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.