Monday, April 27, 2015

more collage fun

New collage! 
Pierrot - 28 x 22" mixed medial collage on paper, 2015

Process photo of this week's piece with last week's Harlequin
I feel a little like a broken record at this point - "busy art week, made a new collage..." [Repeat] Haha - true! While that does just about cover it, I'll try to add a few more details (as non-boringly as possible :)).

The pieces are similar in a lot of ways - scale, technique, media, but this week's was a little more challenging because I needed to research/ draw/ carve additional blocks, and there's significantly more drawing in drapery of the shirt and a more complex collage elements with the flowers. No complaints (it's what we do ;) ), but it was a "mission" getting it ready to photograph today (gold star!) 

First, new blocks:
printed of pretty purple marbelized paper
I used the rest of the block left over after
 cutting out the eyes from last week

I wanted Columbine because of the
 character's name. 

Not only did I find "Columbine" in my much loved Dover edition of Gerard's Herbal,
but "Degenerate" Columbine. I find this very funny: Pierrot's gift is almost, but not quite right -
he offers her "Degenerate Columbine" (and will inevitably be rejected). 
I also carved a new hand. (The one in the process photos from last week was a stand in, a digitally reversed and printed version of an existing print). This week I drew , carved, and printed the block.

Then I sprayed over it, and drew on top of that.

Then added another layer of yellow paint. I used a similar layering and
painting technique for the plant and also filled in the blue in the negative spaces
a "judicious use of glitter" in the back of the fly.

Monday, April 20, 2015

phase 6 - another new collage

An art-active week (very, very!)

I made this lovely Harlequin collage:
Commedia dell'arte 1 - Harlequin, 28 x 22," mixed media collage, 2015 
it took a few tries to settle on the rat as the animal familiar for this one, but on the upside, I now
have two birds and a squirrel ready to jump into some future piece ;)

The mask is from last week's new face block printed in white ink on black, cut down, sprayed with black with drawing in white.

Harlequin isn't alone, he's just a little farther along. I thought it was time to try something with more interaction/ narrative, so this is part of a set of three, the classic Commedia triangle - Harlequin, Columbine, and Pierrot.

Work in progress. Photographing as they develop to get a sense of the whole...
baby steps! :)
The first part of the week went to arranging framing for an existing piece, an application, and a submission, so it was Wednesday by the time these got rolling. To streamline working through a lot of decisions quickly, I used a sort of algorithm:

- decide the materials and scale (22 x 28" is these largest size possible from a single sheet of this paper that fits a standard size frame)
The collar, sleeves, hat, are vine charcoal and color pencil on paper.
- paint the backgrounds doing them at the same time helps them match.) These are pretty minimalist to provide some visual relief.
- print and complete the heads. I do this to ensure that there's plenty of time because its both the most important and most difficult part.
I printed the blocks, cut them out, then sprayed over them with white gesso and drew on top of that.
- decide on the other components
- research/ make as necessary
-assemble (and re-assemble, and re-re-assemble)

Something new I'm trying with these to get more narrative possibilities from each block - I carved new eyes and collaged them. This way, Harlequin and Pierrot can be mirror imaged repetitions with variations of one another.

printed from one block onto another and
then drew on it with pen
the block  reminds me of the eyes of Dr. Eckleburg, and it
sort of looks like the classic Great Gatsby cover, designed by by Francis Cugat
 doesn't it?

 Moving the eyes a few millimeters is a small change, but it makes a big difference:

With the new eye block collaged on top for the head of Pierrot, before paint/ drawing

I'm having a lot of fun with the costumes - so much potential for drapery and different patterns! Maurice Sand's Masques et bouffons (com├ędie italienne) and Jacques Callot's Balli di Sfessania have been especially inspiring.

Working on these, I've been a bit of an art-hermit; fortunately the feline assistants have been keeping me company.

Jr. has decided that she fits just fine on my lap while I sit on the floor
with the drawing board.
The ultimate fluffy white collar
Admittedly, this is based on my experience and not research, but I feel like after many hours of close up, detail work, getting outside and photographing seems to help my eyes re-calibrate so I don't loose depth perception, so I also spent some time photographing this week.

A funny theme emerged - it looks like everywhere I went, all I saw was red.

