Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Lifus Interruptus

After a week of mold remediation (bleh) and a week spent with wonderful friends on Puget Sound (wow!), I'm back in the studio. The unexpected shock of finding and fixing the mold, piled on top of the wonder of being in a new place with old friends has, naturally, had an influence on the work I'm doing.

These two pieces are painted on cradled wood panels, 24"x18", and use multiple mediums, including acrylic paint and pastels.  



The subtlety I'm always chasing might be within my grasp, after all. It also might be time for a trip to the art store for more panels. Until next week, and in whatever mood you find yourself, create!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Setbacks and Preseverence

By the title of this post, you might think I'm about to deliver a lecture on how to keep pushing forward even in the face of blah blah blah. Newp. I'm no one to lecture with authority on that subject; I only know that when badness happens, I cry in a corner for a little while and then pull my big girl panties back up.

The week started normally, with me finishing this 18" x 20" stencil that I had begun over the weekend.

I was pretty sure of my cleverness in constructing this very large and detailed stencil of my handwriting. I used a sheet of synthetic paper that had, up to this week, preformed beautifully for me. It's not prone to ripping, nor does it buckle when soaked in water or paint. But it cuts like butter, saving my hands, and my X-Acto blades, a lot of wear and tear.

 (gratudious shot of my Slicey Box Of #11 Death.)

Note the gaffer's tape around the edges to stabilize it? I thought of everything. It took three days. Three. Days.

And it gave good prints.

A few of them, anyway. But it was dry in the studio and even with the back door open to allow the famously thick SE Texas humidity inside, I was struggling to keep my paints wet enough to make the monoprints I was desperately trying to pull.

Working as I normally do, from page to page layering positive and negative images onto my papers, I laid a sheet of paper on top of the wet stencil, burnished briefly, and turned away to take my main print. I was moving fast. But not fast enough. The paper stuck like glue to the stencil and when I tried separating them, both paper and stencil tore into about 8 pieces.

I'm not going to lie to you, I was badly shaken by this. While I find cutting out Stacked Journaling to be a very Zen experience, a chance to calm my mind and focus intently on what I'm doing, it's also very taxing, physically and mentally. To have three days worth of such intense work wind up in the garbage after only a few uses crushed me. I left the studio on Monday afternoon, shaking and sick to my stomach.

But then there was Tuesday, staring me in the face. My plans for the rest of the week had been to use the stencil repeatedly on a series of 4-5 pieces of work, and then finally, perhaps place the stencil itself in one of the paintings as a collaged piece, as I did in these two completed works.

But no stencil, no plan. So I started again, this time with a piece of multi-purpose fabric that I painted on both sides with gesso (fabric stencils want to drink a lot of your paint up- don't let them, make sure to seal them well with gesso or paint, first!) and then cut to fit fully onto an 8.5" x 11" sheet of paper.

The beauty of creating a stencil from this fabric is that it doesn't shed or unravel. You can get clean cuts and tiny details, particularly if it's been fortified with a layer of paint. And it lasts forever, until you take your scissors to it, yourself. No amount of painting, rubbing, buffing, stretching, or pulling will tear this stencil.

It yielded some interesting results but nothing yet that has spoken to me of the direction it wants to move in to become a completed piece of art.

This process of layering paint by stenciling it onto some papers while ghost printing onto others, back and forth, over and over again creates an interesting byproduct. I use parchment paper as a surface protector, and it ends up taking on an astonishing amount of paint, allowing me yet another chance to take a print and a ghost print. When parchment paper gets wet, it wrinkles in a way that offers great background noise on any prints I take from it.

Eventually, after many uses, there's a nice layer of different colored paints built up on the parchment. Then it's time for the real fun... attempting to capture those layers in a usable fashion for later collages. This is when I use the parchment paper to make an acrylic skin.

Here on the left I have a piece of fabric that has been (badly) painted. On the right is a piece of parchment with several layers of paint built up on it. I'm going to try to transfer the paint from the parchment to the fabric.

First, I paint a thick layer of transparent fluid medium onto the painted part of the parchment. This will create the "skin". 

I could just let this dry and then hope to gently pull the whole thing off of the parchment as a single piece, or I can hedge my bets by placing the fabric directly on top of the parchment paper, weight the whole thing down so that it makes excellent contact and dries flat, and hope that time and the curing of the matte medium will achieve the transfer for me. If it works, I'll post photos next week. I have high hopes though, because I've gotten it to work before on these cool sheets of paper.

Finally this week (and thank you for sticking with me through that long and wordy post, if you did), I finished off this little series of 8" x 10" wood cradle boards.

And here's a studio cat.

Happy creating!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

How-To: Rescue Ugly Paper... (and other stuff)

Some years ago, I did a little tutorial about rescuing ugly fabric, so today I thought I'd revisit the subject, this time with paper.

You know the ugly paper I'm talking about: those old scrapbook pages you keep around despite the fact that they have little yellow duckies all over them and that you never scrapbooked a day in your life; the gelli'd pages that yielded shockingly bad color combinations on only the second or third pull; and the ones that, no matter how much time and effort you put into them, make you want to stuff them down deep into the bottom of the garbage can. Now, we all know that there's a way to rescue such relics from the bottom of the last drawer of art supplies you will ever open: gesso. Yep, paint that crap right away with a fresh, clean coat of white.

