Saturday, July 31, 2010

An apple today for artists at play

Things have been very hectic around here because we’re replacing our kitchen countertops, which naturally leads to many other related projects such as changing the lighting, refinishing the sides of the island, cutting precise miters on trim molding, and on and on. It might be easier to just tear the house down and start over. But the art must go on, right?

Since I’ve been doing quite a bit of collage lately, it seemed like it would be fun to take a mini-workshop with a local Orlando area artist, Elizabeth St. Hilaire Nelson. She calls her work paper paintings, an apt description. Fellow artist and friend Joyce Shelton and I will be there today for four hours, tearing and pasting away. Since time is limited, we have prepared our underpainted panels ahead of time and are bringing our painted collage papers along. The subject: an apple. Below is a cropped photo taken at a farmer’s market with nice greens and reds to play off of each other.
We’re working on a 12" X 12" wooden panel primed with clear gesso. The idea is to perhaps allow some of the wood grain to show through in the final image. I sketched the composition onto tracing paper, then taped it along the top edge of the panel. I don't really transfer the sketch directly, but sort of redraw the image underneath the tracing paper, using it as a guide.
I painted over the lines with a gold metallic acrylic then started splashing on color with Golden OPEN acrylics. They’re nice to work with because they don’t dry as quickly as regular acrylics which allows time for blending. The colors are intensified a little or a lot.
It has proved invaluable to take photos along the way with my little point-and-shoot Sony in black and white to see how the values are working (or not!) 
Here is the completed underpainting which has a lot of nice colors already. I don’t expect to finish it at the workshop, but it’s easy to add more collage and/or paint later. As you can see, I couldn’t seem to stop brushing on paint which would’ve allowed the wood panel to show through...oh well!
One glitch that I can see already is that the apple in the lower left is too large compared to the others, so that’ll have to be tweaked. No worries, it’ll take just a stroke of paint or a shred of paper. Wish me luck!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Still looking into the treetops

Here is another experiment with the oak branches as a subject using “hard” collage, as opposed to soft quilting techniques...there are so many possible options it’s pretty amazing. Below is the reference photo, taken on Big Talbot Island in north Florida:
The spiraling branches are what caught my eye in the park and inspired this piece. The large broken off branch in the lower right didn’t seem to add anything, so I left it out of the composition.
I’m not crazy about the texture of canvas, so some torn pieces of handmade paper were collaged onto the bare canvas to cover some of it. I sketched in the branches using watercolor pencils and painted in the basic structure with Golden OPEN acrylics. They’re nice to work with because they don’t dry on the palette/canvas as quickly as regular acrylics.
Blues, greens, and turquoises were painted on fairly quickly, just to cover up the white ground, primarily. Fortunately, I was liking it already, always a huge relief. Many, many pieces of torn paper and words ripped out of a defunct old book were added. The word “cathedral” in all caps (seen at the center bottom) inspired the name of this piece.
The words form a poem that can change, depending on the order in which you read them...

quiet woodlands
branches spreading to the sky
ageless strength
peace and restful calm
priceless beauty