This blog has gone a little dormant generally. What with the pandemic and all, I just have not been up to enough in my life that generates blog fodder. This blog has, however, gone especially quiet when it comes to my art dabbling. That is not for the lack of art in my life, however. On the contrary, I have been drawing near daily since June. I have been sharing the results of a personal challenge (illustrations of vintage photos) and now Drawlloween drawings over on my blog that is dedicated to only art. Since all of my art time has been invested in those projects, art journaling has been placed so much on the back burner that it is stone cold. While I intend to take a break from daily drawing, I am going to return to art journaling in order to keep up with regular practice and stop those creative gears seizing up from rust.
Draw This in Your Style (DTIYS) challenges on Instagram seemed like a good way to get back into playing around and experimenting in my art journal. The subject matter and composition is all set for me so I just need to – like it says on the tin – draw it in my style. I thought I would have a crack at a recent art work by Behemot titled “Pale Girl and Very Suspicious Cat”, not least because the monochromatic palette appealed to me aesthetically and in terms of time management. I am pleased with my version of the Pale Girl. I think my illustration shares DNA with the original but is very clearly my style. It is a fun challenge to translate digital art into analogue so I am going to seek out a few more of those I think.
The week 17 Colour Me Positive theme was Friendship and I decided to just work with the broad theme rather than the more focused prompts. My inspiration was my two cats, Peanut and Satchi, because we Picts are all ever so relieved and glad and thrilled that they have formed a close bond with each other and are firm friends. My kids have been asking me to create an art journal page inspired by our furry family members so the time had come to do so. Short on time, as ever, I did a quick ink illustration and coloured it with watercolour. So here it is, my first portrait of Satchi and Peanut, our fluffy tripod cat and his accomplice, the one we call Peanutter or the Ginger Ninja with good reason.
This week’s Documented Life Project prompt was to use vellum. I do not possess any vellum and I had no desire to buy some so I decided to have another whirl at using deli paper. A couple of weeks ago, I used the deli paper as a collage material; this time I decided I would use it as a surface on which to paint.
Since we had just spent a fun day at last weekend’s Harry Potter Festival, I decided to actually document my life and work on a Harry Potter inspired page. I painted Harry on my journal page and then used washi tape to fix a “flap” of deli paper onto the page. I then painted Voldemort onto the deli paper “page” so that his face covered that of Harry beneath. I found the deli paper quite hard to paint on because it was so crinkly and the paint took longer to dry. It was a good way to add a flap since it meant I had an extra page without adding any additional bulk but I think I prefer deli paper as a collage material.
This week’s Documented Life Project prompt was to use tissue paper. The idea of using tissue paper in mixed media art projects is that much of the tissue disappears when it is adhered to the substrate so that only the chosen image remains prominent and the rest of the tissue becomes a background layer. Tissue paper is not something I have used in my art work and it is not something I own. I improvised with what I did have which was some tissue paper used for wrapping Christmas gifts. It is not thin enough to disappear but I thought it would “make do”.
As the tissue paper was red, the idea of Little Red Riding Hood came to mind. I created the clothing and cloak for Little Red out of the tissue paper and used acrylic paint and paint pen for the rest of the page. I like to work with a limited palette so I stuck to red, black and white for this page. It, therefore, annoys me that I mixed the black and white to make the wolf grey; I should have kept the wolf black to make the whole page more cohesive. My stencilling also annoys me as I continue to be too heavy handed and messy with it. Overall, however, I am happy with how this page turned out and my kids – who are my biggest cheerleaders – love the page so I guess this art journal page qualifies as a success.
October’s theme for the Documented Life Project is use of translucent papers. The prompts for this first week were to use deli paper and the phrase “You had me at hello”. The phrase did not speak to me at all so I decided to just focus on using deli paper. I have some very limited experience of using deli paper in art projects so I was glad of the opportunity to create a page focused on this material.
