Thursday, July 2, 2015

New Work: Making Connections

Making Connections 16" x 20"
acrylic and paper on board

The idea for this piece came about not long after the water seminar at UC Davis in April. Water is a theme in my work and so some idea of it is always present. I found myself considering shapes and ideas to represent water somehow. At the same time, I discovered the work of Shirley Jaffe. Her work seemed to synthesize what I was thinking about using a set focal point in my compositions. (Shirley Jaffe is a contemporary of sorts of Etel Adnan. Both are based in France and both employ shapes, line and color in different ways to create their compositions.)

In any case, Jaffe's work started me on a sketching course, thinking up related and simple shapes to represent some facets of water and water distribution. I started drawing simple lawn shapes, then  houses, then the ubiquitous well pump and pipes which I see frequently on my drives. I included the sun shape that I love as well as a "bridge" shape. One of my goals was to not have an obvious focal point and to create what I think of as an "allover" composition, using the entire picture plane. I chose a little overlapping, varied my colors and values and shape sizes, and deliberately stayed away from the edge of the plane itself. I tried to mix up the direction of each shape as well. 

My other goal was to create the shapes via paper first and glue them to the board. In order to get crisp lines it is necessary to tape off areas and paint. My resulting edges aren't always crisp and repeated taping is necessary. Additionally, my shapes aren't always exactly right. I figured that cutting the shapes and then painting them once glued might work. It did and it didn't. Here is what happened:

1. The shapes looked great (accurate) but when I painted them they absorbed the paint like a sponge. Construction paper is absorbent so this makes sense.
2. The solution to the above was to use clear gesso on the paper. It helped to grab and hold onto the paint. 
*******It's incredibly important too to flatten out any air bubbles with a flat, hard edge instrument like a credit card or protractor edge. 
3. It was more difficult than I thought to paint the shapes and to paint around the shapes. I wound up taping quite a bit which sort of negated the time I saved with cutting the shapes from paper.
4. My solutions for next time will be to paint the paper prior to gluing. I did well enough with positioning each shape and deciding on the right spot prior to gluing. So, changing things up likely won't be a problem once things are glued down. However, I am willing to paint over a "wrong" shape if necessary and redo another shape. I would also paint the background fully first. And lastly, I like premixing all of my paints and this continues to make sense for this different type of piece. 

I strongly considered Matisse's paper cuts. I have read that he painted all of his paper with gouache prior to getting started. He arranged and re arranged before gluing anything down. Who am I to decide anything different here, honestly!

It's exciting to me, this new idea. The idea of having two streams of work has always been a big draw for me. Paintings and drawings; paintings and linocuts; painting and monoprints. Something along these lines in the way of dual work. It's important though that the work itself have a fine degree of finish, for me anyway and by my own standards. It can't feel or look like a craft project to me. I am also excited by the variability of using paper, of create more and more abstract compositions and by really exploring and varying color, shape and line along with all of the other facets of composition. (As I learn them of course!) I am just saying that one thing really builds on another to create the bridge to the next thing.

This piece took about 4 full days of work, on and off and in total. It's longer than what I normally do in a way. And while I love the bright colors against the white, I'd like to also try my usual colors which are always a mix of all three primaries to get subdued secondaries and neutrals. 

OK, hope everyone is having a good week. Thanks for reading and commenting.


  1. Libby, sorry I am late in commenting on this. I love this...the colors, the patterns, the energy, the movement. There's a lot to see in this design yet I feel guided rather than overwhelmed. The patterns and repetition certainly help with that as does the nice variety of linear marks. Well done, my friend. I can see why you were motivated with Jaffe's work.

  2. Hi Libby. I was delighted to see this. I have not been receiving your posts so missed this one completely.
    It is deeply satisfying for me to follow your path as you reach out beyond the safety net and go with your internal instincts of creating your art. Thank you for clearly explaining both your goals and process. It is exciting. This piece is superbly organized in color and form.


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