Love Bug

I find I am going long stretches at the moment between creating any art.  Life is just getting in the way too much plus I am also still (!) a little wiped out by that post-viral fatigue thing.  I am a happier, more balanced person when I have regular doses of art time so this is not a good state of affairs.  All I have just about manage to keep up with is cracking open my art journal about once a week, usually on the weekend.  I need to eke out a decent chunk of art time soon.  I am getting artsy-antsy.

Last week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was Love/Hate since it was Valentines Week.  I happen to loathe Valentine’s Day but I decided to go with the love them rather than the hate option.  Let’s focus on the positive.  My starting point was to adhere a Valentines theme paper napkin left over from my preschool class party onto the page to create the repeated pattern of love hearts.  Then the page sat like that for days since I could not find the time.  My original plan was to draw a figure on the page and do some sort of negative shape painting shebang and, if you look closely, you can still see the pencil marks since I could not erase them.  I decided to be pragmatic about my available free time so I instead chose to paint a beetle so that it could be a Love Bug.  It does not show up at all well in the photograph but I used pearlescent and metallic paints in order to suggest the shiny carapace of a beetle.

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It is not a great art journal page by any measure but it isn’t one that makes me want to tear the page out of the book or gesso over it either.  Fingers crossed that I can find a bit more time for art in the next week or so.

Weirdo Cupid

In keeping with Valentine’s Day, this week’s Colour Me Positive art journal prompt was the word “heart” and the idea of putting one’s whole heart into things we commit to.  This week I decided to ignore the quotation prompt and instead focus on the challenge which was to use collage.  With Valentine’s Day and hearts and collage scuttering and flittering around in my mind, I came up with the idea of making a weirdo cupid figure in my journal.

I thought collage would be a nice break from all my illustrations I have been producing recently and so it proved to be.  I just plucked some pages from a magazine, including an advert with a female face, and cut shapes out and placed them on the page.  The wings are from a gelli print on deli paper and they are silver.  Excluding drying time, this whole collage probably took me no more than 20 minutes.  Keeping it quick, easy and simple also kept it fun.  Since the loves of my life – Mr Pict and the Pictlings – are all gloriously nerdy weirdos, I enjoyed creating this random wee weirdo in my art journal.

7 - Hearts & Collage - Art Journal Page

Valentine’s Day Card Collages

This time last year I wrote a rant filled blog post about my loathing of Valentine’s Day and the fact that traditions here in America meant I was having to actually purchase Valentine’s Day tat for the first time.  A year on and my feelings have not changed.  However, I again capitulated to the commercialisation of love and romance by purchasing cards and Valentines themed pencils for my sons to hand out to their classmates.  This year I was also involved in three class Valentine’s Day parties.  All in one exhausting day. One. After. The. Other.  The smithereen of grudging tolerance for Valentine’s Day I possess was stretched mightily thin.

However, despite my having a cynical rather than romantic bent, I did decide to make my boys Valentine’s Day cards.  I figured that I was giving into the tradition while not giving into the commercialism since the cards were hand made.  The boys had enjoyed the shark collage I made recently using torn paper and involving no planning or sketching so I decided to take the same approach with the cards I made for my kids.  I used scraps of paper, gelli prints and magazine pages with a little bit of washi tape and paint pens to add facial details.  Each boy received a card with their favourite animal on it: penguin, zebra, unicorn and dog – even though all the Picts determined that my collage scruffy dog looked more like a cat.

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Whether you are a traditional romantic or a cynic when it comes to the commodification of love, I hope you had a wonderful day on 14 February.

Just Keep Layering

This week’s Documented Life Project challenge was layering and “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough!” (free earworm) so clearly the idea was to layer a page to the maximum.  Layering is something I have struggled with.  Finding that balance between creating interest and it tipping over into visually chaotic mess, between colours that chime and sing together and making mud, has been a steep learning curve for me and one where I have yet to reach the summit.  Regardless, I decided to amp up the level of difficulty even more by deciding to work with a colour palette I would find difficult to keep from turning into grungy sludge: flamingo pink, bright yellow, turquoise and lime.  Alas, my lime acrylic is not quite limey enough so it did get a bit muddy.

I couldn’t embark on a page without having an end goal in mind.  I know a lot of art journallers and mixed media artists can just playfully develop a page or piece without having any level of intention in mind but I need to have something I am working towards from the get-go otherwise I stall.  Since this week is Valentine’s Day, I thought it would be appropriate to make that the focus.  My favourite love song – and one of my very favourite songs generally –  is ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’ by The Smiths so that was my inspiration.

Week 6 - Layers

Not that I imagine anyone can learn anything from my process but here are the layers involved in creating my page:

  1. Turquoise and lime acrylic scraped on the page with a gift card
  2. Scraps of yellow and pink tissue paper glued onto the page
  3. Strips of washi tape stuck in rows to the page
  4. Yellow paint through a dot / small circle stencil
  5. Large yellow circles stamped on the page with a cork
  6. Turquoise circles stamped onto the page using the end of a wooden utensil
  7. Pink paint through a love heart stencil
  8. Stamped pink circles using the end of a pencil top eraser
  9. Spatter of pink, yellow and turquoise paint
  10. Small dots of lime paint
  11. Dots of white acrylic paint around the edges of the pink love hearts to emphasise the hearts on the page
  12. Stamped the chorus of the song lyrics onto deli paper and adhered that deli paper to the page using gel matte medium

Twelve layers!  That’s an all-time record for me.

