Wanderlust experiments

I’ve signed up for wanderlust 2020, an online art journaling course, because I want to be pushed to try some new things in my art. So far we’ve had 2 weekly classes and I have actually completed an art journal page for both of them, so I’m quite pleased with myself. For week 2 we we encouraged to paint a portrait of an ancestor, either real or imagined, copying from a photo or internet image. I didn’t have any good photos of grandmothers so I decided to paint my daughter as an imaginary Scottish ancestor. I have Scots ancestors on my father’s side, but my daughter has them on both sides, (the Mackays from the island of Raasay on her father’s side, and the Frasers and MacDonalds  from Skye on my side)….plus, she’s beautiful!

Scots Ancestor

I imagined her as a kind of Celtic warrior queen. I draped her in the Mackay tartan and added a wolf as a power animal companion (there were wolves in Scotland until the 17th century) because she is a strong person and a sheep or rabbit just didn’t feel appropriate!I googled Scottish flowers and painted those orange Gazanias as a contrast to the blue/green background.

In this class we had to do a tonal underpainting first in black and white, then put colour over it. It was all quite challenging, I haven’t ever tried to paint a portrait in acrylics before. I was going to trace the main outline with carbon paper but decided to just print a desaturated photo, glue it down and paint it with clear gesso and then paint over it. At least then I’d have the proportions correct. My tonal underpainting I did with brown and white: Katy for portrait B&WPhoto of my daughter, desaturated. Ancestor 1Tonal Underpainting, Van Dyke brown, white and Paynes grey. Neck is far too dark!!

Ancestor 3Next I painted over it with colour, skin tones (this was very challenging!), plus I  added some appropriate ephemera undercollage on the left page and gessoed over it with a mix of clear and white gesso.

Ancestor 4I painted the background with some blues and greens (all mixed with a bit of Paynes grey and Raw Umber, I didn’t want bright colours) and added some stencilling (a beloved Stencil girl gnarly tree stencil) Ancestor 5Next I added the wolf, the tartan and jewellery embellishments and I painted the celtic shield at the top with gold. To finish I painted the flowers, then did some writing.

Google translate once again came in handy….Tha Sinn Comhla Ruit means “We are with you” in Scots Gaelic. I wanted to convey the idea that she (and perhaps, I ) have received gifts of strength, canniness (love that word!) and resilience from our Scots ancestors, and also that somehow they are watching over us, protecting and assisting us.

For the first weeks lesson we focused on creating an art journal page about our 3 major relationships, using scraped on paint, ephemera and patterned papers and choosing images to symbolise those relationships. Here is my finished page: In my heartI used an image of Artemis to represent my daughter, planet Jupiter for my son (he’s a Sagittarius) a tiger for my husband (Year of the Tiger) and a fish for my Piscean sister. Tying it all together was a bit of a challenge. Here’s how it looked a bit earlier: In my heart 1We were directed to use a stencil in the centre in a dark colour.

I pretty much followed Kasia’s instructions for most of it, and added a few ideas of my own. For example I did a bit of sponging in a dark colour before I glued down the Tiger and Jupiter (so they would stand out better) and then painted some floaty clouds to tie it all together. I used the words of the poet e.e.cummings to convey my feelings.

I like the page, It’s a bit different to what I usually do, and that is why I signed up for the course, to try a few different things.





Heroine’s Art Journaler interview number one: Christina

As many of you know, for the last 18 months I have been teaching a course I have developed for women called The Heroine’s Journey. In this 7 part course we reflect on our lives through the lens of the stages of the Hero’s Journey (as identified by Joseph Campbell), using myths and fairy tales, writing, ritual, drama and art journaling. So far I have run the course 3 times, with another starting on 9th August. I have also already run a Part 2 Heroine’s Journey course, as many of the participants wanted to continue on with the process.

I thought it would be interesting to do a series of posts on some of the Heroine’s Journey participants and feature some of their work….so without further ado, may I present Heroine’s Journey art journaler Christina Christina black copy. Christina had not done much art journaling before doing the heroine’s course, but she has a natural eye for colour, harmony and beauty.

I interviewed Christina about her experience of the heroine’s journey, and art journaling.

Alison: What have you liked most about doing the Heroine’s Journey?

