Painted paper collage
16" x 20"
Quite a while ago I had cut out some shapes from solid colored paper. I had an idea but never followed up on it. The shapes sort of languished on my floor as I worked on monoprinting and making pieces from those prints. At the end of April, after my last piece, I began to wonder about those solid shapes. What could I do with them? I really missed what I perceive as the clarity of those solid colors. They give a different effect from the monoprinted shapes I think. I was nervous though about trying something different. I felt that my last several pieces were good-a step in the right direction. Should I deviate from that idea?
And then, just by accident, I happened across an image of a psilocybin molecule. Totally unrelated right? Sort of. As I started to investigate psilocybin, I came across other molecules. They all seemed to have these beautiful structures. You can see one here and here. I hope that I have a real appreciation for all sorts of beauty in all kinds of places and in all types of things. Images of molecules really speak to me somehow; their order and arrangement, not to mention how their atoms come together and break apart. (You can read more about molecules here.) I am not a chemistry person (I barely squeaked by in high school chemistry class) but I can appreciate these ideas on a general level.
So, I began to think about using these structures as a basis for making my pieces. They looked an awful lot like what I was trying to do already, which is to make some kind of sense and order out of all of these shapes. I had been moving towards a more formal arrangement of the shapes already but was a little stuck. Molecules and their inherent beauty are a good answer for me.
Psilocybin as you might know is the compound found in magic mushrooms. I don't have too much curiosity about the use of psychedelic drugs other than to know that the drugs have had many purposes throughout history and are used by different cultures around the world. I will settle for just admiring the beauty of their molecular structure!
And while my final piece doesn't follow the shape of the compound exactly, it works well for my purposes. I wanted a dominant area and then some subordinate areas. Linking everything together was challenging and I kept some areas separate from each other. Hopefully the piece is balanced. I will be trying the idea again soon and will make modifications. For now, I am happy with the initial efforts.
16" x 20" painted paper collage
For this piece, I found myself returning to some older habits of color selection. While I think those habits worked fine for the pieces that I was doing at the time the ideas didn't really produce great results for this particular style. I found myself really needing a wider variety of hues and values. Oftentimes I just don't know if I have enough shapes, colors and values to complete a piece. For this piece I had to improvise a bit. I am happy with the way things worked out but next time I plan to have some more options on hand before I start.
I was also reminded of how important it is for me to know about the materials that I use. Through trial and error I have found a way that works for me with regard to painting papers, using paint and cutting out shapes. I very rarely deviate from what I have learned and how I use my materials. This time though I decided to add some patterning to one of the papers using stamps and ink. I had forgotten that dye ink is water soluble so I figured I better spray the paper with an acrylic matte spray to prevent the dye from running. (I wipe off the glue with a paper towel from the paper pieces and board once I am done placing each piece. The paint and whatever else on the paper needs to be permanent so the water won't screw it up.) Well, it sure didn't work! I ended getting ink all over the pieces and having to carefully wipe everything off. Not great but in the end everything was fine. next time, I will use pigment ink which is permanent.
Anyway, apart from that SNAFU, it was exciting to add some stamp work into the picture. I am always afraid that adding stamps will make the piece look kind of "campy" but maybe I need to rethink how I use the stamps rather than just dismiss the idea altogether.
The name for this piece comes from what I was thinking about when I was adding each piece. I kept looking for shapes that would "connect" with one another, kind of like doing a puzzle. What fits? What doesn't? So for me, it was like I was making connections.
Alright, thanks for reading and looking. It seems like hard times are ahead for many of us with Covid-19. I hope everyone is staying well.
16" x 20" painted acrylic paper collage on matboard
The above piece came together rather quickly once I got started. What took forever was the monoprinting of the papers that were cut in to the individual shapes. Deciding on colors is becoming harder and harder for me. I have always mixed my own colors rather than relying on pre mixed colors but now I am wondering about that. In any case, it was hit or miss to begin with but I finally put some colors together that appealed to me. They seem Spring-like I think.
The other thing that took me awhile was the part where I actually started the piece! This came in the midst of me getting ready to go away for a few days so my attention was really divided. As I mentioned though, once I got going things went pretty smoothly. I have been working first thing, very early in the morning. The time slot fits in better with my walking schedule which happens later in the morning. Once it starts to really warm up though things will get switched around again. The weather here really dictates when I do what.
I feel like I am getting a little more adventurous with cutting these shapes. At first, I just used the scraps from having cut positive shapes for other pieces. I now feel more comfortable with just cutting shapes from printed paper and seeing how those fit together, cutting them further if necessary, as I go. This all seems pretty small but it's big for me. Going from the rigidity of the grid and using a knife and ruler to cut shapes and then to just willy-nilly cutting with the scissors is a big leap. I actually really love it!
If anyone reading has made some big leaps lately, let me know!
