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Nov. 25: Finishing a 2nd Nice Workshop Collage.

Earlier this month I posted my first collage based on our theme for the Workshop in Nice that took place October 20 – 27. I glued many small collages, each created in 15 minute work sessions, onto a 18″x 36″ canvas, then set about to turn it into a completed and cohesive work. I posted photos of the work at various stages in its development along with the “finished” result and invited critique, including the question of whether or not it was really done.

Margaret wrote, “My first concern was that I couldn’t recognize any of the first 15 minute collages.” The collages I used for that work in the post previous to this one were NOT done in France. They were all done here in my studio in North Adams prior to my trip. They were part of my studio testing of my ideas for our Workshop In Nice. I sent them out via email to everyone who would be attending the workshop. I also sent the beginning stages of two of the books I am still working to complete. A good point to bring up, Margaret, so it felt important to address it here.

I thank everyone who made comments on that piece. I was particularly inspired by some of Gretchen’s comments to revisit that collage and I am still working on it. I will post another “finish” to that work very soon.

Margaret also wrote, “I like number 4, where you had toned down the blue and the green. At that point I would have tried to dissipate the grid effect by extending those 2 colours more into the background, and simplifying it. I struggle with the “busy effect…every day!” The interesting thing is, I had thought of this very same solution while working on that piece, but I made the decision to go in the opposite direction, emphasizing the grid and allowing the “busyness” and that I would explore dissipating it in another work. That is the work that I am presenting in THIS blog post.

One more note about the work shown in the previous post: 2 artists at the last Independent Study Workshop in West Hartford said that they liked the piece best when I had only just pasted on all the separate collages and hadn’t done any work to integrate them! (That would be the very first image in that post.) In my mind, that was very busy. So, what is busy? Is busy always a bad thing? Can busy work? Is simple always better? I don’t propose any answers to this – it is a question that I will be exploring for some time to come, I am sure.

In an email sent several days after she posted her comment on this blog, Margaret said in an email to me, “…the comments that I made about your work were the ones I was considering in mine, and I realize that that is not what critique is about.” My response to that is yes and no. It seems important to point out two things here, as we are all submitting our work to each other for critiquing:

1. For a critique to be useful to the artist, one needs to keep in mind what that particular artist is doing and comment accordingly. The ideas you suggest might not be ideas you would use in your own work, but might be very suitable to the artist whose work you are critiquing.

2. It is very much OK to say, “If this was my work, I would….” Presented that way, not as what is absolutely correct but only as what would be your own choice, you might offer the artist an idea that he or she may not have thought of, yet might be interested in trying.

Of course there are basic artistic principles to keep in mind when critiquing, but history is full of artists challenging the prevailing principles of their time. There is no final and absolute authority “out there somewhere.” The best we can offer someone when we critique their work is our own take on it – expressed respectfully and fully owned by ourselves: “This is my reaction to this work.” “If this were mine, I would….” And each artist has the responsibility to remember that they are the only final authority on their own work and it is necessary to struggle with who to listen to and what to take into their own work and when it is best to ignore what others are saying and do what they feel is best. There are no guarantees. But you already knew that, didn’t you.

Here is my second piece in response to our Workshop In Nice experience. The small 15 minute collages used WERE done in France – they were created during the month of September when I was staying in Bormes-Les-Mimosas. At the time I made them I didn’t know if I would keep them as individual works or if I would combine them into a larger work. Obviously, I have now made a choice. Critique freely! No holds barred!! It is my opinion that the truth is the only thing that is really useful.

For this work I began by selecting 19 small 15 minute collages that I created while I was in Bormes-Les-Mimosas for the month of September. I arranged them on a cradled board, 24

For this work I began by selecting 19 small 15 minute collages that I created while I was in Bormes-Les-Mimosas for the month of September. I arranged them on a cradled board, 24″x 18″, with some of them overlapping and hiding parts of others. I felt there were too many gaps of white board, so I selected 3 more (I was trying to save them as individual works, but, oh well, something had to be given up!) and those are hanging on the right next to the work in progress.

