The art of “what if”…

This week, since my last post, has been busy with work. Those who work as a cashier where standing on your feet for an 8 hour shift is part of their job, know how exhausting it can be. In four days, I worked three 8 hour shifts. Going into my 8th month my body is finally becoming accustomed to it. My feet ached but only for a couple hours after getting home. My energy levels were fine which meant cooking dinner wasn’t an impossible chore and my muscles and tendons didn’t lock up on me after sitting for thirty minutes at a time. In those 8 months I have gradually lost 15 pounds. This is all wonderful, exciting and a testament to the resilient nature of our bodies, minds and spirits.

These 8 months have also taught me the importance of making time for what is important in our lives. It has also taught me to allow my fifteen year old daughter to find her own way while still being the parent she needs.

This week I started just watching the videos for the art classes I have, mainly the videos in Life Book 2018 and stop trying to do every lesson. I watch the videos and think about how I can incorporate some of the techniques into my own artwork. With this in mind I decided to play a bit. One of the questions I like to play around with is how watercolor and acrylic paint can work together.

I love watercolor. I love seeing how watercolor flows on the paper and observe the colors bleed and blend into one another. Unfortunately I didn’t take pictures of the different steps I took on this page:

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I did start another one where I am taking pictures which I’ll talk about shortly.

This page started with a background in watercolor. The colors that resulted are what you see in the flowers. I let the page dry completely. The page was overly dark/bright and I knew trying to do any tangles would be difficult to see. I decided to try and tone down areas by applying white acrylic paint. I watered down the white acrylic paint a bit and applied it. When I did, of course, the watercolor reactivated and blended with the acrylic paint. In some places it became muddy. I continued to work leaving some spaces untouched which I planned to make into abstract flowers.

As the mixture of acrylic and watercolor paints started drying I continued applying acrylic paint selecting some other colors, like yellow, orange, and green. In some cases, I mixed some of the colors together, like yellow and green, orange and yellow, sometimes adding white to lighten the colors and adding water when I wanted to thin the paint. Sometimes I would mix it in a bowl and sometimes I would mix it on the page. I continued this process until I had a background I loved and the untouched areas popped more off the page. I let this completely dry.

The next step involved a Uni-ball Signo black pen. This isn’t permanent even when dry but that was okay because I wanted to use water to create some shading effects after I put down the ink. I used the pen to roughly sketch around the watercolor areas that were untouched by the acrylic paint. Then created sketchy stems and leaves. I let the ink dry a bit then took a water brush to the ink. I didn’t want to completely erase the dark lines so I just touched upon the ink enough to cause it to bleed a bit creating some shading. Again I let it dry.

Another “what if” question came up. What if I put watercolor over top of the dry acrylic. I’ve done this before and in some cases it would bead up because it doesn’t absorb into the substrate. The acrylic paint I used was a cheap craft paint called Craft Smart. It leaves an almost chalky appearance and feel which is why I think beading wasn’t a huge issue. Where it did bead up I didn’t mind. I used watercolor to color in the leaves, except for the rare blue ones on the top left flower stem. The bluish leaves are actually an area from the first layer of watercolor background which wasn’t touched by acrylic paint. One of the few places where the paint was a soft pastel color. The color in the rest of the leaves are a result of watercolor on top of the dry acrylic paint. I added watercolor down the stems, at the bottom of the page for grass, in the petals of the flowers, using a variety of colors to create the effect I wanted. I let this dry completely.

Most of these steps done between the drying periods were done before or after work when I had an hour or two. Today, I added just a touch of more watercolor in a few areas just to add some additional shading and a bit more grass on the bottom of the page.

I’m not done with this page yet. I have plans to add some white highlights but I’m waiting for a set of detail brushes I ordered. I am pretty much done with trying to find paint pens that work for fine details. I have gone through several varieties of paint pens, Posca, Painters, Sakura Permapaque, and Craftsmart, just to name a few. All of them have failed me in various ways for what I need when I want to add white details. They either let the background color bleed through them so the white isn’t bright enough, or the tips have issues like leaving blobs of paint where I don’t want it, or they clog or fall out completely. With my strict budget I can’t keep buying products hoping they will work so I’m going to rely on the old faithful brush which can be used with paint and ink.

