I had this idea that I should create an illustration of a sun goddess in the yellow section of my art journal. Once I got started, however, the figure evolved into a pseudo ancient Egyptian woman and the yellow sun ended up golden. I basically cannot be trusted around metallic paints as I almost always go overboard with them. There’s so much gold and bronze all over this piece that there is barely any yellow left beyond the background. Oops. I guess I was still in a Klimty mode after the piece I did a few weeks ago because I ended up creating all sorts of Klimt-esque patterns all over the figure to. If this is the type of thing that happens when I go with the flow without having a clear plan in mind, I definitely need to leave my control freakery be and let it come up with a vision to work towards.
Is that the distant sound of Gustav Klimt spinning in his grave?
When I saw the Art Journal Adventure prompt of “Silence is Golden”, a nudge to use metallics, I immediately thought that a Klimt homage was in order. He is one of my favourite artists because of the way he combines influences like psychology and mythology, blending the contemporary with the classical, juxtaposing the human form with bold areas of shape and pattern. He’s a pretty inspirational artist and I like to dip into aspects of his style with my own illustrations from time to time.
I like the effect of metallic paints but I do find them tricky to work with. I had to build up several thinner layers of bronze and gold before it looked smooth and not brushstroke-patchy. The sheen of the metallic paint also makes it a bit tricky to get subsequent layers to behave well on top of the base layer. I let the layer where I was building up the larger shapes of pattern get a bit sloppy as a result. Klimt would not have approved, I’m sure. I could have been more meticulous by taking my time but that didn’t happen. Often in my art journal I start with a head and face and work outwards from there but this time the head and face were blanks until I had played around with all the patterns, though I had pencilled in the lozenge shape of the hair in advance as a frame to the face.
It’s been ages since I completed a page in my Rainbow Art Journal. I think perhaps I have over-stretched myself when it comes to art projects as I just never seem to get near this particular art journal. This particular page sat half-finished at ugly carbuncle stage for ages. I just wasn’t inspired to work on it when I did have extra free time because the page was a raging hot mess. However, a couple of days ago I forced myself to return to this page and complete it. I pushed through. It is never going to be my favourite page – it was really an experiment in combining red and purple – but it is a lot better than where it was headed so I at least feel like I have saved it. Best of all, now I feel like I have eradicated that page as a creative mental block.
The first full lesson of Life Book was taken by Tamara Laporte. As with previous years, the first lesson focused on creating a whimsical figure using mixed media techniques. The concept for this figure was that she was to be holding a star. I messed around for a while with a star shape between the hands but I just couldn’t get it to work in harmony with the figure. Perhaps because my figure is not whimsical enough, the star just did not look right. I, therefore, resolved it by creating a golden glow between the hands. I then added more gold around the piece with a bit of spatter and a halo around the head. Although there is room for improvement, I think this is my best Life Book first week lesson so far. That is a good way of measuring my progress with mixed media techniques.
For the first time in at least a year, I managed to not only watch a Life Book lesson on the day the email arrived but also managed to complete the lesson. All while having four kids and two cats at home. And having spent time with the kids and on chores. Woah! I feel a bit like Wonder Woman.
It did help that Mary Beth Shaw‘s lesson was delightfully straight forward and quick. It was reminiscent of that therapy exercise where you write out a letter to someone or write out your thoughts and feelings freely on a piece of paper and then burn it. I decided to get my kids involved and, as an aside, teach them about charcoal manufacturing since we were mark making with burnt paper and wood. My art work this week, therefore, is really a collaborative effort between my kids and I since I allowed them to help me burn my paper and drag burning paper and wooden skewers across it. I think I may have created some little pyromaniacs by accident.
Fire raising complete – and two large holes in my paper later – I decided to dribble some gold paint and spatter some black ink onto my paper. I liked the idea of the gold echoing the bright flames of the fire and also contrasting its warm sheen against the dark smudginess of the burned areas. The theme of this month’s Life Book lessons is Shadow and Light so my art work conformed to that theme rather nicely too.
