Garden Fairy from Life Book 2018 week 1

I chose to take a slightly different approach to Tam’s lesson for Life Book 2018 week 1 Tending to Your Dreams (Garden Fairy). I took some cues from her lesson and incorporated them into my page trying to make it my own.

Her lesson was about what to leave behind and what to bring forward from the previous year or years. I never really thought about it before other than, I just wanted the new year to be better than the year before. Especially if the year before had been a particularly rough year. If the previous year had been a really good one then I would just hope it would continue. Purposefully looking at what had been in my life and making a thoughtful choice on what to bring forward or leave behind had not been a process for me.  So, this was new to me.

With that said, I found this lesson interesting in that respect. Last year started out rough but did get better a little over half way through the year. I started to see changes I never expected but was very grateful to have happen. I chose to approach this lesson with care, thoughtfulness and purpose, therefore it took a great deal of time. I’m glad it did. If I learned nothing else from this lesson, I have learned I can create a piece of art that is loaded with personal meaning for me.

I made some other decisions. The first one was to not “copy” Tam’s drawings or even her techniques. When I copy a lesson as close to exacting as I can get with the materials I have, which is what I did last year, I discovered when I try to do my own artwork I have no idea what to do. This is because I’m not really learning other than I can copy someone’s work. I needed to allow myself to experiment on my own and learn from my own mistakes. The good I did learn from copying was just seeing how different products worked so I had an idea of how to use them. I just wasn’t learning how to incorporate colors and elements that worked for me.

The next thing I chose to do was to try working mostly in one medium. I know this is a  mixed media lesson but working with a lot of different mediums confuses my learning process. I’m not learning what a particular medium is capable of doing. I read an article about the best way to learn art and the different mediums is to focus on one medium at a time. Not only will it help with learning what that particular medium can do all on its own but integrating that learning is usually faster. Then I can switch to a different medium once I reach a level I am comfortable with and feel ready to move on. I’m fascinated with watercolor so I chose this as my main medium for this lesson.

The next decision was to allow my intuition to come forward to inform me of what elements I wanted on my page. I chose elements that would support the choices of what I wanted to bring forward or work on this year. I had already chosen the word BALANCE as my year word to focus on what I needed in my life. I incorporated the Yin Yang symbol to represent balance. I not only want a balance of my light and dark sides/nature, I want balance in all things in my life. It felt appropriate to place the symbol on my Elfin girl’s forehead located just above the third eye, to remind me I need balance not just in my thoughts but also in mental, emotional and spiritual realms.

In my meditation at the beginning of the year a dragon appeared. I understood what the dragon represented, strength, cunning and perseverance. These three things brought me out of a very rough period in my life and I wanted… needed to bring these things forward.

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This was the beginning of my sketch for the lesson. The Elfin girl just appeared as I worked on drawing my girl. The dragon took some time to figure out which I wrote about in my previous post. I wanted something to represent the garden she is tending but the flowers didn’t feel right.

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I erased the flowers and thought about what else I wanted to bring forward. I draw mandalas when I feel the need to become centered. I definitely wanted to continue this practice but I also wanted to incorporate them into my artwork. It seemed right to include one on this page.

I wanted something to represent harmony and happiness which is something I really need to manifest in my life. Tulips are my favorite flower. After rescuing some tulip bulbs that had been accidentally dug up by someone repairing our fence in our complex, I thought a couple of them would fit well not only in representing harmony and happiness but to honor those that were rescued.

I added some clouds to represent what I wanted to let go of. I had written in them those negative things that had been a major consumption of my energies last year. Then erased them but chose to keep the clouds. Too often, I suppress the negative emotions trying to forget they exist. I needed a reminder that I choose to let them go and not suppress them thus I chose to keep the clouds.

My ugly stage always begins with the skin tones. The skin tones never look right until I add hair color. I don’t have skin tone in my watercolors which means I have to mix it. My skin tones never come out the same but I’m okay with that. This is my first couple of layers.

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I tried to take pictures periodically as I progress with my painting with watercolors. It is obvious I missed taking some photos of a few layers but I did most of what you see in the picture below, in one sitting after the first layers above had dried.

