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 in my previous post, I have committed to Life Book 2015 for this year – my first ever online art course – in order to develop my skills and confidence with mixed media. The first lesson was by Tamara Laporte, the creative mastermind behind the course, and involved the creation of a figurative painting on the theme of “Beacon of Light”.
I followed the lesson as closely as I could with the media and materials that I possess but used my own style of drawing for the figure instead of adopting the tutor’s whimsical style. This was my first experience of using Caran D’Ache Neocolor II water soluble crayons and already I am smitten. They are rich and creamy with strong, vibrant pigment and a little goes a long way – which is just as well since they were a bit of an investment. The tutorial video incorporated glitter to add additional sparkle and light to the painting. I don’t own glitter so I used some of my gold ink for some of the key elements of the drawing and used dots of white acrylic paint to suggest light.
There are definitely things I would change about the painting if I were to start over but for a first lesson I am pretty pleased with what emerged on the paper.
In Greek mythology, Danae was the mother of the hero Perseus. Her father, King Acrisius, had been told by an oracle that his daughter’s son would kill him. To prevent Danae from ever breeding, therefore, he locked her in a bronze chamber. Zeus, however, rampaging and in musth, was unstoppable. He turned him into a shower of gold and impregnated Danae that way. Acrisius was determined, however, so he placed his daughter and baby grandson into a box and cast them out to sea so they would drown. Poseidon stepped in to spare his baby nephew, however, and so the two were rescued. Perseus then did grow up to kill his grandfather. By accident. With a discus. Likely story.
Poor Danae was one of those tragic victims who waft through Greek mythology. Terribly abused by her father, assaulted by a shower of gold, cast out to sea to die, she then found herself persecuted by King Polydectes who tried to force her to become his concubine. It was in order to protect his mother from the King’s advances that Perseus agreed to go on the quest to kill Medusa. In some versions of the story, when the hero returned with the severed head in order to prove the fulfilment of his mission, he used it to turn Polydectes to stone. I’m sure nobody wept.
The two most compelling visual images to Danae’s story are her being impregnated with the shower of gold and her being cast adrift in the wooden box. Having recently produced a drawing inspired by the latter incident, I decided to draw the former. I drew Danae curled up fast asleep. You may have noted that drawing hands is not my strongest point – hence I have developed my own vernacular for them – so I drew her with her hands tucked under her head. I still had to draw her feet though but managed those. I decided to draw her naked not merely because I am missing life drawing (though I definitely am) but because the nudity underscores her vulnerability both in terms of being mistreated by her father and by Zeus. It also gave me plenty of practice in creating flesh tones, which I did using watercolour pencils. I gave her long flowing hair in order to create a more pleasing composition. Once I had coloured the figure and outlined it with Indian ink using my dip pen, I sprayed gold ink (old school method using my fingers against the bristles of a brush) over the lower portion of the drawing to create the shower of gold.
I am rather pleased with how this drawing turned out, particularly with the composition, and think I might use it as the basis of a lino block print. Watch this space.