I have been working on a couple of metal projects for well over a year and when you work on something that long certain things can be come evident.
One thing is that sometimes it’s just hard to complete something, not necessarily physically, although that does enter into to it also.
Fear #1 – The thing is that before you finish something, it has infinite potential or possibilities. It is more likely to ‘please.’ Each person sees the unfinished piece and completes it in their mind how they see it completed, which may not be how I see it. They may not like how I think that it should be completed. Part of that fear lies in making or completing something that people are liking ‘unfinished’ (because they can see their potential in it) to something ‘finished’ where they won’t necessarily like or understand it. I experience this all the time with movies I watch. I’m liking it, but then I finally get to the end and I’m like WTF?! It didn’t end how I wanted it to. I don’t want that to happen to my art, but my art is about my experience and while I hope to make it a universal experience (big expectation) it may or may not fit the goal or need of everyone who sees it.
BUT it needs to be finished, because it is very satisfying to finish something. I like it to be something that isn’t so literal or exact, something that is finished, but can also leave some room for other people to relate to it – creates a mood or a feeling instead of a literal depiction that only has meaning to me. But even as I write this ‘profound interpretation’ of the creation of art it makes me want to make something super literal that only has meaning to me – hmmm, is that even possible?
What happens when the piece is finished?
Fear #2 – I have focused all this time in creating this particular art work and now I’m done and now I have to completely change gears and do something different. The next step may be a completely different type of work and one that I may not be as good at. Yes, it’s satisfying to create art, but there is a cycle – the idea, the creation, and the finishing and putting it out in the world in some form – ALL essential pieces of the work. So it comes back to intent, what do I want to have happen? Sell it? Show it? Write about it? Or something that I haven’t even thought of yet? I know I can’t really think of any of those things until I finish the work...
Or maybe I just have to say out loud to the universe that these pieces are done and I am open to success with them.
Fear #3 – I guess that I need to determine what success means to me...
How do you determine success and how does fear enter your thought process. Can fear be a good thing and help the process along?
White light contains all wavelengths of visible light and is the sum of all possible colors.
I’ve been reading Fred Ball’s book, Experimental Techniques in Enameling about using liquid enamels with a white overlay on sgraffito.
Sgraffito is a type of decoration made by scratching through a surface to reveal a lower layer of contrasting color, typically done in plaster or stucco on walls, or in slip on ceramics before firing. Sgraffito and Sgraffiti derive from the Italian word graffiare ("to scratch"), ultimately from the Greek γράφειν (gráphein, "to write").(https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sgraffito).
When using the sgraffito technique in enameling you can sift or paint enamel onto metal and scratch through it or you can enamel a color on first and then sift or paint on top of that and scratch through to the color layer. Some of the tools you can use for scratching are toothpicks, needles, xacto knives, comb, toothbrush, Q-tip, and chain.
I generally paint a low-firing liquid white onto bare copper, let it dry and then scratch through it with one of the above mentioned tools and fire it. Then I sift several thin layers of a ground soft white on top, torch-firing each layer separately, usually overfiring. All of the enamel pieces here are fired only with white enamels.
Challenges for 2017 - Consciously creating an art piece everyday for a year can definitely be challenging! Having to do something every day starts to get tedious after a few weeks, but if you can get past the tedium and just keep going even when you don't want to you begin to see in a way that you forgot about. Everything around you becomes art and you can push your brain to a new level of thinking and questioning.
Ring A Day
drawing a day
Then of course we have the Drawing A Day Challenge, which led me back to working on a series based on Photo Booth pictures I took when I was in college. Every time I do one, I think ok I've exhausted the possibilities, but apparently I haven't!
Yes, it's happening again! Ring A Day 2017! Many of the RAD 2010ers are participating as well as many new people!
You can follow along on Instagram using the hashtag ringaday2017 or the FaceBook group Ring A Day.
