Monkey Trio

This week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was to use a brayer or similar tool to apply paint to the page.  I already had an idea for a page I wanted to create so I grabbed colours I thought would work well – grey, back, and pink – and scraped them across the page.  I then added some white spatter largely because I love spatter but also because I thought it might suggest snowfall.

I had been reading National Geographic magazine and spotted a trio of portraits of Japanese macaques.  Their little faces really pulled me in so I knew I wanted to use them in an art journal page.  I stacked them up like a totem and glued them down.

20a Three Monkeys Art Journal Page - Base Layer

My personal challenge with this page was to try and disguise the edges of the magazine paper, make it look less “collaged” once I painted over it.  I, therefore, applied some thick matte medium over the top of the collaged photographs.  Painting over the photo portraits, I wanted to make the colours more stark so I made the fur white and the faces brighter pink.  I think I managed to maintain the personality of the monkeys’ faces and I also succeeded in my personal challenge to conceal the edges of the collage.

I have decided that these macaques are queuing up waiting for their turn to bathe in the hot water as the snow falls down.  I have always thought that looked to be wonderfully cosy and appealing.

20b Three Monkeys Art Journal Page

Blackbird

Last week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was “music”.  I love music and as a family we listen to music a lot.  I listen to music when I am doing household chores as a distraction from the boredom and monotony and I also listen to music when I am sitting at my art table creating.  The struggle, therefore, was trying to condense such a wide ranging theme into an art journal page.  Some weeks I want for inspiration and other weeks I have so many ideas bouncing around in my head that I simply cannot focus and determine which would be worth distilling into a visual page.  I decided, therefore, that I would base my art journal page on the very next piece of music I heard.  That so happened to be my two youngest sons singing ‘Blackbird’ by The Beatles.

‘Blackbird’ was the perfect selection because there was automatically an obvious and strong visual element for the page – the blackbird itself.  I created a neutral, muted background by scraping paint across the page using an old hotel key card.  Then I painted the black body of the bird.  Then my week got massively busy and I did not add to the page for almost an entire week.  Happily, on Sunday I had my monthly meet up with some other local art journallers.  That then gave me a block of time on which to work on this page (and another) but it also meant I was limited to using portable art materials.  The rest of the page, therefore, was created using Posca paint pens.  I wish I had used a ruler to organise the text on the page.  How many years now have I stated that I will work on my typography?  Some day.

19 Blackbird -Beatles - Music

Blue Warrior Woman

Last week’s Life Book lesson was taken by Amber Kuileimailani Bonnici and the idea was to work intuitively to paint a warrior figure, a trope of self-empowerment.  In the past six to twelve months I have gradually come to understand and accept about myself that I just don’t get great outcomes when I work intuitively.  The battle between my head and any gut feeling, between intellect and instinct I suppose, is just too great to be cooperative when I am in creative mode.  Perhaps it goes hand in hand with my style being definitely more illustrative than painterly.  I may continue to experiment with working intuitively when creating random backgrounds or attempting something more abstract but otherwise I have decided that I am going to largely opt out of working intuitively.  I figure there is no point in pursuing something that just isn’t working for me given how sparse my free time for art is.

When it came to last week’s Life Book lesson, therefore, I decided to adopt the central themes and ideas of the tutorial without adopting the same approach as Bonnici demonstrated.  For that reason, I chose to work with colours that instinctively appealed to me.  I have been crushing on turquoise combined with red a lot lately so I decided those would be my dominant colours and I figured the blue skin tones might also be a nod to the woad of a Pictish warrior.  She ended up a bit expressionless or at least set-jawed and stern but I am going to pretend that suits her as a strong warrior type rather than my inability to paint any sort of personality.  One of my sons asked if I was inspired by the movie ‘Avatar’ and another labelled her an “angry smurf” both of which comparisons made me chortle.  Not my best work but not my worst either and at least I am catching up on my weekly lessons after last week’s complete and utter lack of art time.

18 Warrior Woman

Art Failures as Learning Opportunities

Some weeks my creative mojo is sorely lacking.  There can be many contributing factors, of course, but there are short periods of time where whatever I put my hand to is mediocre at best.  Last week was one such week.  I do remember the many times I experience success with my art and I also value the calming, restorative, recharging effect of having worked on art even when the outcome isn’t what I would hope for.  Nevertheless, last week was one of those weeks where nothing I did in terms of art was pulling together.  The pieces never emerged from the ugly phase.  They just got uglier.

The first piece was produced in response to a Life Book lesson taken by Jodi Ohl.  It was all about adding typography to a colourful, layered background.  Layering has long been one of my art nemeses so I knew it was going to be a challenge.  Sometimes I rise to the challenge but not this time.  The palette of bright colours I added worked with each other for maybe two layers and then they started to fight with each other and then they somehow lost their vibrancy and looked not so much like mud but like sludge.  I tried to knock back areas by negative painting in thinned gesso and that only served to make everything look more dull and grey.  In a last ditch effort, I added some Neocolor II inside the feather shapes, trying to obliterate the underlying layers.  That pop of colour rescued the piece from going into the trash but I still found the whole piece to be unsatisfactory.  Having used gritty gesso, I decided not to waste the nib of any pens on this piece and instead stamped out lines from the famous Emily Dickinson poem around the feather shapes.  I was glad to see the back of this piece and move on to something else.

