Last week I had ten minutes of art time. Ten. That’s all, folks. In a week that included an unplanned hospital visit, house guests, and a funeral on top of all my usual commitments, obligations, and time suckers, I was not only pushed for free time but also brimming over with stress. I felt like it might just save my sanity if I could find some way to dig out 20 minutes for art. That turned out to be ambitious and I got 10. Knowing I didn’t have time to do anything too involved, too messy, or too detailed, I turned to the Art Journal Adventure prompt and opened up my art journal to a blank page.
The prompt was to feature scallops on the page. Yum. Scallops. I don’t think I have eaten any since I left Scotland. Divine wee morsels that they are. When I thought of scallops as a shape rather than a food, I thought of the way child-like clouds are drawn and that gave me the inspiration for my page. With no time to draw or paint, I quickly cut out some scallop-fringed cloud shapes from old book pages and adhered them to the top of the page. I then added stripes of Neocolor II crayons and outlined the clouds with Stabilo All. Both of these activate with water so I sprayed liberal quantities of water on the page, then tipped up the art journal to let it all run and dribble and drip. And that was my 10 minutes all used up. I left it to dry overnight and was actually fairly satisfied with the result given the (lack of) time and effort invested in its creation. And it just goes to show me that a) I can put together an entire art journal page in very little time indeed if I keep things simple and work efficiently and b) even a little bit of art time can balance out a stressful week.
This year I wanted to try working in an art journal dedicated to one theme. I have worked in themes before, of course, as with my Greek Mythology drawings and my altered book that was full of monsters. Even my first time participating in Inktober became thematic. The difference with those, however, was that I was utilising the same techniques and deploying the same media over and over. What I wanted to do was practice using a wide variety of media, combine them to revisit and practice the mixed media techniques I have been learning over the past few years, and challenge myself to create a coherent journal full of connected pages. I decided to work on a really loose theme which was colour. Easy peasy. I bought a new journal (I like the spiral bound Cansons for their flexibility) and worked out how I would divide it between all the colours of the rainbow plus a few additional colours and black and white. I do not have a timetable for working on this journal or a deadline for its completion. No pressure. I will work in it as and when time allows, maybe adding bits here and there while working on other projects as a good way to use up excess paint or bits of collage paper. I will share each page as it is completed.
I am starting with black. My first page was pretty simple because I grabbed the journal and worked on it while watching a movie with my kids one afternoon. I just tucked up on the sofa with my fountain pen and drew the figure and didn’t worry about perfect proportions or angles. It is an art journal so it is just for fun. I added the wash of ink later that evening just to eradicate more of the white paper. Simple. And relaxing because it was simple. Maybe this particular art journal will become a useful tool for decompression for me this year.
After two weeks of travelling and zero time for art, picking up my art journal again was a great means of getting back into a creative groove and add oil to the old and creaky art joints. The Colour Me Positive prompt for last week was “Alive” so I decided to create a page on that theme.
The wee me character is one I previously featured in an art journal page for the theme of “Balance” and it was fun to feature her/me again in this page. Alive made me think of vivaciousness and zest for life, diverse experiences, just the essence of vitality. That was when the image of a figure leaping from a ring of rainbow colours entered my mind’s eye.
I am sure you spotted the mistake. When adding watercolour into the ring encircling the figure, I let the yellow wander beyond the interior circle shape. Doh. Guess I need to add more oil to those rusty creative joints still.
This week’s Colour Me Positive art journal theme was “Celebrate”. I think the idea of the prompt was for it to be personal and reflective, asking participants to celebrate something about themselves. However, my immediate idea was for a wider scope. I wanted to create a page inspired by a celebration of diversity.
