Layers with a Whale

This week’s Life Book lesson was taken by Mary Beth Shaw who operates Stencil Girl Products.  Her lesson was all about building up a mixed media piece in layers incorporating, of course, stencils of varying scales.  Despite experimenting with mixed media techniques for two years now, I have made almost zero progress with either layering or stencilling.  I am equally inept at both.  The outcomes of such lessons are never pleasing.  I do keep trying though.

The aim of this lesson was to end up with a piece that looked colourfully grungy and textural, a graffiti, street art look.  Mine just looks like vandalism.  I had to improvise a fair bit because I don’t own many stencils and those I own tend to be small.  While I don’t like the overall effect of my finished piece, there are certainly elements from the layering I will take away and use in other projects – negative space highlighting of text, a technique for creating illegible handwriting – but not all in one piece because clearly I just make a mess when I combine too many things.

Week 10 - Layering with Text, Stencils, and Illegible Writing

Just Be Kind

This week’s Documented Life Project challenge was to combine the previous three weeks’ challenges: stamps, stencils and masks.  The quotation prompt was one from Henry James:  “Three things in human life are important.  The first is to be kind.  The second is to be kind.  And the third is to be kind.”  When watching the news at present, it is difficult to see much kindness in the world but I like to think that the sentiment of James’ words are true.  If we want to affect change then we can all start by individually striving to respond to others with tolerance, compassion and kindness.  Maybe small gestures have a ripple effect.

I wanted to illustrate that idea in my art journal, the notion that small changes in individual behaviour can be a seed that germinates and grows.  I, therefore, used stencils and a mask – an oval blob I surrounded with thick black paint – to create a little pod person, a seed to grow in the darkness.  I then used stamps to add the words “Just be kind”.  A simple message for a simple idea and a simple page.

Week 48 - Stencils, stamps & Masks - Just Be Kind

Intuitive Stencilling

Those of you who have followed my mixed media efforts for long enough will know that I am kack-handed when it comes to stencilling.  I really cannot seem to get the knack of it.  If I get the pigment strong enough, there is usually blobbing around the shapes; if I keep the shapes crisper, it is usually at the expense of strong pigment.  Therefore, when I saw that this week’s Life Book lesson revolved around stencils, I knew I was in for a challenge and hopefully some progress.

This week’s lesson was taken by Lynzee Lynx and the thrust of the lesson was to use stencils we created ourselves and to use them in a layered mixed media piece.  We were encouraged to create stencils of any shapes that came to mind.  I used OHP acetates and cut one that was like a series of striped pebbles, one that was like some curvy arrowheads and one that was a trio of lozenge shapes.  The tutor used her stencils with spray paint but, having none, I sponged acrylic through the stencil shapes instead.  Oddly enough, I actually got the best results I have ever had from stencilling with good coverage and pretty crisp edges.  I wonder if it is because the shapes were larger.

We were to use the stencils intuitively and employ that same instinct to creating the background for the stencils and then layering on top of the stencil shapes.  Working instinctively never comes easily to me.  However, this time, with four kids under my feet and near constant interruptions, I did not have the luxury of time to get stuck inside my head.  Since necessity compelled me to work in a rush, I had to just reach for materials and quickly do something with them without over-analysing or planning.  Of course, I did lots of dribbling and spatter because that is something I really enjoy doing.

Interestingly, there were bits of this piece that I thought were a hideous mess at one stage.  The big cobalt blue blob was a mistake I made when distracted, dribbling the paint in one spot for far too long.  In the end, however, that pool of cobalt spattered with turquoise is one of my favourite elements in the piece.  Likewise, unlike the other spatter, I added the turquoise spatter after I had laid down the black stencilling and I worried it would look like the after-thought it was.  However, I really like the effect of the turquoise on the black.  I am not sure how I feel about the piece overall, however.  I think it lacks cohesion.  I think perhaps I ought to have stencilled the pebble shapes in black rather than gold as they draw the eye too much and the other gold elements in the page – dots created with various implements – do not successfully balance it out.  I did the doodling while watching a movie with my kids and I think in this case the not thinking about it led me to over-doodle, though I am happy with the variety of shapes I chose.

So the lessons learned this week are that I do better when stencilling larger shapes, that I need to find the right balance between working instinctively but not making a mess of things by not thinking enough, and that I need to trust that things I think are a disaster might just work out in the end.

Week 25 - 1 - Layering with own Stencils

Week 25 - 2 - Layering with own Stencils

Week 25 - 3 - Layering with own Stencils

*Apologies for the wonky angles in the first photo*

Autumn Leaf Fairy

This week’s Documented Life Project prompt was to incorporate leaves onto the page.  As much as I love seeing all the Autumn leaves transforming into myriad colours, glowing and glistering, burnished by the sun, I was not feeling inspired by this week’s challenge.  I really can’t explain why.  I had a few ideas but nothing that really got my creative pulse going.

I have been thinking recently about trying to progress with my plan of incorporating mixed media art techniques into my more regular, illustrative style of art and, therefore, determined to try that in response to this week’s challenge.  I was pondering the fact that, as a child, I had a trilogy of Flower Fairy books by Cicely Mary Barker whose illustrations I used to pore over.  I resolved, therefore, to draw my own fairy in my Art Journal.  As I have mentioned before, I have a large oak tree in the garden of my new home so I drew an Oak Fairy complete with an acorn hat.  I coloured her with watercolour and outlined with black ink.  I washed bright yellow over the background of the page and decided to use a leaf stencil for added interest and to further contribute to the week’s leaf theme.  I still need my learner plates when it comes to stencilling because I did not blot the paint adequately, leading to rather blotching leaf images.  Lesson learned and yet another art journalling mistake chalked up to educational experience.  I finished the page with a quotation from Albert Camus: “Autumn is a second Spring when every leaf is a flower”.  I keep resolving to improve my typography, learn some new styles of handwriting, but somehow I keep defaulting to my own everyday handwriting.  Usually I do so because I am pressed for time but this week it was because I had already messed the page up with my sloppy leaf background so I was not really motivated to go to much effort with the lettering.