Selling Love in Packs of Thirty

When I was in Rome a few years ago, we saw the (purported skull) of St Valentine.  I am sure in life he was a stand-up guy but he has a lot to answer for.

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I loathe Valentine’s Day.  With.  A.  Passion.

An element of it is that I am hard-wired from experience to despise it.  Every year, kids at school would pass anonymous lovey-dovey, bokey cards to each other.  I would receive one card a year with handwriting suspiciously mature for your average 11 year old and somewhat reminiscent of my father’s script.  As an adult I can reflect on that and think how sweet and thoughtful it was of my Dad to not want me to feel left out but at the time it felt like salt being rubbed in the wounds.  It wasn’t really that I wanted a declaration of romance from some snotty nosed boy – because really I very much didn’t – but I was bullied for being a square peg all the way through school so Valentine’s Day was just another means to remind me of how unpopular I was, how left out I was. Of course, my super-popular younger sister would need a sherpa to help her transport home all of her cards.  I might have been a wee bit bitter about that at the time.

Then one year, when I was about 13, I received my one and only Valentine’s card and it was gigantic.  Massive.  It was over half my height and there was an icky, cutesy panda on the front. In one fell swoop it could have made up for all of those years of never having received a card.  Except it didn’t.  My epiphany that day was that receiving an obscenely proportioned card from a sproddy teenage boy who makes your spine judder is so very much worse than receiving no cards at all.  So I took the card and shoved it in the outside rubbish bin – because it was too big for the kitchen bin – but my Mum discovered it.  I learned I had been foiled when I walked into the living room and discovered the card, in all its gigantic glory, perched atop the television set.  It was as if my parents had turned it into some sort of shrine.  So I whipped the card from it’s place and ripped it into tiny pieces before placing it, once again, in the bin.  This time my Mum decided not to stick it all back together and restore it.  Job done.

However, it is not just those childhood experiences that wrecked Valentine’s Day for me.  I have been in a happy, loving, committed relationship for twenty years but Valentine’s Day is still not part of my calendar because I actually detest it for ethical reasons too.  First of all the whole idea that there should only be one day a year when people express their romantic feelings to each other, having had to be prompted by the date to do so, is a complete and utter nonsense.  If you want to tell someone that you fancy or love them then just do it when the feeling hits you.  So you realise you like someone on 15th February – are you really going to wait 364 days before you tell them so?  Of course not.  So what is the point?  The point is that having one day a year for designated romance means big business for card companies, florists and possibly even chocolatiers.  It is all just commercial hype that people get sucked into.  You walk into a shop with shelves stacked with random foods and objects covered in pink and red hearts and peer pressure kicks in.  The panic of conformity.  If everyone else is buying this heart covered tat then what happens if you go home to your beloved empty handed?  So you buckle to peer pressure and clever advertising designed to play on your vulnerabilities and buy some tat.  Think of the money those businesses rake in on that one day not to mention the boost for restaurants too.  All those marriage proposals on Valentine’s Day too.  How original.  Thankfully Mr Pict and I have a pact to not submit to the commercialism and we don’t mark Valentine’s Day.  People may judge but we don’t care.  Non-conformity is a comforting feeling in the Pict family.

So why am I blogging about Valentine’s Day weeks too early?  Because I am irked that I am being forced to conform and that makes me loathe Valentine’s Day even more.

The other day, I noticed a post on Facebook from a friend who lives in California.  It was a link to lots of creative ideas for Valentine’s gifts for your kids to hand out.  Woah, woah, woah!  Kids hand out Valentine’s gifts in the US?  I posed the query and friends confirmed that, yes indeed, it is traditional here in America for children to hand out cards and presents to their classmates.  My heart sank and my blood boiled.  Simultaneously.  I pinged a quick email to one of my boys’ teachers in the hope that perhaps their school did not participate in this tradition but alas she confirmed that they have a Valentine’s party and kids exchange cards and gifts and they even make bags in which to collect all their heart-shaped booty.

In Scotland, Valentine’s Day is very much the preserve of teenagers, courting couples and old marrieds.  It is not for children.  My kids have been raised in a culture where giving someone a Valentine’s card is a way of expressing your love for them, a way of indicating that you want to smooch them.  I was not looking forward, therefore, to breaking the news to them.  I predicted a full-scale rebellion.  It transpired, however, that the word “party” took the edge off the news and I was emphatic in explaining to them that the card exchange would, at Elementary School age at least, be a declaration of friendship rather than of love.  They were just about sold.

So now I am being forced to conform.  I don’t want my kids to not participate in events at school, I don’t want them to feel left out and I don’t want to foist all of my views on them either.  Who knows, after all, maybe I am raising some budding romantics.  I don’t see any evidence of that so far but you never can tell.  So this year I am going to have to opt in to the rampant commercialism and buy packs upon packs of Valentine’s cards for each of my sons to hand out and, in turn, they will each tromp home with bags full of pink and red heart-shaped tat.

So now I have another reason to find Valentine’s Day intensely annoying.

I will conclude this blog entry with my Zombie Valentine drawing from a Zombie of the Week project I set myself a couple of years ago.  That’s all the Valentine’s romance I can muster right now.

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