As a family, we Picts are usually in rude health. We rarely get sick and until this year one of my sons had never had a day off school ever. This Winter, however, has been a relentless battle against germs. While Mr Pict and I have escaped the various plagues, our four boys have been felled by one thing after another. My preschool students have also been dropping like flies. The whole community apparently needs to be disinfected. This week, my youngest son came down with a vomiting bug for the second time in six weeks. The only slight silver lining to having to take time off work for nurse duties is that, between looking after the little chap and bleaching and boil washing, I could grab some time to play around in my art journal.
This week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was to transform the edges of the page by shaping them. I was glad of this prompt as it represented a nudge to try something new. I usually operate pretty strictly within the boundaries of the page, neither extending it with a tip-in or subtracting from it by removing areas. I sat at my art table, struggling for inspiration, and saw the shape of my hands on the blank page. I decided that my hands should be the shape I created. I simply drew around my hands and cut out the shape. I painted both sides of the hands with black acrylic. Once that was dry, I used my Dylusions paints to add dots all over the hand shapes. I like those paints for the vivid colours and for the thick texture so they worked perfectly for this particular job. Now I just need to figure out what, if anything, to do with the reverse side of the hands.
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.
Last week’s Let’s Face It lesson was taken by Kara Bullock and amazingly – thanks to the Thanksgiving holiday – I was able to start and complete the piece within the span of one day. The purpose of the lesson was to draw a full figure in a seated position with the face and hands particularly prominent in the piece. As I am prone to do, I deviated from the lesson a little in order to a) save time and b) make it more me, but I used most of the techniques demonstrated in the lesson and kept to the spirit of the lesson. I decided my figure looked like an acrobat as a rest so that then suggested the bold colour scheme. I like the combination of red and turquoise so I was happy to break out that colour palette again. While the nose got bigger and broader the more I worked on it and the hand is rather underdeveloped, I am fairly pleased with how this painting turned out – especially because I got it done and dusted in one day.
The only upside to my husband working out of town all week is that it freed up my evenings for some art time which meant that for the first time in what feels like ages I actually managed to complete two art lessons, one for each of the year long courses I am enrolled in. The Let’s Face It lesson was taken by Annie Hamman and was about painting a figure with hands in addition to painting the face. Hamman’s approach to painting is very, well, painterly. It’s fascinating to watch the way she builds up and refines that layers of paint so that precise features gradually emerge. I, however, am not remotely painterly in the way I handle paint. Despite having had regular practice since I first started exploring mixed media, I still have super limited skills when it comes to handling, manipulating and applying acrylic paint. Try as I might, therefore, I just could not refine the paint layers adequately enough so I diverged from the lesson (having already skipped a collage layer to save time) in order to use some other media to add the detail to the face and fingers. Looking for the positives, I am fairly pleased with how the hands turned out in this painting. I think the scale and angles read as correct. I took the photo of the finished painting with my phone rather than my DSLR so in reality the flesh tones are a bit warmer and the disc behind the head is metallic blue. My 11 year old commented that she looked like a female version of Jack Frost so I decided to go with that interpretation and title this piece Frost.
That is not the hide of a pink elephant or a peeled rhino. That is my hand. Dry, cracked and ugly like the desert in dry season.
Here’s a curious thing about the Scots: for hardy folk, we don’t half have wussy skin. We are such a ferocious people that we chased the Romans back over Hadrian’s Wall, halting the expansion of their empire just be virtue of being really rage-filled and feisty. Young women go for nights out on the town in the dead of Winter wearing nothing but a pelmet and a boob tube as if impenetrable to the cold. Tough as boots we may be but our skin is more silk than leather. Thanks to the soft water we have in Scotland, beautiful, clean, soft water, we are blessed with piglet soft skin.
So my skin, therefore, is not adjusting well to living in an area of harder water than it is used to. Perhaps it is not just the natural sediments in the water but is also because of chemicals added to the water. Whatever the cause, my skin is not coping with the water here. My hands are rough and scratchy and cracked and sore. They look like old woman hands. They are hands a witch would be proud of. My only consolation is that they are not quite as bad as Madonna’s old woman hands. Yet. Remember the Fairy Liquid advert with the jingle “Hands that do dishes can feel soft as your face …”? Well my face is currently the texture of an alligator’s knee.
Not coincidentally, our dishwasher is not working. Dishwashers are the Pandora’s Box of appliances: once you have one you can’t go back. For most of my life I have lived without one and hand washed dishes without complaint but since having a dishwasher any time I have had to go without using one it has felt like Cinderella torture. So I have been washing everything by hand which, of course, just makes my skin get worse. Consequently they are now more cracked and gnarly than ever before. Limescale is aggravating the dishwasher and my skin. I am using almost industrial levels of moisturiser but that doesn’t help when my hands are constantly submerged in water. Why yes I am bitter about the dishwasher being bust.
If this continues much longer, I will have no choice but to conceal my skin with woad.