I actually painted this illustration over a year ago as it was produced in response to an Art Snacks challenge. It was drawn in the yellow section of my Rainbow Art Journal – hence its relevance now. At the time I created it, I thought I might eventually circle back to it and add something to it but ultimately I have left it just as is, as a simple little ink and watercolour illustration. Sometimes, after all, less is more.
Using all of the media in my Art Snacks box was very much a challenge this month. There were two gelatos in colours labelled cherry and pistachio. I don’t have much success with red and green colour palettes and I have even less success with using gelatos. I know people who absolutely love gelatos and achieve a great deal of success with them. I meanwhile only seem able to achieve scribbly, scratchy, puddly messes. The box also contained an acrylic spray and sprays are again something I have no aptitude with. I tend to make an absolute mess with those. I was feeling very daunted about embarking on an illustration using these materials.
I received a peach hued marker in the box so I knew I would draw a human figure. I was using the three narrow paper samples provided so that format suggested the composition to me. I was actually surprised with how successfully I managed to create flesh tones using the beige base of the paper and the peach marker as I usually make a streaky mess with markers. And then it all went wrong.
I smooshed some gelato onto the paper and activated it water and moved the pigment around. However, no matter what I did, my initial scribbles remained visible and the pigment settled unevenly so it all ended up looking rather patchy. Evidently I need much more practice with using gelatos. And then I added the spray and made even more mess and really stuffed up the illustration. I drew on some branches dipped in the ink actually using the spray pump tube as my mark-making tool. When I tried to use it as a spray, however, I didn’t achieve fine mist but instead got large puddles and ugly drips. Such a mess. Time to step away and call this piece done. You can’t win them all.
On Saturday, we were in the city for other reasons but decided to build in a jaunt to the Rodin Museum. There are still (after 5 years of living here) several Philadelphia museums I have yet to visit and the Rodin was among them so I was glad to have the opportunity to check it off the list. The building, which dates from the interwar period, is charming and its grounds are a little oasis of plants and water and calm in the city. There were people relaxing in the courtyard with a book and I can well imagine it being a superb space in which to wile away some time and unwind.
The basis of the museum is the collection of one man, apparently an avid fan of Auguste Rodin’s work. It houses many of the sculptor’s most famous works. Indeed, one of the dozen versions of his most celebrated work – The Thinker – greets visitors outside the museum. I have seen versions of The Thinker before – at the Burrell Collection in Glasgow and I think the National Gallery in Washington DC – but this was the best version I have seen. The thing I really appreciate about Rodin’s sculptures are the rough hewn textures, the sense of weight in the bodies, the torsion in the poses. Being able to see a large scale version of The Thinker up close I could really observe the grip of the toes on the pedestals, the pressure of the elbow on the thigh, the weight of the chin on the raised hand.
The interior space of the museum is compact but well lit and the contents are displayed thoughtfully. There were, of course, lots of smaller works by Rodin. I especially liked some busts. However, there were also some sculptures by other artists who were either inspired by Rodin or were competitors of Rodin. There was an excellent Picasso piece and a charming piece depicting an embrace between a sailor and a female figure that my 9 year old was especially drawn to. The boys, incidentally, were not especially enthused by this particular trip. Our 13 year old and our 9 year old were pretty engaged and enjoyed seeing the sculptures but the 16 and 12 year old’s were totally switched off. Thankfully the museum had some benches for them to plonk themselves on while the rest of us milled about.
In truth, the best pieces in the collection are all housed outside the museum and can, therefore, be accessed for free. We were, therefore, lucky that we had visited on a free entry day. The Gates of Hell is on a wall beside the building’s doors. It was fascinating seeing the miniature versions of various sculptures within the composition. The Burghers of Calais (one of a dozen castings) is in the grounds. It depicts a scene from The Hundred Years’ War and being able to get up close to the figures meant I could really see the way Rodin was conveying the sense of defeat, dejection, and humiliation in their faces and sagging bodies. My favourite of the pieces in the collection was also within the grounds. I love the composition of The Three Shades and the way the three male figures combine to form a single, almost organic shape and I also really like the rendering of the musculature in the poses, even if the angles of the necks are wholly unnatural.
