Make It Shine

The second week of Life Book rolled around super quickly and it was another week crammed full of creativity and learning with two lessons on offer.  The first lesson was taken by Ivy Newport whose Grace and Ivy blog I follow here on WordPress.  The art element of the lesson involved constructing a collage from scraps of this and that, including a figure, painting over collage and incorporating metallic elements.  I used pages from a magazine and from a home furnishings catalogue for my collage material.  I found I was drawn to deep blues and I also picked out some images with gold detailing.  It was late at night when I adhered the elements to the paper and I was tired so that helped me just get it all stuck down rather than being too controlling about it and it ending up looking contrived.

Week 2 - Make It Shine - Collage Layer

As the photo of the woman was monochrome, I kept the flesh tones cooled down with greys and blues.  I then used blue, white and gold paint to cover the rest of the composition, permitting bits of the collage to peek through.  I really enjoyed the process of this lesson and am happy with the gold against the deep blue.  However, I have given the female figure a rather heavy jawline and I have not managed to get the whole composition to cohere.  I think this might be a lesson I return to and have another attempt at.

Week 2 - Make It Shine - Paint over Collage

Traveller Figure with Cardinal

Having done the warm up exercise, it was time to turn my attention to the first full lesson of Life Book 2016.  Again, the lesson was taken by the delightful Tamara Laporte.  I must admit that I pared back my approach to the lesson a bit by removing a collaging step from my process and also not constructing a little pocket and integrating it into the painting.  I had to be realistic about my time management and be pragmatic.

The idea behind the lesson was to create a figure who would represent a Traveller since we students are at the beginning of this year’s art journey.  We were to choose an animal or two to accompany the figure.  My mind was flitting about from animal to animal and various possibilities, especially since we have just welcomed a three-legged cat into our home, and I just could not settle on an idea when – out of the corner of my eye and just feet from the kitchen table where I do my art thing – I saw a scarlet feathered male cardinal visit my feeder and nibble on seeds.  Ta da!  Choosing the cardinal then helped me select my colour palette for the painting and I was off and away.  For whatever reason, the idea of a Traveller made me think of a travelling cloak and from there I thought of an Edwardian lady and that then became the scaffolding for my painting of the female figure.  She has ended up looking rather stern and serious.  I am not sure I would particularly want to be setting off on a journey with her in that mood.  Maybe that golden sun will thaw her out a bit and improve her mood.

Week 1 - The Traveller - Cardinal

There are lots of aspects of this painting that make me wish I could find time for a do-over.  I know, I know: I give way too much broadcasting time to my Inner Critic.  However, when I compare it to the Beacon of Light figure I painted for my first proper Life Book lesson last year I can see that I have come on in leaps and bounds not just in terms of my skill level but also in terms of my confidence in approaching each lesson and in tackling new things.  If that is how far I have come in one year, it makes me excited to think how much further I might have progressed by the end of the year.

Girl with Golden Hair

There were two bonus lessons this week for Life Book.  The first was a sort of pep talk by Jeanne Oliver.  My take away from her talk was that it made me think about setting my goals for next year, about decompressing in order to make more space for myself, about prioritising creativity within my free time, and it was also a reminder that acts of self care ultimately help me continue investing in my husband and kids – one cannot pour from an empty cup after all – so I need to quit feeling guilty for choosing art over dusting.

The second bonus lesson was taken by Tamara Laporte and was about using a more painterly approach.  This is something I struggle with.  Frankly, learning to paint (as opposed to draw) has been a steep learning curve for me.  While I have come on in leaps and bounds from where I started – and I no longer state that I CAN’T paint – I still tend towards a more illustrative style of art.  That is my default, my comfort zone, and is what I have the most successful outcomes with.  However, I am always up for a challenge and it is by pushing myself out of my comfort zone that I grow the most.  I decided to give myself an additional challenge of painting a face with a darker skin tone than I usually paint.

I have had this idea for a while for hair to act as a sort of halo.  I have been using metallic discs and elements in quite a few of my paintings and a a few people have commented that these paintings are reminiscent of icons.  Since this Life Book lesson was pretty open to possibilities, it seemed like a good time to try out my idea.  I must admit that I found it tricky to work with the darker skin tones, specifically finding a midtone to balance the highlights and shadows.  Using the more painterly approach, I was blending the paint on the paper and that meant I had to work quickly.  That was good for getting me out of my head a bit, getting me to work a bit more instinctively than I normally would, but it was a contributing factor in my struggle to get the skin tones right.  I still like the idea of this piece but I need to try it again.

Week 51 - Painterly - Girl with Golden Hair 1

Week 51 - Painterly - Girl with Golden Hair 2

Phoenix Woman

This week’s Life Book lesson was taken by Tamara Laporte.  I knew it would be very detailed and would spark my creativity and imagination and get me rushing to put paint on paper right away and I was not wrong.  The object of the lesson was two-fold: to work with a full profile; and to balance out working on two sides of a painting in two different ways, intentionally in one area and intuitively in another, and make the two sides cohere.  Since I find working intuitively challenging and I also sometimes struggle to make backgrounds complement the focal image, I thoroughly enjoyed this lesson.

