This is the first page in the pink section of my Rainbow Art Journal. The scrappy background was the result of me scraping leftover paint from other projects onto that page. I then created the bunny silhouette, inspired by the zombie bunnies I like to draw, and then added the (anatomically inaccurate) skeleton using a Posca paint pen. The execution is not my best work but I like Skelebun as a character so I think I may have a crack at drawing him in ink and watercolour.
I actually completed this illustration during a meet up with my local art journaling group. Once a month, we used to gather in a local coffee shop and work on our own art projects. That all came to an end when Covid sent us into lockdown in March 2020 and it has not been resurrected. The fact that this page was completed pre-pandemic is a reminder of just how long I have been working on this project. Man, I really need to get this journal finished.
I think the thing I enjoy most about art journaling is the lack of pressure. This art is for absolutely nobody but me, it is not outcome focused so the merits of the completed page don’t matter, I can feel free to experiment and mess around with materials and see what emerges, and as such I can step out of my head a bit and just let my hands and eyes do their thing. This latter aspect is so important in my life and might be the thing I miss most when I don’t have time for arting. I spend a lot of time in my head, the cogs in my brain constantly whirring, thoughts in constant motion, and combined with my control freak, overly organised ways, it can all get a bit mentally fatiguing. Sitting down at my art table with a mug of tea and the birds chirping outside the window is, therefore, super relaxing and recharging.
All of which preamble is to explain how this somewhat bonkers image appeared in my art journal and why I really like it even though it is pretty random. Over the course of a few days, I took a breather at my art table and added to this page in gradual increments until I felt like it was done and needed no more messing with. What I ended up with was a sort of bunny girl with a bit of a matryoshka shape going on. I have no idea what it means or what it might say about my psyche but it most definitely got me to step outside my busy head space for a bit. And very refreshing that was too.
PS You might recognise the paper from my recent tea cup collage. It turns out that failing to tidy art materials away helps with creative spontaneity.
Our final activity of the summer break was making things from Polymer clay. We have a bit of experience of polymer clay but not much so there was still an element of experimentation. It was completely freestyle so everyone got to choose what they were going to make and how many things they were going to make.
My 13 and 9 year olds must have been in dark, horror fan moods because one created a zombie and one created a plaque that was essentially a body that had been attacked by a zombie. Mayhaps I have been taking the zombie thing too far with them this summer, what with Night of the Living Dead location shoots and all, but I am happy to have some more zombie fans in the family.
My 10 year old is following his older brother’s footsteps and getting into Minecraft so he created a Creeper figure with the clay. My 7 year old decided to make a tiny, adorable bunny rabbit complete with tiny carrots. He also made a bunch of other tiny little things. He’s all about making small things he can easily shove in his pockets – which then easily end up in the washing machine.
I decided to join in too and I sort of fused what my kids were doing, combining zombies and bunnies to see if I could create tiny polymer clay versions of my zombie bunny characters. I can see those ending up in my 7 year old’s pockets too.
This week’s Documented Life Project challenge was to use glassine. I had quite honestly never heard of glassine much less have any in my art stash. I, therefore, chose to focus on the phrase prompt which was “windows of my mind” which I chose to narrow down to just being about windows. I wanted to document the fact that this art journal page was created in Halloween week. My art journal page commemorating last Halloween was a collaboration between my kids and I and involved constructing tabs. This year, I decided to do another bit of construction and, since I think about zombies a lot, I decided to create a window crammed full of zombie bunnies.
I used inktense pencils and India ink to draw the creepy old windows and the clamouring zombie bunny horde behind them. The white spaces to each side of the zombies bugged me so I used a brush and watercolour to add some appropriate words. It has been a while since I last drew any of my zombie bunnies so I was glad they appeared in the art journal this week. I have missed them.
The great thing about art journaling is that it allows me to experiment with new things on a small, manageable scale. I can mess around with new media, try a new approach, play with a new style and in doing so discover what things I enjoy, what things I am good at, what things are really not me and what things might have some potential for me. The thing I appreciate about prompts, therefore, is that they give me the shove I need to do something way out of my comfort zone or out of my field of knowledge and experience.
