Frida Kahlo Portrait

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.

35 - Frida Kahlo

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.

 

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Dark and Light

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.

31 Dark and Light

From the Ashes

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.

28 From the Ashes

Colourful Picasso Drawing

I am back from vacation (more of which soon!) and am trying to catch up on some of the art lessons and art time I missed out on while travelling.  It is impossible for me to catch up entirely so I have determined I will do 50% of the missed lessons and journal prompts.  That way it forces me to eke out some art time during this busy summer while not putting me under pressure.

I chose this Life Book lesson because it looked like I could easily fit it into a small chunk of time.  I did it in three stages – gesso, drawing, painting – but in total it probably took me about half an hour.  In the lesson, Misty Mawn used Picasso’s line drawing of a female head, part of his War and Peace series.  Normally I would do my own thing but a) I have always loved this Picasso drawing and b) I needed to just crack on with the art so this time I decided to use the same drawing as my starting point.  The drawing – done with Neocolor II crayons –  was quick to do.  The final stage was also quick and easy as I simply filled in the shapes with white paint, blending the crayon.  I usually use Neocolor as a layering element in mixed media pieces or as a sort of watercolour so it was new to me to use them to tint white paint.  I think I will use that technique again.

26 Picasso Sketch 1

26 Picasso Sketch 2

Loose Selfie

This week’s Life Book lesson was taken by Tracy Verdugo and involved creating a self-portrait.  Verdugo actually demonstrated three different approaches to painting a loose self-portrait and each looked interesting and like something I would like to try (though maybe not using my own face over and over).  She also based her paintings on selfies she had edited using various apps.  I don’t have any photo editing apps on my phone and did not have time to download and experiment with them so I just used an unedited selfie as the basis of my painting.

25 Selfie for Self-Portrait

I did start out very loose, using ink to block in certain shapes and areas before dropping very liquid watercolour into the painting, but somewhere along the line things ended up getting very illustrative and tight again.  No matter what I do, I always seem to get “locked in” when painting even when I am trying my hardest to stay loose – such as, for instance, using large brushes as I did with his piece.  It is also not a strong likeness and I guess that is OK because I am not a portraitist but it is still a bit ridiculous that I don’t know my own face well enough to capture it more accurately.  In this self-portrait, I think what particularly went wrong is that I reduced the area of my forehead (which is so big I call it a fivehead) and I slimmed down my cheeks.  Maybe I was subconsciously flattering myself.

25 Loose Watercolour Ink Self-Portrait

Antlers

I had to diverge a fair bit from last week’s Life Book lesson.  The lesson was taken by Effy Wild and was a bit too “art therapy” for my taste.  I definitely appreciate the therapeutic function art and other forms of creativity can and do play in people’s lives but it just isn’t for me.  For me, art is cathartic just through the act of creating, the calm space it creates in my busy life.  I don’t use it for delving into deep feelings or processing them.  While I opted out of that aspect of the lesson, I did enter into the spirit of working intuitively.  I consciously chose to work in shades of green because it is a colour I don’t often reach for and maybe that woodland palette is why what emerged on the page was a female figure sporting antlers.  The antler thing has been happening a lot lately.  I have no idea what that is about or what it might represent.  I’ll just go with it.

23 Antlers

Create Something Every Day

It took me a full week of working in short bursts to complete last week’s Life Book lesson.  I know I frequently mention how busy my schedule is but last week was truly, utterly, completely ridiculous.  I needed teleportation or cloning skills to make it work.  Since I don’t possess superpowers or ethically questionable advanced science skills, what I did instead was rush around, stress myself out, and try to reconcile myself with the fact that I would have to drop some really very important commitments.  It really ought to have been a week when I accepted that there was zero time for art but I decided that I might risk imploding if I did not have some small gobbets of art time to aid me in decompressing throughout the week.  Across seven days, therefore, I gradually added to the piece, little by little, in the tiny rations of available free time I had.  The quality of my work may have suffered as a result but it may just have prevented me from spontaneously combusting from stress.

The lesson was taken by Vicky Papaioannou and involved created a whimsical sort-of self-portrait that conveyed a message about creative ideas, energy, mojo flowing from the creative person.  My sort-of self-portrait ended up being a much younger, slimmer, more attractive me but I think there is enough of my features and proportions in there for it still to be a “selfie”.  What is artistic license for if you can’t make yourself much more bonnie?  My creative flow is represented by the hair – also a fudge of reality since my hair is not that long and is salt-and-pepper rather than black.  I added a pen, pencil, and paintbrush to the hair by way of illustrating my creativity and stamped the phrase “create something every day” onto the figure’s torso – going horribly wrong with the stamping since I smudged the lettering.  Never mind.  I think the phrase was quite apt given my context.

21 Create Something Every Day