The Anatomy of a Challenge

Here's where the challenge began, as described in my earlier post. This is the collection of disparate items which were to be fashioned into a "World of Art" themed 16x20 canvas. As I said at the time, it took me quite a while to decide what to do and how to even approach the whole project. Our instructions were to use at least part of every item in the kit, which included: a wine cork, a small piece of torn canvas, liquid graphite, playing cards, clayboard tiles, a piece of twine, foreign language magazine pages, origami paper, several pieces of balsa wood, a rubber band, and a very limited choice of paint colors. And, if we wanted, we could add two items to the kit.

At the outset, I knew I wanted to highlight the idea of different cultures, since I do that in my own work, and we were asked to use the world as a jumping-off point. I figured the "art" part would naturally follow.

After a few false starts, I decided to use masks as the way to convey the idea of culture; specifically masks used in performance or ritual in three countries which supply art materials to Jerry's Artarama. Of course, masks are something I work with all the time, but for this I decided not to use clay. Earlier this year, for another of our Guild's projects, I'd been introduced to Cotton Press hand cast paper products, and was intrigued by the possibility of using them here. So, for my two added items, I used the Cotton Press cotton linter and additive powder, and combined it with some of the plain paper from the kit to create three cast paper masks. I did some research online, and using masks such as these at left as inspiration, chose Australia, Italy and China, so I could design and paint the masks in Aboriginal tribal, Venetian theater, and Chinese operatic traditions. Luckily, the paint colors I was given lent themselves to these designs, though it was frustrating not to have white or black to blend, and I would have loved to use metallic gold on the Venetian one (that's why they call it a challenge!). Once the masks were done came the task of trying to place them into a cohesive design on the canvas.
There were even more fits and starts at this stage! Finally, I created a full-sized tissue paper mock up of the canvas, which made it easier to arrange the pieces of paper upon it, and to plan where I'd paint on the canvas directly. As it turned out, I didn't paint on the canvas directly at all; the largest areas of paint were done by crumpling paper from the kit, decoupaging it to the surface, and painting over it.

Each mask's surround contains elements which visually relate to it: the Chinese opera mask has the red origami paper nearby, as well as rice paper and parts of magazine pages with Chinese characters. Inspired by the origami paper, I created some larger, two-toned, 3-D versions of its flowers, and floated them on a solid blue background, using tiny pieces of balsa wood underneath. The Venetian theater mask was the most fun and frustrating at the same time. Fun was when I figured out how to use slices of the wine cork with pieces of the playing cards on top for the headpiece. Fun continued when I used the liquid graphite to color the piece of twine, then used it as another part of the headpiece. Frustration was in trying to come up with just the right thing to place near the elaborate mask. I finally came up with the liquid graphite swirly design on more kit paper. The Aboriginal mask's dots drove the rest of the canvas. I've always been intrigued by their use of dots in their designs, and figured this was a great time to explore it! Using the small bit of torn canvas in the kit, I first made a drawing reminiscent of cave paintings, and placed it near the mask. And, even though the green patterned paper was another origami sheet, it seemed to work just fine near the other side of the Aboriginal mask. On the solid green and gold papers, I created a design of dots (using the magazine pages, solid color papers, and some hand painted papers) which echoed those on the mask. Thank goodness for a good hole punch!

The final element of my design involved using the languages of my chosen countries. We:l is an Aboriginal word for 'World'; Il mundo dell'arte is Italian for "The World of Art;" and the Chinese characters represent Meishu, which is the Mandarin word for "Fine Art". I wrote these with the liquid graphite on the clayboard tiles, and placed them near the corresponding mask.

And here is the finished piece!
I feel good about having taken on this challenge, and I'm pleased with how it turned out. If you'd like to see my piece "in person" along with 24 others, come visit the Carolina Mixed Media Art Guild room at Jerry's Artarama's Art of the Carolinas next month. Full details about the 4-day event can be found here.

See you there!


Jeanne Rhea said...

You did a fantastic job! I was so impressed with all of the completed ones so far. I am struggling a bit with mine as I need different colors of paint. And there is absolutely no way these colors can be combined to get the color that I really need. I used some of that Liquid Pencil and almost ruined a part of mine! I should have listened more carefully---I think to Carolyn Coyle. But I am still enjoying the challenge.

Penny A said...

Fabulous, as always! I love the vastly different visual planes that you wove from the solid and patterened paper in the kit. Lastly (for both of us) I am SO glad that it is done ;-)