This is the final page in the yellow section of my Rainbow Art Journal. I reflected on what things I associate with yellow, the things my mind conjures up when I think of that colour, and one of the things I kept coming back to was warmth and of feeling cozy. This illustration seems appropriate for the transition from Autumn into Winter when my thoughts turn to hibernation and my habits become more hermit-like. For me, the apex of feeling cozy is about being indoors, all tucked up in a sweater or a blanket, and drinking a steaming hot mug of tea. That gave me both the idea for the illustration and the colour palette – yellow for warmth and light brown for milky tea. I often use neutrals with a brighter colour but the neutrals I use tend to be black, white, or grey, so this was a useful experiment in using brown in that capacity. I think that, in this particular instance, the yellow might be too bold and the brown too pale for the palette to cohere but I will continue to experiment with using brown as a neutral.
I attended my monthly meet up with some other local art journalers on Sunday which meant I finally got some much-needed art time. I managed to complete two pages in my art journal. The first was a simple collage on top of a Neocolor background. My prompt was borrowed from Art Journal Adventure – the letter T. T automatically makes me think of tea so the page became a celebration of my love of tea. I made a template to keep the teacups uniform and then it was just a case of layering them into a stack. I usually don’t drink this many cups of tea in a day. My average is probably three cups. However, there have definitely been times in my life when I have consumed this many cups of tea, possibly more, such as when I was writing my thesis. Making and drinking tea was a useful distraction. It’s a simple, easy composition but creating it greased the creative wheels and made me feel I was back in the swing of things again.
Last week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was to use a subtle colour palette. I like limited colour palettes so I thought it would be fun to try one that was muted and subdued. I had some free time on Saturday afternoon which was a cold and dull day, the sort of day when I drink copious mugs of hot tea, and that became my inspiration for the art journal page – a figure holding a cup of steaming tea and a background the same colour as milky black tea. I worked on it in stages during the course of the afternoon and it was really pretty simple and straightforward.
Just as I have taken on more art projects – courses, personal challenges, commissions – the free time I have to devote to art has shrunk. Trying to eke out time for sitting down with my materials is proving ever more challenging so I am hoping that the pendulum will swing back into a more reasonable balance soon. I was very thankful, therefore, that this week’s Life Book lesson was all about brevity. The whole point of the lesson – which was taken by Martha Lever – was to produce small, loose watercolour sketches in just a few minutes. That was something I could actually tackle while cooking dinner. The exemplar was of botanical studies, flowers pulled from the imagination and loosely painted, but flowers are not really my thing when it comes to art. I love flowers, I like other people’s paintings of flowers, but flowers are not my muse and I don’t do a good job of drawing them. I decided, therefore, to paint something that does inspire me: tea drinking. Each little study probably took me about three minutes. Yay for speed art!
It’s Week 48 on the Life Book course and what a busy week it is. I cannot believe it is Week 48 already. Where on earth has this year gone? It has absolutely whipped by. Aside from everything we have done and accomplished in Pict family life, I have crammed a lot of art into this year. That makes me happy. As this year draws to a close (because – seriously – it is week 48 already!) I am already making plans for the arty bit of my life for next year. I am signed up to do Life Book 2016 and I just learned a few days ago from the lovely Julia Osterc of Loving Road that I have won a place on a Mixed Media Mythology course. How cool is that? I am also considering signing up for another course called Let’s Face It. Meanwhile, I still have my Altered Book of Monsters project on the go and I will probably embark on another 100 Artworks Challenge having completed my Crazy Critters. Hmmmm. That’s quite a lot now that I am looking at it all listed. It’s good to have goals and challenges though, right?
So with the prospect of a busy year of art ahead, this week was a busy week for art. I was playing catch up with Life Book and Week 48 had three elements to it. First up was a lesson with Donna Downey about using what she calls a “smush book”. I have been using one for a few months now but I call it my sidekick journal. It is a small journal in which I smear my unused paint and other media so that they don’t go to waste. I then use that journal for quick wee sketches when I am out and about, such as when I am sitting outside my 8 year old’s guitar lesson. Downey demonstrated using the random smears in her “smush book” through painting in the negative space. Her resulting image was about muses. I used the excess paint from my Autumn Fairy to create a more harmonious random page. I must have still been in a fairy frame of mind as that was the muse figure I carved out when I began painting in the negative space. I like using negative spaces so this was a fun technique and one I am sure I will use again in my “sidekick journal”.
The other two bonus lessons this week were from Lynzee Lynx and Tamara Laporte. Tamara’s lesson was an introduction to gelli plate printing. I don’t get my gelli plate out too often but when I do I really enjoy it and produce print after print after print which I can use as backgrounds in journal pages or as collage papers. I didn’t get my gelli plate out for this Life Book lesson but instead dipped into my file of collage materials and selected a gelli print. It was one I had just filed away, a ghost print from the fish journal page I had just created. I decided to use this gelli print as the background for Lynx’s lesson, thus combining the two, saving me time and helping me catch up a bit with my art projects. Lynx’s lesson was about playfully fusing words to create new, fun words that can be used in art journalling and other creative projects. I am familiar with portmanteau words because my husband and oldest son deploy them all the time, much to their amusement. As I happened to be drinking a mug of tea while I was thinking about art, I decided to fuse the words “Art” and “Tea”, two simple things that make me happy. My definition of “ArTea” is “Tea in which a paint brush has been dunked mistaking the cup for the adjacent jar of water”. That is something I have done several times. I am pretty sure most arty tea drinkers have done the same.