One of the issues I had when working on this page was at the very start. I added too many different colors for the background which is why in a few areas when I added the watered down acrylic white paint it became muddy. On the page next to the one above I started a new page and decided to limit my colors to yellow, oranges and reds for the first layer. Here is what I have so far:

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There is blue around the edge, that came from paint when I was working on a previous page when I failed to put paper towel under the page I was working on. It looks like there is blue in the background of the page but that is actually white. It is untouched by any paint at this point. Interesting that it looks blue in the picture. I kind of like it so after this layer is dry I may try adding some light blue in watercolor.

I tried to go lighter with the watercolors on this page. I get too heavy handed when I work with the Prang watercolors. I love how vibrant they are. As much as I love the vibrancy it is an issue when I want to add any details, plus I want to learn how to get a more pastel effect which is another reason why I’m playing the “what if” strategy with my journal right now.

The rest of my life is also a “what if” sort of game. “What if” I do this or that, or think this or that, or…. and it goes on. I want to understand why life works one way for some people and another way for other people. It is an interesting experiment in both art and life. I entered into Life Book because I felt a need to find a way to heal. Even so, I felt something was still lacking. Don’t get me wrong. I love the lessons. I love what I’m learning. I love that I can use art IN THE MOMENT to release, to let go, and to alter negative into positive. I wanted to expand on this further and this is where I felt the lessons stopped, at least for someone like me who can sometimes have trouble using lessons as a base or foundation and then expanding upon them. It has taken me a while to find what I was looking for but without these lessons and life experiences over the past ten or fifteen years I would not have come up with what I’m experimenting with now.

There are many different processes being shared in the world today. Some of them are about how to become successful, others about how to attract what you desire, or how to be happy and so on. I believe it is important to share all of this with each other. However, as a person who has been trying to find her own way in life, these processes have one thing in common. They work for the person sharing it and may work for others but it doesn’t work for everyone.

I’ve been struggling with understanding why that is. I have come to a sort of conclusion today. It is probably only a partial understanding or conclusion. My conclusion so far is this. Everyone has to understand how they interact and connect with the Universe.

It is very much like working with various artist supplies and tools. What works for one in a certain way doesn’t necessarily mean it will work that way for someone else. To make it work for me, I had to find my connection with the Universe. For some people it is praying. For others it is meditating. For me, it is how I have always seen things with my mind since before I can remember.

I was led to understand this today. I read something that resonated with me, which opened me up to listening to a recording made years ago in which someone was explaining how they understood something. This person is the only person who explained things in the way I understood as well. I know I’m being vague about this. I don’t generally share my beliefs with the world. It isn’t my beliefs that I want to share anyway. The fact that after all these years, and at my age, I have only found one person who has expressed an understanding so very similar to mine is an important thing in and of itself.  It means everyone has their own truth to understand and that truth isn’t the same for everyone. In fact it might be very rare indeed.

What I want to share is this. When I stopped fighting against the Universe and it’s way of interacting with me is when I gain the most understanding. When I stopped fighting against the way art supplies and tools interact with me is when I learn the most about what works for me and what doesn’t. When I leave myself open to the connection I have where information flows and utilize this to explore is when the world changes around me. But more importantly it changes through me first. You can’t change the world around you without first changing something inside of you.

I am a member of a lot of art groups on Facebook. In every single one of them, there are people who ask for set answers to their questions. What is the right product to use for this or that lesson? What is the right pen… What is the right paper… What should I do first… What…. How…. When should I do such and such…. and so on. The questions are good. It is good to question. Don’t ever think I’m criticizing someone for asking questions. I’m not. Some people are limited financially so they need to know what product works best so they aren’t spending money on a product only to find out it doesn’t work and then having to spend more money on another product and so on. I get that.

What I’ve learned over the past couple of years but more importantly what I learned most recently is this. You will always be seeking answers from someone else until something changes inside of you. “What if” there is a knowledge base we are all connected to and that knowledge base is updated from every single person’s conscious and subconscious mind? “What if” we are able to connect to it and by just listening and experimenting with what we hear, we are able to learn everything we ever needed to know? “What if” that connection is different for everyone? For someone, it could be in story telling. For someone else it might be in creating art. For someone else it might be working with numbers. For some it might be prayer, or meditation. Or for others it might be by visualizing a connection to everything and anything.

