Thursday, January 24, 2008

Ash Wednesday, Sovegna Vos

Above is a recent collage called Ash Wednesday. The image was inspired by T. S. Eliot's poem of the same name. The subtitle Sovegna Vos is from the poem as well and was lifted by Eliot from Dante. I'm told that a rough translation of the phrase is " You should remember." The piece is a truly mixed media image that utilises everything from the computer to paint. I thought an explanation of the process that leads to a collage like this might make for an interesting post.

I begin with a ground and for that I start with wood. Just simple pine that is cut to size and smoothed on the edges. As this will be a triptic I thought it would be interesting to make the centerpiece taller than the side panels and to achieve this I glued quarter inch strips along the edges of the center panel. After the wood is shaped and sanded I prime the work surfaces with an off white and then I paint the sides black.

The next step is to get out the morgue and select a few images. Many people are unfamiliar with the concept of an artist's morgue so I'll explain. Artists, especially those who do collage, often keep what is known as a morgue. This is nothing more than a collection of interesting photographs and papers that the artist has collected over the course of his career. I organize these images in small filing boxes and categorize them in different folders. Some of the categories in my morgue include Japanese papers, pictures of leaves, textures of all types, maps, photocopies of charts, old letters and photos found in junk stores, post cards...You get the idea.

I begin to cut the images apart and place them on the surface of the piece. Arranging and rearranging until something visually interesting begins to take shape. I sometimes tear the pictures, sand them with sand paper, or even work on them with an eraser. Whatever I can do to distress and alter the photo or paper. It's around this point that I will often employ a digital camera or scanner and pull some of what I have into the Photoshop program. In Photoshop I make changes to the bightness/contrast, hue, saturation and color balance. This affrds me the opportunity to work out some inconsistancies in color.

When I've toyed with things in the digital realm for awhile, it's time to get back to the material. I output a number of the elements with the HP color printer on a heavy stock of paper so that I can cut the prints into pieces, sand, erase and even paint on the images. Around this time I begin to commit some things to the boards. I do this with an acrylic gel medium. I paste layer upon layer until I begin to see things that please me. When the image is at the point where I'm ready to abandon it ( I never really finish, I just abandon) I seal it with the same gel medium and call it done.

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