Today marks 21 days since our lockdown started. Life has been transformed pretty rapidly. As a preschool teacher, I am now unemployed for the foreseeable future; we’ve had to create a home office space in our bedroom for my husband – who is thankfully still able to work; and the four boys are now having to adjust to distance learning. Overseeing four kids who are using technology to learn is a massive challenge for me. While the older three boys have lots of experience with using chromebooks for learning, my youngest son (aged 10) has not had that degree of exposure. It is, therefore, a steep learning curve for both him and for me. I am not finding any of the processes to be intuitive and it seems every teacher and every subject area is intent on using a different mode. Thank goodness my oldest son is a bit of a computer whizz and can step in to problem solve and guide his little brother through all the technological hurdles. I did not anticipate transitioning to distance learning being a smooth process but it is proving to be a more stressful experience than I predicted.
After a particularly snaggy and challenging morning, therefore, I was feeling particularly frazzled. It was critical that I find a way to decompress before I combusted. Last month, I received a bonus box from Art Snacks containing Tombow products. I had not done anything with it because I am not remotely skilled at using alcohol markers. However, I decided that I would delve into the box and try to produce an illustration using just its contents. An art challenge is, after all, much more preferable to me than a technological one. This is the illustration I produced. I am happy to report that I did not combust today. Not yet anyway.
I had this page that was covered in smears and spatters of leftover green paint, washi tape, and offcuts of origami paper. I had placed the collage elements with the intention of them eventually becoming some sort of landscape. Once I began to draw lines around the patches, the drawing started to take form and I had the idea of where the cottage should be placed within the scene. The finished piece is reminiscent of a journal page I created in 2017 and a page from the orange section of this rainbow art journal. I guess this is my style and approach to landscapes.
This is the art journal page I created with this month’s Art Snacks supplies. The figure is painted using two Faber-Castell markers that can be activated with water to imitate watercolour. What I really got addicted to, however, was a Kuretake pen that makes circles. I had thought I would just add a few dots in the background but clearly I got carried away. You can see how much of a battering I put my art journal through by how crinkled and buckled this page is. It will flatten out over time because of the weight in the rest of the journal. It’s one of the reasons why I find photographing my doodlings to be a challenge.
Will I create an illustration in the green section of my Rainbow Art Journal that does not involve foliage? It is looking doubtful based on the evidence so far. Women with antlers crop up in my artwork from time to time and I really don’t have an explanation for why or what they might symbolise for me. I wish I had a deeper explanation than the fact I just seem to enjoy drawing this subject. Also, I should probably develop my skills with painting leaves as I am pretty sure my abilities in that regard have not developed since my age was in single digits.
I had not worked in my random art journal for a while so a good way to grease the cogs and grind the rust off my creative gears was to complete this month’s Art Snacks challenge and complete a page using just the supplies in this month’s box. I used the pencil to draw the face – and it was refreshing to use a pencil as more than just a medium for rough sketching – and then set about using the other items to create the rest of the illustration. I had no idea how either of these media worked and had no vision of how I wanted the finished piece to look and, well, it probably shows. I truly did just mess around and created puddles of pigment and scraped things around, let things puddle, and encouraged dribble. My conclusion was that I did not particularly like either of the materials that are new to me and that I had very little skill with either of them. I don’t like the finished illustration. However, I am happy to have experimented and sometimes learning what doesn’t work for you is of as much value as learning what does.
If my calculations are correct, then this is the 50th illustration in my Rainbow Art Journal. If my assessment is correct, it is going to take me several years to actually complete every single page in this particular art journal and complete this rainbow themed project. I need to pick up the pace. This page was super quick and easy to work on because all of that background layering of green paint had accumulated as side projects over time. When I have some leftover paint (or scraps of paper or whatever) I have just been lobbing them on a page in this art journal and that way some pages just fill up over time. Therefore, when I was in a coffee shop with my local art journaling group, this page was ready and waiting for me to add to it. Maybe it’s the time of year – Rudolph and all that – but I almost immediately thought about drawing a deer skeleton. Part of my inspiration certainly came from the Ouroboros I drew a couple of years ago. That illustration was more effective, perhaps because it could pass as more anatomically correct. This deer skeleton is, however, weirdly proportioned and overall looks pretty dorky and derpy. But that’s OK. Whimsically weird has its charms too.
This page in the green section of my Rainbow Art Journal was created in response to an Art Snacks challenge. I actually painted it all the way back in April 2018. At the time, thought I might add more to it but, given I did not, I am considering it done. All the green is ink used at different levels of dilution and the orange is a watercolour pencil. Green and orange are among my least used colours but I actually quite like the combination of the two here.
I painted this figure as part of the August 2019 Art Snacks challenge (so those of you who follow me on Instagram may have seen it before). The contents of the box included yellow and green acrylic paints and a fineliner ink pen, not media that immediately jumped out as working together. My workaround was to draw the head and figure on paper using the fineliner and then collage it onto the page after I had added the first layer of paint. Having mixed different shades of green from paints provided, I then created patterns on the torso/clothing of the figure. I cheated a wee bit as I used a black paint pen for the hair and a white gel pen for some of the patterns on the clothing. Incidentally, I have no idea why the photograph has made the yellow on the face and arms look so fluorescent. It does not look at all like that in real life and is actually pretty subtle. Maybe some day I will master phone photography.
I have not opened any of my art journals for a while so I thought I would crack one open and have a dabble. I decided to draw one of my favourite figures from sideshow history, the Pig Faced Lady of Manchester Square (spoiler alert: actually a shaved bear). I have drawn her before, including in an art journal page from back in 2015, but I decided to go a bit more cute and whimsical for this version. I regret that decision now and actually wish I had gone darker and more grotesque with it. I feel very meh about this illustration but it’s on a random (and crinkly) page in my art journal so that doesn’t matter. Next Pig Faced Lady will be creepier though.
It feels like eons since I last had any art time. Given the fact I can complete an art journal page in under half an hour (often in 10 or 15 minute portions), my art journals really should not have been sitting closed for as long as they have. It is a testament to how incredibly over-scheduled that I have been that I have been unable to make any time. The start of the school year is always hectic as we all transition to new schedules. I am also seriously busy at work and at home we are still trying to deal with the chaos that followed in the wake of our basement flood and problem-solve our way to a solution. Juggling all of this stuff – and more besides – is seriously draining my free time and sucking up all of my available energy.
It was, therefore, a treat when I found myself with a sliver of time this weekend in which to work in my art journal. I used an Art Journal Adventure prompt as my starting point. The prompt was “spirals” and it immediately put my in mind of the poster for ‘Vertigo’, one of my favourite movies of all time. The poster depicts two figures tumbling into a vortex of spirals. I drew my weird wee self-portrait as the figure among the spirals. I have a spirograph somewhere in the boxes of items we salvaged from the basement but there was no time to rake for it. I, therefore, drew some concentric circles instead of spirals. There are spirals in the eyes, however, which is pretty much an accurate representation of my life right now.
Fingers crossed that this art journal page is the break in my art drought. My intention is to participate in Drawlloween. I have participated in both Inktober and Drawlloween before and always enjoy it. This year the challenge will definitely be one of time management. I am going to be using the list of prompts provided by Mab Graves and I will be sharing my illustrations over on my Pict Ink blog and on Instagram. So I have one week left to try and get my schedule under control. Art is a good motivator.