Last week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was “puzzled’. It took me the entire week to find time to sit down with my art journal as all my free art time has been spent on Inktober and my contribution to the Brooklyn Art Library Sketchbook project (which you can see on my other blog). By that time, however, my creative cogs had been turning for long enough for me to have arrived at an idea. I decided that I would create a self-portrait because sometimes I am a puzzle to myself and, like a jigsaw puzzle, I am made up of many different pieces. Taking that idea further, I decided that my substrate should be a collaged layer of pieces of paper. And taking that idea further still, I thought it might be fun to break my face down into elements of shapes and forms rather like a Picasso portrait. I remember as a child that the thing I found most engaging about Picasso’s art was the way that my eye could take in all of the information and my brain would then reconfigure everything so that I could understand what I was seeing, what was being portrayed. It was like resolving a visual puzzle.
Last week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was the last in the series provided by my friend Jana. Her prompt was “changing seasons” but her tutorial also focused on demonstrating eco-dyeing. I was inspired by both. Unfortunately, it was one of those overwhelming weeks – a pretty stressful one actually – where I had very little time for art. I, therefore, recognised that my ability to dye papers within that week was going to be pretty limited. I have wanted to try eco-dyeing since I saw a blog post by Claudia McGill all about making parcels of materials that would leech colour into paper over time. Jana demonstrated a sped-up process that produced similar results. I am definitely going to give it a go. I just need to have a chunk of time in which to gather my materials. So, in the mean time, I resorted to dyeing book pages – some of which were already a little foxed – using tea, coffee, and steeped onion skins.
I had a page in my art journal that I did not know what to do with. It was the reverse of the page that I had handstitched so it was full of ugly, messy knots and stitches. I decided it could form the basis of a textural background for this page. I scraped gesso across the page roughly so as to somewhat embed and fix the thread of the stitches and I kept the gesso rough and splotchy so as to add more literal and visual texture. I then scraped across some light brown paint to create a neutral tone in the background, especially given that the “changing seasons” prompt was making me think of the colours of Autumn – and man am I looking forward to Autumn. Thinking of the glow of Autumn light, I scraped some bronze paint across the page and spattered gold paint at the top and bottom. All that remained was to decide how to incorporate the eco-dyed paper into the page. I decided upon circular, hoop shapes because I was thinking about the cyclical nature of the seasons. I cut some in different sizes from the dyed papers and adhered them to the page. Part of me thinks the page needs something more but I was out of time and out of ideas so, therefore, for now at least I consider this art journal page done.
This week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was provided by my friend Jana. Jana has a way of creating wonderfully curated collages with mixed media elements and lots of visual texture. She produced one such piece as her exemplar for her guest blog post. I aspire to put together collages as wonderful as the ones Jana produces but I am not there yet. I don’t have a collection of ephemera to riffle through either, just random papers. I, therefore, decided to use Jana’s page as jumping-off inspiration rather than strictly adhering to the prompt.
I did technically start the page with a collage but it was just a case of roughly adhering some book page scraps to the journal page and then knocking the whole thing back with a layer of white acrylic. I loved the colour scheme in Jana’s collage so I too opted for a palette that was monochromatic and neutral with a pop of red. What I was really taken with was the use of stitching as a mark-making tool. I am not someone who has much skill or ability with fabric arts or textiles and my sewing skills are limited to hand-sewing and are very basic. I, therefore, would not normally think to add stitches to my art journal pages but that was precisely why I wanted to do so in response to this prompt. I really enjoyed it as a different way to add marks to the illustration and what it contributed in terms of a different visual texture.
