Monday, April 28, 2008

Emulating Stephanie Lee

I took a workshop with Stephanie Lee at Asilomar's Art and Soul retreat which you may have read about in a previous post. We did a technique she called "plaster meets wax". Well anytime i learn something new i want to share it with my friends. But i did NOT want to make a gigantic mess, as we did at Asilomar. If you image the mess 20 students could make mixing plaster, pouring it into boxes and then carving into the dried plaster - wow - lots of white dust EVERYWHERE. But still i wanted to recreate the "essence" of those pieces, but how to do it in a 1 1/2 hour workshop? I decided to cut out the "plaster" and just do "wax". I think you'll agree the results were quite interesting.

For my altered book gathering yesterday, after doing a massive show and tell (all my Asilmar goodies!) and swapping our books we got to work. We took 8x10" stretched canvases and used these as our substrates - only backwards. So the BACK of the canvas was where we created our collage. The wooden frame becomes, well, the frame. duh. These were SUPER cheap canvases actually bought at the dollar store in Montreal last summer and carried home by me. I think i got a full suitcase full of them. These were stapled on the edges, not the back - so that made it nicer i think.
I started by coating the canvas (the back - inside the frame) with several coats of melted wax to build up the thickness. fyi i use thrift store crock pots to melt beeswax pellets. Stephanie used an electric frying pan and a large block of wax. Both work great - the frying pan definitely melts faster - more surface area. I selected several images from books and magazines for the gals to pick from. I tried to find edgy dark imagery that would evoke the more contemporary art that Stephanie had as samples. The one she is holding above, i created in her class. I passed around the images to our small group of altered book swappers, but as you can see, two of them chose to go with more traditional female forms.
After we placed our images on the canvas, and added a thin coat of wax to seal, we just carved grooves. First a horizon line - which based on Stephanie's work - helps to ground the piece. Then just continued carving around the image, around the background - whatever. I added fine grooves for grass, Shelley added a spiritual aura around hers. On the advice from Stephanie, about how you are NOT supposed to be able to paint on wax, well but you can, although not too thick, we painted on the wax. You need a nice runny fluid acrylic to get into those grooves. Then just lightly brush paint onto the wax - adding extra to the frame surround as you go. Portfolio oil pastels were used to richen the colour and intensify the look. It was interesting how you could take something and really turn it into something else. Shelley's didn't start out looking angelic - but it really became that way. There is so much depth to her piece that came from layering paint on the wax.
Carol took a very normal looking farm house/barn and the water trough and creating a very hauting piece. By separating the images with the wax - it really had a profound effect. Adding the water spout handle was a great final touch. Dorothy took her image and added many more collage elements - stacks of books, a watch face and then feather butterfly wings. Dorothy is a master at adding words to create a narrative - so a phrase clipped out of a typewritten script Shelley brought to share, completed her piece.
Since my staircase and window from Asilomar was so successful, i tried to do the same thing with the wax. I cut and trimmed some stairs from a decorating magazine and included the candleabra at the top. Unfortunatly the candles were too finely detailed for this method and later morphed into a brass birds nest and a bird - with a branch sticking out of it. Well, that's creativity for you - if you screw up - just go in a different direction.
Thanks Stephanie for the inspiration....! Check out her latest techniques in this month's Somerset Studio. She tells us how to create wire bird's cages - i sense a new project idea to share....


wanda miller said...

diane, i just found your blog i love it. chock full of displays and info. also inspirational. this is wanda, i was in 2 of your classes at asilomar. also, you asked how much i was charging for that fabric and paper hanging. hi there

carol said...

I gave my work to my mom for Mother's Day today and she liked it! Thanks for showing us this technique.