I actually managed to complete an art lesson this week. I worked on this in stages while cooking dinner over several evenings so I am glad it was a project that allowed me to break it down to that extent. The phased stages mean that I for once thought to take some process photos. The lesson was for Let’s Face It and was taken by Angela Kennedy. The idea was to paint a trio of female figures interlinking or interlocking in some way, subtly different but cohering through use of the media. I used ink and watercolour only because that was what I had easily to hand and those are the media I work most quickly with. Instead of adding detail to the figures’ clothing, I sprinkled salt on to create some interest. I think that also helps maintain focus on the faces. I have two sisters (and a bundle of brothers) but I don’t know that this trio are three sisters together. Maybe three witches ready for Halloween.
It is often most fun to do something creative with the kids when nobody is aiming for realism or a likeness to something and where perfection is not necessary. That way nobody sets themselves up for stress or disappointment or dissatisfaction. That is one of the reasons why the sock monsters worked so well as opposed to some other sort of sewing project. Creating collages with magazine clippings was, therefore, the perfect activity to keep everyone happy and content with what they were producing.
We started by painting some watercolour paper with acrylic paint so that we had a bright background. Then it was simply a case of flicking through magazines and cutting out images, shapes, patterns or bits of text that caught our eye and sparked our imaginations. The idea was to construct a ludicrious, ridiculous image by doing a sort of “Frankenstein” on the images and placing them together in a funny, haphazard way. For ease of use, we adhered all of the magazine clippings using glue sticks.
My 13 year old did the one with the red background. I love that he used a roast chicken as a body for his weird creation. My 7 year old did the one on the orange background. It makes me chuckle. I love the detail of the tiny knife and fork in each hand and using the cat’s mouth was a stroke of comedy genius. My 9 year old worked on the green background. He wanted to create an action scene. I like the giant fists on the little Lego man. My 10 year old worked on the yellow background and like his little brother he chose to create an action scene. I like the way the main figure is composed out of Lego parts but ones that are out of proportion with each other. I worked on the blue background and made a little character. I used a paint pen to outline and tie the image together. Cheap and easy but so much fun.
Last week’s Life Book lesson was a mash-up between Tamara Laporte and Jane Davenport. While I potentially had the option to work in collaboration with someone else, the reality was that none of my kids were up for the commitment required. My option then was to work on creating two figures and getting them to cohere. The other component of the lesson, however, was to both draw and paint in watercolour in a really loose and uninhibited way. I found, however, that as soon as I started working on a composition involving two figures I went too tight. I, therefore, gave up on that whole idea and concentrated on one figure and that allowed me to actually focus on the technique.
I drew directly onto the paper with ink, no sketching out in pencil first, not even mapping out proportions or angles, just straight on there with ink. I am reasonably confident doing that with some subjects but I felt a little intimidated about doing it for this piece. I do, however, really like the energy of the sketchy lines that resulted from my scribbling and hesitation. I then applied watercolour to the drawing keeping the paint really very liquidy and allowing it to pool and dribble all over the place. I used a number 12 brush because I knew that a larger brush would force me to stay looser.
While I don’t think the finished piece is much cop, I am pleased with the outcome in terms of not allowing myself to be overly inhibited by sketching right away in pen or by working with really sloppy paint. Basically I was able to embrace the loss of control.
Last week’s Let’s Face It lesson was with Regina Lord. The current focus is on incorporating hands into paintings of faces and figures and this particular lesson was an approach to painting a figure in acrylic. I find drawing hands to be difficult so I knew painting a hand in acrylic was going to prove challenging for me.
I really liked the dreamscape quality of Lord’s tutorial exemplar so I tried to emulate that in my painting. I think I ended up with something that has a sort of naive or folksy quality to it. That is most definitely the best element of this painting. I feel like I am not making much progress with learning to use acrylic paint. I am definitely better at drawing and at using ink and watercolour for illustration type art than I am at using acrylic and attempting a more painterly approach. I am still enjoying exploring something that for me is still fairly new but I definitely am not making progress at a rate I would have hoped for. I do find trying new things and challenging myself to be stimulating, however, so I will keep beavering away and trying my best.