I really struggled with this week’s Life Book lesson. I was rushed and flustered and improvising as per usual but it was more than that. I just couldn’t quite pull all the elements together to make the concept I had in my head materialise on the paper.
The theme was about embracing every part of yourself, whether positive or negative, and that was visually translated into a piece about shadow and light incorporating a kneeling figure. In my head, I had the idea of golden fireflies emerging from the hands of the figure, their metallic glow contrasting with the dark, grungy background. What emerged, however, was a bit of a mess to say the least. Perhaps I will find the time at some stage to attempt a “do over” on my idea and execute it more successfully.
Last week’s Let’s Face It lesson was taken by Kara Bullock. The focus of the lesson was on rendering flesh tones in tones of grey and then introducing a pop of a single colour. Again wanting to meld the lesson content with my own illustrative style, I drew from my imagination rather than using any reference material. In doing so, I notice that my faces all tend to look pretty similar. I am not sure whether that is a good thing or not: does it signify that I have a strong style or does it indicate that I am stuck in a rut? I chose yellow for my contrasting colour. I thought it would complement the grey and add brightness to a painting that is otherwise very dark. I find it difficult to resist metallics so I introduced some gold elements in the headpiece and around the neckline. I enjoyed rendering the face in monochrome but I definitely need to work on making the faces I draw more varied.
If you have read a few of my blog posts then you will know that I tend to be self-effacing to the point of being self-deprecating. Partly it is just a British thing – not tooting your own trumpet and all that – and partly it is a me thing. When I consider that I have no ability with a particular skill or that I am terrible at it, what I actually am is mediocre and potentially improving. I am a pretty driven person and I always aim to do things to the best of my ability, be the best possible version of me I can be with lots of effort and diligence, so I tend to magnify any lack of success. One of the side benefits of all of the diverse art learning I have been doing is that I have had a crack at things I know I will find challenging and I have had plenty of practice at having to accept that I cannot be good at everything, that there are things I am just mediocre at and that is OK.
All of which preamble is to confess that I have skipped over a few Life Book lessons recently. I have been very pushed for free time and, because they were lessons that I knew were not my cup of tea, I decided to give them a miss – at least for now. When this week’s lesson arrived in my email inbox, I confess I thought it would be another one I would skip over. I looked at the exemplar outcome and thought to myself that I would absolutely make a mess of the lesson, that it was not something I would be remotely any good at. However, I didn’t want to skip another lesson in a row so I decided to push myself to do it and plunge on in. I am so glad I did. It turned out the thing I thought would not be my cup of tea was something I enjoyed immensely.
The lesson was taken by Roxanne Coble and was entitled “Your Story; Your Altar”. Essentially the lesson involved combining paint and collage, something I have had mixed results with, but what I really enjoyed about it was the approach to curating and placing the collage elements, the messy imprecision of the paint layering, and all the mark making. There was a really good balance between intuitive and intentional arting, just the sort of balance I have been striving to find. The way Coble applied the paint and the marks she made were all elements that were completely familiar to me and so, while I expected to feel frustrated with my attempt at the lesson, I found that I was comfortable with the techniques and having a lot of fun. In fact, I enjoyed the process so much that I think I might use my sidekick journal (where I smear all my leftover paint) for just this sort of technique.
Last week’s Let’s Face It lesson was taken by Muriel Stegers. I had to improvise a fair bit with the materials and I didn’t follow the subject of the portrait but I did paint over collage, use metallic paints, and lots of dribble which were major elements in the lesson.
I am not sure how I feel about my outcome. I like the degree of blending in the skin tones and I like the metallic elements, especially the bronze irises. I also like that the collage layer adds a layer of interest to the background. However, the ear lobe is too high on the head, I think the liberal use of metallic paint might be a bit overwhelming, and I think all the dribble at the bottom of the painting detracts from the face.
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.