Last week’s Life Book lesson was taken by Andrea Gomoll and was all about painting a figure who was caught between an area of darkness and an area of light. The medium was primarily watercolour, which I always enjoy working with. I decided to place my figure in the centre of the paper with her hair flowing upwards to create a clear dividing line between the dark area and the light area. I enjoyed letting the paint in those background areas bleed into one another and create blooms. I built the flesh tones up gradually, using a neutral palette first and then layering the stronger colours on top, dividing the face between the cool blues of the dark side and the warm yellows and pinks of the light side. I possibly should have gone more dramatic with the shading and lighting on the face. I grounded the piece by painting black into the torso area of the figure and then tried to make the background and the figure cohere by adding spatter in white and black watercolour.
One of the reasons I enjoy participating in Life Book is that it exposes me to different techniques, media, and approaches I may not have stumbled across or thought of one my own. This lesson with Jamie Dougherty was one such example. Had I not watched the video, I may never have thought to turn ash into paint. You can see the ash layer was used in the torso of the figure I painted. The whole idea of taking ash and turning it into something new suggested the flame colour palette for the rest of the piece. I am actually really pleased with how this piece turned out. I have managed to find a comfortable balance between my illustrative style and using mixed media techniques. It just feels quite “me”. I may not use ash in my art work again (aside from the messiness, it had my kids turning into pyromaniacs) but I am now inspired to think about other things I might be able to transform into paint.
I turned another page in my Rainbow Art Journal and decided to do another two page spread. I am still in the red section of my journal and thought of poppies. I didn’t want to use a monochromatic palette so decided to incorporate some grey and green too but I probably used too much of those and not enough red in the end. Not being very adept at painting flowers, I created the poppy blooms from clippings from magazine pages collaged onto the background. I am pleased with how the hands turned out but otherwise I think this is one of the “blah” pages in my art journal.
I generally try to make do with the art materials I already own but a couple of months ago, armed with a 60% off coupon and a Michael’s gift card, I had a bit of a splurge. I thought I could indulge myself since I was paying next to nothing from my own coffers so I bought a set of Dr Ph Martin’s Hydrus watercolours and a pack of Jane Davenport Mermaid Markers. I had been coveting the Hydrus watercolours for a while. Since I like to use liquid media very wet but also like the pigment to be punchy and bold, I had a feeling the concentrated watercolours would really appeal to me. The Mermaid Markers were new to the market but I thought they might make for a good portable art supply and treated myself to them too.
Despite being a hyper organised control freak, I am not one of those people who makes up palette cards for each medium they own. I tell myself I will make time to do it and yet somehow I just never do. I did, however, think that my Rainbow Art Journal might be just the place to make a record of some of my media and what the colours look like on paper. This page in the red section of my Rainbow Art Journal is the first of these. The product name of the Mermaid Markers initially gave me the idea to illustrate a mermaid; however, I had just been listening to Stravinsky’s Firebird the day before so I decided to draw a sort of harpy, woman-phoenix hybrid, using the markers and some of the Hydrus paints. I worked quickly and loosely as a challenge to myself and because I really wanted to focus on playing with the media. The mermaid marker is super juicy and richly pigmented. If all the other colours are the same then I can definitely see those being a handy portable art resource. The Lobster colour is a bold primary red so I used a lot of that in this illustration. The hydrus colours added a bit more variety as the cadmium was a red leaning towards orange and the rose had a little blue in it I think to make it more purplish. The three reds, therefore, provided me with enough variety on this page that I did not feel the need to add any other media except for a little black ink for details such as the face and the talon fingers.
Frequent readers of this blog will know that I really do enjoy a bit of spatter in my art work so I was very happy to learn that spatter was the basis of this week’s Life Book lesson. The lesson was taken by Mandy Van Goeije and was about starting loose and abstract and then finding some form within that abstraction to turn into an illustration, generating text to support that illustration, and layering watercolour and other media on top of a splattery, puddly watercolour background.
I decided to use the primary colours for my spatter because it was what was demonstrated in the tutorial and because I recognised that it was a palette that I don’t often use. I often add spatter at some stage in my art work but it was a twist on things to actually use the spatter as the starting point. I am not someone who tends to get creatively blocked because of having a blank page but I imagine this is a good way to get past that problem.
Once I had the spattery layer, I had to look for shapes and forms within it that suggested the starting point for an illustration. It is human nature to see facial features in inanimate objects (a quick google told me it is called “pareidolia”) and it is something I certainly do. When looking at my spattery layer, however, the form I saw emerge was a human figure – a tilted head surrounded by red hair and, in the negative space – upraised arms and hands. I think my brain determining I would see a human figure is probably an extension of the same phenomenon that has people seeing faces. When coming up with the story element of my art work and the text, I decided my figure should be the Muse of Spatter and wrote “The Muse of Spatter dances wherever she pleases and creates from chaos” as I felt that basically encapsulated the theme of the lesson and what I created as a result of it.
I love the combination of red and turquoise. I love turquoise generally but there is just something about the combination of those two colours that really makes both sing, perhaps because it is an unexpected palette that works surprisingly well. It’s a palette I have used quite a few times in my art work so when it came to the red pages in my Rainbow Art Journal I knew that turquoise would put in a guest appearance. This piece turned out to be reminiscent of my Resting Acrobat from a few months ago. I think that previous piece is more successful overall but the face is better in this piece since I managed to keep it closer to my original sketch and not let the proportions wander.
My Rainbow Art Journal has segued out of its initial black stage into a red phase, as you may have observed. I knew that somewhere in this section an interpretation of Little Red Riding Hood would appear because she and the wolf are characters who have cropped up time and time again in my art work over the years. There is a definite connection in terms of palette and pattern between this new painting and a previous art journal page from 2015 but stylistically they are quite different.
I don’t know why I have always been drawn to Red Riding Hood as a fairytale because I was so wee when my moderate obsession started. I do like wolves, love werewolves, and the psychological possibilities of the story of a girl journeying into the wilderness to confront and overcome a dangerous aspect of that wilderness. With this art journal page, I wanted to depict the idea of the innocent girl and the bestial, primal wolf being interconnected, almost like a yin-yang balance. That gave me the idea for the composition. I actually thought to take some process shots as I worked on the double page spread over the course of a couple of weeks. From the basic sketch, I then blocked in large areas of colour using acrylic paint. I find that getting that one layer down really helps me as it creates a uniform surface on which to build additional layers and use a wider variety of media and it also immediately eliminates the white page so that I can more easily push some areas into the background while bringing other areas forward for emphasis. It was then just a case of working away on the piece in little rations and gobbets of time, building up the tones and details. I think of all of the Red Riding Hood pieces I have ever created, this is my favourite so far.