Sunday, February 27, 2011

Too Matchy-Matchy?

Hi all, Judi, here!

I love to bring opposites into play in my work when things get a little too copacetic. I'm always drawn to analogous color schemes, but by the time I get everything looking all happy and cooperative, I'm bored stiff with the composition. That's when it's time to liven things up by going off the rails and adding something totally unexpected.

A good example is the two-page spread above. Everything was getting along too well, not to mention that I really disliked the page on the left.

After puttering around with some tissue and paints, I created a highly contrasting sheet of paper, which I then adhered onto the offending page with rubber cement.

Now the spread has more character.

I extended my collaged sheet over onto the right-hand page a tad, just to marry them a little more. They are certainly opposites- a cool blue/green and a warm russet/orange- but they also relate somewhat in that they were both heavily layered with the same paint colors and using the same stamping tool. I have no doubt that later they will call for something more dramatic to bind them together, but for today, this spread is incomplete and will make a wonderful background for future imagery.

More "opposites" work in my sketchbook included both opposites in composition and in color.

Here, a heavily painted collage sheet (left) is paired with a paper towel remnant (right) that had been used to mop up green/blue paint. The piece on the left is created with unnatural colors in garish combinations (my favorite kind of mixed-media art to create, quite frankly!) while the piece on the right is almost pastoral and looks as if it could have been monoprinted directly from leaves taken from my backyard. Like the one above it, this spread is incomplete.

EDIT: I wanted to take a quick moment and talk a little bit about something Joy said in her comment. She said, "To be honest, the colors made me cringe a little..." That made me smile because sometimes they make me cringe, too, Joy, and not just a little! There are pages in my sketchbook that, when I'm looking back through them for some obscure note I've written to myself or some little sketch I want to review, I rush past them because I hate so much how they look! It makes me laugh to think about it, but it's so true... a lot of work that culminates in a beautiful object to look at starts out with vast, frightening swaths of Ugly all over it.

That's the time to get brave, and to remember a couple of things: 1) it's only paper and, 2) you have nothing to lose if you change what you see. After all, if you hate, fear and loathe it anyway, why not take the chance and alter it?

The spread above, the one with the garish left page, was one such page, for me. But I've learned to have confidence in knowing that this is where the pure, simple beauty of a sketchbook shines: you can constantly work back into the pages until you pull a diamond out of a pile of raw carbon.

To find the beauty in the colors and texture of that hideous page, I knew that obliterating most of it but isolating some of it would let the colors shine out without dominating the composition with chaos. To that end, I pushed liquid frisket through a hand-cut stencil, removed the stencil immediately (the frisket rubbed right off it without any trouble), let the page dry, and then painted over all of it with Neopaque blue, which I knew would give me almost full coverage of the areas I wanted to obliterate. When the paint dried, I gently rubbed the frisket away and was left was this love little image. 

The lesson here: never give up on a ugly page, canvas, paper, piece of fabric... everything can be saved! And Joy, thank you SO much for bringing that subject up!!)

Color opposites find harmony in my sketchbooks... here, painted paper and hand-dyed fabrics that have been doodled on with Pentel Gel Fabric Pens.

Scraps of fabric previously used for experimentation are always welcome in my sketchbooks, too. Here, purple and yellow- opposites who famously don't usually work and play well together- share space without dominating one another.

More temperature opposites, turquoise and yellow, mirror each other from one side of the sketchbook to the other, the left one done with layers of paint while the right comprises layers of stacked journaling in yellow and turquoise india ink.


  1. Seeing your incomplete pages gives me permission to do the same! Thanks! I needed that :o)
    I get stuck if I can't finish or don't know what's next! My brain knows "Duh - it's a sketchbook - it isn't supposed to be finished works of art. It's for testing and gettin' ideas out." But the other part of me (the much louder part) says, "UGH! That looks dumb! Rip it out! It's RUINING it!"

    Love the textures. To be honest,the colors made me cringe a little, but I can envision wonderful things pulling it all together. So visually satisfying!

  2. Joy, I hope you check back to this post and see this answer! If so, scroll back through the post to see an edit you might be interested in. We both had the same reaction to some of my pages, and I wanted to show how I resolved that. :D Thanks for your comment!

    Laura, thank you. :D

  3. Wonderful article Judi. My mixed media friend advises me that my pages have to get ugly before they get beautiful. That's why we keep working into them until they get beautiful. Layers, layers, layers!

  4. Love your papers; the colors and designs make me want to wrap some packages with those pages! I do the same thing when my work displeases me-glue over it, scratch thorugh it, paint over it, whatever...I follow my creed: there are NO mistakes in art!

  5. i caught on to the encroaching left side, right off. i am doing that with mine, as my daughters left brain tends to encroach on to the right side now and then, but my right brain has no left...'encroaching opposites'...hummm, may have just found a 'name' for my piece. Thank You!

  6. I prefer it when the work begins ugly, that way I can continue to play. There is nothing more creatively stifling as something beautiful to begin with that is so precious you daren't change it.

  7. Your hummingbird page found me immediately because I run Hummingbirdstudios, named after my grandmother, and they spill over into my work all the time!

    I also loved the backwards way it came about, that is so me! Work spilling out of other work without my knowlege until it's there!

    Peace an Light


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