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Art Journal Time - Autumn Inspiration

Sunday, August 18, 2019

I spent a large part of my life in Queensland, Australia, a hot and humid place, where we didn't really experience Autumn like people do in other parts of the world. When I returned to my birthplace in Wellington, New Zealand as an adult, it was very special to see the autumn leaves and colors.  Better still, I have been in South Korea for four years, where the seasons are even more defined and spectacular.  Nature has always been a big influence on my artwork, but looking through my art journals, it occurred to me that autumn was one of the seasons that seems to have influenced me the most. 

The humble leaf features so much in my artwork that I thought it would be interesting to collect everything autumn related and put it all in one blog post, explaining the processes and stories behind each piece.  Is your artwork influenced by a particular season?  Take a look through your work too, and you may be surprised how much nature has inspired you.  After all, when things get hectic in our human-made world, many of us realise that if we return to nature, we feel more peaceful.  Sometimes all it takes is to look up at the clouds for a few seconds, or the details on a leaf we find on the ground.  I think that using nature in my artwork helps me relax, because the shapes and colors in nature remind me of who I really am, and where I come from.  It also helps me appreciate the small details I see every day, and all of the beautiful things we have been given, without even asking.

I made this digital collage a while ago when we lived in an outer suburb of Seoul.  There was a beautiful, amazing park that seemed like a secret garden just a few minutes walk in the mountain behind our apartment.  One minute you would be walking through winding, narrow streets with apartment buildings blocking out the sun, and the next minute you were looking at a beautiful forest with winding pathways, weeping willows, and small hidden Korean-style pagodas.  It was a great place to visit and see the seasons changing before my eyes, and I took lots of great photos there that I will enjoy looking at when we are back in New Zealand.  Every time I visited this park and returned home, I always felt inspired to create something in my art journal.

The park was lovingly cared for mostly by volunteers who lived in the apartments surrounding it.  Even the old trees are looked after carefully, with 'crutches' placed under this one so it doesn't end up rotting on the ground.  Korean people really appreciate their green areas, and use them a lot.  You will see many people hiking, playing with their kids, and in general everyone there is no trouble, people are happy and friendly and look after each other.  Overall I always feel very safe there with my kids, in fact I feel very embarrassed if my kids get in someone's way by accident, or annoy someone else by being too loud.

As well as the park, there is also the mountain (Bongje-San).  The mountain has been left alone more to stay wild, but there are some great walking tracks.  In this picture it is almost winter, the trees are pretty bare, but in spring some of the paths are covered in cherry blossom petals, and if you look up they are falling down like snow, the sun shining through the trees, it is really magical.  Still, I like this photo because it shows the mysterious, crooked trees, and the colour of the earth.  I would like to have a go at painting this in my art journal one day.

A nice thing about Korea is that it is quite safe to go out walking at night (using your common sense of course).  This photo was taken around midnight during heavy rain, in autumn, close to our apartment.  The rain had soaked all the leaves and the wind had pulled more from the trees, and they were all stuck like glue to the ground.  The water had made the colour of the leaves more intense and shiny.  I'm happy to have had the opportunity to snap this photo.  I like the way the streetlight shining in the background gives it more atmosphere.

Here's a photo of the autumn leaves in Korea in the daylight.  The colors are really that bright, I didn't add any filter to this photo.  Each leaf is different, there are not two the same, just like us!

So I am sure you can see the obvious autumn influence in this art journal page!  I loved painting this page, the colors were very therapeutic.  I ended up scanning this page and using the leaves for many other projects, which you will see below.  I used watercolour, but didn't water it down too much so that the colors would remain intense.  I like the black outline, and how it doesn't go completely around each leaf, forming a sort of dark shadow on one side.  The leaves are not botanically correct, I have stylised them and changed the shapes so that they sort of flow around the page.

You can see the similarities in the leaves in the previous art journal page, and how that inspired other artwork, such as this printable colouring page.

The four leafy designs above have been made by scanning the previous painted art journal page, and then carefully 'cutting out' the leaves in Photoshop.  Then I used them to create these repeatable digital images, which could be wallpaper, or fabric designs.

One of the most dramatic trees in autumn in Korea is the Ginkgo tree, which turns from bright green to golden yellow in a few days, and then all of a sudden after a little wind, it begins raining thousands of Ginkgo leaves all over the ground.  The shapes of the leaves are very interesting, you can see in the picture above I have attempted to sketch it in my art journal, using thin coloured waterproof pens and watercolour.

Look at the amazing specimin of a Ginkgo tree in the photo above. I walked around a corner and gasped when I saw it.  I nearly got run over by a taxi, trying to snap this photo, but it was worth it. I had to be quick, the leaves were already starting to fall. You can't really get more golden than this!

