Biostrata Residency Week Two: Undersea Adventure

This past week at Biostrata: Cutaway Ecologies, Mr. Shark got his coat of many colours. One of the many wonderful things about working at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre is that they have day camps, so this week little dancers came out to visit and learn on their lunch breaks.

I started off by finishing up my form with cotton:
Biostrata Week Two - shark skin, octopus stone_3

The pieces are all ripped instead of cut so they have a frayed edge. That is one of my favourite attributes of this method, it gives it topology. This is really important when it comes time to paint. Blank canvas has never been my thing, better to have landmarks to work within.

spider, squirrel, shark_wm

When I dug out my paints (I’ve really missed painting with gouache) I discovered this dried up old tub had turned into these beautiful cell patterns. I think I will use it to model the painting on the inside.

Biostrata Week Two - shark skin, octopus stone_1

So the patterns were loosely drawn, and colours chosen. Mixing and matching colour chips (like you get for house paint) is a great way to figure it out. That way you know what you’re looking for before you start trying to mix, and you can check the combinations ahead of time.

Shark Painting WM

Funny thing I noticed, when I am paint mixing, and arrive at the colour I’m looking for, it takes on a sort of velvety look like melted chocolate. That’s how I know when to stop. I’m sure it’s just an illusion my brain uses to let me know. Same thing happens when I get the right amount of water in there.

This week there was plentiful rainwater to work with, which made it extra lovely. Working in a rain storm even made me feel a little like a shark.

Biostrata Week Two - shark skin, octopus stone

The octopus carving was also refined. Here it is wet by the rain to show you the colour it will be when polished. I learned from a visitor that he looks like an infant from this angle. I can certainly see that now, and it adds a different dimension to these nested sculptures.

Biostrata Week Two - shark skin, octopus stone_2
So I have a little left to do on this piece this coming week, which is okay because he will be the largest one.

Also exciting on Monday, I had my first live radio interview. It gives a good overview of the project and it’s motivations, I will leave you guys a link when it’s up as a podcast. Thank you to Mark Kilfoil @ CHSR 97.9!

Shark painting_1 copy

Looking forward to finishing the first sculpture up this week, and starting the silk painting workshops. Last chance to sign up, it’s going to be a really fun month of Thursdays!

Here be monsters

Here be monsters

Here Be Monsters
Cotton, gouache, textile medium. 48″ x 36″. © Allison Green 2012

Painted quilt featuring trapunto, appliqué, and free motion stitching. Inspired by a map of an area in Cape Breton where much of my family’s history played out.

Created and sold at M&T Deli in Fredericton, NB.

Here be monsters detail

The Crossing

The Crossing by Allison Green

The Crossing
Linen, quilt batting, gouache, cotton, and textile medium. 32″ x 16″.
© Allison Green 2012.

Painted quilt with free-motion machine stitching and hand-embroidery. Inspired by the old train bridge in Fredericton, NB. Now converted into a walking trail, this piece show the softening of the bridge over time. Sold in the Summer 2012 Isaac’s Way Art Auction for youth music lessons.

Railway crossing 120 (2) (1280x1187)

Building bridges.

I got to work early last week on my painted quilt piece for the Isaac’s Way art auction. It was great fun, lots of little steps, just how I like it. The outcome is complex but the steps are actually very easy, anyone could do it. It is basically an exercise in tracing. But for the sake of respect, if you try this out, please make sure you took the photograph yourself.

This post will take you through part one, painting, and tomorrow’s post will show you how to do part two, quilting.

For this part you will need:

a digital photograph
a laser printer and/or photocopier
a couple of transparent blender pens
a spoon
a big board or piece of foamcore
a piece of cloth (preferably non-stretchy)
gouache paints
textile medium
your favourite paintbrushes
old plates and water cups
plenty of time and scrap fabric

The first step is to print off your image on regular paper to the size of your finished piece plus a couple inches on each side for wraparound. Keep in mind that those couple inches will mostly disappear so keep all the important stuff inside this zone.

Ideally you could just use Adobe Illustrator’s tile printing function with about a quarter-inch of overlap. This means your image will print off in 8.5 x 11 sections. You want to flip (mirror) your image before you print it off or else you will end up with a backwards finished product (like I did by accident, haha). You could also enlarge and flip on a photocopier.
The printer at my school was being difficult so I ended up with no overlap and little spaces in between my sheets. But no biggie. You line them up perfectly and tape them together on the back with tiny little pieces of tape the size of a fingernail tip. I used black and white because photocopies tend to transfer better than laser prints. You could use laser colour prints I believe, just no inkjet.

Then you tape down a piece of cloth (any old cloth, washed natural fabric works nicely but I think it would be alright either way) to a big piece of board. You could even pre-dye the cloth. In retrospect it might have been easier to dye the linen the white of my background colour. I used chipboard which gave me a funny wood grain on my transfer, but I think you’d get clearer results on a flat base, like foamcore.

Next you place your image face down on the cloth. You want to tape it at the edges so it doesn’t wiggle. Then you get this magic tool called a transparent blender pen (I used Chartpak, and I think you can get it at most art supply stores). You colour on the back of the image, a little area at a time, maybe the size of your hand. Then you rub it with a spoon, being careful not to shift the page. You continue doing this until you have rubbed down the entire image. It’s probably a good idea to practice this step before you start, and you may need more than one pen. And it smells like magic marker, so ventilate your area.
Now you peel up the pages very gently. I found that it took so long to go over the entire piece that it had glued the pages to the cloth by the time I took it off. It might be better to peel up each page as you finish rubbing it, but only if you are doing something fairly large. Voila! Your image is now transferred onto your fabric.

