Last week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was “colour gradations”. I was greedy and decided I wanted to use all of the colours of the rainbow rather than shades of one colour for a monochromatic scheme. That gave me the idea of drawing Iris. I painted Iris, goddess of the rainbow, last year with mixed results and there are definite echos of that piece in my art journal illustrations – the black background, the pale hair, the sweeping curve of the body – but in a more naive style. I jump between styles a lot. That probably makes me a “Jack of all trades and master of none” but it also stops me getting creatively stuck and bored.
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.
I go along to an art journaling group once a month where we all work in our art journals while chatting and relaxing. The coffee shop setting, however, is a little restrictive in terms of what sort of art dabbling can happen. I am limited to things that dry quickly and don’t make a mess. I, therefore, often resort to just drawing with pencils and pens. This page was the result of one such meet up. I had passed a deer as I drove to the coffee shop so I guess that was the germ of the idea that turned into a faun as I sketched on the page. I added the vine frame to fill more of the page.
This is a self-portrait of my arm. I drew around my hand and arm to create the outline and then filled it with a mixture of white gesso and Stabilo All pencil to create and to capture the shapes and shades of my hand and arm. After that, I was stuck. The painting of the limb alone, surrounded by black, was too dull but I had a creative block and didn’t know what to do with it. I, therefore, left it for a few days waiting for inspiration to strike. I even asked some art friends for advice but I knew I could not pull off their suggestions. In the end, I just picked up a paint pen and doodled one evening while dinner was cooking. One of my sons said, “I see what you did there: vines instead of veins.” I wish I had been that clever but, nope, just random doodles. The stamped words – grow and thrive – were an afterthought but I think they help pull the whole thing together. Not my best effort but it was good to practice creating tones with the Stabilo All pencil and the gesso.
This is the second completed page in my “rainbow art journal”. Right now, of course, it isn’t very colourful since I decided to start with absence of colour in the form of black. This page was inspired by my friend Krisje over at her blog, Art is my Favorite Color. She recently blogged about an art journal page where she painted over collage which reminded me that I have not attempted that sort of approach – using a collaged figure as scaffolding – in ages. I, therefore, decided that would be the technique used on this page and I actually remembered to take progress photos. First I laid down a pretty random collage comprising the interior of a security envelope, washi tape, text pages, a figure clipped from a magazine advert, and the labels from a bottle of wine I had consumed that week.
What became evident fairly quickly was that the collage elements became all but lost beneath the black paint, even when it was thinly applied. I just went with it and made a mental note to revisit this technique when using a lighter colour of paint. Perhaps because of the nature of the material, the Honey Beast wine labels were the one collage element that really came through the collage. I was glad because I loved that honey bee design and that then provided me with a theme for my art journal page. I picked out the bee design a bit more by filling it with white gel pen. This was definitely the “ugly stage”.
Once the base layer of acrylic paint was dry, I used other media to layer, refine, and add detail. An art friend had passed me a collection of little stamps on an insect theme and among them was a bee. I stamped this throughout the hair of the figure to tie her to the honey bee and then I used white Posca paint pen to give her bee-like wings. While the technique was not wholly successful, it was fun to do something I had not done in a while and useful to learn that painting over collage does not work so well with very dark colours. That is what my art journal is all about after all – experimentation through fun.
This year I wanted to try working in an art journal dedicated to one theme. I have worked in themes before, of course, as with my Greek Mythology drawings and my altered book that was full of monsters. Even my first time participating in Inktober became thematic. The difference with those, however, was that I was utilising the same techniques and deploying the same media over and over. What I wanted to do was practice using a wide variety of media, combine them to revisit and practice the mixed media techniques I have been learning over the past few years, and challenge myself to create a coherent journal full of connected pages. I decided to work on a really loose theme which was colour. Easy peasy. I bought a new journal (I like the spiral bound Cansons for their flexibility) and worked out how I would divide it between all the colours of the rainbow plus a few additional colours and black and white. I do not have a timetable for working on this journal or a deadline for its completion. No pressure. I will work in it as and when time allows, maybe adding bits here and there while working on other projects as a good way to use up excess paint or bits of collage paper. I will share each page as it is completed.
