Frost

I had a clear vision of what I wanted to achieve with this winter inspired art journal page.  Unfortunately, as I was still recovering from illness and was very fatigued, my execution did not meet up with that vision.  There are layers of patterned origami paper that I wanted to show through more, to suggest the patterns frost makes on surfaces.  I was, however, too heavy handed with the paint and a lot of that pattern detail has been lost.  I do, however, think that the figure I painted clearly personifies frost and ice and cold.  I could have kept fussing with this page a bit but I was out of energy even more than I was out of time.  Maybe I will return to it at some point when I feel better.  Probably not.  In the meantime, I will say that taking some time for creativity while I was flopped on a sofa was beneficial.

3 Frost

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Werewolves, Power Cuts, and Feral Children

On Friday, I went to work wearing a raincoat and carrying an umbrella since a rainstorm was forecast for the weekend.  However, while I was at work, snow started to fall.  I left work in a blizzard.  Thankfully my kids were already on an early dismissal (I cannot remember the last time they were in school for an entire five day week) so two were already home and two I picked up on my way home from work.  Just as we walked through the door, hoping to get cosy, looking forward to a steaming cup of tea, the power cut out.  And it stayed out.  From 2pm on Friday until 1am on Sunday, we had no power whatsoever.  No light and no heat is pretty miserable in Winter.  We kept ourselves occupied with board games and reading by candlelight.  However, my 21st Century kids started to miss screens and WiFi after a mere 12 hours and things were rapidly descending into ‘Lord of the Flies’ territory.  Thankfully the power came back on before they started sharpening sticks.

Since I could not do laundry, cook complex meals, or run the vacuum around, I found an unexpected ration of time to spend on art.  Sure, I could have dusted but you know how I like to sacrifice dusting so I can get in some art time.  I decided to work on last week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt which was simply the letter W with an additional option to use shiny, shimmery or sparkly media.  Perhaps it was because I had just illustrated a vampire on the previous page of my journal, but I was in a monster mood.  That said, when am I never in a monster mood?  For me, therefore, W was for Werewolf and I set about drawing one in ink as the sun slipped towards the horizon and the house became gloomy in the dwindling light.  It seemed apt for the subject but drawing in the dark is hard on the eyes.  I added the diluted ink and watercolour by candlelight while my fingers shook in the cold.  Amazingly, despite the circumstances, the illustration turned out to be completely acceptable.  I hope, however, to not be doing too much future art in the cold and dark.  I am SO done with Winter!

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Abominable Snowman

It is only January and I am already so over Winter.  I like to be warm and cosy.  I dislike shovelling.  My kids have not and will not have a full week of school this month thanks to snow days, early dismissals, and late arrivals.  While I love spending time with my kids, it has been pretty disruptive and we are a family who does better with routine.  Winter is the price I pay for getting to enjoy the other seasons of the year.  Alas, it is too early for me to even start searching out the first signs of Spring.

Anyway, thoughts of snow, ice, and winter chill inspired my most recent art journal page.  Technically it is a response to the Art Journal Adventure prompt which was the letter A.  I had already been thinking about creating an illustration of a Yeti so I am just labelling him as the Abominable Snowman to fulfil the prompt.  I love monsters and mythology and cryptids so I always enjoy drawing them.  This yeti is inspired by a painting I did in my altered book of monsters a couple of years ago.  That painting was just the face but this time I drew the whole body.

2 Abominable Snowman - Yeti - Art Journal Page

Seasonal Faces

Despite being a mini lesson, it still took me all week to get around to completing last week’s Let’s Face It lesson.  The tutorial was taken by Angela Kennedy and the focus was on drawing and painting a variety of hair styles.  This is something I have been pondering myself lately as I have noticed I tend to draw and paint hair the same two or three ways over and over.  Therefore, with my 100 Faces series over on my other blog I have been trying to illustrate a wider variety of hair styles.  Following advice from one of my kids, who knows I know nothing about hair or style, I have been eyeball stalking people’s hairdos for inspiration.