Next I dug out my paints. I chose to use gouache, but I think any fast-drying paint would work. Please test it out on scrap so you can get an idea of how it looks, especially if you are planning on washing it. Things always run more smoothly when I mix my paints in advance. In this case I only needed a handful of colours.
Some other time I will explain the logic behind paint mixing but I’m sure there are many many good guides to colour on the internet. The most important thing I have found is to always “muddy” your colours with their complement (put a little blue in your orange). That keeps them looking more natural and they won’t clash with one another.

Next step is painting. I scoop out a little paint onto a plate, and stir in a bit of this varnishy-looking stuff called textile medium. Probably about six parts paint to one part textile medium, although you should follow package instructions if you plan on laundering. I was going for a more washed out look. It looks so neat when you squirt it into the paint.

Then I used both flat and round brushes to cover the whole image in paint. It took a while to figure out how thick to lay it on. Not very, but enough to look opaque. Use lots of water. With gouache you won’t know what it looks like until it dries. I left the mint green railing areas quite translucent as I wanted the wood-grain transfer to show through.

I switched over to a foamcore backing, and used a ruler to get all the lines really straight. Sounds compulsive, but it ended up being easier and faster that way, especially when it came time to sew.
Right in the middle the transfer was too shoddy to see so I had to line it up and transfer again. This helped more than I was expecting and I was able to eyeball it after that. Here is the completed painting. At this point you should press it for a couple minutes with a piece of parchment paper in between cloth and iron. You could also wash it but I chose not to for lack of time. It took a couple days but worth every second. And much easier than trying to piece a thousand bits of fabric.
It looked really nice with light shining through it. Gave me big ideas for painted curtains and lampshades.

Come on back tomorrow to see it all quilted up! That part is a little more fiddley but still pretty foolproof. I am glad I picked a photo with lots of straight lines, I would definitely recommend that to beginners. This was my first real quilt (non-paper) and I think there would have been a lot more hair pulling otherwise.

Try it out, you’ll like it :)

Relinquishing grip.

I miraculously forgot about my rust buckets for a couple of days. Guess I was too busy worrying about the piece overall. When I came back to it today the chain bucket looked like this:

For some reason it only dyed in the areas that were out of the liquid, where the rusty vinegar had wicked up into the cloth. I’m hoping those parts were just exposed to more oxygen. I dumped the liquid into the other bucket (which had done nothing) and with a little luck the iron on the cloth will oxidize.

What a pretty colour though! A much stronger red than anticipated.

While that was working away, I was stressing big time. Today I was cutting up my bridge pattern. Gradually then suddenly I was overcome with bleary-eyed frustration. And no, it had nothing to do with the act of cutting. I couldn’t decide whether to piece the fabric bits together with sewing machine or appliqué them onto one big sheet by hand. Piecing would be more difficult in keeping the bits lined up while hand-stitching would take more time.

I have been consumed by this question for several days, with no headway. Might seem silly, but it’s not like I could progress further without answering that question. Of a sudden I realized I couldn’t choose because neither seemed doable by Friday.

I am never a fan of quitting, but sometimes you need to accept your own limitations and move in a slightly different direction. Once I allowed myself to think of different choices, one came along very quickly, like it was waiting in the rafters. So I put away the cloth I had dyed for the occasion and moved on.

I am going to paint the train bridge image onto one single piece of linen with gouache, then quilt and stitch it afterwards. I won’t have to worry about piecing at all and can focus on  colour and finishing. This flash of inspiration has me excited about this project all over again. Me and gouache are best friends, and so I am a very happy camper.

I gleefully dug out my paints and started sampling. The top row here has half and half Sonja’s textile medium and Holbein gouache, with varying amounts of water. The second row is simply gouache and water. The third was a photo transfer using blending pen (more about this later) with gouache/textile medium painted over.

I stuck them in the wash with regular detergent to see if the textile medium would soften up (it had developped a displeasing sort of acrylic look). It did a bit, but still too cakey on the heavy areas. Interestingly, the gouache alone weathered the wash just fine. Little bit came off, but nothing like you would expect.

I don’t intend this piece to be washed after it is sold, it will be stapled to MDF and hung on someone’s wall. I was just a little worried about running unwashed paint through my sewing machine. In light of this development with the unmixed gouache, I think I’m just going to use it straight.

Today will be a play day, with lots and lots of painting.

One goes up while the other comes down

The saltscape city has crumbled into the sea, but I’m sure it won’t be my last fling with crystal-making.

The show I took part in at Gallery Connexion, called “The View”, came down today. It was mostly for students at my school. I had a few pieces in it that I made last year while taking the Foundation Visual Arts program:

The piece below is a ceramic lizard eye. The nice lady who runs the gallery told me it looks like a vagina. Go figure.

This one is a cross-contour pomegranate I made from pen and ink in my first ever drawing class. One of my prouder moments.

This is a piece I made for art history, inspired by Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele. It is probably the largest painting I’ve made, and includes gouache, acrylic, acrylic gel, and copper foil. I painted it from a photograph of my very lovely and patient boyfriend, Warren. He is not quite as creepy-looking in real life.

The next thing I have on tap is the textiles show at the college. The poster was finalized this week. Perhaps a little more pinky than I would have chosen, but certainly eye-catching. It reminds me of a fairy tale landscape.

It`s going to be a beautiful show. I am lucky to be in a small department with exclusively talented people. It raises the bar for my own work and they are a constant source of knowledge and inspiration.

Having a little trouble deciding what to put in. I can submit three pieces for consideration. My paper quilt is a given, and I`m working on a mixed media nursery rhyme collection I have high hopes for. Other than that, either my digitally printed pillow, my dino screen prints, or my blimps and balloons pattern croquis. I`ll post them up here this weekend and you fine people can help me decide.