Since I had just returned from a trip to the Boulder Field at Hickory Run State Park, I took my inspiration from the rounded shapes of the boulders and decided to create an abstract page focused on shape. I painted up some sheets of deli paper in autumnal colours, given the turning of the leaves that is happening all around me, and one sheet in black in order to provide some contrast. Once I had cut out my shapes, it was just a case of layering them with overlap so as to make the most of the translucency of the paper. It is a really simple art journal page but I am quite pleased with how it turned out.
This week’s Documented Life Project prompt was to construct a storyboard depicting a week in my life. There is nothing inspirational about my average week so I was a bit stumped as to how to embark on the page. I had the option of either depicting a more interesting week in my life, such as a trip, or somehow creating a page out of the everyday and mundane. Technically I should have been thinking in terms of photography too since journaling with photos is still the over-arching theme for the month. I did not, however, have time to take photographs, get them off my camera and print them before working in my art journal so I decided to jettison that element of the prompt. Since for me one average day is much like any other, I decided to depict a day in my life rather than a week. It is just a quick drawing, entirely self-explanatory and as uninspiring as the average day that inspired it.
I love to draw jellyfish – as I have shared before in this blog – and I was recently inspired to draw more of them after looking at Leanne Cole’s superb photographs of jellyfish over on her blog. I was itching to get drawing jellyfish but could not seem to find time to make a start. Then the prompt for this week’s Documented Life Project prompt arrived in my inbox and I knew immediately what I wanted to create in my art journal: jellyfish, of course! The theme continues to be photography, which tied into me using Leanne’s wonderful images as the scaffolding for my drawings, and the prompt was silhouette, which I thought I could happily interpret as meaning the strong and black inky lines of my drawings against a bright background.
I usually only create one page in my art journal for my DLP challenges but this week I got entirely carried away and made three. Having sketched several jellyfish in my small sketchbook, I could not decide between the three I liked the most. Three drawings was a good excuse to experiment with different backgrounds – spray inks in different colours and watercolour – so I had a lot of fun playing around with the creation of the bright backgrounds and with drawing the jellyfish with a brush and my trusty pot of ancient India Ink.
Please do let me know which jellyfish and/or background you like best of the bunch.
I have finally made a decision about my next art challenge. It is going to be “Into the Woods”. That theme allows me enough scope to work in different media and cover a wide range of subjects. Since my last art challenge involved a lot of time pressure, I am not going to impose a timetable or deadline onto it. I will just create whenever my artistic mojo strikes but I will – mostly – create in response to this theme.
My first work on this theme was a lino block print I have titled “Worried Bunny”. You can read more about it here.
I will be sharing the art I produce in response to this theme on my art blog, Pict Ink, so make sure you visit there if you want to see more.
The last drawing! The first subject chosen by my husband – as opposed to my children. My Drawing a Day Challenge concludes with this drawing: Helen of Troy.
Helen had the “face that launch’d a thousand ships” which was Kit Marlowe’s poetic way of explaining that it was a conflict over her that provoked the Trojan War. But before that story, we have the myth of her birth. She was yet another of the many and varied children fathered by Zeus. Zeus was in the form of a swan when he ran into Leda, a mortal woman. Somehow – and I choose not to imagine the scene – the pair mated and some time later Leda laid an egg. It must have been a massive egg. It quite makes the eyes water. From this egg emerged not only Helen but also Clytemnestra and the Dioscuri twins, Castor and Pollux.
There were many suitors for Helen’s hand but ultimately – with some input from Odysseus as advisor to her father, because apparently Helen’s opinion was not sought – she married Menelaus, the King of Mycenaean Sparta. That could have been an arranged marriage version of happily ever after except that Zeus – an ever-meddling biological father – asked Paris, a Trojan prince, to judge a version of Miss Olympus and decide which goddess was most beautiful: Aphrodite, Hera or Athena. Aphrodite won by bribing Paris with the promise of the most beautiful woman in the world. Paris, therefore, headed off to Sparta to stake his claim on Helen.
