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.
Last week’s Let’s Face It tutorial was a paint over collage lesson. It was taken by Toni Burt and we had actually been led through her process for creating a collaged background as a mini-lesson a few months ago.
I really liked the collaged background as it was a bit more thought through and intentional than my collages tend to be. Instead of just tearing up and sticking down paper, I was actually thinking about relationships between elements. I should have thought a bit more carefully about the eventual composition, however, as I ended up with a significant bump under the figure because of the ticket stub. Never mind. Another learning opportunity.
The object was to paint a whimsical figure on top of the collage layer. Burt used oil sticks in her piece but I neither own or have a desire to own oil sticks so I improvised and used Neocolor II crayons to shade the face. It was a welcome break to be working in this more illustrative style again, not having to be concerned about accurate proportions and facial features and all that jazz. I may be guilty of over-simplifying but time is ever my nemesis.
This week’s Life Book lesson was all about “happy painting”. The lesson was taken by Juliette Crane and the object was to use layering, loose mark-making and different tools – including fingers – to apply paint in order to create a piece depicting a whimsical owl or creature of our choice. I have always had problems working in a very loose style. I think I tend to be too “illustratory” about my art work. Ultimately it is probably symptomatic of me being a control freak. I did, however, have fun applying and spreading paint with my fingers. I also used a lot of dripping, splattering and spraying in order to have less control. It was a really enjoyable lesson and definitely fulfilled the brief of being “happy” painting.
I decided to choose a pig as my whimsical creature. My first thought was to paint a rabbit because I seem to have rabbits on my creative brain, always hopping around, but I also wanted to resist that impulse. I have always liked pigs so a pig it was. And to ensure it was whimsical I decided it should be a flying pig. I actually have two pottery flying pigs that need to be hung on my wall. I have had one of them since my teens, when I bought it at a craft fair, and then I found another at a completely different fair just a few years ago. I should have bought a third. I cannot imagine I will have the opportunity to buy a third now given I am not on the same continent. I must, however, get those pigs up on the wall. But I digress….
I always used to tell people that I could draw but could not paint to save myself. I am competent with watercolour but I usually treat it more like ink, using it as a drawing tool rather than in a painterly way. Working in acrylic and oil paints always defeated me. A few years ago, the art club I was secretary of organised a weekend course that was about painting nudes. I enjoyed life drawing so signed up for the course. The tutor explained that we would be working in acrylic. I asked if I could have special dispensation to work in ink. I am very comfortable working in ink. No. The point of the course was to paint so I was to paint. I was to step outside my comfort zone and paint. Besides which, he assured me, anyone who could draw as well as I could draw would be capable of painting. The following day, at the course’s conclusion, the tutor looked at my painting, sighed and said, “You weren’t kidding”. So one of the challenges for me, in experimenting with mixed media and especially upon embarking on the Life Book course, has been to develop my painting skills and simultaneously, maybe even consequently, improve my confidence with painting.
As you can see from this effort, I am not quite there yet. I am, however, improving. Little by little I am experiencing small moments of success – even if with just an element of the painting – and little by little my skills are improving. Maybe by the end of this year I will stop adding “but I can’t paint” to that statement. Maybe.
I have not used gold leaf – not even faux gold leaf – in many a long year, not since I left High School actually. It is wonderful stuff and I love the impact it has on a piece of art. However, one of the commitments I made to myself was to work with the materials and media I already have and to make substitutions where required. Other than a splurge on Neocolor II crayons and Posca paint pens – which I assessed looked pretty necessary for the Life Book course – I have been very self-disciplined and stuck to that. Of course, my Amazon wish list grows longer every time I watch a tutorial but as someone who enjoys being thrifty none of the wish list items are leaping into the virtual cart. So I had to make my response to this lesson work without gold leaf. My solution was to paint a piece of paper with three different gold acrylic paints blended together by scraping them on with an old plastic card. I was then able to use that “gilded” paper for collage.
