Our other Winter break trip was to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Our last visit was in 2015 so it was time for a return and all four boys were agreeable to coming on this outing.
We made an effort to visit the galleries we had either missed or only flitted through in our previous visit. I was surprised by how into medieval and renaissance art the boys were so we spent a lot of time in the early European art section. There were entire furnished rooms from historic buildings and things like church screens on display but later we discovered that there were entire chunks of ecclesiastical architecture, including a whole cloister, and a Japanese temple from the 14th Century. How had we managed to miss such massive exhibits on our previous visit?
I don’t think it is necessary for me to write at any length about our visit. We wandered around, appreciated works of art from diverse cultures, a wide variety of periods, and different media, and had some good quality discussions along the way. Everyone got to see something that was a highlight for them – such as my 17 year old seeing one of Van Gogh’s sunflower paintings – and we did not push everyone beyond their tolerance by insisting that we visit every single nook and cranny of the museum.
When the boys were younger, we always used to keep them occupied and engaged in museums by giving them pencil and paper and encouraging them to draw; once they got older, however, we evolved a new family challenge: each person has to find an exhibit that they try to replicate through mime or tableau. I will, therefore, close this blog post with some of our attempts from this trip.
Justified by the fact I was very burned out and running on empty, I spent most of Winter break in hibernation mode. I decided to participate in a manageable festive art challenge in order to force me to make time for art at least every couple of days. The one I opted for was Yuletide Witches created by Heather Mahler. The magical theme appealed to me.
The first prompt was “Ice Witch” and I think I started pretty strong with my illustration. She maybe looks a bit more like a pixie or some such than a witch but I was pleased with how the ice crown turned out.
The second prompt was “Ghost Witch” and I was disappointed by my efforts. I got carried away with all the shroud wrappings so the effect is much more mummy than witch and I am not happy with the face either. The good thing about an art challenge is there is always another prompt waiting and the opportunity for improvement.
I was much happier with my “Bow Witch”. She turned out much closer to the vision I had in my head. Since that prompt was for Christmas Day, I opted for traditional Christmas colours of red, green, and gold – not a combination I would usually use – and I think it is quite effective in this context.
The next prompt was “Reindeer Witch” and I decided to make her a bit more spooky. I used a photo reference for the reindeer skull but – true to form – I got the proportions all wrong. I think visually it still works well as a headpiece and overall I am pleased with how this drawing turned out.
The penultimate Yuletide Witch was a “Dried Fruit Witch” and I had actually been dreading that prompt because I had zero inspiration and no idea what I was going to draw when I put pencil to paper. Then I thought of all of those garlands of dried citrus fruit and how they could mirror chunky necklaces and that led me to think of cranberries as beads and that whole aesthetic of bold jewellery made me think of Endora from ‘Bewitched’ and gave me the vibe for the witch herself. And so the witch drawing I had most been dreading turned out to be the one I enjoyed drawing most.
The final witch was a “Wishing Star Witch” and I decided to challenge myself to create a sense of glowing – something I knew I would struggle with. I think I made some progress in that area with this illustration.
So those are my Yuletide Witches. I enjoyed working on them and having some quiet time at my art table every couple of days. They have photographed horribly because of the grey, dull light but the editing adjustments have them close enough to reality for sharing purposes.
I have been sick for over a week now. I am negative for all the big ticket items. I just have several lower level viruses combining into an overall debilitating grot. The doctor was befuddled by how I had fallen prey to so many bugs at once until he learned I was a preschool teacher. Apart from Covid – when I was asymptomatic – I have not been sick at all since 2019 so it is also fair to say that my immune system is weedy and pathetic and really has not rallied the defences at all. It’s an incredibly busy and demanding time of year so being sick right now is also a source of stress and frustration. Overall, I am feeling pretty miserable.
All of which preamble is to explain why I yet again turned to a Draw This In Your Style challenge for my art time. Free time is pretty paltry right now, as I am sure it is for most folks, so it was convenient for that reason as well as the fact that I am just feeling pretty cruddy. I opted for a challenge set by Inknes due to its very simple colour palette and because I liked the mythological and heraldic vibe to her original. I have found that I really like drawing weirdo wolves. I like drawing the body shapes and also all of the linework for the hair. I enjoyed working on this piece and it was a welcome distraction from feeling sorry for myself and my rubbish immune system.
‘Tis the season for me to have very little spare time. However, over the course of a few days, I managed to respond to a Draw This In Your Style challenge. The Ivy Foxes challenge was set by an artist who goes by Vossanova on Instagram and I thought it would be a fun experiment for me to try and draw them since their style is so distinctive and very different from my own and because animals aren’t a frequent subject of mine. I am not satisfied with the end result because there is such a massive gap between the image I had in my head and what appeared on paper – turns out I am not very adept at drawing foxes – but I found it very relaxing to draw all of that ivy – hence I got very carried away with it. I had fun drawing it and really that is the most important thing.
I found myself with enough time to tackle another Draw This In Your Style challenge and – since we are still in spooky season and Drawlloween – I thought I would tackle the challenge of drawing a teen vampire by an artist named Alexandra. I always find it fun to translate digital art into my analogue ink and watercolour and this one was no exception. I think my version looks more tween than teen because I drew fuller cheeks but otherwise I stuck pretty closely to the composition and colour palette.
