My youngest son had major oral surgery yesterday so he was off school and I was off work. While he was snuggled up on the sofa recovering from the anesthesia, I sat with him and worked in my art journal. I had to keep things quick and simple as a result of the context. Inspired by this week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt of “birds and blossoms”, I bashed out this rapid illustration of myself in bird form. The scaffolding is my go-to doodle self-portrait that I just tweak and adapt as required. So, for instance, this time I gave myself very round glasses to be more bird-eye-like and obviously I replaced arms and feet with wings and talons. My son asked if I was drawing myself as a wise owl or a harpy. And that, folks, probably tells you as much as you ever need to know about my parenting modes.
This was the second of the art journal pages I created while at my monthly art journaling group. I created it in response to two Art Journal Adventure prompts – bird and the letter I. I am being a bit cheeky with the letter I since I decided it is covered by my use of indigo. What inspired the illustration, however, was the song ‘Wings of a Dove’ by Madness. I have been on a bit of a musical nostalgia kick recently, introducing my sons to more of the music I was into when I was their ages and younger. For that reason, I had been listening to the track shortly before heading out to the meet up and, with the lyrics still in my mind’s ear, I decided to come up with an illustration. It’s drawn with Inktense pencils with a little bit of micron pen for the vine patterns on the clothing. I find my Inktense pencils are ideal for portable art because they can be easily activated with a water brush, are fixed when dry, and dry pretty quickly.
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.
There were two lessons in this week’s Life Book course and I managed to find time to complete one of them. The object of the lesson was to create a piece inspired by a hummingbird incorporating collage as one of the media being utilised. I have been using collage regularly as a background or otherwise visually minimal element but it has been a while since I have used collage papers as a prominent feature so that was fun. I used origami papers for the wing and tail feathers and then drew with activated Inktense pencils over the top of the collage in order to make it cohere with the body, which I painted with watercolour. It’s a simple piece in technique and outcome but it provided just the therapeutic decompression I needed in yet another over-scheduled week.
I was not feeling immediately inspired by either prompt today and, since I don’t have time in the day to ruminate and await a visit from the inky muse, I decided to just crack on with my own thing. I definitely have a Halloween / monster / horror theme emerging in my Inktober sketchbook so I decided to continue in that vein without encroaching on the territory of future prompts. Since I recently convinced my oldest son to read the complete works of Edgar Allan Poe, I decided to draw a raven. I suspect The Raven is by far and away Poe’s most famous work though I personally am a fan of Annabel Lee, the Masque of the Red Death, and Ligeia. And now I want to reread Poe. I am actually rather fond of crows and ravens. I know a lot of people find them repugnant or creepy but I love the glossy sheen of their black feathers, their sturdy shape, and their intellect. This was just a super-quick drawing – ten minutes from beginning to end – so I don’t think I have done the raven justice but I like this as a starting point. Perhaps I will turn it into a lino block print or more developed and detailed ink drawing at some stage.
Last week’s Life Book lesson was taken by Wyanne Thompson. Her theme and message was a powerful one about how to move forward from the crappy and awful things that can befall us in life. My interpretation of her pep talk was that experiences can change us and make us feel different and abnormal in comparison to our previous selves and to others but we can accept, embrace and maybe even celebrate our own “normal”. That is something I have found to be true in my own life certainly. This perspective informed the art work for the lesson which was about creating a quirky and imperfect face.
As per usual, I had to take some short cuts because of pressure of time or not having the same materials. Thompson demonstrated a nifty ink transfer method that I will definitely try at some point but was unable to use for this lesson so instead I drew loosely with a paintbrush loaded with India ink. I am increasingly determined to try and adapt art lessons to my own illustrative style and that was the case with this lesson. The bird on the head came about because I wanted to introduce a quirky element that would create some asymmetry and also cover one eye. I kept trying to draw a large flower but it just wasn’t working out. Frustrated, I downed tools and glanced out of the window and there was a blue jay. Three of my kids separately commented that my illustration looks “emo” because of the bird covering part of the face.
I think this is one of my “step backward” pieces. I like the way the orange background offsets the blues and purples but otherwise I think the piece is far too busy and visually cluttered, too many elements for the eye to settle. I also think the bird looks way more dorky than quirky. That needed more revision. However, in the spirit of the lesson’s theme, I accept and embrace the flaws as part of the process of developing my style.
This week’s Colour Me Positive prompt was all about the beneficial elements of art. The accompanying quotation was from Thomas Merton: “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time”. The additional prompt was to use a bird somewhere on the art journal page. That is one of those arts and crafts cliches that turns out to be so true: the impulse to lob a bird onto things is pretty compelling.
