Tag: collage

You’re never too old to play

Collage papers

I’ve been thinking about the importance of play in art.

I feel pulled in many different ways on a daily basis. There’s so much to get done – writing and organizing social media posts, updating my websites, applying for exhibitions and grants, nevermind painting. And what about family, bills, exercise, and a balanced life?

I noticed one of the first things to go in my art practice was the action of play, as in anything I do simply for the joy of doing rather than a means to an end. It rarely feels like ‘play’ when I’m trying to create a successful piece. I worry about messing up when time is so valuable, and I want the final product to be great. Yet I know that failure is a good thing.  Some of my best works have come from creating something new when things didn’t work out.

I needed to get out of my studio and away from distractions to truly immerse myself in ‘playtime”.  So last week I took a collage and paper-making class with Suzanne Siegel and Jane Davies.  I set a goal NOT make a finished piece of art.  The idea was to try as many new techniques as possible and to start a lot of work without trying to complete any of them.  It was a success, and I’ve come home with piles of messy, weird, and uniquely printed papers and painting starts. Will I continue working on them?  Perhaps a few, but mainly the purpose was to explore and have fun. Now I just have to bring that into my daily art practice.

What have you done recently for yourself that qualifies as ‘playtime’?

Step by step, how to rework a failed painting

Rock Garden painting
Failed painting
Failed painting

Some paintings come easy, while others require a lot of work until I’m happy with them (or I throw them out).  My painting Rock Garden was one of my more difficult pieces.  On my first try, I ended up with this version.  It had the elements of a strong composition with a clear focal point but I just didn’t like it.  It sat in my studio for the last three years but I couldn’t determine a way to “fix it”.  

In the meantime, I finished another painting River Rock that I needed a companion piece to hang with it in an upcoming show.  The only panel I had in the same size was this failed painting.

Work in progress
Work in progress

 

I needed both paintings to share the same color scheme, so I created some new collage papers to better match the companion painting’s colors.  I like to add lots of elements at first and then simplify the final painting by painting over of some of the areas.  At left is the next phase of the painting/collaging process. At this point, it’s complete chaos and is going to require a lot of editing. 

The colors still didn’t match the other painting that well and I needed to get rid of the red, the bright yellow and the ultramarine blue.  I dug up some more papers and collaged them over these colors.  Next, I picked the areas to keep and those to cover up.  I needed a strong focal point and more areas of calm.  There was a lot of overpainting to do and still more collage papers to add.  The work also needed greater contrast so I add in the light yellow and dark gray areas to expand the value range.  Below are the two final paintings, Rock Garden and River Rock.  Can you find the areas from the original painting that still shows in the finished work?  It’s a little like “Finding Waldo”! 

Rock Garden painting
Rock Garden, mixed media, 20″ x 16″
River Rock
River Rock, mixed media, 20″ x 16″

Fun ideas for the weekend

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Looking for something to do this weekend?  Head on out to Long Island City for the LIC Arts Open 6 and an opportunity to visit hundreds of artists’ studios.  Have you ever looked at a painting in a gallery and wanted to know “how did they do that?”  This is your chance.

Begin at Reis Studios (43-01 22nd St., LIC) with 200 artist studios to start your tour. See the inner workings of my art studio #225 where I’ll be demonstrating how I use a Gelli Plate to print the collage papers I use in my work and making FREE greeting cards for those who drop by.  Come by to get yours.  Studios open this Sat. & Sun. from 12-6pm.  Directions below.

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What's on your desk blotter?

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I have a beautiful wooden desk in my art studio where I work on my computer, doing sketching and more.  It’s too nice a piece to go with my paint splattered folding tables and Ikea bookshelves, but it didn’t fit in our New York apartment when we moved so I got to use it in my studio instead.

I wanted to protect the surface from scratches where I slide my computer in and out of the way, so I taped down a large piece of drawing paper in that area.  I use it to write down short notes or unconsciously doodle/stamp/stencil on it.  When one side gets full, I flip around the sheet and continue filling up the opposite side.  I looked down today for a place to add another note and realized it was completely full…no empty space available.  Obviously, it’s time for a new blotter sheet!  Maybe I’ll save this one to use in some of my collage work.  🙂

Feeling Blue?  I know just the place for you

Harbor Town

The color blue evokes serenity, spirituality, infinity.  Lay back and look at heaven.  The 5th chakra:  the throat, voice and self-expression.  Deep blues: singing, listening.  Sea and shadow.  Blue symbolizes the Virgin Mary.  Krishna has blue skin.  Fifty-three percent of the world’s flags have blue.  It’s the color most commonly used in corporate identities.  Miles Davis was kind of blue.  What kind of blue are you?

Harbor Town, mixed media on cradled panel, 32″ x 32″, $1800

This painting was inspired by the Boston Harbor which I lived near a few years ago.  The water is made from many layers of translucent mulberry paper which I painted all these wonderful shades of blue.

