Work in Progress: Kuba-Inspired Wall Hanging

I'm often asked about how I do what I do.  And if you're an artist too, you know the answer to that is often complicated and contains many steps.  For my most recent work, a 20"x24" wall hanging, I documented much of the process and shared it on my Michelle Davis Petelinz Kindred Spirit Studios Facebook page.  I now share it here, complete with photos and a more detailed description of each step. 

An example of Kuba cloth
from the Democratic Republic
of the Congo.
The Preparation
The first image is a detail of the center portion of the piece.  The stages prior to this were:  adding gesso and tissue paper to the surface of the MDF (medium density fiberboard; a recycled wood product), to create a fabric-like texture.  Once that was dry, I painted the left and right sides in a vertical gradation from deep maroon to bright yellow. 

The Inspiration
I knew I wanted to continue the textile-like feel, and looked to my usual source of inspiration:  Africa.  For the center section, I drew in shapes inspired by Kuba cloth from the Congo, then tinted them with acrylic ink. Next, I filled in the background of the center section with acrylic paint.  For the two bands on either side of the center section, I drew another African-inspired black ink design over acrylic paint. 

The Ornamentation and Coloration
Meanwhile, I created polymer tiles which I would place onto the two side panels.  This process involved conditioning the clay (with a new to me technique of using a small food processor to make formerly unusable, hard clay workable--thanks, Pinterest!), cutting shapes, and texturing them.  I used a variety of stamps and tools to accomplish this, including my own hand cut stamps, clay tools, and unmounted rubber stamps.  Once the shapes were cured, I covered them all with micaceous iron oxide, to give a rough, yet sparkly finish, and lightly sanded each.  The next step is one I always enjoy:  adding color to the tiles, using PearlEx powders, oil pastels, acrylic paints, inks and glazes. 

The Culmination
After all tiles were colored, assembly came next; the challenge was to have both sides come out evenly at the bottom without having exactly the same elements in the progression (to me, that's boring!).  After a good deal of adjusting and readjusting, I was able to make it work.  The completed piece now hangs in my studio (above a papier mache mask I did for a class I teach, and a recycled wood sculpture I did on a Play Day with my Mixed Media Art Guild), and I'm so pleased with the way it turned out! 

Painting in the central panel shapes.  You can see the
texture created by the tissue paper + gesso mixture.

Filling in the background with acrylic paint.

Close up of the band between the sections
with black ink over acrylic paint.

Textured polymer tiles just before curing.  I ended up
not using the copper rings seen here. 

Cured tiles with a coating of micaceous iron oxide. 
Note:  the color inside the two tiles with holes
is from the paper below them.

Tiles with their coloring completed.

The completed wall hanging. 


Linda Poche said…
Thanks for sharing your step-by-step process. As an artist, I hadn't thought about the steps quite that way, but I think it would be an interesting experiment to do the same thing with my next more complex piece. Beautiful work, Michelle!
Michelle said…
Thank you, Linda. Working while knowing I will share the steps is an interesting exercise; it makes me think through the various processes, and see them the way the viewer will. I'll look forward to seeing your 'work in progress' posts soon.
Penny A said…
What a treat! The finished piece is stunning -- and the journey to that point ever-so-lovely! I love seeing how other artists "do it" -- thanks for pulling back the curtain :)