The Monstrous Mermaid or Embracing Mistakes

I learned quite a few things from this week’s Life Book lesson.

Firstly, it is a good idea not to stand my mug of boiling water and lemon next to my water jar as it is inevitable that a paint covered brush will end up in the drink.

Secondly, I need to curb the temptation of going off piste so much.  Eager to marry my own style to the techniques being taught, I am being too impulsive.  I need to find the time to follow the tutorials more closely, even emulating the tutor’s style, before embarking on a version in my own style.

Thirdly, that my promise to myself to embrace all of my mistakes as learning opportunities can feel quite challenging at times.

This week’s bonus lesson was led by Patti Ballard and the technique demonstrated was painting on top of collage with acrylic.  Ballard’s instructional video depicted her painting a ballerina on a tightrope and the phrase “Courage Dear Heart”.  Ballerinas are not really my thing.  In fact, the one really good pen and ink drawing I ever did of a ballerina I gave away to a friend.  The idea of painting one, therefore, didn’t really trigger any enthusiasm in me so I decided to paint a mermaid instead.  I have been planning to carve a mermaid lino block print for ages but cannot seem to settle on a design so in the mean time I thought I would use one for this lesson.

The collage step went well.  I used some papers and some of my gelli prints and it all looked quite harmonious.  And then it  came time to paint.

I am really quite inexperienced with acrylic paint.  I am comfortable with pencil, charcoal, ink and watercolour but I have not yet gotten the hang of acrylic.  I think the first mistake I made, therefore, was using paint that was too heavy bodied.  Something a little more fluid may have helped me a lot more with blending.  My second mistake was to go too dark with my colour palette.  I wanted to ensure that the painting stood out against the background papers but in retrospect I should have toned the colours down a lot more.

It was not long before the whole thing was just looking like a complete and utter mess.  I have read a few times that it is important to just keep going, plough on through the ugly stage and have confidence that it will all pull together.  So I powered on.  It got a little better but was still pretty ugly.  Adding lots of dots and circles in different shades of blue and white just made it a more highly patterned mess.  Oh dear.  The chance of it all pulling together into something cohesive and aesthetically pleasing was looking unlikely.

As I pondered the concatenation of errors in my painting, reflected on how I needed to turn this failure into a valuable learning opportunity, I decided that the phrase I should stamp onto my painting was “Go with the flow”.  That is the type of courage I need with this mixed media art course.  I need to do my own thing a bit less, conform a bit more, accept that I will stumble – sometimes badly – but keep on trying.  I need to stop being a self-critical control freak and need to just “go with the flow”.

So here, in all her monstrous glory, is my mermaid.

Week 4 - Acrylic on Collage - Courage

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23 thoughts on “The Monstrous Mermaid or Embracing Mistakes

  1. After your narrative, I was expecting something monstrous. I like this mermaid! She has a very mysterious, hindu-goddess thing going on. Much stronger than your average Disney mermaid 🙂
    Stop beating yourself up, she’s great.

    • Thank you so much for your very kind comment. There was a complete disconnect between what I saw in my mind’s eye and what appeared on the paper. However, I have learned some lessons and that is what it is all about. Hopefully my next attempt at painting with acrylic will be a lot better. Thank you for visiting and commenting.

  2. I came beetling over to visit and yes – you are deeply involved. I chuckled. Perhaps I shouldn’t, but I did. It sounded just like me. I love that you are determined to embrace what comes – how else do we learn? I love gesso. It is our friend and is extremely helpful to ‘erase’ the bits that go wrong. I love the movement you have in your mermaid – I think you should keep working on her.

    • Thank you for visiting and for your lovely comment. I may have missed it but I did not see gesso used in the video tutorial so decided not to use it. With regret. I am abandoning this version but should I find extra time in my schedule at some point I may attempt a different version – as much as anything to see if I have learned from my mistakes. It’s all progress. I hope.

      • I agree – it is all progress. And we all have those times when it just doesn’t work out – and we have to learn to be okay with that too. Most of mine don’t work out :- ) But when they do, they are getting better each time. I am really happy with that!

  3. While you may wish that her skin tone were lighter, I agree with the other comments: she has a very exotic feel to her and I see no mistakes at all. The dots that you felt added to the mess I think are perfect. Your mermaid is really beautiful and she looks as if she is truly suspended in the currents of the ocean. Great job for NOT doing the safe thing!

    • I can always rely on you for an encouraging comment and I thank you for that. It annoys me that her skin tone is so close to her hair colour and my blending is poor because I am used to working with much more fluid media. My intention is to find time to return to this exercise at some point and see if I can improve.

  4. I thought I would see a wild mermaid but NO she is quite very exotic! I like that her skin color is very much as the same color family of her hair. You did a bold thing here and high five for that! The dots serving as scales was a good call, they made your mermaid more girly, and following that pattern to her hair is just superb! I would never have thought of that. Kudos for bringing in your own style! I love that artists would eagerly put in their own rather than following what the tutorial step by step. Bringing your heart into your work always makes it unique! Thanks for sharing her!

  5. I have to say Laura, as I scrolled down through your post, I kept feeling like there was going to be something horrible at the end. Imagine my surprise when I saw your mermaid instead! I’m going to say something here, and I do hope you won’t be offended, but I’ve been listening and following you along for some time now, both here and on FB, and I think you are very critical of your own work. She’s beautiful. Truly. Choosing the red against the blue background, her coloring, her design and lovely flowy hair, and the dots! Those dots are gorgeous!

    I know how uncomfortable self-acceptance can feel, especially with art, especially if you aren’t getting precisely what you’re seeing in your mind on your paper. Just try it on for a few minutes at a time and see if it doesn’t give you a bit of mad freedom ❤

    It's by playing through the perceived "mistakes" that we get more comfortable and find our own style. You keep doing just what you're doing. It's working :)) xx

    • I am not remotely offended and I welcome your critique of my attitude as much as of my art. I am a glass-half-empty person by nature (or nurture?) which I think leads me to focus on the faults or less successful elements of my art work (or my cooking, or my parenting) rather than the positives. It is not that I don’t see the positives; it’s just I obsess over the problems. I actually drive myself spare being that way but I am hard-wired it seems. I definitely need to retrain my brain in that regard. Blogging and being part of the DLP and now Life Book groups is helping because I see how such a wide variety of people respond to my art work. You are completely correct in your assessment of me, therefore, and I think I should make it a goal to be more focused on the positives by the end of the year. You can help keep me in check. 🙂

      Something about that mermaid though really got me frustrated and it’s become my great white whale. As such, I actually just finished another collage so I can have another crack at it hopefully tomorrow.

      Thank you for your feedback. I genuinely appreciate it.

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