Showing posts with label process. Show all posts
Showing posts with label process. Show all posts

Monday, November 5, 2012

Make No Little Plans

"Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work."
— Daniel Burnham (1846-1912)

Architect Daniel Burnham, whom some consider the inventor of urban planning, offered a vision of what he believed a civilized city should look like at a time of urban disorder. He believed that a city could be both beautiful and efficient.  His work sought to merge things often thought of as opposite such as business with art and the practical with the ideal. Burnham’s influence is strongly felt in Chicago as well as across America.

My newest piece, Make No Little Plans began as a simple wooden cube. Any of you who are familiar with my work will find this shape to be of no surprise! The square shape encourages balance and underscores the potential dichotomy in everything.   It symbolizes a prolonged state of presence and is a dependable and grounded structure.   I find comfort in its stability, predictability and familiarity.

I began by making a simple cardboard model, as I often do.  I have my Father to thank for the construction of this wooden base.  I promptly thanked him with a homemade sweet potato pie (his favorite).  There is no picture of said pie as while, I was told, it was truly delicious, it was a sad looking little pie attesting to my lack of baking skills! 

In a September blog post titled Challenges are a Good Thing,, I wrote about my latest series of paintings.  In this new series I adjust the way I treat the encaustic and fiber materials I use in my 3D Vessel and Sculpture series. The results are unquestionably 2D.  Pattern and repetition play key roles in these new works.  The interplay of colors in the highly textured fragments of larger images feels harmonious.  The flowing lines resulting from the placement of these small pieces set a visual path that gives rise to a calming sense of rhythm.

Make No Little Plans, detail

This new sculpture, Make No Little Plans, is the perfect combination of the 2D use of materials with the 3D sculptural form!

Make No Little Plans
encaustic, cheesecloth on wood base

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Silkscreen and Encaustic Workshop with Jeff Hirst

I recently attended a Silkscreen and Encaustic workshop with artist Jeff Hirst at the LaGrange Art League.  This has been my summer of workshops.  Earlier this year I attended an Encaustic and Wax Resist workshop given by artist Kim Bernard and I plan on taking Linda Womack’s on-line workshop Surface Design with Pastels, Inks and Mixed Media, later this fall.  Jeff’s workshop explored the unique process of screen printing oil paint and pigment sticks into and onto encaustic surfaces.  It was my hope that by learning this innovative technique, I could print on the encaustic-coated fibers used in my 3D sculptures adding an additional level of interest to their textural surfaces.  This workshop was funded in entirety through a Chicago Community Arts Assistance Program (CAAP) Grant.  Many thanks to the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events and to the following panelists who approved my grant application: Barry Tinsley, Paul Hopkin, Peggy Wright, Vivian Garcia and Ben Foch.

Altered image of Window no. 34

Chicago River Reflections

Now, I had a vague sense of the screen printing process but before this weekend, I had never undertaken this method of printmaking.  I was told to bring a number of jpeg images that were linear in nature, to produce the transparencies which would be used to create the printing image. I chose a decidedly abstract, yet unaltered, black and white photograph Chicago River Reflections and an altered image of a painting from my Urban Windows series. 

 Jeff took us through the processes of preparing the screen with photosensitive emulsion to exposing the transparency image onto that screen.  These steps involved spending a significant amount of time in a dark room, lit only with a safe light.  It took me back to my time spent in the darkroom at the now closed Triangle
                                              Camera in Chicago’s East Lakeview

So now that our screens were ready Jeff explained the printing process including carefully flooding the screen with paint/ink and the importance that the squeegee be held at a 45 degree angle and quickly and firmly pulled across the screen.  Oddly, that simple combination of steps took a while to master. 

 We printed with a number of materials. R&F pigment sticks combined with a blending stick resulting in a thick paint.  R&F Gesso blended with universal dye tints and Speedball screenprinting inks which made a thinner paint. Many of us used R&F Gesso on its own when a white image was needed.

