One thing leads to another: watercolor transforms into collage; watercolors become linoleum prints then collaged to become neither a print nor just a college but… “mixed media” does not capture the result. “Mixed media” is a technical term, really just an abbreviation to condense what would be a long list into short hand that takes up only a few typed spaces and in no way reveals the magic of the result.
A summer of working in transparent watercolor often leaves me with one, two or three if I am lucky, pieces of unspeakable beauty and maybe twenty “nice” paintings and an equal number or more of “failed” paintings often found on the back of a nice painting or on the back of another failed painting. I began by discarding these, secretly holding onto a few that might contain a single passage of luminosity I could not part with. In recent years I have begun to bag these “unacceptables” and mine them later as resources for torn collages.
This collage work has become a favorite winter occupation. I begin with a resource painting—probably a painting or sketch that doesn’t stand on its own or could be taken to another place. One of my first collages began as a watercolor sketch, “Hallman with New Necklace and became “Girl in Gold Necklace”.
“Hallman … ” Girl in Gold Necklace”
The above collage was my earliest attempt and the pieces were cut with sissors or a knife. Arches 140lb watercolor paper, my usual medium, is heavy. I have found that Modge Podge is strong enough to hold the pieces down. I work slowly and take care to weight the glued pieces until they adhere. Small pieces are weighted with a ruler topped with a heavy can and heavy pieces may require a board or sheet of plexi with full gallon paint cans on top. The large pieces may require waiting until the next day to proceed.
I soon moved from the sharp, hard edges created by sissors or a knife to hand torn shapes. (This loose, uncontrolable result is one I prefer in my watercolor paintings also.)
I have since created a series of collages based on a plein air painting of a shotgun house in New Orleans. The original painting was painted curbside on handmade paper, 8×9.5 inches. “Shotgun House, New Orleans”, wc on handmade paper, private collection
I used the little painting as the subject of four paintings depicting the transformations of a New Orleans house at night, in Mardi Gras season and finely in spring bloom. For these works I painted long sheets of watercolor in needed colors instead of using “failed” watercolors from a summer of painting. I tore the required sheets using my knowledge of tearing: Watercolor paper is thick and seemingly made up of layers; a tear from top down, with my left hand stable and the right hand taking the paper to the back leaves an edge of the colored paper on top. With the left hand stable and the right hand tearing the paper toward me leaves a loose line of white all along the edge. If this line needs to be shaped beyond what my fingers alone can do I sand it with rough sandpaper. In this series I also used newspaper, shiny origami paper, paper grocery bags, paper napkins and candy wrappers. All of this was glued to a ground of 300lb elephant sheet of Arches watercolor paper, halved. The issue for me in working with collage and especially this large is that I am unable to step back and get a view. While the work was in progress I climbed onto my work table with the camera and photographed the day’s progress and looked at it on the computer that evening.
Surely you have noticed the several pieces of this work go “off the page”. I have a hard time being contained to some arbitrary boundaries that I set at the conception and now I must abandon them to follow my artistic muse. I have begun carrying my creations outside the box:
“Street Illuminated by Street Light”,wc collage, 24×23.5 in.
Last winter, using my the Commons Gallery as a winter studio I completed a collaged lenolium block print in my “Catskill Life, Flora and Fauna”, series. “Railroad Garden, Fall, Mullein” resulted from an early Fall morning walk along the railroad tracks just when the sun popped over the mountains to reveal that each dried mullein spear was draped to others by the webs of the Orb spider. The dew was still clining to the webs and it was a sight to see. I printed, collaged and finally strung beads from my mother’s costume jewelry to capture the jeweled looks of the sun illuminated dew.
Through print, wc collage and real “jewels” (beads) draped between the dead stalks of mullein I have attempted to depict the spirit of the spider webs glistening with dew in the early fall morning. The draped jeweled webs fall from the collaged “web”. I have created an artistic memory of a lovely fall morning and woven into that memory artifacts from my beloved mother’s life. The three dimensionality of the work allows the light to play off the piece as the morning sunlight danced through the beads of dew. Around all I have added block prints of railroad tracks to complete “Railroad Garden; Mullein, Fall”.
Now on to winter, 2017!