Saturday, March 22, 2014

Ladder Collage

8x8 inch paper collage
based on a quilt design by Nancy Crow

Lately I have been spending much of my studio time thinking about ways to use my big collection of papers in abstract design.  A design I created last month elicited a comment from a friend who suggested it reminded her of the quilts from the ladies of Gees Bend.  When I tried to get the book from our library I learned it was stolen, and when I ordered it inter-library loan, the wrong book arrived.  So I searched farther and discovered a book of wonderful designs by Nancy Crow.  

This little collage is similar to one of her marvelous quilts, though certainly not identical.  I used altered pages from National Geographic, papers I bought in Italy, a paper bag, and a page from an old atlas - all glazed with acrylic paint.  I'm not sure what it was about the ladder design.  I know ladders can symbolize striving, for spirituality, for success.  But I think the dark colors and ladders stirred up memories of our dairy barn.  

Dad used to send me scrambling up a ladder into our hay mow to throw down bales of hay or straw for the cows. I loved it up there - loved the darkness, the high roof, the ropes and pulleys, the bales that could be arranged into forts.  I loved the slivers of light that entered the mow through gaps between the vertical boards, and the bits of hay dust and chaff that sparkled in the slices of light.  There were ladders along the side of the hay mow too, and sometimes my friend up the road and I would climb up high and jump into the hay.  That was probably a good way to die, but we never were hurt.  There was a ladder inside our cement silo too.  I remember climbing to the top and looking out over our farm, feeling that I had a bird's eye view of the world.  

My knees would never stand for anything of these activities any more.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Does It Go Round In Circles?

work in progress, monoprints, collaged on 300 lb. watercolor paper

For the past month or so I have been playing printing with a 6x6 inch gel printing plate, called a Gelli Plate.  Gelatin plates have been around for ages, but require quite a lot of advance set up, and they do not last very long.  Gelli plates are made from a polymer material, are easy to use and clean up, long lasting, and they work perfectly with acrylic paints.  I have lots and lots of acrylic paints.  I also already had leftover glass from framing, and a brayer, which is really all a person needs to get started.

The story with this project is that our local art league plans to partner with a business incubator, and is looking for good-sized abstract art for offices.  I thought for a while about images of light bulbs, brains, the earth, gears, and a whole lots of other over-used imagery, and decided to fall back on a design loosely based on quilt patterns.  I love vintage papers, so I printed on pages from an old child's dictionary, allowing a little bit of print to show through.  I made the circles by impressing a lid from a jar of hair gel on the paint covered printing plate.  

There have been challenges along the way.  I adhere my papers by coating them, and the substrate,  with a polymer medium, allowing it to dry, then using a tacking iron to adhere the papers to the substrate.  My printed papers, even coated in medium, were more fragile than I knew.  And perhaps I had the heat on the iron too high, because several of my papers bubbled and tore when I tried to heat fuse them.  I ended up patching some small places to disguise the tears.  Then I was unhappy with the design, because at that point all the circles were just empty rings, and the overall look was very dark.  So, I went back into my stack of prepared printed sheets and cut out some circles, and tacked them into the previously empty rings.  I like this better, because there is more variety in value, and more color. 

I still need to go back and apply more heat to the edges of some circles to make sure they are completely adhered, and I still need to decide if I want the final collage to have a matte, semi-gloss, or glossy finish.  Perhaps when my mat is cut it will help me envision what is best.

In the meantime I am enjoying the ambiguity of the repeated circle filled squares.  They suggest all sorts of things to me, quilt squares, round pegs in square holes, diagrams, wheels, crop circles.  I haven't decided yet.