Mixed media prayer flags

I’ve ended up falling behind on wanderlust which is disappointing.  I think it was because the watercolour section coincided with my nasty tramadol withdrawal.  I don’t find watercolours very good for my hands – you tend to have to do a lot of mixing and obviously you don’t get much colour for your effort which means more hand use.  I do however have a new love affair with ecolines which some people argue are watercolours, other people insist they’re inks.  Either way, beautiful products, lots of colour for your effort.

Anyway, one of the weeks I’ve just caught up on was about using watercolours to make mixed media (non traditional) prayer flags.

This caught my attention and, being in a bit of a creative slump, I quickly got onto it and although I’ve not used watercolours (except for dipping fabric in my ecolines, great tip from wanderlust) I have managed to make three flags.  The idea is that you then hang them outside and let the weather alter them.  But I only have a yard and my neighbours (not nice people) use it far more than me (I don’t use it because they do… can’t wait till they move…) so my flags are going to be indoor flags…

Traditionally, a prayer flag is a rectangle of coloured fabric with words and images on.  They are often found hung in the mountains in Tibet and are traditionally used to promote peace, compassion, strength and wisdom.  According to wikipedia:

The flags do not carry prayers to gods, which is a common misconception; rather, the Tibetans believe the prayers and mantras will be blown by the wind to spread the good will and compassion into all pervading space.

Our lesson asked us to choose some words to focus on and inscribe on our flags.  I choose three words which are coming up a lot for me this year; intention, awareness and synchronicity (which I keep spelling wrong and true to form, spelt wrong on my flag… a lesson there in accepting things we cannot change I guess!).

To make my flags I used squares of cardboard (amazon packaging to be precise) for the base and have used old book paper, fabric and trimming dipped in ecoline and inks, buttons, washi tape, dress patterns etc.  I’m quite pleased with how they’ve turned out, spelling mistake and all.  I’m not sure even if I had the option, I’d put them outside…

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Mediums

Before wanderlust I didn’t really know anything about mediums other than online crafty people used this thing called gel medium in much the same way that I’ve always used pva glue… I’ve been using gesso for about eighteen months now but that is the extent of it.

Now, I’m only just starting to realise how much there is that I don’t know about them.  we had a lesson about some of the main types of mediums, including why we might use one over another and a second lesson where Kasia took us through the process of creating a piece using different mediums.  Both have really helped me get a better understanding. There’s lots of info out there (which I’d never bothered looking at before) so this isn’t going to be a post about the why’s, how’s and what’s of mediums.

Realising there are so many different types and not knowing which ones to start with, I treated myself to a golden starter kit which helpfully came with a wanderlust discount. It contains:

Extra heavy gel (matte)
Regular gel (semi-gloss)
Soft gel (gloss)
Light molding paste
Coarse pumice gel
Clear tar gel

My starting point was to grab a piece of card and add a bit of each, playing with creating textures, peaks etc and then seeing how it look and held its shape once it was dry – a lot of the mediums dry clear and its obviously useful to know which before you slap it onto your art. Once dry I played with adding a layer of paint and seeing how that went on.  alongside this I also mixed each medium with a bit of paint to compare the results. I’m obviously picking things up from wanderlust because this kind of experimenting and testing and comparing is not something I’ve ever done before!  Normally I just start using things and learn as I go along.

I then got started with my project for this week – creating a mixed media landscape including different mediums.  As I got working I realised that as well as the different effects you get by applying paint with and over mediums, you also get a different effect by putting the medium over the paint. And it’s good to know which dry opaque in this case!

I don’t think photos will ever do this justice because of the importance of texture but left to right we have paint with heavy gel on top, paint mixed with heavy gel and heavy gel with paint on top. Top to bottom we have dylusions turquoise, dylusions crushed grape and white opaque ink. Chosen mostly because they were what I saw first on my art table. I’d be interested to have a play with other things such as gelatos, chalk pastels and paint pens.

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On the right, where colour is over medium, you get more obvious shadows where the nooks don’t get paint cover or in the case of the ink, it pools into the nooks. The middle, where medium and colour are mixed, offers a more solid cover. On the left, medium over paint, you get a mix of texture, that of the paint and that of the medium. The medium has the effect of pushing the paint backwards in the image.

Conclusions

If you like working with texture and haven’t seen dabbled in mediums, try a taster set like the golden one so you can compare different ones, find your favourite and learn what works well for different things.  And whilst I’m normally all for jumping in and just giving it a go, I think there’s value in doing some comparison first – you can always cut it up and use it in your piece later.

Wanderlust review so far

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(My take on week 15 which is about painted memories and led by Kasia Krzymińska featuring my Grandad as a young man)

We’re on week 15 of wanderlust and already it’s been a fantastic investment! Definitely well worth the price. I’d quite easily pay more for it. As well as techniques we’re learning about tools, materials etc

One of the sessions was hosted by flora bowley. I really admire her work and approach so it was great to have her teach.  She’s all about process not outcome and managed to explain some basics of colour theory really simply. But all the teachers have been fantastic.  And it’s all really well explained. Pitched as if you’re a beginner but not at all patronising.

