Tea & Tasseography

I wrote last time about my experiencing of 'making art' and making time to create as a new mum.

Well this last month the focus has been on TEA. Oh yes, my favourite drink and subject matter. But not just any old tea - tasseography - better known as 'reading tea leaves'. How exciting!

This is my completed artwork submitted for Lilla Rogers February 2018 Bootcamp - the assignment was for a journal cover:

REBECCA JOHNSTONE 'Tea' Journal Cover Concept.jpg

For someone interested in horoscopes and the zodiac and crystals and magic, it feels a bit strange perhaps that I've never explored tasseography before?

I love the idea of having my tea leaves read; a fortune-telling of the essential elixir of my life. I have at least four teapots and even visited Teapot Island last year. 
Sewing Machine Teapot, Teapot Island.jpg

For those reasons I thought it would be an easy topic to generate art for this brief, but in fact it was the opposite. I was brimming over with so many ideas and potential directions I could go in, I couldn't focus on any one of them and felt stunted in my creation because I wanted everything to be so perfect for this so-special topic. 

The whole point of the 'mini' MATS Bootcamp assignment is to free you up for the creative process, not create barriers or limits on that process. I knew I had to break out.

So I made a pot of tea (Rabbit Hole Chai) and then...

Using Pinterest for inspiration, and my existing TEA board, I searched for 'tea leaves' and 'tea reading' and found an amazing tasseography chart which I immediately began to create in my own style. That's when things started to flow for me.

Here is an edited version layered with watercolour:

Tea Chart, Rebecca Johnstone.jpg

I love matcha (it's well documented!) and although there is no 'leafy residue' associated with mixing up matcha, I knew I wanted to use its gorgeous vibrant green in my art to create a kind of 'matcha magic'.

Using a large brush I created a vivid watercolour mix of greens, blue, pink and purple, as well as a matcha-esque circle to layer behind my tasseography chart (above). The chart became my background and I could have made it the whole thing, but I wanted to cram more into my 'tea journal story'.

I didn't use all the elements in the end, which proved one of the hardest parts of this assignment: what to use, what to leave out, what would be just one 'motif' or 'icon' too far...?

I wanted to use these teapots, but they just didn't fit with the matcha theme. 

Japanese teapots watercolour, Rebecca Johnstone.jpg

I was going to use my own handwriting but it wasn't right either so instead I watercoloured the letters for the words I needed. Even deciding on those felt like an agonising decision this time.

I wasn't sure about leaving the background white, but also couldn't find the right colour to use instead. In the end I went for the 'purity' angle and left it white. It felt like there was enough going on.

For some reason I associated tasseography with the night-time - fortune-telling and magic have that dusky vibe about them and so that's where this moon and stars scene stems from:

Night tim tea, Rebecca Johnstone.jpg

In the end I used a mix of lots of different hand-drawn and watercolour elements, including all the special tea-reading symbols. I loved creating those.

I digitised everything and used Photoshop to manipulate and mock-up my journal cover, with a darker, patterned version peeping out from underneath as a coordinate idea.

I'm happy with the palette and I think I'd buy this. In fact I definitely would. Would you?

Check out the MATS February Bootcamp Gallery to see all the great art in the group and the amazing variation in working to this brief.