Autumn Glow

I have not been doing a great job of keeping up with Life Book lessons and, as such, my mixed media skills are getting a tad rusty.  A quieter weekend than usual afforded me the opportunity to tackle the most recent lesson.  I took the concept of that lesson and put my own spin on it.  I have been doing a lot of drawing lately – for my extended Inktober and the Brooklyn Art Library Sketchbook Project – so the drawing that underpinned this piece was actually really strong.  I am, therefore, frustrated that I completely lost the quality of that drawing as I layered media on top of it.  It proves the point, however, that I have allowed that particular skill set to rust up.  Still, as disappointing as the outcome is to me, I enjoyed spending a decent ration of time sitting at my art table this weekend.

45a - Autumn Glow

45b - Autumn Glow


Eco-Dyed Autumn

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.

39 EcoDyed Paper 1

39 EcoDyed Paper 2

Autumn Wreath

Last week’s Life Book lesson was taken by Tamara Laporte and was all about Autumn.  Autumn (or Fall as it is called here) is my favourite season.  I like the quality of light, the colours of the trees, the justification for getting into my pyjamas earlier in the evening and snuggling on the sofa under a warm blanket, the holidays, and the cosy foods.  I was, therefore, eager to carve out some time to work on this particular lesson.  I had actually been working with Autumn leaves all week at preschool, getting my little students to make collages with them, make Fall leaf prints, and play in piles of actual leaves outdoors so it felt entirely appropriate to spend my evenings at the end of the week painting Autumn foliage, albeit whimsical, stylised leaves and plants rather than anything even approaching botanical realism.

Week 46 - Autumn Wreath

Autumn Fairy – An Intuitive Painting

Week 47 of Life Book was all about the importance of creative play and was led by Chris Zydel.  The lesson was not a tutorial but rather an encouraging talk and, therefore, the outcome was totally free-form.  Frequent readers of my blog will know that I struggle with intuitive painting as I work better when I have a vision, something to work towards.  However, over the course of Life Book so far, I have learned the importance of getting out of my head a bit and just messing around with the materials and seeing what happens.  I am not there yet but I am on the path towards finding the right balance between intuitive and intentional that works for me.

I started by just laying down some colour in different layers.  I use my kitchen table as my art space and that corner of the kitchen has a dual aspect window.  Looking out on the Autumn leaves tumbling from the trees, I found myself reaching for the Autumnal colours of yellow, orange, red and brown.  I scraped paint with an old hotel card, dribbled paint, stencilled and finger painted.  After a while, I began to see a shape form in one area that could be a simplified torso shape.  That triggered the idea for a figure of some sort to be the focal point in my painting.  I decided to add some gold paint in a circle.  I didn’t like how central the circle was, however, so I pulled it into a tilting oval.  That was what gave me an epiphany: the gold oval could be the wing of an Autumn Fairy.

So playing around and being intuitive got me to that juncture and then I worked more intentionally.  I sharpened up the shapes that were the scaffolding of my idea and began the process of painting a figure.  I kept my painting more illustrative and childish, like a picture book illustration, as befitted the subject matter.  I used Neocolor II, Inktense pencils and Posca paint pens to refine everything and add the details.  For all that my stencilling is still spectacularly terrible, I am quite pleased with how this piece turned out and feel like I am a step closer to striking that balance between intuitive and intentional.  My chosen word, right at the beginning of Life Book, was “balance”.  I am pleased I am finding it in different areas of my life.

Week 47 - Autumn Fairy

Autumn Dryad

This week’s Life Book lesson was a bonus lesson taken by Jenny Wentworth.  The idea was to paint a tree intuitively using layers of watercolour paint, the tree growing from a seed that represented hopes and aspirations, and Wentworth added a female face into her tree trunk so that it became a personification.

I experienced a real creative block with the lesson.  I just could not find a way to get started.  I even considered skipping the lesson entirely but I am too anal retentive and it didn’t sit right with me to not complete every single lesson in the course.  I told myself I would postpone it until I came up with an idea that worked for me.  Then my kids – so often a source of inspiration to me – came to my rescue.  I asked about their day at school and they asked me what art I had been doing.  I explained that I was creatively stuck.  They wanted to know what the lesson was about and I explained what Wentworth’s painting looked like as a potential outcome.  “So like a lady Groot?” my 8 year old asked.  Ping.  Light bulb.  That was my inspiration: I could anthropomorphise a tree!

