My February Art Snacks box not only prompted me to grab some extra art time on our recent Snow Day but also forced me to use a medium I would never normally reach for: chalk pastels. I last used chalk pastels for an art lesson almost three years ago and, prior to that, I had not used them for probably two decades. I, therefore, have no skill with them whatsoever let alone anything approaching talent. However, the whole point of challenging myself to use the contents of my Art Snacks box is to force me out of my comfort zone and try things that nudge me out of any comfortable creative rut I might be in. This entire illustration was created with just nothing beyond what was in the box – a bookmark sized sample of tan paper, a mechanical pencil, a putty rubber (mouldable eraser), a white ink pen, and a set of Rembrandt chalk pastels, all in yellow hues. My use of the pastels is very basic and simple, just used to fill in blocks of colour. I must say I was impressed with how they lay down pigment on the paper, definitely not as crumbly as my ancient set of pastels for sure. However, I still don’t think pastels are my thing.
It seems like eons since I last cracked open my Rainbow themed Art Journal and created anything in its pages. It’s definitely been a good few months. Thanks to a Snow Day, however, I found myself with an extra ration of free time so I decided to produce another piece in the orange section of my art journal – which is only the third section – I am really not making great progress with this project. As we all know, orange and blue are complementary colours so I decided to play around with that palette for this page. The subject is another one of my reworkings of one of my older illustrations in a different medium. I much prefer the proportions of the face in the ink and watercolour original but I like the strength of the colours in this piece. I do enjoy the asymmetrical composition too. I will be glad to see the back of the orange pages of this art journal, however. That should motivate me to keep working in it.
If you happen to follow me on Instagram, you will have seen this illustration as my response to this month’s Art Snacks challenge. I received two red products in the box this month and that immediately inspired me to draw a Ladybug Woman. I drew it on a sample pack of watercolour paper, also in the box, which means it is in that narrow format that I used recently for my Frankenstein’s Monster. I am enjoying working in this restrictive space as it really forces me to be creative with my composition.
This page is another example of me cannibalising my own work and seeing if I can regurgitate it in a different way or using a different media. The basis for this page is an ink and watercolour illustration I produced as part of a challenge to produce 100 faces. I decided to attempt reproducing the face but using mixed media. The orange background has photographed a little brighter than it actually is. In reality it is closer to an apricot hue, hence me titling this page “peaches and cream” for the contrast between that orange shade and the white disc that frames the head. I also kept the skin tones quite pale which means she could be said to have a peaches and cream complexion.
I had not done much in my Rainbow Art Journal since March so I decided to use some free time to start and finish a page in one sitting. I turned to a blank page in the orange sector, got out some orange drawing ink and some black India ink, a pot of water, and got to work. My intention had been to keep things loose because that is something I find to be challenging. I started out well and it is possible to detect the areas where I let the ink puddle and run and dribble. I struggle with abstraction because I don’t know how to balance the elements and create focus so I decided I would carve a figure out of the ink. Of course, inevitably, I ended up with a too tight illustration as a result. Fail! Ugh. Maybe I should just give up trying to work in a loose, uninhibited, less intentional way.
This art journal page was really an exploration of ways to create visual texture. My inspiration was a painting I did for Life Book last year because I like the visual imagery of flame and ash. I actually thought to take progress shots of this art journal page so I can show the different stages of its creation. I started with a really simple line drawing.
To create the background texture, I scraped some orange paint onto the page with an old hotel room card. I then used that same card to lift up some of the paint from the page so that it created some texture, sort of feathering and ripples. To create the texture on the torso, I painted it black and then layered some red paint over the top. Before the red paint had fully dried, I pressed down some damp paper onto the surface so that it lifted up some of the paint and created a visual texture that I hoped would be reminiscent of charring.
The final element of visual texture was my old friend spatter. I spattered some black and red paint to create the idea of ash and embers floating upwards from the flames.
I liked the effect of all of the techniques I used in this page. It might be a bit much that I used them all at once but maybe it works for my thematic purposes. I am definitely pleased that the finished page still resembles my initial sketch as that has not always been the case.
Someone asked me recently if I ever return to past works and have another stab at them in order to apply sharpened skills or a more developed style. I do return time and again to certain subjects – zombies, Red Riding Hood, skeletal elements, mythology – but I don’t generally have another crack at a past artwork. I thought, however, that maybe it could be an interesting exercise to take a few works in a medium I am more comfortable with -namely ink and watercolour – and try depicting the exact same subject using mixed media. I decided to use some of my illustrations from my 100 Faces challenge.
First up for the experiment was my 85th drawing in the series, which I had titled “Confidence”. I chose it largely because I was working in the red section of my Rainbow Art Journal and I had remembered how much I liked the effect of the bold red ink pooling and puddling. I also chose it because it was an illustration I actually really liked in the series. I lost the more diagonal composition, which I definitely prefer, and I think the new version of the face looks more sullen and bored than confident. I am also not happy with that busy, blotchy background and may paint that out at some stage. However, as first experiments go, it is not such a failure that I will abandon the whole enterprise. Not just yet anyway.