Messy Monochrome ~ Art Journal Page

This week’s Documented Life Project prompt was to incorporate a digitally altered photo or image into an art journal spread.  The phrase prompt was “What Makes Your Heart Sing?” so that was my starting point for selecting a photo to work with.  My answer to that question is that my husband and kids make my heart sing.  As I have referenced my kids numerous times in my art journal, I decided to focus this challenge on my husband.  I picked a recent photo of us that was taken when we visited the gardens of Wilton House during our trip to Britain in July.

I used Photoshop Elements to play around with the photo.  I tried various edits but was not happy with any of the more creative, artistic ones.  I prefer to keep my enjoyment of photography and my enjoyment of art separate so I tend to just use the more photographic tools in Photoshop rather than the artistic ones.  Consequently, I also lack the skills and experience required to successfully digitally manipulate an image.  Ultimately I settled on editing the photo by turning it from colour to black and white and to adjusting the levels to accentuate the contrast between areas of light and shade.  It transpired that my printer was running low on black ink so the print out had some white streaks on it.  I decided to go with a scrubby, grungy look for the page as a result of that flaw in the printing process.

I collaged some black and white papers onto the art journal page and dribbled ink down the entire page to construct a messy background.  I then ripped around the photo and adhered it to the page.  I then just spattered and doodled some more.  Simple, quick and easy.  Job done.

Week 37 - Edited Photo

Intuitive Stencilling

Those of you who have followed my mixed media efforts for long enough will know that I am kack-handed when it comes to stencilling.  I really cannot seem to get the knack of it.  If I get the pigment strong enough, there is usually blobbing around the shapes; if I keep the shapes crisper, it is usually at the expense of strong pigment.  Therefore, when I saw that this week’s Life Book lesson revolved around stencils, I knew I was in for a challenge and hopefully some progress.

This week’s lesson was taken by Lynzee Lynx and the thrust of the lesson was to use stencils we created ourselves and to use them in a layered mixed media piece.  We were encouraged to create stencils of any shapes that came to mind.  I used OHP acetates and cut one that was like a series of striped pebbles, one that was like some curvy arrowheads and one that was a trio of lozenge shapes.  The tutor used her stencils with spray paint but, having none, I sponged acrylic through the stencil shapes instead.  Oddly enough, I actually got the best results I have ever had from stencilling with good coverage and pretty crisp edges.  I wonder if it is because the shapes were larger.

We were to use the stencils intuitively and employ that same instinct to creating the background for the stencils and then layering on top of the stencil shapes.  Working instinctively never comes easily to me.  However, this time, with four kids under my feet and near constant interruptions, I did not have the luxury of time to get stuck inside my head.  Since necessity compelled me to work in a rush, I had to just reach for materials and quickly do something with them without over-analysing or planning.  Of course, I did lots of dribbling and spatter because that is something I really enjoy doing.

Interestingly, there were bits of this piece that I thought were a hideous mess at one stage.  The big cobalt blue blob was a mistake I made when distracted, dribbling the paint in one spot for far too long.  In the end, however, that pool of cobalt spattered with turquoise is one of my favourite elements in the piece.  Likewise, unlike the other spatter, I added the turquoise spatter after I had laid down the black stencilling and I worried it would look like the after-thought it was.  However, I really like the effect of the turquoise on the black.  I am not sure how I feel about the piece overall, however.  I think it lacks cohesion.  I think perhaps I ought to have stencilled the pebble shapes in black rather than gold as they draw the eye too much and the other gold elements in the page – dots created with various implements – do not successfully balance it out.  I did the doodling while watching a movie with my kids and I think in this case the not thinking about it led me to over-doodle, though I am happy with the variety of shapes I chose.

So the lessons learned this week are that I do better when stencilling larger shapes, that I need to find the right balance between working instinctively but not making a mess of things by not thinking enough, and that I need to trust that things I think are a disaster might just work out in the end.

Week 25 - 1 - Layering with own Stencils

Week 25 - 2 - Layering with own Stencils

Week 25 - 3 - Layering with own Stencils

*Apologies for the wonky angles in the first photo*

Intuitive Watercolour Face

This week’s Life Book lesson was a tutorial by Juliette Crane.  She had been the tutor back in March when I produced a painting of a flying pig in response to her lesson about intuitive, loose mark making.  This bonus lesson was on the same topic but with the intention to create a face rather than a whimsical animal.

I had used acrylic alone for the flying pig so this time I chose to use watercolour alone.  Not very mixed media, I know.  It was interesting to compare how I fared with both lessons as I was definitely much looser this time.  Knowing I was aiming for a face, I blocked out part of the paper with a rough flesh tone but otherwise I just loaded my brush with colours on a whim, no thought-process, just instinct.  Usually with watercolour, I do at least a very basic pencil sketch before filling in the colour.  This time, however, I just sploshed the pigment around, letting in bleed and splatter and mix on the page.

I didn’t give much thought to the face when it came to it either which unfortunately meant that the proportions went a bit awry.  I was not aiming for anything approaching realism anyway, more of an illustration of a face, but the components still had to work together to create something harmonious and I am not convinced that I achieved that.  Even the rosy circles on the cheeks cannot distract from the fact that the face is wonky.

Week 24 - Intuitive Watercolour Face

I may not be pleased with the look of the face and I am not completely convinced that this is my style but I definitely enjoyed the loose mark making and being so free with the watercolour.  I am pleased that little by little I am becoming less rigid with my art.

Male Portrait with Silver Disc

This week’s Life Book lesson was taken by Tamara Laporte and the title was “Magic, Vulnerability and Courage”.  The lesson began with a discussion about why we choose the subjects that we choose, create the art that we do, work in the styles that we do.  This was all by way of consideration as to why we might continually use figures of one gender or a certain race or operate in a certain style as our artistic default.  While my subject matter is fairly eclectic, I do often work on figures who are female and caucasian.  While I had not really contemplated it before, I can only assume that that is because I am both female and caucasian.  Maybe when I am working from my imagination, I am projecting little bits of myself onto the paper.  Maybe it is just familiarity.  I will have to reflect on this some more.

This week we were directed to paint a male portrait.  It has been a while since I drew a human male face.  Back home in Scotland, I used to draw men regularly at life drawing class but I admit I was more keen on drawing backs and bums than I was on capturing facial likenesses.  It was, therefore, useful to have practice creating a male face once more since my skills had rusted rather a lot.  I don’t think I have ever painted a human male before.  Drawn, yes, many times but never painted.  Another bit of a challenge there.

I wandered away from the lesson a little.  In Laporte’s demonstration, she added a wing to her male figure that was reminiscent of the art angel I created in response to one of her bonus lessons.  Instead of the wing, I added a silver disc behind the bust of the male figure.  I decided to use the same techniques and approaches that I utilised when painting my Girl with Golden Disc back in April.  I used the same drips and splatters to build up the background but this time using shades of blue rather than the browns and neutrals I had used for the piece with the female figure.  The male portrait could then almost be a companion piece for the female portrait.

Week 23 - Male Portrait

While I can – as per always – see flaws a plenty in this painting, I am overall quite pleased with how it turned out.  At the very least, I have now painted my first male portrait.