Paper Houses

Paper Houses

What To Do With A Painting Gone Wrong.

I’ve been witnessing what a few artists are doing with a painting gone wrong on Instagram. Some are cutting their paintings up and reworking them into a collage. So much better! It changes the perspective and they don’t feel so bad about a bad painting because now it’s a completely different thing.

I finished a watercolor of fingers of sunlight stretching across river water directed towards an interesting arrangement of sand, rocks, and pebbles. In the end, wasn’t working. Not for me, not for my partner. Instead of pitching the painting altogether, I did something I hadn’t done before. I created a paper house out of it. Like my fellow IG artists found out, this was so much better and way more fun.

Just for yucks, I thought I would post a series of process photos on how I went about it. This is way before I discovered that there are tons of templates and kits for making paper houses online, by the way. All you have to do is google “paper houses.”

So How Did It Go?

Creating a little paper house was a lot easier than I had imagined. The key was to first build a prototype using paper from my printer. You know, the letter-sized stuff that comes in reams purchased at Office Max. Nothing special. That’s where I worked out all the snags, like where to put the tabs to glue the roof down and what size it could be. Given my watercolor painting was 18” high (and 12” wide), I could build a paper house that was 4.5” square with plenty left over to add the flooring and most importantly, the roof.

It helped to have a bone scorer used to score sheets of paper in bookmaking. The watercolor paper is 300 lb. (that’s thick) hotpress Fabriano. Even with scoring the folds with fervor, (I could have started it on fire!), the paper still creases unevenly and makes for a cracked appearance. No matter. I wasn’t going for perfection. Everything else lined up thanks to the “measure twice, cut once” adage.

Your Turn.

What do you do with a painting you feel has gone wrong or isn’t working? I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas.

Thanks for reading. Till we meet again, keep the creative spirit, be kind to the earth and especially be kind to yourself.

Please, Give It A Title.

Please, Give It A Title.

I’m visiting an exhibit of an artist I don’t know yet. The artist’s work is powerful and moving to me. I read the label beside each piece. Many of them read Untitled or Untitled No. VI.

I kind of feel cheated. I want to know what the artist was feeling and thinking to motivate this person to create such a stunning work of art. Since I am not at the opening where the artist would likely be attending, I have no way of asking.

That’s the trouble of leaving artwork designated as Untitled, dear fellow artists. It’s a bit like not naming your children. You spent the time and energy creating the work, yet do you care enough about your art to give it a name?

Please, just name your work, dear artist.

I will say for many artists naming their work is painfully difficult. The “right” title refuses to present itself. If an artist commits to a name for their piece, they may develop different feelings and interpretations towards the work in the future that would require a new title. I can understand the desire for an authentic connection between the work and its name in an artist’s mind. As an artist, it’s important to me, too.

Perhaps I can be persuasive in asking, dear fellow artists, to name your work. Titling or naming your work is just one of many vital touch points you have with others and your work. A title helps make the work relatable and gives the audience a deeper connection to your work.

On the flip side, titling helps artists form a story around their work. We, as artists, all need to talk and write about our work. Again, I will acknowledge this is painfully difficult for many artists.

I consider myself incredibly lucky on this front. My love of stories and pictures starts with the art of children’s picture books. For a picture book to be a success, words and illustrations must dance together, creating a page-turner. I use this same mindset when titling, writing, and talking about my work.

That wasn’t always the case. When I ran my graphic design business, I did my art practice on the side whenever time and energy allowed. I drew lots of birds and watercolored fish and potted plants. I drew sheep, cows, and the occasional toad. My artistic skills improved, yet my work wasn’t saying anything. The work didn’t hold any real significance or meaning other than being “nice.” It didn’t give me enough meat for a compelling artist statement, nor did my work get me accepted to show in juried exhibits.

All this is to say, if your work has meaning to you, name it. Jot down your thoughts about it. It’s fodder for artist statements. It’s valuable content when you have the opportunity to talk about your work, either in an artist’s talk or with individual buyers and collectors.

Today, when I am working on a piece, a title will come to me well before it’s finished. The title may not have much to do with the subject matter but leads into the story I am formulating in my head. It’s a process that has become part of my art practice.

For my first solo show, I created story labels* to display next to each piece. People attending my exhibit told me they enjoyed the stories I had written about my work. My stories gave them a deeper understanding of my work, a chance to learn something and appreciate the work even if they didn’t particularly like it. (For example, insects of all kinds fascinate me with their designs, colors, patterns, and the mechanics of their legs, eyes, feet, and wings. But most people do not like seeing “big bugs” on the wall).

