For this week’s Life Book lesson, the tutor was Effy Wild. The visual elements of the lesson were connected to some introspection but I mostly choose to gloss over the more art therapy aspects of Life Book and just focus on the art. I also did not have time to view the video demonstrations so I relied on the accompanying PDF to provide me with an understanding of the steps involved. As always, my finished outcome looks little like that of the tutor but I utilised techniques and approaches that she demonstrated. I think the finished treeis reminiscent enough of a plump baobab tree that I wish I had thought of the resemblance sooner in the process and made it completely like a baobob. It was at its core an exercise in patchwork collage and negative space. I used bronze paint over the collage layer for the tree trunk and gold for the leaves so that it would glint in the light and because I look for any excuse to use metallic paints. The tutor’s version incorporated text. I wasn’t feeling that way inclined but do feel my piece lacks a focal point. I just need to ruminate on it for a bit and return to it once I have an appropriate epiphany.
Thanks to a weekend that for once was not crammed with activities or commitments, I found time to work in my colour themed art journal. I am still in the black/monochrome pages and this time I wanted to play around with using the black and white of printed text. Readers who follow both my blogs might recognise the model for this page as being a drawing – titled Aubrey because of Aubrey Beardsley – from my series of 100 Faces. I thought it would be interesting to see if I could recreate a face I had illustrated in ink and watercolour using acrylic paint and collage. There is definitely more precision in the ink drawn version but I am not displeased with the way this mixed media piece turned out. I do like the hair made of book pages so that was a worthwhile experiment.
My schedule was utterly slammed this week. Every space on the wall calendar was crammed with appointments and commitments and things that needed to be done. I thought there was not the remotest chance I was going to get to even view this week’s Life Book lessons let alone sit down and do something creative. However, two things happened this week that utterly jiggered my schedule and caused a great deal of hassle – one of my kids was off school sick for two days and then we had a snow day – but which actually meant I had more time stuck at home. More time at home meant I could actually get stuck into the lesson and art time was probably just what I needed to take the edge off the stress of a totally bonkers week.
The lesson was taken by Tamara Laporte. Tam always provides wonderfully in-depth videos for her lessons but there was no way I was going to find time to both view the videos and then still have time to create. I, therefore, read the accompanying PDF, modified the lesson by eliminating certain stages, and got stuck in. The crux of the lesson was a self-portrait scaffolded on an image transfer. I have never had much success with image transfers but I thought that was precisely why I should have another crack at it. The outcome was not ideal – I think I spread the gel medium too thinly in places – but is definitely the best I have produced so far so represents progress.
I then proceeded to paint on top of the image transfer and this was where I diverged from the lesson. I did not have time for layer upon layer of media so I limited myself to acrylic paint, Neocolor II crayons, and Inktense pencils and blocked in areas of colour and built up the detail of my face.
The idea of the painting was to include personal, symbolic elements and text alongside the self-portrait. It is not really my thing to be that personal and emotional with my art work. Art is definitely therapeutic to me but only in terms of the act of creating. I don’t need it to be a form of processing and expressing my thoughts and feelings and I am also too intensely private. I decided, however, that the self-portrait did need some finishing touches so I added some collage elements in the form of butterflies and leaves formed from text pages. All of those things could be interpreted as things that are important to me as a person – words and learning, growth, and change.
This week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was to use a “door” somewhere on the page. I did not have an immediate idea so I consulted my youngest sons, aged 9 and 7, and they had a veritable cornucopia of ideas, some of which were just super-amazing. Unfortunately their ideas called for materials I did not have and – more critically – time I did not possess. I have added their ideas to my long list of creative possibilities for another time but I still had to come up with an idea. Then I remembered the copies of an architecture magazine the multi-talented Claudia McGill had kindly passed on to me and I decided to flick through those looking for images of doors as inspiration. When I found the photo of the red doors I knew I had found my image. I decided it would be the focal point of a grungy sort of collage page. I added the streaks of acrylic (a little too liberally and heavy handedly) to draw attention to the door image and then spattered more of the turquoise paint to create a little more visual cohesion. Finally, I stamped a quotation from John Barrymore on the page: “Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn’t know you left open”. I rather like that idea of happiness seeking one out and joy appearing when not anticipated.
I had decided that this year I would play around in my art journal whenever possible but without recourse to prompts. However, some friends from my “art tribe” convinced me that I should check out Art Journal Adventure and I decided to participate in a dip in and out fashion. I recognise that I am someone who, in my present hectic circumstances, needs an occasional poke and a prod to actually find the time to just be playful with my art and that is something that journal prompts encourage me to do. However, I am also going to attempt a themed art journal for the first time and will dip into that when the mood and mojo arises. From time to time, I may well incorporate the Art Journal Adventure prompts into my themed art journal.
