Miraculously, I managed to complete this week’s Life Book lesson before the weekend. It was one of Tamara Laporte’s lessons on illustrations and whimsical characters, in this case an animal character. I had to improvise with the media used and opted for watercolour and collage. I went a bit too crazy with the background but I think I just about get away with it. My chosen animal was a pig simply because I really like pigs. It isn’t totemic, some sort of spirit animal, but just because I think pigs are smart and adorable. I added wings for an additional touch of whimsy.
This week’s Life Book lesson was all about “happy painting”. The lesson was taken by Juliette Crane and the object was to use layering, loose mark-making and different tools – including fingers – to apply paint in order to create a piece depicting a whimsical owl or creature of our choice. I have always had problems working in a very loose style. I think I tend to be too “illustratory” about my art work. Ultimately it is probably symptomatic of me being a control freak. I did, however, have fun applying and spreading paint with my fingers. I also used a lot of dripping, splattering and spraying in order to have less control. It was a really enjoyable lesson and definitely fulfilled the brief of being “happy” painting.
I decided to choose a pig as my whimsical creature. My first thought was to paint a rabbit because I seem to have rabbits on my creative brain, always hopping around, but I also wanted to resist that impulse. I have always liked pigs so a pig it was. And to ensure it was whimsical I decided it should be a flying pig. I actually have two pottery flying pigs that need to be hung on my wall. I have had one of them since my teens, when I bought it at a craft fair, and then I found another at a completely different fair just a few years ago. I should have bought a third. I cannot imagine I will have the opportunity to buy a third now given I am not on the same continent. I must, however, get those pigs up on the wall. But I digress….
I always used to tell people that I could draw but could not paint to save myself. I am competent with watercolour but I usually treat it more like ink, using it as a drawing tool rather than in a painterly way. Working in acrylic and oil paints always defeated me. A few years ago, the art club I was secretary of organised a weekend course that was about painting nudes. I enjoyed life drawing so signed up for the course. The tutor explained that we would be working in acrylic. I asked if I could have special dispensation to work in ink. I am very comfortable working in ink. No. The point of the course was to paint so I was to paint. I was to step outside my comfort zone and paint. Besides which, he assured me, anyone who could draw as well as I could draw would be capable of painting. The following day, at the course’s conclusion, the tutor looked at my painting, sighed and said, “You weren’t kidding”. So one of the challenges for me, in experimenting with mixed media and especially upon embarking on the Life Book course, has been to develop my painting skills and simultaneously, maybe even consequently, improve my confidence with painting.
As you can see from this effort, I am not quite there yet. I am, however, improving. Little by little I am experiencing small moments of success – even if with just an element of the painting – and little by little my skills are improving. Maybe by the end of this year I will stop adding “but I can’t paint” to that statement. Maybe.