Take Heart

The Art Journal Adventure prompt this week was “heart” but, of course, I did not go all sweet and whimsical with my take on that prompt.  Rather than the typical “love” heart, I decided to create an illustration inspired by an anatomical heart.  Don’t expect it to be medical-textbook-accurate, however, because realism isn’t my thing either.  What I came up with was a female figure with an exposed heart.  I used her hair as a sort of curtain being pulled back to reveal some abstracted ribs and that bright red heart.  My first impulse was to show her peeling her skin back to reveal the internal organs so I am glad I came up with the more aesthetically pleasing option of the long, dark hair.  I do enjoy working with a limited palette so I kept this illustration to just the monochrome and splashes of red.

14 - Take Heart


Rib Cage

Knowing me as you do, you may not be surprised to see the direction I took this week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt.  The prompt was “Opening” which could be used in either a literal or metaphorical way or both.  I immediately visualised a rib cage opening to reveal a heart.

I used Dylusions black marble paint to coat my page because it creates a really rich black with a lovely smooth finish which is perfect for drawing on with paint pens.  The approach I took was the exact same as the one I used to create the Lady Death page in my other current art journal but this time I kept it the doodles much simpler because I wanted to get the whole thing done and dusted within one week’s rations of art time.  I think it goes without saying that I did not use any references when illustrating the skeleton.  Anatomical accuracy was not remotely going to happen.  The rib cage I drew – however short of a few ribs – opens like window shutters to reveal the interior of the body.  I knew I wanted to include the heart as a reference to the idea of opening up to someone, thus connecting the literal and metaphorical possibilities of the prompt.  Having drawn the heart into the centre of the opening, however, I decided that there was too much empty space.  I, therefore, added a pair of lungs.  I repeated the pink and red colours elsewhere in the drawing of the skeleton to make the interior and exterior visually coherent.

I had a lot of fun creating this journal page and hope you find it fun to look at.

11a Open Ribs to Heart

11b Open Ribs to Heart

Love Grows

Last week’s Life Book lesson was another tutorial with Angela Kennedy.  I really like Kennedy’s work because it is more illustrative and, therefore, more in line with my own style.  For this particular lesson, I actually chose to emulate Kennedy’s style.  Normally I try to mesh my own style with the lesson being tackled but for this one I capitulated not just out of time pressure and laziness (though both were undoubtedly a factor) but also because I wanted to concentrate more on the technique being taught than on coming up with my own composition and such like.

The technique in question was using coloured pencils over acrylic paint – and a background prepared with gesso.  Coloured pencils and I are not best friends.  People are often bemused to learn that I am so lacklustre with pencils.  They assume that if I can draw with ink and colour with ink and watercolour then I must find using coloured pencils a doddle.  Not so.  Childlike colouring I can do, of course, but doing anything more artistic has long eluded me.  A couple of years ago I snagged a lovely box of Prismacolor pencils that were going for a song and can confirm that the quality of the tools did not make much difference to my aptitude.  Good quality tools matter, of course, but what matters more is the ability of the person using them.  I am found lacking in this regard.  Nevertheless, I decided to give this lesson my best shot.  I think I just about pulled it off but I most definitely need more practice.

Week 37 - Pencil over acrylic

Doodle Heart Woman

The week 18 prompts for Colour Me Positive were focused on the theme of Healing.  If you have visited my blog often enough, you will know that I tend to bypass any of the art therapy or meditative elements of lessons in the online courses I participate in.  That does not mean, however, that I do not believe in the healing or otherwise transformative power of art or other forms of creativity; it just isn’t for me, isn’t what inspires me.  That said, I definitely find art to be calming and to provide useful decompression and I function better in weeks when I have a reasonable chunk of time for art.

One of the additional or sub-prompts was to use a heart or hearts so I chose to focus on that.  Hearts find their way into my art work quite frequently either as features or as doodles.  They have a pleasing and familiar shape.  I decided to make a heart a focal point on my page.  I drew a figure in ink and filled her body and hair with doodles as I wanted to keep the page largely monochrome.  The one splash of colour was the bright red ink to colour in the heart.  The whole thing was pretty quick and easy to do as I was able to fill in all the doodles while watching a movie with my kids.  I am pretty pleased with how it turned out.

18 - Heart - Doodle

Give Thanks

This week’s Documented Life Project prompt was to depict gratitude in a creative way.  A similar prompt had been given 25 weeks ago and I had used that opportunity to practise my typography and list all of the things I am grateful for in my life.  That had become a very busy and involved art journal page.  I decided, therefore, to make this week’s art journal page somewhat minimalist and simple.  This was also useful because life has been very busy of late and is only going to get busier as the season progresses.  Plus my house is upside down right now as two rooms are being painted.  Simple very much appealed.

