A Look at My Process…part 1

I was asked to provide a bit more insight into my process.  There are a few different ways to address that question.  I thought that for now, I would give you an overview and show you step by step, or layer by layer, a piece from start to finish.  I’ve been good at taking photos thus far, let’s hope that trend continues!

When I step into the studio, I generally have music playing.  Not always, sometimes I just pop in to add a layer or two to some pieces.  But, especially if I am planning on working a few hours or so, I am wanting to set my atmosphere.  I generally choose something that brings me peace, yet is exciting enough that I don’t want a nap.  I don’t set concrete goals as to a number of pieces to complete or anything of that nature.  Mainly, I’m wanting to have fun and explore.

Generally, I paint on hardboard panels, with or without a cradle.  Since I have been in the process of moving, I’ve not been able to build any cradled panels, partly because they take up quite a bit of space.  Before I moved, I cut quite a few panels into regular sizes so that it would be easy to have several on hand.  After they are cut and sanded, I gesso them.  Sometimes the gesso seems to go on thicker than others, so I may get away with just 1-2 coats.

Panel with gesso

Then begins the painting!  I usually do just one color per layer, but was trying to speed it up a bit for y’all!

Four layers of paint down…now for some collage materials.

First, I go through my stash and pull out things that appeal to me.  Then, I start tearing them and placing them on the piece.  I don’t always get everything in position before I start the collaging process, bit I did so this time.  I am paying a bit of attention to composition at this point.  You can see that I left a larger expanse of the middle piece than I had planned at first.  These things happen!

I collect books, Bibles especially, in foreign languages.  I like the interesting textures that they add.  I also collect newspapers in other languages.  Of course, the danger in not being able to read something, is that it says something that is a horrible contrast to your piece, or that it is totally offensive.  That’s partly why I began to collect Bibles…there are still sections that probably don’t lend themselves well to any particular theme, but it’s a little bit of a safer bet!  I also use other old Bibles that aren’t useable any longer.  I have several from my former church that the children had written in, etc.  I don’t mean any disrespect to the Word, it is the foundation of my life, and as such seems appropriate that it be a part of my work.  And, I feel it does them greater honor to be a part of something beautiful, than being thrown in the trash.

In this piece, I have something from a book in Korean, a Bengali Bible, Jordanian newspaper, old math book and a pocket testament.

After the collage material completely dries…at least hopefully I have enough patience for that!  (If I don’t then there is the risk that they will tear, especially if it’s a thicker paper.)  I added another layer or two? of paint to help “marry” the collage materials into the piece.  Then some stamping for additional interest and texture.

At this point, I don’t really want the extreme contrast that is there, so I mix some paint in with gesso and apply a wash. If you look closely, towards the middle and lower right part of the photo, you will see some circles.  This is the result of drops of rubbing alcohol added before the gesso wash has dried.  After that dries completely, I added more paint.  Blue to the right of the newspaper, and red to the left.

At this point, I begin to look and see if there is anything appearing.  I haven’t noticed anything yet, and so I may add more layers of paint, collage, stamping, etc.  Or, sometimes, I will be reminded of somewhere that I’ve been, which is how most of my landscapes have come into being.  This tends to be the hardest stage of a painting for me…it’s starting to look like something, so I tend to get a bit nervous about messing it up. That fear is a killer, so I usually push past it by reminding myself that the worst that could happen is that I gesso over the whole thing and start over!

It doesn’t usually come to that, although I have a few pieces that are just refusing to tell me what they want to be when they grow up.  So, I’ve set them around, and fiddle with them once and a while…

What do you think?  Is this process what you thought it would be?  Is there anything else that you want to know about the process so far?