Sunday, January 10, 2010

Mixed Media And A New Studio

The garage studio remodel is complete and I now have the wonderful, brightly-lit wet/dry studio I've always longed for.

This is what I started with:


It's always been a wonderfully workable space that I've filled with my art supplies and tools, really my favorite room in the house, but even so, it had serious problems. For starters, it was a typical garage- poorly lit with just two naked bulbs overhead, no insulation to speak of, and prone to catching dust, dirt and leaves blown in from outside. The uninsulated garage door had large gaps down each side between the wall and the door, so all the cold air in winter, all the heat and humidity in summer, and all the bugs in the universe had a standing, open invitation into my work space. It made creating art in there challenging, but I still I did it for many years.

Now those problems are history. This is the space today:

It may not look that different, but trust me, it really is.

Let's start at the top and move down... the bare bulbs in the ceiling are gone, replaced with three sets of track lighting, each with four halogen bulbs. Two of the tracks light my work table and the walls, and one set is aimed at what will become the design wall. (That part of the job hasn't been finished yet, I still need to get the supplies for it, but it will measure about nine feet across.)

(And speaking of my worktable, I added a carpet pad to the top to make it easier to stamp, screen print and DSP. No more carting small padded surfaces from the painting studio where they live, to the garage studio and back again.)

I also tasked the electricians with giving me wiring that provides more current in the hopes of later adding a mini-fridge to store my mixed dyes. They installed four new plugs with all that wiring, two for me and two for my husband.

The plumbers came in and added a desperately-needed, deep, 2-sink laundry tub.

On the wall above it, you can see the new air conditioner/heating unit. This is a relatively new technology that allows you to heat and cool up to 4 rooms with ductless, wall-mounted units. Of course, it needs professional wiring and plumbing, and the compressor unit, which sits outside, is sizable but still smaller than whole-house units.

None of these improvements would have made much difference, though, if I hadn't insulated the space, too. I had a heavy, insulated garage door installed (with a door opener, for hubby) and had insulation blown in the attic space above the garage.As an added bonus, the garage door has four small windows, so for the first time ever, I have natural light in there during the day.

It feels like a whole new room added to the house, although my husband's side still contains typical garage items- tools, household chemicals, lawn gear, etc. It will still serve all the functions it did before, but in a climate-controlled, well lit space that is a joy to be in.

To celebrate, I did a little mixed-media art, something I don't spend much time doing anymore. An article in the newest Cloth, Paper, Scissors offered something I didn't think I'd ever find again- a new way to play with paper. After spending years and years making, altering, painting and destroying paper, I thought I'd seen it all, but I was wrong.

3 examples of papers made with CitraSolv

In "Creative Spirits- Transforming papers To Make A Unique Painting Surface" (pages 18-20), artist Cathy Taylor shows us how to use a de-greasing product called CitraSolv Concentrate to "melt" the ink of a National Geographic magazine in order to create amazing papers for use in mix-media art.

The process is simple- paint each page with CitraSolv, squish it around a little and after about 20 or 30 minutes, peel the pages out and lay them aside to dry. Here are some of the pages I did after removing them from the magazine.

So that you all can learn from my mistakes, I'll tell you a couple of things the article didn't mention. For one, evidently this is the only product that will achieve this particular effect. I didn't have any CitraSolv and couldn't find it in the two grocery stores I checked, nor in either Lowes or Target. I thought that one citric de-greaser is probably about the same as another, so I tried it with Goo-Gone. Didn't work. I just wound up with a soaked, unhappy-looking mess.

Fine, I thought, this is such a unique technique to me that I'm motivated to make it work. Off to the web I went in search of CitraSolv. I bought some, anxiously awaited its arrival and then dove on it when it showed up. Another sopping wet National Geographic magazine later, I realized that I had NOT bought the product called "Concentrate", I'd purchased some other CitraSolv cleaner.

I really wasn't happy with myself, but I gave it one more shot, bought the correct product and used it. And yeah, it really works! The Concentrate melts the inks, which, when you peel apart the pages to dry, slides around the paper, mixing and making great patterns. Some of the lettering can still faintly be seen, and ghostly remainders of the original images can also show up. It makes an entire magazine's worth gorgeous of paper.

Which brings me to my next caution: if you do this, be sure to have LOTS of flat surfaces to dry your sheets of paper on. If the papers touch one another, the wet inks will interact with each other. That can form great edges and such, but for the most part, you'll want to dry them separated, and a typical NatGeo magazine has about a hundred pages in it. 

Another interesting tidbit that I found after doing some research into the subject is that National Geographic coats their paper first with metallic gold paint before printing on it. This helps to give their photos that iconic glowing, high-quality look. But it also means that when you melt the ink off, the metallic becomes more obvious, so all the pages now have a lovely sheen.

I decided to use some of the papers immediately in a collage.
CS No. 1, 1.2010, 16" x 18"


I used a masonite scrap left over from a shelving unit we built several years ago as the substrate. I didn't prime it all. I fused Wonder Under to the backs of the papers and then fused them right to the board. I may play with it a little later on with paint or somesuch- or maybe I won't, just not sure.

I did make a small commitment to myself, however. I have ten or eleven of these masonite scraps and dozens and dozens of magazine pages I melted, so I'm going to create quick and simple collages once a week with them, until I run out of masonite. You'll be seeing those posted here each week.

The fabric painting tutorial is almost finished, though it might end up being posted a little later than I was hoping- if you don't see it here tomorrow, look for it a little later in the week. Mom arrives tomorrow to stay for a few days and we're going to experiment with some silk dyeing, so it may take me away from finishing it up by tomorrow evening. I even hope to offer the tutorial in a clickable .pdf format for free download. Wish me luck figuring out how to do that. (Hubby says it's easy.)

Until then, happy creating!
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