I have not worked in my art journal for weeks. This time of year is just busy to a crazily hectic degree. I decided to grab some little pockets of time over the past few days to produce an illustration in my art journal. I decided to work on an Art Journal Adventure prompt that I had missed. Last week’s prompt was “clown”. That was never going to happen given that I am a massive coulrophobe so I pondered the broader prompt, which was circus. My clown phobia is actually tied up in a milder phobia of circuses. However, I have an interest in the history of sideshows and “freaks” so that was the avenue my creative imagination wandered down. I have illustrated the Pig-Faced Lady of Manchester Square before in my art journal and this time I intended to draw another favourite “freak”, Lionel the Dog-Faced Boy. However, I was so short on art time that I decided to produce a much simpler and more whimsical illustration. I, therefore, chose to depict a version of the Fiji Mermaid. This was a curiosity exhibited by PT Barnum as the mummified remains of a mermaid when it was actually the head and torso of a monkey stitched onto the tail of a fish. This is just a simple ink drawing coloured with a very loose wash of watercolour.
Last week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was “outward from the centre”. I initially had a much more complex and time consuming idea in mind but it took me over a week to even get the chance to open my art journal so I decided to ditch that idea and produce a simple illustration in ink and watercolour instead. I drew a figure – somewhat inspired by Lady Rainicorn from ‘Adventure Time’ – by taking the prompt literally and starting at the centre and working my way outwards in a spiral. Then it was simply a case of filling in the figure with watercolour and drawing in the details using black ink.
I have not found time to tackle a Life Book lesson in a good few weeks now. I decided, therefore, to break my drought with a lesson by Wendy Brightbill that involved creating an abstract piece using liquid media and mark making. I am happy that I took time out of my massively busy life to work on this lesson as I did enjoy the process. I have been heavily involved in illustrations for months now, including my contribution to the Brooklyn Art Library Sketchbook Project and Inktober, so it was a nice break and pretty liberating to do something completely different, just sploshing watercolour around without a great deal of thought. I have to state, however, that I don’t especially like the finished outcome. Hate is too strong a word but it really is not a piece I want to look at again. This piece was definitely about the journey rather than the destination.
This week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was “Triangles”. I did not think I was going to find any available art time for my art journal this week. I have been using all of my little rations of art time for keeping up with my Brooklyn Art Library Sketchbook and participating in Inktober. However, today I was on a field trip with my preschool class and that meant I managed to get home an hour earlier than usual. I, therefore, sat down with a hot mug of tea and decided to play in my art journal. This week’s prompt allowed me to keep things simple. I just opened up a box of watercolours (ones that belong to my children actually as they happened to be to hand) and started doodling triangles using a medium sized brush. The triangles are very imprecise as a result but, hey, it’s not a geometry lesson and these aren’t architectural or engineering plans so who cares.
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.