Kennedy’s demonstration was in simple ink pen and watercolour.  This was very welcome since I was super short on time.  I decided to challenge myself to work small so cut four 3X4.5″ pieces of watercolour paper.  Having four little oblongs of paper in front of me made me think of either the four elements or the four seasons and so I plumped for using the latter as a theme.  I used the hair of each face as a practice for a particular watercolour technique.  Spring, therefore, has a wash of one colour with more concentrated areas of the same colour added in wet on wet; Summer has a concentrated wash of one colour and then I dropped water in to dilute and puddle the paint in some areas; Autumn has a wash of one base colour and then I painted two further colours on top of that base; and Winter was a wash of watercolour with table salt sprinkled into the wet paint.  I was rather rushed and impatient when it came to painting the faces and experienced some bleed between colours by not ensuring one was dry before adding the next colour.  It was a risk I knew I was taking yet still hoped to avoid.  Working small and in a rush was perhaps not the best circumstance.  Having blank space beneath the heads, I took that as an opportunity to practice my watercolour lettering again.

Week 33 - Spring

Week 33 - Summer

Week 33 - Autumn

Week 33 - Winter

PS  I had not removed all of the salt from the Winter piece before I photographed it as I found some patches were still a bit too damp.

 

Museums as Winter Playgrounds

The weather has been pretty miserable here in recent weeks.  Snow, slush, chill winds, bitter temperatures, and dull, grey skies.  This weather has not been conducive to wandering, exploring, and playing outside.  What that means is that my kids build up into powder kegs of pent up energy which runs the risk of igniting and that means I blow a gasket and have to release my flying monkeys.  It’s not good.

The solution was to find somewhere the kids could go and burn off some energy without it costing a small fortune.  That was when we thought of the Franklin Institute.  We have a family membership there so it made complete sense.  And instead of seeing it as a place where the kids could be intellectually stimulated and learn about science, we could utilise it as an indoor playground and they could expend some of that pent up energy.

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We let the kids plot the path around the museum so that they could visit each of their favourite places.  While Mr Pict and our oldest son went to the planetarium (to lie back in seats and therefore have no exercise at all), I took the younger three to the brain section.  They played for ages on the neuron climbing frame.  They invented some sort of space ship drama involving aliens and ray guns.  After a few more brain experiments, we headed to the Heart section where they pedalled to power an opera and ran around inside the giant heart.  They wanted to see the train, so we met up with the other two and the kids all ran around inside the train, treating it like another climbing frame.  More energy burn off.  Woo hoo!  Our plan to treat a museum like an indoor playground was working.

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The sports science section had been closed for renovation last time we visited the Franklin Institute so we headed there to check it out plus sports ought to mean more energy burned.  The old sports section was a favourite with my kids but it was a bit tired so we were excited to see what they had done.  I must admit, I was a little disappointed.  The layout means that people are funneled in narrow corridors past the interactive exhibits and adults clog that corridor as they supervise their kids.  Not great.  Some old favourites, such as the surfboard were still there, and some of the new exhibits were great fun, but some of the exhibits were already broken.  There was a display of (I assume and hope) fake urine to demonstrate the importance of correct hydration that my oldest son found thoroughly entertaining.

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The mission, however, was a complete success.  The boys found the Franklin Institute to be entertaining without us having any sort of focus to the visit (in fact, I think the 10 year old preferred the lack of direct learning) and they did burn off energy and get some exercise.  Museums can be winter playgrounds.  Maybe not the ones with Ming vases though.

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Snowmageddon 2016

After a pleasingly mild winter, this weekend we got slammed with all our winter weather at once.  Winter storm Jonas walloped us over the weekend, dumping an incredible amount of snow in a short period of time.  It is difficult to determine exactly how much snow we got in our neighbourhood – the blizzard’s winds created drifts a good few feet high in some places while other patches had under a foot – but I estimate we had over two feet of snow.

My brother-in-law was supposed to fly in to see us with his wife and son on Saturday.  While he had to contend with the stress of cancellations and postponements and changed plans, we were thankfully all cosy and safe at home as the snow packed in around the house and made the street disappear.  My husband did a power of work digging out the drive over and over and tunneling narrow pathways through the snow.