I took my time letting some layers dry while I worked in other areas. I added some more shading first, then the colors to the eyes and mouth, then went back to add some more color to the skin by adding some yellow. The last thing I did was the hair. It was tricky. I started with red, blue and purple, doing a wet on wet technique to let it blend together and adding layer onto layer to get the color a bit brighter. After the hair dried I added some black layered on top, adding water to thin it out in places so the colors underneath would show through. In the skin tone I added some purple, blues and pinks. Purple and blue to add depth to the shading and pink to give depth to the lighter areas, along with a bit more yellow. The trick is to try and not make her look jaundiced.

I worked on the dragon next and chose a bit of turquoise green, adding yellow for highlights and some blues to darken the shaded areas. I let this all dry.

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In this next picture, I worked on the center of the mandala. I wanted it to have a bit of a gem appearance. Then I added the sun, some light blue for the sky, and light green for the ground. I chose not to do any collage but I wanted a layered look so I took some stencils and chose two different colors of blue (yes, watercolors), used a makeup sponge and dabbed on the colors through my stencils. I chose a darker green for the grass area and used another stencil. I added some light grey shading to the clouds. I let the paint dry between layers, and added some red and bit of brown to the sun to give it some texture too.

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Below is my finished page. I added some yellow to the clouds, a bit more grey and some blue through a stencil, then some white acrylic paint over top the clouds after the watercolor was dry. The black dots were made through a stencil using black watercolor paint. I had a homemade dragonfly stencil and dabbed purple, magenta and red watercolor paint through it. All the stencils I used on this page, except two (the two in the grass) were handmade by me including the flower.  I chose these because I wanted more layers on my background. I didn’t outline them or add any detail to them because I wanted them to blend into the background.

I painted my mandala and flowers with watercolors. Once all the watercolor paint was completely dry, I decided to use some different mediums for the details.

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I’m not adept enough with watercolor yet to make fine details which is why I said I would work MOSTLY in one medium. I knew for the details I would use other tools, other mediums. This is what I used:

  1. Prisma colored pencils, in the hair, over the watercolor paint in the mandala, flowers, dragon, clouds and her face.
  2. Gel pens, black and white, for some of the outlining and highlights.
  3. Acrylic paint for highlights, the swan, the white beads and a bit in the Yin Yang symbol.

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I didn’t mention the swan. I decided to add the swan. It has always been a favorite of mine and one of the first things I learned to draw by using the number 2 to start the sketch. Swans have always held a fascination for me. They represent grace and when I learned they mate for life, they became a symbol for me in regards to the kind of love I wanted to attract in my life.

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I am thrilled with my page. It has depth of meaning for me. It encompasses all that I hope for this year and in coming years. Most of all, it has shown me I am growing as an artist.

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I wanted to write about my experiences in between the different layers when I decided to make my own gelli plate but I’m going to save that for my next post. I think this one needs to be devoted to this project. She was such a pleasure to create. She deserves to have this post all to herself.

I have never spent so much time on one piece of art. At no time did I feel like I needed to rush so I could complete it. As I watched the weeks go by, as each week’s lesson was posted and others completing them within days, sometimes hours of them going up, I was satisfied to still be working on week one. Seeing what everyone else was creating just wets my appetite for the coming lessons which I know I will enjoy. Hopefully in the same way I enjoyed this one.

I did not feel compelled to start another lesson, although reading all the posts about one lesson using a gelli plate and people deciding whether to buy one or make one inspired me to consider what I would do. I then played around with options while I waited for layers to dry or during periods when I didn’t have time to work on my Garden Fairy between chores, work and just life but did have short periods to do other things. I will write about that soon in my next post.

Working this way was so very relaxing, no pressure, no guilt about not “keeping up”, even my inner critic was peaceful for the most part. She did surface occasionally, like during the ugly stages, or when I thought I had totally messed up when trying to add the swan.

Now that she is done, I’m looking forward to the next lesson and and can’t wait to see what develops from it.

I can’t stop…

I’ve been working on my drawing for Life Book 2018 week one “Garden Fairy” lesson with Tamara Laporte. I wanted to go in my own direction with this which is why I’m taking my time. I am so in love with my first sketch I wasn’t sure if I wanted to paint it. This is my first sketch, which was done on watercolor paper.

