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.
I had decided that this year I would play around in my art journal whenever possible but without recourse to prompts. However, some friends from my “art tribe” convinced me that I should check out Art Journal Adventure and I decided to participate in a dip in and out fashion. I recognise that I am someone who, in my present hectic circumstances, needs an occasional poke and a prod to actually find the time to just be playful with my art and that is something that journal prompts encourage me to do. However, I am also going to attempt a themed art journal for the first time and will dip into that when the mood and mojo arises. From time to time, I may well incorporate the Art Journal Adventure prompts into my themed art journal.
I got off to a good start as far as being flexible with participation goes because I did diddlysquat with the first week’s prompt. I did, however, make use of this second week’s prompt. It was pretty simple – the focus was to be on texture. I am not one for adding much dimension to my art work – I am definitely a 2D person – so I focused on creating visual texture as opposed to anything tactile. I had a half-finished page in my art journal that I hated. It had been malingering in the journal for several months but I opted not to rip it out because I rather liked the art work on the reverse side of it. A couple of months ago, when I had some surplus black acrylic, I smeared the paint across the page. I decided, therefore, to return to that page as the starting point for my “texture” page. I added some torn paper collage, spatter with pearl blue paint and white paint, printing with found objects, dribble, and finally some alphabet stamps. It was all a bit random and abstract so I chose to give it a focal point by adding the word “Focus” which is my word for this year. As art journal pages go, it is pretty mundane and mediocre but it is a massive improvement on what was beneath that black paint so I am happy.
Having decided to pick out two lessons to “catch up” on missed art lessons, the second one I picked was another Life Book lesson. I wanted to tackle this one as the layering and creation of texture would present me with challenge and, therefore, learning opportunities but the inclusion of figures meant it was a subject (unlike florals) that automatically appealed to me.
The lesson was by Gillian Lee Smith and I really enjoyed her approach to building up layers and balancing out dark and light elements throughout that process. Once I got the background to a level of grunginess I was happy with – and I used shades of brown for a sort of vintage, sepia feel – it was time to work on the figures. I did not have the materials required for the method Smith demonstrated so I had to improvise. I also decided not to incorporate more than one figure and just focus on one face. I think it was the whole sepia tone thing as it made me think of a carte de visite photographic portrait. I really enjoyed the process of pulling the figure out from the background through use of light and shadow, white paint and black ink. I am not overly keen on the outcome – she looks a bit spectral to me, like something you might find hanging on the wall of a haunted house – but I really did like the process and felt I learned quite a bit from it. Something to return to in future and try again.
This past week ought to be the final week under the umbrella theme of texture for the Documented Life Project. If I have learned one thing from May’s theme it is that creating texture does not especially inspire me. I love texture in nature and in photography; I like to have a range of textures in my home decor; I like to use shapes and patterns to provide contrast and interest in my art work. However, I just don’t seem to be into actual dimensional textures in my art work. Horses for courses, of course, and learning what doesn’t work for you is as important as finding out what does. That’s the joy of exploring different things in my art journal: it’s all experimentation.
This week participants were encouraged to use textured paper and the text prompt was “I’m so not feeling it!” As I have mentioned before, I tend to shy away from the phrase prompts that to me carry negative connotations. Art – and art journaling in particular – about escape for me, about doing something that makes me feel fulfilled and happy. While I can and do explore negative emotions in my art generally, I prefer the short burst creativity in my art journal to be all about the positive and happy. That is not how it works for everyone but that is how I like it to work for me. I, therefore, had to look to the textured paper alone as my jumping off point.
I had a rake through my stash and I had some embossed paper that I had received in some Happy Mail (bits of artsy ephemera sent by other artists), some origami paper and a paper doily. Without having much of a plan beyond a colour scheme, I sprayed some Dylusions ink spray through the doily. I made rather a mess but if I can’t make a total clarty mess in my art journal then when can I? The colours made me then think of water and grass and the idea of a dragonfly then came to me. I used metallic gelatos on the embossed paper and used it and the origami paper to collage a dragonfly. The page was lacking something at that juncture but I could not figure out. I picked the brains of some members of an online mixed media art group I belong to and they all suggested adding some black accents. I, therefore, added the smudgy charcoal border to the page and the words “fly free” in black ink. Those elements did indeed help balance the page. I think it still lacks a bit of oomph but I could not justify spending more time on the challenge page so I decided it was done.
Hopefully I will start to see more real dragonflies soon. They are one of my favourite things about summer.
The great thing about art journaling is that it allows me to experiment with new things on a small, manageable scale. I can mess around with new media, try a new approach, play with a new style and in doing so discover what things I enjoy, what things I am good at, what things are really not me and what things might have some potential for me. The thing I appreciate about prompts, therefore, is that they give me the shove I need to do something way out of my comfort zone or out of my field of knowledge and experience.
This week’s prompts for the Documented Life Project were just such a shove. The phrase was “All that I’m after is life full of laughter” and the art challenge was stitching. Stitching. Ugh. As I have shared before, I am not a textile artist. I can neither knit, sew or crochet. I have no aptitude for it and I consequently don’t enjoy it. I actually avoid sewing as much as possible. I replace buttons, take up hems, do minor clothing repairs but the whole time I am doing so I am aggravated which is not the mood I want to be in when I am doing something creative.
I could have avoided using textiles at all in my response to the DLP prompt but I decided to see what happened when I got out of my comfort zone this particular time because in the small scale of an art journal my potential frustration levels could be minimised. I could tell myself, “This will all be over soon”. I knew I did not want to make sewing a big deal on my page, however, and to just use it as an element. I mulled over the phrase prompt for a while but nothing came to me. I chose to just ponder the stitching element and what came to my mind’s eye was Frankenstein’s Monster – the Karloff version – all stitched together. ‘Frankenstein’ is one of my favourite novels and the 1931 film is one of my favourite movies of all time – and in fact both have featured in a previous art journal page – so I decided to go with that thought and see what came of it.
Perhaps because I have been working on my Crazy Critters series of 100 artworks, the idea morphed in my mind into a bunny version of Frankenstein’s Monster. I painted the bunny in watercolour on watercolour paper and then used some red thread from my sewing kit to stitch patterns into his body. I did not plan the position of the stitches so I just went with the flow, trying to maintain some sort of balance. I then adhered the watercolour paper into my art journal using some decorative tape. I think it turned out to be a pretty fun page.