This is the final page in the yellow section of my Rainbow Art Journal. I reflected on what things I associate with yellow, the things my mind conjures up when I think of that colour, and one of the things I kept coming back to was warmth and of feeling cozy. This illustration seems appropriate for the transition from Autumn into Winter when my thoughts turn to hibernation and my habits become more hermit-like. For me, the apex of feeling cozy is about being indoors, all tucked up in a sweater or a blanket, and drinking a steaming hot mug of tea. That gave me both the idea for the illustration and the colour palette – yellow for warmth and light brown for milky tea. I often use neutrals with a brighter colour but the neutrals I use tend to be black, white, or grey, so this was a useful experiment in using brown in that capacity. I think that, in this particular instance, the yellow might be too bold and the brown too pale for the palette to cohere but I will continue to experiment with using brown as a neutral.
This page is another example of me plagiarizing myself because I sketched this up from an ink and watercolour illustration I did just over three years ago. It is always interesting to see how I translate the same (or similar) drawing between mediums. This mixed media version was also an experiment in using a lemon yellow and lime green palette. I think the combination is as fresh as you would expect from citrus inspiration. I suspect it would have more zing to it if not dulled down with the flesh tones. I am finding that I really like to use text papers in my mixed media pieces. Maybe it is my love of books and reading but I also just like the sort of mark-making quality it contributes, all those shapes and forms.
One of my sons is obsessed with Greek Mythology – all of my kids were at one point – and that means that, thanks to osmosis, I have become a bit of a Greeky Mythology nerd myself. The mythological figures, especially the monsters, therefore often appear in my sketchbooks. A few years ago now, that theme was even the basis for a challenge I did to draw 40 drawings in 40 days. I have contemplated returning to that theme for a whole series of drawings – but without the time challenge – but that shall be for some future juncture. For now, I decided to draw Icarus in my Rainbow Art Journal.
I am currently working through the yellow section of my art journal and bold yellow suggested sunshine and sunshine suggested Icarus’ wings melting … This was my thought process. This was another page that had some little underlying texture as I had previously scraped leftover white acrylic over the page. You can spot the lumps and bumps. I kept the illustration simple and, therefore, kept the colour palette limited. I generally suck at drawing wings but I actually really like the way these turned out given that they are supposed to be a) manmade and b) broken. I tried using spray inks to create some visual texture between the sun disc and the falling figure but it seems that the inks don’t perform well on top of acrylic – hello, learning opportunity – but it adds a sort of glow around the sun so at least it did not ruin the illustration.
This was a page that I had gradually filled with scraps of yellow hued collage – including scraps of origami paper, images from cookery magazines, photographs from National Geographic. I sketched in a figure over the top of the collage and then painted the negative spaces in a lemon acrylic so that the background became covered in bubble shapes that revealed the collage layer beneath. When it comes to the figure, I was plagiarizing myself again since I copied her from an ink and watercolour drawing from over two years ago. I prefer that original version but it is fun to translate an illustration into a different medium and see what differences emerge.
This art journal page was really an exploration of ways to create visual texture. My inspiration was a painting I did for Life Book last year because I like the visual imagery of flame and ash. I actually thought to take progress shots of this art journal page so I can show the different stages of its creation. I started with a really simple line drawing.
To create the background texture, I scraped some orange paint onto the page with an old hotel room card. I then used that same card to lift up some of the paint from the page so that it created some texture, sort of feathering and ripples. To create the texture on the torso, I painted it black and then layered some red paint over the top. Before the red paint had fully dried, I pressed down some damp paper onto the surface so that it lifted up some of the paint and created a visual texture that I hoped would be reminiscent of charring.
The final element of visual texture was my old friend spatter. I spattered some black and red paint to create the idea of ash and embers floating upwards from the flames.
I liked the effect of all of the techniques I used in this page. It might be a bit much that I used them all at once but maybe it works for my thematic purposes. I am definitely pleased that the finished page still resembles my initial sketch as that has not always been the case.
I have not been doing a great job of keeping up with Life Book lessons and, as such, my mixed media skills are getting a tad rusty. A quieter weekend than usual afforded me the opportunity to tackle the most recent lesson. I took the concept of that lesson and put my own spin on it. I have been doing a lot of drawing lately – for my extended Inktober and the Brooklyn Art Library Sketchbook Project – so the drawing that underpinned this piece was actually really strong. I am, therefore, frustrated that I completely lost the quality of that drawing as I layered media on top of it. It proves the point, however, that I have allowed that particular skill set to rust up. Still, as disappointing as the outcome is to me, I enjoyed spending a decent ration of time sitting at my art table this weekend.
I have had an exhausting week, physically and mentally. Being crazily busy is my norm but this week has been beyond the norm. I almost fell asleep on the sofa one afternoon. Whenever everyday life gets a bit overwhelming, I know I have to try and scratch out some art time as a way to find balance and decompress. That is why I decided to tackle this week’s Life Book lesson. This week’s lesson was taken by Annie Hamman. I have viewed and responded to a few art lessons taken by Hamman by this stage in my exploration of mixed media and I decided some time ago that her style of painting, her technique, was not something that was going to work for me. I want to hone and develop my own style of art, after all, so pushing myself to try a mode of painting that prevents me from achieving that goal makes no sense. I, therefore, pick and choose elements from the lesson that I can utilise for pushing my own creativity while ignoring the aspects like layering paint with a palette knife.
When I thought of a figure who was serene and peaceful, I thought of one whose arms were crossed because she was not busy doing something. Hands at rest. In my busy week, idle hands would definitely be a luxury. The female figure I painted ended up looking a bit huffy because of the pose but that doesn’t matter to me because I know what made me choose that position for the hands. I tried to keep the colour palette light and pale to suggest calm. The finished piece makes me think of my Twilight Garden painting from last year. I take that as a good sign that I am developing my own style – or at least one of many of my styles.
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.
This week there were two Life Book lessons. I only had time available to tackle one of them so I opted to respond to the lesson taken by Tamara Laporte which involved creating a mixed media portrait of Frida Kahlo. I am absolutely not a portraitist. I cannot capture people’s likenesses accurately at all. The idea of even attempting to portray someone as immediately recognisable as Frida Kahlo was pretty intimidating but that was precisely why I decided to dive in and give it a try: growth through challenge.
Frida Kahlo seems to be pretty zeitgeisty at the moment. I am seeing lots of homages and merchandise here and there. I confess I am not a massive fan of Kahlo’s art. I appreciate it and recognise its worth but it just doesn’t speak to me in the same way that the work of other artists does. I actually find her more inspirational as a person than I do as an artist. As such, I didn’t have an immediate idea of how to portray her. I flicked through some photographs of her and scribbled down some ideas and sketches – the hair style, the daring clothing that emphasised her female sexuality, the use of bold colours. All of those found their way into my finished piece. Laporte had incorporated a parrot into her portrait of Kahlo and I took that idea and turned it into a parrot wing. I had also thought I would add some big jungle leaf shapes into the background, a feature I noted in several of Kahlo’s self-portrait, but in the end I decided that it would all get a bit too busy and let it be.
I am not sure how I feel about this piece yet. I think I need to give it some time before I make a judgement about its successes and flaws. My husband, who has a minimal interest in the history of art, immediately recognised this as being a portrait of Frida Kahlo, however, so at least I must have somewhat met the challenge of painting a passable likeness.
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.