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Showing posts with label Tutorial. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tutorial. Show all posts

July 22, 2022

Mini Collage Recipe


As mentioned in my last post, I've been enjoying making small collages in my small journal. Limited parameters ...rules as it were... help my brain SO. MUCH. during my creative process, be it subject matter, materials, colour palette, series of 3 or 5 or 7, I pretty much always limit my options in some way. Here's what I've come up with in the last bit for these small collages:

Mini Collage Recipe

    1. Pick TWO colours. Complementary or harmonious (analogous or monochrome). Doesn't matter. But just two. Sometimes black is one of those colours (aka not a colour)
    2. Make some brush strokes. You can follow a specific design composition (cruciform, diagonal, unbalanced etc) or just let the paint lead you. Big swathes or tiny splotches.
    3. While those are drying, choose a dozen, preferably less, pieces of collage in a similar palette. These can be anything from torn bits from other collages, magazine imagery, your own painted collage papers. I like to add in some tissue paper for their transparency options. But whatever feels right. Don't over think it!
    4. Once your paint is dry, arrange some collage pieces however they feel to you at the moment. Sometimes, I try and be really minimal leaving lots of white space. Other times I cover the entire piece of paper. I try to get a pleasing arrangement but I still really try not to over work/think. These are meant to be fairly quick. Minutes vs hours. Glue down your final arrangement.
    5. Grab a black marker, paint pen, Stabilo or graphite pencil, oil pastel and make some marks. 
That's it!

Have fun and I'd love to see what you come up with. Tag me @jenwordenmakerofthings on instagram!

July 8, 2022

The benefits of Small


Something I've been doing lately in my art practice (as an aside, "art practice" sounds rather highfalutin for what actually is simply a nom de plume for what I do: Make art. Every day.) is make small things: paintings, theraupeutic doodles, collages. I purchased 4-4x6" art journals which may or may not have something to do with this. I love their size and portability. But it is the collages that are really floating my boat at the moment. 

Back in  Get MessyMay (May?! blows my mind that we are already in July!) Kellee Wynne  demonstrated the mini collage, dividing a page into 4 then having at'er in these smaller than usual spaces. It was revolutionay. And I've been making them ever since. 

What is it about such a small space that is so compelling?

  1. The size itself. It's fast. Takes little to no resources. And it's CUTE!
  2. Though small, it actually requires a little more thought. In a bigger piece sometimes a corner can get carried along. In this size, every inch COUNTS!
  3. Using up all those torn off corners of larger collage papers that were too pretty to throw away suddenly come into there own. A boon for this paper hoarder!
  4.  Exploration on this minute scale gives immediate feedback. Trying a particular colour palette? Know in a few minutes whether you want to try it out on a bigger scale. Same goes for markmaking or composition.
  5. Speaking of composition: with such limited acreage I really have to get CLEAR on what I want to convey. Something I've been trying to do with larger works (and sucking badly). 
In fact, I can't wait to take these to a grander scale and see what I've learned. 

October 27, 2021

The Process of a Series

I'm making progress on the pieces for the Spring show and I thought it may be of interest to show how I go about developing a series, one of my favourite things, actually.

There are generally three stages/criteria that virtually all my series have in common.
  1. Subject matter. Theme and visuals.
  2. Size. Yep. It matters!
  3. Look and Feel. Unifying palette and markmaking.

Subject Matter

Almost always there are words that kick things off.  For this current series, the show theme is 'Memory'. I wrote about this paragraph in my last post:
"He hated confronting those lost moments, being presented with some detail from his past and having to look on it like a stranger. It made his life feel like a made-up thing. A net full of holes."
Which got me thinking about the reliability of our memories, the lives we construct and alternate realities.

Right on the heels of a paragraph or phrase are the visuals, which often show up as if they had been connected all along or something. In this case, a bunch of photos found while looking for something completely unrelated. I'm super lucky to have my husband's family photos land in my lap, all very prolific photographers from the turn of the Twentieth Century forward.

The phrase 'like a made-up thing' kept repeating in my head as I thumbed through this grouping. Perhaps it was the decided lack of males or the, often, solitary poses or maybe my perceived feeling of trust and intimacy between (female) photographer and subject, all I know is these ladies sure got my attention. And my theme 'A Made Up Life: Lost Moments, Remembered, Reimagined' came into being.


Deciding on final sizing comes right after choosing my central images. The first stack was winnowed down to twelve cohesive photos, naturally falling into four groups of three. I knew I wanted to incorporate some assemblage pieces into the mix which are often smaller than my bigger works. The original photos were a teeny tiny 2×3 inches and wouldn't be practical to use, so it allowed me the freedom to dictate the finished dimensions. I also had a bunch of older paintings I wanted to scrape down and reuse which became the basis for a couple of the groupings. Sizing ranges from the smaller (8×8 inch) assemblage works to the larger (20×24 inch) repurposed paintings that were languishing around the studio. 

Look and Feel

The next step is to coordinate the colour palette across the entire series. Limiting to three or four colours really ties the series together, with an additional colour or two linking each subset. Subject matter can often dictate where I pull these from ... an ocean series, for example, could use anthraquinone blue, paynes gray (a perennial favourite) and teal. When reusing old substrates there are often little bits of colour left on that give me a jumpstart for colour palettes as was the case for choosing Prussian blue, Cobalt Blue and Transparent Yellow Iron Oxide.

Similarly, cohesive mark-making across a series unites the different parts into a satisfying whole. Frankly, I make many of the same marks on ALL of my pieces - three circles, three squares, three lines (yep. I like threes) dressmakers pattern wheels, roadmap-like lines (often white), stars, circles, dashed lines - but I try to be mindful when working within a series to tie each subset together.

