone.
I grabbed some time this weekend to play in my art journal. I used last week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt which was the letter V. I never really need much prodding to illustrate mythology and monsters so as soon as I saw V I thought Vampire. I resisted my automatic impulse, which was to draw Nosferatu (my favourite vampire) yet again and to instead try something different so I decided to draw a glamorous, fin de siecle lady vampire. I not only kept things simple with just ink and watercolour but I also simplified things by using just black and red. I like that combination and notice it crops up a lot in my ink work.
In my Art Snacks box this month, among the items I received were phthalo green watercolour paint and a red watercolour pencil. I was utterly stumped for a couple of days because the colour combination was just so horribly Christmassy. All I could think of was Christmas trees and magical elves. Aside from the fact it is only September, it is also utterly sweltering here. It is so hot here that my kids were sent home early on their second and third days of the school year. Am was, therefore, definitely and absolutely not feeling the Christmas vibe. I then remembered that I had a bunch of Art Journal Adventure prompts I hadn’t used and one of those was P. P for Poppies. Poppies are red and their stems and leaves are green. I had an idea! But, as long term readers will know, I do not do botanical illustrations. I suck big time at drawing flowers. Not my thing at all. My solution was an obvious one because it’s a subject I resort to all the time in my art journal: throw a female figure in there.
I went way too heavy with my first layer of phthalo green watercolour which meant the subsequent layers just got darker and darker. The clothed portion of the figure is way too dark and opaque. I dislike it. Also, that arm is way too long. She would have orangutan proportioned arms if that arm was straighter. I think, however, that I just about get away with it. Maybe. I chose to stylise the poppies because I knew I would never be able to pull off more realistic poppies. I quite like those. So I feel rather meh about this art journal page but I am glad I did the Art Snacks box challenge because it was the shove I needed in a hectic, busy, difficult week to eke out some much-needed art time. The value of that can never be underestimated.
Our Labour Day weekend trip – our last hurrah of Summer break – was to the Shofuso Japanese Cultural Center. It’s this little portion of Japan in the midst of Philadelphia. It is also authentically Japanese as the buildings were built in Nagoya, using traditional materials and techniques, and were then transported to America. I read that even the rocks in the garden were imported from Japan. Originally, it was part of an exhibition in New York before being disassembled and reconstructed in Philadelphia. It has been in Philly since the late 1950s.
We started our visit with the house. We slipped off our shoes and entered the house in our socks. It was everything you think about when you think about traditional Japanese architecture: elevated off the ground, connections between the interior and the exterior, between the man-made and the natural, verandas, lots of wood, sliding doors, and gently curved roofs. There is something inherently relaxing about being in those spaces but I know myself well enough to know I could never actually live in such a space. I am far too fond of objects to be capable of minimalism and maintaining clean lines. And my pelvis is too wrecked to cope with floor sitting. But I like to imagine I could live in such a space. I especially loved the kitchen. I feel like you learn a lot about a culture by looking at kitchens (and supermarkets actually) because so much of culture revolves around food. My kids had zero patience for me reading the information about each room of the house but I insisted on reading all the detail about the kitchen. It was pretty fascinating stuff. I thought the little tea house would be the most intriguing and engaging part of the house but for me it was actually the kitchen.
The garden surrounding the house was similarly gorgeous. It is such an obvious and probably uninteresting thing to state but it was so green and so harmonious. Apparently the landscaping was designed to echo 17th Century styles. The boys absolutely loved the pond which was stocked with carp. They had some fish food and, within seconds of throwing the first pellet into the water, there was a scrum of koi torpedoing towards them. There was a line of them wiggling through the water from the bridge and making a beeline to the area where my kids were waiting to feed them. Their dorsal fins cut through the surface of the water and created wakes. I couldn’t help but hum the soundtrack from ‘Jaws’. Despite the fact these carp must surely get so fed up of eating the same pellets all the time, there was a serious feeding frenzy.
This is such a cliche that I initially resisted typing it out but the whole space really was so peaceful. I could have chilled there for ages. A good book and a glass of cold lemonade and it would have been so easy to just sit there for hours enjoying the garden. But I had four kids with me who had run out of patience and wanted to get home to do their own thing for the final days of Summer so no chance of zen for me.