Last week’s Life Book lesson was taken by Amber Kuileimailani Bonnici and the idea was to work intuitively to paint a warrior figure, a trope of self-empowerment. In the past six to twelve months I have gradually come to understand and accept about myself that I just don’t get great outcomes when I work intuitively. The battle between my head and any gut feeling, between intellect and instinct I suppose, is just too great to be cooperative when I am in creative mode. Perhaps it goes hand in hand with my style being definitely more illustrative than painterly. I may continue to experiment with working intuitively when creating random backgrounds or attempting something more abstract but otherwise I have decided that I am going to largely opt out of working intuitively. I figure there is no point in pursuing something that just isn’t working for me given how sparse my free time for art is.
When it came to last week’s Life Book lesson, therefore, I decided to adopt the central themes and ideas of the tutorial without adopting the same approach as Bonnici demonstrated. For that reason, I chose to work with colours that instinctively appealed to me. I have been crushing on turquoise combined with red a lot lately so I decided those would be my dominant colours and I figured the blue skin tones might also be a nod to the woad of a Pictish warrior. She ended up a bit expressionless or at least set-jawed and stern but I am going to pretend that suits her as a strong warrior type rather than my inability to paint any sort of personality. One of my sons asked if I was inspired by the movie ‘Avatar’ and another labelled her an “angry smurf” both of which comparisons made me chortle. Not my best work but not my worst either and at least I am catching up on my weekly lessons after last week’s complete and utter lack of art time.
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.
Last week’s Life Book lesson was taken by Annie Hamman. I really love Hamman’s paintings and enjoy watching her process but it is a style and methodology I can never get to work for me as I am neither painterly or loose enough in the way I handle paint. I have, therefore, really enjoyed the previous Annie Hamman lessons I have worked on but I always end up with something much more rigid and controlled than the anticipated outcome. This lesson was no exception.
I enjoyed all of the techniques deployed in the lesson, such as painting over collage and painting negative space, but I was neither intuitive or loose enough in my mark making. That’s OK though. That way of creating just isn’t me. What was disappointing was that my choice to use blue for underpainting and layering up the shadows of the face didn’t dissipate enough in subsequent layers and the flesh tones ended up sallow and sickly looking as a result. (Incidentally, the phone photo makes the colours much paler than they are in real life because the light levels have just been so dreary here lately.) I am, however, happy with the negative painting around the antlers, the pushing back of and forward from the collage layer, and the gold of the halo. I think this is another one of those lessons I will attempt again, perhaps in my art journal, as I liked the approach and have hopefully learned something from the underpainting oops.
My response to this week’s Life Book lesson is an example of my commitment to share my art work from that course whether I like the outcome or not. The lesson was taken by Susana Tavares and was about illustrating with watercolour and adding finishing details with pen. It was a lesson that should have been comfortably within my wheelhouse but somehow I still went wrong. I started with the face and struggled to render decent flesh tones. I think I went too heavy with the ochre for the shadows, I didn’t maintain enough white paper for highlights, and I didn’t get the pinks looking rosy enough. The hair was completed using a wet in wet technique and I definitely overdid it as it all feathered and bloomed more than I intended. Straying from the exemplar in the tutorial, I decided the hair could be like the night sky, and I decided to string the planets from our solar system around her neck like a beaded necklace. It was not a well thought through execution of the concept. I don’t think it was a coincidence that I was completely over-scheduled and exhausted this week. For me, art is a useful counterpoint to a stressful week but that does not mean the product is always as worthwhile as the act of creation itself.
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.