first thing this morning i was down in the studio tackling the hardest job. the foreground is a mass of broken color resembling the dead grass of winter and the new green shoots of spring. with a khaki skirt and a chartreuse kid’s shirt. okay. in the picture above you can see the palette of fabric colors i’m working with hanging off the edge of the table, and my cup of coffee.
i did the far parts of the field first because it was the closest to the top, and so far i’ve been doing top down. but the foreground is a few yards of dirt and grass, and you can see all of it, and the only way anybody’s going to be able to tell what it is, is if something says ‘grass’ ‘field’ ‘bog’. hey, maybe i should use a sharpie to letter in the names of things. water. seaweed. rock. dark cloud.
whenever i look at my reference photo, i see green, and yellow brown and purple covering the foreground in a way that reads boggy pastureland in spring. i can make the scene gently run downhill by running the strips of fabric down and to the right. but how do i show broken color without using a lot of little dot-like squinches of fabric. something.
i started with the darks. as a watercolorist, which is how i started out, they tell you to start with the white of the paper and cgradually go darker. but i would always put in my blackest colors early in the picture. i always do the crossword puzzle and my taxes in pen, too. i used the purple and red knit psychedelic t-shirt and the cuffs from a dark brown kid’s shirt, and twisted them together to show the path of the bog water wicking its way to lower ground.
one thing they don’t tell you, but acrylic doesn’t stick, or stiffen, or anything until it’s mostly dry. then, it’s sticky as anything. but until it’s almost dry, ithe fabric shifts, it’s limp when you pick it up, and it doesn’t want to adhere back down again. the only answer is to leave it completely alone.
and another thing. (i’m not a big fan of acrylic. it’s sure useful in this application, but i don’t like what it does to pigments as a binder, and i detest the way it smells. but as a flexible adhesive it can’t be beat.)
there’s a point where you arrange things way past the point of having to think about it. it’s a fear thing. like not knowing where to start. i find that eventually, if i stare at the thing long enough, one particular color or one particular strip of fabric will draw my hand to it, and i’ll dip it in the pot, and then i’ll be all over myself trying to get all the loose fabric out of the way so i can start laying strips down as fast as i can squeeze them out. at times i dump a handful of fabric into the pot, at times i am almost ritualistic about wiping acrylic and squeezing it thru the threads.
and a little later, after running out of acrylic a couple of times, i’ve got almost all the whtie muslin covered.
but i’m not done then. i’ve got to go out of town for the holiday weekend, and so i’m going to leave the muslin lying on the floor so it can set completely in a flat position while i’m goine. (does acrylic take time to cure?)
when i come back, i have to put in the furze bush on the left, and the green grass strips all over the lower left of the field, and some texture and rocks on the water, and more greenness on the furze hedge, and some lacy bits on the clouds.
and then i can put transparent acrylic washes of all sorts of colors on. with a brush. ooh.
so i’m not ready to cut it up and glue it down in rain lashings yet. if that’s what i end up doing.