Inspiration. That's where it all starts - at least for me it does. The spark of inspiration for my latest work came from viewing the work of another artist. Several months ago, I saw a picture of an abstract oil painting that caught my eye. The artist had used the word cellophane in the title. After reading the title, I looked back at the painting and I 'got it'. While I cannot remember what the painting looked like, I was captivated by the idea of creating a painting that in some way used cellophane.
This bit of inspiration stayed with me as the months passed and one day an idea popped into my consciousness - 'Wouldn't it be neat to do a piece depicting flames using cellophane?' !!! I started to think it through. What would I want something like this to look like? When I started to imagine a finished piece, I didn't see it as being a literal depiction of flames but instead something that suggested flames while rendering cellophane - but again I wanted a more abstract rendering of cellophane rather than something heavily realistic.
Now I had my concept, my starting point. To get started I would need some cellophane. Not just any old cellophane but cellophane sheets in the colours that I wanted to use in depicting fire. I headed out shopping and realized that cellophane isn't as easy to find as I had thought it might be. I came home and looked on-line. I wasn't impressed with my options. So I tried the shops again. Finally, in a party supply store a sale clerk directed me to a corner where a box on the floor held some discounted, discontinued rolls of cellophane. With great joy I discovered a few rolls that had the colours of dark red, orange and yellow that I was looking for! I purchased the cellophane and headed out to my vehicle with a big smile on my face. Now I had the goods I needed to get started...
Setting up a still life - here is a picture of just how goofy things got in the studio.
I ended up folding and stuffing cellophane into a vase in order to create the flame shapes I wanted. Things didn't go too well. I fiddled and fussed. I poked and creased the cellophane but I wasn't seeing what I was looking for. This phase took a long time - actually the longest I have ever spent on setting up a still life. I took photos, adjusted the background, adjusted lighting and used tape to get the cellophane to behave. The photos weren't good enough. I was getting frustrated. I even resorted to staring at the fire in the woodstove to refresh my concept! Perseverance is everything and and over the course of a few days I eventually had lots of photos.
Now it came time to sift through the photos. I edited them by cropping and adjusting colour hoping to find an image that was 'it'. Again, this is the longest I have ever taken at this phase. Fortunately after several hours of playing with the photos I realized I was suffering from over choice - I had too many good photos!
I didn't see this one coming but I ended up falling for a piece that didn't depict flames! It didn't suggest something other than flames to me either. I just really liked this particular shot of the bunched up cellophane. I decided to trust my instincts and to go in this new direction. Going with the flow and all... :-)
So what makes an image 'it'? When I create a still life, I am assessing images for things like overall statement, impact, flow, composition and interesting light patterns. At this stage I am asking 'What is the story I want to tell here?' 'What is this image saying to me? What is it about?' I am looking for an image that gives me something to work with. I then use the image as a base to work up from up. Once I start creating the drawing, I can adjust the image to create better flow, or to improve composition, etc.
Now that I had my reference photo, it was time for the next step, executing a drawing. I love drawing and capturing all of the lines and negative spaces amongst the shapes was delicious. Before I started, I needed to have an idea of how big to make the drawing. I took a sheet of 28" x 20" paper as my guideline and made my drawing smaller than that. No fancy tricks here at the drawing stage, just me, a pencil and paper.
Once I had a drawing that I liked, I copied it to a sheet of tracing paper. I could have done my original drawing on tracing paper but I don't like using this to create my drawings - I am not keen on the feel of the paper nor do I like erasing on it. Yet I do like the softness of the tracing paper for the transfering part.
The following photo shows me at the transfer stage. If you would like detailed step by step instructions on how to transfer an image to coloured paper, click here to go to the February 2009 edition of my Newsletter. Just scroll down to the question section.
Of course before I could start transferring, I needed to choose the paper. I knew I wanted to use a coloured ground for this work. I also wanted it to be a sanded surface. I got out all of the sheets of sanded pastel paper that I own that were in the right size and I looked for a colour that I thought would work. A blue sheet caught me attention. I decided to look for other colours at the art supply store. More shopping required. I brought home a few sheets of different colours to try. Using the edge of the papers, I tested several of the coloured pencils that I knew would be used in the dominant colours of the finished work. I was comparing how the pigment looked on the different coloured grounds. I ended up deciding on an eggplant coloured paper. Specifically the paper is Art Spectrum Colourfix Pastel Paper (a very permanent, lightfast, coated paper with what I find to be a delightful toothy surface).
In the photo below, you can see my drawing has been placed over the transfer paper and I am ready to transfer the drawing to my Colourfix paper.
Here is how the paper looks with my line drawing on it. For an idea of scale, my drawing is 23" x 14" (58cm x 36 cm).
My next post will show the remaining steps. From inspiration, to the photo shoot, to editing, to the drawing - finally the work was at the stage where I could get working with my cps!