New Work

April 30, 2021

Between Artists: Mistakes We Make

In the April Edition of Between Artists: A Conversation with Bridgette Guerzon Mills, she asks:

When I’ve taught workshops before I always tell people- we are here to create and we are here to learn and we are here to make mistakes. Mistakes are gifts- that’s where we start to find our voice. Can you share something that you stumbled upon that was a “mistake” but then now it’s become part of your creative process?

 Very early in my art making, I was doing the "Art By the Inch" challenge or the equivalent of NANOWRIMO we cooked up on Live Journal, ARTSOMOFO. Creating something FINISHED everyday is indeed a challenge and often ends up as a frantic whirlwind of paper and glue and paint and, well, a mad scramble to get SOMETHING out there. And I remember my art table being an absolute diabolical mess with finished pieces being interspersed with works in progress and scrap paper and drying paint and glue.

But out of chaos, comes ingenuity and discovery and truth.

At some point during those mad sessions, a piece of a magazine stuck to a drying bit of cardstock and when I pulled it off, I saw that the text had transfered onto the finished piece. Only backwards. I remember being delighted. It looked like text only unreadable... the IDEA of text... but not. I often find that using text in a piece can take it in a direction, often, I wasn't really looking for.  Put a bit of vintage dictionary page with a readable word and suddenly the work becomes all about THAT. Fantastic if that's what you're going for but aggravating if that WASN'T your intention.

Text has a graphic appeal.

It also connotes conversation, narrative, message as well as symbology. Put text on top of a nature photo and it immediately becomes less about the tree or flower or landscape moving those elements into the background, and more about whatever is written. Words are our Super Power and we pay attention. IF we can read them. If we can't? Well, that same text becomes all about their graphic nature, the curves of each character, the lines they form in a paragraph. We see them, almost as caricatures. Don't believe me? Think about Russian or Greek words or Chinese characters. We don't have a clue what they say (assuming you can't read Russian or Greek or Chinese, of course!) and yet, we love their form.

I love using backward text!

I use it a lot. Usually as a final layer. My process being pretty much what I discovered by accident way back when. A slosh of gel medium, lay down a magazine page or vintage book page, often pertaining to the subject matter but not always. Burnish for a few seconds and then lift up. I look for perfectly imperfect impressions, half words, upside down, back to front, the occasional line or number. Let if dry then scrub off any paper that might have adhered, sometimes rubbing hard to obscure hard edges or anything visually jarring. Allowing the graphic nature of the text to show up but without hidden intention.

Maybe this is my visual version of "Once Upon A Time..." 

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  1. That's when I met you! I think. I remember doing that craziness then and I stumbled on a couple of "mistakes" too. Interesting. In our scramble to get things made everyday, we are more willing to be less careful and to make mistakes- good lesson.

    1. Yes! I'm pretty sure that's when we met. Y'know I still have all the pieces I made for ARTSOMOFO! And I think every time I've done a month long challenge I've learned something through "mistakes". Such a great question Bridgette! Thanks for asking!

  2. I love the use of text. This post reminded me of a number of years ago when I was mod podging some Asian newsprint onto a lampshade. A friend was helping. I began laughing uncontrollably and finally asked “ Do you think there are people in Asia gluing Canadian newspapers to their lampshades?” Still make some laugh to think about

    1. Hahaha! Yep. Probably! I'm always concerned, using unknown language text on pieces, that it says something I wouldn't ordinarily use. Another PLUS for backwards text! 😊


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