Friday, May 15, 2015

Seven Degrees of Separation, Part 5

Making my way by walking....

Working as I do is very much like walking in the dark.  I don’t see a clear path before me, so I find myself looking backward as I walk, checking with what it is I already know about this series:

·        I KNOW that I will be working on handmade canvases and that most of them will have windows
·        I KNOW that I want to explore the contrast of waxed paper and un-waxed paper. 
·        I KNOW that all of these canvases are to be vertical with a specific color theme (restrictions from the project).  

There are also some things that I think (and hope!) will be part of this series:
·        I THINK I will be manipulating paper in a sculptural way.
·        I THINK I will think outside the box with these windows.
·        I HOPE I find my way into cohesive meaning with this series.

This is the point in my process where I don my cloak and dagger in search of something to steal!

                         Connections 2, Wei Lin Yang            Roots Expo  Ersi Marina

In my Pinterest boards I came across two art works that somehow feel right for this first panel.  I print them off and set out to the studio.  I’ve decided that for this piece, I will cover the panel with layers of wax and oil and contrast the panel with some type of paper addition.  Both of my Pinterest steals will allow me to work in that way. 

Since this panel will need to match the Alizarin Orange color I had chosen last summer, I begin the work in cool colors.  I often use graphite to draw or write on the white paper and spritz water color or diluted inks before I apply wax.  

This is an image of the work early in the process.  I continue with marks in the wax, layers of oil, images with stencils and oil pastels until I build up a lovely surface.  

This close up of the nearly finished canvas has ten or twelve layers of wax.  I like that I can see, to varying degrees, the history of where I have been.

In a break from the encaustic process, I do some research on the artists who created the art that I have pinned on my image board in the studio. Sometimes, the research will provide clues to my next step. It surprised me that both of these artists were international and both of these images come from a body of work on “books.”  Wei Lin Yang is an award winning artist and educator from Taiwan. I discovered that the material she used in the image, titled, Connection 2, is actually fabric and that her lovely marks are created through intricate embroidery.  The second image is from Ersi Marina, an artist from Spain. Her work is lovely in its simplicity. She often using fiber arts processes with paper.  Neither artist has a website, so I am not certain which images on their sites like Flicker and Pinterest are actually their work…another good reason to have a personal web site, blog  or a page on a group site, like IEA, for your work.

I felt drawn to Wei Lin Yang’s work and asked myself, “What is the draw?”  I liked the idea of wire and a long vertical hanging piece, so those elements became my jumping off point for my own work.  I isolated a center strip, added my own calligraphic marks, wax and stitching. 

  Close up of the paper work and the paint chip which will define the color of the finished work.

At this point, I put away my inspiration images and become immersed in seeing where the art making process takes me.  I’m including images of  the finished first work in this series, but the title and even the direction of the series is not yet clear.

Front view: finished work                                                    Side view finished work

To see how the next art work built on this one in a surprising way, stay tuned!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Seven Degrees of Separation, Part 4

The Paralyzing Factor of “Preciousness”

I've often heard it said, that in order to find what is authentic, the artist has to let go of what is “precious.”  But what does that mean???   I think we each find our precious place by experience.  For some, it is the area of the canvas that was painted exactly PERFECT! ...meaning that this area of the painting will be protected at all costs.  When the rest of the “not working” parts of the painting have been reworked to death, I finally paint over the one good area and by magic, the rest of the painting begins to work.  I think my buyers would indeed be surprised at how many precious areas have been abandoned under layers of paint…or in my case, wax.

While I am familiar with that “protect and release” rhythm in my studio work, I have never actually had to wrestle with preciousness BEFORE painting.  In this series, that is exactly what happened. We were all sent these lovely, luscious cradled panels by Ampersand.  I was dying to begin work, but I couldn't figure out how to make them work.  How could I get dimension from this flat surface?  After doing some big time struggle, I realized that the canvases, themselves, became precious and had to go.  Once that realization dawned, I was free to set them aside an get to the task of creating my own canvases from handmade paper and foam…a process that I have described in my book, Wax and Paper Workshop: Techniques for Combining Encaustic Paint and Handmade Paper. 

  Step 1:  Design canvas and cut foam board
 Step 2: Wrap mulberry paper onto foam board.

Three of the completed canvases.

I began by making several canvases the same dimensions as the original Encausticbords.  I left openings or windows in order to provide opportunities for inserting three-dimensional materials later on.  For this series, I decided to use handmade mulberry paper that I purchase from Thailand through a US supplier.  I often make my own paper, especially if I want to distress it, but for this series, I didn’t want to spend the extra time and money renting paper studio space.  Besides, I was now “itching” to get working.

To see the art I “stole” and how it worked out, stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Seven Degrees of Separation, Part 3

It was something he said…

I’m an extrovert as anyone who knows me will tell you.  I’m not one of those who never has an unspoken word, I spend a lot of time by myself and am very comfortable with silence.  I am using the term “extrovert” in its classical definition of “someone who is energized by the external world.”  When I want to know something that I don’t yet know—in this case, a personal focus for the Connection series—I went into my extrovert mode.  I have this feeling that the answer is “out there” somewhere and I will recognize it when I see it.  I go mental shopping, so to speak.

Sometimes my shopping actually takes me somewhere.  I go to book stores and read titles to see if an image jogs my consciousness or to retail stores to see how things are displayed  if I am looking for bases for sculpture, for example.  My critique group is a great source of insights into my work.  Often a conversation with an artist friend will be just the trigger I need to have things come into focus for me.

