Tag Archives: collage

Timeout for Art: Future Art

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Robert Genn was a prolific artist and mentor to thousands through his twice weekly “Painter’s Keys” newsletter. His daughter, Sara, a wonderful artist in her own right, has continued putting out the newsletter, since Robert’s death. She takes turns, offering her own insights and advice one day, publishing one of her father’s essays the next. Readers – artists working in locations all over the world and in all different media – discuss, in comments, the topic at hand. I value the connection. It has been a way for me, from this remote location, to get a sense of what is going on elsewhere, in the world of art.

Over the years, Genn gave advice on starting and finishing work, approaching galleries and pricing. One suggestion that has stayed with me is that one shouldn’t talk too long or too much about work that is still in the embryonic stages. Ideas need to be guarded and treated tenderly. A lack of enthusiasm in a response to sharing or – worse – a negative viewpoint can destroy a vision before it has a chance. Sometimes just the act of talking about an idea takes the energy away from it. With that in mind, I am cautious, usually, about talking about future work.

I have plans, though. In this last, dry year, with little time for making art, my mind has still been working. I have several large collage paintings in various stages of completion. The imagery still holds excitement and validity for me; I plan to finish them. Likewise, I have several collagraphs that have been waiting for final touches. I have a coupe large drawings to finish, and a few dozen clay bowls to fire. That would complete the work that is underway.

As for new work, I’ve been intrigued by encaustic painting since I studied the work of Jasper Johns. I have wanted to try it for years. It is a method that fits nicely with the collage/paint/aged surface way that I work. This year, I read three technical books on the encaustic process. I purchased multiple support boards in two sizes, tools, equipment and materials. In the next year, I will do some encaustic painting. In fact, with the idea that I have to leave room for learning, experimentation and mistakes, I plan to do a lot of work in encaustic next year.

There are more things that interest me, ideas I’d like to flesh out and materials I’d like to try…but that’s enough for now.

Timeout for Art: Collage

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I like emptying my pockets at the end of the day. I will find there bits of paper, scraps of packaging and tag-ends of envelopes: things that caught my interest, in the moment, for color, shape or texture. I am like a crow, attracted to sparkle and brights.

I like going through the trays and shallow bowls that hold these scraps. I enjoy moving them around on a painted surface until the shapes and colors start communicating with each other. I keep the conversation going: I add other shapes and elements, maybe a bit of rubbed color or a stamped or stenciled image, perhaps a wash of translucent watercolor.

Eventually, everything transcends its humble beginnings, becoming better than any of the elements that went into it.

That’s what i like about collage.

Timeout for Art: Studio Time

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Though I’ve stuck to my commitment of doing a sketch a day, the results are less than stellar. One night, in pajamas and in bed with my sketch pad and Miss Rosa Parks, I decided to use the little dog as subject matter. Rosa doesn’t sit well for photographs and, it turns out, she’s not much of an artist’s model, either. I had only her little nostrils drawn when she moved away. I started again, and had the perfect outline of one ear when she moved again. I got one line tracing her back from shoulders to tail when she flopped on her side. I set it aside and went to sleep. The next day, I used the same page for a sketch of my dinner napkin. On other days, it was my water glass, an edge of blanket or the corner of a room. Nothing much, and nothing finished.

I did manage a few hours in my studio this week. I now have twenty-eight small collage-paintings underway. I’ve been working on them in groups of four; each set has similarities in color and collage elements. My goal is that, when finished, each painting would stand on its own, but that they would also look good all displayed together. I don’t want it to look like a bunch of “sets of four,” but like a cohesive group of twenty-eight or maybe a hundred, if I get that far.

To pull them together, I mixed them up and arranged them on the floor. Then I chose a procedure, a color, and other factors to merge the disparate pieces. First, I used the wrong end of a paint brush to make tiny dots in a meandering line with copper-colored iridescent paint. Forty dots, with the line starting on one piece and finishing on the next. Not every painting got this treatment, but maybe six pairs did. Then I rearranged the paintings. Next, a tiny brush to make little teardrop shapes in large arcs of deep blue. Again, the pattern went from one piece to the next. Then rearrange. I continued this way through several procedures, sometimes a bold dotted line in a subtle color, other times a bright color with a more timid mark.

I want the paintings to share characteristics, but not to shout it. Even if these little details go unnoticed, they should serve to make the pieces  relate to each other when displayed together. I have a long way to go before these are finished…but I like the way they’re coming along.

Timeout for Art: Using Up

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I have always loved to make something out of nothing.

Give me twelve skeins of new yarn, all from the same dye lot, and I am uninspired. A bag of bits and balls of mismatched yarn, though, and I’ll  create patterns for gnomish hats or gypsy slippers, and crochet all night. It’s the same with fabric, papers or any other raw materials. I’m drawn to collage for the chance to create from things that are trash, but beautiful for the character and patina provided by their history.