Combining this printing technique with layers of clear encaustic medium resulted in some wonderful dimension to our paintings.  Often encaustic paint was applied by brush onto layers of medium adding even more interest and depth.  Everyone made truly engaging and interesting works utilizing all of these steps.   

Printed cheesecloth strip coated with encaustic medium
My primary interest was printing on encaustic medium coated fiber.  Working with Jeff, I was able to print onto some of the sample pieces that I had brought with me. This workshop definitely provided me with the fundamentals of printscreening and Jeff was instrumental in assisting me in achieving my goal of using this technique in my own unique way.  The hands-on approach of this workshop, in addition to the extensive technical information, sufficiently prepared me to take this process into my own studio.  Now to write another grant to cover all the printmaking equipment and materials!

Thank you April Nomellini for remembering your camera and sharing your photos of the workshop!

Jeff's website:
River Reflections photograph available at
Urban Windows paintings available at

Monday, September 10, 2012

Challenges are a Good Thing

Tendency of Thought (18"x18", encaustic, cheesecloth)

A number of months ago I looked at a call that I wanted to apply to and saw that it specified “Only 2D” submissions. Now given that I have focused on 3D work over the last year or so, I thought this was a nice little challenge. Challenges are a good thing. They encourage us to experiment and they test our willingness to step out of our comfort zone. Sometimes these challenges emerge as mere questions; how can I hang this sculpture on the wall, how can I use this material differently, how can I convey this idea? A good number of these deliberations remain ‘on the back burner’, so to speak, waiting for that spark of inspiration. Sometimes that spark happens right away. I see something new that hints at an answer, or look at the problem in a whole new way. Sometimes it’s just that infamous 'happy accident'.

With this submission challenge, I knew that I wanted to incorporate both encaustic and cheesecloth, the two mediums I use in all of my 3D work, now the question was how.

In my last blog post I talked about the little encaustic and cheesecloth cubes that made up my piece Moving Day. Well, one day while I was making some of these little boxes, I decided to remove some of the sections of the painted cloth cube forms in an attempt to alter their shapes. While I worked, I absentmindedly placed the resulting small rectangular pieces onto a small board.

As the number of these small rectangular shapes increased, the beginnings of an image appeared- a decidedly accidental image! I loved the feeling of flow that came from the formal repetition and the resulting sense of rhythm in the pattern and texture. This needed further examination and so I set my cubes aside and began to paint large sections of cheesecloth and proceeded to cut them into MANY small rectangular shapes. Once again, as with my Tesserae Series, I found myself reformulating the harmonious whole into smaller elements, giving it new order. In my Tesserae series, I make encaustic tiles by creating many similar multi-layered encaustic paintings, systematically strip the painting from its wooden substrate into narrow ribbons and cut these ribbons into tiles which make up the final painting.

Tesserae VIII (18"x18", encaustic tiles)

Tesserae X detail (18"x18", encaustic tiles)

Does this mean that I have the secret desire to redesign my make, out of fragments, symbols of incompleteness, something that is complete and whole!?!

Tendency of Thought detail (18"x18", encaustic, cheesecloth)

Tendency of Thought, seen at the top of this post, is the result of this ‘happy accident”. It has been included in Hot Wax in the City at Morpho Gallery in Chicago and in Evans Encaustic online show Patterning in Painting. It will be included in the Chicago Artists Month exhibit The Buzz this October in Gallery 303 at the Zhou B Art Center in Chicago.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Moving Day in Chicago

Approximately a year ago I commissioned Rodney Thompson to make me custom designed cradled panels with recessed pockets. It was my plan to fill these pockets with delicate square boxes made of encaustic paint and cheesecloth. While creating these petite cubes using no wire supports was a challenge that I happily took on, my attention was diverted to the development of my encaustic and fiber vessel and sculpture pieces. Time and time again I admired these beautiful panels knowing that I would return to them and I am happy to announce that the first of these box assemblages, Moving Day, has been selected for inclusion in the exhibit Hot Wax in the City at the Morpho Gallery in Chicago.

