One of the interesting side effects of the way in which I create art these days – always short on time, often in multiple stages, often while multi-tasking – is that it has become clear what my automatic go-to art supplies are. The fact that I almost always reach for ink and watercolour tells me that that is my creative “home”. I, therefore, think that I should focus my skills development on those media. However, I still intend to dabble in other media because I don’t like being hemmed in or stuck in a creative rut. However, it is probably good to know that ink and watercolour are my comfort zone.
I grabbed some time this weekend to play in my art journal. I used last week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt which was the letter V. I never really need much prodding to illustrate mythology and monsters so as soon as I saw V I thought Vampire. I resisted my automatic impulse, which was to draw Nosferatu (my favourite vampire) yet again and to instead try something different so I decided to draw a glamorous, fin de siecle lady vampire. I not only kept things simple with just ink and watercolour but I also simplified things by using just black and red. I like that combination and notice it crops up a lot in my ink work.
In my Art Snacks box this month, among the items I received were phthalo green watercolour paint and a red watercolour pencil. I was utterly stumped for a couple of days because the colour combination was just so horribly Christmassy. All I could think of was Christmas trees and magical elves. Aside from the fact it is only September, it is also utterly sweltering here. It is so hot here that my kids were sent home early on their second and third days of the school year. Am was, therefore, definitely and absolutely not feeling the Christmas vibe. I then remembered that I had a bunch of Art Journal Adventure prompts I hadn’t used and one of those was P. P for Poppies. Poppies are red and their stems and leaves are green. I had an idea! But, as long term readers will know, I do not do botanical illustrations. I suck big time at drawing flowers. Not my thing at all. My solution was an obvious one because it’s a subject I resort to all the time in my art journal: throw a female figure in there.
I went way too heavy with my first layer of phthalo green watercolour which meant the subsequent layers just got darker and darker. The clothed portion of the figure is way too dark and opaque. I dislike it. Also, that arm is way too long. She would have orangutan proportioned arms if that arm was straighter. I think, however, that I just about get away with it. Maybe. I chose to stylise the poppies because I knew I would never be able to pull off more realistic poppies. I quite like those. So I feel rather meh about this art journal page but I am glad I did the Art Snacks box challenge because it was the shove I needed in a hectic, busy, difficult week to eke out some much-needed art time. The value of that can never be underestimated.
“The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men, / Gang aft agley”. Robert Burns might as well have been writing about my summer. We pulled off the travel plans but all my other schemes either went totally pear-shaped or just entirely withered on the vine. I do a sort of homeschooling, educating by stealth, summer project with my kids ever summer – have done since my oldest was a preschooler – but this summer the project had to be abandoned because pretty much everything else got derailed by so many stupid things plus my flipping awful oral pain. Anyway, in early June I had this whole vision that I would have so much art time – so very much art time – over the summer break. Ha! Yeah. Didn’t happen. In fact, I have probably spent less time on art this summer than in previous summers. Sigh.
For that reason, I desperately had to eke out whatever art time I could to make sure I don’t rust up to the point of my creative joints being totally seized up. I wanted to do something really loose. There was an Art Journal Adventure prompt from a couple of weeks ago about “doodling”. I thought that would be the perfect thing to do for some super-quick art time in my art journal. Determined to be loose and not fuss about perfection, I decided to draw with my non-dominant hand (which is my left) and – for a bit more challenge – using the blind contour technique. I opted for a self-portrait because I figured I would be familiar with the shapes, forms, and proportions of my own face so that the drawing didn’t get too abstract and crazy.
I used pencil just to avoid making a total mess while not looking at my page but I did not erase a single mark. What I did was go over those pencil marks with microns in three different sizes, just for a bit of variety and interest. Then I added watercolour and – to keep the challenges coming – I painted with my left hand. I am actually stunned by how well I painted with my non-dominant hand. Certainly I achieved keeping things looser than normal. For other people, this drawing probably is not remotely loose but, believe me, for me this is loose.