Here is another example of the little hidden pagodas I was talking about earlier, all constructed by hand the traditional way and made out of beautiful timber.  People use them for having a picnic, stopping and resting, during a hike up the mountain, reading a book, or just lying down and having a sleep.  In this park I often saw elderly ladies there together laughing and talking, usually one or two ladies were having a sleep.  No one bothered them or told them to move, as there are some strict rules in Korean culture which give older people certain rights over the younger generations.

Look at the amazing autumn colors!  I am assuming this is a type of maple, but I'm no expert, so please correct me if I am wrong.

Sometimes when I am feeling inspired I just like to doodle on the first loose piece of paper I can find, not necessarily in my art journal.  I find that I often feel more freedom this way and my drawings have more 'flow'.  After all, if I don't like it, I can just throw it away.  Sometimes when I like what I have drawn, I cut out the bits I want to keep, such as the leaf shapes above, and keep them in a box marked 'Art Journal'.  I have quite a collection of these little cut out drawings now, as well as many other bits and pieces I have collected for my art journal.  When I am in the mood, I open the box and choose a few things, and have fun deciding where to add them to my journal, maybe they will inspire a whole new page, or I add them to an already existing background that has been waiting patiently for just the right thing.

The image above shows the autumn influence in the ATC (artist trading card) that I doodled with ink, on the right.

I love how there are many different shades of colour on one tree in this photo, again from the 'secret park' behind our place.

I enjoy using black ink instead of paint, with a long thin paint brush, to make outlines of a drawing, sort of like sketching with a paintbrush instead of a pencil. As you can see in the leafy black and white portrait above, this is great if you want to create lots of flowing natural lines and curves.  After the ink is dry, it is permanent, so you can go over it with watered down ink to create soft shaded areas.  I created a sense of movement and direction with the leaves in the background, as if the wind is blowing them upwards towards the sky.  My portraits often have their eyes closed...they are relaxed and enjoying the nature around them, taking time to think, recharging their energy by absorbing the beauty around them.  Much the same as the way I feel when I am in nature. No matter how much we try to recreate it, we can't ever make it as perfectly balanced as it is when we appreciate it and look after it. We think that our inventions are better than those we see in nature, but has anyone even successfully copied even something as small as the wing of a mosquito?  Stopping to look carefully at the tiniest details in nature, and sharing this with my children makes me happy and puts all of my 'troubles' into perspective :)

Autumn inspired leaf shapes are great to add to your craft collection in the form of stamps, which can be printed wherever you want in whatever colour you prefer.  These hand carved stamps that I have added to my shop (click on each photo and it will take you to the individual listings), can be used for all sorts of different art and craft projects, the ideas are limitless.  You can see some of the examples of how I have used them myself, in the photos below.

The art journal pages in the photo above are made using a range of different media and techniques.  The portrait was made by block printing the image first with thick black printmaking ink, rolled out with a brayer (hard rubber roller specially made for lino/block/woodcut printmaking).  I first carved the image out of special block printing rubber using lino carving tools and a craft knife.  You will see this image repeated quite a few times in my art journal.  I wrote a special blog post about this image, showing how you could experiment with it in many different ways.  You can see the leaf shapes both on the portrait and in the background.  The leaves in the background are printed in very light grey ink, using the leaf shaped hand carved stamps that are available in my shop. They have been printed onto a painted background of acrylic paint, in bright green and yellow. After they dried, I added a little bit of black outline here and there to bring them forward and make them look like they are almost sculpted on the page.

Above is an image showing the detail on the previous art journal page.  Here I have used watercolour as the main background, but then highlighted areas and created details with a white gel pen.  The little fern shaped leaves are made with a small simple stamp I made from a piece of leftover rubber. I used light grey ink so that they wouldn't take over the rest of the details.

The curly hand carved stamp I made has come in very handy for many projects, including card making.  You can see it used in different ways in the above three examples.  The first two have been finished off with colour using inexpensive felt pens, and the last example was made by cutting out a leaf shaped stencil from card stock, placing it on the card, then stamping leaves in different colors.

I quite like the effect of this repeated leaf pattern on simple light brown wrapping paper.  The hand carved leaf shaped stamp I used has a lovely textured effect.

In the photo above you can see I have created a very simple but effective leaf pattern on this upcycled craft project I made for my daughter (I cut up Quaker Oats cylindrical cardboard containers and joined them together to make a set of little shelves for her to hang on the wall to keep small objects in). I used acrylic paint to add a leaf pattern which sort of changed direction every now and again, creating an interesting feeling of movement.  We are living temporarily in Korea for my husband's work, so we try not to waste money buying lots of unnecessary pieces of furniture, and make/recycle as much as we can so that when it comes time to leave we won't feel too attached to everything, when we have to get rid of it all!

