Well my determination to make and preserve time for art this year did not get off to a flying start in January. I have been solo parenting since the beginning of the year and then I came down with some gnarly virus that caused me to have a fever for three days. That illness, however, meant I had to take a couple of days off work to recover and recuperate when I was fit for nothing that could not be done on the sofa. I, therefore, put together something in my art journal. I used an Art Journal Adventure prompt – Food – as my inspiration. I love cooking and eating so I decided to construct a simplified self-portrait which then combined with a Carmen Miranda type headdress composed of clippings of magazine photos of food. It’s a very simple page, quick and easy to put together, but it was good food for the soul to actually do something creative when I was feeling so gross.
I had oral surgery just over a week ago – annoyingly two days before I took my Oath of Citizenship – and unfortunately experienced some complications which have prolonged my recovery process and caused an exceptional degree of pain. I am trying to be stoic but it has been really pretty miserable. I am very much looking forward to being pain free and being able to eat foods that are not liquid. Consequently, I have not been able to do much or accomplish much but I did think that some time spent pootling around at my art table would be restorative.
Not having much capacity for creative mojo in my current state, I decided to use a couple of Art Journal Adventure prompts to create an art journal page. I chose one involving altering an existing image and one that was the letter Q. I used a page out of a fashion catalogue as my starting point. The previous owner of our house must have been a big catalogue shopper as we still get loads of them in the mail, addressed to the occupant of the house, most of which I plop straight into the recycling bin but some I keep as collage fodder. I filled the gaps around the selected image with more scraps of catalogue page and some washi tape. Then it was time to add paint and start altering the image.
I decided that Q was be for Queen and from there I decided to make the figure a Queen Bee. Given the context of my physical condition, I kept things super simple. Just a layer of paint, enough to alter the image and suggest the bee idea. I had some washi tape with gold hexagons on it which was perfect for this project since the gold tied into the crown and the hexagons suggested honeycomb. And that was that. Quick. Simple. Done. And a welcome distraction from my agonising jaw.
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.
I attended my monthly meet up with some other local art journalers on Sunday which meant I finally got some much-needed art time. I managed to complete two pages in my art journal. The first was a simple collage on top of a Neocolor background. My prompt was borrowed from Art Journal Adventure – the letter T. T automatically makes me think of tea so the page became a celebration of my love of tea. I made a template to keep the teacups uniform and then it was just a case of layering them into a stack. I usually don’t drink this many cups of tea in a day. My average is probably three cups. However, there have definitely been times in my life when I have consumed this many cups of tea, possibly more, such as when I was writing my thesis. Making and drinking tea was a useful distraction. It’s a simple, easy composition but creating it greased the creative wheels and made me feel I was back in the swing of things again.
This week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was “opposites”. I ran through a lot of ideas in my head before choosing to depict Night and Day as female figures. This was something I had tried before in my Rainbow Art Journal but I had not been satisfied with the result. This was an opportunity to revisit the subject and hopefully accomplish a better outcome. Whereas before I had worked across two pages, this time I confined the composition to a single page. To further enhance the concept of opposites, I placed the figures top to tail as I knew I had liked that composition when I used it in my most recent Red Riding Hood page.
To create a bit more visual interest to the page, I adhered some collage materials as a first layer and ensured that those still showed through subsequent layers in places. While the composition and colour scheme places the Night and Day figures in opposition to each other, I also wanted to connect them, because they are cyclical, so I drew their hair swirling into the sector of the other and had the metallic dots sweep across the diagonal dividing line in places.
This week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was to use a brayer or similar tool to apply paint to the page. I already had an idea for a page I wanted to create so I grabbed colours I thought would work well – grey, back, and pink – and scraped them across the page. I then added some white spatter largely because I love spatter but also because I thought it might suggest snowfall.
I had been reading National Geographic magazine and spotted a trio of portraits of Japanese macaques. Their little faces really pulled me in so I knew I wanted to use them in an art journal page. I stacked them up like a totem and glued them down.
My personal challenge with this page was to try and disguise the edges of the magazine paper, make it look less “collaged” once I painted over it. I, therefore, applied some thick matte medium over the top of the collaged photographs. Painting over the photo portraits, I wanted to make the colours more stark so I made the fur white and the faces brighter pink. I think I managed to maintain the personality of the monkeys’ faces and I also succeeded in my personal challenge to conceal the edges of the collage.