Whether working in 2D or 3D, I find myself returning to the geometry of the square. I believe that it not only underscores the potential duality in everything, it encourages balance. It symbolizes a prolonged state of presence, a dependable and grounded structure. By creating these delicate little boxes I brought the square to life.

For a myriad of reasons, I have moved 7 times over the last 20 years! So for me, boxes symbolize change as well. The packing and unpacking of boxes has, in a sense, become a repetition of constants in my ongoing world of transformation. Whether utilitarian or sentimental, boxes are filled with belongings that are moved to another location where they will be displayed in much the same manner as they were previously. They assist in bringing stability to a new situation.

So now you can understand why I have became slightly obsessed with these little forms, making each one decidedly unique; giving each one its own importance, its own identity.

Moving Day
encaustic and cheescloth

individual cube
encaustic and cheesecloth

Rodney Thompson Custom Art Panels

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Roy Lichtenstein: An Artists’ Creative Process

The idea of an artist’s process has always fascinated me. Everyone thinks and works in a way unique to them. The steps an artist takes that lead to a finished painting is incredibly interesting and telling. Every artist can paint a line on a canvas but none of these lines will look the same and it is who they are and what they bring to the making of that line that makes each artist and each painting unique.

In the 1960’s Roy Lichtenstein brought his unique voice to the art world. His hard-edged precise compositions have been said to have defined the pop art movement. This summer the Art Institute of Chicago has brought together the largest group of Roy Lichtenstein’s work, including drawings, paintings and sculptures, to show the scope of his process and interests in the exhibition Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective. I was most taken by the portion of the exhibition entitled Works on Paper. Here a collection of preliminary drawings that were made as precursors to finished paintings reveal the process behind so many of the art included in the rest of the exhibit.

Roy Lichtenstein once said “It’s all thought up in the drawings and all accomplished in the paintings.” Sketching the beginnings of a painting on paper was an important part of his creative process. It allowed him to rearrange elements until he reached the narrative end he wanted. By jotting down notes on these works on paper he was able to record the thoughts he had on the painting or direct his studio assistants with directions on color, etc. Sometimes, he would enlarge an image to work out some of the compositional details. These studies were often superimposed onto canvas through the use of a projector.

Over time as Lichtenstein’s palette expanded, collage became a part of his process, allowing him to arrange the elements of the painting by combining cut and painted pieces of paper. This process resulted in a complex, multilayered final composition.

It is fascinating to see the many steps that Roy Lichtenstein made throughout his creative process; the many changes that went on in between the initial idea and the final painting.

In my next post I will explore my own process through a step by step look at one of my newest encaustic and fiber sculptures.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Process of Making a New Sculpture

I always find it to be wonderfully thought-provoking to learn the whats, the whys and the hows about a particular piece or about a body of work. Understanding an artist’s process can be incredibly fascinating and telling. I am a very process oriented artist and this is evident in many of my series including my encaustic Urban Windows series, my encaustic tile Tesserae series and most recently in my encaustic and fiber vessels and sculptures. Last month I began a new encaustic and fiber sculpture and I thought that it might be interesting to document the making of this new piece.

Window no. 34 (6.75"x6.75",encaustic)

Tesserae X (18"x18", encaustic tiles)

Since I made my first encaustic and fiber Vessel in 2011, each work was created in a purely intuitive manner. As my designs became larger and more complex I began to create models. Coming Together began as a drawing and from this drawing I made a paper model.

By creating this model I was able to determine that in order to get the result that I wanted I would need to begin with a shape that was 9 feet long! So equipped with this daunting information, I began by cutting out strips of cheesecloth. Once I made the decision as to the general color palette I wanted this piece to have I painted the many fiber strips with encaustic paint. I mix the colors for each strip separately ensuring an interesting and complex finished look.

The strips are then folded and woven and given a layer or two of clear encaustic medium all of which give the piece additional strength. At this point the work is given a wire armature which allows for support. Using pottery tools, the entire piece is hemmed and the shape of the sculpture is formed.

Coming Together (9”x12”x13”, encaustic, cheesecloth, wire)