Themes: Process . Creative Process . Structure . Form
Teaching high school students about the painting process requires a lot of repetition. Simply because a canvas is covered in paint, it does not mean it is done. One could add many more layers! I quickly learned that nuance is more caught than taught, so perhaps if the painting progression were made intentionally visible from start to finish, students' understanding of process would be deepen. And so this piece came about.
The process went like this: raw canvas – gesso layer – colour field - charcoal sketch – undercoat – molding paste (optional) – colour basecoat – layers of colour mixed with medium – tints and tones – touches of pure colour. Not every painting goes through all these steps, of course, but if students could at least do this much, they could then make informed choices for their future work.
Being an odd piece, I then wondered what could happen if this piece were placed in a public setting where visitors were invited to make their mark. I was curious to see what people would do with it. The piece was placed in several small galleries, at a school, in a church, and in a library. Initially, it was set up like a quilt, secured to sawhorses, with embroidery supplies made available on the side. The thread would be the means of mark-making. What would people add? What choices would they make. What colours? What content?
The results were far-ranging and curious. Some sewn add-ons were absolutely lovely, surprising and delightful. Attention was given, in some cases, to the underlying structure of the painting, by accenting it with a line, a colour or a pattern. But others, well, simply added thread. It appeared that no thought was given to the painting. In places, an object, or initials, or hearts appeared - many, many hearts! Some of the initials were sewn as though carved into the tree, which made sense. But there were initials in the sky, too, floating in space with other odd and random shapes. One person sewed on the thimble. I confess that I recently removed quite a few of the sewn add-ons. The marks that remain, listened and appear to be in dialogue with the colours and form within the painting. The thimble remains among them.
This work is not finished. Perhaps it will never be finished. And the basket of sewing supplies is still sits at the ready...