Monday, May 31, 2010

May Workshop

Yesterday I finished a three-day workshop (Saturday and Sunday of last weekend, Saturday of this weekend) and wound up with four new mixed-media collages in various stages of completion. The three square ones are about two feet across, which represents a step up in scale for me.

This first one is a study in browns and blue and gold. I started with a plywood panel I had gessoed and braced. The first thing I did was sketch in some basic lines and shaded areas using charcoal. That black and white area in the upper left is the visible remnant of that first move. Then I laid down the various torn-paper fragments, most of which I had prepared previously by impressing or painting loose geometrical figures on each one. I tried for a loose kind of linkage, which resulted in the largish triangular shape that dominates the left hand side of the image. There were a lot of hard lines on the lower right hand side, and I tried to soften them by rolling some thin white paints over that area, which created another sort of eco-zone when the over there. I tried to stay loose and not get too fussy. Now when I look at it it feels a little like an imaginative exercise in plate tectonics.

The second one is the least finished of the three big panels. I had it in mind that it was going to be multilayered from the start, and was mostly going to  be about experimenting with surface effects. This is where it is now. I don't know where it's going to end up. It's a little angry and unsettled right now; but maybe that's okay. I began it by using gel medium to glue down aluminum foil over the whole surface of the panel, and then tried various ways of applying color, including paint, paper, oil pastels, and regular pastels. The honeycomb pattern of white over red was George's idea: to use some lacy paper I had brought along as a kind of stencil: laying it down, painting over it, and then peeling it back. The idea for the thin red lines also came from George. It was toward the end of the day and he was challenging me to make a move that would bring it toward completion. He suggested I look back through my materials to find something that could make a difference. By way of demonstrating, he began picking up and discarding stuff that I had on the table. He picked up a flexible plastic ruler I had there, bent it back and forth, and then pressed the curved edge against the red area, more or less where the line is now, saying, "You could use this as a stamp." Kristen had some red paint mixed on her palette behind me, so I tried that and it really helped pull the piece together.

This is the workshop piece that I was most happy with. I've had trouble working with yellow so I decided to just start out by laying out a lot of yellow on the panel, and I placed three large torn-paper elements on top. Then during the week, knowing I was going to be working with warm colors, I gathered up all the brown and orange and red and yellow paper and cloth I could find, and stamped a lot of the pieces with geometrical forms. Yesterday I just started laying them down and trying to link them together, making this more or less massive landscapy from I wound up with. The last thing I did, taking advice from the group, was to cover up some of the remaining pure yellow areas and softening some of the rest of them with darker paint. I like the overall effect, especially the way the light seems to pushing in from behind.

This last one is a smaller panel I did at home with some of the leftover pieces of paper that were on my desk from preparing stuff for the previous panel. It did it fast, and I had a very clear sense of how I wanted the pieces to link up, moving from left to right. The two yellow pieces went on next to last, and the brown-and-black torn paper, as a sort of exclamation point. Nothing fancy, nothing very daring, but I like it. More than most of what I've done, it feels complete to me.

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