Last week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was “change” and I immediately thought of the changing seasons because Spring is finally – finally! – here. We have (I assume and hope) seen the last of the snow, there are buds on the trees, small wildflowers are beginning to appear among the blades of grass, the bird song is louder in the mornings, and there was tree pollen all over the bonnet of my car this morning. I have seamlessly segued from snuffling because of winter colds into snuffling because of seasonal allergies but I will embrace it because I am so ready for Spring.
My Art Journal page is simple: an abstracted and silhouetted tree divided into four sectors, one per season. I have a mild OCD about needing things to be clockwise (I also have one about even numbers) so I tried to force myself to depict the seasons cycling anti-clockwise. It’s a sort of “flooding your fears” kind of theory that obviously has no substance to it because it failed miserably as therapy. I felt twitchy as soon as I finished the page. Now it is supremely annoying to me that I have the seasons cycling anti-clockwise. I almost wanted to repaint all of the sectors to make them clockwise but I don’t have time for that so, instead, I am just going to turn the page in my art journal and pretend my psychological experiment never happened.
I have been working on an illustration commission that is giving me lots of “crisis of confidence” anxiety that has led to lots of mental blocks. I, therefore, had to take a break and do something that was still arty but much looser, something that was not following a plan or a vision, just to be playful and make me feel less intense in my creativity. Time to tootle around in my art journal then. I used an Art Journal Adventure prompt of “23” because it allowed me to be abstract and just produce 23 of something without it all having to generate an overall illustration or coherent image. Indeed, needing a break from illustration as I was, I didn’t use a pencil or a pen to create any sort of guidelines and just went straight in with a brush absolutely loaded with water and some paint. What I ended up with was a collection of 23 (if I counted correctly!) overlapping pebble shapes. They aren’t trying to communicate anything, they aren’t about anything, they are simply shapes on a page. This page was just the quick liberating exercise I needed to recharge my batteries and return to the illustration job.
I used an Art Journal Adventure prompt for this art journal page. The idea had been to use household objects for mark-making. I decided, however, to make an abstract piece by drawing around various kitchen utensils, overlapping the silhouettes, and then (very roughly) filling the resulting shapes in with acrylic paint. It was just the type of quick dose of art I needed on a busy day. My art table is in the kitchen so I was able to create this page while cooking and cleaning in the same space. It’s rough and ready but it was a fun stress-buster to just throw some paint around on paper.
Last week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was “trees”. The obvious subject would have been a Christmas tree but I really was not in the mood to draw or paint one. I, therefore, chose to depict a frosty tree but in a slightly abstracted way. I worked on this page gradually over the week before Christmas and got it finished thanks to having two days off work while my kids were still in school. It is a bit sloppy and imperfect thanks to being worked on inconsistently and in a bit of a rush each time but it’s only an art journal page so that’s quite OK.
Next year, I am not signed up for any courses and I have no art based commitments or obligations. I am just going to do my own thing and will try to be disciplined about eking out some art time each week without having a prompt to do so.
I have not found time to tackle a Life Book lesson in a good few weeks now. I decided, therefore, to break my drought with a lesson by Wendy Brightbill that involved creating an abstract piece using liquid media and mark making. I am happy that I took time out of my massively busy life to work on this lesson as I did enjoy the process. I have been heavily involved in illustrations for months now, including my contribution to the Brooklyn Art Library Sketchbook Project and Inktober, so it was a nice break and pretty liberating to do something completely different, just sploshing watercolour around without a great deal of thought. I have to state, however, that I don’t especially like the finished outcome. Hate is too strong a word but it really is not a piece I want to look at again. This piece was definitely about the journey rather than the destination.
Last week’s Life Book lesson was taken by Connie Solera. It was a bit too “art as therapy” for my personal taste but I was inspired by the imagery of the painting Solera demonstrated and decided to create my own twist on the idea, moulding the lesson to fit my own style. There are many layers in this mixed media painting, more layers than I typically work with, but I enjoyed switching between the chaotic looseness of the background and the more tight illustration of the female figure curled up inside a pod shape in the centre, even if it probably makes the piece visually unbalanced.
