Love Bug

I find I am going long stretches at the moment between creating any art.  Life is just getting in the way too much plus I am also still (!) a little wiped out by that post-viral fatigue thing.  I am a happier, more balanced person when I have regular doses of art time so this is not a good state of affairs.  All I have just about manage to keep up with is cracking open my art journal about once a week, usually on the weekend.  I need to eke out a decent chunk of art time soon.  I am getting artsy-antsy.

Last week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was Love/Hate since it was Valentines Week.  I happen to loathe Valentine’s Day but I decided to go with the love them rather than the hate option.  Let’s focus on the positive.  My starting point was to adhere a Valentines theme paper napkin left over from my preschool class party onto the page to create the repeated pattern of love hearts.  Then the page sat like that for days since I could not find the time.  My original plan was to draw a figure on the page and do some sort of negative shape painting shebang and, if you look closely, you can still see the pencil marks since I could not erase them.  I decided to be pragmatic about my available free time so I instead chose to paint a beetle so that it could be a Love Bug.  It does not show up at all well in the photograph but I used pearlescent and metallic paints in order to suggest the shiny carapace of a beetle.

7 - Love Bug

It is not a great art journal page by any measure but it isn’t one that makes me want to tear the page out of the book or gesso over it either.  Fingers crossed that I can find a bit more time for art in the next week or so.

All You Need Is Love

Last week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was to use text as the initial layer in an art journal spread.  I am not the greatest at layering so it was useful to have the nudge at having another attempt at it.  It happened to be valentine’s week last week so I took “love” as my theme.  My valentine’s week was actually themed around stress – two valentine’s parties to organise and run at work, three class parties to attend that afternoon for three of my kids, and cooking a dinner the kids complained about, and we don’t even celebrate Valentine’s Day – but I decided my art journal page should focus on “love” regardless.

Layer one was my handwriting in ink covering the page, running in multiple directions, overlapping, until it became completely illegible, and all I wrote were whatever love song lyrics happened to drift into my head.  Once that layer was complete, I decided to scrape some acrylic paint over it.  Annoyingly, this all but concealed the handwritten layer.  Ugh.  I just cannot get this layering thing right.  Ploughing on, I decided to reintroduce text again so I used negative space painting with white gesso to carve out the word “love”.  It was all still a bit meh and blah so I picked up a paint pen and scrawled “all you need” across the bottom of the page.  I am going to be happy that I was intuitive about adding an element but I rather suspect it was a wrong move.  The whole page, therefore, is very ho hum.  But that’s OK because, in a crazy busy week, each layer was a moment of calm in a day.

6 Layering with Writing

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

Weirdo Cupid

In keeping with Valentine’s Day, this week’s Colour Me Positive art journal prompt was the word “heart” and the idea of putting one’s whole heart into things we commit to.  This week I decided to ignore the quotation prompt and instead focus on the challenge which was to use collage.  With Valentine’s Day and hearts and collage scuttering and flittering around in my mind, I came up with the idea of making a weirdo cupid figure in my journal.

I thought collage would be a nice break from all my illustrations I have been producing recently and so it proved to be.  I just plucked some pages from a magazine, including an advert with a female face, and cut shapes out and placed them on the page.  The wings are from a gelli print on deli paper and they are silver.  Excluding drying time, this whole collage probably took me no more than 20 minutes.  Keeping it quick, easy and simple also kept it fun.  Since the loves of my life – Mr Pict and the Pictlings – are all gloriously nerdy weirdos, I enjoyed creating this random wee weirdo in my art journal.

7 - Hearts & Collage - Art Journal Page

40 Drawings in 40 Days – #19 – Aphrodite

Aphrodite is, of course, the Greek goddess of love, her Roman counterpart being Venus.  In a few versions of her myth, she is one of the many children of Zeus.  In most versions, however, she was created when Cronos castrated Uranus and threw his genitals into the sea.  Aphrodite then arose from the foam and floated ashore in a scallop shell.  It is that version of her creation that has inspired so much art, most famously Botticelli’s Birth of Venus.  I am not sure how Aphrodite would record her ancestry on a family tree.

Famously beautiful and desirable, Aphrodite had many lovers.  Zeus, worried that rivalry for her affections would spark conflict, married her off to the ugly god Hephaestus but that didn’t stop her running around and “love goddessing” with others – most famously Ares.  As well as being unfaithful, Aphrodite could also be pretty twisted and vengeful.  Being the goddess of love apparently does not require you to be lovely.  Her vanity even provoked the Trojan War.  It was she who persuaded Paris to award her the golden apple by rewarding him with the most beautiful mortal woman in the world.  Since Helen was already married, her abduction by Paris led directly to the conflict between the Greeks and the Trojans.

In my drawing of Aphrodite, I wanted to try and capture those dual qualities of the goddess: her seductive charm and her wickedness.  The instant that thought passed across my mind, I thought of the femme fatale trope and that led me to think of film noir.  I decided, therefore, that my Aphrodite would be alluring but dangerous and that I would depict her as looking like an actress from the golden age of cinema, walking the red carpet.  I gave her the long locks of Veronica Lake and the beauty spot of Marilyn Monroe.  I angled her geometric hips to suggest a sexy sashay combined with a sharpness and I painted her dress red to connote passion, lust and danger.

2014-09-19 17.01.53


Tree of Hearts ~ Art Journal page

The challenge for Week 25 of the Documented Life Project was to incorporate hearts.  I have some serious time management problems now that the kids are all home for the Summer break and frankly I was just lacking in inspiration.  However, looking through my 8 year old son’s school art folder finally set the creative wheels in motion.  I had wanted to do something much more mixed media this week – steering myself away from my default drawing  – and had even hoped to experiment with some new techniques.  However, it came down to some cheap children’s watercolours and black ink.

