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.
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.
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.
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.
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.