Philly is actually a great city for public art generally, from transitory installations to diverse sculptures to the fantastic murals covering the sides of buildings and walls to monuments and memorials. We encountered a few of these on our wanderings on Saturday and really I should try to plan out a few walking tours so we can see a lot more of this public art. I am now also keen to return to the Philadelphia Art Museum.
I have been doing a lot of illustrations lately, especially drawing people. I like to shake things up a bit so I was, therefore, looking for something creative to do in my art journal that did not involve illustration. This week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was about cameras and photographs so that presented me with the spark of inspiration I needed. I thought I would create a sort of mixed media scrapbook page, a background for some photographs.
I had a page in my art journal where one of my cats had spilled ink (technically my fault for leaving the lid off the bottle for even an instant) so that became the basis of my background. I sploshed around a bit more ink, used some found ink to direct the puddles into specific forms (the circles and discs) and then left it to dry. The monochrome background seemed like it would be best for some monochrome photographs so – thinking vintage – I printed out some photos of my grandparents. It was then a case of positioning those on the page and, once I was happy with the placement, adding some washi tape and some little mark-making doodles. I probably went way over the top and made things too busy for a background. One of the washi tapes has cameras on it so that was an apt find in my stash.
I never knew my biological paternal grandfather (lower right) as he was killed at the end of the Second World War. That left my grandmother (lower left) as a war widow in her early 30s with three sons to raise. She supported them by working long hours in the local steamie while her mother, who also worked in the steamie, and a neighbour helped out with childcare. I admired her strength and fortitude. My Dad, incidentally, is the toddler in that photo. The photo at the top of the page is the wedding of my maternal grandparents. They were both a huge influence on who I am as a person. I inherited a lot of my interests and passion and feistiness from my Gran. My Granddad, meanwhile, was just one of the best human beings I ever knew and I feel blessed that I got to have him as my Granddad. He was full of laughter and fun, was always nurturing and encouraging and endlessly supportive. He is also responsible for my love of spicy food and my sweet tooth.
This was a page that I had gradually filled with scraps of yellow hued collage – including scraps of origami paper, images from cookery magazines, photographs from National Geographic. I sketched in a figure over the top of the collage and then painted the negative spaces in a lemon acrylic so that the background became covered in bubble shapes that revealed the collage layer beneath. When it comes to the figure, I was plagiarizing myself again since I copied her from an ink and watercolour drawing from over two years ago. I prefer that original version but it is fun to translate an illustration into a different medium and see what differences emerge.
Some pages in my Rainbow Art Journal are blank slates; others are covered with bits of collage or scrapings of paint or handwritten notes or even the odd doodle. When I have leftover paint, I scrape or smear it onto a page in the appropriate colour sector of my journal and, when I have a collage scrap, I similarly paste it in. This was one such page that had such a messy start of leftovers. There was some textured gesso on the page and also a prominent wine label. I decided to turn that wine label into the basis of clothing for a female figure. The rest of the clothing element is made of washi tape. Initially, that female figure was youthful but I decided to challenge myself to draw an older face so I did a sort of “age progression” on the face until it looked right to me. I decided to lean into the texture of the gesso by adding more texture on the page, scraping thick paint onto the page, scraping into that paint as it was starting to dry.
I was all but housebound this weekend for various reasons: a rabble of teen boys celebrating my oldest turning 16 by spending 12 hours in our basement and devouring copious quantities of pizza; a backlog of household chores – not unrelated to the invasion of teen boys; and a day of near non-stop rain. Being on domestic lockdown, however, meant that I had time for arting. I decided to work in my art journal on last week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt which was something to do with fairytales. My mind immediately went to Red Riding Hood because I have some inexplicable compulsion about illustrating that story. That was precisely why, however, I decided to steer myself away from the first thing I thought of, to challenge myself to illustrate something I had not in a while. I, therefore, decided to draw Goldilocks and the Three Bears. I used ink and watercolour.
I appreciate that, in the story, the trio of bears actually discover Goldilocks when she is fast asleep in the comfiest bed but I am not a pedant – well, not about that at least. I, therefore, opted to draw them discovering the golden-tressed interloper as she is gobbling down the “just right” porridge in the best chair in the house – a chair she later breaks. You may be forming the impression that I view Goldilocks as the villain of the piece. Darn tooting I do. She commits breaking and entering, rummages among other people’s possessions, eats food that was not designated for her consumption, and breaks furniture. No wonder the bears growl angrily when they discover the little miscreant in their house.