I used watercolour and created the small branches and twigs by blowing the paint with a straw.  I may not have painted intuitively or used lots of layers of watercolour but that was my nod to being less controlling with the outcome.  I did not want to lose the shapes the branches had created plus the leaves are rapidly falling off the trees so I decided to make her an Autumn tree.  My 10 year old said she looks like a Dryad.  Whether Marvel comics or Greek mythology, the lesson got done and it only took me the time in which dinner was cooking.

Week 44 - Autumn Dryad

Autumn Leaf Fairy

This week’s Documented Life Project prompt was to incorporate leaves onto the page.  As much as I love seeing all the Autumn leaves transforming into myriad colours, glowing and glistering, burnished by the sun, I was not feeling inspired by this week’s challenge.  I really can’t explain why.  I had a few ideas but nothing that really got my creative pulse going.

I have been thinking recently about trying to progress with my plan of incorporating mixed media art techniques into my more regular, illustrative style of art and, therefore, determined to try that in response to this week’s challenge.  I was pondering the fact that, as a child, I had a trilogy of Flower Fairy books by Cicely Mary Barker whose illustrations I used to pore over.  I resolved, therefore, to draw my own fairy in my Art Journal.  As I have mentioned before, I have a large oak tree in the garden of my new home so I drew an Oak Fairy complete with an acorn hat.  I coloured her with watercolour and outlined with black ink.  I washed bright yellow over the background of the page and decided to use a leaf stencil for added interest and to further contribute to the week’s leaf theme.  I still need my learner plates when it comes to stencilling because I did not blot the paint adequately, leading to rather blotching leaf images.  Lesson learned and yet another art journalling mistake chalked up to educational experience.  I finished the page with a quotation from Albert Camus: “Autumn is a second Spring when every leaf is a flower”.  I keep resolving to improve my typography, learn some new styles of handwriting, but somehow I keep defaulting to my own everyday handwriting.  Usually I do so because I am pressed for time but this week it was because I had already messed the page up with my sloppy leaf background so I was not really motivated to go to much effort with the lettering.

My Oak Fairy was for DLP week 44 so there are now a mere 8 weeks left in this particular challenge – and alarmingly just 8 weeks until the end of 2014.  Although I am going to use my blog Pict Ink for my art work, I will continue to share my DLP pages in this blog.

Week 44 - Leaves

All Things Fall

Today is officially the first day of Autumn.  Autumn is most definitely here.  While my children are still going to school in shorts and t-shirts, they are quite chilly on the morning walk; duvets have replaced sheets on the beds; dusk is falling earlier and the daylight is golden; I am drinking more hot tea again; the oak tree deposits acorns on my head every time I am pegging out laundry; and, of course, the trees are really shedding their leaves now.

This week’s Documented Life Project prompt was “splatters and drips” so with such a broad topic I was free to create on any subject I chose and I decided upon Autumn.  Autumn – or Fall as it is of course called in America – is my favourite season.  I love all the warm colours, that intensely golden light in the afternoon, the strong shadows, mugs of tea and hot chocolate, all the holidays and festivals, cosy clothes, and a ready excuse for getting into my jammies earlier in the evening.  With my inspiration sorted, I decided to challenge myself a bit.  Of late I have been defaulting to drawing a lot in my responses to the Project and have taken a step back from actually experimenting with and exploring mixed media.  It was, therefore, time to shove myself back in that direction.  I decided to collage.  My earlier attempts at collaging have been less than stellar.  I was pleased with how my Phoenix turned out but that was a collaging anomaly for me and was also a very controlled approach to collaging.  Needing a bit of help, I turned to a collaging tutorial on the blog, Inner Graffiti, and decided to use that artist’s approach as my guide.