“BLUE” Exhibition at the Front Street Gallery

I am exhibition my painting title “Harbor Town” in the BLUE exhibition at the Front Street Gallery in Patterson, New York. The show opened on October 18 and runs through December 6.  The gallery has extended hours on October 24 & 25 as part of the ArtEast Open Studio Tour.

See a BLUE slide show at the gallery website http://frontstreetgallery.org.  Front Street Gallery is at 21 Front Street in Patterson, New York, across the street from the Metro North train Station.

Featuring Gretchen Hoffman Abene, Patrick J. Cicalo, Shelley Dell, Andrew Dines, Ken Dreyfack, Kathy Ferguson, Matt Frieburghaus, Sarah K. Gray, Nicole Hughes, Annette Jaret, Lise Kjaer, Sassoon Kosian, Galina Krasskova, Tanya Kukucka, Pamela Lambros, Hannah Raine Brenner-Leonard, Alex Lindquist, Amanda Lynne, Eugene Posolli, Karen Schaffel, Ilona Sirman, Jane Soodalter, Fran Traina, Meaghan Troup, Rosanne Walsh, Dayna Wenzel, Joann Zwolski.

A glimpse inside my creative process

I started with the idea to create a set of matching paintings with lots of 3D texture.  I love the soft, white flowers of the dogwood tree but realized I would need a colored background to make the petals show in the paintings.  I’ve documented my painting process below.  I will flip-flop between the two paintings as I forgot to photograph them both at each stage, but you should get the general idea.

I start by painting a variety of stripes on watercolor paper (glued to cradled wooden panels) using acrylic paint.

Dogwood step Two-a

 

 

Next I glue down strips of different Japanese papers.  I love handmade Japanese papers (made with mulberry leaves, rice shaft, and other organic materials) because they add a unique, textural feel to my work.   I also include some handprinted deli paper I made using my Gelli plate.

Dogwood Two-b

 

Now come the flowers.  First I sketch in the compositions.  Next, using Golden’s heavy molding gel, I spread on the petals with a palette knife.  When the gel is dry, I sand off any sharp points.

Dogwood step One-c

 

I add in collage paper elements for the leaves and stems, painting some areas to give them more dimensionality.  Finally, I add sheer cheesecloth for an unexpected touch and use colored pencils to create some delicate color in the white petals.  The paintings are sealed using a clear acrylic medium, and then two layers of acrylic varnish to protect the paper.

Dogwood Two

 Dogwood One, mixed media on cradled panel, 12″ x 12″

 

Dogwood OneDogwood Two, mixed media on cradled panel, 12″ x 12″

Here’s a side shot to better see the raised texture of the paintings.

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Downward Facing Dog anyone?

I fit in a couple of yoga classes while in Colorado for the holidays.  This motivated me to start a new painting for my yoga inspired series which I began last year.  I have four paintings completed so far and this will be the fifth.  For this series, I start each painting by first picking out a Sanskrit word as my guide.  This painting’s Sanskrit word is “Kirtan” which means a community gathering involving chanting, live music and meditation.  After working out the composition in my sketchbook, I then did a quick value/color study.  The next step was to paint a loose, watery background on a cradled panel to show the major color areas while also getting rid of that intimidating white!

Kirtan in progress

With the basic color areas blocked in, it was time to hand-paint some paper for the collage elements.  Using translucent sheets of deli paper and a Gelli Plate, I printed multiple layers of paint on top of each other using a brayer, stencils, scraping tools and more.  I torn up these printed papers and moved them around until I was happy with the composition.  Next, I glued all the papers down, painted over some areas and glued down even more papers.  After some final fiddling, the painting was complete.

Kirtan Web

“Kirtan” (a community gathering involving chanting, live music and mediation), Mixed Media on cradled panel, 20″ x 16″, $600.

Paintings can be purchased at www.kathyfergusonart.com

Watch me make a painting – Step 4

The last couple of days, I have shown you a painting in progress.  Today is the last steps where you see how I pull all the “randomness” together into a cohesive work.  I retraced my original vine sketch to scale (24″ x 24″) to fit the dimensions of the painting panel and transferred it to the surface of my paper collage surface.  Then I painting multiple layers of white acrylic paint around the outline to reveal the main subject material.  Voila!  Colorful vines and flowers appear as if out of the mist.  The surrounding white really makes the colors pop.  The last touch was to add some red-painted outlines of branches of berries.  Some of my favorite parts are actually in the white areas with their detailed but subtle textured surfaces.  See the two companion paintings are below.

Vines Revealed 3 Web

Vines Revealed 2 Web

Watch me make a painting – Step 3

In my last post, I started a new “vine” painting and showed you the first two steps.  Today, we move to step 3.  To complete the “under-painting”, I added lots of pieces of colored paper to the panel.  I kept the colors bright and bold, weaving and overlapping them to create a surface of bold color and heavy texture.  I added several more layers of paper over these initial paper layers shown below.  All of the paper was coated with acrylic medium on both sides to glue it to the surface and protect the surface.  It looks like a hot mess now, doesn’t it?!  Step 4 will be posted tomorrow, and you’ll see how I resolve all of this random color into a coherent design.

Vine Revealed step 3