Thank you to all who came out Friday night for the exhibit opening! To learn more about these paintings and the sources of inspiration, search this blog using key words “Harbour Island.” You can also visit http://arttalkkabf.blogspot.com or click here to listen to artist, curator and radio host, Rachel Trusty, interview Laura about her work and about the current exhibit.
In the last post, I described a workshop I periodically teach at the Arkansas Arts Center. The focus of that article shifted from the purpose and joy of teaching to a specific technique from the workshop: the use of stencils and stamps. This second post of the series focuses on a technique we explore in class called Image Transfer. First I’ll describe HOW to do image transfer, then I’ll talk about WHY. As with most art materials, there are countless ways to use this technique and, of course, reasons abound.
Here is what you need: any type of gel medium (as long as the words “gel medium” are in the name of the product), a paint brush (a 1″ flat bristle brush works well), and an image you want to transfer onto your work surface. This technique works on paper, canvas, wood panels, lamp shades, fabric…just about any surface with a little tooth to it. As far as the image options to transfer, you can use photos and text from magazines, newspaper, or your printer. Thick paper such as photos from a calendar are difficult and processed photography does not release the ink well. As you will see, we will rub off the paper as a final step and thick paper is much more laborious. So, magazine, newspaper and images on printer paper (at home or at stores such as Staples) work well.
For this example, let’s say you are working on a paper surface and using magazines for your image source. Once you have your image cut out, apply a liberal amount of gel medium to your paper surface (this is the surface RECEIVING the ink from your image), slightly dampen the surface of the image you want to apply, and press it face down on the paper. Apply pressure in the middle of the image and gently smooth out the air bubbles, pushing them outward toward the edges. Wherever there are air bubbles, the ink will not adhere to your paper surface. A roller or brayer works well to remove air bubbles and helps press the image ink into your paper surface which will be a new home for the ink.
Some people let the image dry for a few hours and have success with the transfer. However, many artists (myself included) insist that waiting 24 hours for the image to dry and set increases the success rate. So, put the piece aside and work on something else until tomorrow!
Here is another example – this time with text on canvas. Please note that when transferring text, the letters will be reversed in the end. I like the reverse text because it obscures the meaning of the words but if you want the letters to come out legibly, you can print text on your home printer. Just flip the text box in your document so you are printing backwards letters that will be reversed again in the image transfer process and will come out legibly. If this is confusing, the photos below might clarify:
THE NEXT DAY:
First apply water to the transfer. Don’t be stingy with the water. It will not hurt your artwork. The more water, the more it assists in breaking down the paper pulp. Using fine grain sandpaper, gently sand the back of the image transfer paper. Once you have the paper roughed up, apply more water. If it gets lots of pulp balls, just clean the surface with a damp paper towel and apply more water. Using your fingers, gently rub the paper pulp and wipe it away. Some paper is more stubborn (aka high quality) than others and the amount of time on this step can vary greatly. Be sure not to sand too hard or rub too vigorously or you might remove some of the ink that you are trying to transfer. Here are photos demonstrating the steps:
You can use a brush to apply water to the transfer, better yet, dump water on with your hands.
Let the water soak in and lightly sand the back of the transfer. Do not over sand or you might accidentally remove the ink.
Once the pulp is roughed up, use wet fingers and remove layers of the pulp by rubbing the transfer in a circular motion.
The are many reasons and uses for image transfer. Like collage, transferring commercially produced imagery CONTRASTS drawn line and paint. Unlike collage, transferred images attach seamlessly to the paper (or canvas or whatever you are working on) so the image integrates with other areas of the composition. Instead of looking added on top or glued on, the transferred photo or text appears to be embedded into the design. This is particularly effective when building a surface with layers under as well as over the image transfer.
A NOTE ABOUT ETHICS AND IMAGE USE:
Copyright laws and image use laws seem to change daily and it is becoming increasingly difficult to determine what images you can ethically use in your artwork. With social media and a plethora of photo apps, millions of people are publicly sharing their images while signing away ownership. In considering what images to use, I ask myself, is this photo a work of art that another artist created? How would I feel if one of my paintings appeared in another person’s artwork, and how would I feel if their art (using my work) were for sale and publicly displayed? I do not have a “one size fits all” answer; however, I believe the purpose of image transfer is to use commercially produced images in an heavily altered way. In my own work, an emphasis on layering helps alter and sometimes obliterate the transferred image. So enjoy experimenting with this technique, but always be thoughtful about the images you choose. For more information about copyright and fair use of imagery, there are many online resources such as:
Speaking of appropriating imagery, next up in this mixed media series is COLLAGE!