I have decided that these macaques are queuing up waiting for their turn to bathe in the hot water as the snow falls down. I have always thought that looked to be wonderfully cosy and appealing.
Last week I had ten minutes of art time. Ten. That’s all, folks. In a week that included an unplanned hospital visit, house guests, and a funeral on top of all my usual commitments, obligations, and time suckers, I was not only pushed for free time but also brimming over with stress. I felt like it might just save my sanity if I could find some way to dig out 20 minutes for art. That turned out to be ambitious and I got 10. Knowing I didn’t have time to do anything too involved, too messy, or too detailed, I turned to the Art Journal Adventure prompt and opened up my art journal to a blank page.
The prompt was to feature scallops on the page. Yum. Scallops. I don’t think I have eaten any since I left Scotland. Divine wee morsels that they are. When I thought of scallops as a shape rather than a food, I thought of the way child-like clouds are drawn and that gave me the inspiration for my page. With no time to draw or paint, I quickly cut out some scallop-fringed cloud shapes from old book pages and adhered them to the top of the page. I then added stripes of Neocolor II crayons and outlined the clouds with Stabilo All. Both of these activate with water so I sprayed liberal quantities of water on the page, then tipped up the art journal to let it all run and dribble and drip. And that was my 10 minutes all used up. I left it to dry overnight and was actually fairly satisfied with the result given the (lack of) time and effort invested in its creation. And it just goes to show me that a) I can put together an entire art journal page in very little time indeed if I keep things simple and work efficiently and b) even a little bit of art time can balance out a stressful week.
Miraculously, I managed to complete this week’s Life Book lesson before the weekend. It was one of Tamara Laporte’s lessons on illustrations and whimsical characters, in this case an animal character. I had to improvise with the media used and opted for watercolour and collage. I went a bit too crazy with the background but I think I just about get away with it. My chosen animal was a pig simply because I really like pigs. It isn’t totemic, some sort of spirit animal, but just because I think pigs are smart and adorable. I added wings for an additional touch of whimsy.
Last week’s Life Book lesson was taken by Annie Hamman. I really love Hamman’s paintings and enjoy watching her process but it is a style and methodology I can never get to work for me as I am neither painterly or loose enough in the way I handle paint. I have, therefore, really enjoyed the previous Annie Hamman lessons I have worked on but I always end up with something much more rigid and controlled than the anticipated outcome. This lesson was no exception.
I enjoyed all of the techniques deployed in the lesson, such as painting over collage and painting negative space, but I was neither intuitive or loose enough in my mark making. That’s OK though. That way of creating just isn’t me. What was disappointing was that my choice to use blue for underpainting and layering up the shadows of the face didn’t dissipate enough in subsequent layers and the flesh tones ended up sallow and sickly looking as a result. (Incidentally, the phone photo makes the colours much paler than they are in real life because the light levels have just been so dreary here lately.) I am, however, happy with the negative painting around the antlers, the pushing back of and forward from the collage layer, and the gold of the halo. I think this is another one of those lessons I will attempt again, perhaps in my art journal, as I liked the approach and have hopefully learned something from the underpainting oops.
This week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was to incorporate a silhouette as part of the art journal page. Some weeks I read a prompt and have no ideas and some weeks I read a prompt and am overwhelmed by too many ideas at once. This was an example of the latter. There were so many ways I could have taken the idea of a silhouette.
I had a page already underway in my art journal that was going nowhere in particular but where I had plonked a wine label slap bad in the middle. I had actually intended to glue the wine label into my rainbow themed art journal but I guess I was rushing and it was late at night so it ended up in my regular art journal. There were also some scraps of text paper already adhered to the page, leftovers from some other project. I decided that should be the background of my silhouette page. But then I realised that the wine label would likely end up completely covered up. That was when I decided I would create a reverse silhouette with the surrounding area being black and the chosen shape emerging in negative rather than positive.
Something you may not know about me is that I love sharks (and whales). It has been a lifelong thing. I would actually dearly love to dive with sharks but its the claustrophobia of scuba gear underwater that deters me. Despite the fact – or maybe because – I doodle sharks frequently, a shark has only put in one solitary, rogue shark appearance in my art journal. It was a messy collage of torn paper that resulted in a rather dorky looking shark. After adding a light paint layer over the collage, therefore, it was just a case of quickly drawing out a shark silhouette shape and then painting black into the negative space. Quick and easy.