This week’s prompts for the Documented Life Project were just such a shove. The phrase was “All that I’m after is life full of laughter” and the art challenge was stitching. Stitching. Ugh. As I have shared before, I am not a textile artist. I can neither knit, sew or crochet. I have no aptitude for it and I consequently don’t enjoy it. I actually avoid sewing as much as possible. I replace buttons, take up hems, do minor clothing repairs but the whole time I am doing so I am aggravated which is not the mood I want to be in when I am doing something creative.
I could have avoided using textiles at all in my response to the DLP prompt but I decided to see what happened when I got out of my comfort zone this particular time because in the small scale of an art journal my potential frustration levels could be minimised. I could tell myself, “This will all be over soon”. I knew I did not want to make sewing a big deal on my page, however, and to just use it as an element. I mulled over the phrase prompt for a while but nothing came to me. I chose to just ponder the stitching element and what came to my mind’s eye was Frankenstein’s Monster – the Karloff version – all stitched together. ‘Frankenstein’ is one of my favourite novels and the 1931 film is one of my favourite movies of all time – and in fact both have featured in a previous art journal page – so I decided to go with that thought and see what came of it.
Perhaps because I have been working on my Crazy Critters series of 100 artworks, the idea morphed in my mind into a bunny version of Frankenstein’s Monster. I painted the bunny in watercolour on watercolour paper and then used some red thread from my sewing kit to stitch patterns into his body. I did not plan the position of the stitches so I just went with the flow, trying to maintain some sort of balance. I then adhered the watercolour paper into my art journal using some decorative tape. I think it turned out to be a pretty fun page.
I am participating in a new art challenge. It is called the 100 Artworks Challenge (which I learned about from Papercraftography) and it involves creating 100 works of art in a series. Fancy joining in?
I am going to be painting Crazy Critters in order to develop (I hope!) my painting skills. I am going to be sharing the paintings on my art blog, Pict Ink, so if you want to see what I get up to with this challenge and follow my progress with it then hop over there and have a look.
My first painting, number 1 of 1oo, is a daft Easter Bunny so as to act as a reminder that I started this challenge at Easter time.
This week’s prompt from the Documented Life Project continued the theme of doodling. The specific challenge prompt was Borders and the journal prompt was a Madonna lyric, “Borderline feels like I’m going to lose my mind.” I love doodling. I don’t have the patience or precision for zentangle but I like filling spaces with doodle shapes and adding dots and dashes here and there in my art work. I don’t, however, tend to use borders, especially not decorative ones, in my art work so that for me was the challenge.
Since it was Mr Pict’s birthday, time was understandably tight so I decided to keep it simple. As I often do for some peculiar reason, I defaulted to drawing a funny bunny. I framed it within a border which I doodled in black to keep it monochrome. I then doodled the negative space created with a spectrum of coloured pens. The positive shape of the bunny then emerged from the negative shapes within the drawing, if that even makes any semblance of sense.
When I was teaching High School English, I found that my lessons would often involve some discussion of a tangent, sometimes a tangent so tenuously linked to the core of the lesson that the discussion would conclude with much head-scratching about how we had ever wandered onto the topic. It was all good, of course, because the students were still learning something plus it was often the memory of the tangent that would trigger them to remember a key detail about the actual lesson. I am connected to many of my former students on Facebook and I find it amusing and interesting to learn what information from my lessons they still remember vividly all of these years on. I have found the same to be true of travel also. The most memorable episodes from our road trips and city wanderings tend not to be the things we planned in advance but the random encounters and the stumbled upon places. I argue, therefore, that tangents have merit, that tangents are worth exploring.
And all of the above is preamble rather than a tangent because it was a tangential thought that led to the creation of this week’s art journal page.
The prompts for the Documented Life Project this week were “cover up good stuff” and “going undercover” as part of the continuing theme of layering. I think the intention was that the group members should take an appealing base layer, something appealing, something effort had been invested in, and that layer would act as inspiration to be built upon through further layers until the original piece was either completely or almost all covered up. I can see that it would be an effective technique and could build a very dynamic page with a lot of depth. However, I am finding that extensive layering is not really my thing and the idea of using art resources for some “good stuff” and then using more resources to cover that up was somewhat anathema to me. That gave me something to ponder…
My mind was wandering along a tangent. The muse of contrariness was singing to me. I had my lightbulb moment. I decided I was going to create a page about animal anatomy involving layers of the body and layers of paper by constructing flaps.
