I painted this figure as part of the August 2019 Art Snacks challenge (so those of you who follow me on Instagram may have seen it before). The contents of the box included yellow and green acrylic paints and a fineliner ink pen, not media that immediately jumped out as working together. My workaround was to draw the head and figure on paper using the fineliner and then collage it onto the page after I had added the first layer of paint. Having mixed different shades of green from paints provided, I then created patterns on the torso/clothing of the figure. I cheated a wee bit as I used a black paint pen for the hair and a white gel pen for some of the patterns on the clothing. Incidentally, I have no idea why the photograph has made the yellow on the face and arms look so fluorescent. It does not look at all like that in real life and is actually pretty subtle. Maybe some day I will master phone photography.
We had four guests visiting us over the Thanksgiving holiday: my in-laws and Mr Pict’s oldest friend and his partner. After a day of over-indulging in feasting, we all felt the need to get some fresh air and burn off some calories. We, therefore, headed to Valley Forge to hike around the site of the encampment and the surrounding fields. I have blogged about a previous visit to Valley Forge, back in Spring of 2016, so will not repeat myself here. Suffice to say it was a fair bit colder than it had been during that first exploration. The wind was so biting that I lost feeling in my ears. I also tried to recreate a previous “gargoyle” photo but had misremembered which son was the model.
The following day, the six adults went on a child-free trip across the border into Delaware. Our destination for the day was Nemours. This is a French chateau style mansion that Alfred Dupont built for the woman who would become his second wife. We learned that Alicia was not easily wooed and that the mansion was Alfred’s final pitch at winning her affections. She agreed to marry him but I am pretty certain he did not win her affections. Indeed, the subtext of our entire tour of the property was how problematic and dysfunctional Alfred’s marriages were – and obviously he was the common denominator – and how suspicious a few events in the biographical timeline were, including sudden deaths that removed the necessity for a divorce or the mysterious advent of infants. I basically had my own little dramatic soap opera playing in my head as I moved from room to room and learned more about Alfred and his wives.
After a quick pootle around the grounds, we embarked on a guided tour led by an enthusiastic young woman named Kat. She started the tour in the mansion’s basement and that turned out to be my favourite part of the house. I have visited hundreds of stately homes, palaces, and castles in my time and the public rooms tend to be much of a muchness. What set this home apart from the others that I have visited was that basement level. Since he had built his mansion from scratch in the early 20th Century, Alfred was not having to cram modern technology into a much older building or try to couple the old and new. He also seemed to be especially enthralled with engineering and with the cutting edge of mod cons so there were lots of fascinating gizmos, gadgets, and gubbins going on beneath the surface of the building. As someone who spends too much of her life doing laundry, I especially liked the spacious laundry room – housed in an exterior building but connected to the mansion through a tunnel so that undies need never be exposed to public view.
Each room in the house had been decorated for the Christmas season. The chosen decorations were on a theme connected to the space in which they were sited and I enjoyed the festive sparkle and the attention to detail. Again, my favourite trees were to be found in the basement level – a steampunk tree in the boiler room and a bottle tree in the bottling room.
The house is beautifully decorated and immaculately maintained. I found myself admiring the skill of the people who must remove every speck of dust from the surfaces in advance of doors being opened each day. There was a lot of opulence on display but it was not so lavish as to be garish or excessive. My favourite room was the conservatory closely followed by the kitchen.
After completing our tour of the house, we wandered over to the garage – which was larger than my house – to see the family’s collection of very shiny luxury cars. We contemplated having a walk around the grounds, which are laid out in a French style, but it was far too cold and we were too hungry to tolerate the cold. We, therefore, bid farewell to Nemours and its muffled tales of familial dysfunction. Since we have also visited Hagley Museum (way back in 2015), we now need to visit Delaware’s other open-to-the-public DuPont property at Winterarthur.
This is the final page in the yellow section of my Rainbow Art Journal. I reflected on what things I associate with yellow, the things my mind conjures up when I think of that colour, and one of the things I kept coming back to was warmth and of feeling cozy. This illustration seems appropriate for the transition from Autumn into Winter when my thoughts turn to hibernation and my habits become more hermit-like. For me, the apex of feeling cozy is about being indoors, all tucked up in a sweater or a blanket, and drinking a steaming hot mug of tea. That gave me both the idea for the illustration and the colour palette – yellow for warmth and light brown for milky tea. I often use neutrals with a brighter colour but the neutrals I use tend to be black, white, or grey, so this was a useful experiment in using brown in that capacity. I think that, in this particular instance, the yellow might be too bold and the brown too pale for the palette to cohere but I will continue to experiment with using brown as a neutral.
It was my birthday on Tuesday and I happened to be home when my kids were at school because – in a stroke of lucky timing – there was an election and my workplace is used as a polling station. I gifted myself a chunk of art time and I chose to focus on an illustration of my favourite movie, something I had been planning to do for ages but could never find the time to embark on.
My favourite movie of all time is ‘Jaws’ and it has been since I first saw it at age 8. My tastes and preferences in all other things have evolved over the intervening decades but ‘Jaws’ has hung on in there as my favourite film. Despite my tender years, the movie did not inspire a dread of sharks or fear of the ocean; instead it inspired a lifelong fascination with and love of sharks. When I was wee, what I loved about the movie was the thrill and excitement of the storytelling, in my teens I realised that really it was about three very different people having to cooperate in order to defeat their adversary, and then in adulthood I appreciated that it was both of those things and more and that this blockbuster summer movie actually has a lot of nuance to it and some (pun totally intended) toothy themes.
