All You Need Is Love

Last week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was to use text as the initial layer in an art journal spread.  I am not the greatest at layering so it was useful to have the nudge at having another attempt at it.  It happened to be valentine’s week last week so I took “love” as my theme.  My valentine’s week was actually themed around stress – two valentine’s parties to organise and run at work, three class parties to attend that afternoon for three of my kids, and cooking a dinner the kids complained about, and we don’t even celebrate Valentine’s Day – but I decided my art journal page should focus on “love” regardless.

Layer one was my handwriting in ink covering the page, running in multiple directions, overlapping, until it became completely illegible, and all I wrote were whatever love song lyrics happened to drift into my head.  Once that layer was complete, I decided to scrape some acrylic paint over it.  Annoyingly, this all but concealed the handwritten layer.  Ugh.  I just cannot get this layering thing right.  Ploughing on, I decided to reintroduce text again so I used negative space painting with white gesso to carve out the word “love”.  It was all still a bit meh and blah so I picked up a paint pen and scrawled “all you need” across the bottom of the page.  I am going to be happy that I was intuitive about adding an element but I rather suspect it was a wrong move.  The whole page, therefore, is very ho hum.  But that’s OK because, in a crazy busy week, each layer was a moment of calm in a day.

6 Layering with Writing

Rainbow Art Journal – The Girl with Words in her Hair

Thanks to a weekend that for once was not crammed with activities or commitments, I found time to work in my colour themed art journal.  I am still in the black/monochrome pages and this time I wanted to play around with using the black and white of printed text.  Readers who follow both my blogs might recognise the model for this page as being a drawing – titled Aubrey because of Aubrey Beardsley – from my series of 100 Faces.  I thought it would be interesting to see if I could recreate a face I had illustrated in ink and watercolour using acrylic paint and collage.  There is definitely more precision in the ink drawn version but I am not displeased with the way this mixed media piece turned out.  I do like the hair made of book pages so that was a worthwhile experiment.

5 Girl with Words in her Hair

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

Be Kind Wherever Possible

This week’s Colour Me Positive theme was Kindness and the prompt was a quotation from the Dalai Lama: “Be kind wherever possible.  It is always possible.”  There was an additional, optional prompt to use stamping but I ignored that and focused on the quotation.  Pushed for time this week, I kept things simple.  Monochrome, ink, using a fountain pen rather than my dip pen so I could work on the page while watching a movie with my kids, and doodles with some simple typography for the quotation.  Simple and easy – just like an act of kindness.

6 - Be Kind Wherever Possible - Art Journal Page

Paint Brush Typography

Next up for my Life Book catch-up session was a bonus lesson by Joanne Sharpe.  Sharpe had taken one of the first ever Life Book lessons I did and I had enjoyed it immensely, especially the liberating message that my own handwriting was good enough for my art.  Since I still have not gotten around to developing my skills with typography, it was good to have that reinforced.  The focus of the lesson was on using either a paint brush or water brush with watercolour as a tool for writing and to write empowering or inspirational words and phrases on a full sized piece of paper and on smaller cards.

I did both projects and it was pleasingly quick to create them.  My Dad is a very skilled and experienced painter of vehicles including an ability to do sign-writing by hand.  Apparently I have not inherited his ability to write in straight lines or to achieve consistency because my text is very skew-wiff on the page.  Never mind.  I enjoyed the lesson and certainly feel more confident with writing with a paint brush than I did before.  I also think I have potential to develop my skills to achieve greater precision.

Week 33 - Paint Brush Writing

Week 33 - Word Cards

To A Mouse ~ Art Journal Page

This week’s prompts for the Documented Life Project were to use writing and more specifically the phrase “words with friends”.

If you have followed my art journalling for long enough then you will perhaps have noted that I do not particularly write in my journal.  I certainly do not write anything overly personal.  I suppose I use blogging if  there is anything I want to express in a more public way but otherwise I am very private.  The idea of recording thoughts and feelings in a journal does not appeal to me.  I did actually maintain a journal from when I was about 10 through to my mid-teens.  However, as my sister could tell you (since she was sneaky and read my diary) all my journal recorded were my thoughts on current affairs, global issues and reviews of books and movies – nothing personal.  This week’s challenge, therefore, was not – on the surface at least – a comfortable fit for me.

The friends bit also had me stumped.  Writing about or even drawing my friendships felt too personal for a public forum (I share my pages on the DLP’s Facebook page as well as on my blog) especially because, having moved so far away from all my close friends, it is a more emotive subject for me, a vulnerable topic.  I decided, therefore, to be a non-conformist and ignore that second prompt entirely.  That decision made inspiration easier to come by.

Sunday was Burns’ Night, a traditional celebration of Scotland’s national poet.  We marked the evening as best we could – including a small glug of recently sourced Irn Bru, Scotland’s other national drink.  As part of that, I read ‘Address to a Haggis’ and ‘To a Mouse’.  Ping!  That was my inspiration.

