This week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was to take inspiration from mythology, folk stories, and fairy tales. If you are thinking to yourself that the prompt seems right up my street that is because it is. Precisely so in fact. That is because I was asked by Bonnie and Barbara to be a guest artist this week. I was flattered and honoured to do so and, of course, that meant it was up to me to choose the prompt. You can find my post on the Joggles blog here and that outlines my process, illustrated with photos, in creating this art journal page.
I chose a selkie as the subject of my art journal page. Selkies are creatures from my country’s mythology (and that of Ireland) and I grew up hearing tales of seals that could transform into people, of stolen seal skins, and wives who fled back to the sea. I draw them quite often and have featured art work inspired by them twice on my blogs: once as a mixed media painting of a selkie in seal form and once in my altered book of monsters. I think this is my favourite of the mixed media selkies I have painted so far.
This week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was “water”. I do enjoy prompts that are as vague and open as that as it allows my mind to dance among many possibilities until I find the one that sparks with me. I decided to paint an illustration of a whale using watercolour. I love whales and often draw whales, even as doodles on pieces of scrap paper or the bottom of shopping lists. My challenge for this whale was to work really loosely (well, by my standards anyway) with the watercolour and to have the bare minimum of a guideline sketch. I sprinkled on some salt hoping to create a sort of barnacle effect. The white space was just too boring around the whale so I added some spatter. And that was when things really went wrong.
The alternative title to this blog post is ‘Arting with Cats’. My art table is set up in a corner of the kitchen that has large windows on two sides. It is flooded with light which makes it perfect as an art space but it means it also attracts the cats who, being cats, like to bask in the warmth of the sun and who share my interest in watching the birds visit the feeder outside the window. As such, the cats commandeered my art table. We reached a compromise whereby they now have just under half of the table – their cat bed indicating which is their territory – and I have the rest of it. I stick to my side of the bargain. Do they? Of course not. They are cats. Many is the time that they have padded across my art work or have knocked – deliberately! – boxes of pencils or paint sets off the table. When annoyed that I have not fed him earlier than usual, Satchi sits on my art table and picks up my paintbrushes in his mouth, one by one, and drops them onto the floor. On this occassion, I had just gotten up from the table to clean my brushes when Satchi plonked himself right in front of my art journal and swished his huge, fluffy tail right across the page. He thankfully did not manage to do much damage to the whale itself, as it was almost bone dry, but the spatter dots smeared and smudged. Ugh. Had it been anything other than my art journal, I would have been very annoyed and frustrated. However, my art journal is for experiments, some of which go wrong. This page, therefore, becomes another record of what goes wrong when one attempts arting with cats.
As someone who is really into illustration, I very much struggle with creating abstract art. That was precisely why I pushed myself to actually do this week’s Life Book lesson, which was taken by Jodi Ohl. I find that I now enjoy the process of working in an abstract method, of layering and mark-making, of using colour and texture rather than shape and form. However, because I have no real feel or instinct for it, I never know when I am “done” with a piece. My impulse is to add some sort of representational element to provide the piece with a focal point but often, when I have done so, I regret it because it doesn’t cohere. I worked on this piece gradually over the course of three days, adding bits and pieces whenever time was available to do so. Each time I returned to my art table to work on it, I had a sense that it needed more and had an idea of what to add – some dribble here, a few marks there – but then I reached a point where I didn’t know what to add. Did that mean it was complete? Or did it simply mean that my well of inspiration had run dry for this piece? Or was I just fed up of working on this piece and wanting to move on to something new? Any or all of the above? I decided this piece was done. Maybe I will circle back to it at some point and add something; probably I won’t.
I recently registered to participate in the Brooklyn Art Library’s Sketchbook Project. This will be my first time of participating it and I am eager to embark on a new challenge. My sketchbook has arrived so now I just need to get drawing. I will be blogging about my drawings as I complete each page but will be doing so over on my art blog, Pict Ink. I will also be sharing the completed illustrations on Instagram. Yes, I finally set up an Instagram account. I am excited to have a totally new art challenge and hope you will hop over to my other blog to follow along.
Last week’s Life Book lesson was taken by Andrea Gomoll and was all about painting a figure who was caught between an area of darkness and an area of light. The medium was primarily watercolour, which I always enjoy working with. I decided to place my figure in the centre of the paper with her hair flowing upwards to create a clear dividing line between the dark area and the light area. I enjoyed letting the paint in those background areas bleed into one another and create blooms. I built the flesh tones up gradually, using a neutral palette first and then layering the stronger colours on top, dividing the face between the cool blues of the dark side and the warm yellows and pinks of the light side. I possibly should have gone more dramatic with the shading and lighting on the face. I grounded the piece by painting black into the torso area of the figure and then tried to make the background and the figure cohere by adding spatter in white and black watercolour.
This week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was to incorporate a mandala or something similar. I am no good at mandalas. I have tried them a few times but I just don’t have the patience or precision required. I like to draw things that are wonky, asymmetrical, that involve dribble and spatter. That’s my kind of thing. The mathematical precision and repetition of mandala are just not me. My workaround, therefore, was to think of something I could use that would create a repeated pattern for me. My eyes landed on my small alphabet stamps and I had my flash of inspiration. Stamping letters in concentric rings should have been simple enough but even that “cheat” defeated me because I did not line up the stamps with enough accuracy to create sharp rings.
I was going to keep the page black and white and let it sit like that for a while. I worried that it was a bit too boring, however, so I spritzed the page with yellow spray ink and spattered on some orange and red watercolour. It turns out that I much prefer the monochrome version.
There were two lessons last week for Life Book, one taken by Whitney Freya and one by Samie Harding. There was absolutely no way I was going to find time to tackle two different lessons. I thought I would choose to work on the one that appealed most to me but, in actual fact, neither really chimed with me enough to stand out. One was abstract and one was very “art therapy” in its approach and neither of those things really inspires my creativity. I almost decided not to work on Life Book for the second week in a row but then I had an idea: I could combine the lessons. I could use some of the approaches from the abstract lesson to create a background and could use the concept of a totem animal from the other lesson as a jumping off point for the subject matter. Of course, being me, I had to put my own twist on things and – as such – I turned my bear into a silhouette contain a skeleton. You wouldn’t know it to look at it, but I did have a quick google to have a photo reference for the bear’s skull. I actually had a lot of fun creating this painting so I am glad I found the mojo and the time to actually work on Life Book after all.