So here is my illustration of the brave trio of scientist Hooper, Police Chief Brody, and salty old seadog Quint alongside their nemesis, the shark.
PS I took the photo before adding Quint’s name patch on his jacket. You’ll just have to trust me that it’s there now.
I have not opened any of my art journals for a while so I thought I would crack one open and have a dabble. I decided to draw one of my favourite figures from sideshow history, the Pig Faced Lady of Manchester Square (spoiler alert: actually a shaved bear). I have drawn her before, including in an art journal page from back in 2015, but I decided to go a bit more cute and whimsical for this version. I regret that decision now and actually wish I had gone darker and more grotesque with it. I feel very meh about this illustration but it’s on a random (and crinkly) page in my art journal so that doesn’t matter. Next Pig Faced Lady will be creepier though.
Today is my birthday. Today is also election day and, since my workplace is used as a polling station, my birthday treat is a day off of work to be home alone. Each year, on a weekend adjacent to my birthday, I get to decide where we go and what we do for a day trip. I love museums so my choice was to visit a museum in Philly that we had not yet visited.
The National Museum of American Jewish History is situated in the old city. It is housed in a lovely building that allows its collections to be organised into clear chronological and narrative strands. We started on the an upper floor and with the story of the first Jewish community to immigrate to the United States and then moved throughout the galleries and levels to learn about the contributions the Jewish community have made to American history and culture. I realised that I knew almost nothing about Jews in colonial America so I found that gallery to be especially interesting. My kids enjoyed the section about migration within the US and my youngest had a hoot dressing up in prairie clothes and pretending to cook beneath the covered wagon. He tried on various costumes in several sections of the museum which was a great way to keep him moving and engaged. At one point he even pretended to be a dog in a kennel. My 14 year old is currently reading the book ‘Refugee’ by Alan Gratz so he liked the display about the perilous journey of the St Louis and, of course, the tragic consequences of countries refusing permission to land. Predictably, Mr Pict liked the section on the Civil War. For my part, I really enjoyed my visit to this museum. I especially like social history and there was plenty of that being showcased. I actually would have benefited from more time in the museum as I had to rush through the last section and even then we were the last visitors to leave and they literally locked the doors behind us.
After the museum, we headed off in search of food. Before we found a suitable option, however, we passed Shanes Confectionery and had to pop in. Aside from being a sweet-toothed family, Shanes claims to be the longest running confectionery shop in the US. We were gifted some Shanes chocolate and famous clear candy a few years ago now so we have sampled some but it was great to finally be in the store. Stepping across the threshold was like stepping back in time as the store has been lovingly and beautifully restored to its early 20th Century style, including restored machinery and gadgets. My oldest son found the narrowness of the store to be too claustrophobic for his liking but the rest of us thought it was all wonderful. My youngest is a chocaholic so he was smitten to the point of being overwhelmed by all the marvellous chocolates. He is also cat-obsessed so he loved seeing chocolate in feline form. I loved seeing the old cash registers and the stained glass and the patina on all the wooden shelves. There were so many fabulous confections to choose from but we rose to the challenge and made our selections.
Dinner was in a British themed pub. We were all excited to spot that Irn Bru was one of the soft drinks available. Even though the recipe has (somewhat controversially) changed since we left Scotland, it was a taste of home. There were also mushy peas available as a side so Mr Pict and I ordered those. They were far too good quality to taste authentic but that is not a cause for complaint. I can usually only manage a single course when eating but I had spotted sticky toffee pudding on the menu so had to order it – though I did share with some of the boys. I was delighted to discover that it had been made with dates just as it should be. It was scrumptious.
The closing ceremony for my birthday trip was to view an art installation on the Delaware River. When we arrived at the Race Street Pier, it was already dark so the ghost ship should have been visible. Alas, it was not. We were informed that the organizers were experiencing technical difficulties and they had no timeline whatsoever for a resolution. Oh dear. The crowd was restless. Some people were loudly complaining. We took up a position along the pier’s barrier and waited patiently for the glitch to be fixed. After half an hour of waiting, however, the boys were bottomed out on patience and started to plead with me to give up and to just go home. I was, however, determined to see this thing so just tuned out their gripes. I admit that even my patience was waning as the cold seeped into my bones some time after the 40 minute mark. Finally, water erupted from rigging that sat on the water’s surface and, as the fountains spumed, the image of an 18th Century schooner appeared, projected onto the water. It was impressive and I was glad to see it. Was it remarkable enough to wait almost an hour in the cold with four moaning children? The verdict is still out.
A tornado visited my area on Halloween night. My town did not get a direct hit but the strength of the winds and the eerie atmosphere were enough to lead us to actually wake all of the kids up and seek shelter. Apart from a dent to one of the cars, our property was unscatched. Lots of fallen trees and downed power lines in the vicinity, however, meant we were stuck at home without electricity. We consequently also had no school or work on Friday. The upside, therefore, was that I found myself with unexpected free time.
I, therefore, decided to work on the October Art Snacks challenge. I did cheat and use an additional black pen but otherwise this illustration was created just with the products included in the box. Once again, I found the colour palette to be challenging. I drew a very busy illustration precisely because it would allow me to use a lot of all three colours throughout the composition and hopefully balance them all out. I am actually not sure about the Venetian Pink ink but that may be because the colour looks “off” when set against the other two colours. My major challenge with this piece, however, was using those Copic markers. I really cannot use alcohol markers without ending up with streaks and I should probably watch some videos of them in use to learn how to obtain a smoother finish.