Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Class Review

Here's a first-person report from April Nomellini, a student in my Wednesday post-conference workshop at Castle Hill. You could consider it the equivalent of a restaurant review. Sounds like the class got 5 stars. Thanks, April!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Class Results from the Post-Con Workshops: Thursday

A bricolage with encaustic work by Joanne Mattera.
This calls for a series, in my opinion.

Thursday's post-con class in Unconventional Mixed Media With Encaustic was a bit wilder and more rambunctious than Wednesday's class. Besides Joanne, students included Cherie Mittenthal, Binnie Birstein, Lynette Haggard and other friends, as you will see below, and of course it was a real pleasure (and challenge) to have them take my workshop.

Opening the boxes

Joanne was very pleased with a Betty Crocker Cookbook

The process was the same for this group of students as it was the day before. This class, however, wanted to work in multiples, so several people made more than one work.

There was a lot of laughter and everyone seemed to be having a great time.

Now on to the work:

Binnie Birstein (Did I say "everyone" was having a good time?)

Binnie's work

Cherie Mittenthal

Cherie's work 1

Cherie's work 2

Gurli Lovinger

Gurli's work

Donna Ramsey Nevers (aka Donna Two)

Donna's work 1

Donna's work 2

Donna Talman

Apparently I missed taking a photo of Donna Talman's work by itself, but it's the piece right beside her with the rust-colored top. She also did a second one which I neglected to photo as well. Sorry, Donna!

Fay Senner

Fay's work

Joanne Mattera

Joanne's work 1

Joanne's work 2

Joanne Powell

Joanne's work

Lynette Haggard

Lynette's work

Nancy Natale

Nancy's work

Patricia Palmer

Patricia's work

Patti Russotti

Patti's work 1

Patti's work 2

Sherrie Posternak

Sherrie's work

Virginia Lamb

Virginia's work

This class also found that knowing when to stop adding elements and undercutting the focal point of the work was the most difficult part of this process. Deciding what was important in terms of meaning or intention and then emphasizing or building around that concept visually was the stumbling block for most people. It seems that it's very easy to get distracted by falling in love with particular objects and wanting to add them in. In my conversations with people during the construction process, I tried to emphasize the importance of leaving areas of the work uncluttered and spatially open.

The other main problem, I would say, is being too literal with meaning so that the work becomes more an illustration of a statement or theme rather than an aesthetic composition. This can be a fine line to walk but usually resorting to formal components of visual organization can assist the process.

Thank you to all the Thursday students for a great day of art making and laughter!

These post-con classes were a wonderful experience for me and an opportunity to test some ideas about how to assist students in creating mixed media works with encaustic. Thanks so much to Joanne and Cherie for the opportunity to put my theories into practice.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Class Results from the Post-Con Workshops: Wednesday

A bricolage work by Jan Baugher from Wednesday's class

On Wednesday, June 8th, and Thursday, June 9th, students in the all-day workshops on Making Fine Art With Unconventional Mixed Media and Encaustic worked with the mystery boxes and other materials I provided to make works of art. The idea was that the Art of Bricolage blog would provide some insight into the process of combining found objects with encaustic and prepare students for the process.

Opening the boxes

First, there was the anticipation of opening the mystery boxes to see what they contained. I told the students that there was much more in the boxes than they could ever use in one work on the 9" x 12" panels I provided. In addition to the contents of the boxes, there was a selection of other materials to use such as paper, fabric, colored Evans encaustic gesso, pigment sticks, oil pastels, watercolors, string, wire, thread, and who knows what-all. There were eight prepared colors of R&F encaustic paints plus a large pot of clear medium.

Holding up a Barbie and a green stuffed animal

Examining contents

Before we began, I read a list of the five steps I thought they would have to use in the process:

1) Examine contents and think about alternative ways they could be used and/or transformed
2) Edit - review the materials in the mystery box, rejecting some and selecting others
3) Make a provisional composition - lay out elements on the panel to see how they could work together
4) Plan construction sequence - decide what to do about the panel itself and in which order the elements should be assembled. Remember that once you use wax, you will not be able to glue.
5) Execute plan - you can improvise and change as you go.

That sounds simple enough, but I don't know anyone who would actually be able to stick to as simplistic a list as that. In actuality, artists seemed to make several provisional compositions as they tried out a scheme and became familiar with the elements. In the end they may have rejected everything they started with in favor of all new things. This was not an easy process - as we all learned.

Before the boxes were opened, I also asked the students to write a two-sentence statement as they worked on their piece. One sentence was to be about the physical construction and the second about their meaning or intention for the work. The plan was to stop working by 2:45 p.m., hang up all the work, rearrange it into the semblance of a show and then have each person stand by their work and present it to the class with their statement about it. After everyone had a turn, we had a group discussion of the process and what we had learned about working this way.

Here are the students and their works (not the world's greatest photography but you can get a sense of what they made):

April Nomellini 

April's work

Bet Kindley

Bet's work

Carol Bajen-Gahm

Carol's work

Diane Destiny

Diane's work

Esther Kirschenbaum

Esther's work

Jan Baugher

Jan's work

Judy Klich

Judy's work

Karen Frazer

Karen's work

Otty Merrill

Otty's work

Peggy Epner

Peggy's work

Susan Lasch Krevitt

Susan's work

I was very pleased to see the quality of this work. The most important factor for most people was knowing when to stop. The temptation was to keep adding elements just because they were available and putting on the brakes was hard to do.

Thank you to everyone who participated in this class. I had a great time and I hope you did, too!