Vesta – Mixed Media Mythology

The last of my Mixed Media Mythology lessons was taken by Sarah Leonard.  The subject of this final lesson was Vesta, the Roman goddess of the hearth and home.  Because Mr Pict is a complete and utter nerd about ancient Rome, I was very familiar with Vesta (and her Greek counterpart Hestia).  Vesta was both the oldest and the youngest of the major gods in that she was the first born child of Kronos and Rhea but the last to be released from her father’s stomach when Jupiter killed Kronos and freed his siblings.  She chose to remain a virgin (hence Vestal Virgins) and she took care of Jupiter’s house for him, which leads to her association with domesticity.

The thing I particularly appreciated about Leonard’s lesson was that it was about translating concepts, ideas, connections into a visual medium.  I liked the flexibility and freedom that afforded.  Therefore, as happened with my response to Leonard’s lesson on Freya, my art work massively diverged from the exemplar.  My painting is mainly watercolour with some ink and I worked in shades of brown to reflect my home, which is mainly neutral, natural colours.  I painted the “hearth” bowl copper (acrylic) because my living room has a large copper trough beneath the window.  The flames are collaged scraps of gelli print and the embers of red and gold are spatters of acrylic.

I focused on Vesta’s connection to the hearth because for me a fireplace has become an important element of a house feeling like home.  We had our last home, in Scotland, built for us and as such I designed the fireplace.  It was more of an emotional wrench for me to leave that fireplace behind than it was to leave the rest of the house.  One of the reasons why our current house particularly appealed to me was that it had a fireplace I could envision us sitting around in winter.  My painting of Vesta, therefore, does stick to the lesson brief in being about domesticity.

8 Vesta

Maat – Mixed Media Mythology

My penultimate lesson for Mixed Media Mythology was a depiction of the Egyptian goddess Maat.  Maat represented justice, truth, balance and morality.  She brought order to the heavens and was often symbolised by a feather.

Lezette Markham was the tutor for this lesson and her demonstration was of a much more symbolic, representational art work.  However, since I have produced figures in all of my work in this series, I decided I wanted to actually have a crack at painting Maat herself while incorporating ideas from Markham’s tutorial.

And that was where I went wrong.

I often feel like I have to take two steps backwards in order to make one step of forward progress with my art.  This piece was one such step backwards.  The profile went badly wrong, her head becoming smooshed in its proportions.  It reminded me of the way in which I went wrong with the profile of Zebra Woman in my Altered Book of Monsters.  Note to self: must practice profiles more often.  I do like the puddly, mixing, liquidy background – one of the elements I took from the tutorial – but otherwise this piece is consigned to my “I learn from my mistakes” pile.

7 Maat

Iris – Mixed Media Mythology

The next lesson I undertook in Mixed Media Mythology was taken by Jeanette Montero.  The subject was Iris, goddess of the rainbow and messenger of Zeus.

As ever, I drifted quite far from the exemplar, taking ideas from the lesson and making them my own.  This time the elements I took from the tutorial were colourful spatter on a black background and incorporating the oenochoe jug.

Iris

I wanted to give my figure’s body a gentle curve to echo the curve of a rainbow.  I also had the idea of letting her lower body fade out rather like the ends of a rainbow fade out.  I am not convinced that latter decision has worked well in the composition, however.  I like the spectrum dots behind the figure but am not wholly convinced that they read as wings.

Gaia – Mixed Media Mythology

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.

Gaia

Halcyone – Mixed Media Mythology

The next lesson I tackled in the Mixed Media Mythology course was another by Lucy Brydon.  This time the subject was Halcyone (or Alcyone) whose tale in Greek Mythology is one of hubris, punishment, loss, grief, and metamorphosis.  It is from her that the phrase “Halcyon Days” derives and she is also associated with kingfishers.

The lesson involved creating a splodgy, inky background.  I really enjoyed creating it though it possibly ended up being a bit too vivid and bold in comparison to the figure.  As the instruction was to draw a female profile and incorporate a kingfisher, my mind flitted to the Phoenix Woman painting I produced a short while ago and I decided to go with a similar composition.  I also borrowed from it the idea of making the kingfisher a type of headdress rather than attempting to paint a separate bird.  It helped me avoid having to paint a realistic bird but I also thought it might work thematically in terms of Halcyone’s transformation.

Halcyone

Freya – Mixed Media Mythology

The next lesson I tackled in the Mixed Media Mythology course was taken by Sarah Leonard.  The subject was the Norse goddess Freya, she who gives Friday its name.  She is the goddess of a whole lot of things including love and war.  I did not know much about Freya so I had to do some reading up.  The things that stuck in my mind about her were that she rode a chariot pulled by cats, had a battle boar, wore a cloak of feathers, had a constellation necklace crafted by dwarves, and cried tears of gold.

The tutorial suggested working on top of vintage manuscript paper.  I don’t have any but I could have improvised with a few sheets of book paper.  However, I decided to work on watercolour paper so as to have a more consistent substrate to work with.  The lesson was also about using pencil and then adding colour with thin washes of translucent media.  I sketch in pencil all the time and I use pencil to map out the scaffolding of ink drawings or paintings.  However, pencil is not something I particularly use for rendering a drawing.  Even when I was attending life drawing classes regularly, I used charcoal or ink.  It was, therefore, interesting to work a drawing up using pencil, use it for shading, blending it with a tortillon.  When it came to adding colour, I used Inktense blocks and Neocolor II crayons.  I wanted to reference the feather cloak, the necklace and the golden tears in my illustration.  I, therefore, added some feathers to the hair, and used gold ink to draw the necklace.  I almost did not add the gold tears, worried that that final step would wreck everything else I had worked on, but I went for it and I rather like the effect.  It is something I might well use again.

2 Freya 1

2 Freya 2

Eirene – Mixed Media Mythology

As I mentioned previously, in addition to taking the year long Life Book and Let’s Face It art courses, I was also lucky enough to win a spot on a course titled Mixed Media Mythology.  Happily this course is much briefer and is self-paced so I can fit it around my other art commitments which, in turn, have to fit around life.  The subjects of the lessons are goddesses from a variety of cultures.  As suggested by my 40 Drawings of Greek Mythology challenge and many of the monsters in my altered book project, I LOVE mythology so this course was very much my cup of tea.

The first lesson I chose to tackle was based on the Greek goddess Eirene.  The lesson was taken by Lucy Brydon and I must say it was a joy to watch video instructions delivered in a Scottish accent.  Brydon likes to incorporate monoprinting with the gelli plate into her paintings so it was great to see that in action.  I have used gelli plate prints in my mixed media work but as a collage element.  This time the printing was done as a layer of the painting.  I really loved the effect and can see me using that again in future.  I also learned a lot from Brydon’s approach to painting hair.

I actually used a recent ink drawing as the inspiration for this painting.  I wanted to challenge myself to meld my style of drawing with mixed media painting, experiment and see how it turned out.  As Eirene was the goddess of peace, my intention had been to incorporate a dove into the painting.  However, I chickened (or doved?) out of it when the time came, too concerned I would paint a goofy looking pigeon and thereby wreck the whole piece.  I, therefore, indicated the idea of peace through using pale, harmonious colours and some olive branches in her hair.

1 Eirene 1

1 Eirene 2

I like how the painting turned out except that the facial proportions went a bit Modigliani on me.  I have thought so before but I definitely need to get an easel so that my perspective in relation to the paper is more accurate.  My standing easel did not survive emigration.  I am considering a table top easel because of the way I work, in fits and starts, as that would allow me to leave it set up longer.