Roots and Branches

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.

10a Roots and Branches

10b Roots and Branches

 

Bespectacled Angel

I managed to scrape together some time in which to tackle last week’s Life Book lesson.  I did, as I often do, skip some steps and take some short cuts but I did follow the essence of the lesson.  The lesson was taken by Ivy Newport whose encaustic artwork has impressed me for quite some time.  This particular lesson functioned for me as an introduction to encaustic art but – as eager as I am to give that technique a try some time – there was absolutely no way I was going to eke out the time and organise the resources to incorporate that layer.  Some time I will have to give it a whirl but that time is not now.

The idea of the lesson was to fuse a self-portrait with the figure of an angel and it was also another opportunity to try paint over collage.  I find sometimes painting over collage works well for me and other times it really doesn’t.  I have to get better at observing why my process goes one way or another.  As it happens, this one fell somewhere in the middle – I didn’t get any annoying bubbles or ridges in the wrong places but I wish I had fewer straight edges among the collaged papers and instead had rougher torn edges.  I have not worked in pink or orange for a while so I challenged myself to use those colours.  I also challenged myself to keep the spectacles in the self-portait instead of cheating and depicting me in a way I only look when sleeping or showering.  When my husband came home and saw this piece on the easel, he congratulated me on the strong likeness I had achieved in my self-portrait.  I had to laugh.  Of course it is a good likeness: I painted over a photograph of me.

Week 39 - Be Your Own Angel 1

Week 39 - Be Your Own Angel 2

Girl with China Blue Hair

Last week’s Let’s Face It tutorial was a paint over collage lesson.  It was taken by Toni Burt and we had actually been led through her process for creating a collaged background as a mini-lesson a few months ago.

I really liked the collaged background as it was a bit more thought through and intentional than my collages tend to be.  Instead of just tearing up and sticking down paper, I was actually thinking about relationships between elements.  I should have thought a bit more carefully about the eventual composition, however, as I ended up with a significant bump under the figure because of the ticket stub.  Never mind.  Another learning opportunity.

The object was to paint a whimsical figure on top of the collage layer.  Burt used oil sticks in her piece but I neither own or have a desire to own oil sticks so I improvised and used Neocolor II crayons to shade the face.  It was a welcome break to be working in this more illustrative style again, not having to be concerned about accurate proportions and facial features and all that jazz.  I may be guilty of over-simplifying but time is ever my nemesis.

Week 36 - Paint over Collage

Intuitive Self(ish) Portrait

Last week’s Life Book lesson was with Annie Hamman.  Between Life Book and Let’s Face It, I have watched a lot of Hamman’s tutorials and have done most of them.  I really like her style and approach to her artwork.  She strikes the perfect balance between working purposefully and intuitively.  While my style is completely different from Hamman’s, I do aspire to a balance between those two modes of being intentional and being intuitive so I do enjoy her lessons.

This lesson was essentially one about painting over collage.  Hamman referenced the fact that we often tend to construct faces that mirror our own features and that is something I have noted about my artwork and have made mention of on this blog.  I, therefore, decided to run with that idea and started with a sketch of my face (sans glasses) and then worked on the face more intuitively so that the traces of my face remained yet it was not a true self-portrait because other elements had drifted away from replicating the proportions of my face.  It was me yet not me.  It was a self-ish portrait.

I am making a real effort to be much more positive about my art work experiments, a little more gentle on myself, striving to focus on the successful rather than flawed elements within each piece.  I will, therefore, state that I am happy with the collage background for this piece, a mixture of origami papers, washi tape and postage stamps.  I was also pleased with the skin tones I mixed as I actually managed to get the shade and tones to align with my own skin colour.

Week 36 - Intuitive Self Portrait

Your Story – Paint and Collage

If you have read a few of my blog posts then you will know that I tend to be self-effacing to the point of being self-deprecating.  Partly it is just a British thing – not tooting your own trumpet and all that – and partly it is a me thing.  When I consider that I have no ability with a particular skill or that I am terrible at it, what I actually am is mediocre and potentially improving.  I am a pretty driven person and I always aim to do things to the best of my ability, be the best possible version of me I can be with lots of effort and diligence, so I tend to magnify any lack of success.  One of the side benefits of all of the diverse art learning I have been doing is that I have had a crack at things I know I will find challenging and I have had plenty of practice at having to accept that I cannot be good at everything, that there are things I am just mediocre at and that is OK.