 And more nature...

and because I wouldn't want to exclude,
this is an old photo of my other favorite tree ;)
one of my favorite trees -
even though it's very old,
I was relieved to see that it survived the winter

Monday, April 13, 2015

phase 6 - new collage

This week's art-experiment:
Self-portrait as Pierrot, 36 x 30" collage, 2015

How has it come to this? [Very good question! I will do my best to explain :) ]

This week started with the Sleep/Falconry piece from two weeks ago.  I was so excited about this one that I posted it right away as soon as it started to come together. That may have been a little premature because there was still a lot of work left in terms of permanently attaching the parts, but my enthusiasm got the best of me. 
I thought about using a machine,
but decided to do it by hand -
it's slower, but there's less risk
- the worst that's likely to happen
is a needle hole in the wrong spot
as opposed to the scenario I imagine with the machine where the paper gets torn to
shreds in a few seconds.

photographed at an angle so the stitches show -
I tried to 'build it like what it is' and
put the stitching where there would be stitching
in the real thing.

not only stitching each thing together, but also stitching the 
parts to the background

On the one hand this was not exactly happy-making, and the piece doesn't look much different than it did two weeks ago; on the other hand, structurally, I think it made a difference - now I can shake it and none of the parts are going anywhere.  Also, since it was pretty boring, there was plenty of time to think.  One thing that occurred to me is how it sort of reminds me a little of the Ambras Court Hunting deck - a favorite among playing cards by Konrad Witz from the mid-15th century (which was an inspiration for carving the falcon blocks in January).

The other card that came to mind is this one from the Mantegna Tarocchi , two related Italian decks from the mid 15th century that draw on the style of Andrea Mantegna (I heart Mantenga!)

digital file - testing out different dimensions 
Tarot has been on my mind as I build up an archive of different head and hand blocks. I've been studying historic examples of the standard Arcana Major. I made a chart of the head and hand positions - my take is that one might be able to build a whole set of 22 with 4 (but better 5) full-scale heads and about 7 hands [hmmmmm - steeples fingers.]

I'm getting super excited to learn more about non-toxic intaglio and started working with the digital file of the most recent piece to turn it into the basis for a photopolymer plate... 

So how the leap from that early in the week to the Pierrot that I made in the second half of the week?

I liked the playing card proportion, so I decided to try a rectangle in this piece. The reasons for the clown are a little more difficult to explain.

It's funny I sort of made a game out of coming up with explanations. Just a few examples:
a) I wanted to try out ways of working with the prints and individualizing them so I sprayed a layer of white over the face - maybe that led to a very literal association with the white-face make up Pierrot wears
b) Or maybe it's because I recently finished Amanda Palmer's book "The Art of Asking" in which she describes working as a street performing mime, and her description of her white make up and voluminous white costume reminded me of Pierrot
c) Or maybe because there's a show I'd like to see in New York about masks - Becoming Another: The Power of Masks at the Rubin Museum. I think make up is like a flexible mask, and self-portraits are like masks too in the way that they allow a person to dissociate from and examine from a distance a particular aspect of themselves by turning the image of the self into an object. 
d) Then maybe thinking about masks and shows in New York led me to think about an one of the best recent show I've seen -  Marcel Dzama's work at David Zwirner. In his Une danse des bouffons (or A jester's dance), 2013, one of the characters has a white mask that can be turned to show happy or sad. I especially liked that part because, to me, it seems like an interesting way to show Harlequin and Pierrot as different aspects of the same archetype. (This idea of two symbolic figures who can be shown as a repetition with variation or conflated into a single figure has been on my mind like I was describing two weeks ago for Sleep and Death.)
e) Or maybe it was coming across a beautiful set of prints of characters from commedia dell'arte by Jacques Callot in a local shop a few weeks ago - such a nice art-surprise!
f) Or maybe the commedia dell'arte got me thinking about masks and then Venice, and that got me thinking about this piece I saw some years ago by Bruce Nauman. As I remember it, there were two screens on opposite sides of a room, and on one a clown says "I'm sorry" and the other he's saying "no, no, no" - I think it was the 1984 version of a similar piece from 1987 in the Art Institute of Chicago, Clown Torture - disturbing, but very memorable.
g) Or maybe thinking about two sides of an archetype, reminded me of this memorable piece - Nathaniel Mellor's hippy dialectics (ourhouse), 2011 in which two animatronic heads conjoined by their facial hair say conflicting things, and that got me thinking of masks. 
h) or maybe it was because I've been looking at a book of Odilon Redon engravings including La fleur du marecage, 1885
New block
i) Maybe, thinking of prints reminds me of the show, The Paris of Toulouse-Lautrec: Prints and Posters that I saw at MoMa, and I remember seeing a photo somewhere of the artist dressed as Pierrot. (Or maybe it wasn't the face/mask that got me thinking about Toulouse-Lautrec, maybe it was thinking about gloves - because I took more glove photos this week, and he drew lots of really great gloves.)
j) or maybe it wasn't visual at all - maybe it's because when I read Amanda Palmer's book, I listened to the Dresden dolls, who wore white face make up while performing, and that got me thinking of how David Bowie and Lady Gaga also both wore white make up dressed as Pierrot-like characters.
k) Also - drawing this collar was really fun!
If you made it to the end of that list - o my! 

