The Season of Contrast

The Season of Contrast at Get Messy Art Journal is drawing to a close. And what a wonderful season it has been!

Over the course of the last few weeks, I have had all sorts of things going on my life plus I was very much involved with the NaPoWriMo poetry writing challenge. As a result, the season’s theme seemed to be more of a background influence – so much so, that I wondered if I should go ahead and do a round-up post. But here it is! and I’m so glad I decided to review the season, because it has helped me see just how present the theme of contrast has been in my work these past few weeks.

One of the main ways in which contrast appeared in my art was through the portrayal of oppositional forces, such as the young woman facing a traditional man’s world:

‘Can you see my world?’

Continuing the oppositional theme, I also explored contrasts in size, inspired by a wonderful tutorial by Misty Granade:

‘The best warriors I know are on TV’

I had a lot of fun exploring what happens when very different characters come together to work on something:

‘Action Man and Space Woman build a house’

The following piece, exploring two different sides of ourselves, came out of an inspiring prompt by Sasha Zinevych:

‘She’

I loved exploring the stark contrast of black and white. White lettering on a black background was a wonderful way to include text on the page:

‘My heart is a black-tie affair’

Vanessa Oliver Lloyd‘s tutorial on negative space, inspired my approach to creating a piece about inner experience. The invisible reality of the inner experience is rendered more visible as the gold shines out around the outline of my hand. Talking about it now, it sounds like I consciously intended this to happen! But these are not necessarily conscious choices. That’s one of the things I love so much about art journaling: I am presenting deeper, almost dream-like parts of myself to my conscious waking self:

‘Experience’

In ‘Storm’, I’m still with the oppositional forces and the contrast in size. The storm is so big and the figure seems so small. And yet the contrasting materials give the simple black and white figure a clarity as she moves against the complex chaos of the storm, with its clouds of scribbled words and ink drips:

‘Storm’

I loved the contrast of black and white so much, I returned to it later in the season, adding some colour into the mix. I felt the influence of Isabel Greenberg, one of my favourite cartoonists, in ‘Birth story’. Greenberg’s The One Hundred Nights of Hero and The Encyclopedia of Early Earth are both incredible works of visual storytelling and are well worth checking out!

‘Birth story’

I think one of the reasons I enjoyed the black and white images, is because it was easier for me to bring in my love of comics and cartoons:

‘Make the sounds’

One of the wonderful things about following artist friends on Instagram is that there are so many other takes on the theme of contrast. Witnessing all these different journeys alongside my own has made the whole experience so much richer.

Towards the end of the season, Misty Granade and I took a ride into the earthy tones of our paint palettes, and travelled back in time to the prehistoric world of cave paintings. I remember wondering at the time if this was somehow connected to the theme of contrast. I can see now that it most certainly is: the exploration of a whole range of colours that were outside, in contrast to the bright colours that were within my repertoire.

‘Dancing to the moon’

I have also discovered that the exploration of contrasting or oppositional forces can actually serve to bring things closer together. I went back to prehistoric times so that I can be here today with an understanding that is rooted in something deep and ancient. I used the earthy tones in my palette so that I can return to the bright colours with a new depth.

‘The ancient ones’

It’s interesting that the images from the end of the season were all ones of integration, a bringing together, as if all the different parts of myself were invited to the party. Time to celebrate!

It has been a truly wonderful season at Get Messy. I am amazed at how much exploration can happen in the space of a few weeks. There is a short break now between seasons, a welcome time for reflecting on all the ground we have covered in recent weeks, and also a chance to catch up on any of the tutorials and prompts we didn’t get to the first time round.

Soon a new season will be beginning. I wonder what the theme will be next time? I can’t wait to find out. Perhaps some of you will join me there?

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The ancient ones

I’ve never been into browns, either in my wardrobe or in my art. But having recently returned from a wonderful few days at The EarthHeart Centre in The Forest of Dean, I became curious about all the earthy tones at the bottom of my paint box.

I decided to make a palette and discover what these colours actually look like. Having always lumped them together under the heading brown, I was amazed to find these shades so much more beautiful, rich, and varied than I had imagined.

A palette of earthy tones

I started to get inspired, imagining ancient artworks and prehistoric cave paintings, and decided to start as I often do: simply laying some paint down on the page. Where I would normally find myself moving in some sort of narrative direction, this time I felt inclined to play with textures, scraping one layer away to reveal another beneath the surface. The piece below reminds me of a cave wall, rich in mineral deposits, layer upon layer built up over millennia.

When I posted something of my new fascination on Instagram, I discovered yet another wonderful aspect of being part of the Get Messy art journaling community: my fellow artist – the talented and inspiring Misty Granade – also became intrigued by these earthy tones. She had the wonderful idea to turn this exploration into a theme. Pretty soon, we were enjoying a week of adventuring in prehistoric territory together. Check out the hashtags #neutralsweek and #homemadecavepainting to see what we got up to! 

Dancing to the moon

I continued with layered backgrounds, now adding pictures and making marks in the spirit of prehistoric cave paintings. I drew on an ancient treasure trove of images to express something both archetypal and deeply personal, something from aeons ago that is also part of my recent 21st century experience. Dancing to the moon shows a group of women dancing together – a scene that took place, both thousands of years ago and also a week ago when I was at the second workshop of the year-long training, Initiation – Into the sacred feminine.

