Let that be a lesson to me…

I’ve been working on both versions of my art journal workshop exercise off and on for the past few days, squeezing in a scribble here, a smudge there, and a swipe of the paintbrush in passing.

Right now my desk is covered in supplies — my color journal and my art journal, various watercolor pencils and watercolor crayons, pens, brushes, paints, and various other implements of artistic nature. And — most significantly for this story — a jar of water to rinse my brushes.

At least, that jar of water HAD been on my desk. When I walked away from the project early last evening, I forgot to empty it. Mayhem (one of my loyal feline studio assistants) took care of that for me.

You know it’s a bad thing when you’re sitting downstairs and hear a hard clink, a soft thump, and the sound of water hitting a hardwood floor in your office above.

The damage to the desk, floor, and supplies was minimal. (The toe I stubbed on the chair in the dark, however, not so much.)

Let that be a lesson to me: empty the water jar. No exceptions!

Artist Journal Workshop 1: Continued

In an earlier post, I shared my work-in-progress for the Strathmore Visual Journal Workshop 1. Picking up where I left off, I began adding other media to the now-dry collage page.

Lesson 2 called for adding more layers and color to the page, such as using gesso to paint over unwanted elements, adding “under-journaling” using graphite, enhancing the depth and shape of the elements using charcoal, adding color with oil pastels, and pulling it all together with a gesso wash.

Lesson 3 called for adding more color and texture to the negative space and image elements with oil pastel, re-doing outlines with pencil, and adding hints of color throughout.

I made an honest attempt to follow instructions, but ultimately my method varied in several respects.

Layer 4 — The instructions called for adding lines with graphite and then shadows and depth with charcoal. I also added conte’ crayon because I liked way the reddish color echoed the layer of scrapbook paper. The charcoal just seems harsh and dirty.
Art Journal Workshop 1.1 - Layer 4

Layer 5 — The instructions called adding color with oil pastel, and then giving the whole thing a light wash of gesso. I used oil pastels as instructed, but I simply did not like working with them, and I’m unhappy with the effect. (For more on that part of the process, see “Warming up oil pastels: Cup Warmer vs Warm Cat”.) I couldn’t find my gesso, so I used light washes of white gouche and a mostly-opaque flesh-tone watercolor to tie the elements together.
Art Journal Workshop 1.1 - Layer 5

Layer 6 — I added more color using watercolor, a step that was not in the original lesson.
Art Journal Workshop 1.1 - Layer 6

Layer 7 — The graphite disappeared completely into the page, so I used ink where I wanted to see the lines. This is where I stopped, after adding more color, more charcoal, more oil pastel, and ink. I probably should have stopped sooner. Like the page says, you’ve gotta start somewhere. Knowing where to stop is something entirely different.
Art Journal Workshop 1.1 - Layer 7

I still don’t know what Lesson 4 will hold, but I bet it involves adding more layers to this piece. I’d like to try a do-over, using only the materials I’m comfortable with.

Warming up oil pastels: Cup Warmer vs Warm Cat

I’ve been doing an art journal workshop, which specified oil pastels in the materials list. The object is to add color while also providing a water-resistant quality in the work.

I’m not a fan of oil pastels. I find them greasy and unappealing. I bought a set of Cray-Pas a couple of years ago at Cargo Largo, but I’ve hardly used them. They are just not “my thing”.

Being open to new experiences, I dug out my sad, unloved box of Cray-Pas for this workshop assignment. Due to neglect, or perhaps the chilly room temperature, they were hard, scratchy, and unwilling to blend on the page. I needed to warm them up.

My hands, which are nearly as cold as the room, failed to soften the pastels enough to blend easily. I briefly considered sticking them in the microwave for a few seconds, but decided that may result in failure of epic proportions.

I considered the other two heat sources at hand: a USB-driven cup warmer and a warm cat.

warming pastels 1 - cup warmer warming pastels 2 - warm cat

  • On the cup warmer, I placed several pastels on a scrap of aluminum foil.
  • Under the warm cat, I placed the rest of the pastels, still in their box.
  • After 10 minutes, I tested the results.

The pastels warmed under the cat were only slightly more blendable than the ones at room temperature.

The pastels warmed on the cup warmer were significantly more blendable than the ones at room temperature and the ones at cat temperature. I used these to continue the workshop exercise.

warming pastels 3 - results

I’m still not a fan of oil pastels. They feel like sludge under my fingers, they don’t resist the water-based layer as well as pure wax or crayon, they’re useless for detail, and they clog up my pens and pencils on subsequent layers. This sad, unloved box of Cray-Pas is going back into my box of seldom-used supplies.