I feel like I have been working on my Rainbow Art Journal for an eternity. I definitely work on this project in fits and starts with long periods of neglect. Deciding it was time I got those mixed media muscles working again, I cracked open my Rainbow Art Journal and play around with some acrylic – a medium I have not used in months.
I am still malingering in the blue section of the Art Journal. I don’t think I am even half way through the pages yet but finally getting to the end of the blue section will, I suspect, feel like movement*. Blue often makes me think of sea and sky so that is what inspired this illustration of a lighthouse. It did not take me long to recognise the extent to which my painting skills have atrophied due to an extended period of not practicing. The results are ugly. It’s a very rough and patchy page and my lines are very wonky and wobbly, even by my own standards. It was tempting to give everything an additional coat of paint and start over but a) I did not have the time available and b) I figured it would be a place marker in my Art Journal, demarcating where I returned to the project and started over, and therefore provide a measure of the progress I can make from this point forward.
*A check of my blog reveals that I embarked on the blue section in September of last year. Even more staggering is the fact that I started the whole Rainbow Art Journal in January of 2017. I really am tortoising my way through this project!
This small illustration was created using the contents of my April Art Snacks box. There was a mechanical pencil, a black pen with a very fine point, a green alcohol marker, and a brown brush pen. I did not get along well with the brush pen at all – possibly user error – until I decided to use it as watercolour by squeezing some pigment out onto a palette and then picking it up with a wet brush. Once I did that, I really liked the way I could layer warm brown tones.
My Inner Critic is loud and brutal so I often only see the flaws in my art work. However, I actually really like this illustration and I am very happy with it.
This was what I created with the contents of my March Art Snacks box. I am not a fan of coloured pencils. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation as I don’t know whether I am bad at using them because I don’t like them or whether my ineptitude with them has led me to dislike them. Despite the fact the pencil leads were buttery smooth, I still could not achieve a neat finish. I am as scribbly with the pencils now as I was when I was a wee girl. Still, sometimes it is as useful to be reminded of what media you don’t enjoy as which you do like to use. The squiggles in the background did not start out as purposeful mark making. The nib of the black marker was very flexible – the type that would lend itself to calligraphy – and I let it slip when I was attempting a straight line. I just had to lean into it and channel my inner Bob Ross and allow squiggles to be a feature in the background. Once I had added background squiggles, it seemed necessary to balance those out with blobs made with the paint pen.
In addition to my Post-It note drawings, the other art I have been trying to keep up with is the monthly challenge of creating an illustration using only the contents of that month’s Art Snacks box. Each box arriving in my mailbox was a useful prod to get me to set aside some time for art. It helped that most of the products in recent boxes have been portable so I have been able to create art on the go.
This was what I created with the contents of my January box. I really liked the grey fine liners. As you know, I use black ink pens a lot but I was glad to have grey pens to add to my case of drawing pens. The green has not photographed well but it is actually metallic with a pleasing shimmer. I didn’t find that ochre colour appealing at first glance and never would have chosen that colour in a store but, once I used it, I actually found I really quite liked it. Green and orange are both colours I overlook when I am drawing so it is sometimes useful to have a nudge to create with those neglected colours.
Along with the vast majority of people on the planet, I have found myself overwhelmed during the pandemic. Aside from the stress of trying to conduct life and parent and teach preschool in-person in this very peculiarly stressful context, I am one of the people whose schedule has become even more busy and intense. All of which preamble is to explain why my creative mojo disappeared.
Art has always been a stress-buster for me but, of course, it is one of life’s little ironies that it is normally when life is at its most demanding that I cannot find time for that therapeutic dose of art. It is also true that the longer time passes when I am not making time for art, the more my creative gears seize up and my creative mojo departs. Finding my way back to art and scraping the rust from those gears is always a slow process. I know from experience that I get creatively crippled if I try too much at once and it just leads to another setback. I, therefore, tend to start small and then build myself back up to a normal level of art time and degree of ambitiousness with a project.
My small start on this occasion involved using Post-It notes as my substrate. It started by accident. I drew doodles on them as “lunch notes” for my kids and stuck them to the fridge door so that they had a surprise. We are a family of movie fans and my two middle sons in particular are obsessive movie nerds. Consequently the drawings on the Post-It notes were inspired by movies we had watched. You might observe from the selection here that there is a particular penchant for the movies of Ingmar Bergman and for mid-century Soviet cinema.
This is Andrei Rublev from the film of the same name.
This one is a take on the Bluray cover of ‘The Ascent’, awkward foreshortening and all.
My 14 year old adores Liv Ullman so I had to draw her.
This duo are Death and Antonius Block from ‘The Seventh Seal’.
Finally this is Flyora from ‘Come and See’. That movie is absolutely one of the best I have ever seen but my goodness it is a hard watch.
I hope this selection illustrates the fact that this very simple activity actually succeeded in getting me back into regular drawing and started greasing those creative gears so that I could recover my atrophying art skills.
I’m back! I finally have enough free time that I feel able to resume blogging – though it may continue to be very sporadic for a while because, like many people, I don’t have a lot of interest going on in my life given the whole pandemic context.
I thought I would write a bit of a catch-up post containing some of the things we have been up to this Spring. Most importantly, we have celebrated three birthdays. These are all, of course, the second birthdays being celebrated in this weird lockdown context. Yes, I appreciate we are technically no longer in strict lockdown but as a family we have chosen to behave largely as if we still are, taking mitigation efforts seriously. Mr Pict’s birthday last year was literally two days into lockdown so there was a lot of improvisation involved but we made it work. This year was much less stressful because we knew we were going to have to keep everything lowkey and also because the supermarket shelves weren’t empty like they were last year.
