Saturday, February 26, 2011

Four at once + a little extra

As I already stated in my last post I have been working on four collages at the same time. This was a little experiment for me. (Yes, I love my little experiments.) I am usually a person who likes to do one piece of art at a time. But I'm always reading and hearing about artists who take on several canvases at once, so I thought I'd try something similar, but then on paper.

So I sat down at my desk and got out four different color pieces of cardstock sized 30x30 cm (12x12 inch). I took my paints and some other things like pens and pencils and I got to working on four backgrounds at once. This was quite fun, because I would use some left over paint from one piece on the next one or would try a similar technique with a different color on the next piece. Anyway, after a while I had four backgrounds that looked like this:

After this it was time to add some paper and do some background collage. I took out my stack of pretty papers, opened my tub of gel medium and pasted away. After this the four pieces looked like this and I was quite pleased with myself ;-) 

Until here the process of making anything is easy for me. I have no problem throwing on paints, arranging shapes, putting on different elements, just as long as it's a background. When it's time to start thinking about the foreground is where the trouble starts. Maybe that trouble is indeed about the fact that now I have to start thinking a little. What do I want to do, what would work well? And the real trouble is: I hardly ever know the answer to these questions. I never set out with an idea of what this piece is supposed to be about. I just kind of wing it and see what happens. Here's the part where I really have to trust the process and not start thinking I'm a sucky artist because I don't know what I'm doing, will never know what I'm doing and therefore will never amount to anything (aren't I nice to me?).

The good part is that when you do this kind of thing often enough experience tells you to stick with it. This sucky part of not knowing what it's all about is just part of the process. I have encountered it enough now to know this, so am not too discouraged, but it still is a tough thing for me to really believe that, yes, this time I will also overcome the doubts halfway any piece of art. And of course one always does. Here's the trick: try to focus only on the next little step, not on the end result. You may not know what the end result will be, but you may know that you want to take up your pencil and make some marks in that top left corner or that there is a stamp that will fill that void somewhere on the right of the paper. And after that step is done another one will come to you out of nowhere and if you keep going like that at some point the whole point of the work will make itself clear to you. If you have no faith in yourself, have faith in the process. That's what works for me anyway.

So, after some babysteps towards the end products I ended up with four different pieces that all have some elements in them that I wanted to try in my collages. For instance the use of my own drawings or the use of a self portrait. Here they are in the same order as above so you can compare the before and after:

Again I used element from one piece on the next, so they all are connected and yet completely different. I also found that I found it more difficult to work in darker earthier colors than in the bright ones and that I have some reservations about using my foam stamp images as focal points as I did in the second piece. Using them for backgrounds is no problem to me, but when I start using them as focal images I feel like a cheater. Isn't that interesting? What I loved was using my own drawings as a focal point, that I will definitely try again.

While working on these pieces I used a piece of paper to scrub of my brushes or to remove the paint from the stamps and that formed a background in itself for a little bonus piece that I finished today.

The size of this one is 30x21 cm, which is A4 size. The paper is fabriano, which is beautiful paper that will take just about any media. The focal picture is from a magazine cover and I altered it a little. The whole piece is a little joke on Eve. ;-)

I hope you enjoyed looking at these. It was an interesting way to work and it made me feel really productive!

I would love to hear you thoughts on the artistic process or on working on one piece at the time or several. I'm always curious how other people work.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Some girls, some nonsense and some found poetry

The past week I've been working really hard at four collaged mixed media pieces. I still have to take good (or at least reasonable) pictures of them though, so I can't show them to you yet (yes, this is a teaser). But to not be silent on this blog for too long I thought I'd show you some pages from the heart journal that I did in the past weeks.

A journal is a good place to just play with art supplies or to just keep your hands busy and the following pictures are examples of that. They are not necessarily  very good or interesting, but I have made the commitment to myself to show the ordinary stuff too, the in between stuff, the stuff I do while watching old episodes of Law & Order on tv. ;-)

First two examples of what I do when I want to draw, but don't know what to draw. That's when I fall back on my first love: the drawing of girls. By that I mean usually just the faces of girls. I have done this my entire life. My school notebooks were always a mix of notes from the classes, homework and .... girls faces. I have no idea where this love comes from, but I still enjoy drawing them very much.

Another good use for a journal is to try out new media. I bought two graphite crayons. Until recently I didn't even know these things existed, but they are way cool. They are thick crayons made of watersoluble graphite and come in different grades, just like pencils. I bought a 6B and a 9B. When they arrived I just had to make some lines with them and that turned into the following two drawings which are just nonsense really.

I call all my drawings and art that have no rhyme or reason nonsense and I mean it in a good way. It's just about trying out shapes and lines or playing a little with materials. I guess that it is play in its purest form. You can also do this in color as the next one shows which was done in neocolor crayons and then wetted with water. Fun fun fun!

