Friday, April 20, 2012

Plexi Project

Vision 9  Hardboard and carved Plexiglass 12" x 24".
One of the suggestions from my critiques during the January Residency at AIB was to experiment with Plexiglass. I picked up a few scraps last week and began to try painting and carving them. The Dremel tool with a cutting bit creates etched lines without too much difficulty. I like the way the light catches the grooves and casts some interesting shadows. I'm not sure about the subject matter. The waterfall could be simplified further. The two panels are not attached together yet, so I can make a few changes if I want to.

Vision 9 - Stage 1 Hardboard panel in progress.

I began with the idea of creating a design for a wall mural. Early on, I realized that I don't have the technical skills necessary to create a 3-D wall relief more than 25' wide. However, it is an interesting exercise and I am glad that I tried it. The transition from Photoshop design to a physical work was challenging. I found that I fell back on my past painting approaches when faced with a frustrating problem. I had to put the Photoshop enlargement away in order to simplify the image further. Originally I had planned for three panels. I had cut out and painted a partial panel of plants for the foreground which just did not add anything to the piece in the final analysis.

The Plexiglass needs a space between it and the hardboard, so I picked up some mirror fasteners at the hardware store. I think I can create a space by screwing them two-deep to the hardboard. I plan to drill holes in the Plexiglass for the screws so I can install it and remove it later to clean it. The Plexi picks up all kinds of fluff and dust once it is charged with static electricity. This is a disadvantage. The plus side is that it is readily available, lightweight and easy to use.

My next project may be an abstract design using a board and a carved Plexi panel. I have to do some serious thinking about the direction I want to take with my work. There are a number of contemporary artists who work with abstraction and representation, so it is not an impossible idea. I want to find some way to reference nature in a contemporary way which will seem relevant and not be seen as a throwback to past ideas of romanticism and the sublime. The waterfall in Vision 9 is verging on this, so I think the piece needs more development.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Seeing Beyond Vision Loss

The main room of the gallery at Old Government House in Fredericton, NB.

The main room of the gallery at Old Government House in Fredericton, NB.
Congrats to all participants!

Tim and Amanda Doucette both clients of CNIB pose in front of Tim’s astronomy photos.
Tim and Amanda Doucette, both clients of CNIB, pose in front of Tim's astronomy photos.

Yesterday I visited the 'Seeing Beyond Vision Loss' art show at Government House in Fredericton, New Brunswick, sponsored by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. 

I was curious to see what the artwork would look like, considering the visual impairments of these artists. I learned a valuable lesson from this showTheir work is like all other artwork, the product of the artist's ideas and concepts, and not a physical rendition of objects seen through a disability. The various kinds of visual impairment mentioned in the artists' bios are not at all evident in the work. However, all of the artists' bios mentioned the help they have received from the CNIB in terms of support and technological aids. 

I learned of the show from Marian Zaichowski, a student in one of my acrylic painting classes. She is am amazing person with a zest for life and for art. Marian is also a world traveler!

Here is what the CNIB has to say about Marian and the show:

Marian Zaichkowski learned that she had Macular Degeneration part way through her studies at Mt Allison University.  For most people that diagnosis would have ended any chance of continuing her education. But with the help of CNIB, Marian was able to find the technology she needed to help her finish her degree. After university, Marian looked for other outlets for her energy. She took up painting, and began a weekly class for fun.  She did have fun painting, and began to gain confidence in her abilities.

Marian knew she was not the only CNIB client who had a passion to create art and wanted to organize an event that would show case how CNIB clients see beyond vision loss.
CNIB is thrilled that from February 21st to April 30th the Lieutenant Governor welcomes twelve CNIB clients from across New Brunswick to display their work in the gallery at the Lieutenant Governor’s house.

Canadian National Institute for the Blind programs and services are designed to help those who are blind or partially sighted gain the confidence, skills and opportunities to fully participate in life. Seeing beyond vision loss Art Show is about celebrating our client’s passion for life and raising awareness in our communities of the importance of vision health.

