I have never participated in official Art Therapy but I would definitely vouch for art being therapeutic. I personally use it for stress busting and to invest in myself by topping up my reserves by taking some time out of life’s flurry of activity and just doing something focused and creative. Therefore, while dealing with the aftermath of our basement flood, feeling completely frazzled, and being physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted, I knew that the best way in which I could recharge my batteries was to take some time out for art. It was just the tool for decompression that I needed.
I used a recent Art Journal Adventure prompt – Celestial – and cracked open my art journal and opened my box of watercolours and got stuck in. As those who follow my blog will know, I am interested in Greek Mythology so I decided to depict Nyx, the goddess of Night. In Classical art, she was depicted as having wings or riding in a chariot but I kept the shapes and forms simple and made her body a flowing shape, a sort of cloak of spreading darkness. By keeping the composition simple and letting wet paint run and flow, other than drying time, this whole illustration was done and dusted in no more than 20 minutes. It was, therefore, really took no time at all out of my hectic day but left me feeling recharged and ready to battle on.
This week’s Colour Me Positive theme was Abudance. I seem to be on a kick of producing illustrations in my art journal, turning it more into a sketchbook. This week was no different but I decided to use acrylic rather than ink and/or watercolour. As soon as I read the word “abundance” I had an idea of fecundity and growth, maybe the goddess Demeter (Roman Ceres). Having my visual in my head, I got to work in the journal. I used Dylusions paints for the background. I like how thick they are, bold, vibrant, and a little goes a long way. I finger painted the background which was fun. The figure was outlined with a Stabilo All pencil and filled in with acrylic. The plants were drawn with a Posca paint pen.
The last of my Mixed Media Mythology lessons was taken by Sarah Leonard. The subject of this final lesson was Vesta, the Roman goddess of the hearth and home. Because Mr Pict is a complete and utter nerd about ancient Rome, I was very familiar with Vesta (and her Greek counterpart Hestia). Vesta was both the oldest and the youngest of the major gods in that she was the first born child of Kronos and Rhea but the last to be released from her father’s stomach when Jupiter killed Kronos and freed his siblings. She chose to remain a virgin (hence Vestal Virgins) and she took care of Jupiter’s house for him, which leads to her association with domesticity.
The thing I particularly appreciated about Leonard’s lesson was that it was about translating concepts, ideas, connections into a visual medium. I liked the flexibility and freedom that afforded. Therefore, as happened with my response to Leonard’s lesson on Freya, my art work massively diverged from the exemplar. My painting is mainly watercolour with some ink and I worked in shades of brown to reflect my home, which is mainly neutral, natural colours. I painted the “hearth” bowl copper (acrylic) because my living room has a large copper trough beneath the window. The flames are collaged scraps of gelli print and the embers of red and gold are spatters of acrylic.
I focused on Vesta’s connection to the hearth because for me a fireplace has become an important element of a house feeling like home. We had our last home, in Scotland, built for us and as such I designed the fireplace. It was more of an emotional wrench for me to leave that fireplace behind than it was to leave the rest of the house. One of the reasons why our current house particularly appealed to me was that it had a fireplace I could envision us sitting around in winter. My painting of Vesta, therefore, does stick to the lesson brief in being about domesticity.
The sixth Mixed Media Mythology lesson was taken by Corinna Maggy. The subject was the Hindu goddess Lakshmi. It was interesting to learn more about her and the symbols associated with her since I only have passing knowledge of the Hindu gods.
Once again, I drifted from what was shown in the exemplar. Maggy’s piece was very intuitive and layered and focused on the symbols connected to Lakshmi. I embarked on the piece intending to do the same but I felt compelled to incorporate a face. Perhaps it is because all of my other pieces for this course have included a face or perhaps it is just because I generally like to draw people. I decided to go with my instinct, however, so I drew a face on top of the layers I had already created. I used a process similar to the one I used for my last Life Book lesson. I finished off with collaging on some lotus flowers, petals constructed out of gelli prints, and adding some gold dots.
As ever, I drifted quite far from the exemplar, taking ideas from the lesson and making them my own. This time the elements I took from the tutorial were colourful spatter on a black background and incorporating the oenochoe jug.
I wanted to give my figure’s body a gentle curve to echo the curve of a rainbow. I also had the idea of letting her lower body fade out rather like the ends of a rainbow fade out. I am not convinced that latter decision has worked well in the composition, however. I like the spectrum dots behind the figure but am not wholly convinced that they read as wings.
The next lesson I tackled in the Mixed Media Mythology course was taken by Sarah Leonard. The subject was the Norse goddess Freya, she who gives Friday its name. She is the goddess of a whole lot of things including love and war. I did not know much about Freya so I had to do some reading up. The things that stuck in my mind about her were that she rode a chariot pulled by cats, had a battle boar, wore a cloak of feathers, had a constellation necklace crafted by dwarves, and cried tears of gold.
The tutorial suggested working on top of vintage manuscript paper. I don’t have any but I could have improvised with a few sheets of book paper. However, I decided to work on watercolour paper so as to have a more consistent substrate to work with. The lesson was also about using pencil and then adding colour with thin washes of translucent media. I sketch in pencil all the time and I use pencil to map out the scaffolding of ink drawings or paintings. However, pencil is not something I particularly use for rendering a drawing. Even when I was attending life drawing classes regularly, I used charcoal or ink. It was, therefore, interesting to work a drawing up using pencil, use it for shading, blending it with a tortillon. When it came to adding colour, I used Inktense blocks and Neocolor II crayons. I wanted to reference the feather cloak, the necklace and the golden tears in my illustration. I, therefore, added some feathers to the hair, and used gold ink to draw the necklace. I almost did not add the gold tears, worried that that final step would wreck everything else I had worked on, but I went for it and I rather like the effect. It is something I might well use again.