Here I have incorporated those three, making a total of 21 small collages used, some cut into "halves" (not equal) and placed apart from each other. Note that the small 15 minute collages were not all the same size to begin with. Also note that some collages are still overlapping others and hiding pieces. I felt I needed one more, so selected the work hanging to the right of the work in progress. With that one included the total used comes to 22.

Here I have incorporated those three, making a total of 21 small collages used, some cut into “halves” (not equal) and placed apart from each other. Note that the small 15 minute collages were not all the same size to begin with. Also note that some collages are still overlapping others and hiding pieces. I felt I needed one more, so selected the work hanging to the right of the work in progress. With that one included the total used comes to 22.

The collages with parts hidden by others overlapping them have been cut and the hidden parts exposed and used. One piece has been placed in a horizontal orientation between the 1st and 2nd rows, and another between the 2nd and 3rd rows.

The collages with parts hidden by others overlapping them have been cut and the hidden parts exposed and used. One piece has been placed in a horizontal orientation between the 1st and 2nd rows, and another between the 2nd and 3rd rows.

I added two bits cut from the hidden parts of other collages between the 1st and 2nd rows. Are you asking why I didn't wait and take a photo of the last two moves together? I agree, that would have been best. But I get lost in the process and forget to be so orderly. You can see that I began to paint over the collages with white gesso before I remembered to stop and shoot this photo. The last photo was still just taped in place, this one is all glued on - so a lot more time and work went on between what seems to be two simple moves. The gluing often changes the work from what it looks like just taped - but not much change shows in these photos this time.

I added two bits cut from the hidden parts of other collages between the 1st and 2nd rows. Are you asking why I didn’t wait and take a photo of the last two moves together? I agree, that would have been best. But I get lost in the process and forget to be so orderly. You can see that I began to paint over the collages with white gesso before I remembered to stop and shoot this photo. The last photo was still just taped in place, this one is all glued on – so a lot more time and work went on between what seems to be two simple moves. The gluing often changes the work from what it looks like just taped – but not much change shows in these photos this time.

Here I used white gesso to begin bridging and obscuring the tight lines defining the separate collages.

Here I used white gesso to begin bridging and obscuring the tight lines defining the separate collages.

Here I've replaced the white with green.

Here I’ve replaced the white with green.

Not happy with that particular green, I painted over it with a transparent yellow.

Not happy with that particular green, I painted over it with a transparent yellow.

I added more collage: circles and half circles, from painted papers and postcards.

I added more collage: circles and half circles, from painted papers and postcards.

I added the negative shapes left over from cutting circles for a different project, which just happens to create arches. They were cut from a yellow-green painted paper.

I added the negative shapes left over from cutting circles for a different project, which just happens to create arches. They were cut from a yellow-green painted paper.

I liked the green, but it made the blue too dominant and it isolated the blue areas into islands that were too separate from the rest of the work. I needed to give up one or the other, the green or the blue. My decision was to let the green go, so I painted the blue over most of it. As you can see, the result brought back many of the tight divisions that I had worked to obscure.

I liked the green, but it made the blue too dominant and it isolated the blue areas into islands that were too separate from the rest of the work. I needed to give up one or the other, the green or the blue. My decision was to let the green go, so I painted the blue over most of it. As you can see, the result brought back many of the tight divisions that I had worked to obscure.

To soften the divisions, I painted over some of the blue with more green. I wish I had taken a photo at that point, but I forgot. My instincts told me that it needed more imagery of some sort, so I added lettering - black positive letters and white negative letters - then I sanded the black letters to make them marry into the work and painted over the white letters for the same reason. Then I felt that this was a good place to stop and live with it for awhile. Is it finished? I await your comments.

To soften the divisions, I painted over some of the blue with more green. I wish I had taken a photo at that point, but I forgot. My instincts told me that it needed more imagery of some sort, so I added lettering – black positive letters and white negative letters – then I sanded the black letters to make them marry into the work and painted over the white letters for the same reason. Then I felt that this was a good place to stop and live with it for awhile. Is it finished? I await your comments.

