Last week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was “change” and I immediately thought of the changing seasons because Spring is finally – finally! – here. We have (I assume and hope) seen the last of the snow, there are buds on the trees, small wildflowers are beginning to appear among the blades of grass, the bird song is louder in the mornings, and there was tree pollen all over the bonnet of my car this morning. I have seamlessly segued from snuffling because of winter colds into snuffling because of seasonal allergies but I will embrace it because I am so ready for Spring.
My Art Journal page is simple: an abstracted and silhouetted tree divided into four sectors, one per season. I have a mild OCD about needing things to be clockwise (I also have one about even numbers) so I tried to force myself to depict the seasons cycling anti-clockwise. It’s a sort of “flooding your fears” kind of theory that obviously has no substance to it because it failed miserably as therapy. I felt twitchy as soon as I finished the page. Now it is supremely annoying to me that I have the seasons cycling anti-clockwise. I almost wanted to repaint all of the sectors to make them clockwise but I don’t have time for that so, instead, I am just going to turn the page in my art journal and pretend my psychological experiment never happened.
Last week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was “trees”. The obvious subject would have been a Christmas tree but I really was not in the mood to draw or paint one. I, therefore, chose to depict a frosty tree but in a slightly abstracted way. I worked on this page gradually over the week before Christmas and got it finished thanks to having two days off work while my kids were still in school. It is a bit sloppy and imperfect thanks to being worked on inconsistently and in a bit of a rush each time but it’s only an art journal page so that’s quite OK.
Next year, I am not signed up for any courses and I have no art based commitments or obligations. I am just going to do my own thing and will try to be disciplined about eking out some art time each week without having a prompt to do so.
For this week’s Life Book lesson, the tutor was Effy Wild. The visual elements of the lesson were connected to some introspection but I mostly choose to gloss over the more art therapy aspects of Life Book and just focus on the art. I also did not have time to view the video demonstrations so I relied on the accompanying PDF to provide me with an understanding of the steps involved. As always, my finished outcome looks little like that of the tutor but I utilised techniques and approaches that she demonstrated. I think the finished treeis reminiscent enough of a plump baobab tree that I wish I had thought of the resemblance sooner in the process and made it completely like a baobob. It was at its core an exercise in patchwork collage and negative space. I used bronze paint over the collage layer for the tree trunk and gold for the leaves so that it would glint in the light and because I look for any excuse to use metallic paints. The tutor’s version incorporated text. I wasn’t feeling that way inclined but do feel my piece lacks a focal point. I just need to ruminate on it for a bit and return to it once I have an appropriate epiphany.
This week’s Life Book lesson was a bonus lesson taken by Jenny Wentworth. The idea was to paint a tree intuitively using layers of watercolour paint, the tree growing from a seed that represented hopes and aspirations, and Wentworth added a female face into her tree trunk so that it became a personification.
I experienced a real creative block with the lesson. I just could not find a way to get started. I even considered skipping the lesson entirely but I am too anal retentive and it didn’t sit right with me to not complete every single lesson in the course. I told myself I would postpone it until I came up with an idea that worked for me. Then my kids – so often a source of inspiration to me – came to my rescue. I asked about their day at school and they asked me what art I had been doing. I explained that I was creatively stuck. They wanted to know what the lesson was about and I explained what Wentworth’s painting looked like as a potential outcome. “So like a lady Groot?” my 8 year old asked. Ping. Light bulb. That was my inspiration: I could anthropomorphise a tree!
I used watercolour and created the small branches and twigs by blowing the paint with a straw. I may not have painted intuitively or used lots of layers of watercolour but that was my nod to being less controlling with the outcome. I did not want to lose the shapes the branches had created plus the leaves are rapidly falling off the trees so I decided to make her an Autumn tree. My 10 year old said she looks like a Dryad. Whether Marvel comics or Greek mythology, the lesson got done and it only took me the time in which dinner was cooking.
It was a relief to find that the majority of the Life Book lessons I had missed were bonus lessons which meant they were instantly accessible, minimum fuss and make efficient use of time. One such lesson was delivered by Rachael Rice – who had delivered an earlier LB lesson on feathers – and was about creating a hamsa hand symbol using watercolour as the medium.
I am not from a culture or faith group that utilises hamsa hand symbols so I did not feel much of a connection to the idea of creating a spiritual symbol that has actual meaning to those who do form part of those cultures or faiths. However, I did engage with the idea of creating art revolving around a hand symbol. It was, after all, one of the first forms of artistic expression that early humans opted for: hand prints on the cave wall.
I painted the whole thing with watercolour and then used paint pen to draw stylised branches and blossoms along the fingers, the palm of the hand becoming a trunk. I quite like the way it turned out, specifically the bleeding together of the colours and the branch patterns.
We were gifted a bonus lesson by Tamara Laporte last week on the Life Book course. Happily, having had enough time to get through the scheduled lesson early in the week, I had time to work on the bonus lesson too.
The lesson was titled ‘Tree of Life’. It was another practice in painting on top of collage elements and depicted a girl swinging from a tree. I departed completely from the style of the exemplar but I used the techniques and the colour palette. All Winter I seem to have been drawn to the cooler colours, the blues, purples, greens and pinks. I probably need to challenge myself to use a warm colour scheme soon. Perhaps that will force Spring to arrive!
This was truly a mixed media effort as I used watercolour (for the face), acrylics, collage, aquamarkers and neocolors all in the one piece. This was a piece that definitely evolved over the days I spent on it and it most certainly went through a scruffy. This was mainly thanks to the background looking chaotic but somehow painting over it and pushing it back saved it from ugliness.
One creeping realisation I have had since starting the Life Book course is that my ability to draw faces has regressed, markedly so, probably as a consequence of having not attended a life drawing class since I left Britain in October 2013. This is something I will need to attend do in some way. I cannot have my skills rusting any further. Time to grease those artistic joints.
The challenge for Week 25 of the Documented Life Project was to incorporate hearts. I have some serious time management problems now that the kids are all home for the Summer break and frankly I was just lacking in inspiration. However, looking through my 8 year old son’s school art folder finally set the creative wheels in motion. I had wanted to do something much more mixed media this week – steering myself away from my default drawing – and had even hoped to experiment with some new techniques. However, it came down to some cheap children’s watercolours and black ink.
This is what I came up with:
For something that took me under fifteen minutes start to finish I am fairly pleased with how it turned out. I am not really one for mawkish sentiment but the quotation seemed to tie in with the image and incorporating some text helped reduce the black in the tree trunk. I wish I had given a little more thought to composition as the branches are very near the top of the page while I have all that empty space at the bottom of the page. That’s what happens when I rush, I suppose.
This is my 8 year old’s art work which inspired my Art Journal page. I like it a whole lot better than my version: