Frequent readers of this blog will know that I really do enjoy a bit of spatter in my art work so I was very happy to learn that spatter was the basis of this week’s Life Book lesson. The lesson was taken by Mandy Van Goeije and was about starting loose and abstract and then finding some form within that abstraction to turn into an illustration, generating text to support that illustration, and layering watercolour and other media on top of a splattery, puddly watercolour background.
I decided to use the primary colours for my spatter because it was what was demonstrated in the tutorial and because I recognised that it was a palette that I don’t often use. I often add spatter at some stage in my art work but it was a twist on things to actually use the spatter as the starting point. I am not someone who tends to get creatively blocked because of having a blank page but I imagine this is a good way to get past that problem.
Once I had the spattery layer, I had to look for shapes and forms within it that suggested the starting point for an illustration. It is human nature to see facial features in inanimate objects (a quick google told me it is called “pareidolia”) and it is something I certainly do. When looking at my spattery layer, however, the form I saw emerge was a human figure – a tilted head surrounded by red hair and, in the negative space – upraised arms and hands. I think my brain determining I would see a human figure is probably an extension of the same phenomenon that has people seeing faces. When coming up with the story element of my art work and the text, I decided my figure should be the Muse of Spatter and wrote “The Muse of Spatter dances wherever she pleases and creates from chaos” as I felt that basically encapsulated the theme of the lesson and what I created as a result of it.
My response to this week’s Life Book lesson is an example of my commitment to share my art work from that course whether I like the outcome or not. The lesson was taken by Susana Tavares and was about illustrating with watercolour and adding finishing details with pen. It was a lesson that should have been comfortably within my wheelhouse but somehow I still went wrong. I started with the face and struggled to render decent flesh tones. I think I went too heavy with the ochre for the shadows, I didn’t maintain enough white paper for highlights, and I didn’t get the pinks looking rosy enough. The hair was completed using a wet in wet technique and I definitely overdid it as it all feathered and bloomed more than I intended. Straying from the exemplar in the tutorial, I decided the hair could be like the night sky, and I decided to string the planets from our solar system around her neck like a beaded necklace. It was not a well thought through execution of the concept. I don’t think it was a coincidence that I was completely over-scheduled and exhausted this week. For me, art is a useful counterpoint to a stressful week but that does not mean the product is always as worthwhile as the act of creation itself.
Last week’s Life Book lesson was taken by Tamara Laporte and involved drawing two figures. I had not gotten around to working on Life Book lessons for a few weeks so I was keen to tackle this one over the weekend. I find drawing more than one figure in a piece to be fairly challenging because of the need to make them cohere and keep proportions and angles of light consistent. That was another good reason to complete the lesson. I had to improvise a lot with the lesson because I don’t own the markers that Laporte demonstrated. I, therefore, used ink and watercolour instead. I tried to stay true to one of the focal points of the lesson, however, by working on creating a range of skin tones. This is a skill I definitely still need to develop but I was nevertheless reasonably pleased with the flesh tones I created in this piece because at least I avoided making them too sallow or adding too much ochre.
This week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was Time which was ironic because it took me the entire week to find the time to even sit down at my art table. I was, however, thinking about the prompt all week and had all sorts of ideas running around in my head. I initially thought of time travel and HG Wells. My 9 year old Steampunk fan was very keen on that idea but just the thought of drawing all sorts of cogs and gizmos made me feel stressed. After that, I had all sorts of different ideas. It was, however, a chat with a friend about our shared love of ‘Blackadder’ that led to what finally appeared on my journal page. The idea of taking a character and plonking them in different periods of history combined with my habit of drawing funny bunnies. I decided to limit myself to eight drawings and to European history so that it did not become a crazily big project. Once I had the idea and some time at my art table, I was able to whip through the illustrations really quickly as they are just ink and watercolour. I chose to depict a bunny as a neanderthal, Roman, Viking, in a Medieval costume complete with codpiece, as an Elizabethan with a large ruff, as a Regency dandy, as a Victorian gent, and as a World War One Tommy.
This week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was “Here comes the sun”. I wish! This Winter has been so grey and dull that I am longing for sunshine. The intention of the prompt was to create an art journal page featuring the sun. However, as a Beatles fan, I just had the song lyrics playing over and over in my head and I decided to go down that path and create an illustration of The Beatles in my art journal. My 9 year old is a huge Beatles fan so I let him choose the “era” that I would depict. He chose the Sergeant Pepper era and I am glad he did as it made for a brightly coloured page. I drew the illustration with fountain pen and added colour with watercolour. It was fun reducing Ringo, John, Paul, and George to simplified shapes and trying to capture something of their looks and personalities. I must admit I am rather pleased with how this drawing turned out.
This week’s Life Book lesson was way out of my comfort zone. The tutor was Wendy Brightbill and she demonstrated her process of creating an abstract work of art through layering of different media and finding the tipping point between working intuitively and pulling it all together with intention. Intuitive and abstract are both things I really struggle with. I am, after all, a control freak and more of an illustrator than anything else. But that is the point in following an art course that has such diverse teachers – it forces me to try new things and experiment a bit. My piece did not evolve well. I loved the first layer and then it just got uglier and messier and more incoherent rather than cohesive. The thing that finally killed it once and for all was that I was way too “blocky” when applying some acrylic paint. I tried some dribble to make it more organic again and then, rather inevitably for me, some spatter. All was in vain. Those chunks of colour were neither geometrically precise enough to be part of the intent of the piece nor random enough to work with the previous layers. My choices were to either scrap the whole thing and forget about it (since I had no time in which to start over) or to just keep trucking and at least produce a finished outcome. I decided on the latter so I grabbed my paint pens and started doodling. It was still an ugly mess of a piece but I did at least really enjoy the doodles. I was adding the doodles while making dinner which meant I didn’t have the time to overthink what I was doing which was actually quite liberating (if one ignores the stress of multi-tasking). That doodle layer was, therefore, enjoyable. I do like the colour palette and think that works and I may repurpose this painting as the cover of a completed art journal.
There were two lessons in this week’s Life Book course and I managed to find time to complete one of them. The object of the lesson was to create a piece inspired by a hummingbird incorporating collage as one of the media being utilised. I have been using collage regularly as a background or otherwise visually minimal element but it has been a while since I have used collage papers as a prominent feature so that was fun. I used origami papers for the wing and tail feathers and then drew with activated Inktense pencils over the top of the collage in order to make it cohere with the body, which I painted with watercolour. It’s a simple piece in technique and outcome but it provided just the therapeutic decompression I needed in yet another over-scheduled week.