On Friday – thanks to another dose of snow because this Winter is apparently never going to end – the school district gifted my kids with a delayed arrival and an early dismissal. Yes, you read that correctly. Both ends of the day were curtailed meaning they were in school for a whopping two hours and twenty minutes. My four kids attend three different schools, each of which operates on a different schedule. This staggering meant that my youngest had not long since gone to school before my oldest arrived home again. Meanwhile, I still had to go to work on my regular schedule but with extra Dr Seuss party fun thrown into the mix which meant I was dressed as the Cat in the Hat all day. I got some very peculiar looks and a few chuckles from the other parents at pick up time at my youngest’s school. So, yes, Friday was a bit of a stressful day and that meant that, when I got home that afternoon, I decided to sit at my art table to decompress – and fortunately my late afternoon schedule was flexible since all my kids were home by that point.
Last week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was “Flame”. Fire and ashes have been recurring themes in my art journal. This time I thought about a figure representing a matchstick. I used orange and yellow ink for the background, letting the ink do its thing in wet paper to create random forms and puddles of pigment and hopefully suggest flames. My Daniel Smith Lunar Black was the perfect paint for the torso of the figure since the way it granulates and separates was so reminiscent of a struck, burned out match.
Last week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was “4” with an additional challenge to use three or more media in the creation of the page. The obvious subject was the Four Elements and initially I resisted because it was so glaringly obvious. However, having just depicted a Flame Sprite in my Rainbow Art Journal, I liked the idea of creating an image of other elemental sprites so I decided to go with my first thought and see what developed on the page. I used micron pens, watercolour, and Inktense pencils in creating the illustration so I fulfilled the side challenge too. Time and other life limitations meant this page was a much quicker and simpler illustration than the Flame Sprite and the figures are simplified as a result. However, there is a germ of something in each of them that I might return to and nurture into a more detailed illustration at a later date.
This art journal page was really an exploration of ways to create visual texture. My inspiration was a painting I did for Life Book last year because I like the visual imagery of flame and ash. I actually thought to take progress shots of this art journal page so I can show the different stages of its creation. I started with a really simple line drawing.
To create the background texture, I scraped some orange paint onto the page with an old hotel room card. I then used that same card to lift up some of the paint from the page so that it created some texture, sort of feathering and ripples. To create the texture on the torso, I painted it black and then layered some red paint over the top. Before the red paint had fully dried, I pressed down some damp paper onto the surface so that it lifted up some of the paint and created a visual texture that I hoped would be reminiscent of charring.
The final element of visual texture was my old friend spatter. I spattered some black and red paint to create the idea of ash and embers floating upwards from the flames.
I liked the effect of all of the techniques I used in this page. It might be a bit much that I used them all at once but maybe it works for my thematic purposes. I am definitely pleased that the finished page still resembles my initial sketch as that has not always been the case.
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.
For the first time in at least a year, I managed to not only watch a Life Book lesson on the day the email arrived but also managed to complete the lesson. All while having four kids and two cats at home. And having spent time with the kids and on chores. Woah! I feel a bit like Wonder Woman.
It did help that Mary Beth Shaw‘s lesson was delightfully straight forward and quick. It was reminiscent of that therapy exercise where you write out a letter to someone or write out your thoughts and feelings freely on a piece of paper and then burn it. I decided to get my kids involved and, as an aside, teach them about charcoal manufacturing since we were mark making with burnt paper and wood. My art work this week, therefore, is really a collaborative effort between my kids and I since I allowed them to help me burn my paper and drag burning paper and wooden skewers across it. I think I may have created some little pyromaniacs by accident.
Fire raising complete – and two large holes in my paper later – I decided to dribble some gold paint and spatter some black ink onto my paper. I liked the idea of the gold echoing the bright flames of the fire and also contrasting its warm sheen against the dark smudginess of the burned areas. The theme of this month’s Life Book lessons is Shadow and Light so my art work conformed to that theme rather nicely too.
This week’s Life Book lesson was taken by Tamara Laporte. I knew it would be very detailed and would spark my creativity and imagination and get me rushing to put paint on paper right away and I was not wrong. The object of the lesson was two-fold: to work with a full profile; and to balance out working on two sides of a painting in two different ways, intentionally in one area and intuitively in another, and make the two sides cohere. Since I find working intuitively challenging and I also sometimes struggle to make backgrounds complement the focal image, I thoroughly enjoyed this lesson.
Laporte’s exemplar in the video tutorials was of a female figure with a swan on her head and some other whimsical, fantastical elements. We were encouraged, however, to find and utilise imagery that chimed with us. I already had an idea that I wanted to use red and other warm colours in a painting because I have not been using those colours much lately so perhaps that is where the idea of a phoenix came from. Perhaps it is also because it is my birthday today and I am now 40 and waiting for the whole “life begins” thing to kick in, the next chapter in my life. My version is a bit less whimsical than Laporte’s and I didn’t use doodles or writing or symbols but I did use spatter and dribble and dots which make me happy. I am really pleased with how this painting turned out especially when I compare it to how my adventures in mixed media painting started this year.
I believe I have mentioned before that my ability to draw convincing, expressive faces has deteriorated since I emigrated no doubt as a result of no longer attending a life drawing class. I confess that in my decade of life drawing it was rare for me to produce a portrait that looked like the sitter but I was able to draw an accurate face with character and expression. Over the past eighteen months, my skills have atrophied to the point of being rusted. I am trying, therefore, to practice faces whenever possible to try and grease up my artistic joints and get my skills limber again.
Therefore, when this week’s Documented Life Project prompt was revealed, I instantly thought to draw faces as another opportunity to practice. The suggestion was to doodle and mark make as a layering element and the prompt was “surviving the elements”. This past month has been excruciatingly cold and icy and a dumping of heavy snow last week led to two consecutive snow days for my boys so I could easily have taken the weather route with the prompt. However, with my mind on faces, I decided to personify the four elements: earth, air, water and fire.
The four faces I drew in response to the art journal prompt still lack personality but I am getting better at proportions and eyes with each face I draw. I bought some Prismacolor pencils on sale earlier in the year so I decided to crack the tin open and have a whirl at using them. I don’t normally work with coloured pencils at all so that was a minor challenge. I then doodled and marked in coloured gel pen to fulfil the other prompt for this week. Not a great success but not a disaster either.