IMG_1267If you read my previous post you would know I was working on trying to draw the dragon. I couldn’t get the body right so I chose to have him leaning over her shoulder. When I added his scales is when I finally connected with him. As I drew the girl, she just seemed to call out for elfin ears.

The above picture shows how I roughly sketched in flowers but they didn’t feel right to me. This lesson is about considering what we want to leave behind and what we want to bring forward with us. Taking this into consideration I knew I needed to change the flowers, so I worked more on my drawing.

I love drawing mandalas. Therefore, I want to continue bringing mandalas into my artwork so I erased the flowers and added a mandala. I have plans for the center of my mandala.

Tulips are my favorite flower. Last year, I saved some bulbs when some work was being done which caused several bulbs to be dug up. The person doing the work in our complex didn’t seem to care and left them all lying exposed so I gathered them up and replanted them. I wanted to honor this and it felt right to include a couple tulips in my sketch.

IMG_1271This is where I stopped while I considered what I wanted to do. Since my sketch was drawn on watercolor paper, I didn’t want to waste it with a graphite drawing so I decided to see if I could recreate it on a lighter weight mixed media paper. The next picture is my attempt to do just that.

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She isn’t exactly like my first drawing. She is close enough and I think she came out rather well. I’ll work on her some more later. For now, this is where I stopped with my second drawing.

I can’t stop drawing her. I pulled out my sketchbook where I was working out the drawing of my dragon and drew another sketch of her. This time with a worried or concerned look on her face. I’m trying to learn different facial expressions and since I seemed to be obsessed with drawing her it made sense to try a different expression.IMG_1275

Then I took out my other journal where I not only draw but also write. A few days prior, I had put down some backgrounds using acrylic paint, mostly just using a card or palette knife to scrape the paint around. I had no idea what I would put on these backgrounds. In my previous post, I wrote about the first background I worked on where I created a mandala.  IMG_1258

On another page, I tried creating a mandala using the dot technique with paint but that didn’t come out so well. I wasn’t going to show it here but after thinking about it, I decided to show it. First, because I wouldn’t be authentic as an artist to just show the “good” stuff. If someone reading this is struggling with their art, they should see that we all struggle and have moments where what we work on doesn’t come out the way we want it to or even passably good. And, that is OKAY. So here it is, including my thoughts I had put on the page.

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I might get better with practice, and maybe this would have looked better with a black background which is what I have seen in all the dot techniques used to create mandalas or other dot artwork. Creating dots is harder than it looks. I used different sized brush handles. Even so, one has to remember that with each dot created if you don’t replenish the paint between each dot the subsequent dot will be smaller. If you don’t use the same “pressure” the dots can be different sizes. I didn’t expect perfection and knew this would take some practice. I also learned that maybe I should also create guidelines, at least in the beginning until I become better at it. For now, this isn’t something I want to pursue, even with this small sampling I realized I just don’t enjoy making dot after dot after dot, which might be why I’m not a fan of stippling, though I do use it occasionally.

A day or so ago, I drew another one of my elfin girls on the third page. I drew her in pencil first, and then I went over the pencil with an Elegant Writer pen meant for calligraphy. In my testing of my pens to see if they would bleed when wet, I found I loved the effect when the ink from this pen became wet. I wanted to play around with this. Here is the results. I added a bit of white to her eyes and for highlights but other than that, the shading is from using a small wet brush to make the ink from the Elegant Writer bleed. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE HOW THIS TURNED OUT, so much so, I felt the need to write about it which is what brought me to writing this post.

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In regards to my previous drawings. I will eventually paint the first drawing that is on watercolor paper. The second that is on mixed media paper I plan to complete in graphite. I have a feeling I’m not done with drawing my elfin girl and expect she will turn up again and again. But… most of all, I have a love of INK and want to play more with it.

Other thoughts:

It may seem strange for me to still be working on week one of Life Book 2018. I see some people doing the lessons as soon as they are released. I started that way for Life Book 2017 which was fine if all I wanted to do was copy the lesson as close as I could with what was being taught. This worked well for the first half of the year. Starting a new job set me back a bit but I also realized, though I was learning by doing the lessons as they were taught, I needed to explore more on my own.

