I have not been doing a great job of keeping up with Life Book lessons and, as such, my mixed media skills are getting a tad rusty. A quieter weekend than usual afforded me the opportunity to tackle the most recent lesson. I took the concept of that lesson and put my own spin on it. I have been doing a lot of drawing lately – for my extended Inktober and the Brooklyn Art Library Sketchbook Project – so the drawing that underpinned this piece was actually really strong. I am, therefore, frustrated that I completely lost the quality of that drawing as I layered media on top of it. It proves the point, however, that I have allowed that particular skill set to rust up. Still, as disappointing as the outcome is to me, I enjoyed spending a decent ration of time sitting at my art table this weekend.
Last week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was the last in the series provided by my friend Jana. Her prompt was “changing seasons” but her tutorial also focused on demonstrating eco-dyeing. I was inspired by both. Unfortunately, it was one of those overwhelming weeks – a pretty stressful one actually – where I had very little time for art. I, therefore, recognised that my ability to dye papers within that week was going to be pretty limited. I have wanted to try eco-dyeing since I saw a blog post by Claudia McGill all about making parcels of materials that would leech colour into paper over time. Jana demonstrated a sped-up process that produced similar results. I am definitely going to give it a go. I just need to have a chunk of time in which to gather my materials. So, in the mean time, I resorted to dyeing book pages – some of which were already a little foxed – using tea, coffee, and steeped onion skins.
I had a page in my art journal that I did not know what to do with. It was the reverse of the page that I had handstitched so it was full of ugly, messy knots and stitches. I decided it could form the basis of a textural background for this page. I scraped gesso across the page roughly so as to somewhat embed and fix the thread of the stitches and I kept the gesso rough and splotchy so as to add more literal and visual texture. I then scraped across some light brown paint to create a neutral tone in the background, especially given that the “changing seasons” prompt was making me think of the colours of Autumn – and man am I looking forward to Autumn. Thinking of the glow of Autumn light, I scraped some bronze paint across the page and spattered gold paint at the top and bottom. All that remained was to decide how to incorporate the eco-dyed paper into the page. I decided upon circular, hoop shapes because I was thinking about the cyclical nature of the seasons. I cut some in different sizes from the dyed papers and adhered them to the page. Part of me thinks the page needs something more but I was out of time and out of ideas so, therefore, for now at least I consider this art journal page done.
Last week’s Life Book lesson was taken by Tamara Laporte and was all about Autumn. Autumn (or Fall as it is called here) is my favourite season. I like the quality of light, the colours of the trees, the justification for getting into my pyjamas earlier in the evening and snuggling on the sofa under a warm blanket, the holidays, and the cosy foods. I was, therefore, eager to carve out some time to work on this particular lesson. I had actually been working with Autumn leaves all week at preschool, getting my little students to make collages with them, make Fall leaf prints, and play in piles of actual leaves outdoors so it felt entirely appropriate to spend my evenings at the end of the week painting Autumn foliage, albeit whimsical, stylised leaves and plants rather than anything even approaching botanical realism.
Despite being a mini lesson, it still took me all week to get around to completing last week’s Let’s Face It lesson. The tutorial was taken by Angela Kennedy and the focus was on drawing and painting a variety of hair styles. This is something I have been pondering myself lately as I have noticed I tend to draw and paint hair the same two or three ways over and over. Therefore, with my 100 Faces series over on my other blog I have been trying to illustrate a wider variety of hair styles. Following advice from one of my kids, who knows I know nothing about hair or style, I have been eyeball stalking people’s hairdos for inspiration.
Kennedy’s demonstration was in simple ink pen and watercolour. This was very welcome since I was super short on time. I decided to challenge myself to work small so cut four 3X4.5″ pieces of watercolour paper. Having four little oblongs of paper in front of me made me think of either the four elements or the four seasons and so I plumped for using the latter as a theme. I used the hair of each face as a practice for a particular watercolour technique. Spring, therefore, has a wash of one colour with more concentrated areas of the same colour added in wet on wet; Summer has a concentrated wash of one colour and then I dropped water in to dilute and puddle the paint in some areas; Autumn has a wash of one base colour and then I painted two further colours on top of that base; and Winter was a wash of watercolour with table salt sprinkled into the wet paint. I was rather rushed and impatient when it came to painting the faces and experienced some bleed between colours by not ensuring one was dry before adding the next colour. It was a risk I knew I was taking yet still hoped to avoid. Working small and in a rush was perhaps not the best circumstance. Having blank space beneath the heads, I took that as an opportunity to practice my watercolour lettering again.
PS I had not removed all of the salt from the Winter piece before I photographed it as I found some patches were still a bit too damp.
