Birthday Celebrations

I had a birthday recently and managed to double-dip with celebrations since the actual fell on a weekend and I received my gift the following weekend.

On my actual birthday, we took a day trip to Frenchtown, New Jersey. I had read several times that Frenchtown is New Jersey’s most appealing/quaint/cute town so I have had it on my list to visit for a while. I get to impose trips on my family without their complaints or protestations twice a year: Mother’s Day and my birthday. My original plan had been to visit Frenchtown for the Mother’s Day trip but – for one reason or another – that outing kept getting postponed until it collided with my birthday 6 months later. It, therefore, became my birthday trip (and now I am contemplating which historic cemetery will be the destination for the second “no moans” trip I am owed.)

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It was a perfect day for aimlessly meandering, golden Autumn sunshine and the perfect temperature, so we took our time wandering around the streets. We popped into several stores, whatever grabbed our attention. My 17 year old is a magpie whose eye is always drawn to shiny, sparkly things (one of the few things he has inherited from me) so we spent a lot of time in a gem store. My 15 year old, meanwhile, loved a hip clothing store but mostly because it had a vintage pinball machine that the store owner encouraged him to play. And the 13 year old predictably loved a candy store. I meanwhile loved spending time in an independent book store and making selections in an artisan cheese shop.

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All of the stores are clustered around one main street so it did not take us long to complete our pootling around the stores. We, therefore, decided to get a late lunch / early dinner at a little Mexican place. The food was tasty but unfortunately the service was terrible but I cannot complain since any meal I did not have to cook is appreciated, especially on my birthday.

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My birthday gift from my husband and kids was a surprise trip to New York to see a show. Therefore, this past weekend, my husband and I took the train into Manhattan. Despite the train being an all-stopper (and in rolling stock probably as old as I am) we arrived mid-morning so we had time to do some other things before heading to the theatre. First up, since we were right next door, was Moynihan Train Hall. I have zero interest in trains or mass transit beyond their transportation purpose so this was of very little interest to me. However, Mr Pict had been involved in the project to transform the old Post Office building into an extension of Penn Station so he was keen to see the completed building with his own two eyes.

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As someone who likes the Harry Potter books and movies (November is our month for watching all of the movies as a family), I was interested to visit the store. I had heard about long lines to enter the store but that must have been when it first opened because we just walked in and it really wasn’t that busy. My only plan was to browse the store so we did not spend time even investigating any of the VR experiences or making purchases from the Butterbeer bar. Of course there was merch galore to look at but what I was really keen to see for myself was the design of the store. I was really impressed by how much thought had gone into creating a flow around what is actually a reasonably compact space and the way in which different sections were themed and structured as their own mini experiences. There were also fun details like mandrakes and dirigible plums dangling from the ceiling and a giant Nagini slithering between Ministry of Magic tiles.

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The Harry Potter store is just south of the Flatiron building so from there we just had to walk about 26 blocks up Broadway in order to get to the theatre. We were going to see a matinee performance of Hadestown at the Walter Kerr Theatre. Despite having visited NYC several times, this was my first ever experience of seeing a show on Broadway. I was very excited! My husband had picked Hadestown because I am a fan of Anais Mitchell’s music and have been listening to songs from the concept album for over a decade. The show was fantastic and the performances were excellent. It was an amazing experience and I am thrilled to have finally seen a musical on Broadway.

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It was getting dark when we left the theatre so we took a stroll from the Times Square area over to the Rockerfeller Center to see the lights and window shop and people watch. We had not eaten all day so were pretty famished by this juncture so we found a Mexican restaurant tucked away on a side street for dinner. It was very loud but the food was delicious, the prices were right, and the service was excellent so it was just the ticket. We then we just had to schlep all the way back to Penn Station and take the NJT back to Trenton and, from there, drive home. It made for a long day but I had a fabulous time and I very much appreciated my birthday trip. Mr Pict did an amazing job planning my surprise trip. He’s a keeper.

