***NOTE: This blog post is about my art work. This is not a political post and I am not inviting political discussion. You are, of course, entitled to hold different political opinions from me and I respect that. I, therefore, ask that any comments left on this post are similarly respectful and civil. Any nastiness will be deleted.***
This week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was “Travel”. Normally my imagination would be sparking and fizzing with ideas about dream destinations and bucket list travel plans or else memories of wonderful travels from times past. However, the prompt happened to be revealed on the exact same day that President Trump issued his revised Travel Ban. As such, my creative impulses took me in an entirely different direction. As an immigrant, legal permanent resident in America, I felt compelled to follow that impulse. The result is a depiction of Lady Liberty weeping. I drew the face rapidly using black acrylic paint (having roughly mapped out only the proportions) and, once that was dried, I added some Dylusions spray ink in teal and turquoise to suggest verdigris and add some additional visual texture.
I rarely ever work across two art journal pages. The fact that I use a spiral bound journal does not lend itself to double spreads. I thought, however, that I might attempt a sort of diptych, two pieces on two different pages but somehow visually linked. I am glad I tried something new but the results didn’t leave me feeling I had accomplished much. There is a strong visual connection between the two pages, which could be regarded as a success. I introduced colour in order to differentiate between the two pages. One of my kids suggested the idea of blue and yellow to represent night and day so I opted for those colours but otherwise did not pursue the idea of different lighting conditions. I wanted to maintain the monochromatic theme and to connect the figures through use of silhouette. Not being overly keen on the outcome of this pair of paintings, I kept circling back to these pages in my art journal, adding a tiny bit more here and there. But I have now reached a point where I no longer feel inspired to tinker with the pages and want to call these pages done and set them by. So done they are.
Last week’s Life Book lesson was taken by Tamara Laporte and involved drawing two figures. I had not gotten around to working on Life Book lessons for a few weeks so I was keen to tackle this one over the weekend. I find drawing more than one figure in a piece to be fairly challenging because of the need to make them cohere and keep proportions and angles of light consistent. That was another good reason to complete the lesson. I had to improvise a lot with the lesson because I don’t own the markers that Laporte demonstrated. I, therefore, used ink and watercolour instead. I tried to stay true to one of the focal points of the lesson, however, by working on creating a range of skin tones. This is a skill I definitely still need to develop but I was nevertheless reasonably pleased with the flesh tones I created in this piece because at least I avoided making them too sallow or adding too much ochre.
As a family, we Picts are usually in rude health. We rarely get sick and until this year one of my sons had never had a day off school ever. This Winter, however, has been a relentless battle against germs. While Mr Pict and I have escaped the various plagues, our four boys have been felled by one thing after another. My preschool students have also been dropping like flies. The whole community apparently needs to be disinfected. This week, my youngest son came down with a vomiting bug for the second time in six weeks. The only slight silver lining to having to take time off work for nurse duties is that, between looking after the little chap and bleaching and boil washing, I could grab some time to play around in my art journal.
This week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was to transform the edges of the page by shaping them. I was glad of this prompt as it represented a nudge to try something new. I usually operate pretty strictly within the boundaries of the page, neither extending it with a tip-in or subtracting from it by removing areas. I sat at my art table, struggling for inspiration, and saw the shape of my hands on the blank page. I decided that my hands should be the shape I created. I simply drew around my hands and cut out the shape. I painted both sides of the hands with black acrylic. Once that was dry, I used my Dylusions paints to add dots all over the hand shapes. I like those paints for the vivid colours and for the thick texture so they worked perfectly for this particular job. Now I just need to figure out what, if anything, to do with the reverse side of the hands.
This week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was Time which was ironic because it took me the entire week to find the time to even sit down at my art table. I was, however, thinking about the prompt all week and had all sorts of ideas running around in my head. I initially thought of time travel and HG Wells. My 9 year old Steampunk fan was very keen on that idea but just the thought of drawing all sorts of cogs and gizmos made me feel stressed. After that, I had all sorts of different ideas. It was, however, a chat with a friend about our shared love of ‘Blackadder’ that led to what finally appeared on my journal page. The idea of taking a character and plonking them in different periods of history combined with my habit of drawing funny bunnies. I decided to limit myself to eight drawings and to European history so that it did not become a crazily big project. Once I had the idea and some time at my art table, I was able to whip through the illustrations really quickly as they are just ink and watercolour. I chose to depict a bunny as a neanderthal, Roman, Viking, in a Medieval costume complete with codpiece, as an Elizabethan with a large ruff, as a Regency dandy, as a Victorian gent, and as a World War One Tommy.
This Sunday the 89th Academy Awards Ceremony will be held in Hollywood. As a movie nerd, the Oscars are a big deal to me. I rarely manage to catch any of the other movie awards ceremonies but I do my level best to watch the Oscars each year and now my movie nerd kids are old enough to stay up for at least part of the ceremony too. Of course, by virtue of having kids and only making it to the cinema once or twice a year without them, these days I have rarely seen any of the movies in contention prior to awards season but I still enjoy the whole thing nevertheless.