 In the end, I feel like the number of possible explanations may point to something Benedict Carey describes in How We Learn. He discusses experiments conducted by Michael Gazzaniga  (also described  here  in an article by Carey) in which different pictures were shown to each of a person's eyes, corresponding to the hemispheres of the brain, which in very simplified terms represent a language side and an visual side. Afterwards, people couldn't describe what they saw on the visual side. They could however associate the two disparate pictures they saw at the same time - indicating that both the visual and language side were working together to absorb information and create an association, but (here's the most interesting part to me) - they didn't remember why the two disparate images were associated(!) Instead, it seemed like the language part of the brain just made up a story to explain the association. To me, this feels accurate - that the visual part of a person wants to "say" something, but, by definition, it can't put it into words, so it gives pictures about which the verbal mind makes up a plausible explanation after the fact.  

So maybe the best explanation for self-portrait as Pierrot is that I don't know the explanation? ;)  

Para-art developments:
I put up a shelf in the studio (yay me!) and took photographs in the park

I came across this toy snake -
uncanny fake creature in real habitat
Also, a boat that looks like it's cruising across the field (weird, right?)

Monday, April 6, 2015

phase 6 - each art-thing is a responsibility, on-going

A helter-skelter week with art-responses of "yes, no, and maybe so," and amidst it all - new things (naturally! :))  

The first part of the week went to making this giant drawing for a special request. It was a nice change working big in charcoal and a good reminder that as much as I love working with prints and collages, drawing is still the rock on which my art-house is built. 

That's a soda can in the foreground for scale ;)

While I was working on the drawing, a very special package arrived!  In looking back at the first set of gloves from 2 weeks ago, I felt the shift from the large tool marks to small tool marks was too abrupt.

This makes sense because I didn't have intermediate size tools - I had a few nice small tools and student grade large tools with not much in between. In last week's portrait block, I addressed this in a short-term way by sticking with one of the small tool almost exclusively...but...
I color coded them - warm colors at U gouges, cool colors are V gouges.
Arranged largest on the outside of the spectrum toward smallest in the center
with the middle being a 75 degree angle tool - beauteous!
The one with the dark handle is a tool I already had
(that's how I knew I'd love them - it's my favorite!)

ball point pen drawing on the block 
Ah,phase 6! My feeling is that, while every material has the potential to be frustrating at times, art-tool-frustration can be a good thing if it's a sign of pushing the material. I don't think it's the tools/equipment/material's fault - either it's worth putting up with or it's time to make a change...

I took the plunge and got a full set of professional tools (Eep!)

I don't really have the words to describe how much better the new tools are (picture's worth 1000 words?) Not only are there new (to me) sizes and shapes, but they respond to pressure so that now I can vary the width within a single cut (an exciting dynamic aspect that's going to take some (or a lot of ;) ) practice).

I feel like not only do I have more tools, but each one responds with more finesse, and, it may seem like a small thing, but the color coding also made a pretty big difference because it helps me keep track of which tool is which so that I can change more easily from one tool to another.

When the glove was finished, instead of doing the inverse as planned, I decided to go all out and try a portrait...

...So why are there 2? [sigh.]

This was a challenging block, but I was happy with the results...for about 15 minutes. Then I decided it was about 10% too small.[doh!]

Admittedly, that's a pretty big carving-mistake (one for which the solution is - carve another block). What happened? Was I just so into the new tools that I didn't notice while carving?

Yes, and no - I measured, and the first block is almost exactly life-sized, so not an execution mistake, more of a planning mistake - a lack of clarity in thinking (I thought I wanted it life-sized, but really, I want it to feel life sized, not be life sized (which, apparently, is "reality+12%" - oy.) Duly noted!


blocks side by side - second time around gave the opportunity for lots of practice with the new tools and a chance to make some adjustments to the drawing  - at least I have better hair in the second one?

"Why yes, that is a kitty on my back..."
I spent so much time this weekend kneeling on the grassy pillow carving with the new tools,
that my feline assistant decided I was sufficiently stationary to qualify as a napping spot [purrrr]..
But it wasn't all indoor time - outside in the park, swallows were zooming around.
and some of the first flowers of spring!