Wednesday, February 10, 2016

'Step by Step'

On open days almost every visitor to my studio asks what my process of painting is. While the 'step by step' of each painting varies, I suppose, just like other artists, I've developed my own technical process over the years...... which I'm more than happy to share :)

This is the process in painting a commissioned work for a couple with a beautiful 'Lemon Scented Gum' in their yard. After visiting their home to view their colour scheme and furniture, chatting about what they would like, I arrived at a design of a horizontal painting with a silver metallic boarder and featuring leaved and the colouring of the beautiful tree from their garden.

Step 1

The first layer on this painting was to paste down several sheets of tissue paper. This is a way of covering over the textured weave in the canvas, but also, the wrinkles in the tissue assist to create an aged and vintage surface to begin painting on.
Layers of acrylic paint have then been applied, between which I have painted a number of coats of 'Crackle Medium'. This also assists in portraying an aged affect and I am able to get a really loose dribble and crackled under-layer. Most of this texture will be lost as I continue, although sections of each layer will be visible in the final product. The first layers on this work were darker and have gradually become lighter as I proceed. This too gives the viewer a sense that time has passed and that possibly layers of dust have softened the once bright and highly contrasting colours beneath.

Step 2

Masking tape has allowed me to paste down silver foil to create a boarder on both the top and the bottom of the painting. I have cut a circle into the foil before pasting it to the canvas to create a silver moon.
The beautiful Lemon Scented Gum has so many beautiful warm and dusty colours in its bark. From mushroom to dusty pink and mauve and a beautiful almost powdery off-white on some parts of its trunk. The blossom and gum-nuts of this tree are so beautiful. Strips of Japanese paper featuring the hexagonal 'Kikko Hanabashi' pattern echoes the experience of looking into the open end of gum-nuts and the application of the 'Asanoha' via a gold silk screen pattern mimics the delicate 'star-like' flowers when the gum is in bloom.

Step 3

Now its time to apply more silver leaf and foil. The little squares of silver leaf in the background give the sense of a Japanese folding screen or sliding shrine door that would have been traditionally decorated with images from the natural world. I have made another screen featuring the same 'Kikko Hanabashi' pattern that featured on the paper used earlier. The layering of silkscreen pattern allows one to see the layers beneath as well as adding a new dimension to the foreground.
My application of the silver leaf and pattern in a diagonal arrangement also stems from traditional Japanese influences.... as does the area of 'mist' which appear to move across and into the composition above the moon.

Step 4

Waves of mist are also represented through the use of some vintage Chinese wallpaper I found some years ago. The trees and landscape scenes on this wallpaper offer us a sense that we're in nature.... and when the gum leaves are applied in the next step - that place in nature has become more specifically, Australia.

Step 5

What I always find incredibly magical is that while my body, mind and spirit are so immersed in the colour and imagery of the painting I am working on, nature or life seems to also give me 'hints' of what colour to apply next or how to achieve a desired affect. Sometimes I'll find the answer to a problem I have had in the studio that night in my dreams. Sometimes in the middle of a yoga practise or sometimes while walking. In this case, I was on a bushwalk when from high up above the canopy of shorter trees a cockatoo broke off a sprig of Lemon Scented Gum leaves and blossom. They landed right at my very feet!
After scanning these leaves, I have printed them in pigmented inks on archival paper and arranged them onto the painting.
This process often reminds me of the art of 'Ikebana' the Japanese art of flower arranging.

Lemon Scented Gum Collage
76cm x 122cm
Mixed Media on Canvas

And finally, the details and a fine spray of paint are applied to the canvas, followed by a combination of encaustic wax and damar varnish as a means of protecting the layers within the painting and also creating a uniform surface over the entire work.

Here is the painting, "Lemon Scented Gum Collage" featured in it's new home.

......And thankfully it's new owners are simply thrilled! :)

(Photo thanks to Barry Plant real estate)