Copying exactly as a teacher instructs doesn’t allow for experimentation. It also doesn’t allow much for failures from making my own choices therefore I don’t learn what works and what doesn’t work. I don’t want to be copying a teacher’s styles and techniques my whole life so I need to learn what works or doesn’t work for me.

When I first considered Life Book as a course of instruction, I did so because I wanted to use art as a way to help me. It is hard to look at one’s life, thoughts and emotions and feel like one is out of control or felt as though they had wasted the majority of their life. I had so many feelings, not just about my past but what had transpired in the past few years, that I needed to find a way to process it all.

Most people who felt as I do or had gone through similar experiences would probably see a therapist. Believe me I considered it. However, when I was diagnosed with cancer and started the process of fighting it and recovery, I decided to see a therapist. I took my daughter with me for I felt she would benefit as well. This whole situation was terrifying to her. At no time during that session did I feel like this person would be able to help me or my daughter. I wasn’t expecting miracles in just one session but I did expect some effort on this person’s part to help us or to just give us an indication of how they might be able to help. In the end, the only thing we walked out with was the understanding that I was already doing what I needed to do. With this in mind I started looking into art as a way to help me do it even better. This is when I discovered Life Book.

I haven’t stopped with just Life Book. I look at other courses as well. I look at them to give me one of two things. Either they will help me learn how to art journal in a way which will help me work through my emotional journey, or they will help me increase my skills and gain further knowledge in various art techniques. The wonderful thing about Life Book is it does both and introduces me to a lot of wonderful teachers.

Last year, because my main focus was on just copying the art as close to exacting as I could, I didn’t learn as much as I had hoped to in the area of processing my emotions when working on my page. What I was processing was only the technical aspects of the techniques being taught. I wanted to change that. I didn’t want to do art, just to do art, I wanted to find ways to have my art and my emotions come together and express themselves on the page.

In consideration of this, I decided to chose a word for the year. I had never done this before. I decided to do this to see if it helped bring focus into my life and help provide direction. For 2018, I chose balance as my word for this year to try and bring more of a balance between the emotional art journey and the technical art journey. It also has the added benefit of helping me to focus on finding balance in all areas of my life.

Knowing this, I knew I couldn’t rush through my lessons. Let me explain something.

I have always wished I could think faster on my feet. Wishing it though has never resulted in it actually happening. Instead of wishing for it, I decided to understand myself better, which meant being honest with myself. I have no idea how people view me unless they tell me. During my life, I have had people tell me I am rather intelligent. While this might be true, I have to refrain from believing my inner critic when he/she tells me I’m not smart at all. After all, if I were smart I would think faster on my feet and be able to respond to people in the way I wish I could. That is if I would believe what my inner critic says.

I, however, have come to understand, First, I AM intelligent. Second, my intelligence demands that I take my time to consider what I know or don’t know, and sometimes if I need to know more, it requires research. Third, I am also not quick to understand my own emotions and sometimes it takes me a while to dig into them to understand what they are and what triggered them. Because of this, almost every situation I’m in, I am not quick to respond because my way of doing things is, first to understand what I am feeling, why I feel that way and to take time to think about it and not jump into quick conclusions or decisions. People wanting quick responses and quick answers get frustrated with me, and yes, I get the impression that they might think I’m dumb but this is because they do not know me and I don’t always think to say that I need to think about this before I answer. I will admit that sometimes I over think things, and sometimes it is difficult for people to understand why I need to think about something that should only require a simple answer.

There is no surprise that this is how I approach my own art. We are at the end of January and to know that week one has taken me four weeks and I’m still not complete isn’t a concern for me. In the past it might have been but that would have been before I took the time to do my own self-analysis to understand why I do things as I do or why I react to things as I do and so forth. Doing my own self-analysis doesn’t mean I am always right. In fact, there are times when I need to re-evaluate because something doesn’t add up to what I had previous thought about myself. There isn’t anything wrong with that and I am sure therapists are having to do this all the time with their clients. There is just no way someone can know everything there is to know about another person and besides, we humans whether we want to admit it or not, are changing all the time. I will be the first to admit that this is even true for myself.