Any questions about the show you can connect with Marian Zaichkowski at 506-386-4572 or Amanda Bent at 506-857-4240 x 5611.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Vision 8 - A metamorphosis has occurred!
While carving this panel, I decided to experiment further with my Photoshop design. The tree shapes were suggesting some kind of arachnid-like alien life form, which was not my intention! I began to paint the color areas suggested by my design, but the tree began to take on a detailed, ordinary aspect, which again was not my intention. By keeping the tonal areas close together, there is more mystery and ambiguity in the project. The difficulty with this is that it looks very different under various types of light. At night, under artficial light, it fades into a dark oval shape, lurking on the easel. I may try a little bit of metallic paint thinned down with glazing medium. If it is still not satisfactory, I can repaint the whole thing with opaque acrylics or move on to using oil colors. I will let it rest for a few days while I work out project # 9.
Vision 7 - Not really abstract, but interesting!
14" x 20" each plywood panel.
I have worked on this project a few times and I feel that it is near completion. I went back with the Dremmel tool to add more texture to each panel. Then each one needed much more painting to bring it closer to my original concept. The sketches I did on Photoshop were quite detailed, so I think this is why the panels are figurative. For my next project, I am working on Photoshop longer to create more abstract forms in my design before moving on to constructing, carving and painting.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Vision 8 Departure Point

Vision 8 - Just begun. It will be interesting!
For this work, I began with a small section of a photo taken in Newport, RI of an enormous European Copper Beech tree. It reminded me of the Womping Willow in Harry Potter. The gnarled trunk and branches, as well as the drooping twigs, create eccentric shapes and patterns. I want to make use of the knots in the veneer and I have chosen to use the "wrong side" of the plywood because the wood grain is more visible.

The birch veneer on this plywood is fairly easy to remove. Underneath, the spruce wood texture is rough and splintered, so I am carving out the tree shapes and leaving the background smooth and elevated. This is a reversal of the usual approach, with the negative spaces protruding. I hope to take advantage of the rough texture, using chisels and the Dremmel tool, before sealing the wood and painting over it.

Photoshop version of my idea!
At the moment, the panel doesn't look much like my design! One of the exciting aspects of creating artwork is the way that a piece evolves. I prefer to modify and develop an image as I progress, rather than copying something minutely from a small design. As an art student way back, I once made a small collage, enlarged it, and spent three frustrating weeks filling in a canvas in precise detail. The creativity was over once the collage was finished. Ever since then, I have used my sketches and Photoshop efforts as departure points.

Vision 7 in progress. All three panels are the same size.
Acrylic and oil on plywood.
This project features three small panels. Instead of painting one tree in its totality, I decided to focus on the undergrowth, part of the trunk and several branches overhead, as if I had been looking at three areas of the tree. I am not completely sure that the panels are finished. Originally I had planned to carve some textured areas into the backgrounds. I am debating this at the moment. Another option would be to continue painting on the surface and reduce the shapes more completely into more ambiguous images. For the moment, I have put it aside.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Another Vision - Project 7

This project consists of three oval panels which will be installed in a vertical orientation. I developed the sketches for each panel using Photoshop and segments of photographs I took last summer.
The different filters are a convenient way to simplify each image, which I can reduce further as I sketch, carve and paint.

I stained the surface of each with three transparent acrylic glazes and then sketched the main shapes with conté crayon. The next stage involved painting in oils with 2" brushes. My first attempts were very tight and cramped looking, so I wiped them off and began again with large brushes.

Stay tuned for the next installment. I will have photos of all three panels, which have been painted.

Vision 6 in stages

Stage 3 - oil paint adds richness and subtlety.
Stage 2 - Acrylic painting.
Stage 1 - Carving and staining. I use scraps of wood to test my techniques.

The last two weeks have been very busy. In addition to keeping up with my studio work, I have been writing essays for my Théories de l'art moderne course and for my AIB program. 

Although the panels in this project are shaped to the same dimensions as my Vision 4 project, the plywood features birch veneer over spruce wood. The birch is a fine-textured surface to work with in contrast to the porous and rough grain of the spruce wood below it. In Stage 1, I sketched the main shapes in conté crayon and outlined them with the Dremmel tool. I carved away the areas in between with chisels and a mallet, revealing a strong vertical texture. I stained the birch veneer with 'IndianRed' watercolor, hoping to bring out the grain. The wood texture became secondary, but the warmth of the rusty color adds life to subsequent layers of cool colors.

Acrylics dry quickly, so you can make modifications easily. However, they lack some of the subtlety of oil paints. One suggestion I had during the January Residency at AIB was to use oils over the acrylics, so I tried it on this project. I am very happy with the results. Adding Alkyd medium along with walnut oil helps dry the oils in abut four days, which isn't really inconvenient. I just have to have a place to leave the panels as they dry.

While working on this project, I was thinking of ice floating in the river, as seen perhaps at night. This was a starting point, as I like the work to be somewhat ambiguous, as if it could be referencing several locations or phenomenon. I like what my mentor calls the 'eccentric format' as it suggests movement in the river currents. I have often observed currents moving in opposite directions on the surface of the water as the tide turns.