The only upside to my husband working out of town all week is that it freed up my evenings for some art time which meant that for the first time in what feels like ages I actually managed to complete two art lessons, one for each of the year long courses I am enrolled in. The Let’s Face It lesson was taken by Annie Hamman and was about painting a figure with hands in addition to painting the face. Hamman’s approach to painting is very, well, painterly. It’s fascinating to watch the way she builds up and refines that layers of paint so that precise features gradually emerge. I, however, am not remotely painterly in the way I handle paint. Despite having had regular practice since I first started exploring mixed media, I still have super limited skills when it comes to handling, manipulating and applying acrylic paint. Try as I might, therefore, I just could not refine the paint layers adequately enough so I diverged from the lesson (having already skipped a collage layer to save time) in order to use some other media to add the detail to the face and fingers. Looking for the positives, I am fairly pleased with how the hands turned out in this painting. I think the scale and angles read as correct. I took the photo of the finished painting with my phone rather than my DSLR so in reality the flesh tones are a bit warmer and the disc behind the head is metallic blue. My 11 year old commented that she looked like a female version of Jack Frost so I decided to go with that interpretation and title this piece Frost.
It has taken me almost two weeks to complete this Let’s Face It lesson but I’ve done it. It took me almost a week just to find time to watch the lesson video and then, despite skipping some steps of the process demonstrated, it took me a further week to get the piece completed. The lesson was taken by Deanna Strachan-Wilson and was about creating a simplified form of a female figure in a layered piece. One of the corners I cut was in not drawing a figure based on a photograph and instead drawing from my imagination. As such, my proportions are not realistic and I very much simplified the profile of the face plus I added a wing to balance out the composition. I actually preferred my piece before I added gesso to the figure but I wanted to try and stay true to the methods of the lesson where I could since I had jettisoned other steps. I do, however, like the warm, grungy sepia, vintage tones of the piece and especially the washes of bronze and the spatters of gold.
By taking short cuts, I actually managed to find time for two art lessons from last week. It also helped that my kids had friends over to play so they were occupied and I could find a chunk of time in which to sit at my kitchen table and get arty and make a start on this piece.
Last week’s Let’s Face It lesson was taken by Kara Bullock and was more practice in drawing the face along with hands. It also involved using white gesso to paint the face and hands in greyscale. That was not something I had done before and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Perhaps that was because it almost felt like drawing with gesso rather than treating the gesso like paint. I do also really like creating pieces that are monochromatic or have very limited palettes so I added very little in the way of colour to the areas of flesh in the figure and face and I kept the background grungy and neutral. The background that Bullock demonstrated in the tutorial was really very different from the one I ended up with but it was the creation of the background that was my major shortcut for this piece so I had to try something new. Her background had been pretty textural and grungy, however, so I tried to generate that same sort of feeling but in a different way. By way of contrast to all the texture and grunge, however, I added a disc of bronze paint behind the figure. I do love to add discs and halos surrounding the figures in my art work. I don’t know why. I just go with it.
Apparently this week is the last that will focus on profiles in the Let’s Face It course. Phew. Profiles have definitely not been easy. A face in profile has a strong outline but getting the proportions right is something I seem to find very tricky indeed. I do think, however, that concentrating on profiles over the last few weeks has taken my abilities a step forward and I think this week’s painting is my best profile so far.
The lesson was taken by Kara Bullock and – as with her previous lesson that led me to create Girl in Grey and Gold – the idea was to paint all the tonal values in monochrome and then add a splash of a single vivid colour. The work of art that formed the basis of Bullock’s tutorial involved painting butterflies but I knew I would find that to be a struggle. Painting aesthetically pleasing butterflies and flowers in acrylic is probably a stretch for me right now. My solution, therefore, to make the colour element in the composition work was to create a diadem of red leaves. The leaves still are not great but I am pretty confident they are better than either flowers or butterflies would have been.
This might be my last profile for this particular course but I am going to continue to practice them. Over on my Pict Ink blog, I have embarked on a project to draw 100 ink and watercolour illustrations of faces – coincidentally also all a balance of monochrome with splashes of colour. My objective is to build my skills with constructing a wider variety of faces and to improve my ability to draw expressive faces.