Archive for the 'A Bealy' Category

a mini-tutorial for gel transfers

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

“Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is.”
― Isaac Asimov

A growing number of people will now agree that most emerging social networks are not what they’re cracked up to be. For an artist who spends a lot of time in solitary activities, it can be a beneficial connection to a larger body of peers. I concur with Cal Newport that it can also be a habit-forming distraction that pulls one into a more shallow mode than the deep concentration necessary to produce exceptional creative work. There are times, however, when a Facebook interaction is so good that I have to marvel at the way people can quickly exchange valuable information across continents. Case in point: a recent back-and-forth between Peter Dowker (Lac-Brome, Quebec) and Matthew Rose (Paris, France) about image transfers for collage assembly. When Susanna Lakner (Stuttgart, Germany) and Melinda Tidwell (Santa Fe, New Mexico) jumped in, it developed into one of the best step-by-step descriptions of gel-medium transfer that I have seen. Here is my summary of Dowker’s technique—

“First of all, stay away from the hard stuff, like the toxic chemical cleaner trichlorethylene. Instead, use a gel-medium method to achieve an effective transfer. Apply a healthy coat of liquid acrylic medium to the image side of an ingredient and adhere it face down. GLOSS medium sticks better than matte. Rub with a brayer, or burnish gently with a soup spoon, and let it dry. Using a bit of water, gently rub off the paper backing with your finger or a piece of cloth. Don’t use too much water and slowly move over the surface, removing a bit at a time. Use oil varnish or vegetable oil to bring up the image. A minute amount of paper will always remain behind, giving it a cloudy appearance when dry. The oil varnish or vegetable oil will make that disappear and enhance the transparency. I formerly used matte oil-based varnish, which works okay. The vegetable oil idea comes from Allan Beally. There will be hardly any build up at all — probably less than any of the collaged pieces next to it. When making a transfer onto vintage papers, I find it’s better to seal them first before you begin — 1 or 2 coats of matte gel medium — the water involved to rub off the back of the transfer can destroy the substrate. Keep in mind that different papers react in different ways. Sealing is only necessary if the base is fragile. Be patient after gluing down the transfer. Letting it TOTALLY dry before rubbing off the paper is essential. If you’re not patient and start rubbing too soon, the image can start to break down. Wait a minimum of 2 hours (overnight is best) before removing the paper backing. If I know I’m going to be using a transfer from the outset, I start the piece on heavy card, to keep the substrate from becoming wrinkly in one spot from the water. The method works with original elements or copies. When I do use a laser print, it’s on thin, cheap office paper. Removing the paper backing can take ten minutes or more, because I go slow, not wanting to damage the image — not really that long at all. I’ve had the most luck since I began sealing the receiving surface with matte medium and waiting longer for it to dry. And the oil works wonders!”

My thanks to Mr. Dowker for allowing me to share this description here. Some of us have also used a variation that involves removing the paper backing independently, in a basin of water, before adding it to the collage surface. When doing that, one ends up working with a collage element that is essentially a veneer of acrylic medium, which introduces a size limitation and other aspects of craftsmanship. Peter calls this the “gel-skin method.” Although he has used it many times, a drawback for him is the need to build up 4 to 5 layers of medium — so it’s not too fragile for the rubbing stage — which makes for a thicker transfer. According to Peter, “not very appealing to the fussier ones among us.” The gel-skin method does allow for a right-reading image (if that’s important), otherwise the previous method will result in a flopped image (unless it can be photomechanically or digitally reversed prior to transfer). Each collage artist will refine an individual methodology, and, not surprisingly, new discoveries and “fortunate accidents” occasionally can result. As Peter reminds us, “Don’t be shy!”

Take a few minutes to savor a few of his extraordinary artworks below—
 

CUTTERS
collage with image transfer by P Dowker

ACORN
collage with image transfer by P Dowker

VAAVING
collage with image transfer by P Dowker

TOYS
collage with image transfer by P Dowker

Various and Sundry — Four Years and Counting . . .

Friday, July 29th, 2016

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”
— Flannery O’Connor

It looks as though I’m stepping into my fifth year writing about collage at this blogsite, and I hope that you’ve been with me for part of that enjoyable ride.

