It has been months since I completed a page in my Rainbow Art Journal but the winter break afforded me the opportunity to sit at my art table while my kids played video games or otherwise kept themselves occupied. This particular page has been progressing for a good couple of months now as I just kept adding on layers of collage and then of paint.
The background is a photo (by Yan Gao) from a National Geographic magazine depicting an aerial view of a town in Tibet. I thought the pattern of red roofs might prove to be an interesting background to a page in the red section of my Rainbow Art Journal. I then glued down a random face cut from a magazine, some raspberries, red butterfly wings and a lobster just to add to the red theme. Apart from ensuring the face was central, it was all placed in a pretty haphazard way. It then sat at that stage for many weeks until I could return to it and practice painting over collage.
It is interesting to me that the face ended up so flat. Having started with a photograph of a face as my scaffolding, one would assume that the face painted on top of it would be similar. I suspect I layered the paint too thickly and lost all sense of there even having been a face below. The wings and berries became a sort of headdress or headband and the lobster became a sort of outsized brooch I suppose – unless we choose to imagine that the woman is being attacked by a lobster. I painted the lobster a more vivid red, however, so he’d have to be an undead zombie lobster attacking the figure.
Not a very successful page by any measure then but I am glad to have finally completed this page after the journal being untouched and the page having been in stasis for so long. Onward and hopefully upward.
This week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was “opposites”. I ran through a lot of ideas in my head before choosing to depict Night and Day as female figures. This was something I had tried before in my Rainbow Art Journal but I had not been satisfied with the result. This was an opportunity to revisit the subject and hopefully accomplish a better outcome. Whereas before I had worked across two pages, this time I confined the composition to a single page. To further enhance the concept of opposites, I placed the figures top to tail as I knew I had liked that composition when I used it in my most recent Red Riding Hood page.
To create a bit more visual interest to the page, I adhered some collage materials as a first layer and ensured that those still showed through subsequent layers in places. While the composition and colour scheme places the Night and Day figures in opposition to each other, I also wanted to connect them, because they are cyclical, so I drew their hair swirling into the sector of the other and had the metallic dots sweep across the diagonal dividing line in places.
This week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was to use a brayer or similar tool to apply paint to the page. I already had an idea for a page I wanted to create so I grabbed colours I thought would work well – grey, back, and pink – and scraped them across the page. I then added some white spatter largely because I love spatter but also because I thought it might suggest snowfall.
I had been reading National Geographic magazine and spotted a trio of portraits of Japanese macaques. Their little faces really pulled me in so I knew I wanted to use them in an art journal page. I stacked them up like a totem and glued them down.
My personal challenge with this page was to try and disguise the edges of the magazine paper, make it look less “collaged” once I painted over it. I, therefore, applied some thick matte medium over the top of the collaged photographs. Painting over the photo portraits, I wanted to make the colours more stark so I made the fur white and the faces brighter pink. I think I managed to maintain the personality of the monkeys’ faces and I also succeeded in my personal challenge to conceal the edges of the collage.
Last week’s Life Book lesson was taken by Annie Hamman. I really love Hamman’s paintings and enjoy watching her process but it is a style and methodology I can never get to work for me as I am neither painterly or loose enough in the way I handle paint. I have, therefore, really enjoyed the previous Annie Hamman lessons I have worked on but I always end up with something much more rigid and controlled than the anticipated outcome. This lesson was no exception.
I enjoyed all of the techniques deployed in the lesson, such as painting over collage and painting negative space, but I was neither intuitive or loose enough in my mark making. That’s OK though. That way of creating just isn’t me. What was disappointing was that my choice to use blue for underpainting and layering up the shadows of the face didn’t dissipate enough in subsequent layers and the flesh tones ended up sallow and sickly looking as a result. (Incidentally, the phone photo makes the colours much paler than they are in real life because the light levels have just been so dreary here lately.) I am, however, happy with the negative painting around the antlers, the pushing back of and forward from the collage layer, and the gold of the halo. I think this is another one of those lessons I will attempt again, perhaps in my art journal, as I liked the approach and have hopefully learned something from the underpainting oops.
For this week’s Life Book lesson, the tutor was Effy Wild. The visual elements of the lesson were connected to some introspection but I mostly choose to gloss over the more art therapy aspects of Life Book and just focus on the art. I also did not have time to view the video demonstrations so I relied on the accompanying PDF to provide me with an understanding of the steps involved. As always, my finished outcome looks little like that of the tutor but I utilised techniques and approaches that she demonstrated. I think the finished treeis reminiscent enough of a plump baobab tree that I wish I had thought of the resemblance sooner in the process and made it completely like a baobob. It was at its core an exercise in patchwork collage and negative space. I used bronze paint over the collage layer for the tree trunk and gold for the leaves so that it would glint in the light and because I look for any excuse to use metallic paints. The tutor’s version incorporated text. I wasn’t feeling that way inclined but do feel my piece lacks a focal point. I just need to ruminate on it for a bit and return to it once I have an appropriate epiphany.
This is the second completed page in my “rainbow art journal”. Right now, of course, it isn’t very colourful since I decided to start with absence of colour in the form of black. This page was inspired by my friend Krisje over at her blog, Art is my Favorite Color. She recently blogged about an art journal page where she painted over collage which reminded me that I have not attempted that sort of approach – using a collaged figure as scaffolding – in ages. I, therefore, decided that would be the technique used on this page and I actually remembered to take progress photos. First I laid down a pretty random collage comprising the interior of a security envelope, washi tape, text pages, a figure clipped from a magazine advert, and the labels from a bottle of wine I had consumed that week.
What became evident fairly quickly was that the collage elements became all but lost beneath the black paint, even when it was thinly applied. I just went with it and made a mental note to revisit this technique when using a lighter colour of paint. Perhaps because of the nature of the material, the Honey Beast wine labels were the one collage element that really came through the collage. I was glad because I loved that honey bee design and that then provided me with a theme for my art journal page. I picked out the bee design a bit more by filling it with white gel pen. This was definitely the “ugly stage”.
Once the base layer of acrylic paint was dry, I used other media to layer, refine, and add detail. An art friend had passed me a collection of little stamps on an insect theme and among them was a bee. I stamped this throughout the hair of the figure to tie her to the honey bee and then I used white Posca paint pen to give her bee-like wings. While the technique was not wholly successful, it was fun to do something I had not done in a while and useful to learn that painting over collage does not work so well with very dark colours. That is what my art journal is all about after all – experimentation through fun.
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.