Walkthrough of Lost and Found
Interview with Louisa Gaille
Taming the RSS
Walkthrough of Lost and FoundBehind the Art
by Melissa Acker
I ended up calling this piece 'Lost and Found' because I used different things to create a collage, altering existed elements to create a new finished work, and indeed some of them were things I had completely forgotten about.
It all started when I found an abandoned piece of watercolor paper. I'd originally given it a relatively simple background wash consisting of mostly burnt scarlet and quinacridrone gold, as I'd planned to do some watercolor sketches the last time I was the zoo some months ago. So I decided I would start with that.
After that, the idea to do a collage wiggled its way into my brain, and I went looking for items to cut up. I searched though all the old reference photos I'd printed out and saved over the years, and found one (from almost four years ago!) that I thought I might to be able to do something with.
I very lightly drew in a rough outline of what I thought the end result would be, and started to throw in some sloppy color. Since I would be using a photo of a creature, I knew I would need to have to make the areas that would show around the photo very dark, so that the contrast between them would not be so great. This scan shows two layers of color; a dark burnt scarlet mix for the body, and, after that had dried, other mixes of burnt scarlet, Prussian blue, violet and quinacridrone gold on the background. It got fairly wet, so I tipped the board to dry and also created the drip marks -- I knew going in to this piece that photorealism was not what I was striving for.
With dark mixes of burnt scarlet and Prussian blue, I started to add some pattern and texture to the fur. I avoided detail in the tail or legs, deciding instead to let them fade into the background, instead of competing against it -- after all, with an actual photo that would be included in the painting, there would already be a great deal of contrast in the piece. After that had dried, I compared it to the photo and realized it was still way too light, so I covered the whole area in a wash of cobalt blue, which has a rather middle-of-the-road color temperature.
Colored pencil time! I can't seem to do anything lately without throwing some colored pencil into it somehow. I was almost randomly grabbing colors, in keeping with the loose and free-flow idea I was working with. The dark pencils I used included dark brown, black cherry, forest green, and indigo. I also used a lot of light pencils (although no white), going for opaque colors that would really stand out against the watercolor. One in particular was a very light sky blue color, which will complement the reflected daylight that is in the photo I'm using. I used quite a few layers, six or seven in some of the darkest areas. Again, the legs and tail were left almost untouched.
The photo I used is one that I took probably five or six years ago now, at the local zoo, so I am free to use it however the heck I want. I cut out the part of the bird I wanted to use, and then cut out some of the individual tail feathers as well. I used rubber cement to adhere them to the watercolor paper, gluing the tail feathers first, and then the body over it. I also threw in some random colored pencil in some portions of the background.
This is probably the first collage I've done since my first year of college, or maybe even high school, and, as an experiment, this piece taught me quite a bit. I learned that I need to up the contrast on the painted portions even more than I did. And, I think that if I do do another collage piece, I will try to be even more free with it; instead of cutting out a whole bird for the piece, I will try to take pieces of different photos to create the image I need… more textures should make it more interesting!
So tune in next month for our next adventure into collage!
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