I have birds on the brain (and maybe a bird brain) at the moment. I am loving seeing all the birds visiting my garden – and was especially excited when hummingbirds started to appear – but cannot always identify them since a lot of the species are obviously very different from those in the UK. I, therefore, bought a guide book to the birds of North America. I am excited to move into my new house for very many reasons but among the things I am looking forward to is being able to sit in my kitchen and watch birds visiting the feeder just outside the window. I may be on my way to becoming a twitcher. I also have birds on the brain because I am working through some bird design ideas for my next lino block print. I am even contemplating branching out into using more than one colour.
So when the latest challenge from the Documented Life Project was released this very morning, I was instantly visited by the Mixed Media Muse and knew precisely what I wanted to create on my Art Journal page. With two children playing the PS3, one viewing YouTube videos on my Kindle and the other at a birthday party, I also had the opportunity to crack on and create. Ah, the serendipity and luxury of inspiration and opportunity colliding!
The challenge was to “use your underpaper in a creative way”. Despite being a moderately messy artist, I don’t tend to use underpaper; I just wipe my kitchen table a lot. Note to self: start using underpaper. Nevertheless, I interpreted the challenge as meaning that group members should be encouraged to use all of those bits and bobs that are generated as a side effect of the intentional creativity whether that be underpaper, used paper towels or wet wipes, scraps and cut off odds and ends. What I had that fell into that category were pieces of paper covered in paint from cleaning my brayer and lifting off remaindered paint and layers of ghost prints from the gelli plate.
My idea was to create a Phoenix. The idea came to me instantly, partly because of the bird obsession I am nurturing, but for other reasons too. In September, I am going to be launching into a Drawing a Day challenge and my kids have set the theme as being Mythology so I had mythological beasts roaming around in the recesses of my mind. It also seemed appropriate to use a phoenix, that symbol of resurrection, of regenerating something out of destruction, for a challenge that was essentially about recycling. I would like to claim that the phoenix might also symbolise the year I have been experiencing and relating in this blog, of starting over, experiencing new things, but I had no such profound thoughts until after the fact. Still apt though. Mostly, however, the phoenix idea probably came immediately to mind because my sons and I are all Potterphiles and, of course, a phoenix plays a small but recurring and significant role in the plots of those novels and films.
I started by rooting through all my gelli print papers to find the unintentional prints and found two that I thought would work perfectly for the phoenix. One was a sheet of paper I had used to keep cleaning my brayer but the final layer was created by mopping up the remaining paint when my 7 year old used a flame stencil. The other sheet was created by lifting off a few ghost prints from the plate when I was printing with leaves. The paper colour was red and I also thought some of the shapes created by the leaf veins might be suggestive of feathers.
Wishing to avoid returning to my default position of just having white paper as the background, I decided to create some pattern. By happenstance, I had just taken delivery of some new stencils – the first I have ever bought – and among them was a “stacked triangles” one which I thought would be fit for purpose. I am an inexperienced and inept stenciller to begin with but I made things even more difficult for myself by not using stamping ink (I don’t have the correct colours) and instead using the cheap kids’ tempera paint that I enjoy because it is so translucent. I applied it with a sponge and, as expected, the lines were not very crisp but that didn’t really matter for the effect I was trying to achieve. Or maybe I’m just slapdash.
I freehand cut out a body and head shape from the flame paper. I wanted to make more use of that paper not only because of the flame shapes but because I liked the fact there were contrasting cold colours beneath the oranges of the flames. I then freehand cut large, medium and small feather shapes from the remaining flame paper and the red paper. Once I had a stash of feathers (and in the end I made too many) it was time to start constructing the phoenix which was really just a case of gluing and layering until I was happy that it looked phoenix-like.
I stamped on a circular pattern to surround the eye and then used black and white gel pens to pick out the actual eye. I used the same black pen to create the beak, legs and talons. I then wanted to add some gold to represent the embers of the flames and also because I happen to like gold. I stamped some gold through the same stencil so that it layered on top of the painted triangles. I then sprinkled some of the gold paint over the bottom portion of the whole page so as to create dots and spots of gold.
He maybe looks like a phoenix-budgie-chicken hybrid but I am pretty chuffed with how the page turned out and I am especially pleased that I completed the challenge within hours of it being revealed because I actually eked out some creative free time.