Monday, October 26, 2015

New Work: Up, Down, and All Around

Up, Down and All Around
12" x 16" acrylic and painted papers on wc paper

The above piece took a little while. On Tuesday I started gathering my thoughts. I am reading a book by Carey McWilliams, the late journalist, author and social reformer/advocate/historian. The book is a compilation of some of his articles. He frequently wrote about the overlooked population of minorities in California.  Coincidentally, I have started shopping at a sort of local fruit and vegetable co-op. My drive to the co-op winds through lots of farmland with acres and acres of fruit and nut trees. At this time of year the walnuts are ready for harvesting and processing. For me, there are lots of things to see: old style pruning ladders, fields, collection equipment and trucks, sprinklers, pumps/wells, irrigation ditches, walnuts, and orchards.  It's all of the stuff I like for some reason. 

On Wednesday I started to make some notes. I began with the idea of the hidden agricultural workforce in our state. I also wanted to somehow bring in the idea of winding roads and the back and forth nature of hauling the walnuts from orchard to processing center. I made a short list of words and phrases to help me imagine some shapes. As I started in making those shapes with colored paper, somehow the color white became symbolic for me of this hidden workforce. (I know it makes no sense since the white really stands out. This is just my idea of things.) Using white against a colored ground really appeals to me too on a design level. I used as much white as I thought I needed but kept the buckets the bright yellow color that they are in real life. You can't miss them. 

Prior to any painting now, I am cutting out my shapes in colored paper and arranging them on a board. I use a frame around the piece in process to visualize how things look. I also use my camera on the black and white setting to continually check value range and placement. (I try and analyze this with my eyes of course and use the camera as a second opinion type of thing.) Once things are arranged how I want and I have finished editing, I go in and mix my paints and paint the papers. This can take awhile as I strive to get the colors, value and chroma that I want. Everything needs to work together. 

Once these papers dry, I am ready to start cutting and pasting. Arranging things can be a challenge. I have to remind myself to be flexible; my initial sketch is just a guide. This part of the process is very fun. It's slow and methodical and I really enjoy that aspect of things. My goals were to use just one shape idea but vary the size and placement or the color. I kept the color of the buckets as-is but tried to make a pattern. I also tried using the negative part of a cutout (that's what I did for the green and white "tree" shapes.)

The finished piece makes me very happy. I have some other ideas percolating but need to tend to organizing the closets first. Housework calls!

Thanks for reading and commenting.


  1. I really like this, Libby. It's playful and full of imagery. If I saw this in a gallery I would definitely want to know the backstory of the symbols, but as a design piece it certainly can stand alone. Wonderful color selection and harmony. It's fresh and energetic!

  2. Wow Libby this just pops off the page. Your design with the white is just perfect. Then teamed with red and green just makes this outstanding. Just love it friend. So glad you shared.

  3. I think this one is terrific and I echo Carol's comment above.


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