Peaks and valleys. Rough and smooth. Successes and failures. Not every experiment in my art journal is going to be a success. Indeed, most are probably lacking in some way but that’s acceptable to me because they are just experiments and my art journals are for relaxation and play. Some pages, however, are just abject failures. This is one such page. I almost didn’t blog about it because it is so bad but every failure is a learning opportunity so here it is.
My Rainbow Art Journal is a work in progress, evolving all the time. Some pages I complete from start to finish but others are more dynamic and shifting, emerging from leftover paint smooshed here, scraps of collage pasted there, until ultimately I decide what to do with that page. This page had had lots of red, yellow, and orange paint scraped onto it. I had also had to slap on some washi tape to reinforce the perforations. It was a pretty ugly base layer but it was something to work on. Incidentally, the background colour is much more orange than it appears in the photo. I think the metallics throw the camera off. Anyway, unfortunately I didn’t manage to lose the ugly. I painted on a beetle in a pearlescent yellow. The shimmer was nice but the whole thing looked washed out in comparison to the background colours. I, therefore, smudged on some gold to make the beetle a bit warmer in hue and add yet more shimmer. The idiom “You can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear” came to mind. I added some ink and some paint pen for detailing. Nope. Still ugly. That’s when I decided that I hated this page and that I was investing no more time in it. Time to abandon it and call it quits. On to new and hopefully better pages.
For most of my life I have told people that I can draw but I cannot paint. Whereas I could control my drawing tools to produce something approximating the vision I had in my head, I was always entirely cackhanded when it came to manipulating paint. Of course, this was a little self-perpetuating since I would choose pencil, charcoal, and ink over paint each and every time so one set of skills continued to grow while the other atrophied. It was when I emigrated to America, almost three years ago, that I thought to myself that I might try my hand at painting again – a new challenge for the new chapter in my life – and that was how and when I embarked on art journaling and exploring mixed media.
Since then – and particularly since joining Life Book – I have tried to develop my skills with paint and grow my self-confidence. It has been frustrating. For every couple of steps forward, I have at taken at least one step backwards. My ability with paint continues to be patchy, inconsistent, outwith my control. There have been times I have looked at a finished piece, many times actually, and thought to myself, “Well actually maybe I can paint”. But then there are the times when I take so many steps backwards that I feel like perhaps I am investing my time in energy on attempting something that is not progressing. Today I am back to thinking that maybe once again I can draw but I cannot paint.
Last week’s Let’s Face It lesson is a case in point. The lesson was taken by Jeanne-Marie Webb and was definitely a more painterly approach to depicting a face and figure. The idea was to use more neutral tones – I used raw umber, raw sienna, unbleached titanium and a little cadmium red – and that was something that really appealed to me. It took me all week to actually find time to tackle the lesson but I was really looking forward to giving it a try. I made a complete mess of it. By way of illustration of my previous point about my abilities, I will share the photo of the drawing beneath the painting. Despite the spectral quality of the eyes being complete blanks, I rather like the drawing. It certainly suggests potential for something interesting and – had I been working in ink and watercolour – I think I could have pulled it off. However, almost as soon as I added the acrylic and began layering the paint it all went pear-shaped. All the features drifted, became wider and chunkier, the blending got messy and patchy, and the tones became muddy and murky. And let’s not even mention how awful my painting of flowers is. Sigh. If I had the luxury of time, I would be tempted to layer more paint on top of this and see if I can pull it back and refine it. However, I don’t have time so shall let it be as it is, a testament to many steps backwards in my attempt to learn to paint with acrylic and use mixed media, and maybe it will some day be a yardstick of how much further forward I have progressed. For now, however, it is still the case that I can draw but I cannot paint.