I divided my page into three, cut along the top edge on two of those thirds and folded the left and right sides inwards so as to create three layers. On the top layer, I painted a bunny. A dead bunny. I seem to default to bunnies a lot. I produce a lot of zombie bunnies, whether in a horde of bunnies or among other woodland creatures, and then there was the worried bunny in the woods and the countless bunnies who appear here and there in my art journal, in ATCs, doodles and sketches. I seem to have bunnies on the brain. I was born in the Chinese zodiac year of the rabbit so perhaps the rabbit is my totem animal, to mix cultural traditions. Lifting the dead bunny flap, I drew an exact replica of the dead bunny’s silhouette since I had cut out a template from a scrap of cardboard. I drew internal organs onto the torso of the bunny. This was the muscle and organ layer. Vets and anyone with a grasp of animal biology may be bewildered and disturbed by my knowledge of rabbit anatomy. I did nothing to correct my ignorance, not even a quick google, and instead just shoved some human style organs and a daft love shaped heart into the abdomen. That layer painted, it was time for the final layer. This one was the skeleton layer and again I just drew whatever bones I thought would work for the drawing rather than actually investigating what a rabbit’s skeleton looks like. Daft bunny in all three layers. The final layer was, of course, flanked by the reverse of the other two flaps. I did not like them staying as blank spaces so I wrote “Anatomy of a Bunny” on one side and glued my ticket to the exhibition on the other side so as to document our family day out for the weekend and record an element of my inspiration for the page.
I hope my art journal page has made you smile on this very chilly weekend.
If you have followed my explorations into art journaling and mixed media for long enough. you will know that one of the things I keep meaning to do – yet never seem to get around to – is to develop my typography skills, research and try new styles, make the writing in my art work more creative. I have adopted a different style once or twice in this past year but generally I keep on defaulting to my own handwriting. I was, therefore, very happy to learn that the lesson for week 3 of Life Book was all about typography as that meant an opportunity to practice a skill I had been keen to hone.
The lesson was taken by Joanne Sharpe, who is famed for her whimsical lettering. I am obviously not going to summarise the lesson in this post because, of course, Life Book is a fee paying course and the lesson is Sharpe’s intellectual copyright. However, the thrust of the lesson was that one should just use one’s own handwriting as the scaffolding for typography in mixed media art work. So instead of feeling lazy for constantly defaulting to my own handwriting I should be embracing that. It was like being given permission to stop berating myself over never getting to that To Do item on my lengthy list of art projects.
I followed the lesson closely for the most part. I do not own any of the pens that were being recommended in the tutorial but my trusty old Faber-Castell Pitt Pens did the job. I did not use the suggested doodles but instead did my own thing with a bunny and birds, some leaves and acorns. I think I was pondering my Into The Woods art project which has gone dormant from lack of free time. I have been using muted versions of jewel colours in my art work a lot lately – the same palette I used in my Advent twinchies – and I used them again in this piece. I must push myself to use a completely different palette next time, however. Maybe even use some colours I rarely use.
I am quite pleased with how this exercise turned out. Certainly it was liberating to actually be directed to use my own handwriting rather than thinking I was copping out. Maybe my doodles could have been more sophisticated but then maybe the painting would have been less me. Daft plump bunnies and geeky birds are me.
I have finally made a decision about my next art challenge. It is going to be “Into the Woods”. That theme allows me enough scope to work in different media and cover a wide range of subjects. Since my last art challenge involved a lot of time pressure, I am not going to impose a timetable or deadline onto it. I will just create whenever my artistic mojo strikes but I will – mostly – create in response to this theme.
My first work on this theme was a lino block print I have titled “Worried Bunny”. You can read more about it here.
I will be sharing the art I produce in response to this theme on my art blog, Pict Ink, so make sure you visit there if you want to see more.