Apologies for getting political for a moment but I have been rather despondent this past week following the Brexit referendum back home in the UK, despondent and livid actually. I have always felt Scottish first and European second – never British oddly enough – so I was dismayed by the rejection of Europe as an institution. I have been even more disheartened by many reports of a seemingly related increase in racial and xenophobic incidents. It seems that for some all of the chatter about “taking back Britain” is about going all the way back to Anglo-Saxon homogeneity. I feel that Britain is and always has been the richer for all of its cultural absorption and assimilation, its thriving immigrant communities, its diversity, and I think Britain will be impoverished should it be permitted to become more insular, less tolerant, less welcoming, less inclusive. Of course, here in America too we are facing an election that has been dominated by a lot of loud talk about exclusion and intolerance. The politics of fear and hate are festering on both shores of the Atlantic.
That was very much on my mind as I sat down to work in my journal this week. I, therefore, chose to celebrate diversity, multiculturalism, difference, the spectrum of human existence, the things that elevate human existence from dull monochrome and make it vibrant and bright and interesting. Since there are Pride celebrations happening all over the globe this month too it was not a stretch to think of the symbolism of the rainbow to symbolise that celebration of diversity. My art journal page, therefore, is an ink and watercolour illustration of a girl twirling in a rainbow coloured ribbon, so many complicated thoughts and feelings distilled into one simple image.
The second Life Book lesson of the week turned out to be a bit of a labour of love. The lesson was taken by Tamara Laporte and the idea was to create a self-portrait as the focal image of a piece all about dreams and affirmations.
As I explained recently, I am not averse to creating self-portraits as they are very good practice. However, I don’t like to work on them too frequently so I decided to make a little twist on the theme and paint a portrait of me as a child. I used a photograph of myself when I was three. That is a time for limitless dreams after all. I also borrowed ideas from my own art journal page as the inspiration for elements of this painting. There were lots of layers and processes going on in this piece. Because I work in fits and starts, it felt like it was taking me ages to get it anywhere.
I am not sure how I feel about this piece. I think it probably needs more work to pull it completely out of the “ugly stage” but I was in danger of turning areas into mud or pilling the paper by over-working the layers so I had to step away from it and leave it be. Frankly, I also ran out of time to devote to it. I can see that it does very much look like little me so that is a plus. I have also learned a lot from the things that went right and the things that went awry. Ultimately, I think this piece is probably too personal for me to be able to have any objectivity.
As ever, I drifted quite far from the exemplar, taking ideas from the lesson and making them my own. This time the elements I took from the tutorial were colourful spatter on a black background and incorporating the oenochoe jug.
I wanted to give my figure’s body a gentle curve to echo the curve of a rainbow. I also had the idea of letting her lower body fade out rather like the ends of a rainbow fade out. I am not convinced that latter decision has worked well in the composition, however. I like the spectrum dots behind the figure but am not wholly convinced that they read as wings.
The dual prompts for the Documented Life Project this week were Colour Wheel and a quotation from Georgia O’Keeffe: “I found I could say things with colour and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way”. When prompts lean towards the broad and vague, it can be hard to know where to start. There are so many options and possibilities that it becomes hard to narrow the focus to one idea and thus inspiration is in short supply. The beauty of such open-ended prompts, however, is that every member of the group is bound to have their own unique take on the prompt(s) and put their own individual spin on it. Once inspiration comes knocking, each person is free to run with it and see what emerges on the blank page.
Recently it has rarely been the case that I have created my prompt response so early in the week. Finding time is my major artistic challenge right now. Today, however, I happened to have my monthly Art Journal MeetUp group so I was presented with a wonderful opportunity to get the page done. We meet at a coffee shop so travel art supplies to hand and hot chocolate to mouth (because I don’t drink coffee) I set about creating my page.
My 7 year old and I have been cutting out shapes to use in our art journaling. The O’Keeffe quotation inspired me to include a repeated shape on the page and one of the shapes I have is a matryoshka doll. Each matryoshka doll could, therefore, represent a different wedge on the colour wheel. I used watercolour, pencil and pen to create my spectrum of matryoshka. This is actually the second time I have created a journal page based around matryoshka. I don’t know why I am so drawn to that shape or idea. Answers on a postcard.
Although I had plenty of negative space on my page, I did not have a great deal of free space. I, therefore, focused the O’Keeffe quotation down to the most relevant part and used pen to add it to the bottom of my page.