Saturday, February 28, 2009

Why are you doing collage? What about painting?

I hope to answer questions posed by several of my viewers - family to be specific - about the reasons behind my apparent abandonment of watercolor painting. Here goes - I began my art journey 3 years ago believing that I would always be a [self-proclaimed] watercolor snob. I found out quickly that watercolor is the most challenging and unforgiving medium in the art world. Never mind... I've always liked a challenge so I dove in with characteristic belligerence to learn as much as I could.

I felt ready for a new adventure last spring when my instructor, Sharon Williams, offered a mixed media class for the first time. We began last October. I expected to be challenged weekly by new and exciting techniques in WHATEVER experimental artistic pursuits Sharon deemed fitting. Wow! I discovered a whole new world out there with absolutely no limits on creativity and, get this, the ability to change my mind late in the creative process! That was something I definitely did not have when painting strictly with watercolor. Okay, okay... yes, you can lift and wash it [almost] all away even but it's just not the same. I still love watercolor. There is really nothing quite so beautiful as a well executed watercolor painting. But, I find my artistic bent bending... towards mixed media and most recently, collage. Will I change my mind again? Probably. I do certainly expect that I will continue to enjoy watercolor painting.

I've found a few resources for those of you that are wondering what on earth could be learned about collage that we didn't cover in grade 2 [and you know who you are, lol]. In addition to learning the simple process of cutting and pasting stuff onto a support, "painting" a collage provides a way to put the principles and elements of design into practice. Somehow working in a new way can unblock and/or stir up our creativity. It's fun too. For fun stuff, check out Claudine Hellmuth's collage art here.

"Collage has universal appeal to artists because it lends itself to constant and thorough search and experimentation. New and different ways to combine textures, colors and found object elements can, more than any other art form, be innovative. The versatility and flexibility of collage offers infinite possibilities for the arrangement of elements, unusual images, and imagined meanings not associated with works on canvas or other art forms." ARTTalk

Anne Bagby does amazing collage work and you can view a slideshow of her beautiful work by clicking here.

Ann Baldwin's approach to collage is explained very briefly in this introduction to her DVD. I really like the way Ann works and, if you read my blog regularly, you'll remember reviewed this DVD February 4th.

Until next time... cheers!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Figures - so enjoyable

I continue to be surprised at how energizing it is to draw from a live model. Our class did so again today and this image is one of the 15 minute drawings that I did towards the end. I had a challenging but interesting angle and I think it turned out reasonable well. Although I could have puttered an extra 10 minutes. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Collage 180 degrees...

The collage start that I posted yesterday bears little resemblance to this image. However, if you take yesterday's image and turn it upside down you should be able to see some of the "bones" still intact. [Flipped image is at the bottom of this post]
I worked off and on for a few hours this afternoon battling the strong straight lines that I had in the original composition. Even more challenging was the extremely large red shape. I finally just ripped it off and started again with a variety of dark papers in mid-value analogous blues and mauves. After a while I liked most of the big shapes but I was still quite concerned about the very dark "lightening bolt" shape. As I turned it around and thought about it, I could see mountains and a road! Finally this project was talking to me... (and yes, I know that sounds crazy. Whatever!) After that I puttered a bit longer strengthening what I saw and adding a bit of structure to it. So far, so good... I expect the class will have some helpful critique for me tomorrow. Bring it on!
Have a great week everybody!

Yesterday's image flipped upside down for your reference.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Collage again

"If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn't seem so wonderful at all" Michelangelo

I admit here and now that I am struggling to put together the skills necessary to paint, as you can see I am in very good company. Perhaps the "struggle" is not really the right word. Challenged is better - and I do love a good challenge!
I began another collage this week and here is it's beginning. The collage unit is the first exposure I've had to acrylic painting. As a result, I've been working hard to keep my concentration on collage and composition. I've shown the value pattern I'm working from in the top left. I have a good deal left to do on this collage. Lots of painting and puttering and dealing with those very straight lines in the top left. More tomorrow. Enjoy your Sunday!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Figure unit

In today's art class we began a 4 week figure unit. I really enjoyed sketching today - we have such a great group of artists... some of the sketches were amazing. Sharon led us through some warm up exercises. First, we had the model do several very short poses so we could capture general body position - line angles for shoulders, hips, arms, legs, next did slightly longer poses and added hands/feet in simple mitt/sock shapes and the head placed at the proper angle. It's surprising how expressive these simple drawings can be. The pace is quick though, so we soon moved on to blocking in the chest and abdomen, then reviewed proportions for arms, legs, feet... We continued on adding more detail with each new sketch. At the end of the class we did a couple of 10 minute line drawings. Time really flies in these classes!
I've included one of my drawing here to show you the type of drawings we did. This sketch is about 24"X36" but even with that much paper I managed to run off the top with her head and off the bottom with her feet - clearly something I need to work on :o) If you'd like to see a bit more information on the process of figure drawing click here. Cheers!
P.S. Sharon posted some amazing photos of cedar waxwings on her blog. Click here to see them.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Mountain Lake (22"x15") acrylic

The Canadian Rockies just a few miles to the west of where I live has hundreds of beautiful winter views like this. I've managed to capture the cold feeling from the late afternoon sun on the ice and mountain. However, I'm struggling a bit with these foreground trees. Looking at them this evening I realize the snags and branches are simply too dark - possibly another case of the acrylic paint drying a bit darker. I'm excited about moving on to still life and figures for a while. Cheers!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Work in Progress...