Thank you for reading!
It is hard to imagine how art could possibly capture the essence and beauty of Harbour Island, a tiny slice of heaven off North Eleuthera in the Bahamas. While sketching and photographing during a recent visit, I realized there are countless images and ideas that could be conveyed with drawing and painting. Abstractions could aim to capture the onslaught of brilliant light and color. The abundant foliage could make a limitless subject for botanical themed work. As a figurative artist, the temptation to capture the beauty and kindness of the people is irresistible.
But I can’t seem to escape the ideas mentioned in Part 1 (the previous blog entry) about the visual cues of time passing, and sometimes standing still, and of history, and of nature always altering, and reclaiming and continuing with or without us. So I’ll use images that prompt us to go back, to see the past, to wonder about our memories and the time before us. Perhaps in a strange combination, I can evoke the past while presenting figures who now have their turn at this magical place in the present.
One way to sort through the ideas and options is to seek inspiration in the work of others. Luckily, there is an fine art gallery nestled amongst the cottages and business in town. Upon entering the Princess Street Gallery, one quickly becomes aware of the talent – from both local and international artists – behind the poignant drawings and paintings. The work includes a variety of styles and subjects ranging from landscape to figurative. The overall impression when entering the space is much like the visual impression of the island – both the art and the island present breath-taking beauty, vivid color, creative patterns and vibrant people.
Though he was busy preparing for a customer meeting, owner Charles Carey gave me a few minutes of time to talk about his business. After growing up in Nassau and working in New York City, Carey relocated to Harbour Island and noticed “numerous artists on the island creating work with no where to show it.” With the grin of someone who loves his job, he explained that opening the gallery “was an experiment, really.” Nineteen years later, I’d say his experiment produced success for Carey, for the artists on his roster, and for collectors.
I was particularly drawn to two artists whose approaches, style, and subject matter seem to be opposite of each other, yet each artist captures a deep truth about island life. Native Bahamian and former house painter, Amos Ferguson uses repetition and bold shapes to create recognizable imagery in an abstracted environment full of color, texture and pattern. His work is immediately delightful, and on closer inspection, viewers notice a narrative or deeper meaning behind the deceptively simple figures. While the paintings can be perceived as child-like, don’t be fooled. The compositions are masterful and indicate a natural talent and gift.
I first saw the work of Stephen Scott Young in a private collection, the same collection that inspired me to study figure painting in grad school. So it was a meaningful treat to view several pieces displayed at Princess Street Gallery. His ability to perfectly execute anatomy, from expressive faces down to each carefully placed finger and toe, is unrivaled amongst watercolorists. But it is the choice he makes in the details, guiding our eyes and thoughts, that describes the mood, character and lives of the figures with brilliant clarity. He shows us the outside of each person as well as the individual spirit and circumstance which is perhaps one reason for his international success.
As I search for a way to present people, define space, and share the spirit of this place, I think of other artists and their methods. Those at Princess Street Gallery show me capturing the essence of Harbour Island is possible. The opportunity to spend time here, a place of lush growth, crystal clear water, and deeply kind people is a delight for anyone and a visual cornucopia for an artist. Creating meaningful art to represent such a magical place is a challenge for which I am deeply grateful and ready to face. Perhaps next entry, I’ll share a few pieces from current painting efforts. Until then, below are are few early sketches.
I hope you are having a lovely summer. Thank you for reading!
Today’s post is a preview to my upcoming exhibit on display at Boswell Mourot Fine Art February 28 – March 5 and again March 21 – April 2, 2015. Upon completion of grad school, I briefly wondered what would drive me to create a body of work in addition to my commission business. The answer presented itself as I applied for, planned, and attended an artist residency in remote southern Italy. The experience provided enough inspiration to last a lifetime and fuel countless bodies of work.
