Happy AccidentsFebruary 19, 2009
Above: A sketch of Gert, my rubber chicken puppet, who serves as my "life model" since Dottie's death. I have more to say about this 13 inch x 8 inch page spread below. Click on the image for an enlargement.
This post has been a pain to get up on my blog. Typepad went whacko today. Auto-save feature doesn't seem to want to let me do anything. It has been very frustrating. If any of this makes it to my blog I wanted to write this up front so people know I wasn't trying to post an incomplete item. Here goes again, the fifth try to get my image and words going.
So, happy accidents. They happen all the time (auto-saving of the web-writing interface of Typepad is NOT a happy accident when it stalls and stops you from writing and doing anything simple like creating italics, etc.)
What is a happy accident since I'm trying to define it? Well for me, one example is when you pre-paint your journal pages, which I do all the time, and then go back to draw on those pages in the normal course of your day, or week, or in the case of a completely pre-painted book, perhaps weeks or a month, and find that when you get to that prepainted page subject, event, style, color selection, etc. all come together and work out better than you would have hoped possible.
For instance, you paint splashy pink and yellow strokes all over a page spread and reach that spread weeks later only to find you've picked up some paper ephemera that day and it perfectly matches the pre-painting when you glue it in: Happy accident.
The happy accident involved in this page spread of Gert is that when I first started this journal on February 9 I pre-painted some pages and on one spread I used some bronze-copper rubberstamp ink (from a re-inker bottle—I squeeze it out onto a paper towel and then use the towel to spread it over the page spread). Then when I actually got to this page a week later I decided to paint a painting of Gert and the coppery metallic nature of the ink worked perfectly showing through in some areas to create a bit of extra texture that I really like. Look specifically at the bill, where the copper lies under the gouache like a stippling of texture you would find on a beak. Also on the neck, see how the copper comes through the yellow ochre paint to create texture there with no extra work.
The pages don't have to be stunning images—happy accidents just have to have an added something that makes me smile. It's something that after a life long journal habit I still get a jolt of energy from. I use that energy to go and draw something else, and to pre-paint other pages, and then draw more, and so it goes.
When something occurs on a page that isn't pleasing to me in some way the previous experience of decades of happy accidents makes me simply shrug and say, "well we'll see what happens next." It's all chalked up to experimentation.
I gave a talk this afternoon to a group of women about colored pencil art. While I was showing my slides I flipped up a slide that shows a rabbit on a page spread painted with walnut ink and also decorated with a random scrap of paper. I was explaining this to the audience. And then I thought, and said out loud, "I don't know why I do this, perhaps it is a sickness, I just like that texture to deal with." Of course I said this to get a laugh, and I did. And perhaps it really is a sickness, I can't resist texture. But it could also be simply a condition, the condition of mind that loves to play and greets with joy any little puzzle to solve: how will I work on this page, with what will I work, etc.
These are all questions I love to ask every day in my journal because they make me think harder when I'm painting, and prepare me for experiments in my painting as well.
Most important, the experimentation keeps everything fresh for me. There is always something new to learn both in observation and application. And it is a great way to be kind to yourself, to let yourself have a go at something, with no strings attached. If it doesn't work out, who cares, you move on. I tell my students if every fifth page isn't a complete mess then I'm not really trying, I'm not really pushing myself.
Have some fun today. Pre-paint some journal pages ahead of where you are working and see what happens when you get there.
Note: I used a Faber Castel Pitt Artists Brush Pen, which is waterproof, for this sketch and then painted over it with Schmincke gouache. Indigo was one of the colors I used (I've written about this color when discussing Project 640 Tubes!) The nice things about Schmincke gouache is that it will wash out to nice washes as well as heavy applications, it's just yummy pigment. In this sketch I used it lightly allowing most of the ink lines to show through. In areas where the ink was covered too much I did restate some lines, but that's because I was getting fussy, a whole other story about what has been going on lately and nothing to do with happy accidents.
I grabbed a Uniball Signo white pen (which I purchased because friends who journal had been going on and on about them). I haven't been too thrilled with this pen, so it has just been sitting around (typically I'll write white lettering using a dip pen and Ziller white acrylic ink) but I only wanted to add a highlight to the eye. (Note also that the eye is almost all copper pigment that I simply circled with the bush pen. Another happy accident, planned a little by how I started my drawing.) I went a little crazy with the white pen putting highlights everywhere, but that's more of the fussing, and that's another story as I've said, for another day.
Text on the verso (left-hand) page is written with a Staedtler Pigment Liner. Text on the recto page (right-hand) is written with a Faber Castell Pitt Artists Brush Pen.
Now go have a happy accident of your own.