Rainbow Art Journal – Snow White

Perhaps it was because the adjacent page was inspired by the fictional, dreamy world of Oz, or perhaps it was all the shiny red apples in the fruit bowl, but when I sat down at my art journal and looked at the blank page I decided that it should be a fairy tale and that tale should be Snow White.

I had fun experimenting with lots of different mixed media techniques on this journal page.  I collaged tissue paper, painted with gesso, and lifted paint to create texture.  I also forced myself to draw hands in a particular gesture.

9 Snow White

Rainbow Art Journal – Grow & Thrive

This is a self-portrait of my arm.  I drew around my hand and arm to create the outline and then filled it with a mixture of white gesso and Stabilo All pencil to create and to capture the shapes and shades of my hand and arm.  After that, I was stuck.  The painting of the limb alone, surrounded by black, was too dull but I had a creative block and didn’t know what to do with it.  I, therefore, left it for a few days waiting for inspiration to strike.  I even asked some art friends for advice but I knew I could not pull off their suggestions.  In the end, I just picked up a paint pen and doodled one evening while dinner was cooking.  One of my sons said, “I see what you did there: vines instead of veins.” I wish I had been that clever but, nope, just random doodles.  The stamped words – grow and thrive – were an afterthought but I think they help pull the whole thing together.  Not my best effort but it was good to practice creating tones with the Stabilo All pencil and the gesso.

3 Grow & Thrive

Open Door to Happiness

This week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was to use a “door” somewhere on the page.  I did not have an immediate idea so I consulted my youngest sons, aged 9 and 7, and they had a veritable cornucopia of ideas, some of which were just super-amazing.  Unfortunately their ideas called for materials I did not have and – more critically – time I did not possess.  I have added their ideas to my long list of creative possibilities for another time but I still had to come up with an idea.  Then I remembered the copies of an architecture magazine the multi-talented Claudia McGill had kindly passed on to me and I decided to flick through those looking for images of doors as inspiration.  When I found the photo of the red doors I knew I had found my image.  I decided it would be the focal point of a grungy sort of collage page.  I added the streaks of acrylic (a little too liberally and heavy handedly) to draw attention to the door image and then spattered more of the turquoise paint to create a little more visual cohesion.  Finally, I stamped a quotation from John Barrymore on the page: “Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn’t know you left open”.  I rather like that idea of happiness seeking one out and joy appearing when not anticipated.


3 Happiness Open Door

Red Headed Girl

It may have taken me a week to view and then work through the final lesson of the Let’s Face It course but I got it done and, therefore, despite having skipped a few lessons, have completed the course.  I feel a mixture of accomplishment and relief.  I feel relief because trying to stay on top of all my art commitments while solo parenting and working has become a bit of a source of pressure, another thing to cram into my already bulging schedule.  But mostly I feel like I have achieved something by undertaking and completing this course over the past 12 months.  When I compare the faces I was painting in January with those I am painting now, I definitely think there has been an improvement in my ability to construct faces – still a lot of progress to be made but definite steps in the right direction.  I have also learned a few more techniques and approaches with painting and mixed media to keep experimenting with and developing.

This then is my response to the final lesson of the course.  I thought I would share a few progress shots since I actually remembered to take some for once.  I can see that the eyes started off slightly different sizes, a flaw that was magnified as I added each new layer so that finally the eyes have ended up pretty wonky.  Otherwise, however, I am fairly happy with this painting so I get to end on a positive note.

Week 49 - Final Lesson 1

Week 49 - Final Lesson 2

Week 49 - Final Lesson 3


Female Form Silhouette

It has taken me almost two weeks to complete this Let’s Face It lesson but I’ve done it.  It took me almost a week just to find time to watch the lesson video and then, despite skipping some steps of the process demonstrated, it took me a further week to get the piece completed.  The lesson was taken by Deanna Strachan-Wilson and was about creating a simplified form of a female figure in a layered piece.  One of the corners I cut was in not drawing a figure based on a photograph and instead drawing from my imagination.  As such, my proportions are not realistic and I very much simplified the profile of the face plus I added a wing to balance out the composition.  I actually preferred my piece before I added gesso to the figure but I wanted to try and stay true to the methods of the lesson where I could since I had jettisoned other steps.  I do, however, like the warm, grungy sepia, vintage tones of the piece and especially the washes of bronze and the spatters of gold.

Week 41 - Figure Silhouette 1

Week 41 - Figure Silhouette 2

Girl with Bronze Disc

By taking short cuts, I actually managed to find time for two art lessons from last week.  It also helped that my kids had friends over to play so they were occupied and I could find a chunk of time in which to sit at my kitchen table and get arty and make a start on this piece.

