Saturday, April 9, 2016

#AtoZChallenge, H is for Hot (and Cold)

Happy Saturday! I've been at the zoo all day with Urban Sketchers, hence this very late post. When we first got there, it was freezing, but now, 5.30 PM, it's hotter than a New Mexico chili pepper, good weather for today's topic: Hot and Cold.

What I'm talking about here are hot and cold colors, or in other words, the backgrounds to your journal designs. When I sit down to create a collage or mixed media piece, I often don't know what will be in it, or what colors I'll choose. Sometimes I just let my hand wander over my supplies until I find something that feels right. 

For today's piece, I seemed to have needed hot, bright red, orange and yellow. Immediately the idea of "heat in the kitchen" came to mind, meaning, I think, "If you can't take the heat, stay out of the kitchen." I may have sub-consciously been thinking about the A-Z Challenge, i.e., if you can't handle blogging every day, out you go, LOL. 

But on a more serious level, I started to think about my grandmother's infamous goulash, so hot it quite literally brought tears to the eyes. And she made it all the time! In retrospect, I know I would probably enjoy it much better today than I did as a child, but back then, it was pure torture to eat. All the same, I loved watching her prepare the dish: getting out the big Dutch oven; tying up the spices and peppercorns in cheesecloth bags; the deep red of the gravy once it had simmered all day. I remember having a special fondness for the bay leaves, not quite believing that you could actually use real leaves to cook with.

Today's art page is rather simple, but the kitchen and cooking theme is one I could go on about forever. If the weather today had been a little warmer, I might have gone for a "cold" page of icy blue, leading me back to those long-ago summers when my best friend and I would ride our bikes to the closest 7-11 for electric-blue Slurpees. Or the time I experimented with blue food coloring for the frosting on a batch of cupcakes, and kind of overdid the color.

There is so much you can do in an art journal based on food, so much that I sometimes think it's one of my favorite themes! For instance:

  • Beloved (and secret) family recipes.
  • Special occasion and holiday meals.
  • "Dream" meals and baked good you'd love to try making.
  • Recalling when you learned (or didn't learn!) to cook or bake.
  • Ethnic foods from various cultures.
  • Our relationships to food; the good, the bad, the hopelessly tempting.
  • Trying a new and healthier lifestyle: making better choices and celebrating the changes.
  • Must-have ingredients, and why you rely upon them.

The combination of food, art, and writing has always been special to me, starting with a workshop I took on the poetry of food, led by the poet and food diva extraordinaire, Denise Brennan Watson. Her book, The Undertow of Hunger showed me how eloquent, necessary, and astonishing food can be, from a simple clove of garlic to the satisfying feel of a warm eggplant held in one's hand. Which reminds me--I have to go make dinner! See you on Monday.

Tip of the Day: Art journals aren't always for ourselves. An illustrated journal based solely on recipes and kitchen memories makes a beautiful gift, especially for a younger friend, or  member of the family just starting out and learning there's more to life than the microwave. Bon appetit!


Deb Atwood said...

I agree that an art journal based on recipes would make a lovely gift. Or based on any theme, for that matter. But how to keep the art from making the pages fan out too far? That's what I would love to know.

@deb_atwood from
Pen In Her Hand

Valerie Storey said...

The "fanning out" is a problem, Deb, but here are some ways to solve it: first, don't try to make the journal too big. I've made that mistake several times, thinking I had to use the entire sketchbook. If you're using a commercial sketchbook, go for the thinnest one you can find. A sewn or glued binding works better than a wire-bound sketchbook, too. And if you do find a wirebound book with paper you really love, but think it will get too thick from the artwork, carefully remove some of the pages and simply reserve them for further projects. The secret is to keep things thin, especially if you're adding a lot of collage work with several layers of medium and glue. Another trick is to use an old book, and glue most of the pages together so that you only leave yourself a dozen or so very heavy board-like pages to work on. Lastly, the fanning can sometimes be just part of the overall look--many art journalers like the jam-packed appearance of a journal bursting at the seams. It's all part of the process, I guess!