I’ve been introduced to new artists, techniques, materials etc as well as given a chance to link with creative people all over the world.  Everyone is at a different point in their journey and it’s lovely to see how supportive people are being.

My highlights have included learning about acrylic paints (which is something I’d never really thought about before…), Flora Bowley of course, Mystele who introduced me to a grid approach to working (I love it!) and Kate Crane who gave us four videos of doodling and book making guidance.

One of my absolute favourite bits of the course is the five minute collage. One of my principles behind my creativity is that it shouldn’t be stressful and there are no rigid rules. On the course, people are saying they’ve done prompts wrong or can they use this instead of that. For me, there is no wrong, substitutions are great (the best tool or material is the one you have) and to become an artist you need to experiment.

Predictably I’m not managing to do all of the projects and follow along with all the challenges but I’m loving getting the inspiration and ideas and knowledge for the future.

1/4 of a year in

Oops, sorry for the radio silence there! Blame the post house move exhaustion! On that note, the house is looking fab, pictures are up, spare room is habitable and I’ve found most of my belongings again. And am never ever doing that again!

So we’re a quarter of the way through 2016 (I know, ridiculous right?!) which seems like an excellent time to check in and see how projects, goals, resolutions etc are going.

I set out a few creative projects that I’d like to work on alongside my journaling :

  • Trees: A year long study.  Having started well and collected lots of ideas, this stalled for a while until the last couple of weeks.  I’ve decided I want to pull my research and techniques into four pieces.  The first of these is going to be a canvas which focusses on May Day or Beltain and the related traditions, colours, pollination, leaves etc.  To help narrow down ideas and images, I have created a book made from paper leaves.
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  • Blue journal. Not started on this yet.
  • Nature.  Unfortunately I’ve been housebound this year so I’m hoping this will come to life once I can get out.  That said, I’ve been including nature in my tree project obviously and have tried out some eco dying techniques with the limited plants I can access.
  • Writing.  I’ve written an article about friends and chronic pain which will hopefully be included in the HMSA newsletter.  That and my blogs is about it so far.  Although I did have an idea for a poem the other day which was great.  My pain has been bad which makes it hard to type which makes it hard to write.  Also, my head was stuffed full of moving thoughts for about a month, leaving little space for anything else.
  • Wanderlust – see upcoming post for more info but this is going really well, although I want to do all the projects which is hard given the pain and exhaustion but they’re getting added to my creative ideas list.

I’ve started a “creative ideas list” of things I want to explore or projects I want to get stuck into because I realised I was jumping all over the place trying to do all the ideas and not doing any of them which was unsatisfying and a bit stressful.

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Getting my mojo back!

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It’d been about a month of okish, it’ll do, kind of pages in my journal. They weren’t especially inspired or exciting but the outcome isn’t the reason for keeping an art journal. That said, when I managed to create these pages this weekend I was pleased/proud/relieved. Relieved because a month of so so pages was starting to feed the voice that says I’m not creative, I can’t do this etc. Some pages, not necessarily the most attractive pages, feel right. They make your heart sing a little. This is how I feel about this weekend’s pages.

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These pages were in response to a wanderlust prompt: what do i see in the mirror. My face was a photo printed in grayscale, glued onto the gesso and covered with gesso, paints etc. Much easier than trying to draw it and far less painful for my hands.

And if that wasn’t enough, I even unpacked (yes, I’ve moved house, whoop! But that’s another post) my scanncut machine to make a few cards.

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Wanderlust: one collage challenge

As part of the wanderlust course, there is a one collage challenge. This is where we get a prompt twice a month and only five minutes to spend doing it to build up a collage.

I love the slow unknownness of this. The gradual unfurling of the art. Not being able to plan because you don’t know where the next prompt will take you.  In fact I’m enjoying it so much I’ve just started another canvas to follow the prompts with!

I’m not going to post an image because one of the rules of the challenge is that we don’t share until the end. Which will be so exciting to see because everyone’s will be so completely different!

I’m wondering if anyone runs a similar slow art challenge online or if readers would be interested in me hosting one?

Wanderlust: still life

Still life isn’t really my forte. But the teacher was so engaging and inspiring that I had to give it a go. I compromised on materials; she used liquitex gloss fluid medium and varnish to add depth and light to her acrylics but not having any, I used a pearlescent white transparent-ish acrylic. I’d never considered using mediums to affect the paint effect.

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Now this is far from a masterpiece but I’m feeling pretty chuffed with myself given it was my first venture into still life since the days of school. I particularly found the process for creating a background interesting and its something that is very transferable to art journaling.