I grabbed 20 minutes with my art journal yesterday and created this illustration. I guess it is more a character design. I came up with the idea of a humanoid insect by combining this week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt – bugs – with the fact my middle two sons are into comic books and there are some truly bonkers characters to be found in those. So I decided to draw Beetle Woman. Quick ink drawing coloured with watercolour.
Someone asked me recently if I ever return to past works and have another stab at them in order to apply sharpened skills or a more developed style. I do return time and again to certain subjects – zombies, Red Riding Hood, skeletal elements, mythology – but I don’t generally have another crack at a past artwork. I thought, however, that maybe it could be an interesting exercise to take a few works in a medium I am more comfortable with -namely ink and watercolour – and try depicting the exact same subject using mixed media. I decided to use some of my illustrations from my 100 Faces challenge.
First up for the experiment was my 85th drawing in the series, which I had titled “Confidence”. I chose it largely because I was working in the red section of my Rainbow Art Journal and I had remembered how much I liked the effect of the bold red ink pooling and puddling. I also chose it because it was an illustration I actually really liked in the series. I lost the more diagonal composition, which I definitely prefer, and I think the new version of the face looks more sullen and bored than confident. I am also not happy with that busy, blotchy background and may paint that out at some stage. However, as first experiments go, it is not such a failure that I will abandon the whole enterprise. Not just yet anyway.
Since visiting two of Edgar Allan Poe’s former houses recently, I wanted to include something Poe-inspired in my Rainbow Art Journal. So, still focusing on the red section, I decided to create a page inspired by the story ‘The Masque of the Red Death’. I enjoy working with a limited colour palette and that was true of this page which is restricted to just red, black, and white. You may have noted that I also return fairly regularly to the subject of skulls and skeletons. I don’t think I am generally a macabre person; I just find that sort of thing fascinating. I am fairly pleased with how this page turned out. It was a struggle to maintain the proportions across the two pages and ultimately I failed to do so but I think the illustration still works. Just. I use spiral bound journals for convenience but they definitely hinder my ability with double page spreads, that’s for sure. Still, I like the finished pages enough that I may use them as inspiration for a proper painting at some stage.
It has been months since I completed a page in my Rainbow Art Journal but the winter break afforded me the opportunity to sit at my art table while my kids played video games or otherwise kept themselves occupied. This particular page has been progressing for a good couple of months now as I just kept adding on layers of collage and then of paint.
The background is a photo (by Yan Gao) from a National Geographic magazine depicting an aerial view of a town in Tibet. I thought the pattern of red roofs might prove to be an interesting background to a page in the red section of my Rainbow Art Journal. I then glued down a random face cut from a magazine, some raspberries, red butterfly wings and a lobster just to add to the red theme. Apart from ensuring the face was central, it was all placed in a pretty haphazard way. It then sat at that stage for many weeks until I could return to it and practice painting over collage.
It is interesting to me that the face ended up so flat. Having started with a photograph of a face as my scaffolding, one would assume that the face painted on top of it would be similar. I suspect I layered the paint too thickly and lost all sense of there even having been a face below. The wings and berries became a sort of headdress or headband and the lobster became a sort of outsized brooch I suppose – unless we choose to imagine that the woman is being attacked by a lobster. I painted the lobster a more vivid red, however, so he’d have to be an undead zombie lobster attacking the figure.
Not a very successful page by any measure then but I am glad to have finally completed this page after the journal being untouched and the page having been in stasis for so long. Onward and hopefully upward.
It’s been ages since I completed a page in my Rainbow Art Journal. I think perhaps I have over-stretched myself when it comes to art projects as I just never seem to get near this particular art journal. This particular page sat half-finished at ugly carbuncle stage for ages. I just wasn’t inspired to work on it when I did have extra free time because the page was a raging hot mess. However, a couple of days ago I forced myself to return to this page and complete it. I pushed through. It is never going to be my favourite page – it was really an experiment in combining red and purple – but it is a lot better than where it was headed so I at least feel like I have saved it. Best of all, now I feel like I have eradicated that page as a creative mental block.
