Last week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was Halloween. I had received my October Art Snacks box but had not attempted the challenge of using all of the items to create art. Since one of the things in my box was a jar of orange ink, it seemed like the subject of Halloween might be a good way to kill two art birds with one stone. I was initially going to go much darker and creepier with my Halloween art work but – perhaps since I was drawing while watching ‘Frankenweenie’ with my kids – my creative mojo led me to draw a band of cute monsters trick or treating. This was my first time using brush pens. It took a while to get the hang of how to hold them to create different strokes and widths but it was fun trying something new, which is the point of receiving a box of art goodies each month.
This week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was “Triangles”. I did not think I was going to find any available art time for my art journal this week. I have been using all of my little rations of art time for keeping up with my Brooklyn Art Library Sketchbook and participating in Inktober. However, today I was on a field trip with my preschool class and that meant I managed to get home an hour earlier than usual. I, therefore, sat down with a hot mug of tea and decided to play in my art journal. This week’s prompt allowed me to keep things simple. I just opened up a box of watercolours (ones that belong to my children actually as they happened to be to hand) and started doodling triangles using a medium sized brush. The triangles are very imprecise as a result but, hey, it’s not a geometry lesson and these aren’t architectural or engineering plans so who cares.
Last week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was the last in the series provided by my friend Jana. Her prompt was “changing seasons” but her tutorial also focused on demonstrating eco-dyeing. I was inspired by both. Unfortunately, it was one of those overwhelming weeks – a pretty stressful one actually – where I had very little time for art. I, therefore, recognised that my ability to dye papers within that week was going to be pretty limited. I have wanted to try eco-dyeing since I saw a blog post by Claudia McGill all about making parcels of materials that would leech colour into paper over time. Jana demonstrated a sped-up process that produced similar results. I am definitely going to give it a go. I just need to have a chunk of time in which to gather my materials. So, in the mean time, I resorted to dyeing book pages – some of which were already a little foxed – using tea, coffee, and steeped onion skins.
I had a page in my art journal that I did not know what to do with. It was the reverse of the page that I had handstitched so it was full of ugly, messy knots and stitches. I decided it could form the basis of a textural background for this page. I scraped gesso across the page roughly so as to somewhat embed and fix the thread of the stitches and I kept the gesso rough and splotchy so as to add more literal and visual texture. I then scraped across some light brown paint to create a neutral tone in the background, especially given that the “changing seasons” prompt was making me think of the colours of Autumn – and man am I looking forward to Autumn. Thinking of the glow of Autumn light, I scraped some bronze paint across the page and spattered gold paint at the top and bottom. All that remained was to decide how to incorporate the eco-dyed paper into the page. I decided upon circular, hoop shapes because I was thinking about the cyclical nature of the seasons. I cut some in different sizes from the dyed papers and adhered them to the page. Part of me thinks the page needs something more but I was out of time and out of ideas so, therefore, for now at least I consider this art journal page done.
I have had an exhausting week, physically and mentally. Being crazily busy is my norm but this week has been beyond the norm. I almost fell asleep on the sofa one afternoon. Whenever everyday life gets a bit overwhelming, I know I have to try and scratch out some art time as a way to find balance and decompress. That is why I decided to tackle this week’s Life Book lesson. This week’s lesson was taken by Annie Hamman. I have viewed and responded to a few art lessons taken by Hamman by this stage in my exploration of mixed media and I decided some time ago that her style of painting, her technique, was not something that was going to work for me. I want to hone and develop my own style of art, after all, so pushing myself to try a mode of painting that prevents me from achieving that goal makes no sense. I, therefore, pick and choose elements from the lesson that I can utilise for pushing my own creativity while ignoring the aspects like layering paint with a palette knife.
When I thought of a figure who was serene and peaceful, I thought of one whose arms were crossed because she was not busy doing something. Hands at rest. In my busy week, idle hands would definitely be a luxury. The female figure I painted ended up looking a bit huffy because of the pose but that doesn’t matter to me because I know what made me choose that position for the hands. I tried to keep the colour palette light and pale to suggest calm. The finished piece makes me think of my Twilight Garden painting from last year. I take that as a good sign that I am developing my own style – or at least one of many of my styles.
Last week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was another guest blog post by my friend Jana. Her theme was “trash to treasure” and she had all sorts of ingenious ideas for using everyday objects destined for the recycling bin as tools for mixed media art. I ended up keeping my page pretty simple, with barely any layers, because I was short on time but I have squirreled away many of Jana’s ideas for future reference.
I started my page without having any idea of where it would go or what might emerge. I had a foodie magazine in the recycling bin so I rescued it and, selecting brightly coloured pages, ripped it into strips using a ruler. This meant the strips were more or less straight and of a uniform width. I adhered the strips to the page and coated the whole thing in matte medium so that I could work on top of it.
It stayed that way for almost the entire week, sitting on my art table waiting for me to have time to return to it. When I did sit down at the art table again, I decided to do some negative space painting and – since I like simplified female figures – that was what ended up emerging as I added the white acrylic. I seem to have a thing right now for puffy, cloud-like hair too but in this case I think it worked out well as the width of the hair balances out the width of the ballooning skirt.
Next time I sat down in my art space, I added the details using various media. The last thing I did was to stamp the words “reduce”, “reuse”, “recycle”, and ‘replenish” in the space around the figure as that seemed in the spirit of the page.
Last week’s Life Book lesson was taken by Connie Solera. It was a bit too “art as therapy” for my personal taste but I was inspired by the imagery of the painting Solera demonstrated and decided to create my own twist on the idea, moulding the lesson to fit my own style. There are many layers in this mixed media painting, more layers than I typically work with, but I enjoyed switching between the chaotic looseness of the background and the more tight illustration of the female figure curled up inside a pod shape in the centre, even if it probably makes the piece visually unbalanced.
Last week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was “wing it”. Finding time for art this week was a major challenge. We are all adjusting to a new routine. My four kids are in three different schools; the oldest has to catch a bus half an hour earlier than last year, which means pulling our morning routine half an hour earlier. It’s a chaotic transition period. I feel like I am either chasing my tail constantly or trying to catch myself up throughout the whole day. Exhaustion is the dominant theme of my life right now. We will keep tweaking things until we get the schedule running like a well oiled machine but, until then, my free time for art is severely curtailed.
Therefore, “winging it” is exactly what I did with this journal page. I decided to not put much thought or planning into it, to just use my art journal as a decompression tool and enjoy the process rather than focusing on the outcome. Winging it made me think of bird wings and feathers so that gave me my subject. To ensure that I didn’t get too fussy or tight with my drawing, I decided to “wing it” again: I dipped a chubby paint brush in black acrylic and drew the wing with my non-dominant hand. In retrospect, using my left hand maybe wasn’t the best idea. After filling in the negative space with black acrylic and letting the whole thing dry, it was time to add colour. I did so by just splashing some pigment rich watercolour paints into the feather shapes and letting it run all over the place.
It is just as well that I was not focused on the outcome because the outcome is pretty rubbish really. My ten year old tactfully told me it was “not the best”. I like the idea of a wing made of rainbow feathers and might return to that at some stage. This page, however, is what it is. I “winged it” for sure.