This week’s Life Book lesson was taken by Tracy Verdugo and involved creating a self-portrait. Verdugo actually demonstrated three different approaches to painting a loose self-portrait and each looked interesting and like something I would like to try (though maybe not using my own face over and over). She also based her paintings on selfies she had edited using various apps. I don’t have any photo editing apps on my phone and did not have time to download and experiment with them so I just used an unedited selfie as the basis of my painting.
I did start out very loose, using ink to block in certain shapes and areas before dropping very liquid watercolour into the painting, but somewhere along the line things ended up getting very illustrative and tight again. No matter what I do, I always seem to get “locked in” when painting even when I am trying my hardest to stay loose – such as, for instance, using large brushes as I did with his piece. It is also not a strong likeness and I guess that is OK because I am not a portraitist but it is still a bit ridiculous that I don’t know my own face well enough to capture it more accurately. In this self-portrait, I think what particularly went wrong is that I reduced the area of my forehead (which is so big I call it a fivehead) and I slimmed down my cheeks. Maybe I was subconsciously flattering myself.
Last week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was connected to the old wedding tradition – something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. I liked the challenge of it really being four prompts rolled into one and the possibility of interpreting it either literally, piece by piece, or connecting it to marriage traditions.
I actually started with the “borrowed” element. I decided to borrow an idea from my kids and asked them for suggestions based on the prompts. One of them suggested an illustration of a bride and groom and one of them suggested zombies so, of course, I had to mash up those ideas and illustrate a zombie wedding photo. My something “old” was my art journal as this was the very last page of my current art journal. The something “new” was the fountain pen I used for drawing because I have only had it for a few months and have not used it much for drawing. The choice of watercolours was the obvious answer to the “blue” part. I certainly enjoyed drawing zombies again but I also think the end result is rather fun.
I had to diverge a fair bit from last week’s Life Book lesson. The lesson was taken by Effy Wild and was a bit too “art therapy” for my taste. I definitely appreciate the therapeutic function art and other forms of creativity can and do play in people’s lives but it just isn’t for me. For me, art is cathartic just through the act of creating, the calm space it creates in my busy life. I don’t use it for delving into deep feelings or processing them. While I opted out of that aspect of the lesson, I did enter into the spirit of working intuitively. I consciously chose to work in shades of green because it is a colour I don’t often reach for and maybe that woodland palette is why what emerged on the page was a female figure sporting antlers. The antler thing has been happening a lot lately. I have no idea what that is about or what it might represent. I’ll just go with it.
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.
Last week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was “lift”. I like prompts that can be interpreted in multiple ways and I actually had lots of ideas tumbling about and doing backflips in my head for this one. While I was not lacking in ideas, I was lacking in time. Again. I think when school and work finish for summer, I am going to be crawling across the finish line.
In the end, the pocket of time that opened up was when I was stuck in the waiting room of an orthodontist’s office. That gave me a chunk of time but meant I had to use portable, non-messy art materials. I also had to be able to work on my lap since I had no table. I, therefore, decided to draw a whimsical self-portrait illustrating some of the things that I find uplifting – not the really big things like the important people in my life but the small everyday things that give me a lift when I might be feeling glum or stressed or fatigued by life. As such, in one hand there is a cup of tea and a scone with clotted cream and jam. That treat is like an edible hug. In the other hand and in the hair are creative tools to represent that my treasured art time helps me decompress and recharge my batteries. Finally, there is a bird feather in my hair. I love to sit with a cup of tea at my art table and watch the birds visit the feeders I have set up on the other side of the window. That represents that quiet time.
It took me a full week of working in short bursts to complete last week’s Life Book lesson. I know I frequently mention how busy my schedule is but last week was truly, utterly, completely ridiculous. I needed teleportation or cloning skills to make it work. Since I don’t possess superpowers or ethically questionable advanced science skills, what I did instead was rush around, stress myself out, and try to reconcile myself with the fact that I would have to drop some really very important commitments. It really ought to have been a week when I accepted that there was zero time for art but I decided that I might risk imploding if I did not have some small gobbets of art time to aid me in decompressing throughout the week. Across seven days, therefore, I gradually added to the piece, little by little, in the tiny rations of available free time I had. The quality of my work may have suffered as a result but it may just have prevented me from spontaneously combusting from stress.
The lesson was taken by Vicky Papaioannou and involved created a whimsical sort-of self-portrait that conveyed a message about creative ideas, energy, mojo flowing from the creative person. My sort-of self-portrait ended up being a much younger, slimmer, more attractive me but I think there is enough of my features and proportions in there for it still to be a “selfie”. What is artistic license for if you can’t make yourself much more bonnie? My creative flow is represented by the hair – also a fudge of reality since my hair is not that long and is salt-and-pepper rather than black. I added a pen, pencil, and paintbrush to the hair by way of illustrating my creativity and stamped the phrase “create something every day” onto the figure’s torso – going horribly wrong with the stamping since I smudged the lettering. Never mind. I think the phrase was quite apt given my context.
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.