And last but not least another nice way to play in your journal, which is making found poetry. All you do is cut out words or sentences from magazines at random. After you have a nice selection you start organizing them into a more or less coherent way so they form a kind of poem. This one was pasted on top of a spray stenciled background. I added some lines with a marker.

I guess what I'm trying to say today is that art doesn't always have to be Art with a capital A. Just keep the juices flowing and have some fun. Enjoy what you do even if it's just ... well.... nonsense ;-)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sky on fire!

About a week ago I was quietly reading a book on my couch when the light in the room started to change from everyday colors to reds and oranges. It was like somebody put on some mood lights or something and the entire atmosphere changed. It was kinda weird actually, in a good way. Since I have no mood lights and live alone the light could only come from outside. So I went and took a look out of my front door and this is what I saw:

It was absolutely breathtaking and the photo doesn't even do it justice. The sky was on fire! It was the result of the sunset reflecting on the clouds of course, but I've never quite seen effect like this. It was special enough to coax other people out of their houses too and shoot pictures of it. 

Somewhere along the week I was playing in my heart journal and just felt like I had to put that scene on paper by painting it. So I took out the above photograph and my watercolor paints and started brushing on reds and oranges and yellows. (Reds and oranges and yellows, oh my ;-) )

Nature does it better than me of course, but I think I captured the atmosphere I was going for just the same.
Sometimes everyday life suprises you with something so special. I just love that!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Little houses go mixed media

It's good to be feeling better again and to be in the studio getting my hands dirty. I have been playing every night this week so far and I love that I am back in this regular rythm again after all that coughing and non sleeping of last week. It seems the more art I do, the more art I want to do. Does that make any sense?

In a previous post I showed you some drawings I did in the midwinter journal of little houses in a row on a wavy line. Making these drawings is such fun that I just had to do one in my heart journal as well. This journal is about twice as big, so it was good to try out different dimensions even if the technique itself is still the same.

The houses are drawn with a pitt artist pen (love my pitt pens!), the top and bottom half were then colored in with watercolor and after that I colored the houses and smaller elements with felt tip pens. These drawings are so simple but they just make me happy, both in making them and in looking at them afterwards.

My challenge to myself this week was to bring these little houses to a next level and try them in mixed media. Would these things work on a bigger scale and be suitable maybe even for canvas someday? To try this out I got out my fabulous Canson heavyweight acrylic paper that's 400 g/m2 (190 lbs) and measures 32x41 cm (12.5 x 16 inches) and went for a larger scale working with acrylic paints, decorative papers and lots of gel medium. And here's how it turned out:

I started out with a lot of torn scrapbook paper and collaged the background with it. After that I sort of dabbed on some gesso here and there with a paper towel and when that was dry I went over the whole thing with several colors of transparent acrylics, dividing the piece in a top and bottom half. You can still see the background through the paint, but also in spots there is extra structure because of the gesso. That in itself already looked really cool.

After that I started cutting the elements of the houses, the stars and the circles, pasting them down as I went along with gel medium. I didn't measure anything and I didn't plan it out. When all was put down I put another coat of medium across the entire piece. When that was dry I got a permanent marker and started outlining all the details. 

I must say I am quite pleased with the result and maybe it will lead to some little houses on actual canvas. There still seems to be a whole world of variation on this theme to be explored.  Let's see what happens ;-)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

More from the heart journal

Been down with the flu for over a week. Well, I'm not sure it was the flu, but something sure made me cough for what felt like 24/7 and made it impossible for me to sleep. I sat up on my couch for four or five nights in a row and ended up feeling like some kind of zombie. Today I started work again. I feel allright, but the coughing is still there, be it much less than last week.

Anyway, all that zombieness did not make for any art whatsoever, but fortunately I still have a few spreads from the heart journal that I hadn't shown yet, so here they come:

The first is a neocolor drawing that afterwards I wetted with water. It's one of what I like to call my 'nonsense drawings'. They are just about making shapes and coloring them in. The title of this page is therefore "There is no deeper meaning" ;-)

The next spread is a mixed media collage with acrylic paint and is all about the rules that I set for myself about what I am and am not allowed to do. I am so damned strict with myself sometimes that I created a two page permission slip to do all the things that I secretly think are wasteful, but that in effect are good for the soul. Yes, taking naps is included ;-) Sorry about the glare in the photograph, I was too lazy to take a better one!

In the next spread another use of my hands (I have used photocopies of my hands in another spread I showed in a previous post). For some reason I like tracing my hands and coloring them in. The drawing and coloring was done with neocolor and the pictures are from collage sheets I bought many years ago when I was still into making greeting cards.

Hope to get some new work going soon since I will be spending time in te studio for the first time in about ten days tonight. Yay!