I turned another page in my Rainbow Art Journal and decided to do another two page spread. I am still in the red section of my journal and thought of poppies. I didn’t want to use a monochromatic palette so decided to incorporate some grey and green too but I probably used too much of those and not enough red in the end. Not being very adept at painting flowers, I created the poppy blooms from clippings from magazine pages collaged onto the background. I am pleased with how the hands turned out but otherwise I think this is one of the “blah” pages in my art journal.
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.
Last week’s Life Book lesson was taken by Amber Kuileimailani Bonnici and the idea was to work intuitively to paint a warrior figure, a trope of self-empowerment. In the past six to twelve months I have gradually come to understand and accept about myself that I just don’t get great outcomes when I work intuitively. The battle between my head and any gut feeling, between intellect and instinct I suppose, is just too great to be cooperative when I am in creative mode. Perhaps it goes hand in hand with my style being definitely more illustrative than painterly. I may continue to experiment with working intuitively when creating random backgrounds or attempting something more abstract but otherwise I have decided that I am going to largely opt out of working intuitively. I figure there is no point in pursuing something that just isn’t working for me given how sparse my free time for art is.
When it came to last week’s Life Book lesson, therefore, I decided to adopt the central themes and ideas of the tutorial without adopting the same approach as Bonnici demonstrated. For that reason, I chose to work with colours that instinctively appealed to me. I have been crushing on turquoise combined with red a lot lately so I decided those would be my dominant colours and I figured the blue skin tones might also be a nod to the woad of a Pictish warrior. She ended up a bit expressionless or at least set-jawed and stern but I am going to pretend that suits her as a strong warrior type rather than my inability to paint any sort of personality. One of my sons asked if I was inspired by the movie ‘Avatar’ and another labelled her an “angry smurf” both of which comparisons made me chortle. Not my best work but not my worst either and at least I am catching up on my weekly lessons after last week’s complete and utter lack of art time.
I love the combination of red and turquoise. I love turquoise generally but there is just something about the combination of those two colours that really makes both sing, perhaps because it is an unexpected palette that works surprisingly well. It’s a palette I have used quite a few times in my art work so when it came to the red pages in my Rainbow Art Journal I knew that turquoise would put in a guest appearance. This piece turned out to be reminiscent of my Resting Acrobat from a few months ago. I think that previous piece is more successful overall but the face is better in this piece since I managed to keep it closer to my original sketch and not let the proportions wander.
My Rainbow Art Journal has segued out of its initial black stage into a red phase, as you may have observed. I knew that somewhere in this section an interpretation of Little Red Riding Hood would appear because she and the wolf are characters who have cropped up time and time again in my art work over the years. There is a definite connection in terms of palette and pattern between this new painting and a previous art journal page from 2015 but stylistically they are quite different.
I don’t know why I have always been drawn to Red Riding Hood as a fairytale because I was so wee when my moderate obsession started. I do like wolves, love werewolves, and the psychological possibilities of the story of a girl journeying into the wilderness to confront and overcome a dangerous aspect of that wilderness. With this art journal page, I wanted to depict the idea of the innocent girl and the bestial, primal wolf being interconnected, almost like a yin-yang balance. That gave me the idea for the composition. I actually thought to take some process shots as I worked on the double page spread over the course of a couple of weeks. From the basic sketch, I then blocked in large areas of colour using acrylic paint. I find that getting that one layer down really helps me as it creates a uniform surface on which to build additional layers and use a wider variety of media and it also immediately eliminates the white page so that I can more easily push some areas into the background while bringing other areas forward for emphasis. It was then just a case of working away on the piece in little rations and gobbets of time, building up the tones and details. I think of all of the Red Riding Hood pieces I have ever created, this is my favourite so far.