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.
Last week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was “colour gradations”. I was greedy and decided I wanted to use all of the colours of the rainbow rather than shades of one colour for a monochromatic scheme. That gave me the idea of drawing Iris. I painted Iris, goddess of the rainbow, last year with mixed results and there are definite echos of that piece in my art journal illustrations – the black background, the pale hair, the sweeping curve of the body – but in a more naive style. I jump between styles a lot. That probably makes me a “Jack of all trades and master of none” but it also stops me getting creatively stuck and bored.
What a difference from one week to the next – last week was an art time famine and this week I have managed to squeeze in three different doses of art time. This week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt to use colours outside your comfort zone. Since I had enjoyed the abstract lesson from Life Book so much this week and had found it so quick and easy, I decided to take a similar approach with my art journal page. I again chose to use my non-dominant hand and used a wooden skewer dipped in ink. I could tell just by glancing at my set of watercolours which colours I used least because they had barely been touched: green and orange. I decided to throw in some yellow for a third colour and to connect the green and orange. Not wanting to create another abstract and not knowing what else to draw, I settled on a self-portrait. I really enjoyed working in this way. It was quick, easy, and relaxing. I will be squirreling away this approach so I can use it again in future.
I was so happy when I viewed this week’s Life Book lesson because I knew I could actually get my response completed within the week and that, in turn, motivated me to find the free time required. The lesson was taken by Melissa Dinwiddie and her ethos was all about being playful and getting the creative juices flowing by working on quick, minimalist pieces. Further, the media used were ink and watercolour which are comfortably within my wheelhouse. The lesson still presented a challenge to me, however, in that I don’t find I have an instinct for abstraction generally. I, therefore, decided to work with my non-dominant hand in order to ensure that my mark making was loose. It was a whole lot of fun and very relaxing so in the end I created four pieces, each measuring 4.5 by 6 inches.
Miraculously, I managed to complete this week’s Life Book lesson before the weekend. It was one of Tamara Laporte’s lessons on illustrations and whimsical characters, in this case an animal character. I had to improvise with the media used and opted for watercolour and collage. I went a bit too crazy with the background but I think I just about get away with it. My chosen animal was a pig simply because I really like pigs. It isn’t totemic, some sort of spirit animal, but just because I think pigs are smart and adorable. I added wings for an additional touch of whimsy.
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.