Start To Finish is an ongoing series in which I share the progress on a painting from start to finish and I tell you what I did in each step. Please drop me a line or a comment if you decide to follow along and don’t mind sharing, as I’d love to see! Click here to view all posts in this series.
I haven’t done one of these in a while, as usually I forget to take pictures while I’m working (it kind of interrupts the flow), but I worked on this spread for a few nights in a row which meant that I took a picture at the end of each session. Keep reading to find out a bit more about the techniques & supplies I use and my thinking process when I’m art journaling.
This spread started when Jupiter, my 4-year-old, told me a story one evening about his stuffed animals and said “Rabbit is sad because she wants to be a cat, but mouse says she can’t.” I think this appealed to my imagination from the point of view of discovering one’s own identity and the struggle one might experience in a society that often tells us we can’t be ourselves if that doesn’t fit within the norm. Yes, I’m sure that’s not what my 4-year-old meant lol, but that’s the story that evolved from it in my mind.
This is in my Strathmore Mixed Media journal. I did the initial sketch with my Graphgear 2B mechanical pencil. I did lots of erasing and making sure I was really satisfied with the sketch. I’m practising 3/4 portraits and trying to get my faces to be non-wonky.
There are two approaches I take, either I do a background first and then work on top to add the featured elements (like a face). When I do that I usually work quick and imperfectly. The other way which you see here is where I sketch first and work on the face in detail, before creating a background around it.
I find shading a face very meditative. On this face I started with a layer of Neocolor II watersoluble crayons. I don’t press hard, but I do add a lot of colour. I then activate the crayons with diluted gesso. I keep adding more Neocolor II on top, making sure the previous layer is dry (if you don’t wait you might rub off the previous layers). As I get more towards the final layers I use water to activate rather than gesso.
I worked on the mouse and rabbit with acrylic paints mixed in with some gesso to make them flow better. I generally work with the rule that the outside edges are darker and the inside is lighter. This usually gives a nice effect and looks semi-realistic (in as far as a whimsical piece can look realistic! Lol). I put in a quick background with paint & gesso just to get rid of the blank page.
I finished the piece by adding coloured pencils on the face to deepen the shading. I then used oil based paint sticks for the background. I applied them roughly and then smooshed them out with my fingers. They do dry eventually (usually a few days) but while they were still smudgey I used a pin to scratch patterns in the background.
I really love the different elements of the spread and I’m calling this finished. I do however feel like I need to work more on being able to integrate my subjects and the background a bit better, so it all becomes more cohesive.