5 Reasons You’re Not Happy With Your Art Journal Pages

http://iris-impressions.com/2015/09/5-reasons-youre-not-happy-with-your-art-journal-pages/
photo credit: Broken Flowers via photopin (license)

I know very well what it’s like to want to do art, but every time you sit down and do it, you’re feeling crappy about the result. It’s really inhibiting and it might even stop you from creating next time. I don’t want that for you (or for myself)! So here are some insights that might help you understand why this happens and what you can do to change it.


1. You need practice

There is no way around it: practice makes progress. There are no shortcuts and you have to put in the time. Imagine you’re going to learn a language, it will take some weeks to grasp the basics, quite a few more to be semi-proficient and several years to be fluent. The more you practice making art, the more fluent you become and the easier it will be for you to create things you like, simply because of your skill level.

I love this quote:

Never compare your beginning to someone else’s middle
-Jon Acuff

Another awesome resource is this video with words from Ira Glass. It’s called ‘The Gap’ and is about that ‘gap’ that exists between knowing what art you find beautiful and actually being able to achieve it yourself.


2. You are attached to the outcome

Leading on from the concept of ‘the gap’ explained above, it’s very frustrating if you have something specific in mind and aren’t quite able to execute it as nicely as you see it in your imagination. This partly comes back to practice, but another thing that you can try which to me absolutely transforms the process of art making is: to let go of the outcome.

Art is weird and wonderful, it’s a process, not just paint by numbers. Try and place yourself firmly in the current moment, rather than in the future where this finished (perfect) artwork exists. What can you do now that you enjoy, that is an expression of yourself? Let the art emerge from moment to moment, rather than working towards a fixed outcome.

An example of this might be that you are going to paint a portrait. But instead of trying to make it picture perfect or photo realistic, let it come alive through your personal filter of your mind, hands & body. This is actually where the most original art comes from in my opinion!


3. You need to add more detail

One of the things I notice a lot in the art of beginners is that it somehow looks unfinished or unrefined. It’s not necessarily a lack of technical skill (I think beginner’s art can have a great sense of freedom! As well as art made by kids) but a lack of going back in and making things look complete. It’s probably also to do with confidence. I see this in how people shade faces, they know where to put the shadows and the highlights but they’re not confident enough to make it BOLD. Make the darks really dark and let the highlights pop out!

You’ll be surprised at how a painting can transform by just paying a bit more attention to the details and finishing touches. Pay attention to shadows/highlights, use outlines and shading, create halos around people/objects, add little doodles or dots.


4. You’re working against your supplies

There are no rules about how you must use your art supplies (or which specific supplies to use), but there are definitely ways in which to use them effectively and ways in which to use them that make you want to scream and tear your hair out!

You’ll have to experiment yourself with specific things that feel frustrating that might be solved by a different technique (try Googling or a search on YouTube!), but here are some things that I’ve found frustrating and ideas on how to make them better.

Paper pilling (rubbing off / forming little balls):

-Use gesso first or a layer of acrylics. Make sure this layer is thoroughly dry before continuing

Paint not applying smoothly:
-Dilute slightly with water or matte medium/PVA glue
-Work BIGGER! Tiny fiddly work is especially hard when you’re a beginner. Scale up and then when you’ve gained experience, scale down again
-Use different or better quality brushes

Backgrounds look muddy or brown instead of vibrant (also especially applicable while Gelli printing):
-Try not to mix complementary colours (blue/orange, purple/yellow, red/green)
-Only apply either cool colours (blues/greens/cool purple) or warm colours (red, yellow, orange) together.
-Dry thoroughly in between layers.


5. You’re doing the wrong thing

Why are you doing this? Whose art are you making? I often fall into the trap of seeing other people’s art and admiring it so much that I want to recreate it or I want my art to look like that. So off I go on a very results orientated journey, which I often find very frustrating and unfulfilling. So ask yourself what your goal is. How do you want to feel? What do you really want to make? How do you like using your supplies? Why do you want to create art in the first place?

There are no right answers to these questions, just your answers that will give you an insight into your personal whys and hows.


If you’ve got any tips to share, please post them below in the comments! Can’t wait to hear what your favourite methods are for enjoying making art.

The Duality of Life – Mixed Media Workshop & Giveaway!

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Read full course description and register for instant access

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Exploring Our Feelings

I’ve been on this journey lately (maybe all my life, but I just didn’t know it yet?! Lol) to incorporate ALL the feelings into my life, not just the ‘nice’ or socially approved ones. I really need that, and from looking at my kids and wanting the best for them: I think the whole world needs that.