I don’t know where it comes from but I like the phrase “Fabric of the Universe” or “Fabric of Time”. The use of the word Fabric in both phrases make me visualize the Universe or time as a woven fabric but not as a single layer but multiple layers in all directions. In that fabric everything exists and is connected otherwise it would all fall apart. If one part becomes torn, lost or worn out, it can weaken and cause the rest to start to unravel. This is why it is important for all of us to find that connection, open ourselves up to it and allow knowledge to flow through us and out into the world. When that connection is broken is when we find ourselves fighting, struggling and falling apart. When that connection is made it brings strength and flexibility to the Fabric.

It is amazing to me how allowing creativity into my life is slowly altering my perception of reality. I have read where some artists use acrylics and oils together, two mediums I never thought could work together in one piece of art. If this is possible in art, then what are we capable of in this world if we just stop thinking things are impossible and start playing “what if”?

“What if” I create a force of energy around me that attracts beauty, love, abundance and harmony? “What if” I create a shield which repels hate, anger, toxicity and destruction? “What if”…. fill in the blanks. Find what works for you. Share in the comments, maybe it will spark something in someone else. Nature doesn’t hold back on the “what if”. It doesn’t ask “what if” I mix red and blue. It just does it. It does it so well we see a never ending kaleidoscope of purple hues in this world. Think about that for a moment. If nature or God (depending on your belief) had stopped with the “what if” or limited the “what if” then maybe humans wouldn’t have existed.

Only you can decide if you want to play “what if”…

The End of #Inktober2017, and moving on…

October is over which means #Inktober has ended. I find myself with conflicting feelings. I love that I was able to complete #Inktober. I’m sad that it is over. In some ways I miss it, while in other ways I’m glad it is over so I can move on to using what I learned, during #Inktober, in my other art. I want to move on to working on larger pieces though they will still be in one of my many art journals, they will be larger than the 2 1/2″ x 2 3/4″ spaces I blocked out for my #Inktober pieces.

I did, however, choose to do the last #Inktober drawing a bit larger. I used the whole page instead of blocking off a small section and wasting the rest of the page. So with no more delay here are my pages from #Inktober2017:

I sort of cheated on the last page. I added some graphite shading to it so it is not 100% ink. I’m also not sure I am totally done with it. It is still calling for something more, especially in the square spirals. They need more drama to them. Just not sure how to do that yet.

Towards the end of October, I was feeling a strong pull to do something with color. Because I’ve been learning a lot from Tamara Laporte and her use of Neocolor II and acrylic paint, those are usually my go-to art supplies, especially when creating faces. I pulled out my handmade art journal I had originally created for BOD2017 (Book of Days 2017). When I created it, I used watercolor paper, so now it is my journal for when I want to use wet medium. I have been so enjoying my #Inktober faces I immediately went to drawing a face in my BOD journal for the intent of adding color with paint. Here is my progress so far:

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I started first with Neocolor II, salmon. Then added SmartCraft vanilla. I left it to dry over night, then added more Neocolor II, and acrylic paint. I don’t remember all the colors I used, and I left it to dry over night between each of the layers. There is probably four or five layers. Of the Neocolor II’s I used paynes grey, indigo blue, salmon, phthalocyanine green, yellow green, malachite green, emerald green, purple, carmine, raw umber, ocher, brown, black and light grey.  I only used vanilla and white acrylic paint. Obviously, I’m not afraid of mixing and overlaying a lot of color but I do so lightly and sometimes using vanilla or white acrylic paint to blend and smooth out the Neocolor II.

Once all the layers were dry, I still wasn’t happy with it. It didn’t have the depth of shading I wanted so I pulled out my Prisma Premier colored pencils. I can’t even begin to tell you what all the colors were that I used. Most of them were very similar in color to the Neocolor IIs I used. But for the eyes I first started by adding black Posca paint pen for the pupils and on the edge of the upper eyelid and a bit on the nostrils of her nose.  I also added vanilla and white acrylic paint for the highlights on her face before adding colored pencil. I waited on the highlights in her eyes until I was almost done.

Then I went to town just layering colored pencil with lots of the similar colors to the Neocolor IIs and using either a blending stump or a blending pencil to help smooth out some of the colored pencil. In the end, I stopped using the blending stump and blender pencil and just added color with the pencils.