So I see this show as a scratch in the surface, as a beginning to a lifetime of visually exploring ideas I’ve contemplated for many years, ideas that Italy poignantly highlights in a lavish display of architecture, art, sculpture, monuments, ruins, and relics.
This body of work is an attempt to consider and communicate ideas. Specific themes surfaced repeatedly during my travel research: the passage or suspension of time; the strong influence of history in daily contemporary life; and, visual cues contrasting the ancient with the modern. For example, several paintings examine the presence and participation of inanimate objects (see below left image and consider the statue, the key, the chains underfoot, the cell phone, and the purse), such as religious relics and sculpture, in contemporary life.
In Italy, I began to see the omnipresent visual references to history as beacons of light. Details in stonework, in sculpture, in ancient relics and ruins allow the past to shine on contemporary life by guiding us with ancient clues, philosophy and lessons. This body of work examines visual evidence that seems to contrast modern life but actually surrounds, shapes and embodies today’s inhabitants of Italy.
Viewers of this new body of work can consider ideas about history in our their own lives. The work integrates figurative imagery with layers of text, pattern and drawings in a manner that both hides and reveals information, causing viewers to seek answers and ponder the abstracted space in which the figures exist. My hope is that the work invokes thoughtful contemplation for viewers, as it did for me during the creative process.
And if that all sounds like a bunch of artsy talk, take a look at the above painting and I’ll show you what I mean. I hope you will want to study the figures and ask, “Where are they? Are they together and do they know each other? What is their relationship? Is he in her past, present or future? What is that book in her hand? What is he writing? What does that text say in the background around the woman? Who are the faded figures and are they people in his mind, his memory? Is he writing about them? What are those architectural drawings fading into the background?” There are not always answers to these questions. The point is to consider the work, apply it to your own experiences and ask questions that keep you engaged in something, in anything! There is a Robert Rauschenberg piece at Crystal Bridges Museum and the label states his work is about “the effort of searching for meaning rather than specific meaning itself.” Look at the images in your world and in the art you see, and think. You might reconsider an issue on your mind, or see something in a new light. If my work can provoke this type of exploration, then I’ve had some measure of success.
Thank you for visiting! And please visit Boswell Mourot Fine Art in Little Rock, AR if you’d like to see the paintings in person.
I have the pleasure of driving through Austin at least once a year and one of my first stops, straight from I-35, is the Blanton Museum of Art on the UT campus. In need of a coffee and a walk, the moderately sized facility never fails to satisfy and is always a reprieve from the long drive. Add the varied special exhibits, and it becomes a slice of heaven after too many billboards and fast food signs along my route.
So, with only one day in Austin last week, I found myself making plans with my daughter and niece. When brainstorming good rainy day activities, I gave the Blanton a hard sell. Fortunately, these two budding artists were enthusiastic about the plan and off we went.
Sadly, by the time I post this, the exhibit, “James Drake: Anatomy of Drawing and Space (Brain Trash),” has only a few more hours for viewers to experience as much excitement as I’ve ever seen in drawings (the final day is today, Jan 4). The exhibit showcases, pinned to the wall from floor to ceiling, 1,242 individual drawings which were the result of Drake’s commitment to produce at least one drawing per day for two years. At times the multiple drawings form a cohesive image and idea; other times, the individual sheets of paper flutter autonomously and create a random snapshot of the artist’s stream of consciousness as he moves from one subject to another, or repeats one item or type of subject in an effort to practice and better understand the object.
Often, Drake incorporates text into the drawings, which either emphasizes or contrasts the visual images. Sometimes the text appears in the form of commercially printed material and is glued directly on the drawing paper and used as a background underneath drawings. Some words are large and stenciled, some are tiny and hand written, reminiscent of a journal entry or personal reminder. The longer I stood in front of each large wall, filled with papers, the more I realized the vast variety of mark making – variety in subject matter, variety in value, and variety in materials. Drake seems to be working hard to determine the most effective materials and methods to communicate. He even uses some type of scientific graph paper with mechanically made lines measuring something (someone’s heart rate? some sort of geological movement?).