Here's a little taste (literally!):
I have to admit while reading it I thought he was just making up words and ideas, but I did look them up and, yes, scientist are sitting around talking about a hypothetical particle that travels faster than light. And this was another highlight of this book - it made me think. And it made me curious to research things he said in this book. Whether he is right or wrong doesn't really matter. I mean, look at 'science' - its ideas change and expand constantly as we learn more about the world. And well, that's another thing... I have a much larger idea of the world or universe or consciousness now and really, that's not a bad thing. I have felt this need to think about some of the things I read, so I am reading it again, only stopping with each idea to write about it and think about it out loud, feel free to join in. I will of course include pictures of my art - if it has anything to do with what I am writing about... let's just say I am unaware of that.
Chapter 1 starts out with a quote from James Baldwin - The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions which have been hidden by the answers.
For me making art is about trying to find a connection to why I am here in the first place. I feel like there is something deep inside of me that knows the answer and that answer can emerge in my art because there are no words for it. The idea is that someone else will recognize that.
Shlain talks about when we learn language/abstract-thinking that the word/symbol takes the place of the image. "When we reflect, ruminate, reminisce, muse, and imagine, generally we revert to the visual mode... ...we forget that to learn something radically new, we need first to imagine it" (p18). We forget how important and essential it is to be able to have time to daydream.
This leads to the idea of a critical mass of people coming to a consensus about how the world works and when these ideas are no longer questioned they become bedrock truths. These things you just believe because you always believed them and never think that there is a need to question them (unless of course you grew up in the 60's). That blows my mind a little bit, just because we believe that something is true, doesn't mean it was always thought about that way or that it always will be. This may date me little, but when I was in elementary school I remember learning about Pangea. It was 'one' of the 'theories' about the continents 'possibly' having all been joined together at one time. I found that really interesting as a kid and it stuck in my mind. Now I find out that it is no longer a theory, but a fact and I have a very difficult time accepting that. One of my bedrock truths has been changed. It freaks me out a little. Maybe because now it has me wondering what else I learned was wrong. Of course, this leads me to the 70's and my brother introducing me to Firesign Theater's album 'Everything You Know is Wrong.' I don't remember any of the skits from the album (after all it was the 70's - take that as you may) but that title gave me something to think about.
I liked this: "What makes any set of bedrock truths slippery is that every age and every culture defines this confirmation in its own way. When the time comes to change a paradigm–to renounce one bedrock truth and adopt another–the artist and physicist are most likely to be in the forefront" (p18). The idea of being able to imagine or think about something in another way is the beginning of changing these truths.
Ok, so when reading this book, I could only read about 3 or 4 pages at a time, so that's all I'm going to do for right now! Let me know what you think about these ideas. But before you do, take a minute to reflect or perhaps daydream a little about it!
Using borax and heat to color copper. I think the best part is watching the borax dance around the metal.
Trying to up my technological skills!! I did it all on my phone and edited as well using iMovie! It was very exciting!
A good part of the process was not melting my phone!!
One of the meanings of 'radical' is thorough-going or extreme, especially as regards to change from accepted or traditional forms. (From dictionary.com)
Well, the Center for Enamel Art has embraced that definition thoroughly with their 'Radical Enameling' workshops! And Liquid Form Enamel and Enameling on Steel with instructor Kat Cole, at the Richmond Art Center this past month definitely met that criteria.
During the 3-day workshop we learned about steel: different types (which had always confused me); which work best with enameling; resources for finding it (literally finding it, as well as buying it); and yes, you can even enamel on stainless steel - Ikea bowls were provided to us in the workshop!! We learned about porcelain enamels and how to mix them (details I had never known about while playing with it on my own.) Several different techniques for applying liquid enamels, as well as sifted, combined with mark-making and adding foreign materials to add color were demonstrated.
Continuing with the 'radical approach,' we were encouraged to experiment - forming, sandblasting, spraying, folding, torch firing, soldering, embedding, thinking outside the box. Everyone in this intimate little group went off into their own little world and direction and created some amazing works.
In addition to this amazing workshop, we were able to attend a lecture by Kat to learn more about her work and see where her inspiration comes from; attend her opening at Velvet da Vinci in SF; and explore the galleries and restaurants of Point Richmond and Oakland. A very full, informative, and fun weekend! And of course, thanks to Ed Lay for his vast supply of knowledge, expertise, help, and fun at the workshop and showing me how to use the 'Weed Burner!!"
Thank you for bringing enameling in to the 21st century!