Making split-pin puppets has always been a big hit with the kids but we don’t do it frequently enough. We tend to only make them when we have some sort of project on the go. For example, we once made a set of gladiators and a lion when we were learning about ancient Rome and we have made fairytale characters to act out little story plays. It may be because the split-pins (which I think are called paper fasteners here in the US) are tucked away in a stationery box in the study that I forget about them existing and, therefore, the creative possibilities for a rainy day. In any case, when we plucked the “split-pin puppet” slip from the random box of activities, the kids were very happy.
Since we are not working on a project with a specific theme, the boys had complete freedom to choose what character they were going to make. They selected some thick card to work on and I decided to experiment and use watercolour paper so that I could paint my puppet with watercolour. We each drew our characters onto our chosen card being sure to make the tops of the limbs chunky enough to be able to attach the limb to the torso. Then we cut out the individual pieces, coloured and decorated them, and then pushed the split-pins through in order to join all the pieces together in a way that enabled them all to articulate. We used a drawing pin to make the holes so as to avoid any tears and to be super precise with the positioning of the holes.
My 10 year old, an utter comic book nerd, made Wolverine; my oldest and youngest sons chose to make random characters from their own imaginations; my 9 year old made a bright red demon; and I made a zombie.
Our next summer activity was to sculpt with air dry clay. Back in Scotland, we had used air dry clay several times during our summer projects – to make ancient Greek pots, for example, when learning about ancient civilizations – but this time I wanted to let the boys have complete and utter free rein. I thought it would be interesting to see what they came up with. I advised on technical issues but otherwise I was able to leave them to it.
My oldest son was over at a friend’s house so it was just the younger three for this activity. They spent quite some time sculpting – sometimes smooshing their creations up and starting over – and then we left them to dry for a couple of days. They dried out pretty quickly, perhaps because the hot and humid summer means the air conditioning has been on. Once they were dry, we got the acrylic craft paints out and they set about decorating their sculptures.
My 9 year old has been making comic books featuring a character from his imagination (who looks a lot like him, a resemblance he denies) so he decided to sculpt that character from clay so that he had his very own, one of a kind, comic book collectible. My 10 year old loves myths and legends so he made a red dragon. My 7 year old made a three-eyed slime monster but wanted to challenge himself to make some very tiny sculptures. He is one of those kids who loves to have tiny wee toys in his pocket so the idea of some small things appealed to him. In addition to the slime monster, therefore, he made a tropical fish, an apple, and a hot dog.
Despite being a mini lesson, it still took me all week to get around to completing last week’s Let’s Face It lesson. The tutorial was taken by Angela Kennedy and the focus was on drawing and painting a variety of hair styles. This is something I have been pondering myself lately as I have noticed I tend to draw and paint hair the same two or three ways over and over. Therefore, with my 100 Faces series over on my other blog I have been trying to illustrate a wider variety of hair styles. Following advice from one of my kids, who knows I know nothing about hair or style, I have been eyeball stalking people’s hairdos for inspiration.
Kennedy’s demonstration was in simple ink pen and watercolour. This was very welcome since I was super short on time. I decided to challenge myself to work small so cut four 3X4.5″ pieces of watercolour paper. Having four little oblongs of paper in front of me made me think of either the four elements or the four seasons and so I plumped for using the latter as a theme. I used the hair of each face as a practice for a particular watercolour technique. Spring, therefore, has a wash of one colour with more concentrated areas of the same colour added in wet on wet; Summer has a concentrated wash of one colour and then I dropped water in to dilute and puddle the paint in some areas; Autumn has a wash of one base colour and then I painted two further colours on top of that base; and Winter was a wash of watercolour with table salt sprinkled into the wet paint. I was rather rushed and impatient when it came to painting the faces and experienced some bleed between colours by not ensuring one was dry before adding the next colour. It was a risk I knew I was taking yet still hoped to avoid. Working small and in a rush was perhaps not the best circumstance. Having blank space beneath the heads, I took that as an opportunity to practice my watercolour lettering again.
PS I had not removed all of the salt from the Winter piece before I photographed it as I found some patches were still a bit too damp.