We have these feelings whether we like them or not and it’s our job to give them space, let them exist and let them teach us. And preferably not bash people over the head when we’re really angry, if you know what I’m saying (but not suppress the anger! Because I think it’s the suppression of feelings that makes you feel like bashing people. I’m being funny but I hope you get what I’m saying).

So, this was the starting point when I developed my new mixed media workshop The Duality Of Life. It’s a mini course that teaches you straightforward mixed media techniques, but also explores more deeply the conflicting feelings that are inside us and encourages you to allow them room to breathe.

I’m very excited about sharing this with you and I hope you will enjoy learning the techniques and it will be a truly enriching experience for you!

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What This Course Will Do For You

Techniques you will learn

  • working with a variety of art supplies
  • creating a textured background
  • sketching & shading a front facing portrait

Concepts we will explore

  • finding harmony in conflicting emotions
  • exploring your inner emotional landscape
  • embracing imperfection & finding joy in the process

What is included

  • one hour of detailed video footage with voiceover
  • in-depth PDF walkthrough with photos
  • printable template of the face
  • supply list with suggestions for alternatives
  • all materials are downloadable and yours to keep
  • no time limit: access course at any time & work at your own pace
  • access to Facebook group to share work & get feedback
  • automatic instant access upon payment & signup

Click here to read the full course description, download the supply list and register for instant access

Giveaway

Celebrating the launch of a new workshop wouldn’t be complete without a giveaway!! One lucky person will win a spot on The Duality of Life!

To enter please:
1. sign up to my newsletter (opens in a new window)
2. leave a comment telling me what it would mean to you to take this course

Bonus Entries
For bonus entries please SHARE this post publicly on your social media (use the ‘Share this’ buttons below this post). One entry per unique share. Make sure you let me know in the comments where I can find your share links!

Giveaway closes at 11.59pm UK time on Sunday 5 July. If the winner has already purchased the course they will be entitled to a refund or they can gift their place.

Register now for instant access to all course materials

Live Like It’s Your Last Day

Welcome to episode 4 of Art Play Relay. This month I’m finishing the painting that Juna started last month!

The Videos

My video:

Juna’s video:


You can read Juna’s blogpost about her process here.

People are posting amazing work in response to this project and doing collaborative artwork. If you’d like to be involved, you still can! Join the Facebook group here to see the artwork, find a buddy and post your work.

The quote for this artwork is:

Live like it’s your last day

Supply List

  • Golden high flow acrylics
  • Stabilo All pencils (or regular pencils)
  • Gel pens
  • Paint pens
  • Stamps
  • Gesso

Thought Process

Juna’s painting was so lovely and looked so ‘finished’ in a way, it was hard to know what I wanted to do. I approached it intuitively, and just grabbed supplies that felt ‘right’. This as opposed to thinking in advance what I wanted the page to look like and then just executing the idea step-by-step.

The circular sun shape with fluorescent paint is coming up often in my work recently. I really felt like I wanted the sun to be at the top of the painting, rather than the bottom. I then started pondering the quote itself. It felt like a sad quote, but also something filled with possibility. It reminded me of the circle of life. I also thought that your last day would be a good day to nurture the child inside you, rather than a day filled with heavy obligation.

So I started with a child’s face and as I was doing that I had the idea to represent the different generations. I gave them roots to the ground. The coloured pencils I used give it a very ethereal look because you can see the blue background shining through.

The roots felt grounding and the sun felt uplifting, but I also wanted to represent the sadness of dying. That is where the yellow drips came in.

As a final step I felt the figures needed something extra (because of their colouring/translucency they recede into the background a lot) so I picked three symbols to represent their place in life. A star feels new and bright for the youngest, a sun for the constant figure a mother is and a crown for the wisdom of the elder generation.

Hope Is The Little Voice That Whispers ‘Maybe’

It’s a new episode of Art Play Relay! March marks the start of a new cycle in this project, meaning Juna and I have each picked a new quote and started a new painting!

The Videos

My video: Juna’s video: You can read Juna’s blogpost about her process here. If you’d like to be involved, you still can! Join the Facebook group here to connect with the other lovely people, find a buddy and post your work. The quote for this artwork is:

Hope is the little voice you hear whisper “maybe” when it seems the entire world is shouting “no”

Thank you Melfina for providing us with that quote!