Grandmother touches the stars

It felt right not to include words in these pieces. The visual images remain free to shift from ancient times to the present and back again. This was also a relaxing change after the recent poetry-writing challenge of NaPoWriMo.

I’m so thankful to Misty for taking a moment of adventure into new territory and turning it into a themed exploration. It encouraged me to delve a little deeper than I might have done if I was just playing around with ideas on my own. And I loved all our exchanges about what we were discovering as the week progressed.

I’m now venturing back into the full range of colours. But I’m bringing a few things with me from my sojourn in prehistoric art: a new appreciation for earthy tones, a sense of the timeless quality of visual language, and an awareness that my own experience can connect me to a collective experience, thousands of years old. I look forward to seeing how all this translates into the forthcoming pages of my art journal!

Birth Story

It’s turning out to be an interesting season at Get Messy this time round! During the last season – The Season of Art 101 – I followed many of the prompts and tutorials, and the pages I created were very clearly influenced by these choices. During this season – The Season of Contrast – I have been primarily involved with the NaPoWriMo poetry-writing challenge. So, while I have enjoyed reading the prompts and watching many of the amazing tutorials that are on offer at Get Messy, I haven’t set out to work from many of them directly.

And yet, when I look at the pieces I have created, I can see that they are very much influenced by all I have been absorbing along the way. It’s as if the theme of contrast is working away in my subconscious: here and there, black and white, big and small. It occurs to me that my indirect and oblique way of working this time round is in contrast to my very intentional and directed way of working last season. It would seem that contrasts are everywhere!

This piece came out of an assignment for the Initiation art journaling course with Juliana Coles at The Institute For Extreme Journalism. After yesterday’s piece, Make the sounds, I felt like revisiting the stark black and white together with a limited colour palette.

Friday night in my little boat,
arriving on the shores of this world.

Unless I happen upon a window of opportunity tomorrow, this will probably be my last poem for April. I am heading off on a workshop out of town that will take me through to the start of the merry month of May. What better way to end my NaPoWriMo experience than with a piece about beginnings!

Thank you so much for all the encouragement, enthusiasm and support you have given me over these last few weeks. This has been a new venture – exploring the meeting and merging of poetry and art journaling – and all your likes, comments, and visits to ‘Follow The Brush’ have meant a great deal to me!

Make the sounds

Today’s poem is a form of found poetry. It was created from doodles made while on the phone to a good friend and fragments of our conversation. I love how weird it is!

* * *

an ordinary guy in a suit
this is a weird practice
shape your mouth in a
particular way and make the sounds.

All the best warriors I know are on TV

O! To rest
On a great wooden chair,
Covered with sheepskin,
And drink a cup of ale
Between battles!

* * *

Something troubling you? Why not follow Lynda Barry’s sage advice and draw a monster? That’s what I did today and found it so much more satisfying to see my fears visualised and externalised on the page. He is fearsome indeed, this monster, but at least he’s somewhere I can see him! (Okay, he’s a little bit cute, too, no?)

I was also touched to see that the cartoon version of myself was showing a good dose of courage and resilience along with the usual overwhelmed feeling. I found myself thinking of the warriors I’ve been watching on TV, in particular Uhtred son of Uhtred from The Last Kingdom. I think he’s the most courageous warrior I know. (Plus he looks rather dashing in blue eyeliner.) Definitely a role model when facing fearsome monsters!

Floating

Okay, I’m really pushing the boat out in terms of what constitutes a poem here. As you may have noticed, this one has no words. It has a title though, so maybe that counts? Floating – it could be a one word poem, right?

This piece was created using an intuitive painting method from a wonderful tutorial by Riet as part of the Season of Contrast at Get Messy. We added layer upon layer of mark making and colour, eventually seeing if we could decipher an image coming out of the page. I was surprised to find that out of something that seemed unruly and chaotic, something serene and blissful could emerge.

I felt so relaxed looking at this page once it was done, I couldn’t bring myself to add any words. But who knows, perhaps a poem, or the beginnings of a poem, will come to me later. This spread happened through an intuitive method, so I have to trust that a if a poem is going to come about, it will happen that way too. If it does, I’ll update this post. Otherwise, see you tomorrow!

She

She is up there on the hill,
clearing a path through the wild summer grass,
making a nest for the little bird.

She would like to meet herself
one morning.
She has sent an invitation.

In winter, she removes her own skin,
makes broth from her bones,
dances naked by the fire.

She will be the death
and the birth
of me.

* * *

Today’s poem was inspired by a wonderful prompt from Sasha Zeen as part of the Season of Contrast over at Get Messy. I used a background I had already prepared for NaPoWriMo from the inspirational Messy Pages class with Tanyalee Kahler.

Action Man and Space Woman Build a House!

This piece* is influenced by the Season of Contrast that’s taking place at Get Messy right now. What happens when two seemingly opposite characters get together to work on something? Can each see and value the other’s qualities?

*Is this a visual poem? A comic or a comics poem? An art journaling spread? A movie poster? No one can say for sure!!!