Loose Selfie

This week’s Life Book lesson was taken by Tracy Verdugo and involved creating a self-portrait.  Verdugo actually demonstrated three different approaches to painting a loose self-portrait and each looked interesting and like something I would like to try (though maybe not using my own face over and over).  She also based her paintings on selfies she had edited using various apps.  I don’t have any photo editing apps on my phone and did not have time to download and experiment with them so I just used an unedited selfie as the basis of my painting.

25 Selfie for Self-Portrait

I did start out very loose, using ink to block in certain shapes and areas before dropping very liquid watercolour into the painting, but somewhere along the line things ended up getting very illustrative and tight again.  No matter what I do, I always seem to get “locked in” when painting even when I am trying my hardest to stay loose – such as, for instance, using large brushes as I did with his piece.  It is also not a strong likeness and I guess that is OK because I am not a portraitist but it is still a bit ridiculous that I don’t know my own face well enough to capture it more accurately.  In this self-portrait, I think what particularly went wrong is that I reduced the area of my forehead (which is so big I call it a fivehead) and I slimmed down my cheeks.  Maybe I was subconsciously flattering myself.

25 Loose Watercolour Ink Self-Portrait

Antlers

I had to diverge a fair bit from last week’s Life Book lesson.  The lesson was taken by Effy Wild and was a bit too “art therapy” for my taste.  I definitely appreciate the therapeutic function art and other forms of creativity can and do play in people’s lives but it just isn’t for me.  For me, art is cathartic just through the act of creating, the calm space it creates in my busy life.  I don’t use it for delving into deep feelings or processing them.  While I opted out of that aspect of the lesson, I did enter into the spirit of working intuitively.  I consciously chose to work in shades of green because it is a colour I don’t often reach for and maybe that woodland palette is why what emerged on the page was a female figure sporting antlers.  The antler thing has been happening a lot lately.  I have no idea what that is about or what it might represent.  I’ll just go with it.

23 Antlers

Create Something Every Day

It took me a full week of working in short bursts to complete last week’s Life Book lesson.  I know I frequently mention how busy my schedule is but last week was truly, utterly, completely ridiculous.  I needed teleportation or cloning skills to make it work.  Since I don’t possess superpowers or ethically questionable advanced science skills, what I did instead was rush around, stress myself out, and try to reconcile myself with the fact that I would have to drop some really very important commitments.  It really ought to have been a week when I accepted that there was zero time for art but I decided that I might risk imploding if I did not have some small gobbets of art time to aid me in decompressing throughout the week.  Across seven days, therefore, I gradually added to the piece, little by little, in the tiny rations of available free time I had.  The quality of my work may have suffered as a result but it may just have prevented me from spontaneously combusting from stress.

The lesson was taken by Vicky Papaioannou and involved created a whimsical sort-of self-portrait that conveyed a message about creative ideas, energy, mojo flowing from the creative person.  My sort-of self-portrait ended up being a much younger, slimmer, more attractive me but I think there is enough of my features and proportions in there for it still to be a “selfie”.  What is artistic license for if you can’t make yourself much more bonnie?  My creative flow is represented by the hair – also a fudge of reality since my hair is not that long and is salt-and-pepper rather than black.  I added a pen, pencil, and paintbrush to the hair by way of illustrating my creativity and stamped the phrase “create something every day” onto the figure’s torso – going horribly wrong with the stamping since I smudged the lettering.  Never mind.  I think the phrase was quite apt given my context.

21 Create Something Every Day

 

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

Art Failures as Learning Opportunities

Some weeks my creative mojo is sorely lacking.  There can be many contributing factors, of course, but there are short periods of time where whatever I put my hand to is mediocre at best.  Last week was one such week.  I do remember the many times I experience success with my art and I also value the calming, restorative, recharging effect of having worked on art even when the outcome isn’t what I would hope for.  Nevertheless, last week was one of those weeks where nothing I did in terms of art was pulling together.  The pieces never emerged from the ugly phase.  They just got uglier.

