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

Self-Portrait using Non-Dominant Hand

What a difference from one week to the next – last week was an art time famine and this week I have managed to squeeze in three different doses of art time.  This week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt to use colours outside your comfort zone.  Since I had enjoyed the abstract lesson from Life Book so much this week and had found it so quick and easy, I decided to take a similar approach with my art journal page.  I again chose to use my non-dominant hand and used a wooden skewer dipped in ink.  I could tell just by glancing at my set of watercolours which colours I used least because they had barely been touched: green and orange.  I decided to throw in some yellow for a third colour and to connect the green and orange.  Not wanting to create another abstract and not knowing what else to draw, I settled on a self-portrait.  I really enjoyed working in this way.  It was quick, easy, and relaxing.  I will be squirreling away this approach so I can use it again in future.

18 Non-Dominant Hand Self-Portrait

Word Clouds Raining Rainbows

Last week I had ten minutes of art time.  Ten.  That’s all, folks.  In a week that included an unplanned hospital visit, house guests, and a funeral on top of all my usual commitments, obligations, and time suckers, I was not only pushed for free time but also brimming over with stress.  I felt like it might just save my sanity if I could find some way to dig out 20 minutes for art.  That turned out to be ambitious and I got 10.  Knowing I didn’t have time to do anything too involved, too messy, or too detailed, I turned to the Art Journal Adventure prompt and opened up my art journal to a blank page.

The prompt was to feature scallops on the page.  Yum.  Scallops.  I don’t think I have eaten any since I left Scotland.  Divine wee morsels that they are.  When I thought of scallops as a shape rather than a food, I thought of the way child-like clouds are drawn and that gave me the inspiration for my page.  With no time to draw or paint, I quickly cut out some scallop-fringed cloud shapes from old book pages and adhered them to the top of the page.  I then added stripes of Neocolor II crayons and outlined the clouds with Stabilo All.  Both of these activate with water so I sprayed liberal quantities of water on the page, then tipped up the art journal to let it all run and dribble and drip.  And that was my 10 minutes all used up.  I left it to dry overnight and was actually fairly satisfied with the result given the (lack of) time and effort invested in its creation.  And it just goes to show me that a) I can put together an entire art journal page in very little time indeed if I keep things simple and work efficiently and b) even a little bit of art time can balance out a stressful week.

17 Scallop Shaped Word Clouds in a Rainbow Sky

Skeleton Hand

This week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was to use a hand on the page.  Well pants!  I used my hand shapes a few weeks ago in a different journal page.  My challenge, therefore, was to come up with a quick, easy, simple idea that neither duplicated or echoed the page I had created before – or any other journal pages where I had used my hand as inspiration.  Since the previous page had started with my hand shape and built up from there – using masses of colourful dots – I had the idea of doing the reverse and starting with the hand silhouette and peeling away a layer.  Skeleton hand!  I have a bit of a thing for (not anatomically correct) skeleton drawings at the moment so I was enthused by the idea.

I had to create a background for my page.  Wanting a bit of a macabre feel for the skeleton hand, I opted for a red and green colour scheme, connotations of flesh, blood, putrefaction, and decay.  Having so recently had such a sucky result from using my gelli plate, I decided to give it another whirl and see if I could get a better result.  This time I used my miniature gelli-plate in the hopes it would provide me with a bit more control over the placement, slow me down a bit, and make me think.  I used it to build up a patchwork of red and green rectangles.  The red and green looked a bit bogging together but that was, after all, part of the point and the feel I was aiming for.

16a Gelli Print Background

When it came to the hand, I drew around my own hand and filled it in with black acrylic paint.  I used Dylusions paint as I find that black gives a really rich black, smooth, velvety finish which is ideal for drawing on top of.  Once that was dry, it was just a case of using a white paint pen to draw in the bones.  I had a quick glance at a photo of a skeletal hand but clearly did not make my drawing anatomically correct.

16b Skeleton Hand on Gelli Print Background

 

Self-Portrait as Book Worm

This week’s Art Journal Adventure offered a prompt that simultaneously served as a suggestion for overcoming the intimidation of a blank page and that was to use text pages as a starting point, a first layer.  Fear of the blank page is not something I find to be a struggle; my challenge is always finding the time for art and adequate time to develop something to completion, even in my art journal.  I have, therefore, been trying to follow the advice of Sue Clancy and her method of working in short bursts.  I usually try to find a block of 15-20 minutes minimum in which to have a short burst of art time but some weeks I have to work in even shorter gobbets of time.  What I am finding is that even micro bursts are effective in keeping creativity flowing and stopping the art muscles seizing up from rust.

This art journal page, therefore, was built up over three very short bursts.  In the first, I quickly adhered some dictionary pages to the page in my journal.  That took somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes – however long it took for a pot of pasta to boil.  The second burst was under 5 minutes and that was drawing myself as a Book Worm.  The final burst was probably ten minutes in which I added the colour using a variety of media.  The resulting page is simple but I think it is fun.  Had I decided that I needed 25 minutes to create this journal page, I never would have found the time last week; however, by finding small pockets of free time here and there throughout the week, I was able to gradually build the page up so long as I kept it simple.

As indicated, this is a self-portrait of myself as a book worm.  I have always loved books.  Some of my happiest childhood memories are of poring through books in the library and making my selections.  I once ended up in hospital with a concussion because of reading: I was walking in Edinburgh with my nose in a book when I walked at full speed into a concrete lamppost.  I was always a voracious reader who could gobble up a several books in a week.  Even when I was teaching High School and was incredibly busy with little free time, I could read a book a week.  In the past decade, however, the rate at which I can consume books has tapered off.  I still read daily but not for the duration I was once able to.  Nevertheless, since reading remains one of my favourite pastimes, I still think I qualify as a Book Worm.

15 Book Worm - Book Pages

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