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.

Watercolor and Shadow & Light

Have I ever mentioned how much I love working in watercolor? Just a bit of warning, this post is going to be all about watercolor and I may repeat myself several times, exclaiming just how much I love watercolor.

Since my last post I went on a journey. That journey began by viewing Week 31 of Life Book 2017 titled  Shine Your Light & Embrace Your Shadow with Andrea Gomoll. I cannot say enough about this class, however, I’ll have to resist saying too much as I don’t want to overstep. I didn’t have the supplies Andrea used so I made a selection out of what I do have. I selected Prang watercolors. I have their set of sixteen.

I need to talk about Prang watercolors for a minute. I heard about them from one of Barb Owen’s live streams. She used them in one of the projects she was showing and spoke about how vibrant the colors are.  I decided to buy a set and since they are inexpensive I chose to go with the largest set I could find which was a set of sixteen. They are considered a child’s watercolor set. Because I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy working with watercolors I decided to go with this cheap set. I had a different brand of watercolors around the house that my daughter had used for school but they were very poor. I think any other brand could not have been worse.

From my very first brush stroke I have been in awe of Prang. The vibrancy of the colors are amazing. After trying to use the crappy sets I had around the house of my daughter’s and having to coat my brush liberally with the colors, for some reason I keep expecting that from Prang and end up with way too much pigment on my brush. Trying to get a soft or pastel appearance from any of the colors is difficult for me. I get too color happy and just pile it on. LOL

I’m still on my first pans of the Prang set although the yellow is almost gone. I am finding I love yellow. I bought a new set of sixteen Prang watercolors which I hope will last longer and I hope I won’t start using until I learn to be less heavy handed. I have fallen in love with Prang so much I’m afraid it might be difficult to use any other watercolors, even the more expensive sets.

Since playing with Prang I decided to try a different brand. I chose a set of Daler Rowney Simply watercolors which come in a tube. Using them out of the tube was nice but I was afraid I was using too much and throwing way too much since I didn’t have a palette I could devote to just the Daler Rowney set. I heard you could squeeze the tubes into pans and let them dry and use them that way so I bought an inexpensive palette to give it a try. Since letting them dry, I have only tried using them once and wasn’t impressed. I gave up too quickly and switched back to Prang. I’ll have to try playing around with them again in the near future.

Because of the vibrancy of color in the Week 31 class I mentioned earlier, I decided to work with Prang. I had worked with it enough to know I could possibly recreate what the instructor was teaching and indeed they did. I love, love, love this class! Andrea is a great teacher. She took the time to demonstrate and discuss every step of her process in creating her page or art piece.  She made it easy to reproduce her results even though I wasn’t using the same products she was using. She even gave suggestions as to what you could use if you didn’t have exactly what she was using. This is what I created.

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My only disappointment with what I created was my lettering. I ran out of room for the word YOUR in “LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE”. There is an R at the end but when I cropped the picture I took, it removed part of it but that is okay. After all, this is about learning. In the future I could stamp the letters in reverse or use smaller letters. But definitely need to be more careful in my planning instead of just putting down the letters and hoping they will fit.

I loved this lesson so much, I had to create my own page. I pulled out my handmade art journal which I had made using watercolor paper. I decided to do a full two page spread but wasn’t sure exactly what I would do. I had an image in my mind of two faces (female) and heard in my head to create something that would represent my sun sign Gemini. Gemini being The Twins, I have always felt an affinity towards shadow and light, duality, and opposites or mirror images of everything. I am almost always in a conflicting state of mind because I can see both if not several sides of a situation, idea, belief and so on. I needed to reflect this in my spread.

I started out by drawing two faces on opposite pages. I wanted them to look as closely alike as I could while being mirror images of each other. One representing shadow and the other representing light. Their hair and background would merge to hopefully show there is no defining line between the two. Here is a photo of my complete spread:

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I will say again, both of my paintings were done with Prang watercolors. I can’t say enough about them, although recently I looked up their light fastness. From the tests I have seen others do with Prang, I wouldn’t want to create a painting for hanging on my wall because they will fade significantly. Using them for my art journal however should be fine. This means I need to start buying a small set of the more expensive watercolors to give them a try to see which ones I would enjoy using.

Did I say I really really LOVE working with watercolor?

This is a conundrum for me. In my day to day life, at work, at home, doing whatever I do, I want to have control or know exactly what will happen and how. This is exactly the opposite of what happens with watercolor. If you try and control watercolor you will either under work it or overwork it. To use watercolor you need to let go of the need to control and wait, watch and see what happens. Maybe the reason I love watercolor so much is because it finally lets me just let go and stop worrying about how perfect everything has to be. It frees me. It allows me to just be without expectations.

This is one of my first real attempts at using watercolor to do something other than just an abstract collection of colors that bled and merged together. This is what made me fall head over heels in love with watercolor. This was from a lesson in 21 Secrets, Tools & Techniques. The class is called Flowing Facial Features and taught by Jodi Ohl another magnificent teacher.

I still find myself hesitating when I think about doing something in watercolor. It can be so intimidating because of the need to just let go. Like I said earlier, my natural tendency is to try and control everything in my life so working with watercolor, even though I love it, comes with a challenge to step outside of my comfort zone. What I need to remember is I’m rarely disappointed in what I can create using watercolor.

These are two more pieces using watercolor. I absolutely enjoyed this class, another Life Book 2017 class. This one titled, Letting Your Story Surface, taught by a wonderful teacher, Mandy van Goeije.

It amazes me how many different ways there are to create art, even with just one medium, like watercolor. So far I haven’t found a technique or way of working with watercolor that I haven’t enjoyed.

Did I say how much I LOVE, love, LOVE watercolor? (I warned you… hahaha)