Sunday, June 24, 2007

Collage and Pancakes

This tile was the one I made my last day at Arrowmont. It's fitting because that experience completely altered the way I look at my process and what I make. I took that new perspective to Saluda last weekend and was further rewarded with Katie Kendrick's wonderfully generous instruction.

In addition to intuitive painting and collage, Katie openly shared her techniques for achieving beautifully rich and textured backgrounds with us. It was so enjoyable to watch her and listen to her repeat her internal dialog aloud as she worked on a piece - almost as much fun as trying it myself.

Katie recommended that we work on up to three pieces at once (my kind of girl) so that as one is drying, you can move to another and work on it. At one point, I was pointing my heat gun at one piece and painting another with my free hand. Sometimes there's some nice cross-pollination that occurs naturally -- translation: if I didn't clean my brush or dipped it in a color I was using on another piece there would be a happy accident.

The wonderful texture of these backgrounds is lost a bit, but you get the idea. Painting the backgrounds was so much fun, I hated to move on. Michelle felt the same way.

Jane has this great stuff, it's design scrap from a sequin manufacturer. Basically it's the substrate that sequins are punched out of -- it's like holey paper on steroids. I used it to dig into the layers of the above background and paint through it like a stencil. You can really see the result in the lower left hand corner.
Katie is no purest. And I mean that in the best possible way. She gets her hands dirty, she absently wipes gesso onto her cheek, she mixes paint into her gel medium jar (I can hear some of you gasping at the mere idea - hey, you got peanut butter in my chocolate!) Her mantra: "That's ok." If the paper sticks to the paint, that's ok, if it rips some of the background off, that's ok. I love that about her. Everything is a playful experiment that starts with the question: What if? It's a great attitude for me to adopt. I tend to be too fussy and matchy-matchy, I try to control everything. So I went back to my table with the resolve to let go, dang it.
I collaged and painted and came up with an owl and a house that had elements I liked, but overall I was unhappy with it. I cut it apart and glued things down more haphazardly which improved it, but didn't fix it completely.

I loved the background -- I didn't have any problem just going with it when I was painting those, but my composition still felt too planned and contrived - very un-Katie. The owl-thingie was ok, I liked his funky little feet, but he didn't seem to go with the house. Or as Debbi would say: "....the house and owl haven't met yet....." I wanted to do things differently than I usually would and the best way for me to do that was to emulate Katie's free-flowing process.

When I came home, I tried my (left) hand at some more phonebook faces. This is a really important exercise for me. With each phone book page I painted, I was a little bit closer to cracking the safe. I pasted two of the better ones of my 30 or so tries together and got this:

I scanned it. Printed it out in a variety of sizes, painted one of them and went back to my original collage. This is when the house unexpectedly became a headdress. It's mounted on a 6 x 12 canvas.

Marny, one of my fellow classmates in the collage class, made a very astute observation: many of the faces Katie paints have these concentric circles around them, making them look kind of swaddled. Katie wraps her own head in her signature scarf, creating a very similar effect - a connection that Katie herself hadn't made. I love the idea that each of her intuitive paintings are like little un-self-concious, subconcious self-portraits.

The moral of the story: Sometimes collages are like pancakes, you might have to throw the first one out. And that's ok.


katie said...

oh cheryl my dear, you are not only a gifted artist, a fast study, a gut-busting comedian, a gracious and generous student (yum, how i wish i had one of those coconut macroons right now), and a talented teacher (i wish i could fly to NC and take your Sept 22 class), but a gifted writer as well. thank you for the very insightful and humerous entry - without you, the class just wouldn't have been the same!! (now how is that for a run-on sentence :-) xox katie

e. beck said...

how fabulous to read your whole process......sounds like a fab class and a great experience all the way around...hooray.....

random notes said...

What a great blog today, Cheryl. I think Katie said it all ... my words would just be repeats. I noticed that your "eyes" on your artwork are looking off to the side; an interesting take on the outcome of the piece and your photos certainly say it all too. Wish I could have attended. Feel like I missed out on a whole lot of good stuff and contagious energy.

michelle C said...

you nailed it! I didn't put the scarf Katie wears and her circle images together.. you have it .. you are so observant! ;o)

I do love what you made and should follow your lead and do more doddling on phonebooks now that I'm at home and have the time to play!

Cheryl Prater said...

Michelle: While I am never one to refuse a compliment, Marny was the observer that put Katie's scarf and her drawings together, not I. The credit is truly hers. But you can always start a rumor that it was my idea. I can't stop you. ;p

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for sharing your experiences in Saluda. I do so wish that I could have been there. I live in Asheville, a mere 40 minutes away, but I had family and vacation plans to attend to.

Tula said...

I like your owl thingy, he's cute!
Looks like you are putting in alot of hard work with your art. You're doing great! It's so awesome that your art has evolved into a career!

BookGirl said...

Cheryl, I always enjoy reading about art techniques and, in particular, the process of creating, so thanks for sharing your experience of Katie's workshop. Your personal style is the icing on the cake.


Ro Bruhn said...

Sounds like everyone had a great time, the work looks great