Blackbird

Last week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was “music”.  I love music and as a family we listen to music a lot.  I listen to music when I am doing household chores as a distraction from the boredom and monotony and I also listen to music when I am sitting at my art table creating.  The struggle, therefore, was trying to condense such a wide ranging theme into an art journal page.  Some weeks I want for inspiration and other weeks I have so many ideas bouncing around in my head that I simply cannot focus and determine which would be worth distilling into a visual page.  I decided, therefore, that I would base my art journal page on the very next piece of music I heard.  That so happened to be my two youngest sons singing ‘Blackbird’ by The Beatles.

‘Blackbird’ was the perfect selection because there was automatically an obvious and strong visual element for the page – the blackbird itself.  I created a neutral, muted background by scraping paint across the page using an old hotel key card.  Then I painted the black body of the bird.  Then my week got massively busy and I did not add to the page for almost an entire week.  Happily, on Sunday I had my monthly meet up with some other local art journallers.  That then gave me a block of time on which to work on this page (and another) but it also meant I was limited to using portable art materials.  The rest of the page, therefore, was created using Posca paint pens.  I wish I had used a ruler to organise the text on the page.  How many years now have I stated that I will work on my typography?  Some day.

19 Blackbird -Beatles - Music

Mother’s Day in Batsto

 

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Trigger Warning: This post contains a single photo of a spider.

It was Mother’s Day last Sunday and, as my Mother’s Day treat, I wanted to go and explore somewhere new.  This Spring has been totally drecih –  a good Scots word for dreary.  It has been chilly, grey, and wet, and not very conducive to getting out and about.  Between the weather and a too busy schedule, I felt like I was getting cabin fever from not getting out and about and exploring.  So Mother’s Day was the perfect day for going for a wander somewhere new.  We chose to go to Batsto, an abandoned town in the New Jersey Pine Barrens.  I learned about the existence of Batsto from Richard Lewis’ wonderful photography blog.  Rich was actually kind enough to let me pick his brains about things to do and places to explore in the Pine Barrens.  My boys are good walkers with great stamina but we have learned from experience that they enjoy themselves a lot more and whine a lot less if we provide some sort of focus to our hikes, rambles, and wanderings.  I felt that exploring Batsto Village as a prelude to hiking a trail would be a great day out.

Our first port of call was the Visitor’s Center.  This was primarily so we could use the restroom after our drive from the Philly ‘burbs but it also provided a useful introduction to the history of the town.  Interpretative boards and exhibits informed us that Batsto was founded in the mid-18th Century – though the Lenni Lenape lived in the area before.  It was a chap named Charles Read who set up the first ironworks there, using the bog ore found in the area and trees from the woodland for the smelting furnaces.  That Batsto Iron Works changed hands a few times and had a boom period during the Revolutionary War as it provided a range of products, including munitions, to the Continental Army.  Then, in the mid-19th Century, as the iron works declined, Batsto became a glassworking area, particularly renowned for its production of window glass.  The village came under state ownership in the 1950s and the last resident left in the 1980s.

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A little bit of history absorbed, we ventured outdoors to begin our explorations.  We saw a pile of bog ore and the remains of a wooden ore boat, used to transport the raw ore from the lake.  We also saw the ice house where food provisions could be stored.  Huge chunks of ice would be cut from the lake and packed with saw dust inside the ice house so that the food could be stored there without it spoiling.  I am old enough to remember some people still having cold cupboards in their houses rather than refrigerators but it was a good opportunity to explain to my kids how things were done before electricity and the advent of domestic appliances.  Another outbuilding contained carriages, some of which looked like carcasses picked clean by carrion.  Other barns would have housed different farm animals.  In the wheelwright and blacksmith workshops, the many and various tools of the trade were on display.  I could almost imagine the blacksmith and wheelwright wandering in, picking up the equipment, and setting to work.

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The younger boys enjoyed playing inside the mule barn.  Unfortunately, rather than taking inspiration from the actual setting and playing a game of old-timey farmers, they decided to turn it into a horror game in which they had to stay steps ahead of some malevolent ghosts who were tracking them down.  There were some genuine shrieks when they found themselves squeezed into thickly webbed corners with spiders.  Thankfully no other visitors were within earshot at the time.  While they spooked each other, I took my time studying the Corn Crib.  I had never seen such an agricultural structure before and its strange shape really appealed to me.  It was as if a wonky pentagon shaped barn had had a tunnel bored through its centre.  This was where corn was stored and shucked.  The machinery that did so was powered by a water turbine attached to the adjacent Gristmill.  This was another building the boys enjoyed exploring because there were multiple accessible levels within it.  The basement layer was also thick with dusty grit which enabled them to scrawl spooky messages to each other – and any visitors who followed after us.