When I look back at my wish list for Year Four, I realize, not with any surprise, that my appetite for creating collage artwork has eclipsed a sometimes equally strong desire to delve verbally into the many interesting aspects of the medium. I would like to think that I met a few of the writing goals I set for myself last summer, and, of course, my ambitions to add to that list here in this post will be dutifully curbed. At any rate, I think that the best thing to do is to break this entry into a few parts that cover various and sundry topics on my mind.

The Social Network of Collage Artists
• For at least a couple of years I have wanted to write more about the influence of social media. Nearly every day I see a collage artist defeat the potential of a sharing platform with overexposure. Some may disagree and say, “the more, the merrier.” That is not a point I care to debate, because there may be something else to highlight more important than whether or not the quality-vs-quantity consideration can fall to the wayside — the vital role of networking among artists. I am more convinced than ever that the cross-pollination and mutual support of online networks has been of significant benefit to those of us working in the medium. Crystal Neubauer has one of the more interesting blogsites by a collage artist. She touched on the topic of creative communities so well that I direct you to her short essay at ClothPaperScissors.com. Another collage artist I admire who has recently made an impression as a strong blogger is Melinda Tidwell. I like her process-oriented posts. Although more of a mixed-media artist rather than a conventional collage practitioner, the versatile Kathleen O‘Brien maintains a steady flow of what I consider “must-read” entries at her studio blogsite. Create your own list of frequent art-blog destinations and branch out to new sharing platforms (I just learned about some new artist blogs from Caterina Giglio and opened a new account at Instagram.). As the entire evolving array of networking sites weeds out the fads, imitators and clunky interfaces (finding it difficult to tolerate LinkedIn as a user), you will settle into a community of online cohorts who reinforce your daily challenges as a creative person. When you come to know that someone else is on “the same wavelength,” reach out and make contact as an authentic being behind the profile. There are rewards to be discovered!

Cheap Collage Tricks
• Collage artist Allan Bealy seems to be everywhere, but, trust me, he is no gadfly. He recently raised a topic that struck a nerve with many. There are a lot of cheap tricks appearing in the medium, and most of them are harmless, if unimaginative, but the temptation to exploit visual ingredients readily available in our culture to “objectify women” is perhaps the most repugnant. Those of us who believe we are above that sort of thing need to think more deeply about how and why we use nudes in a collage. This suggests another potential self-assignment for my coming year — a “DON’T DO THIS” post illustrating the most prevalent cheap tricks in collage. (Not that there’s anything wrong with replacing a man’s head with a vulture to carry the banner of Dada during the art movement’s centennial year.) To be honest, I have nothing against a cliche, if it “works.” Isn’t that the reason something becomes a cliche in the first place? I say go for the cheap trick if you can score in the highest percentile (anyone who thinks that’s an easy thing to is wrong). I hope to post a follow-up look at the endurance of the surreal face in collage, so stay tuned. But let’s get back to Allan’s remonstrance. The woman as sex object can be traced back to long before the rise of Madison Avenue and Larry Flynt. Don’t bite the lure, folks. Everything one needs to dabble in this unworthy stunt abounds. Nevertheless, I long have been fascinated with the exemplars of erotic minimalism and their work in contemporary collage — those who transcend the cheap tricks to achieve a fine-art impression. Add another one to my wish list for Year Five of The Collage Miniaturist.

Priorities Get the Last Word
• My wife, Dana, and I managed to get two tickets to The Seer (a new documentary portrait of Kentuckian Wendell Berry, re-titled “Look & See” for Sundance Institute) before the Lexington screening sold out last night. It is a significant film that will become more widely available into next year, and it has my highest recommendation. Does it have anything to do with collage? Nothing at all, except for everything under the sun. If you haven’t discovered the poet, novelist, essayist, and farmer-philosopher, I have accomplished one meaningful thing with this site by inviting your interest. It was fitting that I got out of the studio and spent time at our farm. It was very hot work up on the shed roof, but pleasant to be away from all the noise (traffic, sirens, and incessant political jousting). Connecting with our rural place offered an opportunity, as it always does, to put priorities back into alignment. There is a place in the documentary when Laura Dunn (the filmmaker in voice-over) explains to Berry her motivation and how she looks “to places where there is still a remnant of togetherness, or unity, or community, of connection to the land, and I study those, because I don’t come from a place — I come from divorce …”
      “We all come from divorce!” her subject interrupts. “This is an age of divorce. Things that belong together have been taken apart. And you can’t put it all back together again. What you can do, is the only thing that you can do. You take two things that ought to be together and you put them together. Two things! Not all things.” It is his metaphor for the creative life, and a tremendously healing admonition to those of us with a tendency to become overwhelmed by the enormity of the world’s chaotic disintegration. Collage artists put things together to make something new, and often we are the ones who have taken apart discarded things to do it, but there is always a much larger phenomenon at work — one of discord vs harmony, wastefulness vs thrift, cynicism vs affection. When I return to the studio from a natural place that has responded to my care, I am in a better condition to ask myself, “To which side of the big equation are you making your contribution as an artist?”
 

