What a difference from one week to the next – last week was an art time famine and this week I have managed to squeeze in three different doses of art time. This week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt to use colours outside your comfort zone. Since I had enjoyed the abstract lesson from Life Book so much this week and had found it so quick and easy, I decided to take a similar approach with my art journal page. I again chose to use my non-dominant hand and used a wooden skewer dipped in ink. I could tell just by glancing at my set of watercolours which colours I used least because they had barely been touched: green and orange. I decided to throw in some yellow for a third colour and to connect the green and orange. Not wanting to create another abstract and not knowing what else to draw, I settled on a self-portrait. I really enjoyed working in this way. It was quick, easy, and relaxing. I will be squirreling away this approach so I can use it again in future.
This week’s Art Journal Adventure offered a prompt that simultaneously served as a suggestion for overcoming the intimidation of a blank page and that was to use text pages as a starting point, a first layer. Fear of the blank page is not something I find to be a struggle; my challenge is always finding the time for art and adequate time to develop something to completion, even in my art journal. I have, therefore, been trying to follow the advice of Sue Clancy and her method of working in short bursts. I usually try to find a block of 15-20 minutes minimum in which to have a short burst of art time but some weeks I have to work in even shorter gobbets of time. What I am finding is that even micro bursts are effective in keeping creativity flowing and stopping the art muscles seizing up from rust.
This art journal page, therefore, was built up over three very short bursts. In the first, I quickly adhered some dictionary pages to the page in my journal. That took somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes – however long it took for a pot of pasta to boil. The second burst was under 5 minutes and that was drawing myself as a Book Worm. The final burst was probably ten minutes in which I added the colour using a variety of media. The resulting page is simple but I think it is fun. Had I decided that I needed 25 minutes to create this journal page, I never would have found the time last week; however, by finding small pockets of free time here and there throughout the week, I was able to gradually build the page up so long as I kept it simple.
As indicated, this is a self-portrait of myself as a book worm. I have always loved books. Some of my happiest childhood memories are of poring through books in the library and making my selections. I once ended up in hospital with a concussion because of reading: I was walking in Edinburgh with my nose in a book when I walked at full speed into a concrete lamppost. I was always a voracious reader who could gobble up a several books in a week. Even when I was teaching High School and was incredibly busy with little free time, I could read a book a week. In the past decade, however, the rate at which I can consume books has tapered off. I still read daily but not for the duration I was once able to. Nevertheless, since reading remains one of my favourite pastimes, I still think I qualify as a Book Worm.
My schedule was utterly slammed this week. Every space on the wall calendar was crammed with appointments and commitments and things that needed to be done. I thought there was not the remotest chance I was going to get to even view this week’s Life Book lessons let alone sit down and do something creative. However, two things happened this week that utterly jiggered my schedule and caused a great deal of hassle – one of my kids was off school sick for two days and then we had a snow day – but which actually meant I had more time stuck at home. More time at home meant I could actually get stuck into the lesson and art time was probably just what I needed to take the edge off the stress of a totally bonkers week.
The lesson was taken by Tamara Laporte. Tam always provides wonderfully in-depth videos for her lessons but there was no way I was going to find time to both view the videos and then still have time to create. I, therefore, read the accompanying PDF, modified the lesson by eliminating certain stages, and got stuck in. The crux of the lesson was a self-portrait scaffolded on an image transfer. I have never had much success with image transfers but I thought that was precisely why I should have another crack at it. The outcome was not ideal – I think I spread the gel medium too thinly in places – but is definitely the best I have produced so far so represents progress.
I then proceeded to paint on top of the image transfer and this was where I diverged from the lesson. I did not have time for layer upon layer of media so I limited myself to acrylic paint, Neocolor II crayons, and Inktense pencils and blocked in areas of colour and built up the detail of my face.
The idea of the painting was to include personal, symbolic elements and text alongside the self-portrait. It is not really my thing to be that personal and emotional with my art work. Art is definitely therapeutic to me but only in terms of the act of creating. I don’t need it to be a form of processing and expressing my thoughts and feelings and I am also too intensely private. I decided, however, that the self-portrait did need some finishing touches so I added some collage elements in the form of butterflies and leaves formed from text pages. All of those things could be interpreted as things that are important to me as a person – words and learning, growth, and change.
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 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.
Can you spot the mistake?
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 theme was “Enough”. Immediately the word “enough” made me think of all of the things I am sick to the back teeth of whether personal or global in scope. However, I like to keep my arting positive because it helps me decompress from life’s stresses rather than it being a visual catalogue of those stresses and frustrations. I, therefore, decided to take the sentiment intended – that each of us is enough – and work with that in my art journal.
I did not have a precise idea in my head so I made a messy, painty background using those vivid Dylusions paints while my thoughts evolved. What emerged was a combination of some of my default techniques and forms – people as matyroshka dolls, negative shapes, ink over acrylic – and a little character who represented me, not dissimilar from another recent “selfie” page. I like that the background shows through the ink in a way that suggests a night sky. That was a surprising act of serendipity.
This week’s Life Book lesson was taken by Pam Carriker and revolved around a selfie. Now I do draw self-portraits from time to time because I am an available and compliant model but I am really not my favourite subject. There is nothing interesting or inspirational about my face. I have no compelling bone structure. In fact, my face looks like it was hewn from a potato. Which is OK because I have intelligence, wit and charisma on my side. Ha ha! For this exercise, I chose to avoid the complications of painting glasses so I used a selfie sans spectacles which confirmed to me that I actually look better when I wear glasses as it gives my face more proportion and interest. So, yes, selfies are not my favourite subject but I appreciate they make for a good exercise.
The print of the selfie was transferred to the paper using a simple but effective technique which ensured the proportions of the face were accurate. This proved to be interesting as my husband and three of my sons all remarked, when looking at the finished piece, that my cheeks are chubbier in real life. The approach to the painting was grungy which I enjoyed immensely. Lots of dribble and mess and scrunging the paint around. I also liked that it was largely monochromatic with just a little pop of colour here and there. I chose purple because it is my favourite colour. I would say that the finished piece resembles me but is not a strong likeness. In that regard, it makes me think of those drawings of suspects created from eye witness statements: it is close enough to identify it as me but things are awry enough for it to be not quite right.
This week’s Colour Me Positive theme was about Balance. Balance was my focal word and life goal in 2015 so it was interesting to revisit the topic. As I have mentioned before, I came to realise that I had allowed my life to become unbalanced, permitted myself to become frazzled, come to think of myself as constantly failing to meet muster, because I was attempting to juggle far too many balls. By focusing on restoring a better balance into my life in 2015, I determined that I did not have to juggle all of the balls all of the time, did not have to keep them all in perpetual motion. There are glass balls that are fragile and vulnerable and which I absolutely cannot allow to drop – nurturing my kids, for instance – and there are rubber balls that really don’t matter that much in the whole big scheme of things – dusting always comes to mind – and which I can allow to drop because they just bounce and come back anyway.
This little ink illustration, therefore, is a visual representation of that metaphor that I refer back to from time to time to keep me from getting overly frazzled again. It is essentially little blobby me trying to balance a whole little universe of spheres but knowing it is OK if a few of them stop spinning and fall to the ground.
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.