And now I am all caught up in time for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Happy Thanksgiving to those who celebrate!
This week’s Documented Life Project prompt encouraged participants to use tea bags as a substrate. I have written before about how much I love tea and my love of tea has even inspired an art journal page or two before. Putting my hands to tea bags, used or unused, was not a problem. I watched a few YouTube tutorials about working on tea bags, got an idea mulling around in my head and set to work. The result was more than lacking. It was hideous. Truly. You know I am just as likely to share my artistic disasters as successes on this blog so the fact I didn’t even stop to take a photo of it before lobbing it in the bin should convey something of how totally and utterly ugly it was. Thankfully I had been concerned enough about the tannins from the tea doing nasty things to my art journal that I had worked on a separate piece of paper I was going to attach to the journal. Getting rid of it was, therefore, quick and easy.
Back to square one, I decided to ditch the whole idea of painting or drawing on top of tea bags and decided to just use tea as my inspiration. It has been some time since I properly practiced my typography skills so I decided to play around with text and with negative space. Right at the beginning of Life Book, a lesson from Joanne Sharpe had inspired me to embrace using my own handwriting and I was pleased with the outcome. I decided, therefore, to deploy some of my learning from that lesson in my art journal. I found the quotation online (it’s from Mary Lou Heiss but I failed to add that to the page before taking the photo) and used very wet watercolour around the letters to create colourful, bleeding puddles around the text and imagery.
Now I need to pop the kettle on.
This week’s Documented Life Project journal prompt was to use repeating elements. It is perhaps a signifier of just how stereotypically British I am and certainly of how much of a tea addict I am that I instantly thought of tea cups.
It has been over a year now since I attended my first MeetUp and I have been enjoying going along to the Art Journal group one Sunday a month – with a few skipped – as it is always a pleasure to meet up with other creative people and while away some time doing something I enjoy with lovely company. Yesterday was the monthly meeting for February so I decided to work on my DLP page. We meet in a coffee shop and I just had my travel art kit with me which obviously limited the media I could use but that just added to the challenge and, quite honestly, after all of the weeks of layering I was more than happy to keep things a lot simpler and quicker this week.
I started by splodging some brown watercolour paint onto my page and then I edged it with washi tape not really because it added to the page but more in order to cover up some mucky paint marks that had invaded from other pages in my journal. I cut out my own little teacup element from some card and then set about cutting out the teacups from bits of scrap paper. It was a great way to use up some small scraps left over from other collaging projects. I used bits of gelli plate prints, some paper used to clean a brayer, some scraps of origami paper and one of the ladies at the MeetUp kindly gave me a wee piece of her scrapbooking paper to use. I glued the teacups down the approximate centre of the page as a stack. That left me with large areas of negative space on each side so I decided to write the phrase “Everything stops for tea” to fill it up.
So here it is, my visual ode to my love of tea.
It’s a stereotype that British people love tea. I am not sure whether this is considered xenophobic or not since I think of the stereotype as being rather fond rather than malicious or snarky. I must confess that I have found it to be true that the British treat tea as if it is nectar and I hold my hands up to being one of those that thinks of tea as being fitting for any occasion.
When a visitor comes to my house, I always offer them tea or coffee. I like it when they choose tea because I am not a coffee drinker – indeed, I absolutely loathe coffee or coffee-flavoured anything – so it means I can make a pot of tea rather than making a single cuppa in a mug. I start my day – and often end it too – with a cosy cup of tea. Days when I don’t have a cup of tea at the start of the day are often a bit pants. When I am feeling a bit under the weather I drink tea with lemon in it or some green tea. It’s a complete placebo, I’m certain, but it always makes me feel a bit better. In fact, every single time I delivered a baby, the first thing the midwives offered me was buttered toast and a steaming cup of tea. After labouring for 56 hours, never has a cuppa seemed more like liquid manna in the wilderness. If someone is experiencing a bit of a crisis, I automatically pop the kettle on because everything seems better with a cup of tea and just the action of sipping it and feeling the warmth travel down your body feels calming.
I was glad to discover when I moved to America that tea has taken off here in a way that it was the poor relation to coffee before – based on my travel experience, of course, rather than American people’s domestic arrangements. There are far more varieties stocked in the supermarket (including British blend) and it is possible to order hot tea in some restaurants. I have also now encountered some Americans who prefer tea to coffee.
I had a guest over to the house the other week and was delighted when she declared that she loved tea. Down came my Great-Grandmother’s stainless steel art deco teapot from the shelf with matching jug and sugar bowl – I don’t myself take sugar but I always offer it to guests. I offered a choice of Earl Grey or British blend tea and my guest chose the latter and that led to a conversation about tea leaves and origins. I declared that I was in no way a tea fascist: I enjoy tea but I am not particular or fussy about it.
I then ensured that the kettle was filled with fresh water from the tap so as to ensure that it was perfectly oxygenated as reboiled water makes tea taste brackish; I studied the colour of the water as the tea bags steeped in the teapot and wheeked out the bags as soon as the perfect shade of amber had been achieved; I poured equal amounts of milk into each mug; then I carefully poured the tea while explaining that I had not quite perfected how to make tea with hard water since I am used to Scotland’s soft water.
My guest looked at me. “I think maybe you are a little bit fussy about tea.”
Perhaps. But I don’t (yet!) have loose tea and a strainer. I left those behind in Scotland.
I shall conclude with a page from my art journal on this very subject.