My Oak Fairy was for DLP week 44 so there are now a mere 8 weeks left in this particular challenge – and alarmingly just 8 weeks until the end of 2014.  Although I am going to use my blog Pict Ink for my art work, I will continue to share my DLP pages in this blog.

Week 44 - Leaves

Flaming Phoenix Art Journal Page

I have birds on the brain (and maybe a bird brain) at the moment.  I am loving seeing all the birds visiting my garden – and was especially excited when hummingbirds started to appear – but cannot always identify them since a lot of the species are obviously very different from those in the UK.  I, therefore, bought a guide book to the birds of North America.  I am excited to move into my new house for very many reasons but among the things I am looking forward to is being able to sit in my kitchen and watch birds visiting the feeder just outside the window.  I may be on my way to becoming a twitcher.  I also have birds on the brain because I am working through some bird design ideas for my next lino block print.  I am even contemplating branching out into using more than one colour.

So when the latest challenge from the Documented Life Project was released this very morning, I was instantly visited by the Mixed Media Muse and knew precisely what I wanted to create on my Art Journal page.  With two children playing the PS3, one viewing YouTube videos on my Kindle and the other at a birthday party, I also had the opportunity to crack on and create.  Ah, the serendipity and luxury of inspiration and opportunity colliding!

The challenge was to “use your underpaper in a creative way”.  Despite being a moderately messy artist, I don’t tend to use underpaper; I just wipe my kitchen table a lot.  Note to self: start using underpaper.  Nevertheless, I interpreted the challenge as meaning that group members should be encouraged to use all of those bits and bobs that are generated as a side effect of the intentional creativity whether that be underpaper, used paper towels or wet wipes, scraps and cut off odds and ends.  What I had that fell into that category were pieces of paper covered in paint from cleaning my brayer and lifting off remaindered paint and layers of ghost prints from the gelli plate.

My idea was to create a Phoenix.  The idea came to me instantly, partly because of the bird obsession I am nurturing, but for other reasons too.  In September, I am going to be launching into a Drawing a Day challenge and my kids have set the theme as being Mythology so I had mythological beasts roaming around in the recesses of my mind.  It also seemed appropriate to use a phoenix, that symbol of resurrection, of regenerating something out of destruction, for a challenge that was essentially about recycling.  I would like to claim that the phoenix might also symbolise the year I have been experiencing and relating in this blog, of starting over, experiencing new things, but I had no such profound thoughts until after the fact.  Still apt though.  Mostly, however, the phoenix idea probably came immediately to mind because my sons and I are all Potterphiles and, of course, a phoenix plays a small but recurring and significant role in the plots of those novels and films.

I started by rooting through all my gelli print papers to find the unintentional prints and found two that I thought would work perfectly for the phoenix.  One was a sheet of paper I had used to keep cleaning my brayer but the final layer was created by mopping up the remaining paint when my 7 year old used a flame stencil.  The other sheet was created by lifting off a few ghost prints from the plate when I was printing with leaves.  The paper colour was red and I also thought some of the shapes created by the leaf veins might be suggestive of feathers.

Wishing to avoid returning to my default position of just having white paper as the background, I decided to create some pattern.  By happenstance, I had just taken delivery of some new stencils – the first I have ever bought – and among them was a “stacked triangles” one which I thought would be fit for purpose.  I am an inexperienced and inept stenciller to begin with but I made things even more difficult for myself by not using stamping ink (I don’t have the correct colours) and instead using the cheap kids’ tempera paint that I enjoy because it is so translucent.  I applied it with a sponge and, as expected, the lines were not very crisp but that didn’t really matter for the effect I was trying to achieve.  Or maybe I’m just slapdash.

I freehand cut out a body and head shape from the flame paper.  I wanted to make more use of that paper not only because of the flame shapes but because I liked the fact there were contrasting cold colours beneath the oranges of the flames.  I then freehand cut large, medium and small feather shapes from the remaining flame paper and the red paper.  Once I had a stash of feathers (and in the end I made too many) it was time to start constructing the phoenix which was really just a case of gluing and layering until I was happy that it looked phoenix-like.

I stamped on a circular pattern to surround the eye and then used black and white gel pens to pick out the actual eye.  I used the same black pen to create the beak, legs and talons.  I then wanted to add some gold to represent the embers of the flames and also because I happen to like gold.  I stamped some gold through the same stencil so that it layered on top of the painted triangles.  I then sprinkled some of the gold paint over the bottom portion of the whole page so as to create dots and spots of gold.

Week 33 - Use Underpaper - Finished Phoenix Page Week 33 - Use Underpaper - Gold Details Week 33 - Use Underpaper - Phoenix Body and Feathers Detail Week 33 - Use Underpaper - Phoenix Head Detail

He maybe looks like a phoenix-budgie-chicken hybrid but I am pretty chuffed with how the page turned out and I am especially pleased that I completed the challenge within hours of it being revealed because I actually eked out some creative free time.