Christina: I don’t think I’ve ever given myself the luxury of time to do some creative work, like art work. I like all the new techniques I’ve been learning and I’ve been really surprised by how beautiful some of my pages are, so that’s been…startling and amazing really! And I really love some of my pages and feel happy to show them to people whereas in the past I would have found it very challenging to show my art to anyone.

I’ve also loved the camaraderie of the women in the group and I’ve had a feeling of safety within the group, where we’ve really exposed ourselves, both with our art work and with our feelings. There have been some very poignant moments and a few tears, both mine and other people’s. Holding that space for others…it’s been very beautiful.

A: Tell me about some of your pages…..this Warrior page for example?


C:  Well it was interesting how I ended up having this 15 year old warrior, standing next to my grown up warrior. I really saw what a warrior my teenager self was, way back then, she had to be. And also seeing her innocence. And then my mature inner warrior, how capable she is, how resilient. I enjoyed using the animal totems on this page too, animals that I felt an affinity with. They are my companions. The wolf is there behind me, he’s got my back, and the eagle flies over and is a scout, they’re both my scouts and my muses in some way too.

A: And the ancestors page?  Motherline Christina

C: Well I was really close to my Mum, and she died a long time ago and I really miss her, so I loved to put her photo here, when she was in her prime. And the Girl with the Pearl earring I included because my Grandmother was Dutch…and I loved the book, and the painting. She represents my European heritage. And I also used some maps of Europe in the background too. And then I included the perennial mother, mother Mary. That felt really significant to me too, to include the nurturing, overarching mother. And I’ve included the french thing in there, I’ve always loved everything French, I love the language, I used to own a french perfumerie.

A:  I like the muted colours you’ve used in the background, it almost looks like you’ve stained it with tea or coffee or something.

C:  Yes I wanted an aged look. I had some other ancestor photos I could have used but they were more 1960’s photos and didn’t go so well with this old “Ancient Mother” look.

The above 2 pages were made by Christina during  Part one of the Heroine’s Journey which she completed last year. She has also completed Part 2, and the next pages are from that course.

Christina has travelled quite a lot, and has spent some years living in Canada, which she loves. She told me she really enjoyed making this Special Places page, sifting through her travel phtographs and remembering special places.Place Christina



Joseph Campbell said “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek”

During the Part 2 course we made a page about entering the cave and finding the “treasure”, whatever that may be, perhaps some new knowledge, some new strength or self confidence. The journalers could choose  from a series of different images to represent their treasure. Christina chose a Holy grail image, which is hidden behind an opening door in the cave.. I asked her about this page.

A. Why did you choose the Grail image for your treasure, instead of the treasure chest or stars?

C. I’ve always had a thing for the Grail. A few years ago I did a workshop where we made a goblet to represent the Grail. I think the Grail is more mystical than a treasure chest. My red haired warrior is going on a quest, a mystical quest to get the Holy grail.

A. (On this page I introduced a new technique of scrunching and glueing down tissue paper to create a textured cave roof, which we then painted black or dark brown, When it was dry we rubbed  Inka Gold paint lightly on it, which was picked up by the higher ridges.  A.  I know you enjoyed the new process I introduced, of working with tissue paper to add texture. Can you say more about this?

C.Well I loved to create texture, I enjoy tactile 3 Dimensional art, and I also love gold, so I really loved rubbing the Inka Gold onto the tissue. I also tried rolling some tissue paper, as well as scrunching it,  to make stalactites hanging down.

A. yes everyone in the class was impressed with this innovation of yours.

C. i also put gold leaf around the image of the grail…you can only see this when you open the doors.

A. So finally I thought I would include your butterfly and flower head page. You have used a photo of yourself in your thirties I think. What was this page about for you in the end?

Butterfly head ChristinaC. Well as you had suggested I used some of the positive comments that the other Journeyers had written about me, as undercollage, along with a couple of my favourite poems that we had as our readings. I included a couple of tulips amongst the flowers to represent my Dutch heritage. But ultimately I think the page is about freedom…the butterflies represent freedom. I’m thinking of writing “Fly free” somewhere on the page.

A. I was impressed with the way you have made your butterflies 3 dimensional, in that you have only glued them down the middle and the wings are sticking out from the page.

C. Well, again, it’s that 3D thing that I really like. It was really interesting to see the things that the others wrote about me and to think, “so that’s how you see me!”

It was great to have Christina in the Heroine’s Journey group, and I really hope she continues art journaling, now that the course is over.