On Saturday, Mr Pict and I took our four sons to participate in the Women’s March event happening in Philadelphia, one of many marches happening across the country and around the world.
As a result of my Gran’s passion for politics and issues, I started attending protests, marches, and demonstrations when I was tiny, maybe five years old. I have attended scores of such events over the years but then I developed an anxiety problem related to crowds that prevented me from attending any large events, from music festivals to rallies. I could not join last year’s Women’s March anyway because I had to work but this year I decided to push myself past my crowd anxiety for a number of reasons: I wanted my sons to have the experience of this form of civic engagement and understand how they can utilise their privilege for the benefit of others; as someone not eligible to vote, it is one of the few opportunities for me to stand up and be counted; and most importantly, I am an advocate for civil and human rights, social justice and equity so I felt compelled to go there and represent not just myself and my family but also be there to support all those who could not attend for reasons of mobility, finance, logistics, or personal safety.
The event was superb and very well-organised. The atmosphere was energising and inspiring. Although there were tens of thousands of people there (I read an estimate of 50,000 people), the route up Benjamin Franklin Parkway was wide enough that I never once felt hemmed in enough for my crowd issue to spark my anxiety. The boys were great and enjoyed reading the placards that so many people were carrying and listening to the chants along the way. Our ten year old is particularly engaged in current affairs so he especially enjoyed the experience of participating in democracy in this way. The march ended in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and it was there that we listened to various women delivering powerful speeches about the importance of engagement, participation, and activism. It was also thought-provoking and challenging and, given I am a white woman, prompted some self-reflection on what more I can do to channel my privilege for good. I am so glad that we went and added our voices to the throng.
This week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was “7”. It’s the type of prompt that allows a lot of scope for interpretation and creates a lot of possibilities. I was thinking continents, layers, or colours of the rainbow. I liked the idea of working with lots of vibrant colours as an antidote to all of these desaturated winter days so I decided to go with the rainbow idea. I divided my page up into seven strips and then the little figures with the curling hoods just emerged on the page. They are a little reminiscent of the Alpha and Omega figures I painted recently, though the echo wasn’t conscious. I filled the figures with watercolour, added the facial features, and that was it. Quick and easy.
It is only January and I am already so over Winter. I like to be warm and cosy. I dislike shovelling. My kids have not and will not have a full week of school this month thanks to snow days, early dismissals, and late arrivals. While I love spending time with my kids, it has been pretty disruptive and we are a family who does better with routine. Winter is the price I pay for getting to enjoy the other seasons of the year. Alas, it is too early for me to even start searching out the first signs of Spring.
Anyway, thoughts of snow, ice, and winter chill inspired my most recent art journal page. Technically it is a response to the Art Journal Adventure prompt which was the letter A. I had already been thinking about creating an illustration of a Yeti so I am just labelling him as the Abominable Snowman to fulfil the prompt. I love monsters and mythology and cryptids so I always enjoy drawing them. This yeti is inspired by a painting I did in my altered book of monsters a couple of years ago. That painting was just the face but this time I drew the whole body.
Since visiting two of Edgar Allan Poe’s former houses recently, I wanted to include something Poe-inspired in my Rainbow Art Journal. So, still focusing on the red section, I decided to create a page inspired by the story ‘The Masque of the Red Death’. I enjoy working with a limited colour palette and that was true of this page which is restricted to just red, black, and white. You may have noted that I also return fairly regularly to the subject of skulls and skeletons. I don’t think I am generally a macabre person; I just find that sort of thing fascinating. I am fairly pleased with how this page turned out. It was a struggle to maintain the proportions across the two pages and ultimately I failed to do so but I think the illustration still works. Just. I use spiral bound journals for convenience but they definitely hinder my ability with double page spreads, that’s for sure. Still, I like the finished pages enough that I may use them as inspiration for a proper painting at some stage.
It has been months since I completed a page in my Rainbow Art Journal but the winter break afforded me the opportunity to sit at my art table while my kids played video games or otherwise kept themselves occupied. This particular page has been progressing for a good couple of months now as I just kept adding on layers of collage and then of paint.
The background is a photo (by Yan Gao) from a National Geographic magazine depicting an aerial view of a town in Tibet. I thought the pattern of red roofs might prove to be an interesting background to a page in the red section of my Rainbow Art Journal. I then glued down a random face cut from a magazine, some raspberries, red butterfly wings and a lobster just to add to the red theme. Apart from ensuring the face was central, it was all placed in a pretty haphazard way. It then sat at that stage for many weeks until I could return to it and practice painting over collage.
It is interesting to me that the face ended up so flat. Having started with a photograph of a face as my scaffolding, one would assume that the face painted on top of it would be similar. I suspect I layered the paint too thickly and lost all sense of there even having been a face below. The wings and berries became a sort of headdress or headband and the lobster became a sort of outsized brooch I suppose – unless we choose to imagine that the woman is being attacked by a lobster. I painted the lobster a more vivid red, however, so he’d have to be an undead zombie lobster attacking the figure.
Not a very successful page by any measure then but I am glad to have finally completed this page after the journal being untouched and the page having been in stasis for so long. Onward and hopefully upward.
We had a Snow Day yesterday with schools closed and my preschool closed due to the winter storm and the bitter temperatures. It was definitely a day for hibernation. I tidied and read and baked and found time to work in my art journal. My January Art Snacks box had just arrived the previous day and I was eager to experiment with the contents. I used the Art Journal Adventure prompt as my starting point – year of the dog. As a cat owner, that might be a bit treacherous but it has been a while since I drew a dog so I thought I should take the opportunity to practice. My dog ended up super goofy and long and bendy but he’s playful and that is what guddling about in my art journal is all about. It was also fun to experiment with the products in the box, all of which I liked and all of which I will use again and again. The photos are not great thanks to the very dull lighting conditions and the fact that I was wrestling one of my cats at the time. He definitely did not approve of this dog illustration.
My final Art Journal Adventure prompt for 2017 was “Endings and Beginnings”, obviously an apt subject for the turn of the year. This year there will be no page in my art journal that sets an inspirational, aspirational or encouraging word to focus on, no listing of goals, nothing like that. I have never been one for setting resolutions but I have previously fallen prey to setting myself goals. I am increasingly failing to achieve (m)any of the goals I set for myself. Apart from participating in and completing a set of drawings for Inktober, I achieved not a single one of my goals for 2017. Not. A. One. In fact, I still have a goal for 2016 that I did not complete in either that year or last year. So my sole goal for this year is to not set myself up for failure.
Therefore, my turn of the year art journal page is neither about reflecting on the year past or looking ahead to what 2018 might have in store for me. Instead, I chose to focus on the theme of beginnings and endings, of cycles of time, of opposites, of cusps, alpha and omega. This is what I came up with: two figures in a composition that has echoes of yin and yang without the required geometric precision. Once the figures were dry, I decided to unify them in some way and plumped for writing. I defaulted to my own handwriting, albeit a little higgledy-piggledy, for the phrase “Alpha & Omega” but I think my own handwriting works effectively enough in this piece.