Painting: An introduction to my "paperwork" work process:
Sometimes I have to spend time crafting "raw materials" for use in further work. Without ingredients, no paintings. Shown above is around 17 such pieces of "raw material", or "stage 1 paintings".Paintings, stage 1
As you can see from the photo, in this case the "stage 1" paintings (raw materials, see below) are actually "real paintings". Not fully finished paintings, but still paintings that take up some kind of creative problem and suggest at least a partial solution for it. In other words: paintings that by themselves do qualify as "paintings", albeit unfinished paintings.
In the photo, the "blue-ish" paintings (back, right), as well as the "brown-yellow-red-blue-ish" (front, left) were created using only paint residuals from palettes used by two other artists, each working with a painting (and hence, colour scheme) unrelated to the other one. Thus, the blue-ish ones can be seen as a colourwise abstraction or paraphrase, over this particular (always secret) painting of that particular (always anonymous) artist. Likewise for the others mentioned.
The "pink-orange-yellow/green" ones (front, right) were created entirely by my own choices as well as hands, using flourescent fabric dye (spray) with a mimimum of acrylics added.Input
These "raw materials" are, generally, concrete paintings, and sometimes expressionist or abstract. Rarely figurative, although there's been some (as well as photo). Sometimes these raw materials are torn or cut to pieces before being re-assembled as sheets to cut up yet another time.
And, sometimes the raw materials are pieces of scrap paper found here or there, mostly in the litter bin. As my process does not create much waste to dispose of (if any), I sometimes use residuals of sketches or discontinued work from the hands of other artists sharing the same studio. It is not common that a finished "paperwork" painting will include raw material sourced from one other artist exclusively. Usually, either there are more than one "other" source, or the single source is my own work(s).
Sometimes the raw material can also be non-painted matter, eg. photo, book- or newspaper pages, or fabric.Materials
The material I choose to paint on can be paper, wallpaper, cardboard, canvas, whatever (mostly I prefer "flexible matter" as opposed to, say, steel or wood). I may even use fully finished paintings, drawings, sketches, as well as torn-up scraps (of mine or even from other artists). Materials need not be from "creative" sources - "readymades" like product packaging, commercials, glossy magazines, etc, may also be used. So, there's a quite big pool of possible materials to choose from. These days, mostly I prefer working with paper in some form.
Compare this to collage technique: Working with collage you can use many different kinds of matter as "raw material". It is not the raw materials "as such" that define the finished collage, but the various manipulations of this material along the way (cuts, composition, colours, glueing, etc). If, say, a blue square was needed, this blue square could come from acrylics-on-paper, oil-on-canvas, a magazine cut, a piece of fabric, etc.Paint medium
My paint medium of choice is mostly acrylics for this type of painting. But often I add permanent markers, pencil, ink, indian ink, coal, pastel, etc. Sometimes even watercolour, spray paint, gouache, or even children's non-toxic finger paint. I may also use various substances that were not originally intended for painting, eg. coffee, salt, earth/dirt, and of course a lot of water.
For these types of work I avoid organic substances that decompose rapidly (ie organic matter that will rot and decay) - organic matter used in my work will tend to "dry out" and become stable in stead, or it will just leave its desired imprints on the work and then I will remove it before undesired effects show up. The reason is that for this type of work: a finished painting should literally be finished. It should not evolve into something different on its own after it has left the hands of the artist, as then it will change from something created by the artist (artwork), into something created by nature (a plant?). And then it would be gardening, not painting. For other types of work (notably gardening) I fully embrace natural processes. Just not for this type.The process
The process is as varied as any other type of creative process, each step along the way having multiple options and many possible configurations. Here, only the steps leading to a status of "stage 1 / raw material" will be mentioned, and only the most common ones. I hope to do a follow-up article sometime explaining what usually goes on between stage 1 and the finished work.
The "typical" workflow leading to a stage 1 painting will be something along these lines:
- Selecting material(s)
- This is well described above. I prefer materials that are flexible, and fragile to some extent as they will be heavily manipulated in the process.
- Selecting paint media/-um
- This is well described above. Just like "Selecting material(s)"; if I can find scrap materials (eg. thrown-out painting sketches, or paint residuals on a palette) I will use these gladly. For these early steps, I do not feel a need to "do", or to control every part of the process: a bit of randomness is a most welcome extra challenge.
- Applying media/-um to material(s)
- This is what is commonly referred to as "painting". It is the thing "a painter" usually does, and it can be done in just as many ways as one could possibly imagine.
- This painting is not intended as a work of its own. Rather it is a component of another work. So, this component should be finished as a component, but not as a picture - work will generally stop before it is a completed painting.
- The components / raw materials are typically soaked in water, mashed up, and curled into a small wet paper ball - usually so much so as to cause them to partially dissolve. This step may be repeated, and it may even be done while painting, or while paint is still wet. This is the reason all the papers on the photo look a little uneven.
- After soaking, the little wet paper ball (often wet with paint as well as water) is carefully untangled, straightened out, flattened, and put under pressure, usually for a day or two, but anywhere from a few hours up to a few weeks. The steps "Manipulation" and "Pressure" together may also involve applying additional processes, eg. frost (wintertime, outside), new materials (coffee, salt...) - in short, anything that will change the texture and appearance into what is intended.
- Some paper qualities have more fibers than others, so that they will tolerate rougher treatment and still stay in one piece. Still, I will probably break them - on purpose, as I know fairly precisely how much manipulation is required to make several different paper types break just a little, a lot, or not at all. If in doubt, I test first. Those that break a lot, may need repair (glue, masking tape, other). The paintings on the photo above were not intended to break, hence did not, and needed no repair.
... and then what?
The result is what you see on the photo. The next step is usually to take all these carefully prepared items one by one, and completely destroy every single one of them in one way or another - in order to "recycle/upcycle" the remains. That, is a story for another day.