So, dear fellow artists, if titling your art and writing and talking about your art feels daunting, do not despair. Your art is a practice, and so is this. It gets easier each time you do it. Research how other artists name, write and talk about their work. I most appreciate it when an artist is genuine, speaks, and writes in plain language and from the heart about their work versus the esoteric prose I have come across. Frankly, I have no idea what that artist is talking about. Talk about a disconnect.

After all, I believe art can change the world. Artists are creators of culture and community. Generation of this is made possible through connecting with others through your art. And that starts by naming it.

ABOUT STORY LABELS: Because I wanted my solo exhibit to have a professional “museum” quality to it, I designed story labels using Adobe InDesign and the typography I use to represent my studio. I printed these story labels out on Professional Photo Matte paper (for Epson printers, mine is a WorkForce Pro 4630) and mounted the story labels on to .25” thick white foam core. (I have mentioned before I am not good with glue so this exercise had its moments). In the end, the story labels looked and worked beautifully. The trick was to keep weights (lots of big books) on top of the glued story labels until the glue was thoroughly dry and set. A lot of work for twenty-four pieces but well worth it.

OK, your turn. How do you feel about titling your artwork, writing about it, and talking about it? Has it gotten easier over time? Do you go it alone or do you ask for help when it comes to titling your work, etc?

The Importance of Study

The Importance of Study

I used to balk at doing studies before embarking on a large piece. I was afraid they would take some of the enthusiasm, the freshness away. A “successful” study might make me rigid and want to replicate my efforts exactly large scale.

Well, That’s Silly Lazy Thinking.

A study for me is a blessing. It saves me from making huge mistakes or disappointing myself on a large expensive sheet of paper. It gives me a chance to play, try out different angles, colors, patterns, and compositions in a short amount of time. (Have I mentioned it takes me upwards of 60 to 80 hours to complete a piece?) In the end, I have a little series of painted notes that not only help me in the immediate piece ahead but can be added to a personal library of watercolor technique trial and errors. Or happy mistakes.

In short, art studies take the pressure off. It’s not like I am goofing off or not accomplishing anything as I once thought.
The other thing is that people really enjoy seeing artists’ studies, their art journals, witnessing their process, how they solve a visual, medium, or technical problem. We all learn something.

A Sample Study To Illustrate My Point.

first step study of aspen leaves scattered on pathway through park in autumn
Study of Aspen Leaves on Pathway Through the Park in Autumn.
Watercolor on 300lb. Fabriano Hotpress Watercolor Paper.
11 x 7 inches.

STEP ONE: Ultimately this will be a much larger piece (30 x 22) and I know what effect I want. That is, high contrast between the various yellows, browns, and oranges of the fallen Aspen leaves and the dark paved pathway. To avoid a flat black surface, I paint a wash of cerulean blue mixed with a bit of indigo around the leaves. Then I paint the leaves. It was also important to give a sense of perspective. To see the leaves right underfoot larger and the leaves that have blown ahead on the path to be smaller. This will (hopefully!) give the viewer a sense they are standing right there. That may not come across in a small-scale study but it is what I am striving for with the large-scale piece.

high contrast finished study of aspen leaves scattered on paved park pathway in autumn
Finished study. The pathway has been illustrated using Micron Archival Ink pens.
Was it tedious to go in and ink the pattern of the pathway? Hell no. Like most of my work, it’s meditative. I love the process. It would only get frustrating if my pen dried up or I didn’t have a spare. Thankfully, I have lots of spares. Thanks, Dad!

STEP TWO: Like the caption reads, I inked in the pathway as a pattern with specks of small stones to add texture. I was pretty pleased with the effect and the contrast. After finishing the study, I feel really good about starting (which is in the works) the larger version of Aspen Leaves on Pathway in Autumn. Inspiration for this piece came from an overcast autumn morning while walking in Thomas Lake Prairie Preserve. The leaf color popped on the dark pathway. It was like a “follow the yellow brick road” moment.

YOUR TURN: How do you feel about doing studies? What do you learn? Do you like your studies more than the final piece? (it happens sometimes) Don’t be shy. Tell me your thoughts in the comments.

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free beautiful black and white ink print of patterned stones via Terra Kind Studio

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