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In the middle of all of these agricultural and industrial buildings were a mansion and a general store.  I absolutely loved the architectural design of the mansion because it was so utterly crazy.  There were a variety of shapes and angles on every facet of the house.  There were also windows of every shape and style.  Maybe I liked it because it was quirky.  Maybe it was because it was the type of house I might end up drawing with no symmetry or organised pattern to the design.  I would love to take a tour of its interior some time.  We could go inside the general store which was fun.  The interior contained a display much like customers would have encountered upon entering the store.  I am a sucker for things being stored in little drawers and little pigeonholes.  I have fond memories of selecting penny sweeties (candy) from wooden drawers when I was wee which might be part of it.  I, therefore, particularly liked seeing the drawers of spices.  Mr Pict liked the veranda outside the general store.  It put him in mind of westerns.  I think he could imagine sitting in a rocking chair watching the world go by from that veranda.

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We took the path past the lake and a weir roaring with water.  This brought us to the area where the iron furnaces once stood and the site where the glassworks would have been.  Little or no trace remains of either.  The sawmill was still standing, however, and we could see how the trees from the surrounding woodland would have been turned into lumber products, including shingles for the exterior of houses.

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Just a little way off from the sawmill were all the remaining village houses.  These were houses, built in the early 19th Century, that occupied by the village workers.  A few of them were open so that we could go in and see the rooms and some mock ups of how they would have been furnished.  I always like to imagine how people would have lived in the past, being much more interested in social history than industrial history.

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Our intention had been to take one of the nature trails that leads off from Batsto.  However, the children were getting hungry which makes them grizzlier than bears.  We knew that setting out on a trek was inviting disaster that would start with grumbles and escalate to snarls.  We, therefore, determined that we would walk through the woods to the church that once served the people of Batsto and is still in service today for the local community.  Half way down the trail, however, we discovered that the path ahead was flooded with no obvious way around.  It had rained hard all day the previous day so this was not all together surprising but it was disappointing.  Mr Pict and I decided not to push our luck with the kids and their stomachs so, with a sigh, we turned around and headed back through the woods, through the village, and back to the car.

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Rich had recommended a few places to eat in the area so we headed to one of these.  I love to eat out for Mother’s Day as it means I don’t have to cook or clean.  I love it even more if the food is especially delicious.  The Vincetown Diner did not disappoint.  It had the relaxing, laid back atmosphere and spaciousness of a diner but the food was a step up from regular diner food (though I am actually a fan of diner food).  I had crab cakes with garlic mash and lemon aoli which was packed with flavour and stuffed me to the gunnels.  My eyes were bigger than my belly and had scanned the dessert case on the way to our seats so I still went ahead and ordered the chocolate volcano cake.  I was only able to eat one mouthful of it so I boxed it up and had it the next day.  Still scrumptious.

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We had a superb day out exploring the Pine Barrens.  We will likely return to Batsto again, maybe in a different season, and we would also like to explore more of the surrounding area and trek along some of the trails.  I also hope the dreary weather has ended now so that this can be the first of many weekend wanderings.  We have been cooped up for too long.

Self-Portrait using Non-Dominant Hand

What a difference from one week to the next – last week was an art time famine and this week I have managed to squeeze in three different doses of art time.  This week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt to use colours outside your comfort zone.  Since I had enjoyed the abstract lesson from Life Book so much this week and had found it so quick and easy, I decided to take a similar approach with my art journal page.  I again chose to use my non-dominant hand and used a wooden skewer dipped in ink.  I could tell just by glancing at my set of watercolours which colours I used least because they had barely been touched: green and orange.  I decided to throw in some yellow for a third colour and to connect the green and orange.  Not wanting to create another abstract and not knowing what else to draw, I settled on a self-portrait.  I really enjoyed working in this way.  It was quick, easy, and relaxing.  I will be squirreling away this approach so I can use it again in future.

