Some pages in my Rainbow Art Journal are blank slates; others are covered with bits of collage or scrapings of paint or handwritten notes or even the odd doodle. When I have leftover paint, I scrape or smear it onto a page in the appropriate colour sector of my journal and, when I have a collage scrap, I similarly paste it in. This was one such page that had such a messy start of leftovers. There was some textured gesso on the page and also a prominent wine label. I decided to turn that wine label into the basis of clothing for a female figure. The rest of the clothing element is made of washi tape. Initially, that female figure was youthful but I decided to challenge myself to draw an older face so I did a sort of “age progression” on the face until it looked right to me. I decided to lean into the texture of the gesso by adding more texture on the page, scraping thick paint onto the page, scraping into that paint as it was starting to dry.
This is the last illustration in the orange section of my Rainbow Art Journal. Phew. Orange is not my favourite colour so it has been a bit of a slog to get through this section, which also coincided with a lean period when it came to free time. Looking back through my blog posts, I learned that it was almost exactly a year ago that I created the first illustration in the orange section. Yikes. That isn’t very speedy progress, is it? Let’s hope it doesn’t take me a year to complete the next section which is, of course, yellow.
On the subject of transitions, this illustration was inspired by the transition between seasons. As frequent readers will know, I am very much not fond of Winter. This Winter has not been too abysmal in that we have not had any big monster storms. We had a surprise snow storm in November that caused a lot of chaos but we really got off lightly in terms of quantity of snow. What we have experienced instead is a number of smaller winter weather events that caused disruption – days when my kids had snow days or late arrivals when I had to still go to work, for instance. The landscape looks beautiful when blanketed in sparkling white, but shoveling it is not so appealing. Shoveling it while your husband is working in Hawaii is even less appealing. Anyway, there are finally definite signs of Spring around and the temperatures are steadily increasing. This means we can venture out wearing slightly fewer layers and can feel comfortable in less bulky coats or in cosy sweaters.
I wanted the composition to be quite narrow in order to accentuate the idea of cosiness. Since this is a page in a journal with an illustration already on its reverse, I could not crop the paper down. I, therefore, used strips of washi tape to “frame” my drawing. The tape then inspired my colour palette.
This week’s Life Book lesson was taken by Tamara Laporte. The idea of the lesson was to reflect on the things we are most grateful for in life and represent those on a series of hearts which would be pinned together to form a sort of fanned book. We then had to make a background with a concertina envelope in which to store the hearts.
It was almost like a plenary lesson in some ways as we were encouraged to use a range of mixed media techniques in order to create variety in the hearts. I decided to make five hearts for no other reason than the fact that that was how many I could cut from my larger sheets of watercolour paper so I had to come up with four things I was most grateful for – since the fifth heart acts as the cover.
I asked my husband to pick his favourite from all of the hearts that I made in order to determine which would be the front cover. The one he chose had been decorated with washi tape. I used watercolour with finger painting and spatter for another heart, adopting the technique learned from the Jar of Favourites lesson. I then glued a photo of my kids to that heart. I used a page from an old dictionary for another heart. I used a page with the word “husband” on it so that I could clip out that definition and add it to the collage. I then added a photo of my husband and myself.
The other two hearts both made use of Dylusions ink sprays. One was simply two colours of spray that bled into each other in the centre. I used that one to represent my family and friends who live far and near. I used the globe image from a postage stamp for added interest. The other heart was covered with stamped ink to create a pattern and then sprayed with a single colour of ink. It was really difficult to settle on one particular thing for the final heart. There are so many things I am grateful for. I decided, therefore, to keep it quite broad and generic by having it represent all of the opportunities I have been given and might yet me given in future:
I used Dylusions ink sprays again for the background and envelope but this time it all went a bit pear-shaped. I thought the yellow and green would work well together. Neighbours on the colour wheel, colours of spring, the colour of leaves as Autumn arrives – but sadly also the colours of day old bruises. Oh dear. The lemon zest and dirty martini inks bled together to form a sludgy mossy colour that truly resembled nothing more than an old bruise. Yuck. Another lesson learned. And I also learned that I completely suck at spraying through stencils. Oh dear. Again I was reminded that all mistakes are part of the learning process so I determined to use the sprayed paper regardless. I stamped the title of the lesson on the top of the page and a trio of hearts on the concertina envelope.
