What You Can Do Right Now
painted paper collage on matboard
16" x 20"
August was a bit of a washout for me, art wise. My problems with being able to focus have been ongoing but that actually had nothing to do with a failed piece. And actually, the piece itself wasn't too bad. It was the materials that turned out to be the problem.
I would have to guess that nearly every creative has an affinity for the materials that they create with. They use the tools that they are most comfortable with and the ones that get results. I think this is particularly true if you are a tactile sort of person like I am. It makes a huge difference to me how the paint feels as I apply it to the paper, how thick the paper is and how smooth the glue is to apply to the paper. I literally feel all of those things and more as I am working. And while there are certainly a lot of variables to contend with, probably the most important thing for me is the substrate. I could write a book about this one thing!
Over the years I have tried many substrates (the material upon which all of my shapes are glued). I have used canvas and all manner of papers in addition to real and manufactured woods. I have worked with fabrics (on other projects) as well as acetate and various plastic surfaces. It took me quite a bit of trial and error to arrive at the matboard that I currently use. The matboard isn't too thick but it isn't too thin. It gets a coat of gesso on both sides followed by white acrylic paint. The paint ensures that my shapes, once glued, can slide around and be put into just the right position. And if I make a mistake and need to remove a shape once the glue dries, I can do that too. And as I work, there is generally minimal to no warping of the board. It stays taped and stapled down with no issue. Until lately.
In August, and actually for the last couple of months, my boards have started warping as I am working. The last piece (I am not showing it) warped so badly that I couldn't finish. That's what I mean by being sensitive to the substrate in a tactile way. I couldn't stand to touch it after awhile because of that warping. I wasn't sure what I was going to do.
For the piece above, I was able to finish it obviously. The solution to the warping is twofold. First, I am no longer taping and stapling the board to a piece of wood to work on it. (The wood provides a flat surface to push against which helps me to get the shape on the matboard nice and flat with no wrinkles.) Secondly, I am now clipping the matboard to the piece of wood instead. I am using binder or bulldog clips, shown here. I am also trying a third thing which is new to me. I will be sealing the matboard with a kind of varnish which will hopefully provide a bit of waterproofing. I We will see how that goes.
In any event, that is the saga of the materials. I wanted to comment too on the above piece. I used some pages from two very vintage Cub Scout handbooks that I have. In looking through the books I began to see the contents and the idea of the Boy Scouts with 2021 eyes. I very much approve of some of the ideals: be kind to your neighbors, do things for the betterment of your community, and respect one another. Be a good citizen. I also saw a bunch of horrific stereotypes and cultural appropriations with regard to Native Americans and their way of life. Talk about an organization fraught with contradictions and real problems (I am looking at you too, 4H!). I haven't a clue, admittedly, as to how these groups work today. I can only hope that things have improved. I am sure they have. I just thought that what I was looking at really spoke to the sheer contrariness and complexity of human thought and behavior. Anyway. I picked out what I thought was useful and used that. What can you do right now? How can you make things better at this very moment? Those are timeless questions that know no cultural or gender boundaries. No one is excluded or ineligible to participate. We all matter and can all contribute.
Thank you for reading and let me know if you have comments.