Crystal Neubauer
Her blogging often touches on the complexity of a creative life.

Melinda Tidwell
Perhaps you will admire her solid abstractions as much as I do.

Kathleen O’Brien
Her art always nudges one toward a deeper sense of balance and wholeness.

Robert Hugh Hunt
Stay tuned for a continuation of my review of “the surreal face.”

Bene Rohlmann
Look ahead to my first discussion of erotic minimalism in collage.

Collage Miniature Collaboration Number Five

Sunday, June 26th, 2016

“I love improvisation. You can’t blame it on the writers. You can’t blame it on direction. You can’t blame it on the camera guy… It’s you. You’re on. You’ve got to do it, and you either sink or swim with what you’ve got.”
— Jonathan Winters

“The thing about improvisation is that it’s not about what you say. It’s listening to what other people say. It’s about what you hear.”
— Paul Merton
 

Two of the things that distinguish the artwork of Mary Madelyn Carney are keen visual contrasts and an imaginative approach to choosing ingredients. Naturally, she brings these qualities into her collage collaborations, so I wanted to send her a couple of bold “starts” on book covers that might play to her strengths. In hindsight, perhaps I did not provide her as much “elbow room” as the ones she sent me. Collage collaboration is quite a bit like two actors doing a scene. The key is to enhance each other’s performance, and to avoid stepping on lines or physically upstaging the partner. Actually, it is even more like live improvisation, especially when it is understood that the result will be shared publicly, because the success of a collaboration depends on how well you “listen,” and very little on imposing your own thing.

I was delighted with the way that Mary responded. Her intuitive decisions blended skillful symbolic fusions with an evident personal quality, and the aesthetic nuances were superb. That the two of us might interact on the same “wavelength” was first suggested to me some time ago by veteran collaborator Allan Bealy, but I had not anticipated just how conscientious she would be with our joint venture. We may have to join forces again for another “jam session.”
 

A collage miniature collaboration by John Andrew Dixon and Mary Madelyn Carney

Robin’s Chest
a collage collaboration by J A Dixon and M M Carney
(start by Dixon, finish by Carney)
5 x 7 inches, collection of M M Carney

A collage miniature collaboration by John Andrew Dixon and Mary Madelyn Carney

Pickling My Husband
a collage collaboration by J A Dixon and M M Carney
(start by Dixon, finish by Carney)
5 x 7 inches, collection of J A Dixon

Core Memories

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015

“Before I can discard the verse, I have to write it… I can’t discard a verse before it is written because it is the writing of the verse that produces whatever delights or interests or facets that are going to catch the light. The cutting of the gem has to be finished before you can see whether it shines.”
– Leonard Cohen

I admire many of the more prolific collage artists — Kroll, Rose, Bealy, Tidwell, Flowers, Collins, to name only a few — but there can be a significant contrast between “work ethic” and the contrived productivity made trendy by social networking. It was interesting when Plowman was climbing the mountain of “Collage A Day.” Now one has to pass the corpses being stacked beside the route up the peak. Most of us can tell the difference between a display of ongoing professionalism and the indiscriminate output of those with a high need for public approval. That being said, someone who is a blogger on “all things collage” might carelessly tread into the latter while neglecting the former. If I do, or if this site lapses into pretension, I challenge you to call me on it. Please. Nevertheless, we should all keep in mind that the nature of the medium invites the floating of one’s work for an appropriate give-and-take interaction. Offering intuition and spontaneity free rein means that often we can be too close to the culminating artifact to perceive many of the symbolic connections or nuanced associations, and that takes feedback. It may take other sets of eyes to tell us whether the gem sparkles or not. Our handy interweb makes it easy to lavish “likes” on one another in lieu of the genuine constructive criticism we require to fortify our studio rituals. Are we finally ready to move past mutual thumbs-upping and to become more candid with each other?

