Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Circus Train is Pulling Out! Wave Bye-Bye!

I might have mentioned this before but it is worth repeating: I am one lucky woman. I seem to have found my calling (art) at, shall we say, a late stage in life. But like they say, it's never too late to find your passion and pursue your dreams. Sure, in the early years my dream may have had a paycheck and maybe fame attached, but my passion has always been the same: self expression, creative exploration, connection to a community of other artistic seekers. Then, now, and always, still the same. This year's revelation and most joyful surprise was to, on a whim, jump aboard the creative circus train that has been "The Mermaid Circus" with ringmaster and teacher extraordinaire, Jane Davenport, and legendary journal wrangler, Teesha Moore.  When I signed on and realized that there were no less than 500 others laying down good money to work beyond our comfort level and a seemingly impossible time commitment, I knew something amazing had to come from it. I have not been, for a moment, disappointed. I have learned so much and grown so far outside that cushiony box, that I have really begun to accept the title "artist" as something that may pertain to me.

As I said in the title, the official class is over for me next week, but involvement in the online class community grows daily with new connections on Facebook, and a body of work that seems to pour out of me. I have signed up to take what amounts to two years worth of drawing and dreaming classes with Jane and can't wait until Teesha decides to enter the online sphere on her own. Meanwhile any of you even the littlest bit intrigued by the possibilities this class could add to your growth and creative excitement need to run, right now, to sign up for a repeat session (set to begin September 2) of "Mermaid Circus."
 Meanwhile join me below in reviewing some of the work I have done so joyfully since I last showed you my progress at the end of June.

This "upturned face" that I drew while waiting out some rain on my vacation really represents the joyful feeling I have had since realizing just how much I love to draw.

One of our more complex lessons involved mermaids and their sea life friends. I decided to do a bit of sketching from a video filmed in the Galapagos, then turned it into a bit of a journaled page. One of the delights of this class has been how broad the type of art was, and all the possible permutations of the dual themes of "mermaid" and "circus" there could be.

Taking the sketching of dolphins from real to fantasy, and learning that a journal page can be either the beginning of a more complex, "finished" piece of art, or an end in itself. 

Again, drawn from the video, but this time with a watercolor look provided by Dylusion ink and white charcoal shading. These sketches became the basis for a couple of stamps.

A complex project commences in my Strathmore mixed media hardbound journal. The paper is beautiful and tough, has taken a lot of abuse so far. These dolphins, drawn from imagination, are partly cut out to give a view to the pages below.

The first two pages (one partially cut away) were given a surface treatment of collaged colored papers, while the far right hand page was painted with a matte acrylic, as were the dolphins.

A poem entitled "She Swam With Dolphins" was carefully penned on the underside of the elegant creatures, comically enough, forming the shape of a crab!

The finished painting, many layers and techniques later, includes stamped and over-painted original images (from my own foam stamps) of the mermaid frolicking with her friends.

This exercise introduced us to the use of watercolor and a certain clean simplicity on the page. The two "stormy" ladies on the right were Jane's creations that she encouraged us to copy for practice or turn into a similar composition of our own. The type of watercolor, new to many of us, was the Peerless transparent  watercolor, originally designed for hand coloring black and white photos. They are incredibly clear and concentrated, more of an ink. I designed the companion "rainbow wave" page and journaling to complete the story of the sisters in my own style.

Returning to one of the first lessons in face drawing, I was astonished to find that this, only my second attempt to follow Jane in drawing a simple face in colored pencil and Copic markers, would show such improvement over what I had done just a few of months before. Her eyes just captivated me and I decided she had to be used as the basis of my final unfinished assignment.

Here she is, tissue transferred, and over painted in acrylics with collaged and enhanced elements of sea life from the artist, Ernst Haeckel.

The facing page in the Strathmore journal tells the mermaid's story (as all our artwork in the class was story based,) and gave me the intended lesson of learning how to work with various mediums to achieve a black and white composition as well as a good small face.

My mermaid shaped book was far from filled with images, so I returned to the  style taught by both Jane and Teesha, of starting with collage elements and filling in with drawing and paint. Then "doodling" the heck out of it. I love all the secrets they taught us in this course about layering media and even discovered a few of my own along the way. If you'd like to see the other pages from this book, check them out in my Flickr album, Mermaid Circus.

So where do I go now? Well, I'm still not done with my lessons, having collaged an entire sixteen page "Teesha" journal that needs all it's layering to complete the story of my circus, and there are a few more pages of my shaped mermaid book looking for some new friends (maybe a Mer-man?) But I have already moved on to begin my lessons in drawing faces and figures in Jane's highly regarded basics class, Supplies Me.
 Maybe I'll see you over there.


  1. You described it so nicely. Mermaid Circus was one of the best things that happened to me in a while and also a breaking point for me to be brave and call myself an artist. We have met so many incredible people and I have a feeling we are definitely staying in touch. And YOUR work, seeing it all together now is even more amazing. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Loved this post, the class looks so fabulous! I have restrained my enthusiasm with the realization that Jane's beginner drawing class would be a wiser place for me to start, so I've just signed up for that one instead. It will help me blow the dust off my drawing pencils, and is more budget and schedule friendly for me at this time. Perhaps there will be a Mermaid Circus in my future as well...

  3. WOW Cheryl.... these pages are absolutely beautiful. you must be so pleased with your progress. really. ART journaling is something that I keep pulling out, and putting away. pulling out... putting away and just have not pulled the trigger. WHY IS THAT? I can't figure it out. I am knee deep in so many projects but I just can't see my way clear to (or get the confidence up) to start (let alone follow through) on a journal - which is something I really want to do. I think after seeing your progress here I really have to think about why I am so hesitant and maybe just "do it."

  4. p.s. my absolute favorite is the face. really, really great.