I have no idea where the idea of a Moth Woman came from. The idea just popped into my head. My only intention when sitting down at my art table was to tackle goache again. As someone educated in 1980s Scotland, my lesson in resilience involved the anecdote about Robert the Bruce and the spider and the mantra of “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” So that is my attitude to goache. I am going to spider it and keep on trying until it is no longer enjoyable.
This Moth Woman was also an attempt by me to try a completely different approach to layering my materials. Inspired by Sue Clancy, who is always so supportive and generous with her creative guidance, I used watercolour pencils for my initial sketching. When I then applied white gouache, it picked up the pigments from the pencils and added some warmth and created a range of white hues. I then went back into some areas of the illustration with the watercolour pencils in order to darken and punch up some forms and shapes. I then added some more white gouache to some areas and added spatters of gouache to the lower portion of the page just for a bit more visual interest.
This was a completely different methodology to me. I am all about that tight line work and black ink and there is none of the latter and very little of the former in this illustration. I think this might be my most successful experiment with gouache so far because I felt the consistency of the paint was more like it should be so I am going to keep trying to get to grips with that medium. I will also use the watercolour pencils from time to time for the sketch layer too in future. It was really valuable to step outside my comfort zone and break out of the rut of my own work groove.
Here’s a quick art journal illustration of a figure swimming. I was challenging myself to use a medium I have not used in ages and nothing but that medium so I opened up my bag of watercolour pencils and got to work. This was done super-quickly – definitely no more than 15 minutes – as a stress-buster. I was just promoted (yay!) and I have SO much to do before the beginning of the school year so I was in one of those flaps where my To Do list was so extensive that I could not properly focus on any one task in order to complete it and check it off the list. I decided to take a break at my art table and it did the trick: I was much more focused and efficient when I returned to my crazily long list. Anyway, the concept of relaxing gave me my subject because one of the things I find most relaxing to do is just float around in water. I used to love actually swimming lengths in the pool, never competitively, just for exercise and fun, but nowadays all I really want to do in the water is float around on my back and stare at the sky like a much less adorable otter.
Last week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was “lift”. I like prompts that can be interpreted in multiple ways and I actually had lots of ideas tumbling about and doing backflips in my head for this one. While I was not lacking in ideas, I was lacking in time. Again. I think when school and work finish for summer, I am going to be crawling across the finish line.
In the end, the pocket of time that opened up was when I was stuck in the waiting room of an orthodontist’s office. That gave me a chunk of time but meant I had to use portable, non-messy art materials. I also had to be able to work on my lap since I had no table. I, therefore, decided to draw a whimsical self-portrait illustrating some of the things that I find uplifting – not the really big things like the important people in my life but the small everyday things that give me a lift when I might be feeling glum or stressed or fatigued by life. As such, in one hand there is a cup of tea and a scone with clotted cream and jam. That treat is like an edible hug. In the other hand and in the hair are creative tools to represent that my treasured art time helps me decompress and recharge my batteries. Finally, there is a bird feather in my hair. I love to sit with a cup of tea at my art table and watch the birds visit the feeders I have set up on the other side of the window. That represents that quiet time.
Last week’s Life Book lesson was a fun tutorial by Kristin Dudish. It essentially made a kind of game out of close observation and small studies of parts of an image that would build up to a whole. It involved using a source image to copy so I chose to use a vintage photograph to steer clear of the whole copyright thing. We were encouraged to use different media in each square. However, I was working on this piece late at night and in front of a movie and I quite frankly felt like relaxing and being a bit lazy so I just used different colours of watercolour pencil activated with a water brush.
I have not done such close observational drawing since I left Scotland. It was something I used to do at life drawing class ever so often – really study an ear or the fingers of one hand – but after almost three years I thought I would be more rusty than I proved to be. It was a really fun exercise and an enjoyable way to translate what can be a challenging skill into something easily digestible and entertaining. I think I might even take this approach again in my art journal as useful practice. Maybe my kids would have fun trying it too.