Abstract Layers

As someone who is really into illustration, I very much struggle with creating abstract art.  That was precisely why I pushed myself to actually do this week’s Life Book lesson, which was taken by Jodi Ohl.  I find that I now enjoy the process of working in an abstract method, of layering and mark-making, of using colour and texture rather than shape and form.  However, because I have no real feel or instinct for it, I never know when I am “done” with a piece.  My impulse is to add some sort of representational element to provide the piece with a focal point but often, when I have done so, I regret it because it doesn’t cohere.  I worked on this piece gradually over the course of three days, adding bits and pieces whenever time was available to do so.  Each time I returned to my art table to work on it, I had a sense that it needed more and had an idea of what to add – some dribble here, a few marks there – but then I reached a point where I didn’t know what to add.  Did that mean it was complete?  Or did it simply mean that my well of inspiration had run dry for this piece?  Or was I just fed up of working on this piece and wanting to move on to something new?  Any or all of the above?  I decided this piece was done.  Maybe I will circle back to it at some point and add something; probably I won’t.

32 - Abstract Layers

Dark and Light

Last week’s Life Book lesson was taken by Andrea Gomoll and was all about painting a figure who was caught between an area of darkness and an area of light.  The medium was primarily watercolour, which I always enjoy working with.  I decided to place my figure in the centre of the paper with her hair flowing upwards to create a clear dividing line between the dark area and the light area.  I enjoyed letting the paint in those background areas bleed into one another and create blooms.  I built the flesh tones up gradually, using a neutral palette first and then layering the stronger colours on top, dividing the face between the cool blues of the dark side and the warm yellows and pinks of the light side.  I possibly should have gone more dramatic with the shading and lighting on the face.  I grounded the piece by painting black into the torso area of the figure and then tried to make the background and the figure cohere by adding spatter in white and black watercolour.

31 Dark and Light

Skeleton Bear

There were two lessons last week for Life Book, one taken by Whitney Freya and one by Samie Harding.  There was absolutely no way I was going to find time to tackle two different lessons.  I thought I would choose to work on the one that appealed most to me but, in actual fact, neither really chimed with me enough to stand out.  One was abstract and one was very “art therapy” in its approach and neither of those things really inspires my creativity.  I almost decided not to work on Life Book for the second week in a row but then I had an idea: I could combine the lessons.  I could use some of the approaches from the abstract lesson to create a background and could use the concept of a totem animal from the other lesson as a jumping off point for the subject matter.  Of course, being me, I had to put my own twist on things and – as such – I turned my bear into a silhouette contain a skeleton.  You wouldn’t know it to look at it, but I did have a quick google to have a photo reference for the bear’s skull.  I actually had a lot of fun creating this painting so I am glad I found the mojo and the time to actually work on Life Book after all.

30 - Skeleton Bear

From the Ashes

One of the reasons I enjoy participating in Life Book is that it exposes me to different techniques, media, and approaches I may not have stumbled across or thought of one my own.  This lesson with Jamie Dougherty was one such example.  Had I not watched the video, I may never have thought to turn ash into paint.  You can see the ash layer was used in the torso of the figure I painted.  The whole idea of taking ash and turning it into something new suggested the flame colour palette for the rest of the piece.  I am actually really pleased with how this piece turned out.  I have managed to find a comfortable balance between my illustrative style and using mixed media techniques.  It just feels quite “me”.  I may not use ash in my art work again (aside from the messiness, it had my kids turning into pyromaniacs) but I am now inspired to think about other things I might be able to transform into paint.

28 From the Ashes

Colourful Picasso Drawing

I am back from vacation (more of which soon!) and am trying to catch up on some of the art lessons and art time I missed out on while travelling.  It is impossible for me to catch up entirely so I have determined I will do 50% of the missed lessons and journal prompts.  That way it forces me to eke out some art time during this busy summer while not putting me under pressure.

I chose this Life Book lesson because it looked like I could easily fit it into a small chunk of time.  I did it in three stages – gesso, drawing, painting – but in total it probably took me about half an hour.  In the lesson, Misty Mawn used Picasso’s line drawing of a female head, part of his War and Peace series.  Normally I would do my own thing but a) I have always loved this Picasso drawing and b) I needed to just crack on with the art so this time I decided to use the same drawing as my starting point.  The drawing – done with Neocolor II crayons –  was quick to do.  The final stage was also quick and easy as I simply filled in the shapes with white paint, blending the crayon.  I usually use Neocolor as a layering element in mixed media pieces or as a sort of watercolour so it was new to me to use them to tint white paint.  I think I will use that technique again.

26 Picasso Sketch 1

26 Picasso Sketch 2

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