Minimalist Abstracts

I was so happy when I viewed this week’s Life Book lesson because I knew I could actually get my response completed within the week and that, in turn, motivated me to find the free time required.  The lesson was taken by Melissa Dinwiddie and her ethos was all about being playful and getting the creative juices flowing by working on quick, minimalist pieces.  Further, the media used were ink and watercolour which are comfortably within my wheelhouse.  The lesson still presented a challenge to me, however, in that I don’t find I have an instinct for abstraction generally.  I, therefore, decided to work with my non-dominant hand in order to ensure that my mark making was loose.  It was a whole lot of fun and very relaxing so in the end I created four pieces, each measuring 4.5 by 6 inches.

19 Ink and Watercolour Abstract 1

19 Ink and Watercolour Abstract 2

19 Ink and Watercolour Abstract 3

19 Ink and Watercolour Abstract 4

 

Blue Warrior Woman

Last week’s Life Book lesson was taken by Amber Kuileimailani Bonnici and the idea was to work intuitively to paint a warrior figure, a trope of self-empowerment.  In the past six to twelve months I have gradually come to understand and accept about myself that I just don’t get great outcomes when I work intuitively.  The battle between my head and any gut feeling, between intellect and instinct I suppose, is just too great to be cooperative when I am in creative mode.  Perhaps it goes hand in hand with my style being definitely more illustrative than painterly.  I may continue to experiment with working intuitively when creating random backgrounds or attempting something more abstract but otherwise I have decided that I am going to largely opt out of working intuitively.  I figure there is no point in pursuing something that just isn’t working for me given how sparse my free time for art is.

When it came to last week’s Life Book lesson, therefore, I decided to adopt the central themes and ideas of the tutorial without adopting the same approach as Bonnici demonstrated.  For that reason, I chose to work with colours that instinctively appealed to me.  I have been crushing on turquoise combined with red a lot lately so I decided those would be my dominant colours and I figured the blue skin tones might also be a nod to the woad of a Pictish warrior.  She ended up a bit expressionless or at least set-jawed and stern but I am going to pretend that suits her as a strong warrior type rather than my inability to paint any sort of personality.  One of my sons asked if I was inspired by the movie ‘Avatar’ and another labelled her an “angry smurf” both of which comparisons made me chortle.  Not my best work but not my worst either and at least I am catching up on my weekly lessons after last week’s complete and utter lack of art time.

18 Warrior Woman

Flying Pig

Miraculously, I managed to complete this week’s Life Book lesson before the weekend.  It was one of Tamara Laporte’s lessons on illustrations and whimsical characters, in this case an animal character.  I had to improvise with the media used and opted for watercolour and collage.  I went a bit too crazy with the background but I think I just about get away with it.  My chosen animal was a pig simply because I really like pigs.  It isn’t totemic, some sort of spirit animal, but just because I think pigs are smart and adorable.  I added wings for an additional touch of whimsy.

17 Flying Pig

The Muse of Spatter

Frequent readers of this blog will know that I really do enjoy a bit of spatter in my art work so I was very happy to learn that spatter was the basis of this week’s Life Book lesson.  The lesson was taken by Mandy Van Goeije and was about starting loose and abstract and then finding some form within that abstraction to turn into an illustration, generating text to support that illustration, and layering watercolour and other media on top of a splattery, puddly watercolour background.

I decided to use the primary colours for my spatter because it was what was demonstrated in the tutorial and because I recognised that it was a palette that I don’t often use.  I often add spatter at some stage in my art work but it was a twist on things to actually use the spatter as the starting point.  I am not someone who tends to get creatively blocked because of having a blank page but I imagine this is a good way to get past that problem.

16a Muse of Spatter

Once I had the spattery layer, I had to look for shapes and forms within it that suggested the starting point for an illustration.  It is human nature to see facial features in inanimate objects (a quick google told me it is called “pareidolia”) and it is something I certainly do.  When looking at my spattery layer, however, the form I saw emerge was a human figure – a tilted head surrounded by red hair and, in the negative space – upraised arms and hands.  I think my brain determining I would see a human figure is probably an extension of the same phenomenon that has people seeing faces.  When coming up with the story element of my art work and the text, I decided my figure should be the Muse of Spatter and wrote “The Muse of Spatter dances wherever she pleases and creates from chaos” as I felt that basically encapsulated the theme of the lesson and what I created as a result of it.

16b Muse of Spatter

Art Failures as Learning Opportunities

Some weeks my creative mojo is sorely lacking.  There can be many contributing factors, of course, but there are short periods of time where whatever I put my hand to is mediocre at best.  Last week was one such week.  I do remember the many times I experience success with my art and I also value the calming, restorative, recharging effect of having worked on art even when the outcome isn’t what I would hope for.  Nevertheless, last week was one of those weeks where nothing I did in terms of art was pulling together.  The pieces never emerged from the ugly phase.  They just got uglier.

