For most of my life I have told people that I can draw but I cannot paint. Whereas I could control my drawing tools to produce something approximating the vision I had in my head, I was always entirely cackhanded when it came to manipulating paint. Of course, this was a little self-perpetuating since I would choose pencil, charcoal, and ink over paint each and every time so one set of skills continued to grow while the other atrophied. It was when I emigrated to America, almost three years ago, that I thought to myself that I might try my hand at painting again – a new challenge for the new chapter in my life – and that was how and when I embarked on art journaling and exploring mixed media.
Since then – and particularly since joining Life Book – I have tried to develop my skills with paint and grow my self-confidence. It has been frustrating. For every couple of steps forward, I have at taken at least one step backwards. My ability with paint continues to be patchy, inconsistent, outwith my control. There have been times I have looked at a finished piece, many times actually, and thought to myself, “Well actually maybe I can paint”. But then there are the times when I take so many steps backwards that I feel like perhaps I am investing my time in energy on attempting something that is not progressing. Today I am back to thinking that maybe once again I can draw but I cannot paint.
Last week’s Let’s Face It lesson is a case in point. The lesson was taken by Jeanne-Marie Webb and was definitely a more painterly approach to depicting a face and figure. The idea was to use more neutral tones – I used raw umber, raw sienna, unbleached titanium and a little cadmium red – and that was something that really appealed to me. It took me all week to actually find time to tackle the lesson but I was really looking forward to giving it a try. I made a complete mess of it. By way of illustration of my previous point about my abilities, I will share the photo of the drawing beneath the painting. Despite the spectral quality of the eyes being complete blanks, I rather like the drawing. It certainly suggests potential for something interesting and – had I been working in ink and watercolour – I think I could have pulled it off. However, almost as soon as I added the acrylic and began layering the paint it all went pear-shaped. All the features drifted, became wider and chunkier, the blending got messy and patchy, and the tones became muddy and murky. And let’s not even mention how awful my painting of flowers is. Sigh. If I had the luxury of time, I would be tempted to layer more paint on top of this and see if I can pull it back and refine it. However, I don’t have time so shall let it be as it is, a testament to many steps backwards in my attempt to learn to paint with acrylic and use mixed media, and maybe it will some day be a yardstick of how much further forward I have progressed. For now, however, it is still the case that I can draw but I cannot paint.
In a post last week, I alluded to the fact that my spare time – always a rare commodity – has been even more reduced. The reason for this is because I have returned to paid employment after a three year period as a full-time Stay Home Parent.
It all happened in a complete whirlwind. I heard about a job opportunity on a Tuesday and immediately inquired, was informally interviewed on the Thursday, was offered the job on the Friday before even handing in my application form, and started work the following Monday. Especially since I was not actively looking for a job, it has all been rather unexpected and exciting.
The reason I moved so fast to grab the opportunity is that it is a bit of a “unicorn job”. I am working in a preschool which is perfect for me as it uses my skill set and experience (as I have worked in both High School and preschool education) and it means I work hours and days that don’t require me to find childcare for my own kids – a necessity since I largely solo parent. Furthermore, my work is within walking distance of home. The chances of finding a job that met all those criteria were slim to nil so I am definitely very lucky to have found and successfully grabbed the opportunity.
I like the ethos and atmosphere of the preschool, my colleagues all seem lovely, and working with small kids again is such fun. As a qualified High School teacher, I was never sure of how I would adapt to working with such small kids but I found I really enjoyed it so I am really happy that I get to do that again. I love that small kids are such little sponges, eager for experiences and learning so rapidly, I love how delightfully random they are, and I love that no two days with them are ever the same.
It is going to take some adjustments on the home front, the transition period having involved a little bit of chaos occurring at home, but so far the boys have adapted well to having me back in work after having me stay home for them since we emigrated. I, of course, won’t be volunteering in or otherwise visiting their schools as often as I have been, which may cause some dismay and annoyance, and they will really have to make more effort with their chores but I think we can make it work. The thing that has to give in all of this, of course, is my free time. It was never abundant but I certainly had no cause for complaint. Now, however, I will have meager rations of free time. My hope is that I will get to a point where I can make a new schedule work that claws back some additional free time. Until then, however, my postings are likely to become less frequent since I will have less to post about.
After making sock monsters a few weeks ago, my 9 year old has been well and truly bitten by the sock transformation bug. Every few days he is looking to eke out time to sew a sock and turn it into something cuddly. I may have to create a security system for our socks soon to keep them safe from his scissors and needles. He and I are also making his Halloween costume. My sewing related stress levels are soaring yet somehow I keep encouraging him. Maybe some day he will be doing all of the sewing repairs in the household.
Most of his monsters have just evolved from the meeting of sock, thread and buttons but then he decided that he wanted to aim for a specific outcome. He wanted to make a Cthulhu. Mr Pict is into Lovecraft (and a board game called Eldritch Horror) and I have painted Cthulhu twice, despite not being a Lovecraft fan, so I guess that sewed the seeds of the Cthulhu plan.