Week 47 of Life Book was all about the importance of creative play and was led by Chris Zydel. The lesson was not a tutorial but rather an encouraging talk and, therefore, the outcome was totally free-form. Frequent readers of my blog will know that I struggle with intuitive painting as I work better when I have a vision, something to work towards. However, over the course of Life Book so far, I have learned the importance of getting out of my head a bit and just messing around with the materials and seeing what happens. I am not there yet but I am on the path towards finding the right balance between intuitive and intentional that works for me.
I started by just laying down some colour in different layers. I use my kitchen table as my art space and that corner of the kitchen has a dual aspect window. Looking out on the Autumn leaves tumbling from the trees, I found myself reaching for the Autumnal colours of yellow, orange, red and brown. I scraped paint with an old hotel card, dribbled paint, stencilled and finger painted. After a while, I began to see a shape form in one area that could be a simplified torso shape. That triggered the idea for a figure of some sort to be the focal point in my painting. I decided to add some gold paint in a circle. I didn’t like how central the circle was, however, so I pulled it into a tilting oval. That was what gave me an epiphany: the gold oval could be the wing of an Autumn Fairy.
So playing around and being intuitive got me to that juncture and then I worked more intentionally. I sharpened up the shapes that were the scaffolding of my idea and began the process of painting a figure. I kept my painting more illustrative and childish, like a picture book illustration, as befitted the subject matter. I used Neocolor II, Inktense pencils and Posca paint pens to refine everything and add the details. For all that my stencilling is still spectacularly terrible, I am quite pleased with how this piece turned out and feel like I am a step closer to striking that balance between intuitive and intentional. My chosen word, right at the beginning of Life Book, was “balance”. I am pleased I am finding it in different areas of my life.
This week’s Life Book lesson was a bonus lesson taken by Jenny Wentworth. The idea was to paint a tree intuitively using layers of watercolour paint, the tree growing from a seed that represented hopes and aspirations, and Wentworth added a female face into her tree trunk so that it became a personification.
I experienced a real creative block with the lesson. I just could not find a way to get started. I even considered skipping the lesson entirely but I am too anal retentive and it didn’t sit right with me to not complete every single lesson in the course. I told myself I would postpone it until I came up with an idea that worked for me. Then my kids – so often a source of inspiration to me – came to my rescue. I asked about their day at school and they asked me what art I had been doing. I explained that I was creatively stuck. They wanted to know what the lesson was about and I explained what Wentworth’s painting looked like as a potential outcome. “So like a lady Groot?” my 8 year old asked. Ping. Light bulb. That was my inspiration: I could anthropomorphise a tree!
I used watercolour and created the small branches and twigs by blowing the paint with a straw. I may not have painted intuitively or used lots of layers of watercolour but that was my nod to being less controlling with the outcome. I did not want to lose the shapes the branches had created plus the leaves are rapidly falling off the trees so I decided to make her an Autumn tree. My 10 year old said she looks like a Dryad. Whether Marvel comics or Greek mythology, the lesson got done and it only took me the time in which dinner was cooking.
This week’s Documented Life Project prompt was to incorporate leaves onto the page. As much as I love seeing all the Autumn leaves transforming into myriad colours, glowing and glistering, burnished by the sun, I was not feeling inspired by this week’s challenge. I really can’t explain why. I had a few ideas but nothing that really got my creative pulse going.
I have been thinking recently about trying to progress with my plan of incorporating mixed media art techniques into my more regular, illustrative style of art and, therefore, determined to try that in response to this week’s challenge. I was pondering the fact that, as a child, I had a trilogy of Flower Fairy books by Cicely Mary Barker whose illustrations I used to pore over. I resolved, therefore, to draw my own fairy in my Art Journal. As I have mentioned before, I have a large oak tree in the garden of my new home so I drew an Oak Fairy complete with an acorn hat. I coloured her with watercolour and outlined with black ink. I washed bright yellow over the background of the page and decided to use a leaf stencil for added interest and to further contribute to the week’s leaf theme. I still need my learner plates when it comes to stencilling because I did not blot the paint adequately, leading to rather blotching leaf images. Lesson learned and yet another art journalling mistake chalked up to educational experience. I finished the page with a quotation from Albert Camus: “Autumn is a second Spring when every leaf is a flower”. I keep resolving to improve my typography, learn some new styles of handwriting, but somehow I keep defaulting to my own everyday handwriting. Usually I do so because I am pressed for time but this week it was because I had already messed the page up with my sloppy leaf background so I was not really motivated to go to much effort with the lettering.
My Oak Fairy was for DLP week 44 so there are now a mere 8 weeks left in this particular challenge – and alarmingly just 8 weeks until the end of 2014. Although I am going to use my blog Pict Ink for my art work, I will continue to share my DLP pages in this blog.