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The Process Piece Project

Last October I was asked by Straylight Magazine, a literary magazine of the University of Wisconsin-Parkside to take part in a new website series for visual artists called Process Piece. Each week for a month I will be sharing the stages [and trials and tribulations] of a piece of art start to finish with images and descriptions from. Here we go!

Week 1: Arranging and Rearranging

In the past 6 months there’s been quite a changeover in my choice of materials. I’ve tucked away my chop saw and replaced it with scissors. I went from wood collage and assemblage pieces to mostly paper collage. I also scaled down my typical 30”x40” format to a mere 4”x6” postcard size. Last month I took an encaustic workshop at RAM’s Wustum Museum with Kathleen Laybourn and I’m hooked. Or I think I am. I’m anxious to blend these two latest interests.

Play time! I always feel this way when I start a new body of work; oh the possibilities and the “failures.” I never start a single piece. Minimum is three, most times it’s six to twelve. Working in multiples allows me to stay relatively detached from single results, allowing me to explore my materials on hand and be more open to experimentation.

This month I’ll be starting on seven pieces. All but one are 9”x12,” the other is 12”x16”. Some, or all, are sure to be unrecognizable from week one to week four as I arrange and rearrange found paper and magazine scrapes, and add layers of wax and paint. I realize it will be harder to follow my process on individual pieces, and I did consider highlighting just one, but it is so against my grain to work that way. Generally, whichever piece starts out the gate the strongest tends to ends up the weakest. At first this “prized” piece works as a gauge. But as you’ll see, the ones that are the weakest become the strongest because of a “what do I have to lose” attitude that fosters experimentation and catapults them to the head of the series. I consider a series successful if I’m happy with 50%. The others will be painted over and become wonderful surfaces to start something new.

I haven’t done any planning or sketches. I work intuitively. My intent is to interrupt my usually strict horizontal compositions with some strong verticals. I’d also like to reintroduce organic forms I’ve sidelined these past few years. I’ll continue to explore the use of text as pattern and introduce more color (I know, believe it when you see it!) and as always, I hope to loosen up, leave pieces/areas rawer than usual, but we’ll see about that one too.

For starters I turn my boards on the vertical. At this stage I’m using mostly magazine pages, selecting broad fields of color. To soften the color and give more texture to the slick pages I crumple the paper, then flatten them out and gently rub the surface with a wet scrubber [see black areas on #5& #6.] The color from the creased areas are lifted and the more I rub the more ink is removed. Because the wax turns the paper transparent what’s printed on the back side of the magazine paper is considered. Any printing on the opposite side will show through in reverse. For this reason I decide to use a black permanent marker to block most of the text from the back side. I leave some letters/remnants visible and like the way this solution reduced the text to pattern.

I begin layering the papers with Dorland Wax and set with a heat gun. Dorland wax is a cold wax and resin painting medium that can be mixed with oil paints for luscious surfaces. After 2 to 3 layers have been applied I allow them to harden for a couple of days.

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