All of which preamble is to confess that I have skipped over a few Life Book lessons recently.  I have been very pushed for free time and, because they were lessons that I knew were not my cup of tea, I decided to give them a miss – at least for now.  When this week’s lesson arrived in my email inbox, I confess I thought it would be another one I would skip over.  I looked at the exemplar outcome and thought to myself that I would absolutely make a mess of the lesson, that it was not something I would be remotely any good at.  However, I didn’t want to skip another lesson in a row so I decided to push myself to do it and plunge on in.  I am so glad I did.  It turned out the thing I thought would not be my cup of tea was something I enjoyed immensely.

The lesson was taken by Roxanne Coble and was entitled “Your Story; Your Altar”.  Essentially the lesson involved combining paint and collage, something I have had mixed results with, but what I really enjoyed about it was the approach to curating and placing the collage elements, the messy imprecision of the paint layering, and all the mark making.  There was a really good balance between intuitive and intentional arting, just the sort of balance I have been striving to find.  The way Coble applied the paint and the marks she made were all elements that were completely familiar to me and so, while I expected to feel frustrated with my attempt at the lesson, I found that I was comfortable with the techniques and having a lot of fun.  In fact, I enjoyed the process so much that I think I might use my sidekick journal (where I smear all my leftover paint) for just this sort of technique.

Week 17 - Your Story Your Altar - Paint and Collage 1

Mandala over Collage

My art time has been limited recently between it being too cold in the house to hold a pencil or paint brush and kids getting sick one after the other.  I admit, therefore, that, when I saw that last week’s Life Book lesson was on the subject of manadalas, I almost decided to skip it entirely.  Mandalas are just not “me”.  Just as I am not zen enough to translate my doodles into zentangles, nor am I precise or measured enough to produce mandalas.  I actually much prefer asymmetry, wonkiness and imprecision in my art.  I am also a little queasy about the cultural appropriation inherent in producing something related to a style so rooted in a particular culture and one to which I do not remotely belong.  However, you know all too well that I am a control freak and anal retentive.  It was making me feel a little twitchy to not attempt a lesson.  After all, the entire point of me participating in Life Book is that it forces me to leave my comfort zone and try new things and – in doing so – learn what things work for me and perhaps assimilate them into my regular practice and find out what things don’t work for me and henceforth avoid them like the plague.  Finally, after a week of bone-numbing cold and having kids home sick – one after the other, of course – I really needed to decompress with a good chunk of art time.

The lesson was taken by Faith Evans-Sills and involved collage and layering and, obviously, adding a mandala as a focal point.  As you can see, there is no accurate measuring, no mathematical precision in my mandala but it is as good as I can get.  I used colours I associate with Spring because man oh man do I need Spring to arrive.

Week 8 - Mandala over Collage 1

Week 8 - Mandala over Collage 2

 

Let Us Eat Cake

This week’s Life Book lesson was taken by Patti Ballard and essentially it was a lesson in painting over collage.  Ballard had delivered a lesson earlier in the Life Book course and I had made a pig’s ear out of it.  I refer to that painting as the “monstrous mermaid”.  I did produce a replacement for that lesson, a replacement mermaid, but that experience meant that I determined I would actually stick with the instructions in the tutorial and not go so far off piste this time with Ballard’s second lesson.

Ballard’s exemplar was of a whimsical female figure with a celebratory cake.  I decided to follow her composition so as to reduce my risk of the lesson going pear-shaped – ever mindful of my mermaid mistakes – and I also stuck with making the figure whimsical.  The idea of a celebratory cake made me think of the famous line attributed to Marie Antoinette, “Let them eat cake”, so I used the French Queen as the inspiration for my figure, giving her a high stacked hairdo, a wide framed skirt and a fan.  I stamped the phrase “Let us eat cake” onto the painting to convey the idea of celebration, in keeping with the theme of the lesson.  The cake decided me upon using lots of saccharine pink in my palette.

I am quite pleased with how this painting turned out, partly because I feel like I have redeemed myself after my response to Ballard’s previous lesson.

Week 43 - Let Us Eat Cake