In my studio right now, I have one hundred and eighty squares cut from painted papers and patterned with the little shapes that are cut from packages, so that the package can hang on a hook. I’ll assemble the squares in a grid formation on a large board, then finish the piece with a series of glazes. It’s working title is “Going Nowhere.” A companion piece is made up of horizontal ribbons of painted papers topped with little cutout triangles. Like arrows pointing, they zip to the left in one row, and rush to the right in the next. I named that one “Fast.”

In shadow boxes, I am assembling row upon row of little rectangles of handmade paper of varying thickness. I like the subtle shadow play and color changes.

My plan this winter is to use stuff up though, to make room for new work and new ideas. It seems that everything I do creates more, not less.

For instance, I have several small paintings underway. One technique I use quite a bit is to apply paint to the canvas, lay a sheet of paper over it and rub, then lay that paper onto another canvas to deposit the excess paint on it. Though I use the same sheets of paper over and over, it still generates quite a stack of painted papers. To use them up, I’ve been contemplating some kind of weaving. I imagine a large, closed basket form, made of painted papers and old drawings. Yesterday I did a little internet search of woven papers. It turns out, there’s quite a movement out there, for making baskets and other items out of paper. There are hundreds of videos on it!

My first thought was one of discouragement: Are there no original ideas yet to discover? Still, I was intrigued. Papers are rolled into tubes, which can then be woven into bowls or boxes or baskets. “Make about a million, to start,” was the suggestion of one crafter. Well, I did have a big mound of painted papers. Maybe, if I made a bunch of tubes, an idea would present itself as to how to proceed.

I made about fifty. They are pretty simple, and quite pretty, I think. Where to go from here, though, I don’t know. Maybe if I’d made a million of them…

Taking Time

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When there is no time for art, but my spirit needs art, there are ways.

When there is no time for art, I can pull out my sketchbook where I have divided each page into small squares. With my fine point marker, I can fill in one little square…or two, if the opportunity presents itself. The squares are so tiny, no need to think of perspective or balance or composition…just draw.

When there is no time for art, I can cut papers for collage. I am collecting pieces for a collage painting. Quilt-like, it will be made up of squares – cut from old paintings, drawings and collages, each with a triangle of another paper glued on in. I have templates for each shape in sturdy board. I cut each square and triangle by hand. The base I have planned for this work is 2′ x 4′. I estimate that I need about a thousand small pieces. It is mindless activity, yet there is comfort in it. Some small pieces are amazingly beautiful…far better than the large work they were taken from. The thought process will come later, in assembly. For now…just cut out shapes.

When there is no time for art, I can pull out black and white images – collagraphs, run once through the press – and add color. I don’t do editions, so my color choices are fresh and intuitive each time. The lines are already there, I’m just coloring in. Later – when there is more time – when the plate is re-inked and run through the press over the painted image, colors will be highlighted, shapes will be accentuated and small flaws in the paint surface will disappear. Now, when time is short…just paint.

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Studio Time

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Now that the holidays are over and my work schedule has settled back into a normal pattern, I’ve been able to get into my studio on a more regular basis. It always takes me a while to get back into the routine.

The first step is just showing up. That’s also the hardest thing. Even though my studio space is right here in my house, there are obstacles.

My job, with driving time, keeps me away from home for up to ten hours a day, five days a week. My other job – after school art classes for kindergarten through eighth graders – occupies much of the sixth day, with planning and preparation. The dogs – and I – need a daily walk; I try to fit in a bit of other exercise as well. I live alone, so any house-cleaning, laundry, home-maintenance, yard work or gardening that gets done falls into my schedule, too. I cook for myself most days. There is, then, the computer, with all of the distractions it offers; books in progress and magazines waiting to be read; there are people I should call, and letters I should write. There are issues of personal upkeep, and – though I long ago wrote off things like manicures and dying my hair  – the older I get the longer it seems to take, just to maintain some standard of personal hygiene and good grooming! So, there are plenty of excuses for not working in the studio!

Once I’ve re-committed myself to art-making, it’s a matter of letting myself play, and letting myself fail. Success never comes right away, no matter how many good ideas were floating around in my head before I got there. It’s hardest to stick it out through the first few days, the crude attempts at merging colors and shapes. That’s when the “inner critic” is strongest, too. After awhile, though, things start to fall into place. One idea leads to another and then another. Patterns start to emerge. That’s when I get excited about getting up the stairs into the studio!

This little collage is one of several I am putting finishing touches on. I put one together quickly each day, like a gesture drawing. They incorporate bits and scraps I’ve pocketed or saved, and generally reflect my mood. It takes several more sessions to finish them, adding watercolor washes and other colors as needed, to balance the design.

I like the small, square size. Framed, they measure 14×14 inches. I’d like to display them in rows, like dates on a calendar if – instead of numbers – we used our wildest thoughts and feelings to mark our days.