Core Memories ~ collage miniature by John Andrew Dixon

Core Memories
collage miniature by J A Dixon
4.875 x 7 inches
 
Purchase this artwork!

Ninety Naughty Gnats

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

“A special thank you to Helen Reiss, who brought me this crazy manuscript and thought I might like to illustrate it. I had a better idea!”
– Allan Bealy
 

I am pleased to share an announcement from Allan Bealy that his newest publication is available— ABCurdities: A Collage Alphabet, and it is an honor to be part of an outstanding group that includes Allan, Matthew Rose, Ted Tollefson, Nikki Soppelsa, Zach Collins, Marc Deb, Fred Voigt, Musta Fior, Michael Tunk, and many other fine collage practitioners. Allan assigned 26 collage artists from around the world a letter of the alphabet and asked each of us to interpret a corresponding absurdist poem by Helen Reiss. The delightful result is now available for online purchase!

Helen’s wild verse for “N” offered a wealth of associations and challenged me to illustrate the perfect level of “visual naughtiness.” I also wanted to embed the letterform, but not in a way that would be too obvious. Do you see it? Some may not. I find it fascinating to observe how each of us used her poems as a catalyst for creativity, while investigating an individual approach to the medium — one more example of how collaboration can enhance the artistic process. A tip o’ the cap to the designer/compiler!
 

N ~ John Andrew Dixon ~ a collage contribution to ABCurdities: ~ compiled by Allan Bealy

N
collage miniature by J A Dixon
a contribution to ABCurdities: A Collage Alphabet
8 x 8 inches

All Things Collage: Year Three

Monday, July 27th, 2015

Jamie Wyeth said, “You have to love a medium to work in it.” I have developed such an enthusiasm for collage that I also have been writing about it for three years at this blogsite. Miniatures are at the heart of what I enjoy doing most. The remarks accumulating here center on my recognition that what I can bring to the practice evolves from an ongoing investigation of the small format. When I do create larger pieces, I would hope that they are informed by my study of tiny, intimate visual relationships. Increasingly, I am embedding the miniature collage into these sized-up artworks, exploring the contrasts of scale and persuading the observer to step in very close — to interact with the ingredients at the artist’s viewing distance.

Over the coming year, I plan to profile other collage artists who exalt the small, and to highlight some of the “categories” of collage that recently have sparked my interest.

What’s in store?
• Merz-meisters: the dedicated aestheticians
• Endurance of the surreal face in collage
• The exemplars of erotic minimalism
• Die-hard collaborators gone wild
And, of course, much more . . .

When I used to put too much on my plate at meal time, my “Mombo” would say, “Your eyes are bigger than your stomach.” Perhaps there is an analogy to piling up my wish list for future entries, and I probably have made a few promises to readers that so far I have not kept. I shall do my best, and remind myself during year four that it’s not what one says about art that matters most.
 

Nancy Gene Armstrong
Who else recalls that nostalgia can be so surreal?

Laura Tringali Holmes
A diversity of approach — her singular sensibility.

Allan Bealy
This provocative soloist is a relentless collaborator.

Katrien De Blauwer
If you ever figure out how she does it, let me know.

Matthew Rose
He seriously does not take himself seriously. Seriously.

Collage Miniature Collaboration Number Two

Saturday, April 25th, 2015

“Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.”
— Cesar A Cruz

The poet and activist surely was talking about something more significant than a collage collaboration, but his words apply. I can be the object of my own ease and distress when it comes to this sort of thing. Collaborations can be fulfilling when a meeting of minds is achieved, but they should be approached as experimental stretches. Safety has no place when solving these equations. Thanks, Allan, for another round of soothing discomfort!
 

A collage miniature collaboration by John Andrew Dixon and Allan Bealy

Untitled (breech bloom)
a collage miniature collaboration by J A Dixon and A Bealy
(start by Bealy, finish by Dixon)
5 x 7 inches, collection of J A Dixon

A collage miniature collaboration by John Andrew Dixon and Allan Bealy

Untitled (spare keys)
a collage miniature collaboration by J A Dixon and A Bealy
(start by Bealy, finish by Dixon)
5 x 7 inches, collection of A Bealy

Two Bealy starters standing by . . .

