Last weekend I had to attend a mandatory parent seminar at my son’s school, and while listening to an extremely enthusiastic person expound on the benefits of kale smoothies and hemp seeds, I started writing about the “war” challenge. Just writing out the idea I had, which was good, but not a spark, really. And then the spark came, and I couldn’t write fast enough to get all the thoughts and vision in my head down on the paper. I never thought that would happen to me! And yet there I was, sitting on the third floor of the school building, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do and how to do it. Magical.
Now I’m about a third of the way through, and as plans do, mine is changing. And also, as it usually happens, it is changing because something didn’t work out like I thought it would. Turns out it’s really NOT possible to collage magazine pictures onto a stretched canvas without them wrinkling . . . at least not the way I did it. But that’s getting ahead of myself.
I gessoed an 18×24″ stretched canvas twice, then I took strips of bleeding art tissue (Spectrum, available at Teacher Heaven and Jerry’s Artarama) and added them on with matte gel medium. I did it in an abstract landscape fashion, with greens and browns at the bottom and blues with a few reds and oranges at the top. Mainly my objective was to have the sides of the frame covered, and it was an opportunity to play and experiment since my plan was to cover the front completely with magazine pictures. I was delighted with how the tissue paper turned out.
My overall idea was to put lots of pictures of the earth in beauty on the collage, following a general landscape layout–rocks and trees on the bottom, oceans and sunsets on top, mountains in the middle. That way when one first glanced at it, the impression would be one of peace and grandeur. But a second glance would reveal that in places the paint was cracking (use crackle paint); I had thought about using the peeled paint technique detailed in Christine Hellmuth’s Collage Discovery Workshop in a few places, but since I’ve never experimented with it before I’m not going to do it for the first time on this piece. So I need to age it a little, not noticeably but somehow, in a couple of other ways. Maybe lightly sand a couple of areas, rub Distress Ink over a couple of bits.
Then what I wanted to do is to place magnifying glasses in various spots on the collage, and the picture in the magnifying glass would be one of the destruction and devastation the human race is waging on the earth–birds covered in oil from a spill, dead coral reefs, clear-cutting in the Amazon rainforest, etc. I thought of tying a single metallic embroidery thread between all the glasses, partly to contribute to the misleading initial impression that it’s just about the earth’s beauty, but it occurs to me now that it would also bring out the theme that everything on the earth is connected, and sometimes that connection is quite fragile indeed. So maybe I will still find a way to work that in.
The reason I have stopped and haven’t done anything for a couple of days now is the wrinkled pictures. It actually gave me a great idea because the wrinkles remind me of one of those relief globes, where the mountains are really raised. Would have been neat to figure out how to do that underneath and then have the pictures on top of that (although I can see that would be tough in practice because the paper wouldn’t go on evenly over a raised mini-mountain). But that then led to the idea of getting some small, teeny mountains–and maybe also some forests–from somewhere like a hobby shop that sells that kind of stuff for train sets. Their mountains might be too big for my scale of picture though . . . just not sure what I want to do about this and how to work the wrinkles in. I actually kind of like the wrinkles because it’s the beginning of showing that all is not perfection, but I need to make sure it looks purposeful and not just like my pictures wrinkled during the adhering process!
At any rate, I’m having quite a lot of fun with this. I was delighted to find a way to do something on war that wasn’t going to be immediately depressing to look at–it can carry a message and be serious, but it’s also still pleasing to the eye. Hopefully it will all work out in the end.