Monday, October 31, 2016


By which I mean I am interested in mixed media at the moment and this is what I'm doing.
Doodling: I learned to doodle flowers from Tessa. (I received the first pic she posted, but she gets inundated with requests, she posted her process in detail in a previous post if you are interested.)
I wanted to move on to fish but they weren't as interesting as flowers so they're now the back pond.
As a kid, I was fascinated by illuminated manuscripts, and wondered if I could do something with my flowers. Mine turned out more like... what... names to go on embossed cards??
I also colored in Tessa-drawn flowers with watercolor.
On a whim, I started drawing tiny Christmas stockings decorated with flowers and painting them in.

Image Transfers - acetate. Since I read about image transfers ages ago I've always been interested in incorporating it in mixed media. This technique requires printing on acetate, (e.g. plastic document covers or old OHP films.)  Printing can mean printing a file, or copying on a copy machine or printer, and of course print files/copy options can be manipulated. Moisten paper to print, place acetate on top with image side down, rub while the ink on the acetate is still wet. Very simple yet effective. The hardest parts for me have been moistening the paper evenly, and not moving the acetate while I rub. This produces less-saturated-than-original, pixelated, softer/ghostly image.
Image transfer - acrylic media. There are more Youtube vids on this technique, but I found it excruciatingly tricky. Print/copy image on printer paper; slather 3mm or 1/8" acrylic medium evenly, let dry completely, soak in water and rub the paper gently off the back of the dried medium. With Vincent on the left I followed a composite of these instructions: I threw away four or five others which didn't dry properly, tore, or otherwise behaved badly.

It's hard to brush gooey medium evenly, (it's runnier than icing); despite all the taping, printer paper wrinkles when placed under goody medium and the medium does not sit evenly on wrinkles; vids say to wait a 8-12 hours but my medium could have waited over 48 hours; Tessa suggests applying the medium in multiple stages to let it dry in between; rubbing the paper off is delicate work because the medium tears easily, especially where the medium was thin over the wrinkles. And the film curls while drying. I put weight on both, but Vincent, in particular, curled further after removing the weight before it was completely dry.  The resultant image is not as sharp as the original; I'm not sure if it's meant to be soft-ish or brittle.

This is my compromise; Ben in the left. I printed a file of a quick drawing on a glossy photo paper; applied a thinner layer of medium and let it dry for a day, then soaked it for another day. Photo paper has a protective layer on the print side and back; soaking the second day allowed me to peel off the back layer, and after more soaking, I could rub off some of the paper as in the above method. The front layer (and some paper?) could not be totally removed but the medium+front-layer made the film less delicate and easier to work with. The image is sharp this way.

More practice will make me at least understand the process better, but working with wet PVA might have given me a tingle in my mouth despite good ventilation, so maybe later.
Layers: it's the same as texture-rich weaving; I love layers when others do it well but I often feel I've destroyed harmony when I add layers. To combat this, I've been making layered background. Watercolor and acetate doodle transfer.
Watercolor, acetate doodle transfer, acetate image transfer of a negative of Vincent's self portrait, conté.
Collage using torn, leftover watercolor background paper.  
Like weaving, I can try different color combinations including quite a bit of complementary, but I still like analogous the best. Acrylic paint and gloss varnish.

With practice, my basic book binding skills are getting a bit better. Cutting paper straight doesn't happen automatically, but punching holes all the way without the sheets moving around, and sewing without distorting the holes have become easier.

Techniques to investigate/experiment in the future include:

* Simpler, (dare I say, unlayered?) collage composition, and/or in combination with other techniques. Collage has been on the back burner, but I've become more interested in making better-thought-out pieces, and have been looking at Dada/Surrealist although they're not styles I like.

* Printed photo manipulation. I bought Seth Apter's video on the technique and it is as attractive to me as image transfer as it alleviates the need for drawing.

* Monoprints. I made a homemade jelly plate. I now know one big attraction of this technique is the delicious texture of the jelly plate; I want to carry a small piece with me at all times.

* Drawing. I want to draw as lightheartedly as I now doodle. I couldn't even when I was taking drawing lessons but because I like my quick/loose drawings best, they don't have to be good/accurate, but only interesting to me. I joined a FB group by Tina with lovely prompt/tutorial videos; for now I only watch the vids and study others' work.

I wonder where I'll get to next.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

One More on Letter Journals

This one is about serial collaboration in absentia, as it were. I worked on Sue Maher's journal in the group working on "Patterns". I was second in line; that is, she made her journal, sent it to me, I worked on it, and it will go to three more collaborators before returning to her to keep. It was supposed to be a test of my control-freakery control. (I scanned rather than photographed images and they look duller than in real life.)
All the paint work was done by Sue. For me, it was hard to see harmony or connection if the two pages were to be treated as one spread. Without any plan, I first made a few rows of different shapes with gold gel pen on the right page, but I liked the red and orange circles too much to reduce their presence/effect I didn't cover the whole page with gold shapes.

Looking at the left, blue/pink-lavender page, again without a strategy for the spread but aiming to harmonize colors, I drew squares in a copper gel pen much like the fifth picture in the previous post. I chose bronze because depending on light/angle the shapes are hard to see, sort of like weft and warp in the same color and size but with different sheen; or they shine. I had in mind a map of an invisible/lost city.

This is what surprised me. After this much detail, I might have been expected to sign and finish the spread, at least the left page, but I didn't because I was immensely eager to see what others would do. Even if someone painted or collaged over so the shapes were obscured, I wanted to see it. Isn't that so strange, me? I hope others aren't annoyed I left it unsigned.
This page worked in the opposite direction. This is the correct orientation and Sue had some paint on the right page, but not on the left, Richard Scarry page. I came up with a plan when I couldn't sleep a few nights ago and thought it was going to be easy I didn't even take a before pic.

I had this drawdown printed, (with colors slightly altered,) for my own journal. The colors matched but I also wanted to use Clare Plug's collage techniques or my version of them: I cut the draft in different-width vertical strips, turned one upside down, and staggered the positions to make it like the original draft but with a little more quirk. I added some brown music strips Sue gave me to pull some of the brown on the Scarry page. I thought I was nearly done and scanned at this stage as reference for developping a draft like this.
I stamped the five days of the week and a round, "hello, weekend" stamp in four different colors pulled from the background, and where the words were hard to read, traced the outline of the letters diligently with different colored pens. This was my plan, but the spread didn't look harmonious. So I drew vertical lines in different width with felt-tips, again picking out the colors from the background. Well!! The lines were too saturated, the color progression too rainbow-y, and because there was no focal point, the result looked like a complicated background! (And you can't see the drawdown!!)

I wanted to draw a shape repeated several times in white, but we have always had problems with white gel pens clogging up, and sure enough, the latest, with almost a full tank, wouldn't work. When in doubt, I turn to collage, so I hunted for something smallish and white.
Alas, I had a focal point, larger than I imagined, but quirky; I think the addition makes the background interesting/complex albeit still too rainbow-y, and the spread a little sparse. And Sue likes butterflies. And the collage looks "mine".  So, worth it.

This is why I find paper work fascinating. I can rework, (fix?) without making a new warp or rethreading; there is much I can add/amend/improve (or ruin) before "wet-finishing", as it were. The way I work is time-consuming, and perhaps I exercise my own but different-from-usual kind of control-freakery. The process/experience teaches me about design, composition, which I know will help when I start the freeform weaving.
And I get enjoyment and friendships out of it.

And I got two different white acrylic pens today. Take that, four wonky white gel pens!!