I am back in the classroom and my own kids are back in school so I am immensely, overwhelmingly, exhaustingly busy. However, I am working hard at carving out time for art as a way to decompress and balance things out. I am currently beavering away through Drawlloween, the annual daily drawing challenge, and sharing my illustrations on my other blog. By some miracle, I found myself with extra time to draw this past weekend so – what with my creative brain being fried from the daily drawing – I thought I would have a crack at a Draw This In Your Style challenge. I selected a vampire created by Heather Mahler because it’s still spooky season. I have done two of her previous DTIYS challenges because her subject matter appeals to me, I like her colour choices and the way she utilises symmetry and asymmetry while her style and medium are very different from my own. I really enjoyed creating this drawing. It all came together with ease so was very relaxing to work on.
This is another drawing I did for the #Tekenuurtje challenge on Instagram. I thought the angles and weight of the pose would provide me with a suitable challenge and they really did. I did a lot of fussing over the legs in particular. However, I think I actually rose to the challenge as I believe I have everything looking “right” in the end. The proportions are not spot on but it wouldn’t be my style if things weren’t at least a little awry. I cannot find a way to link to the original photo so you can click a link to my Instagram post and swipe to see the source image.
Behold! For I have finally reached the very last page of my Rainbow Art Journal. After this illustration, I get to close this sketchbook, take it off my art table, and file it away on a shelf. It has taken me five – FIVE – years to finish this art journal. There was so much procrastinating and so many lengthy breaks where it just sat abandoned on my art table. I have started and completed so many other art projects during that span of time but this particular journal and project was a malingerer. I am, therefore, very happy to have accomplished my art mission for this Summer break in finishing this journal.
For this last drawing, I took my inspiration from one of my sisters. When we were kids, she was really into Rainbow Brite. We never saw the show (did it even air in Britain?) but I had won three of the plush toys in a competition and, having no interest in them (I think I was 9 and had never been into dolls) I gave them to my sister. She absolutely loved them and expanded her collection. Anyway, my idea was to draw a less cartoony, less cutesy Rainbow Brite but there was a twist: I decided to challenge myself to create the illustration entirely from memory, without any visual references whatsoever. I actually remembered the costume pretty accurately in terms of the arms being comprised of stripes but with a preponderance of blue. I decided to steer away from the original costume while maintaining the stripes and translating it into a blockier design. Where I was completely adrift from the original character was with the hair. While I got the hairstyle right, I had completely misremembered the colour. I really believed her hair and been rainbow coloured but, nope, she was just blonde or ginger – depending on the incarnation. Never mind my memory fail because I actually like the rainbow hair for the purposes of my journal.
Incidentally, the washi tape is not really a compositional element, though I decided to let it peek through a thin layer of white paint. This poor art journal has taken a beating and some of the pages are separating from the binding. The tape was, therefore, entirely practical.
Although I am glad to be finally saying farewell to this project after all of these years, I am glad I undertook it. In some ways it has been useful that it took me so long because I can look at the early pages of this sketchbook and see how far I have progressed with my skills. For example, the way I draw faces has improved a lot. It also does work well as a record of my experiments with different colour combinations. There are many that I would use again. I have also learned that turquoise really does go with everything. However, I have also decided – especially in this past 18 months – that I am no longer very interested in mixed media. I definitely feel more “me” as an artist when I am using ink and watercolour and I think, whether chicken or egg, that my skills are far better in those media than they are with others. I am, therefore, going to focus on ink and watercolour going forward – while challenging myself to get better with gouache because pushing myself out of my creative comfort zone is never a bad thing.
I have lots of ideas for future art projects. I think I work most efficiently when I work on a series but what I am considering is running a few series at the same time, one that is simple I can work on on days when I have tiny portions of free time and one that is more involved. Once I figure it all out, I will be sharing that art over on Pict Ink. Stay tuned I guess.
This is the penultimate page in my Rainbow Art Journal. I am almost there! As I so often do, I decided to draw a female figure with a circular disc in the background but this time I drew several discs so that they could form circular bands, one for each colour of the simplified rainbow (purple in place of indigo and violet). Don’t judge my geometry skills: I do not own a compass so I traced the red circle and then eyeballed the other rings from there. There are definite flaws in this piece and things I would do-over but, even with those and the wobbly not-concentric circles, I am pretty pleased with this illustration. So much so, indeed, that I rather wish this was the final page in the art journal because I have a suspicion my final drawing will not be up to snuff.
I am excited by the fact of only having a few pages left in this Rainbow Art Journal. I feel like I have been pootling around in this particular art journal for so many years. Too many years. I have completed countless other art journals and art projects within that time frame but this one was malingering because I kept putting it back down as many times as I picked it up. I made it one of my goals for this Summer to just power through and almost exclusively work in this art journal so that I could finally complete it and file it away. I, therefore, feel a sense of achievement already that there are only a few pages left. I have decided that these final pages should be dedicated to all of the colours combined. Rainbows to the finish line.
This illustration is another Draw This In Your Style challenge. This one is based on an original character created by a very young artist named Myla. One of her characters is Gay Mothman who just makes me smile every time she shares artwork featuring him. I love cryptids and his rainbow garb suited my needs for this particular section of my art journal so I thought I would – as the challenge suggests – draw him in my style. After working in neutrals for a while, it was so much fun to splash all of those colours around.