As I mentioned previously, in addition to taking the year long Life Book and Let’s Face It art courses, I was also lucky enough to win a spot on a course titled Mixed Media Mythology. Happily this course is much briefer and is self-paced so I can fit it around my other art commitments which, in turn, have to fit around life. The subjects of the lessons are goddesses from a variety of cultures. As suggested by my 40 Drawings of Greek Mythology challenge and many of the monsters in my altered book project, I LOVE mythology so this course was very much my cup of tea.
The first lesson I chose to tackle was based on the Greek goddess Eirene. The lesson was taken by Lucy Brydon and I must say it was a joy to watch video instructions delivered in a Scottish accent. Brydon likes to incorporate monoprinting with the gelli plate into her paintings so it was great to see that in action. I have used gelli plate prints in my mixed media work but as a collage element. This time the printing was done as a layer of the painting. I really loved the effect and can see me using that again in future. I also learned a lot from Brydon’s approach to painting hair.
I actually used a recent ink drawing as the inspiration for this painting. I wanted to challenge myself to meld my style of drawing with mixed media painting, experiment and see how it turned out. As Eirene was the goddess of peace, my intention had been to incorporate a dove into the painting. However, I chickened (or doved?) out of it when the time came, too concerned I would paint a goofy looking pigeon and thereby wreck the whole piece. I, therefore, indicated the idea of peace through using pale, harmonious colours and some olive branches in her hair.
I like how the painting turned out except that the facial proportions went a bit Modigliani on me. I have thought so before but I definitely need to get an easel so that my perspective in relation to the paper is more accurate. My standing easel did not survive emigration. I am considering a table top easel because of the way I work, in fits and starts, as that would allow me to leave it set up longer.
I had no idea which goddess to choose for my piece. I asked my children and they all unanimously voted for Athena. I was going to go with their suggestion but I had drawn Athena last year as part of my 40 Drawings in 40 Drawings challenge on Greek Mythology. As such, I was worried I would get locked into creating another version of that drawing which would undermine me working intuitively. My 9 year old son is pretty obsessed with mythology generally so I asked him to pick another goddess, one from a tradition other than the Greco-Roman. His next favourite mythology is Egyptian so he plumped for the goddess Hathor. According to her Wikipedia page, Hathor is the goddess associated with joy, feminine love and motherhood. I can relate to those concepts so Hathor it was.
If you have read enough of my blog posts about my art then you will know that intuitive painting and I do not get along very well. I am an uber control freak and find it very challenging to work without having a clear plan or intended outcome. I am getting better at going with the flow but I do still tend to get inside my head rather than working instinctively. My response to this lesson did not demonstrate any progress in my battle with this issue.
I managed to create the background intuitively but only because dripping and splattering is my Go To method when I have no clear idea in mind. Plus I love dripping and spattering. I then also managed to resist the temptation to sketch the figure out in pencil and instead just got busy painting. Then, however, I got too controlling again and put way too much thought into the facial features and details. The painting, therefore, ended up being pretty rigid, not organic enough.
I do wonder if I am every going to accomplish working completely intuitively or if I need to just accept that that style and me don’t get along.
I should not be surprised that I keep falling behind with Life Book lessons given it is the summer break and I have four kids at home to entertain and chores galore – because kids at home create more mess. Furthermore, my art time is being invested in working on my History of Art project with the kids. Still, you know me: Control Freak. I cannot stand not being on schedule for very long so I had to find time to catch up.
The first lesson I caught up on was one taken by Tamara Laporte. The thrust of the lesson was about celebrating wisdom and rising above limiting beliefs and negative thoughts. This was to be visually represented by a soaring figure and various mixed media techniques were demonstrated in the tutorial. It took me days of stop-start viewing to watch the video tutorial and at one point my 9 year old glanced at the laptop and commented that the exemplar made him think of Nyx. That was the seed that then germinated in my mind’s eye throughout the rest of the tutorial and by the time I was ready to start painting I decided I was going to paint Nyx, the Greek goddess of the Night.
I used Neocolor II crayons, acrylic paint and Inktense pencils to create my response to this lesson. I am particularly pleased with how the colours in the background bled in to one another and the spattering with the metallic blue and silver paints.
Iris was the Greek goddess of the rainbow and also acted as a messenger to the gods because she could travel from one end of the world to the other and travelled speedily with the wind. Indeed, she was married to the west wind, Zephyrus.
I feel quite lucky to have drawn Iris today since it led effectively to a simple line drawing with a quick brush of watercolour stripes over the top. We have a cinema trip and a restaurant dinner with six kids as a birthday celebration today so I would not have had time in my schedule for anything more elaborate. In classical art, Iris is depicted either as a rainbow or as a young winged girl. I decided to combine both in my drawing. I painted the spectrum stripes from the top to the bottom of my paper so that the rainbow cut right through and across the figure. I then gave her silvery wings since the word “iridescent” is derived from Iris’ name. I don’t have iridescent ink so silver was the best I could do.
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