I had oral surgery just over a week ago – annoyingly two days before I took my Oath of Citizenship – and unfortunately experienced some complications which have prolonged my recovery process and caused an exceptional degree of pain. I am trying to be stoic but it has been really pretty miserable. I am very much looking forward to being pain free and being able to eat foods that are not liquid. Consequently, I have not been able to do much or accomplish much but I did think that some time spent pootling around at my art table would be restorative.
Not having much capacity for creative mojo in my current state, I decided to use a couple of Art Journal Adventure prompts to create an art journal page. I chose one involving altering an existing image and one that was the letter Q. I used a page out of a fashion catalogue as my starting point. The previous owner of our house must have been a big catalogue shopper as we still get loads of them in the mail, addressed to the occupant of the house, most of which I plop straight into the recycling bin but some I keep as collage fodder. I filled the gaps around the selected image with more scraps of catalogue page and some washi tape. Then it was time to add paint and start altering the image.
I decided that Q was be for Queen and from there I decided to make the figure a Queen Bee. Given the context of my physical condition, I kept things super simple. Just a layer of paint, enough to alter the image and suggest the bee idea. I had some washi tape with gold hexagons on it which was perfect for this project since the gold tied into the crown and the hexagons suggested honeycomb. And that was that. Quick. Simple. Done. And a welcome distraction from my agonising jaw.
The full title of this piece should be “The Fungus Fairy and the Unfortunate Phallus”. It is a cautionary tale about going straight to ink when drawing and not taking time to think things through.
The Art Journal Adventure prompt for last week was the letter “F”. Don’t enquire why I thought to draw a Fungus Fairy as a result because I actually don’t know why. Let’s call it a flash of inspiration. I know that I was feeling in the mood to draw something whimsical. In my early teens, I decided to draw my own versions of the classic Flower Fairies. I think I got about twenty illustrations done before I packed in the whole enterprise because I loved drawing but hated colouring in (I was using pencils). Maybe I should start over now that I actually enjoy adding colour to my illustrations. But I digress. Short on time (as always) I decided to commit to drawing straight away with pen. No pencil guidelines. No preliminary sketching. Just straight from my brain to my hand to the ink pen. The way I drew the Fungus Fairy a lot of the line work was over on the right hand side of the page so, to fill in a bit more of the left hand side, I came up with the bright idea of giving her a toadstool as a sort of magical wand. Yeah, I don’t know what on earth I was thinking either. In the very instant that I lifted pen from paper I realised that the fungus wand looked like a phallus. Great. So, yes, this is a cautionary tale about maybe taking some time to plan things out before committing ink to paper.
When it comes to subjects for my art, I am always drawn to faces and figures or monsters or anthropomorphised animals. What I really don’t tend to touch upon is botanicals, still life, or landscapes. I decided, therefore, to challenge myself to produce a landscape in the orange section of my Rainbow Art Journal. Having grown up in Fife, I thought of the orange pantiles that adorn the roofs in villages like Culross – a result of the tiles initially being imported as ballast. I grew up in the post-war new town of Glenrothes but always enjoyed visiting the fishing villages of the East Neuk so I decided to illustrate a harbour village in my art journal. There is zero verisimilitude in my illustration and I didn’t use any photo references so my buildings are all a fusion of memory and imagination. Landscape is definitely not my thing but I really enjoyed creating this page. I don’t even care that the scale is bonkers, including monstrous seagulls. Maybe I will force myself to do landscapes more frequently.
I decided to tackle an Art Journal Adventure prompt in my art time. The prompt I chose from the ones I have skipped was the letter J combined with “something that shows half”. Frequent readers of my blog will know how my mind works and understand why I immediately settled upon illustrating Jekyll and Hyde. I interpreted “half” was being about duality but also chose to represent it literally by splitting my illustration in half and making one side more Jekyll and one side more Hyde. I think I just about got what was in my head onto paper.