As someone who is really into illustration, I very much struggle with creating abstract art. That was precisely why I pushed myself to actually do this week’s Life Book lesson, which was taken by Jodi Ohl. I find that I now enjoy the process of working in an abstract method, of layering and mark-making, of using colour and texture rather than shape and form. However, because I have no real feel or instinct for it, I never know when I am “done” with a piece. My impulse is to add some sort of representational element to provide the piece with a focal point but often, when I have done so, I regret it because it doesn’t cohere. I worked on this piece gradually over the course of three days, adding bits and pieces whenever time was available to do so. Each time I returned to my art table to work on it, I had a sense that it needed more and had an idea of what to add – some dribble here, a few marks there – but then I reached a point where I didn’t know what to add. Did that mean it was complete? Or did it simply mean that my well of inspiration had run dry for this piece? Or was I just fed up of working on this piece and wanting to move on to something new? Any or all of the above? I decided this piece was done. Maybe I will circle back to it at some point and add something; probably I won’t.
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.
This week’s Life Book lesson was way out of my comfort zone. The tutor was Wendy Brightbill and she demonstrated her process of creating an abstract work of art through layering of different media and finding the tipping point between working intuitively and pulling it all together with intention. Intuitive and abstract are both things I really struggle with. I am, after all, a control freak and more of an illustrator than anything else. But that is the point in following an art course that has such diverse teachers – it forces me to try new things and experiment a bit. My piece did not evolve well. I loved the first layer and then it just got uglier and messier and more incoherent rather than cohesive. The thing that finally killed it once and for all was that I was way too “blocky” when applying some acrylic paint. I tried some dribble to make it more organic again and then, rather inevitably for me, some spatter. All was in vain. Those chunks of colour were neither geometrically precise enough to be part of the intent of the piece nor random enough to work with the previous layers. My choices were to either scrap the whole thing and forget about it (since I had no time in which to start over) or to just keep trucking and at least produce a finished outcome. I decided on the latter so I grabbed my paint pens and started doodling. It was still an ugly mess of a piece but I did at least really enjoy the doodles. I was adding the doodles while making dinner which meant I didn’t have the time to overthink what I was doing which was actually quite liberating (if one ignores the stress of multi-tasking). That doodle layer was, therefore, enjoyable. I do like the colour palette and think that works and I may repurpose this painting as the cover of a completed art journal.
I had decided that this year I would play around in my art journal whenever possible but without recourse to prompts. However, some friends from my “art tribe” convinced me that I should check out Art Journal Adventure and I decided to participate in a dip in and out fashion. I recognise that I am someone who, in my present hectic circumstances, needs an occasional poke and a prod to actually find the time to just be playful with my art and that is something that journal prompts encourage me to do. However, I am also going to attempt a themed art journal for the first time and will dip into that when the mood and mojo arises. From time to time, I may well incorporate the Art Journal Adventure prompts into my themed art journal.
I got off to a good start as far as being flexible with participation goes because I did diddlysquat with the first week’s prompt. I did, however, make use of this second week’s prompt. It was pretty simple – the focus was to be on texture. I am not one for adding much dimension to my art work – I am definitely a 2D person – so I focused on creating visual texture as opposed to anything tactile. I had a half-finished page in my art journal that I hated. It had been malingering in the journal for several months but I opted not to rip it out because I rather liked the art work on the reverse side of it. A couple of months ago, when I had some surplus black acrylic, I smeared the paint across the page. I decided, therefore, to return to that page as the starting point for my “texture” page. I added some torn paper collage, spatter with pearl blue paint and white paint, printing with found objects, dribble, and finally some alphabet stamps. It was all a bit random and abstract so I chose to give it a focal point by adding the word “Focus” which is my word for this year. As art journal pages go, it is pretty mundane and mediocre but it is a massive improvement on what was beneath that black paint so I am happy.
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