This is my first painting attempt using fluid acrylics from the outset. I love how they flow almost like watercolors. However, they dry very quickly so I was behind the eight ball as far as edge control goes on this larger format (22x15 inches). Stay tuned as I'm definitely not done with this one... Happy Valentines Day!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Collage work...

I realize I'm posting a lot of work in progress these days - that seems to be the journey I'm on right now. Completing projects is really not the goal. When working with watercolor I "finished" paintings. Now I realize that was likely due to the simple fact watercolor is immediate and relatively unforgiving. It is meant to be planned carefully and executed quickly... not worked over and over. HOWEVER, that is not the case with collage. It's just a matter of stopping when you like it. At this point I just continue to build and respond to what is happening on the support.
I continued to putter at this collage during class yesterday and again today. I'm excited about the direction (figures -yikes!) and the subject. Thanks to all my classmates and Sharon for comments and suggestions made during the critique we did yesterday (color dominance was a big issue)! It made me step back and think about what I am trying to say with the painting. I did have some identified figures a couple of days ago but the concept needed firming up... and I'm pretty happy with the changes I've made so far.
This work speaks to me about the stuff of life. Embracing life, loss, hope, blessings, the future, sharing, caring... before I start writing poetry I'll sign off. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Abstraction with Collage

Here's a photo of the current state of a piece I am working on. I'm kind of going on a "feed the world" theme here. I saw the outline of a farmer's head and then an african person... and it puttered along with that theme up to this point. Sometimes these things change over a long period of time and I'm sure this will be no exception. Enjoy!

Friday, February 6, 2009

sketching and doodling

I've been to Banff and come home inspired once again! My husband had what turned out to be day surgery Thursday in Banff Mineral Springs Hospital. So I brought along my sketch book and puttered a bit between pampering him. His room looked out onto a little stand of trees with a mountain in the distance. I did some sketching of the trees and snow shadow shapes, etc. It was beautiful and restful there. Today I continued with a value study based [roughly] on one of my thumbnails.
Next stop - color studies of the same subject...

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

DVD Review - Ann Baldwin's "Telling Stories with Collage and Paint"

Our Monday class is in the middle of a collage unit so viewing Ann Baldwin’s “Telling Stories with Collage and Paint” was timely and inspirational for me. It was also a great art activity for a day when staying vertical was not an option. I love this about art - even when I have to rest my achey back I can still have fun!
Back to the DVD... Ann is really a mixed media painter as opposed to a straight collage artist, so this live workshop video was also a good source of information about working with acrylic paints & mediums. She has a fun and fearlessly loose style based on her belief that virtually anything that happens in the painting that she doesn’t like can be changed. This feels quite freeing for me after working hard to protect the whites and avoid over painting in watercolor.
During the course of the nearly 2 hour workshop, Ann completes a demo painting. She begins with collage, then glazes, textures, re-glazes, and repeats until she is satisfied with the result. Ann shares her thought process as she works through the demo. I found her responses to what she liked and didn’t like, why she put elements in a particular spot and why she abandoned the original theme to follow another most fascinating.
Here are a few specifics that I found helpful:
· Discussion of how to avoid copyright issues – in particular a link to the Copyright Information Center at Cornell University.
· Ann spends some time on the computer upgrading smaller lower quality images to ensure high enough quality for her larger format pieces. She talks about alternatives for this work including incrementally photocopying, printing digitally, etc.
· Golden products are used throughout and since I haven’t worked with many of these products, I found her descriptions of how to work with them useful.
· Nitrile gloves – Ann uses them all the time because many of the pigments she uses are toxic. Also, she finds they give her the freedom to manage all the mucking about in the paints that she likes to do.
· The slowing down stage – I’ve never heard it called this but it was nice to know that others have to force themselves to slow down and even shelve a piece for hours/days while their brain catches up. This happens in every painting I do. It can take anywhere from a few minutes onward to figure out the next move – lots of paintings I’ve started are still stuck and I’m beginning to believe that this is normal. It’s a nice feeling to have the “FINISH IT” pressure off.
· Ann critiques the workshop students’ work and, although I always find these helpful, I’m used to a more direct approach to pointing out problems. Over the past 3 years I’ve benefited most from hearing what could have been done to avoid, or what could be done to correct, etc PROBLEMS in my works as well as in the work of other students. Of course the good must be praised and Ann does a lovely job of that. Possibly the critiques that I would have found most helpful were simply edited out...

I certainly enjoyed this DVD and I’m looking forward to putting the inspiration to good use. As a result of this DVD, I have added half a dozen items to my art “wish list”... Good thing my birthday is coming up ;) Cheers!