Another week done and I am still managing to keep to the class schedule. Yippee!
One of the bonus lessons on the Life Book course was to create a decorative jar. The idea is that the jar will fill up, over the course of the year, with little notes of achievement, celebration, happy moments, things to be grateful for so that at the conclusion of the year it becomes a celebratory record of all the positives from the year, however small each little recorded moment might be. The lesson was actually weeks ago but I only found time this weekend to finally embark on the project, having taken a while to even find a decent sized jar.
I collaged the jar with a book page, a paper bag and magazine clippings and finished it off with washi tape, glitter tape and a tag attached with gold elastic. My two younger sons also made jars of their own but didn’t want a photo of them shared. Now we just need to start filling our jars with notes of our awesomeness.
This week’s Documented Life Project prompt was to incorporate a map of “your state or the world” and document something on that map. Luckily, a few months ago, when doing my usual poking around in thrift stores, I had purchased a world atlas for 50 cents. I, therefore, actually had the materials I needed. Furthermore, I immediately had an idea of what I wanted to create, a little flash of an image skimming across my mind’s eye, which was a welcome contrast to the previous few weeks when I have been scratching my head for a bit. I decided to use the map to document the fact I am “between belonging” right now as an immigrant, ensconced as I am as a resident of America but very much still feeling my Scottishness and connection to my homeland pulling on my heart strings.
I used a template to cut out two birds from two different maps: one of Pennsylvania, with the Philadelphia area being prominent around the bird’s head; and the other of Scotland, though actually it was of most of the British isles since that land mass was small enough in the atlas to fit. I suppose that is appropriate since I have lived in three different locations in Scotland and have also lived in England for a while. I chose the bird shape not just because I have become a tad obsessed with birds this past year but also because they represented migration. I created the background using gelatos. I have a love-hate relationship with gelatos: I love their creaminess and the rich vibrancy of the pigment but I cannot seem to get them to go onto the paper as smoothly as I have seen on tutorial videos. Instead they still have a bit of a rough scribbly quality at places in the mark-making and I have to then deploy a faithful baby wipe in order to spread the colour across the page. I used two shades of blue and a mid-green to represent the ocean between my places and the colours on the globe. The green was used on a practical level to outline and thus highlight the shapes I was collaging onto the page. I then added some strips of glittery green washi tape just because it supported the green outlining and because it was glittery. I cut a love heart out of a map scrap which happened to contain the words “Atlantic Ocean” and then several smaller hearts out of US and UK postage stamps, again suggesting that idea of migration, travel, journey. I also used two air mail stickers just because they chimed with the theme of the page and also it’s colour scheme.
Visually my page was communicating my sense of “not belonging”, of being between two locales. I have yet to find my place here in America so I still feel rather discombobulated by how alien things are, by my difference and otherness, by all the little things I do not know, by how unfamiliar things are that I used to take for granted back home in Britain. However, bizarrely and conversely, I do feel at home here. I feel settled enough on a domestic, family level now – especially having bought a place to call home – that I do now feel at home here in Pennsylvania. Ultimately that is because the cliche is a truism: home is where the heart is. Ultimately I belong wherever my husband and kids are. That, therefore, became the sentiment that I stamped across my page.
So my DLP art journal page this week is really about the push and pull of where I am at as an immigrant, as a wife and mother, as a Scot living as part of the diaspora in America; my page is about that tension between not belonging yet feeling at home. Hopefully I have managed to convey that in the visual elements and the words on the page.