A few weeks ago I had a lot of fun with an art journal page filled with illustrations of vintage mug shots. I was keen to repeat that experiment and thought the Oscars posed the perfect opportunity to try out the not-quite-blind-contour approach once more. Obviously once I had the basic outline and interior shapes mapped out in pencil through sideways glances, I refined and modified the sketches but only a little because I wanted to retain the looseness of my initital mark making. The results were entirely mixed when the outcome is considered – and the likenesses are actually woeful – but I had a whole lot of fun drawing these and that is actually what is more important. These were also relaxing to draw because I could work on them, using pencil and fountain pens, while tucked up on the sofa watching a movie.
Initially I was intending to work through all the nominees in all the major awards categories. However, I realised I was over-extending myself so I limited myself to the four acting categories only. The text accompanying each portrait indicates who the portraits depict – or who they are supposed to depict since the likenesses are not exactly accurate. Some are better than others, of course, but some bear no resemblance whatsoever to the actual person. I don’t think Natalie Portman or Denzel Washington are about to sue me for insulting their faces and I am not a portraitist so that’s OK .
Having used the Franklin Institute as an indoor playground for a couple of years, last year we took a break from our membership so that we could return with renewed enthusiasm. In retrospect, President’s Day was not the smartest choice for becoming members again and reintroducing the kids to the joys of science museums. The place was absolutely jam-packed and every gallery and area was heaving with people. I do not do well in crowds at all – it’s like an instant recipe for stress and anxiety – but I also feel harassed by the behaviour of other people when places are so busy. For example, there were way too many children pushing and shoving there way into taking turns with interactive exhibits. My kids have a tendency to hang back and are too polite to challenge others who queue jump but they still get irked and frazzled by the rudeness of others and, of course, we then get the pleasure of dealing with our annoyed kids. While the parents of the pushy-shovey kids seemed to be nowhere in the vicinity whenever their kids were misbehaving, conversely there were other parents who were attached like limpets to their kids which also made it nigh impossible to manoeuvre in some areas. Imagine experiencing epic levels of irritation while trying to cheerfully engage children in science even though you are completely an Arts and Humanities person. That was the experience I had in the Franklin Institute on Monday.
While we stopped by our favourite sections and did what activities we could, we also visited a special exhibition called Robot Revolution. It was, strangely enough, all about how modern robotic engineering is being applied to different aspects of life. For instance, there was a large surgical apparatus and the woman standing next to me explained that her father had actually been operated on recently by just such a machine. There were also robotic prosthetic limbs and robots designed to assess dangers in conflict zones. There were, however, also robots playing soccer and one that could unicycle. A big hit with my youngest son was a robotic seal pup, designed to provide therapeutic comfort to people who can’t interact with real animals. They also enjoyed an area where they got to clip together various cubes, each of which served a different function, in order to construct their own robots.
We did not stay at the Franklin Institute for an extended period simply because the crowds were unbearable. It was good to be back after our year long break, however, and we were reminded about all it has to offer. We look forward to more trips there this coming year but hopefully with much smaller numbers of people crammed into the space.
We decided to treat ourselves to a little luxury by dining out in the city. Mr Pict selected The Dandelion, which he has eaten in several times with colleagues. We were actually supposed to go there for my birthday celebration but there was a stuff up with the booking so it did not happen. I think, therefore, that it was my Unbirthday dinner. The Dandelion serves British cuisine. For many decades, people scoffed at the idea of British cuisine, regarding it was an oxymoron, but British food can actually be really very good. The restaurant is housed in what looked to have been a residential building and was decorated in a very eclectic way, a sort of ramshackle chic. It reminded me of a mixture of junk shops and cafes from my childhood. Of course, we loved the tastebud nostalgia of the whole experience too. Our children immediately ordered glasses of Ribena – a blackcurrant squash from the UK – and I had a Pimm’s Cup. There were several things I could have ordered but I plumped for the fish and chips as I was eager to see if they could make chips the way they do in Britain, crisp on the outside and fluffy in the middle, and I am happy to report that they were a very tasty success, as was the beer battered fish. I usually only manage one course of food but I pushed my limits because there was Sticky Toffee Pudding on the menu. I have not had a Sticky Toffee Pudding since we emigrated (I really ought to make it but never do) so I just could not resist the temptation. Not only was the cake delicious and light and deliciously treacly, but it was also served with date ice cream. Mr Pict and the Pictlings all loved every morsel of their two courses of food too. Indeed, Mr Pict declared that the short rib was the best he had ever consumed. The luxury of delectable food in a pleasant setting with great service went a long way to mitigate against the stress of an overcrowded museum and ensured that our President’s Day trip to Philly was a success.