Supply List

  • Watercolour paper 300gsm hot pressed
  • Scrap paper
  • Knife, ruler & cutting mat
  • Gel medium
  • Sponge brushes
  • Acrylic paint
  • Palette knife
  • Ink
  • Old toothbrush
  • Floral stamp
  • Stamp pad (black)
  • Paint pens (black & white

Thought Process

I think the hardest thing with this artwork was completely letting go of the projects from the last two months. I really didn’t want to recreate something similar, I wanted it to be a fresh start.

When I saw the quote it instantly resonated with me so much. I have a lot of doubt inside me and inner voices that tell me ‘no’. I guess it’s an internalised version of that ‘society’ (or sometimes parental) voice of needing to live your life a certain way, that the way that feels true and authentic is not the realistic way or what other people want for you. My current journey with my art and more generally in my life is so much one of trying to find my own voice. Pushing against the ‘no’ and finding my own ‘maybe’ (and eventually my own ‘yes’)!

How to translate an abstract quote into a painting is a different matter though! Holding a quote inside your head when doing a painting though makes it shine through. The ‘maybe’ to me is a sense of possibility, of seeing where things go and of letting things grow. That is represented in the process of this painting in which I completely let go. I had no pre-formed plan or composition in mind, my biggest goal was to let it be mine and let it develop. I think it is also where the wish to use the floral stamp came from. It felt like something growing, a promise. Nicely in keeping with the new season of spring!

I also wanted to add something interesting that Juna could work with, but in a completely free way (that’s why I didn’t add a face this time, it felt too much like it would push in a certain direction), which is where the idea of the flap came from. It also feeds into that idea of ‘maybe’ and the scariness that is imbued in following your own heart. Sometimes that’s so personal that you might want to hide it away or not show it to everyone yet.

I love the interesting and richly textured background that came out. The lower part of the painting feels a bit more finished to me, whereas the top part feels really raw. I really can’t wait to see what Juna will do with this! I’m so curious to see what parts she will keep, what parts she will go over and what completed artwork will emerge in the end.

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Art Play Relay – Finishing Each Other’s Artworks

I’ve finished Juna’s awesome artwork! You can watch the video here:

And Juna finished my artwork! You can watch her video here:

Supply list:

  • china marker / grease pencil
  • gesso
  • Stabilo All pencil (black)
  • oil pastels (brown, turquoise, yellow, pink, flesh, red)
  • oil bar (white)
  • fluid acrylics (brown)
  • glazing liquid
  • high flow acrylics (fluorescent pink)

It was such an honour to work on Juna’s painting! Nerve wracking too! I had quite a few ideas going around in my head ever since watching her first video in which she created the work, but actually executing those ideas… I was scared I wouldn’t be able to do it or that I’d ruin her lovely work somehow!

After seeing the painting up close I knew I wanted to paint a peaceful face nestled in the welcoming arms. The challenge was how to do it, because the surface of the painting is VERRRY textured. I decided to go for oil pastels as I love working with them, and it worked out really well.

The next challenge was knowing when it was finished. I had a real struggle with this, because very quickly I felt that it was finished. I had a few conversations with myself at that point where I said I couldn’t possibly be finished, because I hadn’t spent long enough on it. This is where I decided to take a leap of faith and listened to my intuition. I decided I didn’t want to continue the process forcefully (up till then everything had just flowed and been almost automatic!) just for fear that I ‘hadn’t worked hard or long enough’ (childhood trauma, anyone? Lol).

Iris Fritschi-Cussens & Juna Biagioni art collaboration - Broken Pieces

I hope you like the painting as much as I do! I love Juna’s style and how she works with texture and usually quite monochromatic colour schemes. I wanted to add something equally soft & a bit muted, but with a small nod to my usual use of bright colours. So the face & hair are very natural, but then I also added the dashes of fluorescent pink to satisfy my need for colour.

Over these past few weeks I’ve LOVED seeing everyone else come up with their paintings and their collaborations with their partners. Can’t wait to see what everyone has up their sleeve next! Come join us in the Facebook group and share your artwork!

Join us again on 29 March when we will be picking brand new quotes and starting new artworks!

Art Play Relay – January Launch!!

The first two official Art Play Relay videos are here!!!

Watch my video below:

Watch Juna‘s video below:

What an awesome start to the project it has been! A lot of you have already joined our Facebook group to keep up to date, engage with the project and prepare to take part yourselves. Thank you for your enthusiasm!!