Whether Helen was abducted or absconded willingly, her disappearance from Sparta caused a right rammy. Jilted Menelaus gathered his allies together and charged off after his missing wife and so the Trojan War began with its epic siege, posturing heroes, meddling gods, and finally the Trojan Horse. And, of course, everyone on all sides detested Helen by the end of it all because it was her desirability that sparked the conflict. Mythology written by men.
It strikes me that Helen is a figure who propels the plot of ‘The Iliad’ along but who is lacking in dimension as a character with even her motivation for flitting to Troy being inscrutable. My options, therefore were to either draw her as beautiful but vague, a pretty blank, or to draw her almost symbolically. I went for the latter option and focused on the line from ‘Doctor Faustus’ since it has become the most well-known description of Helen. I drew Helen in profile so that her tumble of hair billowing behind her could become waves for the thousand ships her face launched. Except I didn’t draw a thousand of them because that would be ridiculous. I had to do a quick google search to see what Greek ships looked like and I then produced a simplified silhouette of these.
Helen of Troy
So my 40 Drawings in 40 Days Challenge comes to an end. I have very much enjoyed the challenge. It has been a lot of fun to collaborate on an art project with my children as directors and encouragers. They are my number one, two, three and four fans as well as the source of much of my inspiration. It has also been great to feel compelled to draw so frequently and it has definitely sanded the rust off and got me back into the habit of creating frequently. I admit, however, that creating a drawing a day, from conception to sketch to finished piece has been probably too demanding for someone with as much else on their plate as I have had. Happily I was working on a small scale (approximately A5) and was able to develop a system that allowed me to complete the drawings in stages that were snatched between chores and childcare duties but it is not a system I could sustain long term. So 40 Days was definitely duration enough for this particular artistic challenge.
My sons have been delighted with my drawings and I hope that you have enjoyed seeing them revealed each day in my blog. I wonder if you have a favourite? Do let me know if you do.
And now I need to decide upon my next art challenge….
In Greek mythology, Danae was the mother of the hero Perseus. Her father, King Acrisius, had been told by an oracle that his daughter’s son would kill him. To prevent Danae from ever breeding, therefore, he locked her in a bronze chamber. Zeus, however, rampaging and in musth, was unstoppable. He turned him into a shower of gold and impregnated Danae that way. Acrisius was determined, however, so he placed his daughter and baby grandson into a box and cast them out to sea so they would drown. Poseidon stepped in to spare his baby nephew, however, and so the two were rescued. Perseus then did grow up to kill his grandfather. By accident. With a discus. Likely story.
Poor Danae was one of those tragic victims who waft through Greek mythology. Terribly abused by her father, assaulted by a shower of gold, cast out to sea to die, she then found herself persecuted by King Polydectes who tried to force her to become his concubine. It was in order to protect his mother from the King’s advances that Perseus agreed to go on the quest to kill Medusa. In some versions of the story, when the hero returned with the severed head in order to prove the fulfilment of his mission, he used it to turn Polydectes to stone. I’m sure nobody wept.
The two most compelling visual images to Danae’s story are her being impregnated with the shower of gold and her being cast adrift in the wooden box. Having recently produced a drawing inspired by the latter incident, I decided to draw the former. I drew Danae curled up fast asleep. You may have noted that drawing hands is not my strongest point – hence I have developed my own vernacular for them – so I drew her with her hands tucked under her head. I still had to draw her feet though but managed those. I decided to draw her naked not merely because I am missing life drawing (though I definitely am) but because the nudity underscores her vulnerability both in terms of being mistreated by her father and by Zeus. It also gave me plenty of practice in creating flesh tones, which I did using watercolour pencils. I gave her long flowing hair in order to create a more pleasing composition. Once I had coloured the figure and outlined it with Indian ink using my dip pen, I sprayed gold ink (old school method using my fingers against the bristles of a brush) over the lower portion of the drawing to create the shower of gold.
I am rather pleased with how this drawing turned out, particularly with the composition, and think I might use it as the basis of a lino block print. Watch this space.