I did not use a reference photo when I added color. This is completely from my imagination and the next steps will be too. I plan on using watercolor for the rest of the page. It will span into the full spread of the two pages but what will develop is completely unknown at this time.

I don’t plan my art work. At the most I might start out by thinking I’ll do a face, or I’ll do a mandala, or I’ll do an abstract collage of doodles or as in one of my pages I decided to partition it off into six equal parts with a border between each of the parts, but that is as much as my planning goes for these days.

Once I make that choice, if it is a face, I’ll decide what angle I want. If it is a mandala, I’ll decide if I want one or multiple mandalas. Then I’ll decide if I want the face or the mandala to be center of the page or to one side, if one side then which and so on. I make decisions as I go. I do start them all with pencil first. When I say I decide, it is more of an intuitive decision. I don’t make the decision on what I think the end result will look like. I go by what my intuition is telling me.

I guess in some ways, I create my art the way I go through life. I do think ahead and try to imagine where I want it to go and sometimes I make choices that will help me to get there. But where I think it might go, rarely is where it ends up. And most times what my intuition tells me to do rarely fits with anything I’ve visualized.

However, my main focus is on the now and doing what I feel needs to be done next. I have not done any huge studies of what colors blend well together to make other colors. I go on intuition when it comes to what color to use next. I don’t generally do any test swatches to make sure they will mix well together. I just add them to my page. I do start small and if I don’t like it, then I’ll go for another color. For the most part, I don’t do that very often. I’ve learned my intuition is usually right on target. It is when I try and alter what my intuition tells me that it goes wrong.

#Inktober was so much fun and carried with it such a variety of emotions with each drawing. The ones I thought I disliked at the beginning, I now find beautiful in their own way. I understand how they represent my search for own style. I was surprised when the graphic style started to appear and very pleased when I saw the results. Then mixing them with mandalas and tangles. It was like bringing all the things I love together in one piece of art. My inner artist was dancing a jig inside she was so pleased, especially with day 31.

I have heard other artists talk about how their emotions appear in their art. I rarely ever saw this happen in my art until now. It is subtle. And sometimes, it is surprising. It can be surprising because sometimes what appears in my art isn’t how I thought I was feeling. Take for instance, day 15. This was during the most active time of the “Me Too” movement on Facebook and I was seeing a lot of posts about it. I had a mixture of emotions about what I was seeing in my news feed along with it and some of the discussions between people for and against Trump. It took me by surprise when my drawing ended up appearing as if she was in prayer and possibly spiritual in nature.

On the surface, I was frustrated and angry by the Trump posts because when I stepped back from the emotions of it all, it was difficult to tell the difference between the opposing parties. The hate and bigotry, mud slinging and name calling was going on from both sides and it just made me sick.

On the surface, when I read all the various “Me Too” stories, I was saddened and sickened by how many there were and so fearful that those two little words, “Me Too”, would become a trigger for someone instead of comforting words.

To find these feelings manifesting into a picture that for me reflects my spirit in prayer was calming and soothing. It helped me to realize that deep inside I was in prayer over all the turmoil going on. I have no formal religion though I grew up in a Baptist church and then a non-denominational church in my teens and adult years, I was surprised to find this drawing containing elements that are associated with religions I have not been a part of but do respect. I love it for that reason.

I know there are people who use art to release their emotions. I use writing to do that. It seems that art for me is becoming a doorway I can open to discover what is going on even deeper within myself. I can use writing to do that as well but I have also found writing can keep me from moving deeper if I don’t intentionally ask myself the important questions. Art, however, requires no questions, just an opening of the soul. The nice thing about art though is it doesn’t have to be a conscious opening. Therefore, it isn’t invasive. It is less scary. And if you really love watching how the mediums blend and mix together it can be very comforting and a joyful experience.

Survivors

I worked on this piece for a few days, layering and layering acrylic paint. After each layer I gave it a day or so for me to come back to it so I could look at it with fresh eyes. I’m glad I did. I had no forethought for what I wanted this piece to be. Intellectually, I understood the concept of how a sculptor would say, all they did was bring out of the marble or the wood what was already there.

In a way, this is what happened with this painting, but not until the next to last layer. It took a day or two for me to see it. Once, I did, all it took was black and white oil pastels to bring it out.

Survivors

If you like this painting, you can get prints here.