I knew I wanted to work with Autumnal colours but challenging myself still further I determined I would work with orange because it is not a colour I am naturally drawn to.  As per the tutorial instructions, I rummaged through my stash of papers and odds and ends to find materials that worked within that colour scheme.  The author of the blog takes her time to lay things out and work out the composition before fixing everything to the page.  I was a disobedient student and did not do that.  Short on time, I just went for it.  I started by gluing down large pieces of paper.  These were pages ripped from magazines, pages from an old book and some ephemera such as a car park ticket and a wine label.  I then added some smaller items, such as postage stamps, paint chips and some items received in Happy Mail*.

Then the splattering and dripping commenced.  Normally, as you may have seen from my Drawing a Day posts, I am very controlled and precise in my approach to my art.  Letting go entirely and just seeing what happens, therefore, does not come naturally to me.  However, I rather enjoyed just spattering the ink and paint around.  My orange Winsor & Newton ink was dripped onto the page in droplets and then I used a straw to move it around on the page.  With the orange paints and the gold paint, I daubed some on a medium sized brush and then flicked the brush in order to create random drips.

Then my inner control freak reasserted herself and I pulled it all together with a bit more precision.  I cut a bird from origami paper and placed it at the top of the collaged stack, as if it was nesting in ephemera, and outlined it with brown ink to make that component stand out.  Finally I stamped “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”, quoting from Keats’ ‘Ode to Autumn’ around the edge of the paper. Done.  Still not an amazing collage but certainly a leap forward in terms of attainment for me.  And I enjoyed it!  So I definitely need to keep trying with this collaging malarkey.

Week 39 - Splatters & Drips

My DLP challenge page was not my only Autumn creativity this week.  I am also participating in a Fall themed swap with a group of mixed media artists.  My partner sent me a set of beautifully decorated tags, each a miniature work of art, and which my children instantly coveted.  In return, I decided to embark on making my first ever twinchies.  What’s a twinchie?  It’s a bigger version of an inchie.  No?  Me neither until just over a week ago.  An inchie is a work of art measuring 1 inch square and a twinchie is the same thing but 2 inches square.  Working at such a small scale was an interesting creative challenge and was also a fun way to experiment with different mixed media techniques and approaches.  In no way do I feel that my twinchies meet the quality of the tags I was sent but I had fun making them and hopefully my partner will find them fun too and find a way to incorporate them into her work or use them in some other way.  I rather think I could become obsessed with twinchies.  But not inchies –  twinchies were small enough for me, thanks.

2014-09-23 10.25.07 2014-09-23 10.25.21

*Happy Mail was not something I was aware of at all until recently.  It is art, art supplies and ephemera swapped with other artists through the post.


Today it is raining and the sky is grey.  

If I still lived in Scotland, this would not be worth noting.  Yes, British people are obsessed with the weather, it’s true.  We live on an island in the middle of a blustery ocean so it is in our cultural DNA to be acutely attuned to the weather.  Even so, in Scotland in November some standard rainfall and a dull grey sky would not be worth conversing about.  It’s notable here because this is my first murky, rainy day since I arrived in America three weeks ago.

Last weekend, I was so warm that I felt a bit too toasty just wearing one layer.  On a daily basis here I am just wearing two layers.  In November.  Back in Scotland, by now I would be wearing at least three layers and possibly even thermal leggings underneath my jeans plus hat, scarf and gloves.  I would be trundling back and forwards on the school run (a half hour walk each way) with my face being battered by the wind, ice crystals forming in my lungs with every gulp of breath and an ice cream headache caused by freezing, lashing rain.

Suffice to say, I am not missing the late Autumn-Winter weather in Scotland.  We lived on the West Coast of Scotland and I found the winters there to be hard.  The light levels move from pitch black to grey murk to dusk and back to pitch black again; it rain relentlessly; any snow that falls melts into grubby slush and then into a hard layer of ice that makes walking precarious; did I mention it rains relentlessly already?  Biblical deluges.

So even though it is definitely chillier today and I could do with popping a cardigan on and even though the warm glow of the Autumn light has been replaced by a steely winter sky for today and even though it is actually raining during the day for the first time since my arrival, I can’t resent it because I know I could be experiencing far worse right now.

Of course, I’ve yet to experience my first Pennsylvanian Winter….