Monday, March 22, 2010

Tribute to Helen Frankenthaler?

An assignment for the next ArtCloth Mastery class was to choose an artist, prepare a presentation about him/her, and create a work inspired by some aspect of that artist's style. I chose Helen Frankenthaler as my artist. That decision was made after spending time in the San Antonio Museum of Art, looking at the contemporary art section.

I was drawn to Frankenthaler's work mainly because of her use of staining. She was one of the early painters who worked on unprimed canvas with thinned paints. An approach similar to Jackson Pollack, but with a very different look. I felt that what she did was very similar to what I do on fabric.

As I did more research on her and her work, I was drawn to her work that was composed of large areas of color. Seemingly very simple, yet they had a depth and complexity to them. I would like to be able to capture that in my work. I feel there is a way to create depth and complexity without layers of screenprinting, but I haven't given myself permission to try it yet.

Frankenthaler works very spontaneously, painting without a pre-set plan. I wasn't quite ready for that yet, so I played with a design exercise from one of the books I've been reading. You take a piece of construction paper and cut or tear it into pieces. Then arrange some of the pieces on top of a contrasting color paper to form a composition. I added a third color because I wanted to use a split complementary color scheme. I wasn't necessarily trying to create a piece that looked like Frankenthaler's, rather I wanted to try to capture the essence of her work. Below is the paper study I did first.

Then I set out to recreate it by painting dyes on fabric. I used silk noil, thinking that might react more similarly to canvas. I did not thicken the dyes because I wanted some blending to occur. The end result looks more like it was inspired by an impressionist. The dye did not absorb easily into the fabric, so I ended up with more brush strokes than I wanted. And the colors were not as bold as I wanted.

So I don't think I met the criteria for the assignment, but I think the piece has possibilities. It still needs some work. Maybe some additional hand-painting or stitching.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Fiber Collage: 12 x 12

Georganne Roberts shows off a work-in-progress

I taught a fiber collage class a few weeks ago at the Southwest School of Art & Craft. I've been so busy, I didn't have time to download the photos until now. But even though it's old news, the collages came out so well, I wanted to show them off.

The class focused on creating a fiber collage on a 12 x 12 canvas. We covered a lot of territory over the two days. We started with some design and composition exercises to get everyone's creativity flowing. Then began the process of turning those compositions into collage with fabric.

Carmen McGee's works-in-progress

We also played with several techniques for painting and embellishing the canvas, including screenprinting, using gel medium to add texture and adding texture with herbs and spices. (Check out the crushed red pepper on the edge of this piece.)

The finished or almost finished collages at the end of the second day were fabulous.

Anita Centeno

Silvia Sarinana

Wendy Smith-Wood

Diana Kellerman

Eileen Wood

Becky Curtiss

Leila Reynolds

Kathleen Rice

Monday, March 8, 2010

A Vacation for the Soul

How to find peace in a busy life. I think many of us struggle with that. I remember when we first moved to San Antonio. No full-time job, I was only teaching one class per semester, I wasn't settled into my studio routine. My husband and I were like tourists, enjoying our new city. Now, we can hardly find time to enjoy all the activities the city offers.

After two months of feeling very stressed, for the past two weeks I have made time for the fun things in life. The photo above is our cherry tree in bloom (or maybe its a crabapple tree - we haven't quite figured that out!) With the beautiful weather we have had, I've spent time in the yard, pruning the plants, planting vegetables, pulling weeds. Ahhhh! That will lower the blood pressure!

Champagne - that's another one of life's pleasures. We've had a bottle of champagne in the fridge since New Year's Eve (didn't stay awake until midnight), and didn't feel we had a reason to drink it that was "special" enough. So, on Tuesday night, we sat out in the backyard and had a fire in our fire pit and drank the champagne. After years of living in apartments, we really appreciate having a yard. We used to have to go camping to get a campfire fix. Now, we just go out the back door. Ahhhh! Feeling more relaxed.

And last week, I took a mini-retreat of sorts. I was out of town teaching a workshop and stayed at a wonderful B & B nearby. The class ended at 3, so I took one afternoon and evening and dedicated that time to restoring my sense of peace. I had brought work to do, but I decided I really needed time off more than I needed to do the work. I spent most of that time outdoors, walking the trails on the property and sitting on one of the numerous benches. It is amazing how a few hours to soothe my soul gave me a whole different perspective on life.

You don't really need to go away to have a vacation for the soul. All it takes is a little time dedicated to doing what you love. I encourage you all to take a little time this week. Do something you love but haven't allowed yourself to indulge in recently. It may just be cheaper than a doctor or therapy!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Serendipity on Cloth

Last week I traveled to Ingram, Texas to teach a monoprinting workshop at the Hill Country Arts Foundation. I had a great time. It was a fun group and I even learned some new things myself!
We started out dyeing fabrics to use for discharge monoprinting and overprinting.

Monoprinting is a technique in which paints or thickened dyes (we used both over the course of the three days) are applied to a printing plate, and then transferred to the fabric. There are so many different approaches to monoprinting. Some people paint a design on the plate. My favorite technique is to apply the paints and then use a variety of brushes, sponges or other tools to create a textured surface.

We worked with plexiglass, gelatin and heavy plastic drop cloths as printing plates. The gelatin plates are great for getting very detailed prints with leaves. We also did wholecloth monoprinting in which the design is created on a plastic drop cloth and a large piece of fabric is placed on top of the dye. This technique is easier to do with thickened dyes, because they don't dry as quickly as paints.

We also monoprinted with color removing agents, such as bleach and discharge paste, instead of paints or dyes. This technique is great with a dark fabric that needs a little patterning or texture. Rather than straight bleach, we used household cleaning products with bleach. Below, Terry uses toilet bowl cleaner to discharge black fabric. Toilet bowl cleaner is the perfect consistency for many printing techniques.

Sara used double plate monoprinting to create a Rorschach-type effect. For double plate monoprinting, you apply the paints or dyes to a the printing plate (Sara used a plastic report cover), then place another plate on top and press the two together. When you pull the plates apart, the suction leaves an interesting pattern.

One of the participants, Lana Book, runs a B&B in the area and I had the pleasure of staying there on this trip.

The Elm Cottage is a wonderful place. It is located a short drive from downtown Kerrville, but has a relaxed, peaceful atmosphere. The cottage I stayed in has a separate bedroom and sitting area.

Lana and her husband have done a great job turning the property into an oasis. It has a sculpture and meditation garden, a canyon, walking trails and lots of places to sit quietly and enjoy the surroundings.

I had a thoroughly enjoyable week and look forward to going back in September!

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