Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Chicago Art Immersion

The workshop experience was a little different this time around.  Instead of strangers in a random congregation at a commercial studio or school, this was a trio of girlfriends getting together for a mini-vacation and an intimate workshop in Chicago.

I met Suzanne Clements years ago, while living in FL and she became a wonderful buddy and art friend.  While in FL, I also met the fabulous painter, Renee Decator, through Suzanne.  What you need to know about Suzanne is that she is a force of nature that creates connections and just seems to effortlessly make things happen.  One day a few months ago, I happened to mention to Suzanne that I would love to take a workshop with artist Bridgette Guerzon Mills.  Voila, baddabing, and abracadabra!  I'm meeting Suzanne and Renee at the airport in Chicago for 2 days of sightseeing and two days of waxy goodness.  You can read more about how Bridgette and Suzanne met on Bridgette's blog.

We crammed a lot of living into 4 days.  Renee did a ton of research on Chicago restaurant hot spots.  I wondered several times if it was even possible to get a bad plate of food in this town...  Needless to say we ate very well - perhaps too well!  If any of you gentle readers is planning on visiting the windy city anytime soon I can whole-heartedly recommend the Purple Pig and Roy's.  Had I not been in public, these were places where I wanted to lick the plates.  Suzanne arrange for a downtown photo walk with Google+ aquaintances and a trip to the Art Institure of Chicago.  Wow!  The photo walk was a great way to see the city and the museum just blew my already fragile mind.  It was a humbling experience to see paintings that I only knew from tiny pictures in books.  I owe the abstract expressionist, Mark Rothko, a big apology.  His works were on the list of famous paintings that I never "got".  In person, his gigantic paintings definitely elicit a response! 

OK back to the reason for the journey - Bridgette's workshop!  Oh my gosh this was fun.  Bridgette had transformed her basement into a minature classroom and we each had a lovely workstation with the cutest tin can O'tools.  I was immediately engrossed with this wicked looking little metal bristle tool.  What lovely marks it makes!

Bridgette went over the normal safety and basics information and then she hit the ground running.  The first day she went over mark making, oil glazing, transferring, texture, inscribing, scraping, and intarsia.

Suzanne watching Bridgette demonstrate and Renee getting to work.

The next 3 shots are a progression of Bridgette's demonstration of the loveliness that is oil glazing.

One of my pieces with dots of oil paint
waiting to be glazed.

Suzanne's practice piece with exciting
marks and scraping work.

 Bridgette demonstrating wet copier transfers...

Bridgette had some excellent paper she had tea stained and like most mixed media artists, she also had a hoard of beautiful, random paper bits collected over the years.

Suzanne brought some dried butterflies and shared them with all of us.  I have marveled at her collection before and had a great time photographing it on my last trip to Florida.

Renee working

On the second day, Bridgette discussed printing from the palette, use of plaster guaze, and one method of bookmaking.  I couldn't have asked for more information! Bookmaking hasn't been something that I have gotten into yet during my art studies.  Darnit!  This was too much fun and now I have all kinds of new ideas for my to do list back home.

Bridgette adding paint to her palette.

A print pulled from the mess that is left on the palette after painting - ingenious!

  Renee laying out cut pieces of plaster and an
example of one way Bridgette uses plaster guaze

My before and after workshop impression of Bridgette remained the same.  She has a lovely way of integrating her painting with images seamlessly.  Watching her bring disparate sections of composition together is like magic - you saw it all in plain daylight but you still don't understand how it was done.  I don't mean to imply at all that this is through any deficit of teaching skill - this is one of her unique gifts and was a wonder to behold!
Thanks for the workshop Bridgette!  You are a delight.  I'm happy to say I came home with ideas flowing out of my ears.  I also have to thank Suzanne and Renee for making my first trip to Chicago such a wonder.

Friday, September 14, 2012

And then there were two...

Forbidden Fruit
Panel 4 of 4
My new definition of Artistic Bliss is when the ideas are coming so fast that you have to make notes on the back of your grocery list and junk mail envelopes.  : )  I will never understand why sometimes the ideas just flow out of the ether faster than I can capture them on paper and then other times I am convinced that the creative well is permanently dry.  I'm sure all creative types experience this problem. 

This past month, the saying "Creativity does not happen in a vacuum" has been proven to me many times over.  Opportunities for shooting, location hunting, prop shopping, and collaboration have come my way from many good friends.  Each meeting has sparked so may new ideas, that I've had to go buy a new notebook to contain them all.  It's purple - the color my 6th grade teacher assured me was a favorite only of insane people.  Ah Mrs. Bachtel - what odd memories you have left in my brain...

I have completed my first collaborative art experience with fellow photographer, Rene Hales!  The entire experience went really well.  My cynical side thinks that this has to be unusual.  Our only hiccup was caused by the company we used to obtain the metal that is backing our prints.  They graciously corrected their error in time for us to finish by our deadline.

We spaced out the work and met regularly making what Rene pegged as "baby steps" each time we got together.  Even with our deadline approaching, I never felt rushed or stressed out.  There was a lot of testing involved because we both went out on a limb and tried some new things.

We used Yes paste as the glue.

This was my first time mounting a print to dibond metal.  Dibond is a lightweight aluminum composite panel that has a different metal finish on each side and a tiny layer of thermoplastic core sandwiched between.  I was a little skeptical at first but the bonus to using the metal was that we could get it cut to odd sizes and it weighs a lot less versus having a wood board.  It turned out much easier to glue the print to metal than to wood.  I had no air bubble issues and it was easy to smoosh around on the metal to find the perfect placement while the glue was still wet.   

The brayer was useful to make  sure the print made
full contact with the metal after we applied the glue.
We applied painter's tape to 1/4 inch border around the print where the metal was showing so we would not get wax on the metal.  There were two reasons for this.  1) I didn't want to have to worry about the wax not sticking to the metal, and 2) we deckled the edges of the prints before we glued them down and I wanted to make sure they still stood out once waxed.

After all the prep-work, the real fun began.  We applied several coats of encaustic medium - fusing between each layer.  Then we used oil sticks to add color, deepen contrast, and highlight areas of each image.

I was having so much fun that I hated to see it end.  But there is new work on the horizon!  Next, Rene and I will be working along the same vein to complete an entirely new body of work for a two person show coming in Spring 2013.  I am extremely grateful to Rene for asking me to collaborate with her.  The experience has caused me to take a step back and reassess how and what I shoot.  Rene's invitation to collaborate came at the perfect time to allow me to test new skills and reconnect with photography in a more traditional way.  Instead of covering figures in collaged photographs, I am capturing an entire image in just one frame and completing the narrative with beeswax, paint, and texture.  

Rene and I will each have one of our regular pieces and also the 4 panel collaborative piece Forbidden Fruit on display starting September 21, 2012, at the M.S. Rezny Gallery & Studio in an exhibit called "Collaborate!".
Forbidden Fruit by Rene Hales & Melissa Hall