This is what I came up with:


For something that took me under fifteen minutes start to finish I am fairly pleased with how it turned out.  I am not really one for mawkish sentiment but the quotation seemed to tie in with the image and incorporating some text helped reduce the black in the tree trunk.  I wish I had given a little more thought to composition as the branches are very near the top of the page while I have all that empty space at the bottom of the page.  That’s what happens when I rush, I suppose.

This is my 8 year old’s art work which inspired my Art Journal page.  I like it a whole lot better than my version:



Selling Love in Packs of Thirty

When I was in Rome a few years ago, we saw the (purported skull) of St Valentine.  I am sure in life he was a stand-up guy but he has a lot to answer for.



I loathe Valentine’s Day.  With.  A.  Passion.

An element of it is that I am hard-wired from experience to despise it.  Every year, kids at school would pass anonymous lovey-dovey, bokey cards to each other.  I would receive one card a year with handwriting suspiciously mature for your average 11 year old and somewhat reminiscent of my father’s script.  As an adult I can reflect on that and think how sweet and thoughtful it was of my Dad to not want me to feel left out but at the time it felt like salt being rubbed in the wounds.  It wasn’t really that I wanted a declaration of romance from some snotty nosed boy – because really I very much didn’t – but I was bullied for being a square peg all the way through school so Valentine’s Day was just another means to remind me of how unpopular I was, how left out I was. Of course, my super-popular younger sister would need a sherpa to help her transport home all of her cards.  I might have been a wee bit bitter about that at the time.

Then one year, when I was about 13, I received my one and only Valentine’s card and it was gigantic.  Massive.  It was over half my height and there was an icky, cutesy panda on the front. In one fell swoop it could have made up for all of those years of never having received a card.  Except it didn’t.  My epiphany that day was that receiving an obscenely proportioned card from a sproddy teenage boy who makes your spine judder is so very much worse than receiving no cards at all.  So I took the card and shoved it in the outside rubbish bin – because it was too big for the kitchen bin – but my Mum discovered it.  I learned I had been foiled when I walked into the living room and discovered the card, in all its gigantic glory, perched atop the television set.  It was as if my parents had turned it into some sort of shrine.  So I whipped the card from it’s place and ripped it into tiny pieces before placing it, once again, in the bin.  This time my Mum decided not to stick it all back together and restore it.  Job done.

However, it is not just those childhood experiences that wrecked Valentine’s Day for me.  I have been in a happy, loving, committed relationship for twenty years but Valentine’s Day is still not part of my calendar because I actually detest it for ethical reasons too.  First of all the whole idea that there should only be one day a year when people express their romantic feelings to each other, having had to be prompted by the date to do so, is a complete and utter nonsense.  If you want to tell someone that you fancy or love them then just do it when the feeling hits you.  So you realise you like someone on 15th February – are you really going to wait 364 days before you tell them so?  Of course not.  So what is the point?  The point is that having one day a year for designated romance means big business for card companies, florists and possibly even chocolatiers.  It is all just commercial hype that people get sucked into.  You walk into a shop with shelves stacked with random foods and objects covered in pink and red hearts and peer pressure kicks in.  The panic of conformity.  If everyone else is buying this heart covered tat then what happens if you go home to your beloved empty handed?  So you buckle to peer pressure and clever advertising designed to play on your vulnerabilities and buy some tat.  Think of the money those businesses rake in on that one day not to mention the boost for restaurants too.  All those marriage proposals on Valentine’s Day too.  How original.  Thankfully Mr Pict and I have a pact to not submit to the commercialism and we don’t mark Valentine’s Day.  People may judge but we don’t care.  Non-conformity is a comforting feeling in the Pict family.

So why am I blogging about Valentine’s Day weeks too early?  Because I am irked that I am being forced to conform and that makes me loathe Valentine’s Day even more.

The other day, I noticed a post on Facebook from a friend who lives in California.  It was a link to lots of creative ideas for Valentine’s gifts for your kids to hand out.  Woah, woah, woah!  Kids hand out Valentine’s gifts in the US?  I posed the query and friends confirmed that, yes indeed, it is traditional here in America for children to hand out cards and presents to their classmates.  My heart sank and my blood boiled.  Simultaneously.  I pinged a quick email to one of my boys’ teachers in the hope that perhaps their school did not participate in this tradition but alas she confirmed that they have a Valentine’s party and kids exchange cards and gifts and they even make bags in which to collect all their heart-shaped booty.

In Scotland, Valentine’s Day is very much the preserve of teenagers, courting couples and old marrieds.  It is not for children.  My kids have been raised in a culture where giving someone a Valentine’s card is a way of expressing your love for them, a way of indicating that you want to smooch them.  I was not looking forward, therefore, to breaking the news to them.  I predicted a full-scale rebellion.  It transpired, however, that the word “party” took the edge off the news and I was emphatic in explaining to them that the card exchange would, at Elementary School age at least, be a declaration of friendship rather than of love.  They were just about sold.

So now I am being forced to conform.  I don’t want my kids to not participate in events at school, I don’t want them to feel left out and I don’t want to foist all of my views on them either.  Who knows, after all, maybe I am raising some budding romantics.  I don’t see any evidence of that so far but you never can tell.  So this year I am going to have to opt in to the rampant commercialism and buy packs upon packs of Valentine’s cards for each of my sons to hand out and, in turn, they will each tromp home with bags full of pink and red heart-shaped tat.

So now I have another reason to find Valentine’s Day intensely annoying.

I will conclude this blog entry with my Zombie Valentine drawing from a Zombie of the Week project I set myself a couple of years ago.  That’s all the Valentine’s romance I can muster right now.