I got off to a good start as far as being flexible with participation goes because I did diddlysquat with the first week’s prompt. I did, however, make use of this second week’s prompt. It was pretty simple – the focus was to be on texture. I am not one for adding much dimension to my art work – I am definitely a 2D person – so I focused on creating visual texture as opposed to anything tactile. I had a half-finished page in my art journal that I hated. It had been malingering in the journal for several months but I opted not to rip it out because I rather liked the art work on the reverse side of it. A couple of months ago, when I had some surplus black acrylic, I smeared the paint across the page. I decided, therefore, to return to that page as the starting point for my “texture” page. I added some torn paper collage, spatter with pearl blue paint and white paint, printing with found objects, dribble, and finally some alphabet stamps. It was all a bit random and abstract so I chose to give it a focal point by adding the word “Focus” which is my word for this year. As art journal pages go, it is pretty mundane and mediocre but it is a massive improvement on what was beneath that black paint so I am happy.
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.
It may have taken me a week to view and then work through the final lesson of the Let’s Face It course but I got it done and, therefore, despite having skipped a few lessons, have completed the course. I feel a mixture of accomplishment and relief. I feel relief because trying to stay on top of all my art commitments while solo parenting and working has become a bit of a source of pressure, another thing to cram into my already bulging schedule. But mostly I feel like I have achieved something by undertaking and completing this course over the past 12 months. When I compare the faces I was painting in January with those I am painting now, I definitely think there has been an improvement in my ability to construct faces – still a lot of progress to be made but definite steps in the right direction. I have also learned a few more techniques and approaches with painting and mixed media to keep experimenting with and developing.
This then is my response to the final lesson of the course. I thought I would share a few progress shots since I actually remembered to take some for once. I can see that the eyes started off slightly different sizes, a flaw that was magnified as I added each new layer so that finally the eyes have ended up pretty wonky. Otherwise, however, I am fairly happy with this painting so I get to end on a positive note.
It has taken me almost two weeks to complete this Let’s Face It lesson but I’ve done it. It took me almost a week just to find time to watch the lesson video and then, despite skipping some steps of the process demonstrated, it took me a further week to get the piece completed. The lesson was taken by Deanna Strachan-Wilson and was about creating a simplified form of a female figure in a layered piece. One of the corners I cut was in not drawing a figure based on a photograph and instead drawing from my imagination. As such, my proportions are not realistic and I very much simplified the profile of the face plus I added a wing to balance out the composition. I actually preferred my piece before I added gesso to the figure but I wanted to try and stay true to the methods of the lesson where I could since I had jettisoned other steps. I do, however, like the warm, grungy sepia, vintage tones of the piece and especially the washes of bronze and the spatters of gold.
I managed to scrape together some time in which to tackle last week’s Life Book lesson. I did, as I often do, skip some steps and take some short cuts but I did follow the essence of the lesson. The lesson was taken by Ivy Newport whose encaustic artwork has impressed me for quite some time. This particular lesson functioned for me as an introduction to encaustic art but – as eager as I am to give that technique a try some time – there was absolutely no way I was going to eke out the time and organise the resources to incorporate that layer. Some time I will have to give it a whirl but that time is not now.
The idea of the lesson was to fuse a self-portrait with the figure of an angel and it was also another opportunity to try paint over collage. I find sometimes painting over collage works well for me and other times it really doesn’t. I have to get better at observing why my process goes one way or another. As it happens, this one fell somewhere in the middle – I didn’t get any annoying bubbles or ridges in the wrong places but I wish I had fewer straight edges among the collaged papers and instead had rougher torn edges. I have not worked in pink or orange for a while so I challenged myself to use those colours. I also challenged myself to keep the spectacles in the self-portait instead of cheating and depicting me in a way I only look when sleeping or showering. When my husband came home and saw this piece on the easel, he congratulated me on the strong likeness I had achieved in my self-portrait. I had to laugh. Of course it is a good likeness: I painted over a photograph of me.
Last week’s Life Book lesson was with Annie Hamman. Between Life Book and Let’s Face It, I have watched a lot of Hamman’s tutorials and have done most of them. I really like her style and approach to her artwork. She strikes the perfect balance between working purposefully and intuitively. While my style is completely different from Hamman’s, I do aspire to a balance between those two modes of being intentional and being intuitive so I do enjoy her lessons.
This lesson was essentially one about painting over collage. Hamman referenced the fact that we often tend to construct faces that mirror our own features and that is something I have noted about my artwork and have made mention of on this blog. I, therefore, decided to run with that idea and started with a sketch of my face (sans glasses) and then worked on the face more intuitively so that the traces of my face remained yet it was not a true self-portrait because other elements had drifted away from replicating the proportions of my face. It was me yet not me. It was a self-ish portrait.
I am making a real effort to be much more positive about my art work experiments, a little more gentle on myself, striving to focus on the successful rather than flawed elements within each piece. I will, therefore, state that I am happy with the collage background for this piece, a mixture of origami papers, washi tape and postage stamps. I was also pleased with the skin tones I mixed as I actually managed to get the shade and tones to align with my own skin colour.