Mati Rose McDonough’s video tutorial encouraged we Life Bookers to create an abstract background using whichever techniques we felt inclined to use. I struggle with creating truly abstract art work. I can work in an abstract style so long as I am making the shapes and marks resemble something. Therefore, I could not stop myself from seeing the paper as being divided up into sea and sky. When I added the drips, in three different colours of blue, at the top of the page, I saw them as storm clouds and rain. When I added spatter at the bottom of the page, I saw it as sea spray. I added the hot pink dots, in three different sizes, for a punch of colour contrast and also to try and add a slightly more random element. A line of sparkly tape and some flags cut from gelli plate prints helped tie the colour scheme together. I used paint pen to add the mast and anchor and alphabet stamps to add the phrase “find it and treasure it” to the golden hull of the simplistic boat.
There were two lessons on Life Book this week. I must confess that neither lesson grabbed me immediately or felt naturally like “me” and – in a week when I am up to my eyeballs with commitments and have a slammed schedule – I admit that I was tempted to skip the lessons, maybe come back to them at a later date. However, I am striving to meet all my art deadlines and so far am succeeding (a little high five that was popped into my Jar of Awesome) plus a bit of creative time in a hectic week is a useful balm for stress so I decided to plunge on in and see what came of it.
The first lesson was taken by Jill K Berry and the object was to create my “heart community”. The lesson was very reminiscent of making paper dolls or chains of people. The instruction was to make representations of the four people who most influence me, with little doors on each figure, so that they folded up into a concertina book. With four little figures, I had to make my four boys. They definitely inspire me every day in many ways so they fitted the brief too. The blocky shape of the figures that emerged from the cut paper automatically made me think of Lego minifigures. Perfect! Three of my kids (and I) are obsessed with Lego so that seemed completely apt. I used a mixture of painting and collage to construct my little lego sons, doing so in stages over the course of 24 hours, whenever I had free time. I wrote adjectives that describe each of their personalities inside the doors in each of their torsos and each of those doors has something on the front that represents each of their favourite things.
The second lesson was taken by Violette Clark and the theme was “magical mystery tour”. The idea was to produce a painting, with collage elements, that depicted a magical, creative, somewhat whimsical house. That house was supposed to be placed on a painting of the top of a head, as if the house was springing forth from the creative imagination or perhaps even representing the creative mind, but I decided to abandon that element mostly because of time management but also because that aspect did not really speak to me.
I modelled my house on a drawing I did in my art journal last year because I liked the quirky shapes and wonkiness of the building I drew. I used acrylic paint to create a sunset background because I love the warm colours of a wonderful sunset. The fluffy cloud shapes were painted with pink pearlescent paint so, although you cannot see it in the photo, the top of each cloud shimmers. I collaged a green hill to replace where the top of the head should have been. Then it was just a case of using gelli plate prints to construct the shape of the house. I was supposed to leave one side of the roof unglued so that little slips of paper could be inserted into it like an envelope but I got carried away and glued it down. I realised right away so I could have found a way to leave a side open but I decided I was not that keen on the idea of using it as an envelope so I chose to let it be. I used washi tape to create a front door and roof flashing and used postage stamps for windows. I stamped the whale on in order to create a weathervane because I really want a whale weathervane in real life and still do not have one – except on my magical house. The final touch were the little love hearts emerging from the chimney pot.
This week’s Life Book lesson was entitled Seeds of Love and was taken by the course organiser, Tamara Laporte. I am particularly enjoying her lessons because she goes into such depth explaining the concepts and techniques being demonstrated. This particular lesson focused on value contrast, layering and whimsical versions of botanical, organic shapes.
This was definitely a piece that required both patience and faith. There were so many steps involved in the process that patience was required to let each layer fully dry and set before progressing. Happily that works for my schedule anyway as I do my arty stuff in bursts between other chores and commitments. Faith was required because my version of this piece went through a definite ugly stage before it all pulled together into something coherent. I had a better experience with the neocolors this time though I could have done a more skillful job of blending them. It was really only when the black and white paint pens were added to reinforce the lines and shapes and create little details with the doodles that the ugly mess I was creating finally looked pleasing. As per the lesson, I added a few words. I chose words that connected to the botanical theme but which also could function as metaphors.
Please excuse the wonky angle in the photo.