I drew the little field mouse on the wheat stalk with coloured pencils and then sketchily outlined it with black gel pen.  I then used the gel pen to write the text of the first verse of the poem on either side of my drawing.  Yet again, I just used my own handwriting for the text but, following the typography lesson with Joanne Sharpe that I undertook as part of the Life Book course, I felt completely OK about doing so this time.

Week 4 - Words

I managed to find time this week for some of my “own” art work so, if you want to see my Zombie Woodland Creatures, head on over to my art blog – Pict Ink – to check it out.

The Replacement Mermaid

My name is Laura and I am a Control Freak.

Frequent visitors to my blog may recall that the other day I shared the “monstrous mermaid” I had painted in response to a Life Book lesson.  I managed to successfully view the whole experience as a learning experience, spun the negatives into positives, embraced the mistakes.  Nevertheless, it niggled at me.  It annoyed me still.  Because I am a control freak.  I needed to test whether I had learned from the experience after all, whether I could use my analysis of what had gone right and wrong and create a better version as a consequence.  So today I decided to eke out some art time thanks to having no volunteer commitments, getting cracking on chores early in the morning and cooking dinner in the crockpot.

I liked what I had done with the collage before – using gelli plate prints torn at random and interspersed with book pages – so I decided to replicate that with the addition of also using some scraps from a map.  This time I scraped a thin layer of gesso over the centre of the collage to both knock back some of the collage colours a little and to provide a tooth for the paint to adhere to.  I think where I went wrong most before was in my use of heavy bodied acrylic paints.  I did use them again for my second attempt but this time mixed with bases of craft acrylics to increase the fluidity and extend the drying time of the paint.  That allowed me to blend a bit better and also allowed the collage papers to show through a little in places, which I thought was a welcome effect for a mixed media piece.  I really liked all of the dots in my previous painting so I did dots again.

I changed it up a bit stylistically too, working in my more cartoony style, which helped simplify things a little.  I did, however, stick to the same colour pallette because I liked the teal greens and russet reds I had used on the previous attempt.  I also used the same phrase again – “Go with the flow” – an instruction to myself I am ironically not abiding by given that I insisted on a do-over on this mermaid painting.  A lovely woman who is a member of one of the online mixed media groups I belong to very sweetly and generously sent me a whole box of shape punches she was getting rid of recently.  Among them was a seahorse punch.  Perfect.  I found some origami paper in my stash that was both green and orange, picking up colours from the painting, so I punched a few seahorses out of that paper and adhered them to the painting.

Week 4 - 2 - Acrylic on Collage - Courage

Job done.  Perfect?  Absolutely not.  I still have a lot to learn but at least I know I am learning from mistakes.  I am much happier with this mermaid.  I still prefer my siren drawing though.

The Monstrous Mermaid or Embracing Mistakes

I learned quite a few things from this week’s Life Book lesson.

Firstly, it is a good idea not to stand my mug of boiling water and lemon next to my water jar as it is inevitable that a paint covered brush will end up in the drink.

Secondly, I need to curb the temptation of going off piste so much.  Eager to marry my own style to the techniques being taught, I am being too impulsive.  I need to find the time to follow the tutorials more closely, even emulating the tutor’s style, before embarking on a version in my own style.

Thirdly, that my promise to myself to embrace all of my mistakes as learning opportunities can feel quite challenging at times.

This week’s bonus lesson was led by Patti Ballard and the technique demonstrated was painting on top of collage with acrylic.  Ballard’s instructional video depicted her painting a ballerina on a tightrope and the phrase “Courage Dear Heart”.  Ballerinas are not really my thing.  In fact, the one really good pen and ink drawing I ever did of a ballerina I gave away to a friend.  The idea of painting one, therefore, didn’t really trigger any enthusiasm in me so I decided to paint a mermaid instead.  I have been planning to carve a mermaid lino block print for ages but cannot seem to settle on a design so in the mean time I thought I would use one for this lesson.

The collage step went well.  I used some papers and some of my gelli prints and it all looked quite harmonious.  And then it  came time to paint.

I am really quite inexperienced with acrylic paint.  I am comfortable with pencil, charcoal, ink and watercolour but I have not yet gotten the hang of acrylic.  I think the first mistake I made, therefore, was using paint that was too heavy bodied.  Something a little more fluid may have helped me a lot more with blending.  My second mistake was to go too dark with my colour palette.  I wanted to ensure that the painting stood out against the background papers but in retrospect I should have toned the colours down a lot more.

It was not long before the whole thing was just looking like a complete and utter mess.  I have read a few times that it is important to just keep going, plough on through the ugly stage and have confidence that it will all pull together.  So I powered on.  It got a little better but was still pretty ugly.  Adding lots of dots and circles in different shades of blue and white just made it a more highly patterned mess.  Oh dear.  The chance of it all pulling together into something cohesive and aesthetically pleasing was looking unlikely.