I was out with my art journalling MeetUp group this weekend and was wondering what to do in my art journal with my limited travel supplies. The opposing page was last week’s challenge page and the colour scheme of it made me think of a peacock so I started to doodle a peacock onto my art journal page using a fountain pen filled with waterproof black ink. Peacock. Bird. Bingo.
Once I got home, I decided to “paint” the peacock using my Dylusion spray inks. As I have mentioned before, those inks and I have a love-hate relationship. I love the vibrant colours and the way I can manipulate the saturation of them but I hate that they are difficult to control and I really hate that they reactivate. As such, I was inspired by Carrie Lynn Cordero to start using them like vibrant watercolours. I snagged my set of Dylusion spray inks from a thrift store for absolute buttons so, as such, I don’t feel I need to be that precious about using them up. My colouring of the peacock got messy. This was partly because, as previously moaned about, I struggle to control this particular medium and always seem to make a mess with it and also partly because my cats decided that they would try to nibble my paint brushes and spill a water pot just as I was working on this page. A messy, splodgy, inky peacock was the result.
The next lesson I tackled in the Mixed Media Mythology course was another by Lucy Brydon. This time the subject was Halcyone (or Alcyone) whose tale in Greek Mythology is one of hubris, punishment, loss, grief, and metamorphosis. It is from her that the phrase “Halcyon Days” derives and she is also associated with kingfishers.
The lesson involved creating a splodgy, inky background. I really enjoyed creating it though it possibly ended up being a bit too vivid and bold in comparison to the figure. As the instruction was to draw a female profile and incorporate a kingfisher, my mind flitted to the Phoenix Woman painting I produced a short while ago and I decided to go with a similar composition. I also borrowed from it the idea of making the kingfisher a type of headdress rather than attempting to paint a separate bird. It helped me avoid having to paint a realistic bird but I also thought it might work thematically in terms of Halcyone’s transformation.
Having done the warm up exercise, it was time to turn my attention to the first full lesson of Life Book 2016. Again, the lesson was taken by the delightful Tamara Laporte. I must admit that I pared back my approach to the lesson a bit by removing a collaging step from my process and also not constructing a little pocket and integrating it into the painting. I had to be realistic about my time management and be pragmatic.
The idea behind the lesson was to create a figure who would represent a Traveller since we students are at the beginning of this year’s art journey. We were to choose an animal or two to accompany the figure. My mind was flitting about from animal to animal and various possibilities, especially since we have just welcomed a three-legged cat into our home, and I just could not settle on an idea when – out of the corner of my eye and just feet from the kitchen table where I do my art thing – I saw a scarlet feathered male cardinal visit my feeder and nibble on seeds. Ta da! Choosing the cardinal then helped me select my colour palette for the painting and I was off and away. For whatever reason, the idea of a Traveller made me think of a travelling cloak and from there I thought of an Edwardian lady and that then became the scaffolding for my painting of the female figure. She has ended up looking rather stern and serious. I am not sure I would particularly want to be setting off on a journey with her in that mood. Maybe that golden sun will thaw her out a bit and improve her mood.
There are lots of aspects of this painting that make me wish I could find time for a do-over. I know, I know: I give way too much broadcasting time to my Inner Critic. However, when I compare it to the Beacon of Light figure I painted for my first proper Life Book lesson last year I can see that I have come on in leaps and bounds not just in terms of my skill level but also in terms of my confidence in approaching each lesson and in tackling new things. If that is how far I have come in one year, it makes me excited to think how much further I might have progressed by the end of the year.
The theme is still “Words” for the Documented Life Project’s prompts. This week the challenge was to use quotations or lyrics and the prompt quotation was from actor James Earl Jones: “One of the hardest things in life is having words in your heart that you can’t utter”.
I pondered using favourite songs or poems, even developed the ideas in my head, but I just did not feel inspired by any of my ideas. I decided I should think of something that really articulated my thoughts and feelings right now, thinking that the additional meaning might inspire me. Lately I have been thinking a lot about the state of the world, about my job as a parent trying to raise children in this world. Bloody conflicts; terrible acts of terrorism and other atrocities: massive numbers of people being displaced and desperate; individuals campaigning on manifestos of fear, hatred, and intolerance; division and selfishness… Some days it is hard to focus on the good in humanity. It is there if we look for it, of course, but the cruelty of the world is much in evidence at the moment.
So that was my inspiration for my art journal page. I used watercolour to write words associated with peace – as well as the word peace itself – and used those to fill the shape of a dove, a recognised symbol of peace.