The art journal page above has an interesting story behind it.  I was trying to carve a leaf shaped stamp with some nice details inside it, but I made a  mistake and cut out the wrong areas, so instead of wasting the rubber, I just left the outline of the leaf and decided I could use it as an experiment in my journal.  I made a simple repeating pattern on one page, with all the leaves going in the same direction.  Then I used a thin black pen to make each leaf look slightly different with textures and details.  I then used coloured pencil to create a graded blue background.  Sometimes my mistakes turn into ideas that I really love in the end!

Here is a close up detail of one of the leaves on my 'mistake' art journal page!

I thought I would throw in the photo above, it is a close-up detail of a painting I was mucking around with.  Sometimes I like to just have fun with acrylic paint on a bit of cardboard to experiment with different colors and ideas.  I like how the leaves turned out in this one.

In the unfinished journal page above, I was trying out some new techniques with acrylic paint, using them without adding any water and leaving them really thick on the page.  I like how the black outline of the leaves became soft and fuzzy when I added the leaf colors using a sort of 'stippling' technique.  I still feel like I would like to add more to this page when I am in the mood.

The leaves above were just quickly painted with different muted colors using watercolour and a paint brush.  I added quite a bit of water to make them a little see through.  When they were dry I added details with black ink and a thin paintbrush. I will probably cut these out and have fun deciding where to glue them into one of my art journals. By the way, I always have a few different art journals going at once.  How about you, do you have a few, or do you prefer to finish one before starting another? Let me know in the comments, I am curious to know.

I have made a blog post about the orange and yellow autumn inspired art journal pages above, talking about it in detail, and there is also a short video I captured showing the drawing of the leaves, if you are interested :)

I found the 'capsule leaves' above in a forest while in New Zealand, and decided to draw them as a study.  They aren't really called that, I just made that name up...perhaps you know the correct name? Let me know in the comments.  They were fun to draw.  Each little dot is a tiny seed! So many potential plants in just one leaf...amazing!

Um...the above is not strictly art journal related, but more of a food sculpture inspired by autumn...a pie pastry crust I made for my family...it tasted good, that's the main thing!

Did you know that you can cut shapes out of sheets of polystyrene (Styrofoam) using a special Styrofoam cutter? It is a lot of fun, but make sure you use it in a well ventilated area, because it works by cutting the material with a thin wire that heats up and burns its way through.  You can also easily use a sharp craft knife, as well, but keep your fingers well out of the way, as those are important! I helped my husband with a project he was doing with his classes of Korean students, where I created a mural with the students flying through a bright and happy landscape, with leaves and flowers all around the border.  The mural had to be very light and portable, so I made it out of sheets of Styrofoam, and added the leaf and flower border as a layer that sort of stuck out towards the viewer...I was happy with the result.  Here are a couple of leaves (above) that I didn't end up using, I ended up sticking them to my noticeboard as a decoration in my little art 'studio'.

I was flipping through my journals while compiling photos from this post, and found this very colourful, strange looking tree that I had drawn.  The reason it exists is because I bought myself a set of the cheapest, brightest kids felt pens I could find from 'Daiso', the Korean equivalent to a dollar store (it's actually a very big Japanese franchise that is very popular in Korea...there are Daiso stores absolutely EVERYWHERE!).  Daiso has a great selection of stationary that is always changing. It's not the good quality stuff, of course, you have to go to the art supply store for that (my favourite one is called 'Homi Art Store' in Hongdae, Seoul, by the way...not sponsored, just love their variety and prices, and was soooo happy when I found it!).  Daiso has cheaper quality stationary, but it's great if you just want it for your art journal, and not a finished artwork for sale.  The pens I bought were for little kids, they were the ones that are made deliberately chunky so they are easy for toddlers to hold.  I had so much fun with these in my journal, it was nice to have some bright colors to play with.  I liked how this drawing turned out, and how the lines in the background and the leaves are all headed in one direction, towards the sky.

Here is a collage of a few of my autumn related art journal pages...digital collages are fun to make.  I use an app called 'Inshot' on my phone, it's great for making collages for Instagram.

Finally, I thought I would finish by adding a doodle I drew quite a while ago, called 'Deep in the Jungle', featuring lots of lovely foliage!  This doodle was part of a video tutorial series I made for my You Tube channel, called 'Dangerous Doodles'...check out the full playlist...if you dare!

I hope you have enjoyed this Autumn inspired post! Which part of nature inspire you? How does it come across in your artwork or other creative outlets? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Happy art journaling!






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