16" x 20"
painted acrylic papers on matboard
Several days ago I showed a photo on Instagram/FB of lots of scraps of painted paper on the floor. The above piece came out of those scraps of paper. What I have been doing for these last several pieces is using the remaining negative cutouts that are leftover from the positive shapes that I use in my work. I take those pieces and use them in my monoprints as "masks". They get overprinted with other paints and textures, often with interesting results. Rather than throw them away, I decided that they needed to be put to use. I really like working this way-no grid to follow, no perpendicular lines or right angles, and nothing to straighten up. It suits me well right now.
The title of the piece doesn't really have a specific meaning other than I feel some of the shapes look a little bird like. I am also reading a book about extinction and so I am thinking about the comings and goings of species through time.
OK, let me know. Thanks for reading.
Round and Round
16" x 20"
painted paper collage on board
Well, I am super excited about the above piece. The shapes are the leftovers (negative cuttings) from the positive shapes that I use in my collages. I took those cuttings and used them as masks in my monoprinting (done on a gelatin plate aka Gelli plate). In that process, they get paint on them, often in layers. I think this layering of colors is very exciting and when I look at a pile of these pieces I don't know where I the final work will end up. I am guided though by what I think about design: color relationships, contrast, and color saturation. Additionally, I think about line and direction, variability and repetition. It's all governed by proportion for me and I try really hard to make the piece feel balanced. I love very much that I am not working on a "grid" these days but the piece, to me anyway, feels just as organized as if I was using that structure to place my shapes. I feel like I have come a long way here. I am drawing and cutting out my own organic shapes, derived from my own images and drawings. It's very much like acquiring a vocabulary of sorts, rather than just relying on a prescribed set of words in a tiny dictionary, if that makes sense.
Anyway, let me know. Thanks for reading.
Odds and Ends
12" x 16"
painted paper collage on board
I thought the title was pretty apt. Literally, the piece above is made with the leftover cuttings (negative pieces) from previous works. Additionally, they have been used in my monoprints so they now have served two purposes. Not bad, huh?
This piece came about by accident. I had these leftover pieces sitting on a white board on the floor. They were just there to dry. I looked at them and thought that there was something that looked good. They looked almost like gestural marks. I have always shied away from gesture painting, believing that my tendency to straighten and tidy up wouldn't work with that particular style. I am very deliberate though I strive for work that doesn't look worked over. In any case, I thought why not? This is just line work and shapes and direction, color and value. I can do that right? And so I did. I like the outcome a lot and am working on getting another piece going. We will see.
The whole experience though led me to develop a work flow of sorts. It helps to think actively about how you work. I think there is less stress this way. You at least know how to start right? I tend to begin with these doodle drawings which lead to cut out shapes. The cut out shapes are put together in a collage piece (like what I normally do). Those leftover cuttings (the negative pieces) are then used in my monoprints as masks. They get paint on them. They are then used in a piece such as the one shown above. It's a kind of workflow and I like it.
I'll see what else comes of this idea. In the meantime, thanks for reading. Let me know.
Follow The Leader
16" x 20" painted paper collage
Generally I keep notes while I am working these pieces. Ideas occur to me for other pieces or I have some kind of clarity regarding the piece at hand. There is normally something. For this piece, I mostly focused on establishing a value pattern of sorts. This is hardly a reason to make art (to follow a fundamentally academic concept) but I felt that the piece could get very busy and disorganized in a hurry which is not what I am after. Establishing a pattern of lights, mediums and darks (values) can help the viewer to not be overwhelmed, hopefully. And it's always my intention to be kind of tidy with things; succinct if you will. Even if I don't achieve this with everything it's always one of my goals.
I am currently reading a book about paleontology, how it evolved in the 19th century and some of the people that got caught up in what became known as "the bone wars". Human greed is quite a thing. It really seems to motivate people but gets them going in the wrong direction, often to their own detriment. I like that these pieces sort of have the figures following each other, kind of rolling and swirling around. The movement is a function of the drawings that I make and use to start these pieces but I also think on a deeper level, I must see life and its players as constantly moving, changing, leading and following. Life is never standing still and yet we try and pretend that it is. Time is both infinite and finite, always moving forward. As I reflect on the piece above, those are my thoughts.
Let me know.
PS-I omitted any eyeballs on my figures this time. I think it keeps things at a better level of finish.
16" x 20" painted acrylic papers
I should have named this The Image That Almost Wasn't. It's very easy to get trapped into a way of making work that is familiar and comfortable. It feels very safe right? People have liked your work before and they will probably like it again...so long as it doesn't change. This is external validation/permission type stuff though and has nothing to do with making art that comes from another part of your brain. It's the part of your brain that says, "Oh yes, I'd really like to try that." and "Well, let's just see what happens." and "If it sucks, then it sucks and no big deal." That's the part of your brain that you want to listen to because listening to it will help to nurture it and will help you to make work that feels like you, even if it is not at a Picasso level of skill. As my friend Carol has told me, your work matters because it is your work. (More or less, this is what she offered to me in the way of help.)