Marie Fortin
December 9th, 2013 at 10:27 pm

Debi
This is my 5th time revisiting this work. I appreciate seeing the evolution and process of a piece of art. I like how you have been generous in recording it here for us. So, here are my thoughts.
The white gesso stage of the work I found myself attracted to. Why? Well it could be that I experience the work as having the highest contrast and my eye is attracted to that. The faded terracotta color and blue remind me of the buildings, water and stone that I experienced in Nice during your workshop. I’m not saying that I think it was done at that stage, but if it were my work, I might have gone in a different direction at that point.
I might have used my colored sticks, incised scribbling or language in the white areas or applied larger scale black letters, over lapping the white gesso. Looking at the work at this stage it appears harmonious. Why? You’ve broken up the grid and created large areas by, using the blue and green. These colors tone down the work. I don’t get the pop of blue that I saw at the gesso stage against the white, which I miss.
When I zoom into the work I can see the many details and some pictures that create interest and that is very pleasing, such as the information from pamphlets, pictures of buildings and ruins, textures and shapes that you collected on your travels. The use and position of the lettering, fanning out within the work creates variety and is pleasing. I am bothered by the most recent orbs/circles that have been added. The color and value are not interesting to me, but they do force my eye to move throughout the piece in a zig zag fashion. They also function to bring dark areas in.
If this were my work, I might have some of the rounds be circles and some orbs. The orbs would bring in form (if you were interested in doing that). I would probably experiment with the bluish green areas and create a sense of depth by layering veils of color that the eye could sink into, (like the back grounds of a Rembrandt varnish surface) to suggest the translucency of the sea. The translucency might work also for a few circles against the opaqueness of the other areas of the work. I might add a few large scale dark or light letters or other motif (as you did with the large green frond shapes that you incorporated in your other work) to assist in bringing it all together.
When I read the work from a distance I really get a sense of terracing and steps without the literal stairs being in the painting. The zig shape created by the dripping medium on the lower mid to left is great for bringing me back and up. The yellow you added works to bring light back into the painting. I might bring in more white or yellow, something to lighten or brighten, maybe a few larger scale motifs, such as partial circles, letters, or other.
I wouldn’t say it is done, but rather 75 – 90% done. I like the direction you’re going in.
The work seems to be primarily about color, shape, line, texture, repetition and a variety of scale and less about form.

gretchen
December 4th, 2013 at 3:30 pm

Hi Debi,
So I have come back to look at this a few times. Something feels unresolved so I have to say that no it is not quite done yet. Then I am transported to one of our critiques where the question would be “why is it not done? what is unresolved?”
For me there is no clear dominant area. I think that is what is throwing me off. Color tends to flatten out in photos and this is of course much larger in real life than on my computer so it might be different live and in person. Overall I enjoy the pathways, love the repetitions but ultimately I realize I am always starting at a different point when I work my way through it.
I think the lettering that radiates on the right is trying to be primary (and it is such a trademark of yours). If something could maybe push that a bit more and maybe play up the diagonal between it and the radial down and left then I think it might be done. I think this is where Kelly would take out her color sticks.
Sharing this with us has been really helpful. I am sure we are all pulling various lessons from this process. Thanks ever so much!

Laura
December 2nd, 2013 at 9:12 pm

Once again I’m fascinated by how you took all those different pieces and made them into one, cohesive piece.

I also really like the radial text part. I didn’t realize it was letters until I looked up close. It was a fun surprise.

So, is it done? I don’t think so. Perhaps it’s a matter of scale or focal point. In other words the scale feels a bit uniform. The lower, right two-thirds feels like it’s working really well but I might try somehow adding a larger scale element in the upper left to unite it with the lower right .

gretchen
December 2nd, 2013 at 3:31 pm

I love this piece Debi. I am still absorbing it in relation to the steps you took and the “is it done?” question. It seems that you are a reductionist in how you work; beginning with many pieces and reducing them down, knitting them together, finding what is authentic to you through the process of looking and decision making. I only know Margaret’s work through this blog however it strikes me that she might work in a method that is completely opposite to you. In other words she begins with her basic structure and then adds, carefully and judiciously.

Post November ISW I am thinking a lot about organization. I think whether you are adding or subtracting it all comes down to finding the compositional elements and making them authentic to you, the artist. The possibility of being able to start minimally or maximally is an interesting notion I had not thought of!

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Debi Pendell Artist by debipendell.com