I have no doubt there would be a lot of people who would argue this point. Their egos would want them to believe they know themselves implicitly. I love the part in The Matrix where Neo is told “Know thyself”. On one hand we already know everything there is to know about ourselves while on the other hand, we know absolutely nothing about who we really are.  Neo walks out of the room, so confused, believing he isn’t what people believe him to be. He doesn’t believe in himself. He doesn’t believe it until circumstances put him into a position where he has to reach inside of himself to be what he needs to be, proving to him that he has always had it inside of himself to be whatever he needs to be.

This is true for all of us. Sometimes what we need to be isn’t at all what we think we should be. It is no different for me in my art. I think my art should be realistic, not whimsical or even be mandalas. If someone had asked me back in high school what kind of artist I would be, I would have said my art would be ‘realism’. I had never heard of mandalas or at least I don’t remember hearing about them back then so I would not have even considered myself to be a mandala artist. And yet, that is what I have become. I also lean more towards whimsical at this stage which I would never have thought possible because back in high school I had trouble drawing anything from my imagination.

Why am I writing about all of this? First, because I need to explore the depths of these things for myself and writing is how I do that. Second, because this is just an example of how my mind works and why I am not quick on rebuttals or responses in various situations. I have to THINK about whatever it is that requires my response. My thought processes are not short. They can be long and involved and writing helps me to work my way through my thought processes.

I use the same process for my artwork. Consequently, I don’t expect immediate answers or results. I don’t sit down and immediately make decisions on what I’m going to create and then create it. Oh sometimes I do but most times like the Garden Fairy, I need to go through this process.

I knew when I first watched Tam’s Garden Fairy lesson that I would draw a female face but I knew it wouldn’t be a copy of the face she drew. I knew from my meditation that my animal would be a dragon. But that is all I knew. It took a while of thinking about my dragon to understand I didn’t want to copy a dragon I found online. To draw him took research of looking at various pictures then setting them aside to start sketching on my own and only referring to pictures once in a while to get shape and form properly in perspective. It took more contemplation on what I wanted to represent my garden.

The third reason I write about all of this is hopefully so other artists who are new to exploring their own abilities learn that there isn’t anything wrong with taking their time to complete a lesson. The wonderful thing about online classes, especially ones where you can download them or have lifetime access to them is this, you can do them in your own time, at your own speed and repeat them as often as you like AND do them in whatever form you want to do them in. Classroom instruction doesn’t give you this flexibility, nor do the online instructions which give you only a limited time access and no downloadable content. My advice especially for beginners is choose courses wisely and take advantage of YouTube’s free content.

I want to write about one other thing. I know this is getting long but after writing the above and having a break to go off and work and think about other things, I had this thought come to me. I don’t PHYSICALLY practice my artwork every day. I do THINK about my artwork EVERY day. If I’m not physically practicing, I am viewing other people’s artwork, reading about it or watching videos, or thinking about how I might go about doing some technique or trying different things. I might consider in my mind, what if, I do this, or what if, I do something else, or what if, I combine this and that. In my mind I’ll try and imagine what might be the result of doing that ‘what if’ and in some cases it might take me to my art table to see if what I imagined is in fact what happens. Most times though I’m thinking about sketching or painting, especially watercolor and how I blend, or push the paint around. In my mind, I’m creating a number of art pieces.

Here is where some people might consider me crazy, but it is a proven fact that athletes do improve from just meditating on running or doing whatever physical activity they want to do more than if they just practice it physically. I believe this is also true for artists. If it weren’t true then I could never explain how I improved in my portrait sketches after months of not physically doing any drawing and only thinking or using my imagination and creating sketches mentally. So don’t underestimate the power of the mind. If you don’t have the time to physically do the work, I bet you have plenty of mentally free time where you can do the work in your imagination. Waiting in lines at the grocery store for instance, or waiting in a doctor’s office when you don’t have a small travel pack of art materials to play around with. Or waiting in traffic. Or walking the dog. I could go on and on. My point here is I probably create more in my head than I do in physical substance and there isn’t anything wrong with that. In fact,  I believe it is key to learning and becoming a better artist. I just can’t stop…  I do it all the time, sometimes even in my sleep.

What do you think? Let me know. Or just write a comment to let me know you were here and read my post.