Last week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was “puzzled’. It took me the entire week to find time to sit down with my art journal as all my free art time has been spent on Inktober and my contribution to the Brooklyn Art Library Sketchbook project (which you can see on my other blog). By that time, however, my creative cogs had been turning for long enough for me to have arrived at an idea. I decided that I would create a self-portrait because sometimes I am a puzzle to myself and, like a jigsaw puzzle, I am made up of many different pieces. Taking that idea further, I decided that my substrate should be a collaged layer of pieces of paper. And taking that idea further still, I thought it might be fun to break my face down into elements of shapes and forms rather like a Picasso portrait. I remember as a child that the thing I found most engaging about Picasso’s art was the way that my eye could take in all of the information and my brain would then reconfigure everything so that I could understand what I was seeing, what was being portrayed. It was like resolving a visual puzzle.
Last week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was the last in the series provided by my friend Jana. Her prompt was “changing seasons” but her tutorial also focused on demonstrating eco-dyeing. I was inspired by both. Unfortunately, it was one of those overwhelming weeks – a pretty stressful one actually – where I had very little time for art. I, therefore, recognised that my ability to dye papers within that week was going to be pretty limited. I have wanted to try eco-dyeing since I saw a blog post by Claudia McGill all about making parcels of materials that would leech colour into paper over time. Jana demonstrated a sped-up process that produced similar results. I am definitely going to give it a go. I just need to have a chunk of time in which to gather my materials. So, in the mean time, I resorted to dyeing book pages – some of which were already a little foxed – using tea, coffee, and steeped onion skins.
I had a page in my art journal that I did not know what to do with. It was the reverse of the page that I had handstitched so it was full of ugly, messy knots and stitches. I decided it could form the basis of a textural background for this page. I scraped gesso across the page roughly so as to somewhat embed and fix the thread of the stitches and I kept the gesso rough and splotchy so as to add more literal and visual texture. I then scraped across some light brown paint to create a neutral tone in the background, especially given that the “changing seasons” prompt was making me think of the colours of Autumn – and man am I looking forward to Autumn. Thinking of the glow of Autumn light, I scraped some bronze paint across the page and spattered gold paint at the top and bottom. All that remained was to decide how to incorporate the eco-dyed paper into the page. I decided upon circular, hoop shapes because I was thinking about the cyclical nature of the seasons. I cut some in different sizes from the dyed papers and adhered them to the page. Part of me thinks the page needs something more but I was out of time and out of ideas so, therefore, for now at least I consider this art journal page done.
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.