Two of the boys have also had their second pandemic birthdays. My third son turned 14. He is a massive Roman history nerd – he seriously knows more about Ancient Rome than anyone I know and I know a lot of Roman history nerds – and is also passionate about Soviet cinema, especially of the 1970s. Those themes, therefore, informed his gifts, one of which was a photo of his favourite Emperor, Trajan, which had even been signed. I am assuming Trajan won’t sue me for forgery.
And our oldest son turned 18. I know! We cannot believe it either. He is now technically an adult. That is somewhat nerve-wracking to think about and makes me feel even more ancient than usual but I am very excited to see what this next phase of his life has in store for him. He is off to the Rochester Institute of Technology in the Autumn to study computer science.
We have chosen to keep our sons learning virtually for the entire school year for a variety of reasons. They have adapted well to learning online and are enjoying having more free time and flexibility in their schedule. My 15 year old, for instance, has been using his extra free time to make lots of short movies. His brothers and father have all been press-ganged into acting parts and as cinematographers while I sometimes provide help with costumes, props and make up so it is a bit of a family affair.
Having the boys home proved very useful this Winter as I very much appreciated their extra digging power with all of the snow we got. Even with all of us digging, it took us over 3 hours to dig out after one particular storm. We then had weeks of vicious looking icicles falling from the house. We built up quite the collection in our azalea bushes.
We have been on a few walks and excursions since I last blogged but we have tended to return to familiar places. A couple of weekends ago, however, we finally ventured to Ringing Rocks County Park. It is not even that far from home so it is kind of bonkers that we have not ventured out there in the previous seven years. We took the loop trail which took us to the boulder field first. We had a hammer with us (as the website instructs you to do so, we felt OK about the geologic vandalism) and set about glancing it off of various boulders to make them ring. We found that they all emitted a noise that was not just the normal smack-thud you would expect from a hammer whacking a rock but that some boulders really made the ringing sound. Our 11 year old in particular really enjoyed the experience. I guess having spent his entire life being told to respect nature and leave things as we found them he must have been relishing the opportunity to bash those rocks.
The male Picts all bounded from rock to rock like mountain goats in search of the best rings. That is not something I am comfortable doing primarily because of my malingering SPD problems and also because I am a lifelong wuss so I went off into the woods in search of salamanders. Alas, I did not find a single one. Meeting up again, we headed further along the loop trail to see the waterfall. I was anticipating a bit more drama and oomph out of a signposted waterfall but it was a nice spot to stop and spend some time before we completed the loop. It was a nice, easy walk and one we would definitely do again.
Finally, and most excitingly, those of us who are eligible are finally receiving our Covid-19 vaccines. As a teacher, I became eligible first but I still had such a massive problem finding and scheduling an appointment that it still took until mid-April for me to be fully vaccinated. Meanwhile Mr Pict and our oldest son have both received their first shots. We plan to keep playing it safe and following mitigation efforts, not least because we still have three members of the family who are unvaccinated and not old enough to be eligible, but it is definitely a weight off my mind – especially as someone who has been teaching in-person since September – that I have that layer of protection. I am so grateful to the scientists and everyone involved in the distribution and delivery of the vaccine.
PS Here are some photos of our cats, Satchi and Peanut. They have adapted to having us home all the time and think they get to participate in all of the video conferences and frequently appear in my sons’ online classrooms.
I have a snow day today (woo hoo!) so I just wanted to stop by and leave a little note for my followers – that sounds cult-like, doesn’t it? – my dedicated readers. For a variety of reasons, I am going to be taking a bit of a break from blogging – longer than my normal breaks – but I fully intend on resuming blogging when life permits. I expect to be chatting with many of you on your own blogs but my blog will go a bit quiet for the time being. Frankly, it is not as if pandemic life is giving me much of interest to share with you.
I shall sign off with some photos of when we Picts recently walked almost the entire length of the Powerline Trail.
I have accidentally established a tradition in my Rainbow Art Journal whereby each colour section contains an illustration of some kind of sprite-like creature. For the blue section, I was thinking of water. I drew a figure who is drenched in water (or, as I would say in Scots, “drookit”), her body morphing into a puddle on the floor, her hair dripping across her face.
Another completed page in the blue section of my Rainbow Art Journal. This one was easy to finish up because I actually drew the original in March of 2020 – which feels like years ago now – in response to an Art Snacks challenge. I had drawn it in the blue section of the art journal thinking the media I had received were, well, much more blue than they turned out to be. They were far too green and it was annoying me that I had misjudged the colours and stuffed up the colour theme in the sketchbook. I had, therefore, walked away from it for a while – which turned out to be a long while – to come up with a solution. I was so annoyed with myself initially that I considered covering up the whole thing and starting over with essentially a new substrate but I loved that graphite watercolour and the way it had dried in puddles far too much to cover that up. My solution in the end was a quick and easy one so I could call this page “done” and move on: I simply layered some blue ink washes over some of the most green areas of the illustration to knock them back. It is definitely a blue-green piece but that’s acceptable to me.
This is the other page in my Rainbow Art Journal that I completed over Winter break. The page was covered in all sorts of collaged odds and ends. Essentially any scrap of blue leftover from another project, any blue postage stamp, any interesting labels ended up adhered to this page. One prominent label was from a wine bottle and the name of it – Capuchon – gave me the idea for the illustration. I made the hat wonky because that asymmetry is something I enjoy and the side benefit of the floppy brim was that I only had to draw one eye. No challenge of creating two matching eyes.