The Replacement Mermaid

My name is Laura and I am a Control Freak.

Frequent visitors to my blog may recall that the other day I shared the “monstrous mermaid” I had painted in response to a Life Book lesson.  I managed to successfully view the whole experience as a learning experience, spun the negatives into positives, embraced the mistakes.  Nevertheless, it niggled at me.  It annoyed me still.  Because I am a control freak.  I needed to test whether I had learned from the experience after all, whether I could use my analysis of what had gone right and wrong and create a better version as a consequence.  So today I decided to eke out some art time thanks to having no volunteer commitments, getting cracking on chores early in the morning and cooking dinner in the crockpot.

I liked what I had done with the collage before – using gelli plate prints torn at random and interspersed with book pages – so I decided to replicate that with the addition of also using some scraps from a map.  This time I scraped a thin layer of gesso over the centre of the collage to both knock back some of the collage colours a little and to provide a tooth for the paint to adhere to.  I think where I went wrong most before was in my use of heavy bodied acrylic paints.  I did use them again for my second attempt but this time mixed with bases of craft acrylics to increase the fluidity and extend the drying time of the paint.  That allowed me to blend a bit better and also allowed the collage papers to show through a little in places, which I thought was a welcome effect for a mixed media piece.  I really liked all of the dots in my previous painting so I did dots again.

I changed it up a bit stylistically too, working in my more cartoony style, which helped simplify things a little.  I did, however, stick to the same colour pallette because I liked the teal greens and russet reds I had used on the previous attempt.  I also used the same phrase again – “Go with the flow” – an instruction to myself I am ironically not abiding by given that I insisted on a do-over on this mermaid painting.  A lovely woman who is a member of one of the online mixed media groups I belong to very sweetly and generously sent me a whole box of shape punches she was getting rid of recently.  Among them was a seahorse punch.  Perfect.  I found some origami paper in my stash that was both green and orange, picking up colours from the painting, so I punched a few seahorses out of that paper and adhered them to the painting.

Week 4 - 2 - Acrylic on Collage - Courage

Job done.  Perfect?  Absolutely not.  I still have a lot to learn but at least I know I am learning from mistakes.  I am much happier with this mermaid.  I still prefer my siren drawing though.

The Monstrous Mermaid or Embracing Mistakes

I learned quite a few things from this week’s Life Book lesson.

Firstly, it is a good idea not to stand my mug of boiling water and lemon next to my water jar as it is inevitable that a paint covered brush will end up in the drink.

Secondly, I need to curb the temptation of going off piste so much.  Eager to marry my own style to the techniques being taught, I am being too impulsive.  I need to find the time to follow the tutorials more closely, even emulating the tutor’s style, before embarking on a version in my own style.

Thirdly, that my promise to myself to embrace all of my mistakes as learning opportunities can feel quite challenging at times.

This week’s bonus lesson was led by Patti Ballard and the technique demonstrated was painting on top of collage with acrylic.  Ballard’s instructional video depicted her painting a ballerina on a tightrope and the phrase “Courage Dear Heart”.  Ballerinas are not really my thing.  In fact, the one really good pen and ink drawing I ever did of a ballerina I gave away to a friend.  The idea of painting one, therefore, didn’t really trigger any enthusiasm in me so I decided to paint a mermaid instead.  I have been planning to carve a mermaid lino block print for ages but cannot seem to settle on a design so in the mean time I thought I would use one for this lesson.

The collage step went well.  I used some papers and some of my gelli prints and it all looked quite harmonious.  And then it  came time to paint.

I am really quite inexperienced with acrylic paint.  I am comfortable with pencil, charcoal, ink and watercolour but I have not yet gotten the hang of acrylic.  I think the first mistake I made, therefore, was using paint that was too heavy bodied.  Something a little more fluid may have helped me a lot more with blending.  My second mistake was to go too dark with my colour palette.  I wanted to ensure that the painting stood out against the background papers but in retrospect I should have toned the colours down a lot more.

It was not long before the whole thing was just looking like a complete and utter mess.  I have read a few times that it is important to just keep going, plough on through the ugly stage and have confidence that it will all pull together.  So I powered on.  It got a little better but was still pretty ugly.  Adding lots of dots and circles in different shades of blue and white just made it a more highly patterned mess.  Oh dear.  The chance of it all pulling together into something cohesive and aesthetically pleasing was looking unlikely.

As I pondered the concatenation of errors in my painting, reflected on how I needed to turn this failure into a valuable learning opportunity, I decided that the phrase I should stamp onto my painting was “Go with the flow”.  That is the type of courage I need with this mixed media art course.  I need to do my own thing a bit less, conform a bit more, accept that I will stumble – sometimes badly – but keep on trying.  I need to stop being a self-critical control freak and need to just “go with the flow”.

So here, in all her monstrous glory, is my mermaid.

Week 4 - Acrylic on Collage - Courage