The first piece was produced in response to a Life Book lesson taken by Jodi Ohl.  It was all about adding typography to a colourful, layered background.  Layering has long been one of my art nemeses so I knew it was going to be a challenge.  Sometimes I rise to the challenge but not this time.  The palette of bright colours I added worked with each other for maybe two layers and then they started to fight with each other and then they somehow lost their vibrancy and looked not so much like mud but like sludge.  I tried to knock back areas by negative painting in thinned gesso and that only served to make everything look more dull and grey.  In a last ditch effort, I added some Neocolor II inside the feather shapes, trying to obliterate the underlying layers.  That pop of colour rescued the piece from going into the trash but I still found the whole piece to be unsatisfactory.  Having used gritty gesso, I decided not to waste the nib of any pens on this piece and instead stamped out lines from the famous Emily Dickinson poem around the feather shapes.  I was glad to see the back of this piece and move on to something else.

15 Layered Feathers

Alas, the thing I moved onto was a page in my art journal, a response to the Art Journal Adventure prompt for the week.  The idea was to use curvy and round elements.  I had not used my gelli plate for a while and the youngest kids were up for having a play with it too so I decided that that would be my tool and technique for this week’s page.  I have not experimented much with printing directly into my art journal from the gelli plate so that was my personal challenge.  I chose to push the journal down onto the plate.  Perhaps things would have worked out better had I flopped the plate onto the paper instead but I doubt it.  I cut out some circles and curvy arch shapes from shipping envelopes to use as masks in different layers.  The first couple of layers looked pretty good but there was not enough interest for me to quit while I was ahead.  I pushed on with a further layer and obliterated what had been a nice little area on the page.  That was annoying but I pushed on hoping that subsequent layers would lead to some other interesting shapes and textures and contrasts emerging.  Unfortunately, that was not what happened.  I think I need more regular practice with gelli printing in order to develop some skill with it, some idea of how to achieve different looks rather than my haphazard, slapdash way of doing things.  I got to the point where I was sick of the sight of the page so decided that was a good reason to stop.  I finished it all off by gluing down some of the circle masks I had been using.

14 Curves and Circles

It was not a good week for art, therefore, but I am choosing to focus on the positive of the flaws and failings being learning opportunities.  I have, as stated above, learned that I need to actually plan out what I am doing with the gelli plate rather than just shoving elements together and hoping for the best.  The solution is more practice.  I have a small gelli plate so perhaps I will keep that to hand and have a play with it more frequently to see if I can develop some sort of process that works for me.  I have also learned that layering remains something that I struggle with and I should probably just conclude that it is not my thing and stick to techniques that do work for me.  Investing time and energy into approaches that result in pleasing outcomes is ultimately going to be more fulfilling than trying to learn a technique that eludes me.  It is OK for me to hone the skills I possess instead of chasing after the ones I don’t.   My mojo will return.

Girl with Antlers

Last week’s Life Book lesson was taken by Annie Hamman.  I really love Hamman’s paintings and enjoy watching her process but it is a style and methodology I can never get to work for me as I am neither painterly or loose enough in the way I handle paint.  I have, therefore, really enjoyed the previous Annie Hamman lessons I have worked on but I always end up with something much more rigid and controlled than the anticipated outcome.  This lesson was no exception.

I enjoyed all of the techniques deployed in the lesson, such as painting over collage and painting negative space, but I was neither intuitive or loose enough in my mark making.  That’s OK though.  That way of creating just isn’t me.  What was disappointing was that my choice to use blue for underpainting and layering up the shadows of the face didn’t dissipate enough in subsequent layers and the flesh tones ended up sallow and sickly looking as a result.  (Incidentally, the phone photo makes the colours much paler than they are in real life because the light levels have just been so dreary here lately.)  I am, however, happy with the negative painting around the antlers, the pushing back of and forward from the collage layer, and the gold of the halo.  I think this is another one of those lessons I will attempt again, perhaps in my art journal, as I liked the approach and have hopefully learned something from the underpainting oops.

13 Girl with Antlers

Galaxy Girl

My response to this week’s Life Book lesson is an example of my commitment to share my art work from that course whether I like the outcome or not.  The lesson was taken by Susana Tavares and was about illustrating with watercolour and adding finishing details with pen.  It was a lesson that should have been comfortably within my wheelhouse but somehow I still went wrong.  I started with the face and struggled to render decent flesh tones.  I think I went too heavy with the ochre for the shadows, I didn’t maintain enough white paper for highlights, and I didn’t get the pinks looking rosy enough.  The hair was completed using a wet in wet technique and I definitely overdid it as it all feathered and bloomed more than I intended.  Straying from the exemplar in the tutorial, I decided the hair could be like the night sky, and I decided to string the planets from our solar system around her neck like a beaded necklace.  It was not a well thought through execution of the concept.  I don’t think it was a coincidence that I was completely over-scheduled and exhausted this week.  For me, art is a useful counterpoint to a stressful week but that does not mean the product is always as worthwhile as the act of creation itself.

12 Galaxy Girl