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

 
two collage starters from Allan Bealy

two collage starters from A Bealy
collage on paper by A Bealy
prepared for 5 x 7-inch crops

Collage Miniature Collaboration Number One

Saturday, April 4th, 2015

“I am most interested in discovering new ways to tell an old story, with humor, irony, and a dash of anarchy!”
— Allan Bealy

It was a pleasure to take a step deeper into the collaboration zone with Brooklyn-based artist and art director Allan Bealy. Take a look at my March 1st entry to see the starters that I sent Allan. His finished artworks are delightfully effective. The rugged, floating pear is a fine touch, and decisively positioned, too. His rhythmic figures are splendid in the second collage, and the “circle v” anchors the whole composition. Thank you, Allan. Now it’s time for me to tackle the items you sent for me to complete!
 

A collage miniature collaboration by John Andrew Dixon and Allan Bealy

Untitled (rugged pear)
a collage miniature collaboration by J A Dixon and A Bealy
(start by Dixon, finish by Bealy)
5 x 7 inches, collection of J A Dixon

A collage miniature collaboration by John Andrew Dixon and Allan Bealy

Untitled (rhythmic figures)
a collage miniature collaboration by J A Dixon and A Bealy
(start by Dixon, finish by Bealy)
5 x 7 inches, collection of A Bealy

Until April . . .

Sunday, March 1st, 2015

“. . . just set one day’s work in front of the last day’s work. That’s the way it comes out. And that’s the only way it does.”
– John Steinbeck

If I am to be honest with myself, there must be the recognition that this is a blogsite not unlike many others: a personal tool for somewhat murky purposes (and a service to others less so, as much as I would desire that aspect to predominate). At any rate, I deeply appreciate that it is followed, and I shall continue my effort to make it worth the time you take to pay a visit.

I have written before about the March Exercise, my annual focus on building another layer of creative habit that can be internalized as part of a new cycle. It began as an experiment in time management nine years ago. Here at The Collage Miniaturist, I have showcased a month-long collage-a-day ritual for the past two. My tenth March Exercise will be a departure. Blog entries and updates to social networks will be temporarily suspended, as I concentrate all of my time on a few major studio objectives. I am required to stack one block of work on top of another in a way that does not allow for attention to routine public disclosures.

Before I step away for the month, here are two collage starters on their way to Allan Bealy for completion. Compared to prolific collaborators like Allan, I could be considered a rookie. Stay tuned for his response. See you in April.
 

Two Collage Starters For Allan Bealy ~ John Andrew Dixon

two collage starters for A Bealy
by J A Dixon on KYDEX® synthetic sheet
each: 5 x 7 inches

Collaboration in Collage, part 3

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

“We suspect that individual practices function more similarly to collective practice than most people imagine. Whether explicitly acknowledged or not, all forms of production are fundamentally based on collaboration in the sense that the artist inevitably draws on the influences and innovations of existing culture. In this sense, we feel that autonomous authorship only exists as cultural mythology.”
Soda Jerk (Berlin-based Australian duo)

 

Collaboration is expanding within the medium and taking many forms. Collage artists are teaming their talents to produce publications, for example. FABA Collage Mag (For And About Artists) is preparing to release its second issue.FABA, issue 2 Allan Bealy recently brought together the work of more than two dozen active creators to “Explode the Alphabet” with his Z2A. Each spread features an original solo collage based on the designated letter. Zach Collins takes the idea of synergy another step with a major exposition of how dynamic international collage collaboration has become. Anyone who has tracked the prolific artist could see this coming. We Said Hello and Shook Hands documents the results of his relentless series of virtual “jam sessions” from the past few years. Both publications benefit from the able editing of fellow collage artist Laura Tringali Holmes.

It remains to be seen whether or not we can expect a tide of post-centennial self-publishing, now that evolving technology has opened up new opportunities for collage artists outside the conventional art-book world. In any case, these examples are worthy of attention, as we build our collector libraries during this exhilarating period for collage.
 

H is for Homecoming ~ L T Holmes

H is for Homecoming
collage with mixed media by L T Holmes
8 x 8 inches, beeswax finish
part of Z2A by A Bealy

We Said Hello and Shook Hands by Zach Collins (Author, Designer) and Laura Tringali Holmes (Editor)

We Said Hello and Shook Hands
collage collaboration by Z Collins and F Free
back cover of We Said Hello and Shook Hands by Z Collins