15 Layered Feathers

Alas, the thing I moved onto was a page in my art journal, a response to the Art Journal Adventure prompt for the week.  The idea was to use curvy and round elements.  I had not used my gelli plate for a while and the youngest kids were up for having a play with it too so I decided that that would be my tool and technique for this week’s page.  I have not experimented much with printing directly into my art journal from the gelli plate so that was my personal challenge.  I chose to push the journal down onto the plate.  Perhaps things would have worked out better had I flopped the plate onto the paper instead but I doubt it.  I cut out some circles and curvy arch shapes from shipping envelopes to use as masks in different layers.  The first couple of layers looked pretty good but there was not enough interest for me to quit while I was ahead.  I pushed on with a further layer and obliterated what had been a nice little area on the page.  That was annoying but I pushed on hoping that subsequent layers would lead to some other interesting shapes and textures and contrasts emerging.  Unfortunately, that was not what happened.  I think I need more regular practice with gelli printing in order to develop some skill with it, some idea of how to achieve different looks rather than my haphazard, slapdash way of doing things.  I got to the point where I was sick of the sight of the page so decided that was a good reason to stop.  I finished it all off by gluing down some of the circle masks I had been using.

14 Curves and Circles

It was not a good week for art, therefore, but I am choosing to focus on the positive of the flaws and failings being learning opportunities.  I have, as stated above, learned that I need to actually plan out what I am doing with the gelli plate rather than just shoving elements together and hoping for the best.  The solution is more practice.  I have a small gelli plate so perhaps I will keep that to hand and have a play with it more frequently to see if I can develop some sort of process that works for me.  I have also learned that layering remains something that I struggle with and I should probably just conclude that it is not my thing and stick to techniques that do work for me.  Investing time and energy into approaches that result in pleasing outcomes is ultimately going to be more fulfilling than trying to learn a technique that eludes me.  It is OK for me to hone the skills I possess instead of chasing after the ones I don’t.   My mojo will return.

House on the Green Hill

The Art Journal Adventure prompt for last week was to use horizontal and vertical elements.  Perhaps it was because I had recently been reading Dylan Thomas’ poem ‘Fern Hill’ to my 11 year old son but the idea of horizontal and vertical lines automatically made me think of fields in a verdant green landscape and a little house nestled beneath a hill.  The idea seemed simple enough but it literally took me a full week to take the page from inception to completion.  Each colour of acrylic in the patchwork landscape represents a quick burst of art action in my daily schedule.  Worked on in such short bursts here and there throughout the week, it took an awfully long time for the page to fill with colour.  Thankfully, once all the painting was done and dry, the finishing touches were completed quickly.  That was just the case of doodling with paint pens while watching the news and drinking a cup of tea one morning.  It was those little details that pulled the page together and made it a coherent, stitched together quilt of a landscape rather than a chaotic mish-mash.

13 Green Hill Landscape

Rib Cage

Knowing me as you do, you may not be surprised to see the direction I took this week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt.  The prompt was “Opening” which could be used in either a literal or metaphorical way or both.  I immediately visualised a rib cage opening to reveal a heart.

I used Dylusions black marble paint to coat my page because it creates a really rich black with a lovely smooth finish which is perfect for drawing on with paint pens.  The approach I took was the exact same as the one I used to create the Lady Death page in my other current art journal but this time I kept it the doodles much simpler because I wanted to get the whole thing done and dusted within one week’s rations of art time.  I think it goes without saying that I did not use any references when illustrating the skeleton.  Anatomical accuracy was not remotely going to happen.  The rib cage I drew – however short of a few ribs – opens like window shutters to reveal the interior of the body.  I knew I wanted to include the heart as a reference to the idea of opening up to someone, thus connecting the literal and metaphorical possibilities of the prompt.  Having drawn the heart into the centre of the opening, however, I decided that there was too much empty space.  I, therefore, added a pair of lungs.  I repeated the pink and red colours elsewhere in the drawing of the skeleton to make the interior and exterior visually coherent.

I had a lot of fun creating this journal page and hope you find it fun to look at.

11a Open Ribs to Heart

11b Open Ribs to Heart

Pearl Girl

Last week’s Life Book lesson was one I really struggled with.  I had never taken a lesson with Lindsay Weirich so it was great to see a different approach to art demonstrated.  The lesson involved using pearly paint and gouache.  I have a little of the former but none of the latter so I improvised and used other media.  Stenciling was involved and I suck at stencilling but I decided to force myself to not skip that stage.  It started well enough with a pleasing blend of blue, pink, and yellow pearl paint; but then it entered an ugly phase and – when I tried to rescue it –  into an even uglier phase until it looked like sparkling sewage.  It took layer after layer of paint and more time and effort than I actually had available to try and eliminate the glittery poop stage and haul it screaming and kicking back into something half decent.  Then, frankly, I was all out of time and all out of willingness to invest in this one piece.  Time to stop flogging the dead horse and move on to new and less poopy pastures.

11a Pearl Girl