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

Painting Over Collage – Female Face

The last of the “catch up” Life Book lessons I tackled was a lesson by Tamara Laporte entitled Layers of You.  I actually had to watch the videos in five different sessions because of time constraints and interruptions.  The great thing about the actual creation, however, was that it lent itself to being broken down into chunks so that I could work on it over a few days.

The lesson involved constructing a collage that would become the scaffolding of the painting.  Part of the collage was to be a face, perhaps a torso and limbs, clipped from a magazine which would then underpin the creation of a figure in the painting.  Annoyingly, despite using good quality gel medium and a decent layer of clear gesso, my collage layer did bubble a little once I started adding the paint layer.  However, I really enjoyed the methodolgy of the lesson.  I just need to practice applying it a bit better.  We were encouraged to take a photo of the collage layer to use as reference so I shall  share that stage here so you can see what the foundation of my painting looked like.

Week 28 - Paint Over Collage - Collage Layer

I have been working in cool hues a lot lately – I am sure you have noted a preponderance of blue – so I deliberately decided to change things up for this lesson.  It is the height of summer here so I opted for a summery palette of bright yellow, oranges, reds and a splash of violet.  As you can see, I stuck quite closely to the facial shape and bone structure of the model in the collaged advert but I completely changed her hair.  I had initially planned on working with the original short crop but I felt the composition needed that sweep of violet to create a stronger division between the background and the little bit of torso area.  In Tamara Laporte’s video, she filled the background with all sorts of text, doodles and whimsical details.  That approach didn’t feel right for me, not for this piece at least, so I pondered what to do with the background to give it a bit more oomph.  Following discussions with some artist friends, I decided to go with spatters of yellow, red and violet paint.

I am really quite pleased with how this painting turned out but I will definitely have to avoid the bubbling problem when I try this paint over collage technique again.

Week 28 - Paint Over Collage - Finished Piece

Girl on a Swing

We were gifted a bonus lesson by Tamara Laporte last week on the Life Book course.  Happily, having had enough time to get through the scheduled lesson early in the week, I had time to work on the bonus lesson too.

The lesson was titled ‘Tree of Life’.   It was another practice in painting on top of collage elements and depicted a girl swinging from a tree.  I departed completely from the style of the exemplar but I used the techniques and the colour palette.   All Winter I seem to have been drawn to the cooler colours, the blues, purples, greens and pinks.  I probably need to challenge myself to use a warm colour scheme soon.  Perhaps that will force Spring to arrive!

This was truly a mixed media effort as I used watercolour (for the face), acrylics, collage, aquamarkers and neocolors all in the one piece.  This was a piece that definitely evolved over the days I spent on it and it most certainly went through a scruffy.  This was mainly thanks to the background looking chaotic but somehow painting over it and pushing it back saved it from ugliness.

One creeping realisation I have had since starting the Life Book course is that my ability to draw faces has regressed, markedly so, probably as a consequence of having not attended a life drawing class since I left Britain in October 2013.  This is something I will need to attend do in some way.  I cannot have my skills rusting any further.  Time to grease those artistic joints.

Week 9 - Tree of Life - Swing - Finished

Seeds of Love

This week’s Life Book lesson was entitled Seeds of Love and was taken by the course organiser, Tamara Laporte.  I am particularly enjoying her lessons because she goes into such depth explaining the concepts and techniques being demonstrated.  This particular lesson focused on value contrast, layering and whimsical versions of botanical, organic shapes.

This was definitely a piece that required both patience and faith.  There were so many steps involved in the process that patience was required to let each layer fully dry and set before progressing.  Happily that works for my schedule anyway as I do my arty stuff in bursts between other chores and commitments.  Faith was required because my version of this piece went through a definite ugly stage before it all pulled together into something coherent.  I had a better experience with the neocolors this time though I could have done a more skillful job of blending them.  It was really only when the black and white paint pens were added to reinforce the lines and shapes and create little details with the doodles that the ugly mess I was creating finally looked pleasing.  As per the lesson, I added a few words.  I chose words that connected to the botanical theme but which also could function as metaphors.

In many ways, the finished piece is reminiscent of the zombie animals I draw with ink.  It makes me think about creating a mixed media version of my zombie bunnies.

Week 6 - Seeds of Love

Please excuse the wonky angle in the photo.

Mixed Media Feathers

There were two lessons on Life Book this week, both very different but both involving feathers.  One was a success for me; the other less so.

The main lesson was taken by Rachael Rice.  The object was to create a dimensional piece representing a dream catcher but – for a variety of diverse reasons, including not having all of the materials required – I chose to do something else.  I seem to be making a habit of going my own way with LB lessons.  I need to learn to steer a path between creating something that speaks to me, inspires me, meshes better with my style, and getting the most out of the lessons by following the instructions.  Sometimes I find that path; sometimes I don’t.  It was another valuable lesson in painting over collage.  It ended up wrinkling a little but I actually quite liked that.  I also enjoyed using the metallic paints, gold and bronze.  I am not sure it shows up in the photo but they created a nice warm shimmer.  My feathers look a bit more like leaves but I liked the technique involved in constructing them.  Having no fabric to use in my collage, I ended up using white acrylic paint to produce what are fast becoming my signature dots.  What I produced is not a disaster but it is just a bit meh.  I will definitely use the techniques I learned in future projects, however.