Last week’s Let’s Face It lesson was taken by Kara Bullock and was more practice in drawing the face along with hands.  It also involved using white gesso to paint the face and hands in greyscale.  That was not something I had done before and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it.  Perhaps that was because it almost felt like drawing with gesso rather than treating the gesso like paint.  I do also really like creating pieces that are monochromatic or have very limited palettes so I added very little in the way of colour to the areas of flesh in the figure and face and I kept the background grungy and neutral.  The background that Bullock demonstrated in the tutorial was really very different from the one I ended up with but it was the creation of the background that was my major shortcut for this piece so I had to try something new.  Her background had been pretty textural and grungy, however, so I tried to generate that same sort of feeling but in a different way.  By way of contrast to all the texture and grunge, however, I added a disc of bronze paint behind the figure.  I do love to add discs and halos surrounding the figures in my art work.  I don’t know why.  I just go with it.

Week 38 - Paint with Gesso 1

Week 38 - Paint with Gesso 2


Layering with Gesso Stamping

This week’s Life Book lesson was another exploration of layering, this time tutored by Kristin Van Valkenburgh.  I took careful notes while watching the videos and followed the directions for each of the layers.  I was forced to improvise a little since I do not own all of the materials used.  Maybe that is where I went wrong because I did not manage to pull this piece together very effectively.  I ended up with what looks like a puddle of brightly coloured ice cream as opposed to the lovely piece Van Valkenburgh ended up with.  Oops.  That said, the piece is incomplete.  I am supposed to add a heart shaped pocket to the background to hold a letter written to my younger self.  However, I don’t have any suitable material for constructing the pocket at present so that will have to wait until a future date.  This piece, therefore, is the background.

This was a great learning opportunity though and I have a few things I can take away from this piece and apply it to future art projects.  One layer involved stamping with and into gesso using a tool constructed from a cardboard tube.  That is responsible for the textured circles in this piece and I liked the technique so I can see me using that again.  The second layer was a liberal spraying with Dylusions ink and, because it can be reactivated, it was a bit of a pain to work with in subsequent layers.  I am sure more experienced mixed media artists can manage with that quality of the product but in my case that is why everything became so overwhelmingly pink.  I think, therefore, if I am to use Dylusions ink in a layered piece then it has to be one of the last layers.  I feel as though I am taking one step forward and two steps back when it comes to layering but at least that means I am making some gradual progress, however plodding.

Week 41 - Layering with Gesso Stamping

Inner Space

This week’s main lesson on Life Book was taken by Jane Davenport, a mixed media artist famed for her paintings of women.  I found undertaking the lesson to be intimidating at points – I felt sure I was going to mess up at every stage – but completely enjoyable.  The lesson was essentially about using collage and carving out a figure using the negative space.  I also had the opportunity for some much needed practice at painting faces and improve a little more as a result.  I also finally cracked open my tin of inktense blocks for the wash over the hair and I love them.  I wish the collage I had created that became the hair had been a bit more random.  It was supposed to be constructed out of things that appealed to me so I had to make conscious decisions as I raked through my files of paper and ephemera which then led me to be a bit too intentional with their placement in the overall collage.  But that is the only thing I would alter if I had a do-over.  I really loved the process and am pleased with the final result.

Week 11 - Inner and Outer World - Negative Space Collage

Gesso and Beginnings

The two prompts for the second week of the Documented Life Project were to use gesso and a quotation from Mary Shelley: “The beginning is always today.”  I decided to combine the two prompts into one page just to save time.  What was immense fun this week was that my 7 year old and I worked on our pages side by side using the same techniques.

We decided to use the gesso to create a background layer.  Instead of just using it as a primer, we mixed the gesso with two or three colours of acrylic paint which created a really textural background. Once that layer was dry, we used acrylic paint in contrasting colours dabbed through stencils to create another layer.  I then added some circles and dots to my page by stamping objects into white acrylic.  My son opted not to do so and I think his was the right choice as my background ended up a bit too busy.  We then collaged using origami paper: I constructed birds and my son made bats, which turned out really cute.  Although ‘Frankenstein’ is one of my favourite novels, I decided against using the quotation from Mary Shelley.  Instead I used one by George Bernard Shaw that I liked because it seemed apt given that I am at the beginning of a year of trying new creative things: “Imagination is the beginning of creation.”  I stamped the words on.  My 7 year old decided to stamp too but instead of a quotation about beginnings he chose to stamp what he thought about his bats.

Week 2 - Gesso & Beginnings

Week 2 - Gesso & Beginnings - ETDP

Didn’t my 7 year old do a fantastic job?  I far prefer his page to my own and so do his brothers.  His chosen colour scheme turned out to be far more harmonious and pleasing than mine and his bats are just adorable.