The first piece was produced in response to a Life Book lesson taken by Jodi Ohl.  It was all about adding typography to a colourful, layered background.  Layering has long been one of my art nemeses so I knew it was going to be a challenge.  Sometimes I rise to the challenge but not this time.  The palette of bright colours I added worked with each other for maybe two layers and then they started to fight with each other and then they somehow lost their vibrancy and looked not so much like mud but like sludge.  I tried to knock back areas by negative painting in thinned gesso and that only served to make everything look more dull and grey.  In a last ditch effort, I added some Neocolor II inside the feather shapes, trying to obliterate the underlying layers.  That pop of colour rescued the piece from going into the trash but I still found the whole piece to be unsatisfactory.  Having used gritty gesso, I decided not to waste the nib of any pens on this piece and instead stamped out lines from the famous Emily Dickinson poem around the feather shapes.  I was glad to see the back of this piece and move on to something else.

15 Layered Feathers

Alas, the thing I moved onto was a page in my art journal, a response to the Art Journal Adventure prompt for the week.  The idea was to use curvy and round elements.  I had not used my gelli plate for a while and the youngest kids were up for having a play with it too so I decided that that would be my tool and technique for this week’s page.  I have not experimented much with printing directly into my art journal from the gelli plate so that was my personal challenge.  I chose to push the journal down onto the plate.  Perhaps things would have worked out better had I flopped the plate onto the paper instead but I doubt it.  I cut out some circles and curvy arch shapes from shipping envelopes to use as masks in different layers.  The first couple of layers looked pretty good but there was not enough interest for me to quit while I was ahead.  I pushed on with a further layer and obliterated what had been a nice little area on the page.  That was annoying but I pushed on hoping that subsequent layers would lead to some other interesting shapes and textures and contrasts emerging.  Unfortunately, that was not what happened.  I think I need more regular practice with gelli printing in order to develop some skill with it, some idea of how to achieve different looks rather than my haphazard, slapdash way of doing things.  I got to the point where I was sick of the sight of the page so decided that was a good reason to stop.  I finished it all off by gluing down some of the circle masks I had been using.

14 Curves and Circles

It was not a good week for art, therefore, but I am choosing to focus on the positive of the flaws and failings being learning opportunities.  I have, as stated above, learned that I need to actually plan out what I am doing with the gelli plate rather than just shoving elements together and hoping for the best.  The solution is more practice.  I have a small gelli plate so perhaps I will keep that to hand and have a play with it more frequently to see if I can develop some sort of process that works for me.  I have also learned that layering remains something that I struggle with and I should probably just conclude that it is not my thing and stick to techniques that do work for me.  Investing time and energy into approaches that result in pleasing outcomes is ultimately going to be more fulfilling than trying to learn a technique that eludes me.  It is OK for me to hone the skills I possess instead of chasing after the ones I don’t.   My mojo will return.

House on the Green Hill

The Art Journal Adventure prompt for last week was to use horizontal and vertical elements.  Perhaps it was because I had recently been reading Dylan Thomas’ poem ‘Fern Hill’ to my 11 year old son but the idea of horizontal and vertical lines automatically made me think of fields in a verdant green landscape and a little house nestled beneath a hill.  The idea seemed simple enough but it literally took me a full week to take the page from inception to completion.  Each colour of acrylic in the patchwork landscape represents a quick burst of art action in my daily schedule.  Worked on in such short bursts here and there throughout the week, it took an awfully long time for the page to fill with colour.  Thankfully, once all the painting was done and dry, the finishing touches were completed quickly.  That was just the case of doodling with paint pens while watching the news and drinking a cup of tea one morning.  It was those little details that pulled the page together and made it a coherent, stitched together quilt of a landscape rather than a chaotic mish-mash.

13 Green Hill Landscape