Photo Credit: Jennie Anne Benigas



October 2010

"You begin with the possibilities of the material, and then you see what they can do; so the artist is almost a bystander while [s]he's working."
Robert Rauschenberg, The Quotable Artist, Peggy Holden, editor



The Experiment Continues

Dear Reader,

The opening quotation says it all with respect to any art making, but is especially true when the search is on for materials that will do what I need them to do. I had inspiration for a new series, but not the most effective materials. I wanted to make transfers combining my paintings and Zentangles by using my own work to create new work using a new process (Judy's Journal 2010: August, July).

When I wrote my August journal, it was a case of too much idea and too little experience practicing the idea. With each failure came knowledge and a firmer resolve to find a way to make what I saw in my head. After seeing the Whitney Museum's exhibition, "Heat Waves in a Swamp," I became intrigued with Charles Burchfield's obsessive drawings and his (successful) experiments with combining drawing and painting.

Then, on September 10th a trip to the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute presented me with the final push toward beginning my new series. At first, "Picasso Looks at Degas" would appear to support my September theme, "In the Shadow of Giants." Each gallery was filled with Picasso's version/homage/appropriation of Degas' work. The point became clear: Degas was one of Picasso's artistic father-figures. Look at the evidence.

A turning point came when I walked into a gallery containing several of Picasso's etchings. I had seen some exhibited before, but not since my experience with Zentangles. This time, I noticed Picasso's obsessive, repetitious patterns, which occupied nearly every space. Swirls, cross-hatching, lines, asterisks. Picasso invented as he went along, almost as if he landed in each open space and felt compelled to fill it with a pattern. He moved through the composition, until the nymph and satyr were overwhelmed with frenzied, passionate patterns, which is actually the point of the etching.

When I returned home, a BIG FALL art supply catalog had arrived in the mail. I pour over these things the way I used to read the September issue of Vogue. Serendipitously, the catalog fell open to Lazertran Inkjet Waterslide Decal Paper. Here was a solution I could try. The transfer would not be reversed (a feature of the transfer processes I had tried). This transfer seemed to offer the strength in color that I wanted, not a pale imitation (another feature I had encountered and rejected).

Now for a support: I had worked with Ampersand* claybord* and liked the way I could layer on and scratch into its surface. The catalog featured some with 2" deep cradles, so that the piece would hang on the wall or stand on a shelf with an almost box-like presence.

Credit card and phone in hand, I took a deep breath and went deeper into debt, a condition many artists have to learn to live with. While I waited days for the materials to be delivered, I named the series "Autobiography" because I believe the William Carlos Williams quotation: "Every painting is a self-portrait." These ink creations would be entirely my own work, recycled. I started making drafts on my printer.

The materials arrived. I am obsessed! So far, here is what I learned :

1. Even though each piece used in the entire work is mine, the random nature of placing them face down on the printer bed made the finished image accidental enough to satisfy me.

2. Evaluating which paintings to integrate with a group of Zentangles is a challenge. Pastel-colored paintings do not seem to stand up to the black and white drawings as well as those using bold colors. Also, paintings with well-defined areas, such as those from my Landscape Mosaic or Garden series, might integrate better than more traditional compositions.

3. After completing the transfer process, I wanted to go back into the work with ink and draw over and into the image of the painting. I also scratched out areas of color in the painting to create new shapes.

4. The manufacturer warned that on certain surfaces, "more glue" might be needed, but failed to mention what kind or where to get it. After the failure of transferring designs onto the sides, I continued to ink patterns that began on the front. New drawings!

There's more, but I want to get back into the studio! Here is my 8" square, "Autobiography One"---