Life Decisions. Funny how they are made. In January of 2012 I decided to set out in a new direction and see if I couldn’t find the abstract world within myself. It remained evasive and a total mystery! I am not the type who gives up easily but my spirit quickly became disillusioned with all of my attempts. A few pieces showed a glimmer but the rest was pure junk. Why did I want to shift direction from my life’s surreal direction to explore something new? I have always loved the world of fantasy, humor, and narrative themes; they touched on every aspect of my life and marked those moments. I had said a lot about femininity, adolescence, children, animals, and the environment’s biodiversity. But on my 69th birthday I decided to pursue a new style and enter a new room where I could express myself in color and spontaneity. The fastidious control of the brush and mind would no longer hold me in check. I would dance to the end of my days.
What I hadn’t realized was to make this jump required more than wanting to cross over. It was an immersion in a different way of seeing.
To get going I decided to enlist Pat Viles, an accomplished abstract painter. She and I had met through Robert Genn’s newsletter and started emailing each other for many weeks.
Then finally this summer I decided to spent time with her, learning whatever I could that might help me start on a new path. When I finally arrived at her home, which was two hours away, it was like meeting someone I had known for years. I wanted to pursue the until now evasive “abstract”, and she was willing to convey all she knew about that type of painting. She opened my mind and in the process I abandoned the past control to explore the different colors of my parachute as it unfurled in free fall.
Pat is one tough lady who has always done things her way — from life to art. Her vibrant mind comes through in the pearls of knowledge on technique, composition, color. In two days she built the bridge over which I would cross. I tried to copiously record every moment in my journal. She instilled in me the idea that I can really do this and I will succeed.
She asked which I would prefer to do, collage or acrylics. I chose collage because I had never really explored that media and had no preconceived notions which would block my mind. It would free me from the traditional elements of painting. First I learned about gathering possible ideas for works. She had a small journal of thumb sized clipped parts of photos and an empty slide frame. She moved the frame around until she found some detail with the angles, color, and feeling she wanted.
So it was time for me to build my own imagery. I gathered my collected mags, and with scissors in hand I started to clip interesting views of architecture, landscapes, machinery, etc. From there we progressed to a treasure hunt in her boxes of scraps. I got a support upon which I started moving around various materials, clipping and taring paper and fabrics. My first comp was crude. My second collage was better. Then I brought out a acrylic painting which had lost direction. She said it lacked the punch. To get this punch we took a broad piece of material and ironed it onto the surface. As I worked on other smaller works learning how to make collages with paper, silk and fabric, the piece stood where I could glimpse it and think. Second day was the last full day and I had to figure out what to do with this problematic piece.
Pat showed me how to apply the gel and using a trowel get the swerves which ran over the acrylic painted parts into and over the fabric. Using a tile makers trowels lines were made. When it dried I started to paint acrylics into the grooves to unify them even more with the collaged piece. Then I bound it together with an opaque acrylic and metallic pigments. When that dried the colors were subdued but still showed through. Once the piece was finished, two more coats of glossy acrylic was added and then finally the varnish. The second coat of varnish was added the next morning.
Before leaving, Pat gave me a goodie bag to get started doing more collages in my studio. I also took a piece of her calligraphy on silk to hang in my studio – to remind me that yes, I can do this. It is all in the mind.
To see Louise’s work, check out her website.