This variety reminds the viewer that meaningful marks can be made in infinite ways with multiple materials, all in the name of drawing and communicating. His work inspires me to think about how old the concept of mark making is…on walls, then tablets, then paper. As old as it is, drawing is as modern and futuristic as it is ancient. Drake manages to capture historic, traditional elements as well as contemporary applications of drawing, which I find to be one of the most fascinating and enjoyable results of the display.
Along that thought, what delights me the most, is the combination of traditional figurative work and all that other mark making. The presence of such variety creates an engaging and complex contrast. Yet, with all the variety, there is a simplicity, a calmness or orderliness to the chaos. There are few colors, mostly varying degrees of black and white, though sepia tones and red are integrated from time to time. And there is plenty of white space – empty areas that serve as calm spots amongst the high energy of the drawings. At times, Drake reminds me of the great artist and drawer, David Bailin, whose energetic compositions are unique due to an extreme and fearless fervor of mark making. Both artists are able to create abstractions and complex spaces in their drawings using a strange combination of figurative representation with lines that I can only categorize as “other” (think of the above mentioned graph paper with the seismograph like lines).
Had I stayed longer and more closely examined the drawings, the text, and the collage style imbedded papers, I would surely have a more thorough and thoughtful response to share. But the two little artists were hard to corral and off we went to the second floor* after immersing ourselves for a little while in the mind of James Drake.
Thank you for reading, and good luck getting to the Blanton before 5:00 pm today!
*Regardless of the museum’s special exhibits located on the first floor, the second floor holds alluring treasures worthy of repeat visits, such as an exquisite Alice Neel painting, a meditative Adolph Gottlieb, and the installation show here, by artist Cildo Meireles.
When working on my recent body of paintings, a common thread appeared in my thoughts and observations: closely noticing things in our lives makes me feel more grateful. Compositionally, I capture moments that seem mundane or ordinary but once more deeply observed or considered, these moments become complex and provoking and can feel like little gifts.
What I didn’t realize is how watching closely in order to find painting content would morph into something much bigger and, for me, profound. By slowing down and doing a better job of listening, looking, and acknowledging my surroundings, I not only developed imagery for artwork, but a gratefulness practice that impacts my every moment and the way I view my world. Life becomes art and art becomes life, indeed!
At risk of straying off topic, I’d like to write about a recent experience. As I list the following kind moments, they might seem unrelated to my career as an artist and to the process of painting. But here’s the thing about it: as an artist, EVERYTHING RELATES TO PROCESS. These examples are an ongoing part of developing work and ideas. I also see them as a consequence of my gratefulness practice heightened through painting.
For those who like the image of a dark, suffering and brooding artist, get ready for an annoyingly optimistic one instead. Without further adieu, here are some lovely moments I noticed on a 4 day trip to New York City.
A young man (in his 20s) on the subway who was headed to an interview downtown kindly helped me with directions and then asked all about my southern home state (my country bumpkin’ accent was an immediate giveaway).
A man at the Museum of Natural History walked up while I was in the ticket line and gave me his extra ticket.
I tried to help a woman with three suitcases get up the subway stairs but her load was too heavy for me to carry up. This brawny arm reached forward from behind me. A big dude asked if we needed help and proceeded to carry the heaviest suitcase all the way to the top.
Again on the subway, a man gave up his seat for my daughter and me during rush hour. He was then smothered in the crowd during the rest of his ride which included several more stops.
UBER UBER UBER: Friendly drivers, good prices, spotless cars, fast service.
At the Brooklyn restaurant, Talde, every staff member in the place was aware of my daughter’s seafood allergy and made extravagant efforts to provide her with plenty of safe dining options. (note – in addition to extraordinary service, the food was delicious)
We arrived at the Beacon Hotel on Broadway and the desk clerk found a room so we could check in three hours early which significantly improved our day.
Two cleaning crew guys at Grand Central Station showed us the way to the restroom and teased us about looking utterly lost there during rush hour.
A college friend whom I rarely see invited us to her swell apartment for a home cooked meal with her family.
The aforementioned friend offered to connect me with an art dealer who specializes in contemporary figure painting. Really? Yes, so very thoughtful.
The bellman at the Beacon Hotel who stored and later retrieved our luggage was friendly and helpful.