18 Non-Dominant Hand Self-Portrait

Minimalist Abstracts

I was so happy when I viewed this week’s Life Book lesson because I knew I could actually get my response completed within the week and that, in turn, motivated me to find the free time required.  The lesson was taken by Melissa Dinwiddie and her ethos was all about being playful and getting the creative juices flowing by working on quick, minimalist pieces.  Further, the media used were ink and watercolour which are comfortably within my wheelhouse.  The lesson still presented a challenge to me, however, in that I don’t find I have an instinct for abstraction generally.  I, therefore, decided to work with my non-dominant hand in order to ensure that my mark making was loose.  It was a whole lot of fun and very relaxing so in the end I created four pieces, each measuring 4.5 by 6 inches.

19 Ink and Watercolour Abstract 1

19 Ink and Watercolour Abstract 2

19 Ink and Watercolour Abstract 3

19 Ink and Watercolour Abstract 4

 

Blue Warrior Woman

Last week’s Life Book lesson was taken by Amber Kuileimailani Bonnici and the idea was to work intuitively to paint a warrior figure, a trope of self-empowerment.  In the past six to twelve months I have gradually come to understand and accept about myself that I just don’t get great outcomes when I work intuitively.  The battle between my head and any gut feeling, between intellect and instinct I suppose, is just too great to be cooperative when I am in creative mode.  Perhaps it goes hand in hand with my style being definitely more illustrative than painterly.  I may continue to experiment with working intuitively when creating random backgrounds or attempting something more abstract but otherwise I have decided that I am going to largely opt out of working intuitively.  I figure there is no point in pursuing something that just isn’t working for me given how sparse my free time for art is.

When it came to last week’s Life Book lesson, therefore, I decided to adopt the central themes and ideas of the tutorial without adopting the same approach as Bonnici demonstrated.  For that reason, I chose to work with colours that instinctively appealed to me.  I have been crushing on turquoise combined with red a lot lately so I decided those would be my dominant colours and I figured the blue skin tones might also be a nod to the woad of a Pictish warrior.  She ended up a bit expressionless or at least set-jawed and stern but I am going to pretend that suits her as a strong warrior type rather than my inability to paint any sort of personality.  One of my sons asked if I was inspired by the movie ‘Avatar’ and another labelled her an “angry smurf” both of which comparisons made me chortle.  Not my best work but not my worst either and at least I am catching up on my weekly lessons after last week’s complete and utter lack of art time.

18 Warrior Woman

Word Clouds Raining Rainbows

Last week I had ten minutes of art time.  Ten.  That’s all, folks.  In a week that included an unplanned hospital visit, house guests, and a funeral on top of all my usual commitments, obligations, and time suckers, I was not only pushed for free time but also brimming over with stress.  I felt like it might just save my sanity if I could find some way to dig out 20 minutes for art.  That turned out to be ambitious and I got 10.  Knowing I didn’t have time to do anything too involved, too messy, or too detailed, I turned to the Art Journal Adventure prompt and opened up my art journal to a blank page.

The prompt was to feature scallops on the page.  Yum.  Scallops.  I don’t think I have eaten any since I left Scotland.  Divine wee morsels that they are.  When I thought of scallops as a shape rather than a food, I thought of the way child-like clouds are drawn and that gave me the inspiration for my page.  With no time to draw or paint, I quickly cut out some scallop-fringed cloud shapes from old book pages and adhered them to the top of the page.  I then added stripes of Neocolor II crayons and outlined the clouds with Stabilo All.  Both of these activate with water so I sprayed liberal quantities of water on the page, then tipped up the art journal to let it all run and dribble and drip.  And that was my 10 minutes all used up.  I left it to dry overnight and was actually fairly satisfied with the result given the (lack of) time and effort invested in its creation.  And it just goes to show me that a) I can put together an entire art journal page in very little time indeed if I keep things simple and work efficiently and b) even a little bit of art time can balance out a stressful week.

17 Scallop Shaped Word Clouds in a Rainbow Sky

Flying Pig

Miraculously, I managed to complete this week’s Life Book lesson before the weekend.  It was one of Tamara Laporte’s lessons on illustrations and whimsical characters, in this case an animal character.  I had to improvise with the media used and opted for watercolour and collage.  I went a bit too crazy with the background but I think I just about get away with it.  My chosen animal was a pig simply because I really like pigs.  It isn’t totemic, some sort of spirit animal, but just because I think pigs are smart and adorable.  I added wings for an additional touch of whimsy.

17 Flying Pig