Laporte’s exemplar in the video tutorials was of a female figure with a swan on her head and some other whimsical, fantastical elements.  We were encouraged, however, to find and utilise imagery that chimed with us.  I already had an idea that I wanted to use red and other warm colours in a painting because I have not been using those colours much lately so perhaps that is where the idea of a phoenix came from.  Perhaps it is also because it is my birthday today and I am now 40 and waiting for the whole “life begins” thing to kick in, the next chapter in my life.  My version is a bit less whimsical than Laporte’s and I didn’t use doodles or writing or symbols but I did use spatter and dribble and dots which make me happy.  I am really pleased with how this painting turned out especially when I compare it to how my adventures in mixed media painting started this year.

Week 45 - Phoenix Woman 1

Week 45 - Phoenix Woman 2

History of Art #17 – Klimt

Gustav Klimt is one of my most favourite artists.  I love the way his figures emerge among swathes of shape and pattern, his use of gold and other metallics and his primary subject matter of female figures, often mythological.  We started our lesson on Klimt by looking at the images in a book I have about the artist and his work.  My boys are little magpies, always drawn to bright and shiny things, so I had assumed that Klimt would really appeal to them but they were not as taken as I thought they would be.  They found all the pattern a bit overwhelming and visually busy.  Horses for courses.

Despite not seeing the allure of Klimt’s use of gold leaf, three of the boys were keen to use metallic paints.  My 12 year old painted a penguin, with bronze bill and feet and a gold eye; my 8 year old used the word ‘gold” as his jumping off point and painted Booster Gold’s robot Skeets, from the DC comics; the 6 year old did take his inspiration directly from Klimt as he painted his version of the Tree of Life – and I think he might be my little protege with all the dots of metallic paint he added to his gold tree.

17 - Klimt - AB

17 - Klimt - E

17 - Klimt -AR

My 9 year old non-conformist, of course, had to do his own thing and resisted the temptation to paint even though he loves all things shiny.  As soon as he saw the Klimt works based on mythological and biblical stories, I knew he would focus on the narrative of the subject matter rather than any element of Klimt’s style.  He liked the works depicting Judith and Holofernes and Salome and John the Baptist so his drawing depicts a woman holding a severed head.  Nice.  He chose to scrumple up the drawing for the effect of the creases.  I am not sure why.

17 - Klimt - O

I decided to challenge myself in my painting: I have drawn full profile figures before but have not painted one, not that I recall anyway.  It does not show up in the photograph very well but the background is pearlescent yellow.  I decided to leave it as it was rather than add pattern just because I worried the face I had painted would get lost in the mix.  I am, however, pondering whether to add patterns after all.  I added simplified versions of typical Klimt patterns in the clothing of the figure and added metallic dots to the hair.  I am quite pleased with how the painting turned out and now I have overcome the challenge of painting a face in full profile.

17 - Klimt - Laura

You can check out my Klimt Bunny on my art blog, Pict Ink.


Mixed Media Self-Portrait

This week’s Life Book lesson taught me that I need to be more patient and it reinforced that my creative nemesis is time.

The tutor for this week was Jeanne Oliver and the idea was to create a mixed media piece using an image of ourselves as the key piece of scaffolding for the art work that would emerge.  Her video tutorial was in-depth, detailed and crammed full of new techniques and approaches.  My first challenge, however, was just watching the videos: I have had such little free time this week that I had to watch the videos in bursts of five or ten minutes over the course of a few days.  It is difficult to feel immersed in inspiration and ideas when all the dipping in and out undermines the cohesion and flow of what the artist is demonstrating.  It was a definite test of my patience.

Another challenge I faced was that I did not have the materials required for some of the techniques, including the key technique of image transfer that Oliver demonstrated a few times in the course of the tutorial.  I, therefore, had to improvise with what I had in order to end up with the same sort of result.  Having figured out how I was going to approach the piece and even having an image of it in my mind’s eye, the snag of lack of time came to the fore again.  I had to mentally break down the piece I wanted to create into very many bite size stages.  I had five minutes to work on it here, ten minutes to work on it there, but I could not risk abandoning a stage part way through otherwise I would be risking the whole thing becoming disjointed.

Something I found interesting while creating this piece was that I realised – by virtue of having to improvise a bit – that I was pulling on learning from several Life Book lessons, not just Jeanne Oliver’s: the blending of collage and paint to create a figure was something I did for Jane Davenport’s lesson; I had learned some skills involved in painting portraits from the lesson with Jenny Wentworth; the use of metallics was something I learned from Mati Rose McDonough’s lesson and which I then incorporated into another painting I did; and there have been several lessons involving building up layers of collage and pigment that I borrowed from for this piece.  The process made me realise not only how much I am learning but how much I am absorbing.

As I built up the background and figure’s body using collaged papers, I contemplated not making it a self-portrait at all.  I would much rather paint someone either more aesthetically pleasing than myself or with a more characterful face than myself.  However, the whole idea of the lesson was to create a piece that was a reflection of self.  I, therefore, resolved to stick with the plan and paint my own face.  Ugh.

