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

Word Clouds Raining Rainbows

Last week I had ten minutes of art time.  Ten.  That’s all, folks.  In a week that included an unplanned hospital visit, house guests, and a funeral on top of all my usual commitments, obligations, and time suckers, I was not only pushed for free time but also brimming over with stress.  I felt like it might just save my sanity if I could find some way to dig out 20 minutes for art.  That turned out to be ambitious and I got 10.  Knowing I didn’t have time to do anything too involved, too messy, or too detailed, I turned to the Art Journal Adventure prompt and opened up my art journal to a blank page.

The prompt was to feature scallops on the page.  Yum.  Scallops.  I don’t think I have eaten any since I left Scotland.  Divine wee morsels that they are.  When I thought of scallops as a shape rather than a food, I thought of the way child-like clouds are drawn and that gave me the inspiration for my page.  With no time to draw or paint, I quickly cut out some scallop-fringed cloud shapes from old book pages and adhered them to the top of the page.  I then added stripes of Neocolor II crayons and outlined the clouds with Stabilo All.  Both of these activate with water so I sprayed liberal quantities of water on the page, then tipped up the art journal to let it all run and dribble and drip.  And that was my 10 minutes all used up.  I left it to dry overnight and was actually fairly satisfied with the result given the (lack of) time and effort invested in its creation.  And it just goes to show me that a) I can put together an entire art journal page in very little time indeed if I keep things simple and work efficiently and b) even a little bit of art time can balance out a stressful week.

17 Scallop Shaped Word Clouds in a Rainbow Sky

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

Skeleton Hand

This week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was to use a hand on the page.  Well pants!  I used my hand shapes a few weeks ago in a different journal page.  My challenge, therefore, was to come up with a quick, easy, simple idea that neither duplicated or echoed the page I had created before – or any other journal pages where I had used my hand as inspiration.  Since the previous page had started with my hand shape and built up from there – using masses of colourful dots – I had the idea of doing the reverse and starting with the hand silhouette and peeling away a layer.  Skeleton hand!  I have a bit of a thing for (not anatomically correct) skeleton drawings at the moment so I was enthused by the idea.

I had to create a background for my page.  Wanting a bit of a macabre feel for the skeleton hand, I opted for a red and green colour scheme, connotations of flesh, blood, putrefaction, and decay.  Having so recently had such a sucky result from using my gelli plate, I decided to give it another whirl and see if I could get a better result.  This time I used my miniature gelli-plate in the hopes it would provide me with a bit more control over the placement, slow me down a bit, and make me think.  I used it to build up a patchwork of red and green rectangles.  The red and green looked a bit bogging together but that was, after all, part of the point and the feel I was aiming for.

16a Gelli Print Background

When it came to the hand, I drew around my own hand and filled it in with black acrylic paint.  I used Dylusions paint as I find that black gives a really rich black, smooth, velvety finish which is ideal for drawing on top of.  Once that was dry, it was just a case of using a white paint pen to draw in the bones.  I had a quick glance at a photo of a skeletal hand but clearly did not make my drawing anatomically correct.

16b Skeleton Hand on Gelli Print Background

 

Self-Portrait as Book Worm

This week’s Art Journal Adventure offered a prompt that simultaneously served as a suggestion for overcoming the intimidation of a blank page and that was to use text pages as a starting point, a first layer.  Fear of the blank page is not something I find to be a struggle; my challenge is always finding the time for art and adequate time to develop something to completion, even in my art journal.  I have, therefore, been trying to follow the advice of Sue Clancy and her method of working in short bursts.  I usually try to find a block of 15-20 minutes minimum in which to have a short burst of art time but some weeks I have to work in even shorter gobbets of time.  What I am finding is that even micro bursts are effective in keeping creativity flowing and stopping the art muscles seizing up from rust.

This art journal page, therefore, was built up over three very short bursts.  In the first, I quickly adhered some dictionary pages to the page in my journal.  That took somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes – however long it took for a pot of pasta to boil.  The second burst was under 5 minutes and that was drawing myself as a Book Worm.  The final burst was probably ten minutes in which I added the colour using a variety of media.  The resulting page is simple but I think it is fun.  Had I decided that I needed 25 minutes to create this journal page, I never would have found the time last week; however, by finding small pockets of free time here and there throughout the week, I was able to gradually build the page up so long as I kept it simple.

As indicated, this is a self-portrait of myself as a book worm.  I have always loved books.  Some of my happiest childhood memories are of poring through books in the library and making my selections.  I once ended up in hospital with a concussion because of reading: I was walking in Edinburgh with my nose in a book when I walked at full speed into a concrete lamppost.  I was always a voracious reader who could gobble up a several books in a week.  Even when I was teaching High School and was incredibly busy with little free time, I could read a book a week.  In the past decade, however, the rate at which I can consume books has tapered off.  I still read daily but not for the duration I was once able to.  Nevertheless, since reading remains one of my favourite pastimes, I still think I qualify as a Book Worm.

15 Book Worm - Book Pages

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