But what if there are parts of the paper you still really like, little bits where colors and texture met and became something glorious and fun? You can't paint over those and lose them forever! But taken as it is, you'll never use any part of the paper!

The answer is simple... preserve those bits and cover over everything else.

Here are a couple examples of some really ugly papers I've painted in the last few weeks that also have some fun bits I want to preserve.  

The first one is long and narrow, and has unfortunate, triangular splotches that don't really create a pleasing composition. This isn't art, and as it is, it doesn't even qualify as a usable background for collage. But it has some redeeming qualities- the color palette is pleasing, as is some of the color shifting. The texture in some areas is interesting, and the stamped text makes for a nice, small-scale noise.

I began rescuing it with some opaque titanium white paint sponged gently through a stencil. (The stencil is Stacked Journaling, cut from heavy paper.)

Some of that great color and texture still shines through, but the over all composition has suddenly improved. I could have left it like this and used it whole as a collage element. But I almost never know when to say, "When!" so I added another layer of blue, that falls off the edge of the paper.

And then a finally little layer with a darker blue.

Now I have what I consider to be a workable piece of ephemera.

In the next piece, I had a lot of obstacles to overcome.

A weak, muddied color palette and insipid make-making made this a prime candidate for more and more layers of paint.

Instead of using stencils with this one, though, I used a huge, carved printing block I made by burning into foam core with a wood-burning tool.

Again, wanting to have a clean palette to work with in subsequent layers, I started with white.

That gave me good coverage of small-scale patterning that I could paint over with brighter colors and know I wouldn't be muddying things further. But did I do that? Of course not. Instead, I made the ridiculous error of going right back into it with a dark violet.

It was an impulsive choice, and the paper paid the price: it was once again a dark, ugly mess. Panicking, I began layering lighter and lighter opaque colors on top, using the same printing block. As each layer of paint went on, but before it had a chance to fully cure, I used a damp baby wipe to dull and fade it, grunging it up until I was finally satisfied. I didn't get photos of the whole process because I get so caught up in the process of layering and wiping back that I forget to stop between each layer and take pictures! Please trust me when I tell you, though, that this really is the result of layering with the same printing plate, over and over, in different colors...

Even with so many new layers of paint on top of it, the quirky character of the original paper still peeks through in places.

The lesson here is simple: there isn't anything that can't be fixed with more paint.


While puttering through the studio this week, I came across an astonishing find. I'm not even sure how I managed to forget about this, or why it took me so long to see it, sitting right out there, staring me in the face, but I'm thrilled I did...

A huge stack of large sheets of creamy white handmade printer's paper.

I haven't measured it, but I'd have to guess that it's about 30" long by 20" wide.

(lovely, deckled edge)

And there's so much of it, there must be 50 sheets!!

When in the world did I purchase this treasure trove? It must have cost a small fortune, and yet I forgot all about it?? Artistic dementia, I suppose.

Finally today, these pieces, offered with little explanation because I don't know where this idea is heading, yet. They are all three 8"x10" wooden cradle board, acrylic paint on synthetic paper (scroll about halfway down this link to see Texoprint paper), masked Stacked Journaling.



Until next time, create over ugly (what do you have to lose?)

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Interesting Results

Once again, I feel like I'm making real progress in the studio this week. I've been using some fairly cheap, 9"x14" wooden panels as practice panels, combining different techniques and mediums while keeping with the same theme. I think I'm having some success, and the process, while detailed and time-consuming, is proving to be a lot of fun.

I start, as always, with Stacked Journaling, this time in the form of heavy, thick paint squeezed onto a panel using of a bottle with a narrow tip. I then apply layers of pastels, paints, and mediums until I'm satisfied with the panel.

(9"x12" wood panel, acrylic paint, pastels)


I like the way the pigments, sometimes bushed on, sometimes burnished, sometimes sponged, settle into the negative spaces of my hand writing. The pigments show their layers, like small excavations into their own past, and blend with and resist one another in serendipitous ways. 

I want to capitalize on those moments, so I use highly contrasting colors laid on top of one another in a rough fashion and rarely go back in to correct "flaws".

I like the grunge aspect of these pieces, and push myself to go back over layers with unexpected color combinations, treating none of the layers as precious. 

With some of the panels, like the two above, I start with full coverage of Journaling across the whole substrate and then play with the resulting negative space. With others, I use the Journaling sparingly across the panel, giving me even more negative space to emphasize. 

In the panel below, I also used a tiny bit of metallic gold to emphasize the positive aspect of the Journaling.


In the panel below, I experimented with layering pigments and then selectively removing them nearly back to the original white of the panel + Stacked Journaling. This had the interesting effect of making the clusters of text almost glow in comparison to their surroundings.

Finally, and just for fun, a little collage of painted papers I put together. 

(8.5"x17", acrylic on paper, collage)

I find collaging rewarding and relaxing, and when my eyes are tired, or my brain too full of SJ, I dig through my stash of torn and cut up papers and start slapping them together. It's an easy, risk-free activity that I highly recommend (and who among us doesn't have stacks and stacks and stacks of painted, stamped, gelli'd, splattered papers?)
Until next time, collage with fun!