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Tween Vampire

I found myself with enough time to tackle another Draw This In Your Style challenge and – since we are still in spooky season and Drawlloween – I thought I would tackle the challenge of drawing a teen vampire by an artist named Alexandra. I always find it fun to translate digital art into my analogue ink and watercolour and this one was no exception. I think my version looks more tween than teen because I drew fuller cheeks but otherwise I stuck pretty closely to the composition and colour palette.

Tween Vampire - DTIYS

Tattooed Vampire

I am back in the classroom and my own kids are back in school so I am immensely, overwhelmingly, exhaustingly busy. However, I am working hard at carving out time for art as a way to decompress and balance things out. I am currently beavering away through Drawlloween, the annual daily drawing challenge, and sharing my illustrations on my other blog. By some miracle, I found myself with extra time to draw this past weekend so – what with my creative brain being fried from the daily drawing – I thought I would have a crack at a Draw This In Your Style challenge. I selected a vampire created by Heather Mahler because it’s still spooky season. I have done two of her previous DTIYS challenges because her subject matter appeals to me, I like her colour choices and the way she utilises symmetry and asymmetry while her style and medium are very different from my own. I really enjoyed creating this drawing. It all came together with ease so was very relaxing to work on.

Tattooed Vampire - DTIYS

Swing

This is another drawing I did for the #Tekenuurtje challenge on Instagram. I thought the angles and weight of the pose would provide me with a suitable challenge and they really did. I did a lot of fussing over the legs in particular. However, I think I actually rose to the challenge as I believe I have everything looking “right” in the end. The proportions are not spot on but it wouldn’t be my style if things weren’t at least a little awry. I cannot find a way to link to the original photo so you can click a link to my Instagram post and swipe to see the source image.

Swing

Rainbow Art Journal – Rainbow Girl

Behold! For I have finally reached the very last page of my Rainbow Art Journal. After this illustration, I get to close this sketchbook, take it off my art table, and file it away on a shelf. It has taken me five – FIVE – years to finish this art journal. There was so much procrastinating and so many lengthy breaks where it just sat abandoned on my art table. I have started and completed so many other art projects during that span of time but this particular journal and project was a malingerer. I am, therefore, very happy to have accomplished my art mission for this Summer break in finishing this journal.

For this last drawing, I took my inspiration from one of my sisters. When we were kids, she was really into Rainbow Brite. We never saw the show (did it even air in Britain?) but I had won three of the plush toys in a competition and, having no interest in them (I think I was 9 and had never been into dolls) I gave them to my sister. She absolutely loved them and expanded her collection. Anyway, my idea was to draw a less cartoony, less cutesy Rainbow Brite but there was a twist: I decided to challenge myself to create the illustration entirely from memory, without any visual references whatsoever. I actually remembered the costume pretty accurately in terms of the arms being comprised of stripes but with a preponderance of blue. I decided to steer away from the original costume while maintaining the stripes and translating it into a blockier design. Where I was completely adrift from the original character was with the hair. While I got the hairstyle right, I had completely misremembered the colour. I really believed her hair and been rainbow coloured but, nope, she was just blonde or ginger – depending on the incarnation. Never mind my memory fail because I actually like the rainbow hair for the purposes of my journal.

Incidentally, the washi tape is not really a compositional element, though I decided to let it peek through a thin layer of white paint. This poor art journal has taken a beating and some of the pages are separating from the binding. The tape was, therefore, entirely practical.

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Although I am glad to be finally saying farewell to this project after all of these years, I am glad I undertook it. In some ways it has been useful that it took me so long because I can look at the early pages of this sketchbook and see how far I have progressed with my skills. For example, the way I draw faces has improved a lot. It also does work well as a record of my experiments with different colour combinations. There are many that I would use again. I have also learned that turquoise really does go with everything. However, I have also decided – especially in this past 18 months – that I am no longer very interested in mixed media. I definitely feel more “me” as an artist when I am using ink and watercolour and I think, whether chicken or egg, that my skills are far better in those media than they are with others. I am, therefore, going to focus on ink and watercolour going forward – while challenging myself to get better with gouache because pushing myself out of my creative comfort zone is never a bad thing.

