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.
I won my place on the Mixed Media Mythology course through Julia Osterc and her Loving Road blog. It was her lesson on Gaia that I tackled next. In Greek Mythology, Gaia was one of the first gods, was the creator of Earth, and Mother of the gods and Titans among others.
Osterc’s approach to depicting Gaia was very intuitive, fluid, and organic. That is not an approach that ever particularly rewards me. I, therefore, took a different approach to constructing the painting. I did, however, borrow three particular ideas from Osterc’s exemplar: the idea of Gaia as maternal or even grandmotherly, incorporating maps, and using collage elements as finishing details.
I have not drawn an elderly person for over two years so I really liked the idea of tackling the face of an older woman. That then became the focus of my painting, getting that right. I clearly need some practice in this area but overall I am satisfied with what emerged. I think she looks like a kindly granny. I used a map from an old atlas as the clothing for Gaia, and I used an image of the globe from a postage stamp to become a pendant, forging that connection between her and Earth. I used shades of green and blue for the same reason.
The next lesson I tackled in the Mixed Media Mythology course was another by Lucy Brydon. This time the subject was Halcyone (or Alcyone) whose tale in Greek Mythology is one of hubris, punishment, loss, grief, and metamorphosis. It is from her that the phrase “Halcyon Days” derives and she is also associated with kingfishers.
The lesson involved creating a splodgy, inky background. I really enjoyed creating it though it possibly ended up being a bit too vivid and bold in comparison to the figure. As the instruction was to draw a female profile and incorporate a kingfisher, my mind flitted to the Phoenix Woman painting I produced a short while ago and I decided to go with a similar composition. I also borrowed from it the idea of making the kingfisher a type of headdress rather than attempting to paint a separate bird. It helped me avoid having to paint a realistic bird but I also thought it might work thematically in terms of Halcyone’s transformation.
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 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.
The last drawing! The first subject chosen by my husband – as opposed to my children. My Drawing a Day Challenge concludes with this drawing: Helen of Troy.
Helen had the “face that launch’d a thousand ships” which was Kit Marlowe’s poetic way of explaining that it was a conflict over her that provoked the Trojan War. But before that story, we have the myth of her birth. She was yet another of the many and varied children fathered by Zeus. Zeus was in the form of a swan when he ran into Leda, a mortal woman. Somehow – and I choose not to imagine the scene – the pair mated and some time later Leda laid an egg. It must have been a massive egg. It quite makes the eyes water. From this egg emerged not only Helen but also Clytemnestra and the Dioscuri twins, Castor and Pollux.
There were many suitors for Helen’s hand but ultimately – with some input from Odysseus as advisor to her father, because apparently Helen’s opinion was not sought – she married Menelaus, the King of Mycenaean Sparta. That could have been an arranged marriage version of happily ever after except that Zeus – an ever-meddling biological father – asked Paris, a Trojan prince, to judge a version of Miss Olympus and decide which goddess was most beautiful: Aphrodite, Hera or Athena. Aphrodite won by bribing Paris with the promise of the most beautiful woman in the world. Paris, therefore, headed off to Sparta to stake his claim on Helen.
Whether Helen was abducted or absconded willingly, her disappearance from Sparta caused a right rammy. Jilted Menelaus gathered his allies together and charged off after his missing wife and so the Trojan War began with its epic siege, posturing heroes, meddling gods, and finally the Trojan Horse. And, of course, everyone on all sides detested Helen by the end of it all because it was her desirability that sparked the conflict. Mythology written by men.
It strikes me that Helen is a figure who propels the plot of ‘The Iliad’ along but who is lacking in dimension as a character with even her motivation for flitting to Troy being inscrutable. My options, therefore were to either draw her as beautiful but vague, a pretty blank, or to draw her almost symbolically. I went for the latter option and focused on the line from ‘Doctor Faustus’ since it has become the most well-known description of Helen. I drew Helen in profile so that her tumble of hair billowing behind her could become waves for the thousand ships her face launched. Except I didn’t draw a thousand of them because that would be ridiculous. I had to do a quick google search to see what Greek ships looked like and I then produced a simplified silhouette of these.
Helen of Troy
So my 40 Drawings in 40 Days Challenge comes to an end. I have very much enjoyed the challenge. It has been a lot of fun to collaborate on an art project with my children as directors and encouragers. They are my number one, two, three and four fans as well as the source of much of my inspiration. It has also been great to feel compelled to draw so frequently and it has definitely sanded the rust off and got me back into the habit of creating frequently. I admit, however, that creating a drawing a day, from conception to sketch to finished piece has been probably too demanding for someone with as much else on their plate as I have had. Happily I was working on a small scale (approximately A5) and was able to develop a system that allowed me to complete the drawings in stages that were snatched between chores and childcare duties but it is not a system I could sustain long term. So 40 Days was definitely duration enough for this particular artistic challenge.
My sons have been delighted with my drawings and I hope that you have enjoyed seeing them revealed each day in my blog. I wonder if you have a favourite? Do let me know if you do.
And now I need to decide upon my next art challenge….
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.