Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Paint, Paper, Books!

I'm a big fan of the band Queen. One of the reasons I love their music so much is a technique they employed, particularly in their earlier work, called, "overdubbing." Overdubbing meant layering track after track after track of vocals and music one on top of the other to create a large, complex, richly textured sound. 

That's what I do when I paint, or try to. So this week, it's back to the basics- me, my table, my watercolor paper, and my paints.

I love laying thick layers of paint down onto water color paper. There's something very appealing and zen-like to me in the way the paper both absorbs and resists the paint. Being made to accept very wet pigments, it's thick and sturdy. It causes heavy body paint to stutter and skip across the surface, creating fascinating, serendipitous marks. But because it's made of cotton fibers, it's forced to accept the paint and meld with it, becoming both an opponent and a willing partner in the making of art.

This piece, on 18"x24" water color paper, seemed to accept the paint well, inviting a pleasing composition almost instantly.


I limited myself to just a few colors this week, which yielded a short series of completed art, some scrap papers, and a double-page spread in one of my art journals. I love working this way, with a limited palette but a variety of substrates. It's always interesting to see how the same colors can produce very different results.

This piece, for instance, another 18"x24" sheet of watercolor paper, has been resisting me- it can't seem to settle on a pleasing composition, no matter how many times I work back into it with fresh paint.


It may or may not get its wish to remain chaotic and weirdly cartooney- I still haven't decided if I'm ready to just let it go and move on. If I've learned anything, it's that paint can fix just about any poor composition. But I've also learned that some work- particularly experimental stuff like this- isn't worth finishing, and that putting it aside and accepting it for what is makes more sense.

Anyway, while I was working these two large pieces, I was also painting into two other substrates: a simple piece of white copy paper, and a large, blank board book.


The copy paper had more moderate aspirations, and I like it for its simplicity.

The book spread was much more aggressive and bold.


I used collage material on it before applying the layers of paint. I like its messiness.

All this painting yielded some lovely scrap deli paper, too- sheets of 18"x18" tissue-thin papers that were used to blot up excess paint.


These will make lovely collage material.

Also this week, as I am right now big into following through on what I say I'm going to do, I took last weeks' painted and gel plate-printed papers and stitched them into a small journal.


I used a simple binding, since this isn't meant to become anything but a sketch book and acceptor of more cast-off paint, and I left some of the pages blank for future experiments.


The lessons I'm learning this year are this: art is hard; it can and will kick your ass. It will occasionally whisper to you that it's time to give up and move onto other things. It will mock you and your will to create. It will vanish from your grasp, sometimes for years at a time. And it will exhaust you with its demands.

But you're the one in charge. Art doesn't come to those who are forever divinely inspired and motivated. It isn't something that's given only to a precious few. It comes to those who work at it every day, who push back at it when it whines and begs for a day on the couch binge-watching Netflix. You don't have to be particularly talented or special. You just have to be a badass and show it your tough love.

Create. I don't care how you do it, just do it.
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