As I pondered the concatenation of errors in my painting, reflected on how I needed to turn this failure into a valuable learning opportunity, I decided that the phrase I should stamp onto my painting was “Go with the flow”.  That is the type of courage I need with this mixed media art course.  I need to do my own thing a bit less, conform a bit more, accept that I will stumble – sometimes badly – but keep on trying.  I need to stop being a self-critical control freak and need to just “go with the flow”.

So here, in all her monstrous glory, is my mermaid.

Week 4 - Acrylic on Collage - Courage

Art Feeds The Soul

If you have followed my explorations into art journaling and mixed media for long enough. you will know that one of the things I keep meaning to do – yet never seem to get around to – is to develop my typography skills, research and try new styles, make the writing in my art work more creative.  I have adopted a different style once or twice in this past year but generally I keep on defaulting to my own handwriting.  I was, therefore, very happy to learn that the lesson for week 3 of Life Book was all about typography as that meant an opportunity to practice a skill I had been keen to hone.

The lesson was taken by Joanne Sharpe, who is famed for her whimsical lettering.  I am obviously not going to summarise the lesson in this post because, of course, Life Book is a fee paying course and the lesson is Sharpe’s intellectual copyright.  However, the thrust of the lesson was that one should just use one’s own handwriting as the scaffolding for typography in mixed media art work.  So instead of feeling lazy for constantly defaulting to my own handwriting I should be embracing that.  It was like being given permission to stop berating myself over never getting to that To Do item on my lengthy list of art projects.

I followed the lesson closely for the most part.  I do not own any of the pens that were being recommended in the tutorial but my trusty old Faber-Castell Pitt Pens did the job.  I did not use the suggested doodles but instead did my own thing with a bunny and birds, some leaves and acorns.  I think I was pondering my Into The Woods art project which has gone dormant from lack of free time.  I have been using muted versions of jewel colours in my art work a lot lately – the same palette I used in my Advent twinchies – and I used them again in this piece.  I must push myself to use a completely different palette next time, however.  Maybe even use some colours I rarely use.

Week 3 - Typography - Use your own Handwriting

I am quite pleased with how this exercise turned out. Certainly it was liberating to actually be directed to use my own handwriting rather than thinking I was copping out.  Maybe my doodles could have been more sophisticated but then maybe the painting would have been less me.  Daft plump bunnies and geeky birds are me.

Arrows and Direction

It is Week 51 of the Documented Life Project.  The weekly prompts provided by the group have not only encouraged my experimentation with art journaling but have also given me the impetus to create at least one item of art per week.  I have, therefore, decided to follow the Project into 2015 and will see where it takes me.  I shall, of course, continue to share my output – the good, the bad and the ugly – on this blog.  What will be fun next year is that my 7 year old son has decided to take up art journaling to and is going to respond to the prompts alongside me.  He’s going to be my little creative buddy and I am sure his partnership will provide me with extra inspiration.

This week’s challenge prompt was simply “Arrows”.  I personally was quite glad of such an open and vague prompt as it enabled me to produce a quick, simple page in a short space of time.  Time is a rare commodity right now as there are so many festive treats and chores filling up my schedule.  Perhaps because we are on the cusp of a new year, the word “arrow” automatically made me think of direction.  Where will life take me next year?  What will I find in my near future?  What direction might my art take?  What new challenges and opportunities will I face in the coming year?  And perhaps because I am immersed in children’s literature or perhaps just because it really is a splendid quotation, my mind immediately settled on the lines from Dr Seuss’ book ‘Oh! The Places You’ll Go’:

“You have brains in your head.  You have feet in your shoes.  You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

I used watercolour to paint a warm hued background and then used metallic and dayglo gel pens to doodle in a scribbly style all over the page.  I wanted to be a bit looser in my style than I usually am but my scribbles were rather too unintentional and, therefore, too ugly so I grabbed some more watercolour and dribbled it down the page in an attempt to try and subdue some of the ugliness.  In vain.  Where dribbles failed, perhaps splatter would succeed.  I grabbed some small pots of paint and flicked and spattered strong colours onto the page.  Where some of the paint accumulated in large droplets, I decided to try and create some splattery dribbles by blowing at them through a straw.  Alas, the paint was too thick to move much so all that I accomplished was the creation of some rather big blobs.  I then took an arrow stamp and some black ink to create a line of arrows marching up the left hand side of the page and wrote the Dr Seuss quotation in the remaining space.  Once more, the “font” is merely a more controlled version of my own handwriting but I figure I should just go with that for now until time allows me to properly practice typography.  I allowed key words to be emphasised by their scale on the page and by having the other words in smaller, upper case letters.

Despite its messiness, despite all its shortcomings, I am quite pleased with how this page turned out.  I certainly learned that creating aesthetically pleasing splatter is more difficult than it looks.

Week 51 - Arrows