Wednesday, March 08, 2017

That Leaf Cluster

Nothing gets one in gear faster than finally getting around to opening exhibit documents to discover one has a little more than 2 weeks to finish a new piece of art for said exhibit. And so I got the needed boot to pursue a year old idea and see if it would work. It's mostly been the thought (i.e. fear) of mixing up paint to match the color in the leaf cluster I'd brought home that was holding me up. Time to bite the bullet and just do it! But I'd not even tested my linocut since carving it so that was the first order of business. Just inked with an ink pad and tested on plain paper.

Test fabric on top, "real" interfaced fabric, linocut and leaf cluster on bottom.

A week or so prior, I'd already fused the two pieces of batik to Decor Bond and pressed an additional large piece of the batik to use for trials. When I found that day with a bit of time in it to do this, I was afraid to pause for my usual checking of procedure for fear I'd lose my nerve and/or run out of time. It's been a long time since I worked through the on-line linocut course from Dejanne Cevaal but I was pretty sure I remembered enough to do some printing on the fly. Mostly, I wanted to try to apply the paint without getting any on the ridges this method leaves as you remove the background. I started with Speedball Screen Printing Ink in brown, adding black to darken it. But I needed to get some dark red in there too and found myself grabbing some Oriental Red Pebeo Setacolor paint to mix in.  I dabbed a bit on a small piece of the fabric and thought I had the color pretty close. I loaded up my hard foam brayer and started stamping, leaving the Decor Bonded strips to near last.

Normally the screen printing ink doesn't need diluting but I didn't stop to think that the Setacolor paint is normally diluted before use. That explains why the mix seemed thick prompting me to add a touch of water. And why when I picked it up off the palette there were peaks of paint standing out from the brayer. And probably why I was having a difficult time getting the solid coverage I'd envisioned. Not that this partial coverage isn't a nice effect, just that it was not what I had envisioned for my little art piece. I think it should have been thinned more.

I began to rue the fact I had not taken the time to review my lessons. And when a few days later this book arrived, one I decided to purchase on the recommendation of Dijanne, I wished I'd had it to consult before my printing session. Just paging through it makes me even more anxious to get back to linocutting and printing.

But in the meantime, I now had my leaf cluster printed on my batik, layered over Hobbs Thermore batting and muslin, ready for some stitching. I'd left out that spool of thread on the left because as it sat next to the batik and the actual leaf cluster, I just KNEW it was the perfect color for the stitching. Silly me. My first stitching would be to outline the leaf print and then maybe add a round or two of echoing. So fixated on this solid leaf idea, I decided I didn't want the variegated right next to it so used the solid burgundy on the small spool. Ok, it matched but did nothing else. So back to the variegated thread, which I did test on a scrap. But once I'd done a round of it, I wasn't so sure, yet my stubborn nature that had deemed it PERFECT prevailed. I started stitching across the background and after half a dozen lines could see that this thread that looked so reddish purple on the spool variegated to a decidedly lavender purple on the fabric. Rip rip rip! Maybe I need to go with the orange across the background, but in spite of it looking good on the sample, it too variegated to an unacceptable color (bright yellow!) and didn't look right as it ran across the browner sections. 

It's only 10 x 10 inches but taxed my abilities

I stared for a long time at my thread collection, willing the right color to magically appear where I was looking (yes, they are mostly arranged by color), and finally allowed my eyes to roam upward where I spotted the somewhat light burgundy variegated thread. Thinking it was too light, I gave it a try anyway and it turned out to be the best solution. I know some experts insist it's the value of the thread, not its color that is important, but I sure didn't find that the case here. Of course, all those lines of stitching I'd removed left needle holes, so the restitching had to be carefully done to hit or at least cover them. Yeah, what fun.

I realized I was so fixated on the burgundy thread because my original leaf had shone hints of deep burgundy along with a very dark brown. But once I got out of the poor lighting in the bathroom where I mixed the paint and did the stamping, I wasn't seeing as much red in the leaves as I'd intended. I pondered if I could paint over the leaves or in some other way add some red to them. In the end, I decided the safest experiment would be to try my Inktense pencils. Remember, I was working on a tight deadline and there was no time for starting over if I screwed this piece up. A simple way to work with these pencils is to transfer color from the dry pencil onto parchment paper or the shiny side of freezer paper, then pick up the pigment on a wet brush. I chose a stencil brush to see if I could work color not only on top of the paint but into the fabric in those areas where the paint didn't totally cover.

I think it made a little difference, but overall, this is still just a dark reddish/brown leaf. Again, nothing wrong with that and it looks good on this fabric, but it is not the color of the original leaf that got me excited when paired with this batik. Not to worry, I'll be doing this again and being more bold when I mix up my colors.

This really was intended to be a trial run for a possible series using this stamp. My idea is to wrap the finished work over canvas and put in floater frames. But because of the dimensions of the batik strips (which started as rejected padfolio pockets), there wasn't enough for wrapping. So I always knew this would go in a 10 x 10 frame. And when I do that, I always attached the finished piece (after zig zagging the squared up raw edges) to either watercolor paper or cardstock for extra stabilization. Knowing that, I didn't have to worry about burying the many thread tails that got pulled to the back., thank goodness.

Time to dig around in the closet to see what I had in terms of that board and I discovered an unopened pack of illustration board I totally forgot I'd bought. Normally I'd put a heavy needle in the machine and sew around the edge to attach quilt to board. But this board struck me as thicker than what I've used before so I hesitated.  Maybe I could just use some glue or . . . I remembered this roll of double-sided mounting tape suggested by a scrapbooking friend many years ago. Am I getting lazy or just smart? It's archival so let's just say I'm getting smart in my old age.

With the quilt permanently attached to the board, my "label" information can be penned on the back of it. When I do this rather than printing out a label, I use the initial stamp I carved as well. This frame had a Masonite back board rather than cardboard like so many cheap frames do, so it went on last. A business card with the name of the piece and price gets taped to it to meet the labeling requirements of the exhibit.

Leaf Cluster I by Sheila Mahanke Barnes 2017 - 10" x 10"

And here it is framed and ready to go (with no glass). I did have a black frame on hand but found a lovely mahogany brown one on a shopping trip that I think looks much better. I filled out paperwork yesterday and dropped it all off on time this morning. I do like it but have misgivings about its simplicity. Too minimalist? Will people view it with at most a "that's nice" or a shrug before quickly moving on? It's certainly not "great" art but I think it is ok "decorative" art. So I was a bit surprised and relieved at the accolades from the ladies checking in artwork today. They can be pretty deadpan as they do their job so to have them ooh and aah made me feel better and encourages me to keep working with this motif, exploring variations on this theme. 


The Inside Stori said...

SUPER impressed.....I'm loving it!

Chris said...

Nice one, Sheila. Looks like you learned some things from your experimentation, too. Nice to get the ooohs and aaahhhs as well.

Michele Matucheski said...

You made your deadline! You've come a long way with the block-printing. I remember how frustrating it was for you when you were taking the class. So glad you persevered and worked your way through the frustration. This is absolutely beautiful! If you didn't but your thought process down in your blog, no one would ever know the twists and turns and decision points in the making of it. In the end, it's beautiful in it's simplicity and depth. Very nice!