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.
This week’s Documented Life Project prompt was to pick a fantasy vacation spot – money no object – and generate a packing list for the chosen destination. I am not at all short on places that I could choose from. I love travelling and have not done nearly enough of it in my life thus far. I have only travelled on two continents and did not even make it to very many countries in Europe when I lived on that continent for all those decades. If time and resources had permitted, I certainly would have done a great deal more travelling in my life. I pondered picking somewhere like Australia or Egypt or Italy (which I have been to but would love to return to) or the Scandinavian region or the Galapagos Islands. I considered the Orient Express. I even thought about creating a page based on the preposterously ambitious notion of a round the world tour. I even thought about a little literary detour involving creating a page inspired by the fictional journey of Phileas Fogg. With the latter two plans, I even came up with (in my head) a visual of what my page might end up looking like.
However, this time of year being what it is and my art time being consequently squelched in my schedule, I decided to downsize the ambitions of my page and perhaps my destination. I have an ambition to visit all 50 of the United States. My husband is only missing three of them – Alaska, North Dakota and Oklahoma – whereas I have only been to 25. I thought I had 26 under my belt until I started counting them up for the purposes of this challenge and found I had 25 left to do. So I am stuck at the half-way mark. In my first 14 months of living in America, I have actually not gained a single new state as I have merely revisited ones I have already travelled to as part of past vacations. In our pre-parenthood years, Mr Pict and I did a lot of road-tripping around the States which is why I have as many as I do and so I had the idea that my vacation for the purposes of the prompt should be a road trip to collect the 25 states I have not yet visited – maybe going by plane to Alaska and certainly Hawaii. So I perhaps downsized the “fantasy” element of the prompt and swapped it for something I might actually accomplish.
I started by giving the journal page a rough wash with brown watercolour. I was thinking of those old map graphics they use in movies to illustrate a change of location, usually with a red line moving between dots on the map. Think Indiana Jones films. I then printed out a copyright free outline map of the US. My intention had been to trace it onto the page but pressure of time meant that I instead used the print out itself to create a flap on the page. I coloured in the states I have already visited with brown pencil, not wanting to use a wet medium lest the printer ink run. I may have been to half the states but all that white remaining on the map only goes to illustrate that I have visited nowhere near half the land mass of America, even if one only considers the contiguous states. It’s a wide white stripe that runs down the middle of that map. Around the flap I used brown ink to write down the names of all of the states I still need to visit. I added an arrow to the flap – using a stamp – to indicate that it should be lifted. Beneath the flap, I rather hurriedly jotted down a list of the things I would pack for a round America road trip. I did not include clothes or personal hygiene items. Let us just assume I pack those anyway. I guess tea bags were a higher priority for me than things to actually wear.
Could this page be more inspired? Yes indeed. However, given I probably spent no more than 15 minutes on it I don’t think it is too bad. And hopefully in the future I will have cause to create a journal page about me visiting my fiftieth state.
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.