|Every Last Drop|
image size 12" x 16" matted to 16" x 20"
acrylic painted papers on wc paper
This is the nineteenth piece that I have made in this particular style, using painted and cut paper. It feels to me like I am making things that I never would have had the patience to make painting directly onto canvas or paper. I think I am just marveling at how a change in one's approach can completely send one in another direction, possibly in the "right" direction. It can even solve problems and allow a person to move forward with ideas that seemed impossible to begin with. To me, it's proof positive that the creative process is both fluid and permeable. One needn't be stuck with a particular method of working, style or even medium. As long as new ideas are permitted to enter the process, different and more satisfying results can be achieved. A person's art or art making should never become stagnant. There is just no reason for this. (PS-I wrote this in the AM and it sounds a little high flying now in the PM. I really do mean it though!)
With the above piece, I used a completely different approach of assembly. I had two specific problems to work out. First off, over the past several months, I have created some drawings that I really love. Their overlapped and more organic shapes though present a problem with construction. Generally, I make a drawing and then just cut the paper, eyeballing it, and affixing the resulting shapes to the larger watercolor paper. These drawings though need precise and specific shapes, overlapped in a definite sequence, in order to work. It took me awhile to figure out what to do. I finally hit on the idea of simply transferring the initial drawing onto the larger paper. From there, I traced each shape onto my painted papers and then cut out that shape and placed it on the larger paper (in sequence). For me, it was very challenging to see which shapes to cut and place first. It is a lot like quilted applique. You really have to think in terms of layers and subsequently, how pieces will interact with each other.
The other real challenge was color. Somehow, I have gotten away from an initial colored drawing for guidance. It was this piece of the puzzle that I was really missing. Without the actual colored "sketch" I was having a hard time figuring out what colors to paint my papers. With the colored sketch as guidance (and a more simplified approach to using color that I also developed) I was able to see what colors to paint my papers. I also made a "scale" of the resulting colors using little swatches. I could see right away if I had enough of a value range and contrast.
More High Flying Thoughts!
I'll be the first to admit that this approach isn't for everyone. It's actually just for me! And that is what makes art so unique I think. Everyone really has their own approach that is born of taking ideas from many different sources. You end up creating your own unique concoction of solutions and approaches. With that said though, there is some basic stuff that everyone can use (and that I think we all use). Even if you are a plein air painter and don't paint directly onto the canvas and use a thumbnail sketch instead, you still need the ability to transfer that thumbnail sketch to a larger canvas. (and the vision to see if it works as well as the ability to "correct" as you go.) If you paint with oils or even use pastels, you could premix some colors and use a gray scale to check your values. If you are a quilter, making small swatches of fabric on a card and then photographing them in black and white can tell you in an instant if you have a good enough value range. Even if you paint abstractly and intuitively, you still have to deal with shapes and marks and colors. How to make them proportionate? How to get the image and idea and feelings from your head onto the canvas? I really believe firmly that there are some core skills involved that transfer across the board, regardless of style or medium or specific approach.
What I Learned and Want to Pass Along:
I learned (again) two last things that I will pass along. First, don't become attached to anything! One little mark or shape that you love and can't possibly part with might be holding you back. Just consider if you can get rid of it. What might happen? The second thing is this: details come last and can really tie a piece together. Not excessively fussy details but rather a judicious array and use of details is what can really sew things up. My piece didn't feel complete to me anyway until I started to add some smaller details like lines and smaller, repetitive shapes. It seemed to me that those touches really helped to direct my eyes around the piece as well as tying things together.
And for those interested (and if you made it this far) the piece was inspired by my reading of the making of Hoover Dam. It's true that the dam is named for Herbert Hoover whose involvement and support of the dam was controversial. Politics right? The second thing is something that I learned about the Colorado River itself. It is considered to be the most extensively controlled and litigated river in the world. Seven US states and two Mexican states depend on this water in some way. The title for the piece comes from some of the ideas that I have formed about the river.
OK, thanks for reading and please leave a comment if you would like. Hope everyone is having a good week so far.