An Art Journal Adventure prompt that I missed while on vacation was “Mystery”. I liked how vague that prompt was as it let my creative imagination wander around all sorts of possibilities. Since I was on vacation with no art supplies, I also had time to mull it over. By the time I sat down at my table to create something in my art journal, I had decided that my response would be on the subject of “red herrings”, those distracting clues in many a mystery novel or movie. I decided to make the metaphor literal and illustrate a can full of red herring. Of course, my fish do not resemble herring and are just the product of my imagination but I think the allusion is clear.
Last week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was “Home”. That can be interpreted in many different ways, physical, emotional, geographical, and it is a theme that has cropped up a few times in my art journal since I started keeping one a few years ago. This time, however, I decided to keep it super easy and just draw a house, just a quick and simple illustration without putting too much thought into it. Partly this was so that it would be a challenge to me to work more intuitively and not get so trapped into my head trying to get an idea in my mind’s eye to appear on paper; partly it was because I was so short on time and so this drawing was done, from start to finish, in a mere twenty minutes courtesy of two pre-inked fountain pens (the inks being Noodler’s Bulletproof and Lamy Pacific Blue in case you are interested). Since I knew I could not even attempt precision, I thought I would accentuate the inevitable weird angles and wobbly lines and produce an entirely wonky house.
This week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was Time which was ironic because it took me the entire week to find the time to even sit down at my art table. I was, however, thinking about the prompt all week and had all sorts of ideas running around in my head. I initially thought of time travel and HG Wells. My 9 year old Steampunk fan was very keen on that idea but just the thought of drawing all sorts of cogs and gizmos made me feel stressed. After that, I had all sorts of different ideas. It was, however, a chat with a friend about our shared love of ‘Blackadder’ that led to what finally appeared on my journal page. The idea of taking a character and plonking them in different periods of history combined with my habit of drawing funny bunnies. I decided to limit myself to eight drawings and to European history so that it did not become a crazily big project. Once I had the idea and some time at my art table, I was able to whip through the illustrations really quickly as they are just ink and watercolour. I chose to depict a bunny as a neanderthal, Roman, Viking, in a Medieval costume complete with codpiece, as an Elizabethan with a large ruff, as a Regency dandy, as a Victorian gent, and as a World War One Tommy.
This Sunday the 89th Academy Awards Ceremony will be held in Hollywood. As a movie nerd, the Oscars are a big deal to me. I rarely manage to catch any of the other movie awards ceremonies but I do my level best to watch the Oscars each year and now my movie nerd kids are old enough to stay up for at least part of the ceremony too. Of course, by virtue of having kids and only making it to the cinema once or twice a year without them, these days I have rarely seen any of the movies in contention prior to awards season but I still enjoy the whole thing nevertheless.
A few weeks ago I had a lot of fun with an art journal page filled with illustrations of vintage mug shots. I was keen to repeat that experiment and thought the Oscars posed the perfect opportunity to try out the not-quite-blind-contour approach once more. Obviously once I had the basic outline and interior shapes mapped out in pencil through sideways glances, I refined and modified the sketches but only a little because I wanted to retain the looseness of my initital mark making. The results were entirely mixed when the outcome is considered – and the likenesses are actually woeful – but I had a whole lot of fun drawing these and that is actually what is more important. These were also relaxing to draw because I could work on them, using pencil and fountain pens, while tucked up on the sofa watching a movie.
Initially I was intending to work through all the nominees in all the major awards categories. However, I realised I was over-extending myself so I limited myself to the four acting categories only. The text accompanying each portrait indicates who the portraits depict – or who they are supposed to depict since the likenesses are not exactly accurate. Some are better than others, of course, but some bear no resemblance whatsoever to the actual person. I don’t think Natalie Portman or Denzel Washington are about to sue me for insulting their faces and I am not a portraitist so that’s OK .
This week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was “Here comes the sun”. I wish! This Winter has been so grey and dull that I am longing for sunshine. The intention of the prompt was to create an art journal page featuring the sun. However, as a Beatles fan, I just had the song lyrics playing over and over in my head and I decided to go down that path and create an illustration of The Beatles in my art journal. My 9 year old is a huge Beatles fan so I let him choose the “era” that I would depict. He chose the Sergeant Pepper era and I am glad he did as it made for a brightly coloured page. I drew the illustration with fountain pen and added colour with watercolour. It was fun reducing Ringo, John, Paul, and George to simplified shapes and trying to capture something of their looks and personalities. I must admit I am rather pleased with how this drawing turned out.
I was very happy when I read that this week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was “Mug Shots”. I am into the history of photography and am also a family historian so I instantly thought of all those characterful vintage mug shots of criminals and workhouse inmates. I decided, therefore, to use those as my inspiration but almost as soon as I started pootling around on google images I decided to use some of the images not just as vague inspiration, a jumping off point, but as direct inspiration, scaffolding for a group of portrait sketches. Now, I am not a portraitist. I do not possess the degree of accuracy required plus I am actually not that interested in verisimilitude. I, therefore, had no intention of even attempting to create faithful likenesses to the individuals captured in the vintage mug shots. I just wanted to capture some essence of them, some details, and go from there.
Deciding to challenge myself a little, I undertook to draw these in an “almost blind contour” approach. I did not completely cover the page or my drawing hand, which would have made it properly blind contour, but I kept my art journal and hand off to one side and tried not to look very often while I focused on observing the details on the computer screen. That approach meant the drawings did not go completely wonky but the proportions did go skew-wiff enough to add some interest and character in my drawings. I initially drew in pencil – just in case – but then tried my best to stay true to the original line work when going over it with my trusty fountain pen (a Lamy Al Star with a Fine nib and filled with Noodler’s Bulletproof). I added a few more details and some shading using another pen filled with Lexington Grey ink. I used that same grey ink in a wash for some areas of the drawings.
In the top left is my depiction of Walter Smith. According to a blog entry, Smith was a burglar in New South Wales sentenced to 6 months hard labour in 1924. I chose his photo as I liked the defeated slouch. Top right is Dorothy Mort who, in 1920, shot dead the chap who she was having an affair with. I chose her photo because of her interesting profile and her sad sack stance. Bottom right is a mugger named Charles Money. There was something about his calmly defiant facial expression and relaxed pose that appealed to me. Finally, in the bottom left, is my drawing of one Lamar Warter whose mug shot came courtesy of a drink driving rap. When I saw that image, I knew I had to draw that profile with that really prominent adam’s apple.
I finally reached the final page of my Inktober sketchbook! Finally my extension of Inktober could come to an end. So many of my illustrations have been inspired by horror movies that I thought it would be fitting to close with another reference to a horror movie. I decided to depict Rosemary’s Baby or how I want to imagine that little devil baby looks. I think the resulting illustration is of a baby a wee bit monstrous but fairly adorable.