He picked out a black sock with which to construct his Cthulhu and then he found a black glove (also in my sock orphanage) for the tentacled bit of the face. Orange and red buttons became the fiery eyes and he used some black felt for the wings. I think he did a fantastic job. The best praise he received came from his brothers who all declared it to be amazing and to wish they had a sock Cthulhu too. He was beaming from ear to ear.
PS If you like monsters crafted from textiles then you should totally check out the wonderful creations to be found on the CrawCrafts Beastie Blog. Helen’s Beasties are a monstrous marvel and an inspiration to my wee monster crafter.
It has been a few weeks since I did anything in my art journal. Life just got crazy busy and my free time has all but vanished – more of which at a later date – and what time I have had has been used to try and keep on top of my art courses. My poor art journal has been neglected. When this week’s Colour Me Positive prompt appeared, however, it was the shove I needed to actually open the journal and do something. The result was my quickest journal page ever. This took me five minutes. That’s it. Five small minutes. And the page shows the total lack of investment and effort. Ha! But that is OK because at least I opened the art journal and did something.
The theme was Change and the quotation was “Life does not get better by chance; it gets better by change”. I googled and it turns out it is from some motivational speaker named Jim Rohn. It is a little bit trite for my taste, the phrasing at least, but I a) agree with the concept and b) did not have time to contemplate an alternative so I decided to use the quotation. I had a page in my art journal where I had been experimenting with watercolour, testing out how the pigments would mix, run together, and what the resulting puddles would look like once dried. Just random shapes and marks all over the page. I thought I might repurpose it eventually but with no idea when, how or why. So why not just write the quotation over the top of the watercolour blobs? After all, transforming the purposeless page would chime with the theme of Change. So I shoved a paint brush into a bottle of India ink, scrawled the quotation across the page, roughly encircled it with a thinner brush in the same ink. Five minutes maximum. Done. Not very arty or creative but job done. And maybe now I can get back in the habit of cracking open the art journal at least once a week again.
Last week’s Life Book lesson was another tutorial with Angela Kennedy. I really like Kennedy’s work because it is more illustrative and, therefore, more in line with my own style. For this particular lesson, I actually chose to emulate Kennedy’s style. Normally I try to mesh my own style with the lesson being tackled but for this one I capitulated not just out of time pressure and laziness (though both were undoubtedly a factor) but also because I wanted to concentrate more on the technique being taught than on coming up with my own composition and such like.
The technique in question was using coloured pencils over acrylic paint – and a background prepared with gesso. Coloured pencils and I are not best friends. People are often bemused to learn that I am so lacklustre with pencils. They assume that if I can draw with ink and colour with ink and watercolour then I must find using coloured pencils a doddle. Not so. Childlike colouring I can do, of course, but doing anything more artistic has long eluded me. A couple of years ago I snagged a lovely box of Prismacolor pencils that were going for a song and can confirm that the quality of the tools did not make much difference to my aptitude. Good quality tools matter, of course, but what matters more is the ability of the person using them. I am found lacking in this regard. Nevertheless, I decided to give this lesson my best shot. I think I just about pulled it off but I most definitely need more practice.
Last week’s Let’s Face It tutorial was a paint over collage lesson. It was taken by Toni Burt and we had actually been led through her process for creating a collaged background as a mini-lesson a few months ago.
I really liked the collaged background as it was a bit more thought through and intentional than my collages tend to be. Instead of just tearing up and sticking down paper, I was actually thinking about relationships between elements. I should have thought a bit more carefully about the eventual composition, however, as I ended up with a significant bump under the figure because of the ticket stub. Never mind. Another learning opportunity.
The object was to paint a whimsical figure on top of the collage layer. Burt used oil sticks in her piece but I neither own or have a desire to own oil sticks so I improvised and used Neocolor II crayons to shade the face. It was a welcome break to be working in this more illustrative style again, not having to be concerned about accurate proportions and facial features and all that jazz. I may be guilty of over-simplifying but time is ever my nemesis.
Our final activity of the summer break was making things from Polymer clay. We have a bit of experience of polymer clay but not much so there was still an element of experimentation. It was completely freestyle so everyone got to choose what they were going to make and how many things they were going to make.
My 13 and 9 year olds must have been in dark, horror fan moods because one created a zombie and one created a plaque that was essentially a body that had been attacked by a zombie. Mayhaps I have been taking the zombie thing too far with them this summer, what with Night of the Living Dead location shoots and all, but I am happy to have some more zombie fans in the family.
My 10 year old is following his older brother’s footsteps and getting into Minecraft so he created a Creeper figure with the clay. My 7 year old decided to make a tiny, adorable bunny rabbit complete with tiny carrots. He also made a bunch of other tiny little things. He’s all about making small things he can easily shove in his pockets – which then easily end up in the washing machine.
I decided to join in too and I sort of fused what my kids were doing, combining zombies and bunnies to see if I could create tiny polymer clay versions of my zombie bunny characters. I can see those ending up in my 7 year old’s pockets too.