Check out the FaceBook page for the Center for Enamel Art
What is art if not obsession?
Billy Pappas started a drawing of Marilyn Monroe in 1994, wanting to set a new standard for realistic imagery. He worked on the portrait full-time for nearly nine years. There is a documentary about his work called Waiting for Hockney.
Tim Jenison is an inventor who believed that Johannes Vermeer used a camera obscura to paint his paintings. He went on to try to replicate The Music Lesson using this technique. Talk about obsessed - he starts out by going to Buckingham Palace to view the original, then recreates the scene and makes everything in the scene by hand, including a harpsichord - BEFORE he even starts painting. The whole project took years. Check out the film about it - Tim's Vermeer.
Hell, it took Michelangelo 4 years to paint the Sistine Chapel after negotiating to do it how he wanted. He even designed his own scaffolding.
I could go on, but I'm sure you get the idea.
Do artists become good because they are obsessed or do they become obsessed because they are good?
A couple of weeks ago I found a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle and because we really don't eat dinner on the dinner table I found a had a place to set it up and work on it. It was a compilation of Norman Rockwell paintings - that's art, right?
Well, I became obsessed with working on this puzzle, it was all I could or wanted to do. Some nights I'd be up until 3 or 4 in the morning, looking for 'just one more piece.'
Well, needless to say, I found a whole bunch of 500 piece puzzles (of food, no less!) at the thrift store for $.50 each! I bought them all. And continued on my journey.
We all know that's not true... I have many keen observations and wisdom from my puzzledom (or puzzledumb) that I will be sharing with you... please stay tuned for Obsession - Installment 2...
In the meantime... Are YOU obsessed with something? Tell us about it in the comments below!!
The main ingredients:
The proper printer and the proper decals.
I use an HP LaserJetP1102w. The toner cartridge is 85A. Pretty much any printer that uses an 85A cartridge should work for the decals. If you look at the MSDS sheet of a particular type of toner you can find out the percentage of iron ferrite in it. Below is what you are looking for. Ferrite is an ingredient of toner, powdered iron, at high temperatures in the presence of air, it will become iron oxide. For example, the Lexmark 260 MSDS listed the percentage of ferrite in the toner as 7-13%, where the HP is 45%, giving it more durability. I have only used the 45% one. (Thanks to Ed Lay for that info!)
I get my decals from DecalPaper.com. Below is the code and description of what I get. I prefer the clear decal paper over the white. They seem to come out clearer.
For this sample I used Thompson's 1020 unleaded titanium white. (Counter enamel just like you would do for anything else you enamel. I don't always counter enamel) The decals show up better on a lighter enamel, but of course it depends on what you want and I always feel it's a good thing to experiment. Opaques and transparents will both work, it will just be a different look. You can also enamel on top of the decal, but too many firings will eventually burn out the decal, at least it will with the torch, not sure about kiln-firing.
After printing your sheet of decals, cut out the one that will fit on your metal, and drop it into some water. I did use a decal with white backing instead of clear, only because I just wanted to get something quick so I could take some pictures... after all it is Friday night and I said I would do this at the end of the week... some people consider Sunday the end of the week... It doesn't really matter how long you leave it in the water, but you want it in there long enough to get the decal to slide off of the backing paper, maybe a minute. It won't hurt it to be in there longer. Put the decal ink-side down on the metal (the backing paper will be on top) and slide the backing off of the decal. If you ever made models as a kid or with your kids and put the decals on the models, it's the same process. The decal can still be moved around on top of the enamel so you can place it where you want. Some people suggest letting it dry over night, or for a couple of hours on top of a kiln, but I don't have the patience for that... I'll dry it a bit with a heat gun, (be careful not to get it too hot, you just want to evaporate the water) then push out any air bubbles with a piece of cardboard or a paper towel. Air bubbles will cause pinholes in the decal, which can be cool, or not. I used to obsess about popping all the bubbles with a needle, but it never really seemed to work... I find that heating it slowly with the torch, even if it bubbles up gives me pretty good results. It takes a lot of practice.
On the decal below, you can see parts of the image are light brown. That part wasn't fired into the enamel long enough. However, I like the way it looks, so I left it. And that's pretty much how you do it.