Monday, June 29, 2009

Experimenting with a new surface

Most of the art I do is on stretched canvas. I love the look of thick gallery wrapped canvases, they look kind of like boxes hanging on the wall. A few weeks ago, I realized my supply of smaller canvases was dwindling rapidly. This is the time of the year I am working on art for my booth at the Cooper Young Festival, and I always try to do lots of small, affordable pieces for people looking for gifts or a nice memento of their day. I am trying to cut costs, so I started looking around my studio for alternatives to canvas. I was seriously considering doing a few pieces on watercolor paper, but I really didn't want to do that, because then you get into issues like frames and packaging. You can't just plop a stack of pieces on paper on a table, they have to be packaged. Mats, cellophane, things like that. I like to keep that end of things pretty simple.
While I was digging through shelves and cabinets (looking for something, but I didn't really know what) I ran across a big stack of Masonite rectangles. My husband brought these home for me from work. They were dismantling a shelving unit and they used these 4.25 inch X 9.75 inch rectangles for shelf dividers. At the time, I didn't really know what I would do with them but, of course, I can't throw anything out. Now I wish I had taken the dozens and dozens he ended up throwing away instead of 20-30 I kept.
I took six of them and sanded them lightly. I thought 6 would be a nice number to try out a variety of techniques and see how they worked out without expending a TON of energy. They take a bit of prep work and I didn't want to spend a big chunk of my art time on prep. After a light sanding, I painted each board, front, back and sides, with gesso. Three with white gesso, three with black. Then I sanded them and used another coat of gesso on the front, and sanded them again. Then they were ready to paint on!

My next few posts, I will talk about these six pieces. I will start now with my favorite of the pieces, called "What Could Go Wrong?" I bought a few hot air balloon collage sheets from an awesome shop on etsy, Paper Street Digital Collage Sheets, and there was a picture of a little guy in a balloon basket that I absolutely loved. I printed him out on heavy cardstock and found a balloon for him. I layered thick coats of very textured paint with thin watery coats of gesso, sanding after each coat of gesso. The result was an extremely smooth surface to glue my papers to with the appearance of complex texture. After the painting was done, the papers glued, the edges trimmed, and the sides painted, I propped it up and lived with it for a few days. I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to attach the balloon to the basket with. I had always used India ink to draw them in on balloon pieces I've done in the past, but i haven't always been entirely happy with the results. Finally I settled on wire. I have been doing a bit of experimentation with wire and jewelry for fun, and I thought this would be a good way to include it in my art. I took two small pieces of tin copper wire, created secure loops at either end, then hammered them flat. I used carpet tacks (I love their irregular tiny black heads!) through the loops, pounded right into the Masonite, to attach the wires.

This piece made me a fan of panels. I love having a silky smooth surface to work on and I was able to use attachment options not really possible with stretched canvas. The panels can be framed or a sawtooth hanger glued to the back.