For months now I have been making these doodles. They are an offshoot of when I used to quilt and I did allover patterns of meandering quilting. The doodles turned into drawings of sorts that were informed by stuff that I saw: alphabets, animals, and other images in my environment. The doodles also were a nod to my reading. Figures showed up that look vaguely like fishes, birds and other sorts of creatures. I love the idea of an imaginary world that has some realistic underpinnings. I also love the idea of creatures interacting together. I could never deliberately draw that sort of thing though but the doodles are a kind of "gateway" into a quasi-drawing kind of world. Whatever shows up, shows up. I really like the surprises that happen. I also really like that I am thinking in the same sorts of terms as when I make more structured and intentional work: hue, chroma and value. Direction, repetition and variation, proportion, that sort of stuff. It's really important to me that the thought processes that I worked really hard to establish remain in play when I make any kind of art-no matter if the shapes are geometric and structured or more biomorphic like in the above piece. I call this singularity in approach and thought "staying on the bus" and it is a direct result from having read this article by James Clear. Along with some other free and sage advice I have received over the years, this piece of advice is always one that I come back to. (And if you haven't read the article I suggest you give it a read. If you know an artist who is struggling to "find their voice" this may be the break that they need.)
In any case, I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome. I am now interested to see if I can do this type of work again and how I might mix it up. In other words, what is going to happen next and how can I make that happen.
Happy New Year to all reading and to those of you that have paid attention to my posts and work this year. Your efforts are appreciated!
Before The Deluge
12" x 16" Painted Paper Collage
As I make these pieces, I take notes in my sketchbook/journal. The notes help me to remember what I was thinking about during the process of putting the piece together. The above work was started with a doodle drawing that I did based on shapes from the Hebrew alphabet. I meant to follow that drawing exactly since I really liked it. I can see from reading my notes that although I had a sketch as my guide, I was nervous that the piece would just become a collection of shapes with each shape not being related to the other-no cohesive narrative in other words. I always worry about deviating from a good plan and I become anxious about a lack of some sort of narrative or "structure" for these collages. I should know better by now because a kind of story generally emerges whether I follow the original plan or deviate from it.
As I was working myself into a lather about all of that, I started to tell myself a little story. It involved Noah and the flood, fossils, and the gathering up of all of the creatures on Earth. I put the drawing aside and began to focus on the shapes, both the positive ones and the ones being made in the negative spaces. I came up with some symbols that I wanted to use and some other details that I wanted to add. I am pleased to have used some of the drawn characters that I sketched a while ago. (These are the ones in my sketchbook that were just for fun and I didn't know what I would do with them.) As I finished things up, it seemed to me that I had gone past the constraints of the drawing, as much as I liked it, and had gotten somewhere else that was equally as good as my original idea. For me, just as good.
I can see that I am going in a particular direction with these last several pieces. I have done some thinking and writing about this but haven't solidified anything yet. I am going to keep working and to keep an open mind. It's easy for me to cling to what has worked for me in the past rather than slowly and incrementally moving in a different direction. I'll just have to see.
Hope everyone had a nice holiday. Thanks for reading.
Creature Feature 2
16" x 20" painted paper collage
Earlier in the year I started making funny little paper collage creatures. They were only for my sketchbook and used leftover shapes from my finished pieces. It was just a fun way to learn about color and to see what appeared when various shapes were thrown together. I just couldn't see how to use them in my work outright, as shapes unto themselves. So, I set the idea aside.
Later on in the year, I bought Carla Sonheim's book, Drawing and Painting Imaginary Animals. The exercises were fun to do. In one of them she has you looking at sidewalks and asphalt to find "animals" in the cracks and crevices. I made up my own exercise using crumpled paper and rubber stamp ink. I found animals in the lines created when I rubbed the ink across the creased paper. Again though, I couldn't see how to use the little creatures that I drew.
All of the fiddling that I did with the shape creatures kind of lead to just some general doodling. I am an inveterate doodler from way back. (I used to doodle on my underwriting worksheets when I worked in a bank.) It's actually more noodling than pictures of anything specific. It does remind me of Keith Haring's work, though my scribbles are certainly a pale reflection of his ideas. I also accidentally found the work of Inez Johnston and rediscovered the work of Carla Accardi.
All of this is to say that I felt I had permission to turn my doodles and paper creatures into something. The outcome may not be as sophisticated or well done as the above artists but I felt it was important to at least try.
I like what came out, though it was a nerve wracking kind of process, not knowing what I was doing exactly. I started with my doodles and picked out a shape here and there. I drew the shape and refined it till I had what I wanted. I then transferred the shape to the painted paper and cut and glued. I used the same sets of questions that I always use regarding color relationship, value and chroma. I tried to pay attention to the repetition and variation among the colors and shapes and I employed the dots to bring in a kind of line movement. These are all things that I try to do with my regular collages. So, I feel my sensibilities are intact and it's only the shapes that are evolving. Things did get a little busy but that is OK. That happens to me sometimes and I don't exactly mind. The board is only 16" x 20" after all.
So now what? Do I try this again? I think so, yes. I enjoy the doodling and would like to continue with shapes that are more curvilinear rather than rectilinear (though a good mix of two is useful). I think I captured a kind of narrative though maybe not anything definite. I do love that the paper creatures are interacting though it isn't quite like one of my reference objects.