Friday, June 15, 2018

LAW 151: The Anatomy of a Collage

The way i approach the creation of a collage has changed significantly since i created the 52 Weeks series. There are many reasons for the changes that have occurred, first and probably foremost, with time and practice my art has matured. Certainly the space i am working in has changed, as in, it has gotten much smaller, and it is shared use space. I can no longer leave a collage on my work table for a week at a time auditioning pieces.

Trajectory, 5.17.18
 So, i no longer simply page through folder after folder looking at material waiting for the inspiration angel to strike. No more waiting for that aha moment when a narrative builds itself around disparate imagery.

The process i am now using stems from the work i did with the altered  book project, Never Dine With A Dino. Please see LAW 144 for more about this project.

Using imagery from just one source, in this case the work of Oleg Tselkov narrows and refines the process even further.

I start by pre-selecting a color palette. This involves choosing between 10 and 20 whole or relatively whole pages in a specific color range; usually grey/black tones and either a warm or cool range as well as a limited amount of contrast color. At this point i also usually choose a texture palette, with Tselkov that is either an airbrush smooth, or his beautiful, crackly, painterly style.

Vortex, layer one

At this point i have already reinforced the corners and edges of the book board as well as gessoed the front and back surfaces.

The next step is to create the background. This is the most random element of the process, as well as the one that really develops the overall composition of the piece. Literally i start with a randomly chosen page, start cutting it into strips and triangles and start gluing them onto the board.

Since my intention is to not frame these pieces i am very careful to wrap the imagery around onto the back of the  board. As if i was painting the edges of a canvas. Years of book making come in handy here. I finish all the corners with a "library corner". I have always preferred this technique to the mitered corner. Although bulkier, a library corner is far more durable.

Vortex, complete

A note on adhesives. On a boat, living on the water, absolutely none of them work very well. I go back and forth between liquid glues, which i really do not like, to glue sticks, and back and....

Which ever i am using i always end up taping the edges of every piece that wraps around onto the back. And yes, i always always always use pressure.

Once the background layer is complete, i document that and usually stop for the day, sometimes, but not very often a piece will come together in one sitting. It usually takes a couple of days to finish one of these pieces.

Witness, layer one

I keep the cut pieces from previous collages, you can never know when you are going to need that little curvy bit of pink that was trimmed from something else. Yes ultimately i will discard the scraps, actually they all go into the bin of scraps to become hand made paper. Waste not.

I always look at these pieces from every point of view. I almost always start from a portrait perspective, but turn and work with the composition from every angle.

Witness, complete

Any questions or comments would be greatly appreciated.

More later,

Monday, June 4, 2018

LAW 150: The Single Artist Series

Sometime at the very end of April i finally made the decision to cut into a book that i have been holding onto; a beautifully produced monograph of Oleg Tselkov's work. Considering that we radically downsized our library when we moved onto the Floating Empire four years ago removing a book from the 'library' was/is a rather radical move, a significant reduction of the library population.

Public Safety, 4.23.18, 10 x 14"

I knew sooner or later i would work up the nerve to cut into this beautiful book, it took several years.

Tselkov is a brilliant colorist of extreme subtly; he consistently utilizes the same imagery, and subject matter. His figures are very soft, amorphous, often fading into the background. His imagery is not something i find interesting, but oh my, his color, oh my!

His subtle color work, with it's generous swathes of gorgeous, soft shapes simply invite cutting into. What a gift this book, this work is to the collage artist.

Embrace the Light, 4.26.18, 10 x 12.5"

Public Safety is the last of this series of collages that i did on cardboard. I had an aha moment, always later than sooner, but... and realized it was really stupid of me to discard the covers of books that i had already cut up. I mean, perfectly good, archival quality book board,, that i would have to pay for; so was born the great art of "book filleting", i will discuss technique in a future blog post.

Public Safety is also the first of this new line of collages that i think of as Paper Painting, or the Single Artist Series.

Survival Suit, 4.29.18, 8.5 x 11"

Why Single Artist? All of the imagery comes from the work of a single artist.

On one hand, a dangerous move, upping the possibility of recognition: after all, all collage is appropriation. The trick, taking the best of someone else's work and using it to re-imagine, to create a new, totally different work can be a real challenge. Somethings, some images are so iconic, so recognizable that they are impossible to use.

On the other hand, and there is always at least one other, the advantages of working within a single artist's oeuvre are substantial; consistency of palette, brush stroke, style.

I am reasonably sure if Oleg Tselkov saw this blog post he would recognize, at the very least, i am  strongly influenced, perhaps even that i am using his work. I doubt even he could say with certainty what color, what shape comes from which painting. Which leaves me comfortable that i am performing this particular balancing act with a certain amount of grace.

Unmasked, 5.1-7.18, 9.5 x 12"

What are your feelings about this?

More later,