Just as the previous gratitude page had afforded me the opportunity to practise an area of my art journalling that needed work, I decided to use this week’s prompt to practise creating backgrounds.  The obvious colours would have been rich and warm tones of yellows, oranges, reds and browns as befits the season and the Thanksgiving holiday.  Largely out of contrariness, therefore, I decided to do the opposite and use cold colours.  I started with a wash of watercolour in shades of blue and purple, the peacock jewel colours I am often drawn to.  I then decided to practise my stencilling again.  My skills in that regard are not good, not good at all.  This time my hand was a lot lighter and I remembered to dab off excess acrylic paint before applying it to the stencil.  Still there is a great deal of room for improvement.  I opted to use small stencils that were all circular designs so that there was some sort of harmony.  Nevertheless, the result was pretty chaotic and haphazard and messy.  Baby steps I suppose.  I then finished the page with writing the phrase “Give Thanks” in black gel pen, using just my own handwriting as the font.

Week 48 - Gratitude

There are not many weeks left now in the DLP project for 2014 but I am probably going to continue with the group’s weekly prompts into 2015.  It is useful to have that push to make time for experimentation in my art journal.  I have also been gifted the online art course, Life Book, for next year to further develop my mixed media skills and technique.  I will probably continue to blog about both of those here on Pict in PA but will be blogging about all of my other art – my non-art-journal stuff – on my other blog, Pict Ink.  I can hardly believe that 2014 is almost at an end and I am thinking about 2015 already.

Home is Where the Heart is

This week’s Documented Life Project prompt was to incorporate a map of “your state or the world” and document something on that map.  Luckily, a few months ago, when doing my usual poking around in thrift stores, I had purchased a world atlas for 50 cents.  I, therefore, actually had the materials I needed.  Furthermore, I immediately had an idea of what I wanted to create, a little flash of an image skimming across my mind’s eye, which was a welcome contrast to the previous few weeks when I have been scratching my head for a bit.  I decided to use the map to document the fact I am “between belonging” right now as an immigrant, ensconced as I am as a resident of America but very much still feeling my Scottishness and connection to my homeland pulling on my heart strings.

I used a template to cut out two birds from two different maps: one of Pennsylvania, with the Philadelphia area being prominent around the bird’s head; and the other of Scotland, though actually it was of most of the British isles since that land mass was small enough in the atlas to fit.  I suppose that is appropriate since I have lived in three different locations in Scotland and have also lived in England for a while.  I chose the bird shape not just because I have become a tad obsessed with birds this past year but also because they represented migration.  I created the background using gelatos.  I have a love-hate relationship with gelatos: I love their creaminess and the rich vibrancy of the pigment but I cannot seem to get them to go onto the paper as smoothly as I have seen on tutorial videos.  Instead they still have a bit of a rough scribbly quality at places in the mark-making and I have to then deploy a faithful baby wipe in order to spread the colour across the page.  I used two shades of blue and a mid-green to represent the ocean between my places and the colours on the globe.  The green was used on a practical level to outline and thus highlight the shapes I was collaging onto the page.  I then added some strips of glittery green washi tape just because it supported the green outlining and because it was glittery.  I cut a love heart out of a map scrap which happened to contain the words “Atlantic Ocean” and then several smaller hearts out of US and UK postage stamps, again suggesting that idea of migration, travel, journey.  I also used two air mail stickers just because they chimed with the theme of the page and also it’s colour scheme.

Visually my page was communicating my sense of “not belonging”, of being between two locales.  I have yet to find my place here in America so I still feel rather discombobulated by how alien things are, by my difference and otherness, by all the little things I do not know, by how unfamiliar things are that I used to take for granted back home in Britain.  However, bizarrely and conversely, I do feel at home here.  I feel settled enough on a domestic, family level now – especially having bought a place to call home – that I do now feel at home here in Pennsylvania.  Ultimately that is because the cliche is a truism: home is where the heart is.  Ultimately I belong wherever my husband and kids are.  That, therefore, became the sentiment that I stamped across my page.

So my DLP art journal page this week is really about the push and pull of where I am at as an immigrant, as a wife and mother, as a Scot living as part of the diaspora in America; my page is about that tension between not belonging yet feeling at home.  Hopefully I have managed to convey that in the visual elements and the words on the page.

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