Week 22 - Reflections -1

Week 22 - Reflections -3

The resulting face looks like me and yet does not look like me.  I have a habit of making eyes too big – largely because of my usual drawing style – so in my attempts to ensure they did not end up too starey they have actually ended up looking like I am in some sort of stupor.  My eyes and eyebrows are one of my dominant features so the eyes not being large enough means the face does not really look like me.  The proportions of the forehead are correct (I have a five-head) but I painted my chin a bit too low in relation to my mouth (and my lips really are that big and pouty).  So if you squint your eyes just so the face looks like me.  Something I deliberately changed was the hair.  I have terrible hair.  It would not make for an interesting painting.  Since my collage and composition had taken me into a sort of Klimt or Mucha vibe, I felt like the figure needed full, thick hair – something I have never had.  The hair is actually collaged from a book.

Except for the face (ugh!) I am really pleased with how this piece turned out.  I like the palette of neutrals with the disc of gold behind the head and the metallic dots and gold splatter adding interest.  I like that the body is collaged out of an image of scrabble pieces since it relates to my love of words, literacy and literature.  I like the little bits of collage around the golden disc.  I can see me using the techniques I used in creating this piece again – just not with my mug – and at some point I would like to try the image transfer technique Oliver highlighted in her lesson too.

Find It and Treasure It

This week’s Life Book lesson was taken by Mati Rose McDonough and was titled “Treasure Seeking”.  The focus of the lesson was to create an abstract background and use gold leaf.

I have not used gold leaf – not even faux gold leaf – in many a long year, not since I left High School actually.  It is wonderful stuff and I love the impact it has on a piece of art.  However, one of the commitments I made to myself was to work with the materials and media I already have and to make substitutions where required.  Other than a splurge on Neocolor II crayons and Posca paint pens – which I assessed looked pretty necessary for the Life Book course – I have been very self-disciplined and stuck to that.  Of course, my Amazon wish list grows longer every time I watch a tutorial but as someone who enjoys being thrifty none of the wish list items are leaping into the virtual cart.  So I had to make my response to this lesson work without gold leaf.  My solution was to paint a piece of paper with three different gold acrylic paints blended together by scraping them on with an old plastic card.  I was then able to use that “gilded” paper for collage.

Mati Rose McDonough’s video tutorial encouraged we Life Bookers to create an abstract background using whichever techniques we felt inclined to use.  I struggle with creating truly abstract art work.  I can work in an abstract style so long as I am making the shapes and marks resemble something.  Therefore, I could not stop myself from seeing the paper as being divided up into sea and sky.  When I added the drips, in three different colours of blue, at the top of the page, I saw them as storm clouds and rain.  When I added spatter at the bottom of the page, I saw it as sea spray.  I added the hot pink dots, in three different sizes, for a punch of colour contrast and also to try and add a slightly more random element.  A line of sparkly tape and some flags cut from gelli plate prints helped tie the colour scheme together.  I used paint pen to add the mast and anchor and alphabet stamps to add the phrase “find it and treasure it” to the golden hull of the simplistic boat.

Week 8 - Treasure Seeking - Boat Abstract with Gold

Week 8 - Treasure Seeking - Boat Abstract with Gold - Close Up

Beacon of Light

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.

Week 1 - Beacon of Light - 2

Week 1 - Beacon of Light - 3

40 Drawings in 40 Days – #31 – Apollo

Having drawn Artemis yesterday, I had a strong feeling Apollo – her twin brother – would be up next.  While Artemis was associated with the moon, her brother is the god of the sun.  Among other things in a wide ranging portfolio, Apollo is also, fact fans, the god of plague.  That is something that piques my interest because the history of plagues is one of my nerdy interests.  The odd thing about this particular part of Apollo’s job description is that, as much as he was a bearer of disease and death, he was also the god of healing.  Gives with one hand and takes with the other.

Like his sister, Apollo’s weapon of choice was the bow and arrow.  Indeed, when he was only a few days old, he killed a dragon named Python in order to protect his mother, Leto, as Hera had sent the dragon to kill Leto.  A cheery story involves Apollo and Artemis working together with poisoned arrows.  A queen of Thebes named Niobe claimed she was a better mother than Leto because she had seven sons and seven daughters.  In disproportionate revenge for this rather bizarre slight, Artemis shot all of the daughters and Apollo shot all of the sons.

As tempting as it was to try and find a way to draw Apollo in relation to plague, no ideas formed in my mind.  I, therefore, decided to stick with the sun god route.  I drew Apollo as a bust and placed his head in front of a sun symbol, the triangular rays of which I coloured with my gold ink.  The effect is reminiscent of a halo.  That reminds me that I believe there is a connection between the early iconography of Jesus and depictions of Apollo, the former being influenced by the latter.  It also reminds me that I would love to experiment with using gold leaf (or at least fake gold leaf) in my art at some point.

31b - Apollo

Golden Boy Apollo