(Acrylic paint, found paper, & stencils)
18×24×1.5″ gallery wrapped canvas with painted edges suitable for hanging as it is!
“Goldie” is based on Isaiah 40:31:
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.
This piece started out as a color idea. I wanted something with more red in it to go with the show I’m building, so red became the jump off point. The black and white flower paper at the bottom of the pic on the left came with that excellent diamond patterned stripe down one side. That piece of paper became the basis for the color palette for the piece. I loved the red Indian wrapping paper with the gold pattern on it. I knew that would figure in the piece prominently as well.
I love birds and thought with the other flying things in this group (bees and a butterfly) a bird would be a good fit. I used the Biodiversity Heritage Library on Flickr to search for an eagle. This is a fantastic resource for creative commons licensed images. I took my Golden Eagle on a flash drive to Staples and had them print her out on a piece of watercolor paper I cut down to 11×17 inches. The 140lb watercolor paper OF COURSE jammed the color copier but the Staples guy pried her out of the machine and for about 60¢ I had my beautiful bird.
Once I’d decided on using a bird, the verse was easy. This verse is one my mom and I have traded back and forth for years.
I really like to start with a base of something on my collages. For the longest time it was sewing patterns. Currently, I’m really enjoying the look of old book pages. I attached those to the canvas with Golden Regular Matte Gel. I love this stuff because it dries crystal clear and is then ready for acrylic paint. I use a palette knife to apply the gel and to smooth the pages down. (Side note: Many people use old credit cards or gift cards for this purpose.)
There’s not a huge amount of rhyme and reason put into gluing these pages down. I have a handful of books that I work from that have roughly the same color yellowed pages. Some of them are religious text books. I have one each of a Hebrew and Greek language textbook and they feel particularly appropriate for these collages that I’m thinking of as modern takes on icons. But I also have pages from my King Arthur altered book. Sometimes the text is easily readable in the finished project so I like for at least some of what I’m using to have some sort of connection to the theme I’m working on but it’s not a deal breaker.
Next is at least one layer of paint. The last few bigger pieces I’ve worked on, I’ve made a quick color palette on a book page to see what the colors will look like on the yellowed pages. You can see it in the upper left of this picture. I wanted to reflect Goldie’s colors here so it’s gold, unbleached titanium, yellow ochre, burnt sienna, and burnt umber.
I often use my hands to apply paint at this stage. Sometimes I use a brush or a palette knife but it depends on what I want the texture to look like. Pushing the paint around with my fingers feels great and allows me to be really present with what I’m doing. And who doesn’t need a little more of that?
If I’m going to stall out on a big project, this is the most likely place for it to happen. If I’ve put some planning into the color palette and the textures I want, it’s easier. I’ve also noticed that with this series I’m working on, the decisions are getting quicker with each piece. I have a bit of a system and theme going on, so what comes next isn’t as much of a mystery as it can be when I’m doing one-off pieces.
This is when I seriously concentrate on layout. I was pretty certain that I wanted this piece to be vertical so I started there. As you can see in the pic on the right though, I didn’t rule out horizontal completely. I had to give it a shot! At this stage, I further narrow down my paper/texture choices. I had some army green in my original spread and none of that paper made it to this stage. Both of the green pieces had diamonds that mirrored the diamond strip that I loved so much, so I wanted them in there for the repetition but they broke up the red too much to work. It’s all reds and oranges, which works out great since that’s what I wanted from the piece originally.
I think the bottom right pic is the composition I started with. I was thinking I really wanted a lot of vertical shapes. But the ones on the far right of that one are just sort of floating, unanchored to anything, and I wasn’t very happy with that. The horizontal one was next and I really liked the big flower pattern around Goldie’s head. It made me think of her perching in a tree maybe. When I moved it above her head in the top two pics, it really clicked into place because the curve of her beak is reflected in the cut out of the flower shapes. I also loved the curve of gold coming down and pointing at her name plate. The gold/orange/red solid colors really worked for me right there.
Here’s the finished composition all glued down with Golden Regular Gel. At this stage, I let it dry completely before I add any paint. Adding paint to freshly-glued, delicate papers can be a recipe for disaster. So I’ve learned to be patient at this stage.
Once this was dry, I went over the Indian red paper with clear gesso because sometimes papers from India can have a lot of color bleed through when you put paint on top of them and I wanted to avoid that. Once the gesso was completely dry I added some additional paint and ink drips. (I love my ink drips.)
I stenciled the verse number close to the top right of the canvas horizontally by the edge of the black flower. Like with the other elements, I tried it out in several places before I got it where I wanted it. (You can see my mock up in the pic on the right.) I tried it in the orange pattern below Goldie. I tried it in the space above the nameplate and below it as well. I tried it horizontally in the space to the right of the flowers but when I tipped it to vertical, it just clicked into place.
After that, I added a bit of pencil outlining around Goldie and the bottom of the flowers to give it some shading and definition. It feels as if I’ve worked on this piece for a really long time but start to finish it’s been 10 days.