I work on all pieces at a time though some are at different stages. I try to get all the substrates finished at once, so the messy parts of construction, sanding, plastering etc are done in one fell swoop. Subsets are worked on almost as a singular painting with each stage... background, imagery, top washes, additional transfers, mark-making, encaustic layers, final incised markings... being done simultaneously across all substrates. As a result, I often have 5 or 6 works in progress come to fruition at the same time. Which can be a little hectic (not to mention using every horizontal space) but is super satisfying as they reach that final hoorah!

If there's anything you'd like clarified, maybe things I glossed over or missed altogether, comment down below! If you found this interesting or helpful, please let me know that too.

Next week I'll talk about Why I like working in series.

February 28, 2020

Experiments that work!

I love it when a plan comes together! I had this idea to create a sort of monoprint-esque image and it worked so well I thought I'd roll it into a mini-tutorial. For posterity. And Julie! Do keep in mind working with wax can be a bit of a learning curve (and if you've got THAT under control the rest should be easy) but it ain't brain surgery. [googling Encaustic Wax videos should help] So hang in there and give it a whirl. Also. Kinda wish I'd thought of it BEFORE so I'd have the entire process visually recorded. Alas. Hindsight? 20-20. So bear with me as this is gonna be long on words and less on visuals.

Ready? Let's get started!
  1. Choose a substrate: I used up some leftover bookboard but really anything that has little to no give works ... wood, sturdy cardboard, artist board etc. For these particular pieces I used a base layer of plaster and gesso but works just as well on a  plain gesso'd surface.

Now let's move onto the images. 
  1. Editing Images: Once images have been chosen, I played around with some filters to get as much contrast as I could though still retaining enough detail to keep the image recognizable. I use Photoshop but any decent photo software/app should be fine. Further, I work back and forth between colour and black and white as ultimately they will be monochromatic when printed so the values are super important. This may require some experimentation! 
  2. Printing:  I use a laser printer as the blacks are so much more...well... BLACK. But. You can use an inkjet particularly if you're able to only use black ink. (I've tried to force my Epson to do this but it won't. Maybe yours is more agreeable!) Or you could always get your photos copied at a copy place if that's easier.
  3. Painting: Now's the time to get some washes down on your substrates. I start with very watery colour then build up the opacity where the white (or negative) parts of the copy will go. Don't forget you'll be flipping the image! I wanted to stick with  original photo colours (red & yellow for the tulips, purple for the iris and yellow and greens for the woodland wildflower) so used those along with some yellowy acidy greens for the greenery. Let dry fully.
  4. Wax Time: Now's the time to heat up your wax. Note: If you've never used wax before you might want to look at some YouTube videos to get the gist. And while I make my own encaustic medium it'll be much easier to purchase some ready made. Okay. With that said ...brush a layer onto your substrate. Let it harden up then fuse ie use a heat gun to smooth any inconsistencies. I find holding my gun in one position and raising or lowering the substrate is easier than the reverse as I pay full attention to how the wax is heating up/looking/moving. This is gonna take practice. Just sayin!
  5. Image Transfer: While your wax is still warm ...not soft but not stone cold, maybe 10 minutes later... is the time to adhere your photo. Flip your image ... ink to wax and burnish that sucker. AKA rub very firmly so your paper is "glued" to the wax surface. Note:  A quick hit with the heat gun can speed up the whole process BUT it can also go south in a hurry. So I'd advise using the "cold" aka burnishing method initially. Once you can't lift the paper without seemingly tearing it? You're golden!.
  6. Paper Backing: Spritz the paper with water and start to rub off the paper. I find using a synthetic cloth ...Swiffer sheets are Da Bomb...makes the process much easier on your fingers. This is standard image transfer protocol. You're essentially taking the paper off, leaving the inked image on the wax. 
  7. Scrap Rattle 'n' Roll:  Okay. This is where I divert from the typical transfer to wax process. And where I wish I had a photo!  Because I kept the contrast high on the photo, my transferred image was almost all black save for the flower bits. The only applied colour peeking through was through the "white" or blank no-ink areas. I was looking for a monoprint/hand-carved stamp look, so I started to scrape off the black ink using a series of  carving tools. Anything sharp will work ...Exacto blade, palette knife, scraper etc. Have fun!
  8. Heat Set:  After finishing all the scraping I did a quick heat set with my heat gun. Essentially you're "melting" the ink into the wax so when you add the top layer it doesn't easily get moved around. Tip: Keep the gun gently moving and start waaaay farther away than you think is useful, you'd be surprised how little heat is required - until you see the ink look kinda wet then STOP. Let completely cool down.
  9. Top Coat:  Final coat of wax gets brushed on. Personally, I try to keep this as smooth as possible as heating too much with the heat gun could move the ink around. If you do get ridges or unwanted marks you can either wait overnight and scrape them off OR go back and gently, gently, GENTLY heat  to smooth. **Please, please be aware the inked image WILL move if you apply too much heat or blow too much air. You can work with it, getting some funky shapes but if you aren't *looking* for funky, well? you're likely gonna have to start all over. Hey! I warned ya!**
  10. Additional Mark Making: I always like to scribe into the final layer of wax, not necessary at all if you like a smooth unmarked surface but I loves me some mark making! I use a variety of tools ... awls, pattern wheels (y'know those wheelie things used in sewing?), metal tops pushed in to make circles, letter/number punches etc. After that I sorta scrub paint into the lines. Tip: To get excess paint off the wax, I use a damp cloth rubbed in bar soap and wipe the surface. It works! Then I like to wait 24 to 48 hours to let the wax cure before buffing to a shiny shine. 

And you're done! I hope you have fun and experiment with this technique. It offers loads of potential I think. And if you have any questions just holler. Comment down below, email or Instagram). I look forward to seeing what you come up with.

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