For this series of work, it happened out of the blue!  I was spending a little time “art surfing,” when I came across the work of Austin Kleon , a thinker and a blogger living in nearby Austin, Texas.  He speaks about “stealing like an artist.”  In the art world it is a huge ‘NO, NO” to “copy” the work of other artists.  I find that my students often get stuck here.  They like the style of a particular artist and then try to work that way.  For example, I love the collage and abstract work of my friend and colleague, Lyn Belisle, but no matter how hard I try, I can’t achieve that flawless balance of image and meaning that she does. 

Austin Kleon had just given me permission to “steal”, so I wondered about using my stolen art as a springboard, but moving it seven degrees away.  How would the new art look?  Where could that springboard take me?  How could I honor and acknowledge the stolen art AND stay faithful to my own voice?  The theme of Seven Degrees of Separation/Connection now had personal meaning to me.

To see how these reflections lead me back to images, stay tuned. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Seven Degrees of Separation, Part 2

You have to begin somewhere!

Yes, you do.  After several weeks of “seeding” my unconscious (meaning  that I send out a giant HELP to the universe and then wait), I move this “project”—for want of a better word—to the forefront of my work list.  Sometimes I wake up with an internal sense of readiness.  Other times it is a looming deadline that moves me from inertia.  For the Connection series, as I have begun to call this body of work, it was the opportunity of having to sit at the outpatient clinic for several hours while my husband had a minor medical procedure. 

Starting with What I Want to Know…. We, artists, make art for many different reasons.  Some of us make art to have a say about our world…to lend a voice in making change happen.  Others want us to literally stop in our tracks and smell the flowers of beautifully painted canvases.  Some artist explore concepts and ideas.  Others explore materials and processes and in so doing make their own statement about life.  I think I fall into this latter category.  For me it is the thrill of exploring, pushing the materials, and discovery…and because I am fundamentally extroverted, I know what I need to say only after I have said it aloud in my work.  So, I always start a new body of work on the heels of the previous one.  In this instance it is another paragraph in my ongoing exploration of paper and wax.

In our show last October in Sydney, Australia, my portion of the gallery space was seven linear feet.  Furthermore, the work—along with two sculptures and teaching materials for a week of teaching—(plus some underwear, of course) had to travel in ONE SUITCASE.  I ended up working on paper in a way that allowed me to roll up the work and travel it in a yoga bag.  I came back to the states excited to explore more deeply the contrast of waxed elements on pristine areas of handmade paper.  I also wanted to continue my exploration with sculpture.

Going to images…I have always collected images from magazines, art announcement cards and any other images that somehow speak to me.  I began by cataloging the images in files  and then later moved to gluing them in large scrapbooks.  A few years ago, I discovered Pinterest!  What a revelation and support to my process!   Millions of images from artists by artists, at my fingertips and neatly organized onto “boards” with a click of the mouse.   Beginning this series, I began with my Pinterest boards that held my images of paper sculptures.  I look at these as a researcher might…not as individual images but as a body of images.  These are the artworks, color combinations, sculptures that catch my fancy or that intrigue me.  What I noticed on this trip to Pinterest is that I had collected a lot of images where artists manipulated paper in multiples by folding, wrapping, layering, sewing…  I also found myself intrigued by the cut paper images that allowed for peeking through to another surface. 

I found myself excited (always a good indicator that I am moving in the right direction) about the possibility of working with paper in a new way  and by making a lot of something.  So now I have something about the “how” I will approach the work.  Getting to what I want to say is often a lot harder for me.  This time it came in a most surprising way.  To see how, stay tuned!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Seven Degrees of Separation, Part 1

Facing the Terror of Beginning

How does one begin a new series?  That has always been a hard one for me.  With so many choices as to subject or image, I find myself paralyzed.  So, one of the first things I like to do is to give myself some parameters.  Sometimes the restrictions are inherent in the theme if I am wanting to apply to a juried show or am part of an invitational show.  I find the limits as actually freeing, and sometimes, the greatest restrictions have resulted in major breakthroughs in my work.

As a group of instructors for EncaustiCamp 2015, we do a collaborative show to raise money for scholarships.  In the past, we have actually collaborated by sending work in a round robin fashion so that I might start a piece with one direction in mind only to find it become something entirely different in the hands of several other artists working in hugely different styles.  This year we are collaborating by setting strict limits on size, colors and theme.  This and the following several blog entries is my attempt to take you along with me on the road to the creation of this body of work both in word and in image.

Series Restrictions
I guess the first and overarching parameter is medium.  Since this is for EncaustiCamp, we are asked to work in the hot wax process, normally referred to as Encaustic.  We will each also be limited to size and support.  Ampersand, who makes the luscious Encausticbord, has graciously created a special size cradled panel (7”x 21”) for this project and donated eight panels to each of the seven instructors…seven each to be used for the show and one as just-in-case!   Last July we all trapesed down to the paint department at Home Depot in Seattle and chose colors that appealed to us at the moment.  We agreed to use the color from the sample as an important element of our work, so much so, that it would be a full 70% of the color on the panel.  Since we have been instructing in a particular approach to wax (mine with paper and wax), it is hoped that we would somehow incorporate our signature materials in the work.  And lastly, we have a theme to explore…Seven Degrees of Separation…or, as we have begun to think of the title…Seven Degrees of Connection.

I've been staring at the boards and feeling uncomfortable, yet mildly excited, ever since they arrived at my doorstep.  The size is not really problematic for me, but I find myself stymied by the panel.  I usually create my own panels out of paper and don’t often work on Encaustibord.  As I look at my color samples, I find myself wondering what I was thinking when I chose all of those pastels! Yikes!  I get my color from oil and medium.  While I use pigmented wax when I teach encaustic painting, I don’t use it often in my own work.  More importantly, my work has become more and more sculptural.  I have no clue as to how I am going to create in a way that moves my own work forward.

To see how I began to approach this project and to discover my two favorite ways to get a handle on where I am going in a new series…stay tuned to the next blog!