Last week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was “outward from the centre”. I initially had a much more complex and time consuming idea in mind but it took me over a week to even get the chance to open my art journal so I decided to ditch that idea and produce a simple illustration in ink and watercolour instead. I drew a figure – somewhat inspired by Lady Rainicorn from ‘Adventure Time’ – by taking the prompt literally and starting at the centre and working my way outwards in a spiral. Then it was simply a case of filling in the figure with watercolour and drawing in the details using black ink.
I have had an exhausting week, physically and mentally. Being crazily busy is my norm but this week has been beyond the norm. I almost fell asleep on the sofa one afternoon. Whenever everyday life gets a bit overwhelming, I know I have to try and scratch out some art time as a way to find balance and decompress. That is why I decided to tackle this week’s Life Book lesson. This week’s lesson was taken by Annie Hamman. I have viewed and responded to a few art lessons taken by Hamman by this stage in my exploration of mixed media and I decided some time ago that her style of painting, her technique, was not something that was going to work for me. I want to hone and develop my own style of art, after all, so pushing myself to try a mode of painting that prevents me from achieving that goal makes no sense. I, therefore, pick and choose elements from the lesson that I can utilise for pushing my own creativity while ignoring the aspects like layering paint with a palette knife.
When I thought of a figure who was serene and peaceful, I thought of one whose arms were crossed because she was not busy doing something. Hands at rest. In my busy week, idle hands would definitely be a luxury. The female figure I painted ended up looking a bit huffy because of the pose but that doesn’t matter to me because I know what made me choose that position for the hands. I tried to keep the colour palette light and pale to suggest calm. The finished piece makes me think of my Twilight Garden painting from last year. I take that as a good sign that I am developing my own style – or at least one of many of my styles.
Last week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was another guest blog post by my friend Jana. Her theme was “trash to treasure” and she had all sorts of ingenious ideas for using everyday objects destined for the recycling bin as tools for mixed media art. I ended up keeping my page pretty simple, with barely any layers, because I was short on time but I have squirreled away many of Jana’s ideas for future reference.
I started my page without having any idea of where it would go or what might emerge. I had a foodie magazine in the recycling bin so I rescued it and, selecting brightly coloured pages, ripped it into strips using a ruler. This meant the strips were more or less straight and of a uniform width. I adhered the strips to the page and coated the whole thing in matte medium so that I could work on top of it.
It stayed that way for almost the entire week, sitting on my art table waiting for me to have time to return to it. When I did sit down at the art table again, I decided to do some negative space painting and – since I like simplified female figures – that was what ended up emerging as I added the white acrylic. I seem to have a thing right now for puffy, cloud-like hair too but in this case I think it worked out well as the width of the hair balances out the width of the ballooning skirt.
Next time I sat down in my art space, I added the details using various media. The last thing I did was to stamp the words “reduce”, “reuse”, “recycle”, and ‘replenish” in the space around the figure as that seemed in the spirit of the page.
Last week’s Life Book lesson was taken by Connie Solera. It was a bit too “art as therapy” for my personal taste but I was inspired by the imagery of the painting Solera demonstrated and decided to create my own twist on the idea, moulding the lesson to fit my own style. There are many layers in this mixed media painting, more layers than I typically work with, but I enjoyed switching between the chaotic looseness of the background and the more tight illustration of the female figure curled up inside a pod shape in the centre, even if it probably makes the piece visually unbalanced.
It’s been ages since I completed a page in my Rainbow Art Journal. I think perhaps I have over-stretched myself when it comes to art projects as I just never seem to get near this particular art journal. This particular page sat half-finished at ugly carbuncle stage for ages. I just wasn’t inspired to work on it when I did have extra free time because the page was a raging hot mess. However, a couple of days ago I forced myself to return to this page and complete it. I pushed through. It is never going to be my favourite page – it was really an experiment in combining red and purple – but it is a lot better than where it was headed so I at least feel like I have saved it. Best of all, now I feel like I have eradicated that page as a creative mental block.
This week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was provided by my friend Jana. Jana has a way of creating wonderfully curated collages with mixed media elements and lots of visual texture. She produced one such piece as her exemplar for her guest blog post. I aspire to put together collages as wonderful as the ones Jana produces but I am not there yet. I don’t have a collection of ephemera to riffle through either, just random papers. I, therefore, decided to use Jana’s page as jumping-off inspiration rather than strictly adhering to the prompt.
I did technically start the page with a collage but it was just a case of roughly adhering some book page scraps to the journal page and then knocking the whole thing back with a layer of white acrylic. I loved the colour scheme in Jana’s collage so I too opted for a palette that was monochromatic and neutral with a pop of red. What I was really taken with was the use of stitching as a mark-making tool. I am not someone who has much skill or ability with fabric arts or textiles and my sewing skills are limited to hand-sewing and are very basic. I, therefore, would not normally think to add stitches to my art journal pages but that was precisely why I wanted to do so in response to this prompt. I really enjoyed it as a different way to add marks to the illustration and what it contributed in terms of a different visual texture.
This week there were two Life Book lessons. I only had time available to tackle one of them so I opted to respond to the lesson taken by Tamara Laporte which involved creating a mixed media portrait of Frida Kahlo. I am absolutely not a portraitist. I cannot capture people’s likenesses accurately at all. The idea of even attempting to portray someone as immediately recognisable as Frida Kahlo was pretty intimidating but that was precisely why I decided to dive in and give it a try: growth through challenge.
Frida Kahlo seems to be pretty zeitgeisty at the moment. I am seeing lots of homages and merchandise here and there. I confess I am not a massive fan of Kahlo’s art. I appreciate it and recognise its worth but it just doesn’t speak to me in the same way that the work of other artists does. I actually find her more inspirational as a person than I do as an artist. As such, I didn’t have an immediate idea of how to portray her. I flicked through some photographs of her and scribbled down some ideas and sketches – the hair style, the daring clothing that emphasised her female sexuality, the use of bold colours. All of those found their way into my finished piece. Laporte had incorporated a parrot into her portrait of Kahlo and I took that idea and turned it into a parrot wing. I had also thought I would add some big jungle leaf shapes into the background, a feature I noted in several of Kahlo’s self-portrait, but in the end I decided that it would all get a bit too busy and let it be.
I am not sure how I feel about this piece yet. I think I need to give it some time before I make a judgement about its successes and flaws. My husband, who has a minimal interest in the history of art, immediately recognised this as being a portrait of Frida Kahlo, however, so at least I must have somewhat met the challenge of painting a passable likeness.