My supply list for the artwork I started is:

  • dip pen
  • India ink
  • heat tool (optional)
  • matte medium (or glue)
  • collage & tissue paper
  • (washi) tape
  • clear gesso (optional)
  • acrylic inks
  • water spray bottle
  • brayer
  • white & black gesso (or acrylic paint)
  • glazing liquid
  • (fluid) acrylic paints
  • Stabilo All pencil

The quote I drew was ‘Comparison is the thief of joy

Comparison Is The Thief of Joy | Art Play Relay by Iris | www.iris-impressions.com

I was quite nervous starting this painting. It’s hard to know what to do when you imagine someone else is going to finish the painting! I started the way I would normally start a painting by building up a layered background. Then I saw a figure in the shapes and colours so I went ahead and outlined that. I decided not to finish the figure all the way.

I worked with an attitude of being OK if anything I did would be covered up. I know that won’t necessarily happen, but it was amazing for letting go! It was also a really new experience to try and NOT finish a painting. It actually allowed me to be much more loose, take risks and has given the painting a primitive quality that I really enjoy.

Normally if I were working on a painting I would not even notice this stage, let alone stop, because of the knowledge that it’s not finished. But doing this has given me an insight into how awesome an unfinished artwork can actually look! I might try and pursue this more primitive look again on purpose.

I can’t wait to see what Juna makes of this next month. I also look forward to the challenges it will bring to work on Juna’s piece! I imagine it will be a big mental challenge to get over the fear of ruining her work or making mistakes! Can’t wait to learn!

See you all on 22 February when I finish Juna’s artwork and Juna finishes mine!

In the meantime please let us know what you thought in the comments below!

Technique Tuesday – Quick & Simple Background With Distress Ink

I love alliteration, so when I was creating this video on a Tuesday, Technique Tuesday was born! If you’d like me to cover a specific technique in my next video, please drop me a line or leave a comment below!

You can watch the step-by-step process with voiceover explanation in the video below or alternatively scroll down for a walkthrough with pictures & text.

Supply list:

  • Watersoluble crayons (Neocolor II)
  • Gesso
  • Stamps
  • Tim Holtz Distress Ink
  • Spray mister bottle with water

vlcsnap-2014-12-09-14h08m45s176Pick some crayons that are a similar colour as your Distress Ink. I went with Moss Green ink and picked greenish crayons

vlcsnap-2014-12-09-14h08m52s240Fill the page with crayon. Just be random about it and don’t think too much.

vlcsnap-2014-12-09-14h09m02s87Dilute with plenty of water and a bit of gesso to make it nice and even. Dry page thoroughly with a heat gun.

vlcsnap-2014-12-09-14h09m13s198Ink up your stamp

vlcsnap-2014-12-09-14h09m32s143Spritz your stamp once or twice with your spray bottle (enough so it’s wet but not dripping)

vlcsnap-2014-12-09-14h09m39s213Stamp onto the page. I stamp it 2-3 times before re-inking and re-spritzing

vlcsnap-2014-12-09-14h09m49s52Continue with more stamps until the page is full or until you feel you’re done!

vlcsnap-2014-12-09-14h09m58s110Here is another example where I used the technique for the background. I then started creating a portrait on top of it.

Halloween Whimsy Art Tutorial

Hello my lovelies! I love letting seasonal events inspire my art and I really wanted to create a cute Halloween witchy girl. I recorded the process and you can view the video tutorial below:

If you prefer a photo tutorial instead of video, fear not and keep scrolling!

Supply list:

-water spray
-ink spray (Dylusions)
-high flow acrylics  (Golden)
-fluid acrylics (Golden)
-gesso
-charcoal pencil
-black and white pens (Uniball Signo)
-watersoluble crayon (Caran d’Ache)
-stamp pad (black)

vlcsnap-2014-10-28-16h25m15s117Preparing the background. I tend to create several backgrounds at the same time at this stage. Use high quality watercolour paper. Spritz the water liberally with water spray. Then use spray inks and high flow acrylics on the page. Spray more water and let everything merge into each other. You can pick up the paper and hold it vertically to let the paint drip into different directions

vlcsnap-2014-10-28-16h25m57s37Sketching the figure. Start with a round shape for the head and put a horizontal line a bit below the halfway point.

vlcsnap-2014-10-28-16h26m06s142Sketch eyes on this horizontal line, a little nose & mouth in the middle.

vlcsnap-2014-10-28-16h26m12s215Add a witchy hat, hair and a simple shape for a dress.

