Sunday, July 1, 2012

Mixed Media {Intensive}

"Intensive" is the right word! I am exhausted, but in a good way--Saturday and Sunday I drove back and forth to Providence for six hours of class each day in mixed media, taught by Mara Metcalf, who was completely down-to-earth and welcoming, funny and approachable. The class contained a good mix of people with varying skills, experience, and backgrounds, and I'm betting not one person there felt they didn't belong. Taking an Art Class can feel pretty intimidating, especially at a place like RISD. Honestly? I've gotten over that. I've taken classes there myself, although it was a long, long time ago, and always through continuing ed; plus, I have an art minor in my background, so I no longer feel that Art Classes (capitals intended) are for Other People But Not Me. But continuing ed, truly, should be open to everybody. I think that's the idea of those programs, yes? And Mara was such an easygoing, natural teacher. I think it would be a good use of my time simply to look for more classes by her and try to take them, no matter the subject.

But what did we do, you're asking. Enough of the preamble! Basically, we messed around. Some people had an idea coming in, but I had none. I find mixed media challenging. Why? It has no rules! Anything goes! And I think that is exactly what challenges me. When I had the opportunity to pursue an art minor, I focused in photography. It had a nice rigid framework that I could experiment within, and boundaries to push against, but rules aplenty. You had to know the rules (of exposure, and chemicals, and development) so you could experiment with them. Wide-open-go-anywhere-do-anything-use-anything is hard. It is hard for me to just let loose.

This is what I ended up with after the first day.

We practiced with gesso and packing tape transfer. I'm familiar with the tape method (it's how I made this label, among others), and I'd seen the gesso transfer technique demonstrated during last spring's printmaking class, although I hadn't done it myself. (You can Google "gesso transfer" and get lots of instructive links.) So these three are a mix of transfer methods, collage, adding into the transfers with various materials...just playing around.

Sunday we were supposed to be a bit more directed. I didn't really have a plan, although Saturday night I did another gesso transfer onto prepainted paper, and another packing tape transfer, except I used contact paper instead, which is much less shiny and can be cut to the size of the image, instead of overlapping the strips of tape. I used both of those in Sunday's projects, which you can see here, pinned to the wall next to Karen's.

Karen's are the three on the left. Mine are on the right. First a close-up of the bottom one.

Talk about not having a plan! Not a one, beyond using the gesso transfer of the iris and the image of the girl, which is from a vintage sewing pattern envelope. (Hat tip to my sister, who provided the vintage sewing patterns!) And then I just winged it. There's some tissue from a sewing pattern, and some actual thread stitching, and some extra yellow glaze. Some marker lines that sort of mimic stitching, and finally, because the flower was sort of getting lost, I went in with some paint based on suggestions from Mara and a classmate. And then, you know, we all thought it more or less worked. (As an aside, I love mixing paint colors using only primaries, black, and white. I know there are a gazillion colors of paint available, and still, I almost always choose to mix my own. Love.)

The larger piece incorporates the contact paper transfer of a tree's a detail shot.

Because I didn't think to take a close-up while it was on the wall, this has a bit of shadow and glare on it. I painted the underlying paper a yellowish green, then painted the dark green of the tree's leaves directly onto the contact paper transfer. You'll just have to believe me that this looks much better in person. The photo is one I took a month or two ago of a huge tree near one of the playgrounds we visit. It's one of those trees that spread out and the leaves fall all around you, and you can walk right under and it's like a play fort (especially if you're a kid) or a hideout (ahem, teenagers, it's not as private as you think), and the light is just magical in there. And then the tree has all these carvings on it. So I took reference photos both of the leaves surrounding you when you're inside, and the textual qualities of the bark, because these will, I suspect, show up as embroidery sooner or later. That's the plan, if I can clear the decks of all the other projects swirling in my head or on my work table.

And that right there is why I think mixed media might be a good solution for me. I like to do so much--paint and carve stamps and embroider--on so many surfaces--paper and cloth and canvas--that perhaps if I find a way to just combine it all together, I could get more ideas out of my head and into the world. And yes, I do stop to think to myself, What am I going to do with all this? I'm paying to take classes, so, to what purpose? Because we adults do tend to think we need to justify ourselves. But I'd never question my children that way. I'd never say, What are you going to do with that drawing, anyway? So the answer, for now, is that I simply need to do. I need to create.

And that is the other benefit of taking this class...time with other people who feel the same way. After class on Saturday Karen and I hung out for a bit and had dinner together. Those opportunities, for me, are few and far between, and rarely do I feel like I can completely be myself, because my self is kind of weird and a little awkward, but I felt completely comfortable around Karen, and in the class, too. And now I should go write down all the half-baked ideas swirling in my head before I forget them. I'll be back in a few days, hopefully with a finished project; meanwhile, the postcard giveaway is still open to comments until Tuesday night.

How was your weekend?!


Jill said...

Yay! Just, Yay! My weekend was better knowing you were having an awesome time!

Donna Lee said...

Not as creatively challenging as yours! I understand the urge to DO something with the stuff. But no one asked the great artists, "But Vincent, (Salvatore, Pablo, claude) what are you going to DO with all this?"

Michelle said...

Bah . . . never feel like you have to justify a purpose for art. And honey, that's art. Beautiful, interesting, impressive ART.

So glad you had this weekend. Sounds like a blast!

Bells said...

mixed media DOES seem the right outlet for you. You can mix and match and find all sorts of ways to try new stuff and combine the old and the new (to you) creative expressions available. What a great idea. I love the idea of a weekend intensive. I'm looking at them for sewing - rather than having to show up once a week for six weeks or something, you can knock it all over in one really intense bout and the results speak for themselves!