I have accidentally established a tradition in my Rainbow Art Journal whereby each colour section contains an illustration of some kind of sprite-like creature. For the blue section, I was thinking of water. I drew a figure who is drenched in water (or, as I would say in Scots, “drookit”), her body morphing into a puddle on the floor, her hair dripping across her face.
Another completed page in the blue section of my Rainbow Art Journal. This one was easy to finish up because I actually drew the original in March of 2020 – which feels like years ago now – in response to an Art Snacks challenge. I had drawn it in the blue section of the art journal thinking the media I had received were, well, much more blue than they turned out to be. They were far too green and it was annoying me that I had misjudged the colours and stuffed up the colour theme in the sketchbook. I had, therefore, walked away from it for a while – which turned out to be a long while – to come up with a solution. I was so annoyed with myself initially that I considered covering up the whole thing and starting over with essentially a new substrate but I loved that graphite watercolour and the way it had dried in puddles far too much to cover that up. My solution in the end was a quick and easy one so I could call this page “done” and move on: I simply layered some blue ink washes over some of the most green areas of the illustration to knock them back. It is definitely a blue-green piece but that’s acceptable to me.
This is the other page in my Rainbow Art Journal that I completed over Winter break. The page was covered in all sorts of collaged odds and ends. Essentially any scrap of blue leftover from another project, any blue postage stamp, any interesting labels ended up adhered to this page. One prominent label was from a wine bottle and the name of it – Capuchon – gave me the idea for the illustration. I made the hat wonky because that asymmetry is something I enjoy and the side benefit of the floppy brim was that I only had to draw one eye. No challenge of creating two matching eyes.
Over Winter break, I have picked up my Rainbow Art Journal again. I am determined to get it finished this year. It has been one of those projects I have dipped in and out of for far too long. It’s time to wrap it up.
This page is my first attempt at properly using gouache. I was gifted a set of gouache paints for my birthday in November and I finally found time to start experimenting with them. I am a natural born pessimist and not given to self-confidence but I daftly thought I would take to gouache. I assumed it would be close enough to watercolour that I would have a sense for how to work it and apply it. Spoiler alert: I was wrong. The gouache does not react to water in the same way that watercolour paint does. Being thicker, it was harder for me to dilute it in a way that was pleasing. I got lots of ugly streaks. It was also harder for me to work with the brush. I am used to being able to gently encourage watercolour and ink into edges and shapes but I had to be more forceful with the gouache.
I kept my first experiment simple, a silly little doodle of a selfie, because my focus was on the application of the paint rather than the outcome of a finished illustration. As first experiments go, it is not a disaster but nor is it as proficient as I hoped it would be. That’s OK though. That’s what my art journals are for.
I have not been creating any art for a month now which, for me, is quite a long time. Partly this was a consequence of needing a break after several months of near daily drawing and partly it was a symptom of just being burned out from everyday life in 2020. My creative mojo had temporarily departed. Not wanting rust to settle into my artistic joints, I decided to try the December Art Snacks challenge as a way to grease the machine.
In order to avoid overwhelm, I opted to work on one of those small, narrow samples of paper I have that I have been turning into bookmarks. When I looked through the media contained in my Art Snacks box and thought about the colours, I immediately thought of summer flowers. Summer flowers made me think of the May Queen from the horror movie ‘Midsommar’ and so that became the basis for my illustration. I did cheat a wee bit in that I used a micron pen for the outlines of the face and the very loose flower shapes.
Now that I have broken my creative drought with this small illustration, I hope to get back to at least pootling around in my art journals over winter break.
I apologise for my absence during this last couple of months of 2020. Life is busy – as always – but not with anything that generates blog fodder. Nobody is clamouring to read about or see photos of me cooking and baking in my jammies, going for a donder around my neighborhood, or being tucked up on a sofa watching a movie. Now that the weather is colder and the pandemic is even worse than it has been, we Picts are in hibernation mode.
It is also the case that I am very burned out. In-person teaching during a pandemic is fatiguing on every level. Throw in supervising my own kids’ doing virtual learning on top of that and all of the usual business of daily family life and I am exhausted to my bones and crawling to the finish line of this year.
It seems ludicrous to state this during a year of “social distancing” but, now that I am on winter break, I am looking forward to a solid chunk of time in which I don’t have to deal with people. I need to not hear my voice say the word “mask” and I need a break from all the constant cleaning and sanitizing – and my skin really needs that break too.
So I am hoping to use this winter break to recharge my batteries and replenish myself through quality family time, lots of relaxation, and hopefully some art time – because my creative mojo has temporarily gone walkabout.
And so, as I sign off for now, I wish you all a wonderful festive season, happy celebrations to those who observe Christmas, and a safe and healthy new year.
I desperately needed some art time but I was completely lacking in motivation and inspiration. I did, however, have my November Art Snacks box sitting untouched on my art table so I decided to tackle this month’s challenge as a way to jump start some creative time.
I did cheat a bit on the challenge because I used a black ink pen that did not come with the box. The bright pink of the marker, the citrus green of one of the pencils, and the neon yellow of the brush pen suggested a 1980s pop vibe so I sketched out a girl wearing 1980s fashions – based simply on my recollection rather than any references so probably not super accurate.
It’s certainly far from my best work but it felt therapeutic to create something in my art journal and, as I have written many times before, often the journey is more important than the destination.
Between completing my Star Wars illustration challenge and participating in Drawlloween, it took until mid-November for me to find the time and motivation to experiment with the supplies in my October Art Snacks box. Even when I did break them out, I kept things very small and manageable. This illustration is the scale of a bookmark. Indeed, I have a number of these skinny drawings now and I think I am going to laminate them so they can all become bookmarks.