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Rather than go sledding, the three younger boys decided they wanted to go for a walk through some nearby woods in the snow.  They passed a man walking with snow shoes and using cross country ski sticks but they were undaunted.  They were excited to spot animal tracks in the otherwise unblemished snow.  Even more exciting was the news – delivered during post-walk hot chocolate – that there was no school on Monday.  They have been hoping and yearning for a Snow Day all winter and they finally got one.

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In addition to yesterday’s Snow Day, we also had a delayed arrival for school today.  Not everyone has cleared their portion of the sidewalks and in some places the snow piles (an accumulation of snow drift and snow ploughing) are taller than I am but we had our snow boots on and trudged valiantly ever onwards.  Since we had to walk in the road at points, I was glad of the two hour delay since it meant there were fewer cars to contend with.  The kids, of course, would have rather had another Snow Day.

Pants, Pyjamas, Laundry and Hibernation

This week’s Documented Life Project challenge prompt had me scratching my head for inspiration.  Incorporating fabric onto the journal page seems simple enough but I don’t ever create with fabric (unless you count the occasional sock monkey or sock monster) so not only do I not have much in the way of fabric crafting skills but I do not have a stash of fabric of any kind.  Not even any old socks since those have been turned into sock monsters.  Being a tomboy mother of four boys, I don’t even have any ribbon or bows or anything.  It was suggested that I could utilise a scrap from some old clothing but we emigrated with very few clothes as it is so there was nothing that was not being worn for me to cannibalise.  One of my sons has ripped a pair of jeans but they are his favourites so he would not part with them and I also was not keen on the sewing challenge of trying to work with denim.  I kill my thumbs enough trying to hem denim jeans.  I was not about to put myself through that for fun.  My mind was wandering to ways in which I could loosely interpret the prompt and I was all set to produce a watercolour sketch of some crumpled fabrics when my husband announced that he had identified some old clothes that I could chop up and use: his underpants.

Yes.  Underpants.

At the risk of having my Green Card revoked, I am really not a fan of American washing machines.  Since moving here, I have had two top-loading washing machines – one at the rental house and one that came with our new home – and both have been awfully hard on our clothing.  Because they spin around a central axis point, it creates a sort of centrifuge (or does it?  Because I know even less about physics than I do about sewing) and all the wet garments just stick to the sides of the drum, becoming a tangled mess, straining and pulling against each other.  In all my years of doing laundry, I have become accustomed to using a front loading machine whereby the clothes spin around in the drum but also tumble because of the effect of gravity: whatever clothes are at the top of the drum fall down and rejoin the fray, so they are being constantly separated from each other.  The problem with the top-loading system is that the clothes pulling against each other leads to misshaping and tears.  A button or zip catches against a jumper and gets pulled to such an extent that a hole appears.  I have had more holes appear in laundry in the past year than I have had over the previous decades of my laundering experience.  Washing machine design is one of the few small differences between my domestic life in Scotland and America that really irks me.  When it comes time to replace our washing machine, I am hoping we can do so with a front loader.

Rant over and out but that explains why my husband was able to donate his under garments to my creative project: the blasted washing machine had created a hole in them.  So underpants it was.

It took me some pondering time to decide how I could use them on my page.  Some ideas were just too ambitious for my sewing skill level and some would have involved creating too much in the way of three dimensions which would make my art journal too difficult to work in.  Finally, last night, as I snuggled down to watch some TV while wearing my jammies and clutching a mug of hot tea, I had my inspiration: hibernation.

So this is the page that resulted from a combination of undies and hibernation.  Many days in winter I wish I could hibernate and just hole up somewhere cosy with jammies, a hot water bottle, endless supplies of tea and some favourite movies.  The undies were in a soft jersey fabric so I adhered it to some thin card stock and then used some embroidery floss to add details to the pyjamas.  The bear was painted in watercolour and then outlined in ink.  I used gel pen for the lettering and narrowed the size of my page to eliminate some of the white by using strips of colourful, patterned washi tape.  I have defaulted to my everyday illustrative style of drawing in order to create my DLP page again this week but using that fabric in a creative way was ample challenge.  It is always good to be shoved out of one’s comfort zone and try something new but quite honestly I don’t think I will be in any rush to repeat the experiment of incorporating fabric into my art.

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*PS The colours are not as washed out in real life.  That’s just my camera phone not capturing the colours accurately enough once again*