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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.