I was kind of stalled on starting another piece. In my studio I have shelves where I can view my current work. I kept looking at my most recent pieces which use the organic shapes to form a kind of "living organism." I have really enjoyed these pieces but was secretly wondering where I was going with them. Was I going to keep going on in this way? How many more will I do? I am not bored but where am I headed?
Thinking and reflection are good tools for anyone to cultivate but especially creative types. It's good to know what you like and why you like it. If you can name these things and talk or write about them then they provide a pathway forward when you are stuck. (I am skeptical of other creatives that can't or won't talk or write about their work. It makes me wonder.) Anyway, I realized that I was kind of missing what I think of as a more 'narrative" style piece. Now, I am not good at literal narrative work nor am I good at absolute abstraction (think Franz Kline and his action paintings.) My ideas fall somewhere in the middle and mostly reflect things that I have read about or seen. Somehow those things mix around in my head and come out in shapes. It's very personal for me but I think enjoyable for the viewer who can put their own interpretation into the piece. Everybody gets their views validated if that makes sense.
The above pic shows the sketch that I did to get started. I didn't have anything in mind but simply started pulling out leftover shapes from my box. I started cutting them and arranging them until I had a loose composition. I felt that there was something viable and decided to just proceed. You know, what the hell right? As I worked on the piece, what emerged for me was a kind of a whale image and a person that I thought was inside. Well, I thought of Jonah and the whale from the bible. Everything else flowed from that: the ship that Jonah escapes on, the leaves from the tree that God sends to shade Jonah's body, and some hands and wind that are sort of tossing the boat about. (Listen, I had to look up the story in the bible OK? I didn't know any of it either.) Because I am me though I also added other stuff: a nuclear reactor/beaker shape that holds some bacteria, some amoebas/mitochondrial shapes at the bottom, and some irregular cell shapes at the top. Oh, and there is a worm/serpent lurking in those leaves. As I said above, it's all the stuff that I have been thinking about. I like that I blended science and religion. It makes me chuckle a bit. I think they go hand in hand very nicely:)
Tell me what else you see. I'd like to know.
16" x 20"
Found materials collage on matboard
What the hell are found materials? Glad you asked! I did a little something different for this piece and used the pages of some magazines for my collage material. I had some initial misgivings but I am glad that I pushed on with the idea. I like the results.
There were a couple of problems right off the bad. One, magazine pages are very thin. They tend to tear easily when cut and the cuts made with the scissors aren't really clean. The scissors need a little resistance to make smooth cuts (curves). Good quality construction paper is the perfect weight. Watercolor paper is too thick really and magazine pages are too flimsy. Sigh.
I eventually solved the problem of having just the right thickness by adhering the magazine pages to construction paper. That seems easy enough right? Not! The pages kept buckling and drying with wrinkles and air bubbles. I tried different combinations of various glues using both wet and dry paper. Believe me, if there was a particular scenario, I tried it! I finally hit on the idea of using a spray adhesive (Elmer's). This allowed both the magazine page and the construction paper to dry together at the same rate. There was minimal wrinkling once I smoothed things out with a stiff piece of plastic and let everything dry. I then went back in and applied a varnish to protect the paper from water and light. There was quite a bit of wrinkling too at this point but things eventually dried flat. The magazine pages cut nicely and I am happy overall with the way things look.
The second problem is really more aesthetic I guess. Not many of us are going to rise to the level of Robert Rauschenberg or Romare Bearden, both of whose work I have seen in person. There is something about how "neat" the finished pieces look. When other people use different collage materials (such as magazine or newspapers or printed items) it looks great. Somehow when I do it, I feel it doesn't. So, I wanted to be careful with using collage materials that I didn't paint myself. What I learned (again) isn't so much that it is the material that makes things look amateurish and sloppy but how those materials are used. Maybe I am not explaining it well but I want something pretty, something lively, and something that looks "finished" and "professional." Anyway.
I titled this one "Nexus" because I had this idea of connectedness as I was working. Each of the shapes used relates (hopefully) to the other shapes, either through color relationship, or value contrast or similarity, or line direction. Each piece is great by itself but ultimately all the pieces have to work together. They have to like one another and be friendly! I also think that many of the shapes look like creatures in some way. It's my belief that all living (and dead) things are connected on some level, be that evolution or heredity or something else. So, that connectedness and subsequent intersection is what I was thinking of as I placed each shape.
OK, if you made it this far, thank you. Drop me an email and let me know what you think.