This week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was “water”. I do enjoy prompts that are as vague and open as that as it allows my mind to dance among many possibilities until I find the one that sparks with me. I decided to paint an illustration of a whale using watercolour. I love whales and often draw whales, even as doodles on pieces of scrap paper or the bottom of shopping lists. My challenge for this whale was to work really loosely (well, by my standards anyway) with the watercolour and to have the bare minimum of a guideline sketch. I sprinkled on some salt hoping to create a sort of barnacle effect. The white space was just too boring around the whale so I added some spatter. And that was when things really went wrong.
The alternative title to this blog post is ‘Arting with Cats’. My art table is set up in a corner of the kitchen that has large windows on two sides. It is flooded with light which makes it perfect as an art space but it means it also attracts the cats who, being cats, like to bask in the warmth of the sun and who share my interest in watching the birds visit the feeder outside the window. As such, the cats commandeered my art table. We reached a compromise whereby they now have just under half of the table – their cat bed indicating which is their territory – and I have the rest of it. I stick to my side of the bargain. Do they? Of course not. They are cats. Many is the time that they have padded across my art work or have knocked – deliberately! – boxes of pencils or paint sets off the table. When annoyed that I have not fed him earlier than usual, Satchi sits on my art table and picks up my paintbrushes in his mouth, one by one, and drops them onto the floor. On this occassion, I had just gotten up from the table to clean my brushes when Satchi plonked himself right in front of my art journal and swished his huge, fluffy tail right across the page. He thankfully did not manage to do much damage to the whale itself, as it was almost bone dry, but the spatter dots smeared and smudged. Ugh. Had it been anything other than my art journal, I would have been very annoyed and frustrated. However, my art journal is for experiments, some of which go wrong. This page, therefore, becomes another record of what goes wrong when one attempts arting with cats.
Last week’s Life Book lesson was taken by Andrea Gomoll and was all about painting a figure who was caught between an area of darkness and an area of light. The medium was primarily watercolour, which I always enjoy working with. I decided to place my figure in the centre of the paper with her hair flowing upwards to create a clear dividing line between the dark area and the light area. I enjoyed letting the paint in those background areas bleed into one another and create blooms. I built the flesh tones up gradually, using a neutral palette first and then layering the stronger colours on top, dividing the face between the cool blues of the dark side and the warm yellows and pinks of the light side. I possibly should have gone more dramatic with the shading and lighting on the face. I grounded the piece by painting black into the torso area of the figure and then tried to make the background and the figure cohere by adding spatter in white and black watercolour.
This week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was to incorporate a mandala or something similar. I am no good at mandalas. I have tried them a few times but I just don’t have the patience or precision required. I like to draw things that are wonky, asymmetrical, that involve dribble and spatter. That’s my kind of thing. The mathematical precision and repetition of mandala are just not me. My workaround, therefore, was to think of something I could use that would create a repeated pattern for me. My eyes landed on my small alphabet stamps and I had my flash of inspiration. Stamping letters in concentric rings should have been simple enough but even that “cheat” defeated me because I did not line up the stamps with enough accuracy to create sharp rings.
I was going to keep the page black and white and let it sit like that for a while. I worried that it was a bit too boring, however, so I spritzed the page with yellow spray ink and spattered on some orange and red watercolour. It turns out that I much prefer the monochrome version.
Last week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was the word “wonder”. I created an art journal page last year that was on the same theme which put me into a bit of creative stasis as I was blocked between having that image in my head and the desire to do something totally different. In the end, I asked my kids for ideas. They looked at me like I had wool for brains. Wonder Woman obviously. Duh. I decided to please my little comic book nerds by attempting an illustration of Wonder Woman. I didn’t want to even attempt copying comic book art so I drew Wonder Woman from my mind’s eye. Happily my sons agreed that I had depicted her costume correctly. Or at least close enough for them to give it a pass. Her proportions are very wacky, not least that massive head, but I kind of like her nevertheless.
I generally try to make do with the art materials I already own but a couple of months ago, armed with a 60% off coupon and a Michael’s gift card, I had a bit of a splurge. I thought I could indulge myself since I was paying next to nothing from my own coffers so I bought a set of Dr Ph Martin’s Hydrus watercolours and a pack of Jane Davenport Mermaid Markers. I had been coveting the Hydrus watercolours for a while. Since I like to use liquid media very wet but also like the pigment to be punchy and bold, I had a feeling the concentrated watercolours would really appeal to me. The Mermaid Markers were new to the market but I thought they might make for a good portable art supply and treated myself to them too.
Despite being a hyper organised control freak, I am not one of those people who makes up palette cards for each medium they own. I tell myself I will make time to do it and yet somehow I just never do. I did, however, think that my Rainbow Art Journal might be just the place to make a record of some of my media and what the colours look like on paper. This page in the red section of my Rainbow Art Journal is the first of these. The product name of the Mermaid Markers initially gave me the idea to illustrate a mermaid; however, I had just been listening to Stravinsky’s Firebird the day before so I decided to draw a sort of harpy, woman-phoenix hybrid, using the markers and some of the Hydrus paints. I worked quickly and loosely as a challenge to myself and because I really wanted to focus on playing with the media. The mermaid marker is super juicy and richly pigmented. If all the other colours are the same then I can definitely see those being a handy portable art resource. The Lobster colour is a bold primary red so I used a lot of that in this illustration. The hydrus colours added a bit more variety as the cadmium was a red leaning towards orange and the rose had a little blue in it I think to make it more purplish. The three reds, therefore, provided me with enough variety on this page that I did not feel the need to add any other media except for a little black ink for details such as the face and the talon fingers.
This week’s Life Book lesson was taken by Tracy Verdugo and involved creating a self-portrait. Verdugo actually demonstrated three different approaches to painting a loose self-portrait and each looked interesting and like something I would like to try (though maybe not using my own face over and over). She also based her paintings on selfies she had edited using various apps. I don’t have any photo editing apps on my phone and did not have time to download and experiment with them so I just used an unedited selfie as the basis of my painting.
I did start out very loose, using ink to block in certain shapes and areas before dropping very liquid watercolour into the painting, but somewhere along the line things ended up getting very illustrative and tight again. No matter what I do, I always seem to get “locked in” when painting even when I am trying my hardest to stay loose – such as, for instance, using large brushes as I did with his piece. It is also not a strong likeness and I guess that is OK because I am not a portraitist but it is still a bit ridiculous that I don’t know my own face well enough to capture it more accurately. In this self-portrait, I think what particularly went wrong is that I reduced the area of my forehead (which is so big I call it a fivehead) and I slimmed down my cheeks. Maybe I was subconsciously flattering myself.
Last week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was connected to the old wedding tradition – something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. I liked the challenge of it really being four prompts rolled into one and the possibility of interpreting it either literally, piece by piece, or connecting it to marriage traditions.
I actually started with the “borrowed” element. I decided to borrow an idea from my kids and asked them for suggestions based on the prompts. One of them suggested an illustration of a bride and groom and one of them suggested zombies so, of course, I had to mash up those ideas and illustrate a zombie wedding photo. My something “old” was my art journal as this was the very last page of my current art journal. The something “new” was the fountain pen I used for drawing because I have only had it for a few months and have not used it much for drawing. The choice of watercolours was the obvious answer to the “blue” part. I certainly enjoyed drawing zombies again but I also think the end result is rather fun.