I have lots of ideas for future art projects. I think I work most efficiently when I work on a series but what I am considering is running a few series at the same time, one that is simple I can work on on days when I have tiny portions of free time and one that is more involved. Once I figure it all out, I will be sharing that art over on Pict Ink. Stay tuned I guess.

Rainbow Art Journal – Circling Rainbow

This is the penultimate page in my Rainbow Art Journal. I am almost there! As I so often do, I decided to draw a female figure with a circular disc in the background but this time I drew several discs so that they could form circular bands, one for each colour of the simplified rainbow (purple in place of indigo and violet). Don’t judge my geometry skills: I do not own a compass so I traced the red circle and then eyeballed the other rings from there. There are definite flaws in this piece and things I would do-over but, even with those and the wobbly not-concentric circles, I am pretty pleased with this illustration. So much so, indeed, that I rather wish this was the final page in the art journal because I have a suspicion my final drawing will not be up to snuff.

111 - Circling Rainbow

Rainbow Art Journal – Gay Mothman

I am excited by the fact of only having a few pages left in this Rainbow Art Journal. I feel like I have been pootling around in this particular art journal for so many years. Too many years. I have completed countless other art journals and art projects within that time frame but this one was malingering because I kept putting it back down as many times as I picked it up. I made it one of my goals for this Summer to just power through and almost exclusively work in this art journal so that I could finally complete it and file it away. I, therefore, feel a sense of achievement already that there are only a few pages left. I have decided that these final pages should be dedicated to all of the colours combined. Rainbows to the finish line.

This illustration is another Draw This In Your Style challenge. This one is based on an original character created by a very young artist named Myla. One of her characters is Gay Mothman who just makes me smile every time she shares artwork featuring him. I love cryptids and his rainbow garb suited my needs for this particular section of my art journal so I thought I would – as the challenge suggests – draw him in my style. After working in neutrals for a while, it was so much fun to splash all of those colours around.

110 - Gay Mothman

Rainbow Art Journal – Mummy

I recently drew Boris Karloff as The Mummy and I found it so relaxing to draw all of those wrappings that I felt the impulse to draw another mummy. As I had hoped, it was indeed calming and enjoyable to draw all of those overlapping and dangling bandages. Maybe drawing monsters is my meditation? Anyway, I am pleased with the final drawing. Sure, the head is way too big and the other proportions are also awry but she’s a monster and those can be a bit wonky. My style may actually be apt for this subject.

109 - Mummy

Rainbow Art Journal – Sisters in White

I don’t have a LinkedIn account but, if I did, I could possibly list as one of my skills “Draws creepy eyed children from yesteryear with proportions that are wonky to an often unsettling degree”. I did a whole series of drawings based on vintage photographs last year and most had wack proportions and many were bobbleheaded. Apparently I have experienced zero growth since completing that series because this pair of sisters might be the most big-headed figures yet. I don’t mind. I had fun drawing them, which is the main thing, and they make me laugh. The girls in the photograph I used for this illustration were holding baskets of flowers in their hands but I eliminated those from my drawing. Incidentally, this was drawn on the reverse of a very crinkly page so has not photographed at all well. It will flatten out over time because of the weight of the book.

108 - Sisters in White

Rainbow Art Journal – Buster Keaton

As a wee girl with limited access to TV and only a couple of channels available when I did have the opportunity, I would consume whatever happened to be on. Often that meant showings of vintage movies and reruns of comedies from the silent era. As such, I developed a real love of the vaudeville, physical antics of actors like Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton. I don’t think I have ever drawn Buster Keaton so I decided to have a crack at depicting him in this grey section of my Rainbow Art Journal. I wanted to capture his deadpan expression and those large eyes that convey so much. While I normally fill the background with a disc or random shape, I chose to draw a very simplified house shape as a nod to Keaton’s famous stunt whereby the front of a house collapses on him. As a first ever attempt at drawing Buster Keaton, I am pretty happy with how this illustration turned out.

105 - Buster Keaton