vlcsnap-2014-10-28-16h26m20s45Sketch a swirly shape for the moon, simple stripey tights and some pumpkins

vlcsnap-2014-10-28-16h26m25s86Apply gesso to the face & neck area

vlcsnap-2014-10-28-16h26m32s143Shade the face with brown paint, going from light shading to dark.

vlcsnap-2014-10-28-16h26m41s245Add colour to the irises and mouth with a small brush

vlcsnap-2014-10-28-16h26m50s47Use a black gel pen (I use Uniball Signo) to add pupils and white for highlights

vlcsnap-2014-10-28-16h27m01s198Use the same pens to fill in the  tights. Use orange paint for the hair and pumpkins. Add some white gesso to the pumpkins for shading and some blue paint underneath as a shadow.

vlcsnap-2014-10-28-16h27m19s114Use the white & black gel pens to fill in the moon with swirls

vlcsnap-2014-10-28-16h27m38s48Add some text or numbers (I chose ’31’) to finish off.

Voila!

Halloween WhimsyI hope you enjoyed this tutorial! If you create your own whimsy or Halloween inspired art, I’d love to see it! Please share it on my Facebook page.

My First Commission & A Photo Walkthrough

A few weeks ago I got the nicest surprise, my cousin Victoria asked me if she could commission a painting from me! I was a bit nervous but also really excited and once I’d spoken to her about the subject matter and colour preferences I got straight to work. I documented the process with my iPhone as I was working, because I thought you might like to see how I create a painting from start to finish!

Victoria is a harpist and owns several herself. I loved working on this piece because I have such a connection with music too. She asked for pink and turquoise which was totally up my street as those are my favourite colours!

Play Your Joy WIP | www.iris-impressions.com @rrreow

01. Music stamp for the background using waterproof black ink (Ranger Archival)

Play Your Joy WIP | www.iris-impressions.com @rrreow

02. Gluing down a layer of book pages from a music encyclopedia with Mod Podge

Play Your Joy WIP | www.iris-impressions.com @rrreow

03. Starting to add some colour with Neocolor II crayons

Play Your Joy WIP | www.iris-impressions.com @rrreow

04. Adding more intense colour with Neocolor II crayons

Play Your Joy WIP | www.iris-impressions.com @rrreow

05. Drawing & painting the figure and harp (I think I got so into it at this point that I forgot to take pics of the sketch!)

Play Your Joy WIP | www.iris-impressions.com @rrreow

06. Working on little details in the eyes, face, dress & harp

Play Your Joy WIP | www.iris-impressions.com @rrreow

07. Adding little music notes by pushing modelling paste through a stencil

Play Your Joy WIP | www.iris-impressions.com @rrreow

08. Finishing up by creating more grungy effects, embossing the harp strings and adding stamped text

Play Your Joy | mixed media on 8x8" canvas board | www.iris-impressions.com @rrreow

09. All finished!

If you are interested in commissioning a painting, please contact me to discuss it!

Now – Art Journal Tutorial Video

In my free art & inspiration guide there are several sections with art supply ideas, colour schemes and tutorials so I thought I’d create a video series in which I basically follow my own guide and show you the process!

The other week I went on a bit of an art supply binge at Atlantis (big art supply store in East London). I got a good haul!

I got some black gesso which I’ve been experimenting with a bit in my art journal and I LOVE LOVE LOVE it.

In this video you can watch me create a journal spread using just black gesso, a white paint marker and neon gel pens.

Follow along and show me what you create!

Now | mixed media in A5 journal | www.iris-impressions.com @rrreow
Now – black gesso, white paint marker & gel pens in A5 journal

Now detail | mixed media in A5 journal | www.iris-impressions.com @rrreow

Now detail | mixed media in A5 journal | www.iris-impressions.com @rrreow

A couple of other pages I’ve created recently with black gesso:

Fireflies In The Garden Of My Mind | mixed media in A5 journal | www.iris-impressions.com @rrreow
Fireflies In The Garden Of My Mind – black gesso, white paint marker & gel pens in A5 journal

Do You Know What You Want? | mixed media in A5 journal | www.iris-impressions.com @rrreow
Do You Know What You Want? – charcoal pencil, white & black gesso in A5 journal

It is so freeing to use a limited number of supplies (and to know what you’re working with when you start). These are some of my favourite journal pages lately despite being a self-professed art supply junkie!

Have you created anything with a reduced number of supplies or a limited palette?