Week 5 - Dream Catcher

In comparison, the bonus lesson completely inspired me.  It was an Affirmation Feather tutorial taken by Tamara Laporte, the course organiser, and involved me using two new media I have never used before: Dylusions spray inks and Posca paint pens.  I loved using both of them and will definitely use both again.  My colour scheme for the piece was dictated by the few colours of ink sprays and aquarelle pens that I possess but I rather like the freshness of the lime and teal.  The colours make me think of winter melting into spring.  I am definitely looking forward to spring.  I messed up a little when adding gesso because it smudged the ink but I managed to problem-solve it and recover.  I love the whispy feather, really like how this piece ended up and really enjoyed the process of creating it.  It definitely makes a difference to me when I engage with the lesson, inspires me more and gets me producing better results.

Week 5 - Affirmation Feather

Tamara’s feather lesson was definitely my favourite so far.

The Replacement Mermaid

My name is Laura and I am a Control Freak.

Frequent visitors to my blog may recall that the other day I shared the “monstrous mermaid” I had painted in response to a Life Book lesson.  I managed to successfully view the whole experience as a learning experience, spun the negatives into positives, embraced the mistakes.  Nevertheless, it niggled at me.  It annoyed me still.  Because I am a control freak.  I needed to test whether I had learned from the experience after all, whether I could use my analysis of what had gone right and wrong and create a better version as a consequence.  So today I decided to eke out some art time thanks to having no volunteer commitments, getting cracking on chores early in the morning and cooking dinner in the crockpot.

I liked what I had done with the collage before – using gelli plate prints torn at random and interspersed with book pages – so I decided to replicate that with the addition of also using some scraps from a map.  This time I scraped a thin layer of gesso over the centre of the collage to both knock back some of the collage colours a little and to provide a tooth for the paint to adhere to.  I think where I went wrong most before was in my use of heavy bodied acrylic paints.  I did use them again for my second attempt but this time mixed with bases of craft acrylics to increase the fluidity and extend the drying time of the paint.  That allowed me to blend a bit better and also allowed the collage papers to show through a little in places, which I thought was a welcome effect for a mixed media piece.  I really liked all of the dots in my previous painting so I did dots again.

I changed it up a bit stylistically too, working in my more cartoony style, which helped simplify things a little.  I did, however, stick to the same colour pallette because I liked the teal greens and russet reds I had used on the previous attempt.  I also used the same phrase again – “Go with the flow” – an instruction to myself I am ironically not abiding by given that I insisted on a do-over on this mermaid painting.  A lovely woman who is a member of one of the online mixed media groups I belong to very sweetly and generously sent me a whole box of shape punches she was getting rid of recently.  Among them was a seahorse punch.  Perfect.  I found some origami paper in my stash that was both green and orange, picking up colours from the painting, so I punched a few seahorses out of that paper and adhered them to the painting.

Week 4 - 2 - Acrylic on Collage - Courage

Job done.  Perfect?  Absolutely not.  I still have a lot to learn but at least I know I am learning from mistakes.  I am much happier with this mermaid.  I still prefer my siren drawing though.

The Monstrous Mermaid or Embracing Mistakes

I learned quite a few things from this week’s Life Book lesson.

Firstly, it is a good idea not to stand my mug of boiling water and lemon next to my water jar as it is inevitable that a paint covered brush will end up in the drink.

Secondly, I need to curb the temptation of going off piste so much.  Eager to marry my own style to the techniques being taught, I am being too impulsive.  I need to find the time to follow the tutorials more closely, even emulating the tutor’s style, before embarking on a version in my own style.

Thirdly, that my promise to myself to embrace all of my mistakes as learning opportunities can feel quite challenging at times.

This week’s bonus lesson was led by Patti Ballard and the technique demonstrated was painting on top of collage with acrylic.  Ballard’s instructional video depicted her painting a ballerina on a tightrope and the phrase “Courage Dear Heart”.  Ballerinas are not really my thing.  In fact, the one really good pen and ink drawing I ever did of a ballerina I gave away to a friend.  The idea of painting one, therefore, didn’t really trigger any enthusiasm in me so I decided to paint a mermaid instead.  I have been planning to carve a mermaid lino block print for ages but cannot seem to settle on a design so in the mean time I thought I would use one for this lesson.

The collage step went well.  I used some papers and some of my gelli prints and it all looked quite harmonious.  And then it  came time to paint.

I am really quite inexperienced with acrylic paint.  I am comfortable with pencil, charcoal, ink and watercolour but I have not yet gotten the hang of acrylic.  I think the first mistake I made, therefore, was using paint that was too heavy bodied.  Something a little more fluid may have helped me a lot more with blending.  My second mistake was to go too dark with my colour palette.  I wanted to ensure that the painting stood out against the background papers but in retrospect I should have toned the colours down a lot more.

It was not long before the whole thing was just looking like a complete and utter mess.  I have read a few times that it is important to just keep going, plough on through the ugly stage and have confidence that it will all pull together.  So I powered on.  It got a little better but was still pretty ugly.  Adding lots of dots and circles in different shades of blue and white just made it a more highly patterned mess.  Oh dear.  The chance of it all pulling together into something cohesive and aesthetically pleasing was looking unlikely.

As I pondered the concatenation of errors in my painting, reflected on how I needed to turn this failure into a valuable learning opportunity, I decided that the phrase I should stamp onto my painting was “Go with the flow”.  That is the type of courage I need with this mixed media art course.  I need to do my own thing a bit less, conform a bit more, accept that I will stumble – sometimes badly – but keep on trying.  I need to stop being a self-critical control freak and need to just “go with the flow”.

So here, in all her monstrous glory, is my mermaid.

Week 4 - Acrylic on Collage - Courage