Skeleton Bear

There were two lessons last week for Life Book, one taken by Whitney Freya and one by Samie Harding.  There was absolutely no way I was going to find time to tackle two different lessons.  I thought I would choose to work on the one that appealed most to me but, in actual fact, neither really chimed with me enough to stand out.  One was abstract and one was very “art therapy” in its approach and neither of those things really inspires my creativity.  I almost decided not to work on Life Book for the second week in a row but then I had an idea: I could combine the lessons.  I could use some of the approaches from the abstract lesson to create a background and could use the concept of a totem animal from the other lesson as a jumping off point for the subject matter.  Of course, being me, I had to put my own twist on things and – as such – I turned my bear into a silhouette contain a skeleton.  You wouldn’t know it to look at it, but I did have a quick google to have a photo reference for the bear’s skull.  I actually had a lot of fun creating this painting so I am glad I found the mojo and the time to actually work on Life Book after all.

30 - Skeleton Bear

Night and Day

This week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was “opposites”.  I ran through a lot of ideas in my head before choosing to depict Night and Day as female figures.  This was something I had tried before in my Rainbow Art Journal but I had not been satisfied with the result.  This was an opportunity to revisit the subject and hopefully accomplish a better outcome.  Whereas before I had worked across two pages, this time I confined the composition to a single page.  To further enhance the concept of opposites, I placed the figures top to tail as I knew I had liked that composition when I used it in my most recent Red Riding Hood page.

To create a bit more visual interest to the page, I adhered some collage materials as a first layer and ensured that those still showed through subsequent layers in places.  While the composition and colour scheme places the Night and Day figures in opposition to each other, I also wanted to connect them, because they are cyclical, so I drew their hair swirling into the sector of the other and had the metallic dots sweep across the diagonal dividing line in places.

30a - Night and Day - Art Journal Page

30b - Night and Day - Art Journal Page.jpg

30c - Night and Day - Art Journal Page.jpg

30d - Night and Day - Art Journal Page.jpg

The Unvisited States

Last week’s prompt for the Art Journal Adventure was to incorporate a list.  I am a big list maker.  It helps me process things mentally as well as being an organisational tool.  I always have several lists on the go at once.  Most are traditional paper-based lists but I also maintain some as computer files.  I sometimes get a bit control freaky about my lists.  I am one of those people who writes their shopping list according to the different sections of the supermarket – nothing freaky about that obviously since it is just common sense efficiency – but if I accidentally write an item in the wrong area of the list or if I don’t have enough space to neatly add an item into the correct area or if I just make some other sort of error, the handwriting equivalent of a typo, then I have to write my shopping list out again until I have a “fair copy”.  I have sometimes written a shopping list out five times just to get it perfect.

I could have used the evolution of a weekly shopping list as the basis of my art journal page but I am not sure how visually interesting that would have been.  Instead, because I am still focused on travel – since we just got back from our road trip and since my kids are going off, in pairs, on vacation with their grandparents – that was the subject my mind drifted towards.  I decided, therefore, to record a list of the US states I have yet to visit.  It is very much on my bucket list to visit all 50 states.  Mr Pict is actually only missing three (North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Alaska, since you didn’t ask) and maybe for that reason he doesn’t quite get why I am obsessively intent on “collecting” more states.  Upsettingly, before I undertook this journal page, I thought that as of last year’s road trip I had been to 31 states.  However, when I added up the number of unvisited states on the completed page, I had twenty.  What?  That couldn’t be.  I thought I had been on 25 states prior to last year’s road trip where I then added six more but it transpired my base calculation was incorrect.  A previous art journal page had led me to think I was on the half-way mark back then.  Nope.  I had included New Hampshire which I actually have no claim on.  As I have explained before, in order to claim a state I have to have done two of three things within its borders: pee, eat, sleep.  Although I have been in New Hampshire, I did not do two of those three things.  I, therefore, cannot claim it and am reduced to just 30 states visited with 20 left to go.  This art journal page is, therefore, a sort of check list I can return to after future travels around America.

29 - List of Unvisited US States

Now I need to devise another road trip that has a route through as many of these states as possible.

From the Ashes

One of the reasons I enjoy participating in Life Book is that it exposes me to different techniques, media, and approaches I may not have stumbled across or thought of one my own.  This lesson with Jamie Dougherty was one such example.  Had I not watched the video, I may never have thought to turn ash into paint.  You can see the ash layer was used in the torso of the figure I painted.  The whole idea of taking ash and turning it into something new suggested the flame colour palette for the rest of the piece.  I am actually really pleased with how this piece turned out.  I have managed to find a comfortable balance between my illustrative style and using mixed media techniques.  It just feels quite “me”.  I may not use ash in my art work again (aside from the messiness, it had my kids turning into pyromaniacs) but I am now inspired to think about other things I might be able to transform into paint.

28 From the Ashes

Antlers

I had to diverge a fair bit from last week’s Life Book lesson.  The lesson was taken by Effy Wild and was a bit too “art therapy” for my taste.  I definitely appreciate the therapeutic function art and other forms of creativity can and do play in people’s lives but it just isn’t for me.  For me, art is cathartic just through the act of creating, the calm space it creates in my busy life.  I don’t use it for delving into deep feelings or processing them.  While I opted out of that aspect of the lesson, I did enter into the spirit of working intuitively.  I consciously chose to work in shades of green because it is a colour I don’t often reach for and maybe that woodland palette is why what emerged on the page was a female figure sporting antlers.  The antler thing has been happening a lot lately.  I have no idea what that is about or what it might represent.  I’ll just go with it.

23 Antlers

Create Something Every Day

It took me a full week of working in short bursts to complete last week’s Life Book lesson.  I know I frequently mention how busy my schedule is but last week was truly, utterly, completely ridiculous.  I needed teleportation or cloning skills to make it work.  Since I don’t possess superpowers or ethically questionable advanced science skills, what I did instead was rush around, stress myself out, and try to reconcile myself with the fact that I would have to drop some really very important commitments.  It really ought to have been a week when I accepted that there was zero time for art but I decided that I might risk imploding if I did not have some small gobbets of art time to aid me in decompressing throughout the week.  Across seven days, therefore, I gradually added to the piece, little by little, in the tiny rations of available free time I had.  The quality of my work may have suffered as a result but it may just have prevented me from spontaneously combusting from stress.

The lesson was taken by Vicky Papaioannou and involved created a whimsical sort-of self-portrait that conveyed a message about creative ideas, energy, mojo flowing from the creative person.  My sort-of self-portrait ended up being a much younger, slimmer, more attractive me but I think there is enough of my features and proportions in there for it still to be a “selfie”.  What is artistic license for if you can’t make yourself much more bonnie?  My creative flow is represented by the hair – also a fudge of reality since my hair is not that long and is salt-and-pepper rather than black.  I added a pen, pencil, and paintbrush to the hair by way of illustrating my creativity and stamped the phrase “create something every day” onto the figure’s torso – going horribly wrong with the stamping since I smudged the lettering.  Never mind.  I think the phrase was quite apt given my context.

21 Create Something Every Day

 

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.