I think this drawing ended up with a bit of a 1910s vibe to it. The combination of the lavender paint pen, which I watered down as well as using straight out of the barrel, and the bright sunshine yellow of the ink brush is quite a pleasing colour combination I think.
Apologies to Keats for the lame pun. Maybe it is not the best idea – during a deadly pandemic – to reference a text in which the poet uses Autumn to reflect on his own imminent mortality but I couldn’t resist. It has been some time since I last hit “post” on this blog because, for obvious reasons, I don’t have much to report but I thought I could write something about what we have been up to this Autumn.
We started October with a birthday: our second oldest son turned 15. He is my movie geek so normally his celebration would involve a cinema trip and a restaurant dinner with us and some of his friends. While that was not possible this year, his birthday still revolved around movies, especially some of his favourites. Our 13 year old, for instance, drew his brother’s favourite Director – Martin Scorsese – as a gift and the decorations for his cake were all cinema inspired.
My 15 year old’s favourite movie of recent years is ‘The Lighthouse’ and his favourite actor is Willem Dafoe. It was, therefore, not a surprise when he chose to dress up as Dafoe’s character in ‘The Lighthouse’ for Halloween. Our youngest son went trick or treating as a cat. Our neighbourhood did a safe, socially-distanced trick or treat event. Candy had to be bagged up in advance and left down by the sidewalk so that nobody had to approach houses and everyone had to walk in the direction of traffic to avoid passing. It worked really well as a zero contact event and I was glad we could do something approaching “normal” for the youngest members of the community. Honestly, I rather hope this becomes the new tradition. It was much easier and the kids were able to gather so much more candy in a shorter period of time because they were not having to leave the sidewalks or wait for people to answer the door. I am adding that to the list of things I hope don’t return to normal after the pandemic.
My own personal Halloween horror story was surviving without a fridge-freezer for almost the whole of October. In addition to being an unexpected expense, we had a whole lot of stress trying to problem-solve a replacement. When we bought our house, it had not been remotely updated since it was built in 1968 with the exception of the kitchen which dates from about 1990. It was not, therefore, wholly surprising when the fridge-freezer went kaput. Unfortunately, dimensions of appliances have changed over the past 30 years and we could not find a replacement fridge-freezer that would fit into the space. Aside from the fact that we cannot afford to replace the entire kitchen right now, the units are actually in excellent condition. The only solution we could come up with that maintained the integrity of the surrounding cabinets was to remove the doors from the cabinets above the fridge-freezer space, cut down the interior box, and create an open shelving situation. It is not ideal but it will do for now and until we do renovate the entire kitchen. The plumbing for the fridge-freezer was not in line with current code so that was another hiccup along the way. Needless to say, after a month without a functioning fridge-freezer, I am so happy and grateful to have a new one.
My birthday fell in election week so the election and the stressful wait for the results dominated the week. It did, however, make for a very memorable birthday. I cannot imagine I will ever forget it. My husband’s birthday fell just two days after we went into lockdown in the Spring and I have the last birthday of the year in our household so we have all had this weird birthday experience now.
My birthday tradition is to have a trip somewhere that everyone has to agree to and not complain (too much) about. A lot of things are off limits right now and then there are things we assess as being too high risk. Luckily, however, one of my favourite pastimes is visiting cemeteries and that is a safe thing to do in the current context. We, therefore, took a trip to Woodlands Cemetery in Philadelphia.
It is always useful to have a focus to our cemetery visits so I went armed with research into some graves we could try to locate. Mr Pict actually has some distant relatives buried in the cemetery but we had no success in finding them. Our focus, therefore, was on famous graves.
The first grave I really wanted to find was that of Mary Grew. She was an abolitionist and suffragist and, given 2020 is the centenary of women being enfranchised in America and Americans have just elected the nation’s first female VP, it seemed apt to go visit her grave.
Just a hop, skip, and a jump away, we located the grave of the artist Thomas Eakins. I confess I had not heard of Eakins until we emigrated and settled in the suburbs of Philadelphia. One of Eakins’ most famous paintings is The Gross Clinic and the subject of that painting, Dr Samuel Gross, is buried elsewhere in the cemetery. One of my nerdy interests – an offshoot of my fascination with disease and pandemics – is the history of medicine and the painting of Gross provides some insight into the practices in surgical theatres at that time – not a lot of hygiene, for instance. That same interest is what drew me to find the resting place of John Conrad Otto. He identified the pattern of hereditary that caused the transmission of hemophilia.
As you may recall, Mr Pict is a Civil War nerd so we, of course, had to visit at least a couple of the graves of notable Civil War veterans: Naval Commodore William David Porter and David Bell Birney.
My kids have remained 100% virtual for education but, just last week, those students who wished to were able to return to brick and mortar schools on a hybrid model. By the end of the week, the county public health department ordered that all schools had to pivot back to 100% online for all students for a period of two weeks. Apart from the fact I returned to work, we have continued to live in a “lockdown” mode so nothing much alters for us. It may, however, indicate that a strict lockdown is on the horizon. Apart from not wishing to be furloughed again, we are prepared for it. We will just continue to watch movies, play board games, and bake.
I have been neglecting my art journals these past several months because all of my art time has been focused on my Star Wars character challenge. I have especially been neglecting my Rainbow Art Journal, a project I really should have completed by now whereas in actuality I don’t think I am even half way through. This month’s Art Snacks box, however, contained a colour palette that was perfect for transitioning out of the green section of that journal and into the blue. On the theme of transitions, this weekend was really the first feeling of Autumn nipping at the heels of Summer. After a hot and humid Summer, we have had some misty, chilly mornings and I actually donned an extra layer of clothing. Maybe that was what inspired me to sketch out a figure being blown in the wind.