Last week’s Life Book lesson was one I really struggled with. I had never taken a lesson with Lindsay Weirich so it was great to see a different approach to art demonstrated. The lesson involved using pearly paint and gouache. I have a little of the former but none of the latter so I improvised and used other media. Stenciling was involved and I suck at stencilling but I decided to force myself to not skip that stage. It started well enough with a pleasing blend of blue, pink, and yellow pearl paint; but then it entered an ugly phase and – when I tried to rescue it – into an even uglier phase until it looked like sparkling sewage. It took layer after layer of paint and more time and effort than I actually had available to try and eliminate the glittery poop stage and haul it screaming and kicking back into something half decent. Then, frankly, I was all out of time and all out of willingness to invest in this one piece. Time to stop flogging the dead horse and move on to new and less poopy pastures.
For the penultimate day of Inktober, the Drawlloween prompt was “Skulls and Skeletons” so I decided to draw a skeleton girl. It had been a time since I splashed some red ink into my Inktober sketchbook so I decided to add a sort of silhouette and hair to the skeleton figure for added interest. She reminds me a little of a mixed media piece I did for a Life Book lesson back in May. She was drawn in a bit of a rush and I am confident there is not anatomical accuracy present in my drawing but, on a day that was manically busy, I did still manage to squeeze my Inktober drawing in.
Last week’s Life Book lesson was a mash-up between Tamara Laporte and Jane Davenport. While I potentially had the option to work in collaboration with someone else, the reality was that none of my kids were up for the commitment required. My option then was to work on creating two figures and getting them to cohere. The other component of the lesson, however, was to both draw and paint in watercolour in a really loose and uninhibited way. I found, however, that as soon as I started working on a composition involving two figures I went too tight. I, therefore, gave up on that whole idea and concentrated on one figure and that allowed me to actually focus on the technique.
I drew directly onto the paper with ink, no sketching out in pencil first, not even mapping out proportions or angles, just straight on there with ink. I am reasonably confident doing that with some subjects but I felt a little intimidated about doing it for this piece. I do, however, really like the energy of the sketchy lines that resulted from my scribbling and hesitation. I then applied watercolour to the drawing keeping the paint really very liquidy and allowing it to pool and dribble all over the place. I used a number 12 brush because I knew that a larger brush would force me to stay looser.
While I don’t think the finished piece is much cop, I am pleased with the outcome in terms of not allowing myself to be overly inhibited by sketching right away in pen or by working with really sloppy paint. Basically I was able to embrace the loss of control.
This week’s Let’s Face It lesson caused me to reflect on how I have been approaching both my online art courses. In my determination to not purchase materials I am unlikely to use and in my pragmatic need to fit the lessons into my available free time, I have found that most lessons find me improvising, adapting the lessons to fit my circumstances. It has led me at times to question the value of the lessons since I am not always truly trying a new approach, experimenting with an unfamiliar medium. On the other hand, however, the lessons do inspire and encourage me to try new things and in doing so help me tweak my own style, help me find elements for my art that I either had not known about or did not know I would enjoy. Furthermore, in moulding the lessons to suit me, I am better able to hold true to while developing my own style. There is definitely something to be said for that.
This week’s lesson was taken by Robin Laws and should have involved manipulation of digital imagery and layering with and painting over collage. Despite that being the focus of the learning, out of necessity and inclination I undertook neither step. I did, however, draw my inspiration from the lesson: Laws’ exemplar was created using soft, pastel tones and – since I usually paint in bold colours – I decided to challenge myself to use paler shades and I set myself the additional challenge of including the ear, not doing my usual thing of covering it with hair.
I do think my proportions are getting better when drawing a face in profile and I am also growing more confident with making the faces I paint look more like the faces I draw, making them work with the more illustrative style I enjoy. As I also find that I am much more interested in depicting faces than bodies, I have increasingly found myself reducing the torso portion of the bust to a much more simplified shape. I think my husband’s Roman nerd influence is discernible as I have taken my inspiration from Classical herma. Incidentally, the shades in this painting are actually paler than they appear in the photograph. My husband thinks she looks a bit like Angelina Jolie. I don’t quite see it but I will take the compliment anyway.
Last week’s Life Book lesson was taken by Effy Wild. Her lesson had a more art therapy approach to it than most Life Book lessons but, as always, it was easy to focus simply on the creative techniques and adapt it to be less personal and emotional. I also had to be pragmatic about time so whereas the lesson demonstrated two layers, a flap that moved across a lower layer, I conflated the two layers into one. I like putting my own spin on lessons so I experienced no dilemma in adapting the lesson to such a great extent. The idea had been to have a lower layer that included a lot of handwriting and a concept represented visually by a skeleton and the flap that covered this would be a painting of a fully human figure, the flesh over the bones. In conflating the two layers, my figure became a mixture of human and skeleton. I, therefore, coincidentally worked on two skull faces in one week.
I decided to try out a red and turquoise colour scheme with a bit of grungy magenta over the black background and some metallic blue in the circle. I rather like the combination so can see me deploying that palette again in future.
The next lesson I tackled in the Mixed Media Mythology course was another by Lucy Brydon. This time the subject was Halcyone (or Alcyone) whose tale in Greek Mythology is one of hubris, punishment, loss, grief, and metamorphosis. It is from her that the phrase “Halcyon Days” derives and she is also associated with kingfishers.
The lesson involved creating a splodgy, inky background. I really enjoyed creating it though it possibly ended up being a bit too vivid and bold in comparison to the figure. As the instruction was to draw a female profile and incorporate a kingfisher, my mind flitted to the Phoenix Woman painting I produced a short while ago and I decided to go with a similar composition. I also borrowed from it the idea of making the kingfisher a type of headdress rather than attempting to paint a separate bird. It helped me avoid having to paint a realistic bird but I also thought it might work thematically in terms of Halcyone’s transformation.
I settled on an orange and green colour palette for my response to the lesson since neither is a colour I use as a “go to” and I have rarely used them in combination. I probably could and should have gone for something much more daring but orange and green was sufficiently outside of my comfort zone. I was going to make the hair orange but decided that was too normal and switched so that orange was the background and accent colour and green was the hair framing the face. Ultimately, I do not like how the hair turned out – partly because I had problems layering Neocolor II and ink on top of an acrylic base – and I wish I had gone with my first instinct to paint orange Pre-Raphaelite hair. I did not use a photographic reference for my painting and interestingly ended up with a long face and long neck again. That seems to be what I want to draw at present. It will be interesting to see how that develops or changes as a result of undertaking this course.