I am starting with black. My first page was pretty simple because I grabbed the journal and worked on it while watching a movie with my kids one afternoon. I just tucked up on the sofa with my fountain pen and drew the figure and didn’t worry about perfect proportions or angles. It is an art journal so it is just for fun. I added the wash of ink later that evening just to eradicate more of the white paper. Simple. And relaxing because it was simple. Maybe this particular art journal will become a useful tool for decompression for me this year.
Last week’s Life Book lesson was taken by Donna Downey. It was all about being playful with colours and mark making, and layering with paints and shapes, to create a colourful and abstract piece. I managed to keep my control freakery in check and let my inner child go wild with colour but I maybe got a bit carried away and the result was a tad messy. I also struggle with creating abstract art because I get too stuck in my head and end up with strong visual ideas that lend themselves to more representational or figurative art. That was precisely what happened with this piece too. I, therefore, just went with it and produced a more whimsical female figure whose form contains the shapes of a whale’s tail, leaves, and a heart while the space around her head contains two birds. I always enjoy painting negative spaces so that the background becomes the positive image so that was the element of this lesson that really appealed to me and made me feel relaxed.
Another of our summer “pot luck” activities was a study of shape and colour. The idea was to create a silhouette, divide it up into sections, and then fill it with different shades of the same colour.
My ten year old, a comic book fanatic, decided to draw the recognisable silhouette of Batman. Green is his favourite colour so he filled Batman with shades of green and that made us think how cool it would be if farmers could make their fields into silhouettes so we could all enjoy the fun shapes when flying overhead.
My nine year old kept things simple and symmetrical with the clean shape of a butterfly. He used gold and silver gel pen to colour it in which gave it a very pleasing shimmer in the sunlight.
My thirteen year old chose a love heart and filled it with mostly metallic blue gel pen ink. The glossiness of it made me think of a faceted gem stone.
My seven year old went off piste a bit. That is OK. It is all about being creative after all. He drew funny little monster characters and divided them up using lines and then coloured them. One is a wee weirdo guy he called an “Igor beetle” and one is – as he explained – a “vampire butterfly”.
I drew the silhouette of a pig and coloured it using watercolour pencils in neutral, stone shades. It kind of looks like a patio shaped like a pig.
This week’s Life Book lesson was delivered by Danielle Donaldson. I had really enjoyed her previous lesson – Tiny Story Telling – so I was looking forward to further experimentation with watercolour illustration. The lesson demonstrated a different approach to watercolour hand lettering. The idea was for students to write our individual names and then surround that with illustrations of things that make us happy, bring us joy. However, I took my inspiration from a piece Donaldson showed in her tutorial, an illustrated list of art supplies. Since art makes me happy, makes me feel more balanced, and colour brightens my day, I thought the subject was apt. I sketched a variety of my art tools, painted them with blotchy watercolour, spattered, and added the text. I really like how the piece turned out.
The dual prompts for the Documented Life Project this week were Colour Wheel and a quotation from Georgia O’Keeffe: “I found I could say things with colour and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way”. When prompts lean towards the broad and vague, it can be hard to know where to start. There are so many options and possibilities that it becomes hard to narrow the focus to one idea and thus inspiration is in short supply. The beauty of such open-ended prompts, however, is that every member of the group is bound to have their own unique take on the prompt(s) and put their own individual spin on it. Once inspiration comes knocking, each person is free to run with it and see what emerges on the blank page.
Recently it has rarely been the case that I have created my prompt response so early in the week. Finding time is my major artistic challenge right now. Today, however, I happened to have my monthly Art Journal MeetUp group so I was presented with a wonderful opportunity to get the page done. We meet at a coffee shop so travel art supplies to hand and hot chocolate to mouth (because I don’t drink coffee) I set about creating my page.
My 7 year old and I have been cutting out shapes to use in our art journaling. The O’Keeffe quotation inspired me to include a repeated shape on the page and one of the shapes I have is a matryoshka doll. Each matryoshka doll could, therefore, represent a different wedge on the colour wheel. I used watercolour, pencil and pen to create my spectrum of matryoshka. This is actually the second time I have created a journal page based around matryoshka. I don’t know why I am so drawn to that shape or idea. Answers on a postcard.
Although I had plenty of negative space on my page, I did not have a great deal of free space. I, therefore, focused the O’Keeffe quotation down to the most relevant part and used pen to add it to the bottom of my page.