The man who showed us to our bikes at Central Park Bike Rental, pointed to my daughter and said, “Come here, shorty.” She thought it was hilarious. When we returned the bikes later, he gave us perfect directions to our next destination.
When my daughter put a dollar in a saxophonist’s tip jar in Central park, he responded, “Thank you, little lady.” I know, I know, some might say this should be expected. But he did not have to say thank you at all. And he did not have to say it with such meaning and kindness in his voice.
The doorman at a friend’s apartment enthusiastically showed us how he works the manual “lift.”
We took a break in the foyer of the New York Public Library. As we ordered cold drinks, the salesman asked my daughter a few questions and said her answers reminded him of this little girl.
When checking my daughter’s shopping bag, the security guard at The Met talked with her about her soft and fuzzy new slippers and pajamas. She could have just rushed us forward or stared coolly into the bag. I guess this exemplifies most of what is on this list: human interaction and taking the time to care and connect, even in massive crowds, even when busy, even when working hard.
Though I have known her forever, the generosity of an old dear friend and her husband never ceases to amaze and humble me. They welcomed us into their Brooklyn home and into their busy lives and made us feel like nothing was more important than our time together (even though they have plenty of pressing tasks each day).
Every police officer was kind and helpful. In fact, everyone we came in contact with was actually nice…I mean really nice. People gave us directions, held doors open, answered questions, and said things like “Have a wonderful day!” It was like manners and helping each other was en vogue.
Even our experiences at LaGuardia and throughout our flights was better than I could have imagined: there were no long lines, the security check was short and sweet, the American Airline employees were jovial (yes, I just used the word “jovial” when describing something about air travel), the woman at the magazine stand was friendly and smiled. Other travelers looked and acted relaxed and positive. I wonder, have I become so jaded that I am absolutely stunned by the persistent loveliness we experienced at each and every turn?
So the next time you assume something about a person or a place, try to show a little kindness and appreciation. You might just get it back ten-fold. Without considering people and ordinary moments for my paintings, I might not have noticed and appreciated all the little, yet valuable, human kindnesses we experienced in New York. Thankfully, kindness, as well as artistic inspiration, can find each of us just about anywhere.
In Part I, the broad question about the importance of art in our world was addressed. I now wonder, Am I good enough? How can I improve?
I’m afraid I will never believe I am good enough. But I am determined and can’t seem to quit being an artist so I might as well improve and learn as much as I possibly can. In order to improve, I enrolled in undergrad art classes four years ago at a local university. In the back of my mind lingered an idea, the same one that has whispered in my ear for over 15 years. Will I ever be able to study art in graduate school? Driving to class one day, while my children were at their school, I thought, maybe I can do it. But do I really have the energy and ability to work, raise children and be a graduate student? As it turns out, there was really no question. I knew I had to try.
Now, miraculously, the end of the painting graduate program draws near and something that seemed so distant, so impossible, so large, looming and challenging is shifting before my very eyes from being right in FRONT of me to right BEHIND me. And it has been both daunting and dashing. The workload has crushed me and elevated me. The professors are critical and accepting. They demand and they give. And it has been hard and easy – hard because I have such a tremendous amount to learn and easy because I am infinitely grateful. Waiting for so many years to return makes the opportunity to study on a graduate level feel like a dream…a figment of my imagination that has finally shifted its way into the real world.
Though the workload has been great, when you love something, the work becomes a joy. That is what the program means to me – not a piece of paper or a line item on my resume. The school experience has allowed me to see improvement in my work and in my ideas. More importantly, I am learning about the meaning of art, the purpose of art in our world, and the history of art. I am beginning to consider how all this applies to the work I create.
Now that the end of the program is near, a shift in work focus is eminent. Instead of working on technical skills, I am working on ideas and how best to present the ideas. In the book, Why is That Art, by Terry Barrett, the author dedicates a section to Aristotle and how his studies apply to art. He believed successful artwork presents a subject in a way that invited the viewer to THINK and that art provides us with knowledge of the world. Barrett explains that the successful artist uses expression to present nature without relying only on mimetic skill.
And this leads me to another topic for another time – deciding what ideas to express and how to do so. Until then, thank you for your time! Off to work!