Archive for the 'Ingredients' Category

Paint the town. (With paper!)

Saturday, July 3rd, 2021

“If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough.”
— Mario Andretti
 

One week ago, I spent a windy Saturday in frantic competition with the clock, and managed to get an outdoor collage artwork framed and delivered for Lexington’s annual Paint the Town plein air event. At the opening reception that same evening, I was stunned to get a prompt sale and 2nd-place prize. It was one of the most exhilarating twelve hours I’ve experienced in quite a while.

Oh, the dubious lengths some of us will go to chase artistic intensity — even the temporary madness of extreme deadline pressure — all in the pursuit of rapt spontaneity. Heaven help me!

It doesn’t seem so long ago when I first took my collage obsession out of doors, and this kind of open challenge was a goal too absurd to contemplate. I had scouted the location and spent a couple days in preparation. By the time I’d registered a blank canvas, raced to my site and set up, one of the precious six hours had evaporated. I began to battle the breeze (nothing new there). Nor were the other 40 artists involved my foes. It was clear that the only towering opponent I faced was a daunting imperative to speed up my process. I’ve never pasted paper so fast in my life!

The judge said this about my piece: “I was very interested in the way this artist managed to create such an evocative landscape using collaged paper — and on a windy day! Places and buildings often hold so many memories and meanings, and the use of text on the siding of the buildings — with the words appearing in reverse, so they become texture and tone — adds another level of meaning.”

It’s gratifying, and profoundly reinforcing, to have a knowledgeable evaluator find significance in aspects that have evolved gradually to become a natural part of my plein air method. I appreciate her remarks, the organizing effort of all those with Arts Connect, the camaraderie of the participating artists, the buyers (Scott and Paul), the indispensable support of my dearest partner — and you, reader, for visiting here and for reading all of this!

Onward to the next challenge!

 

Off Upper
plein air collage on canvas by J A Dixon
12 x 12 inches

•  Second Place Prize / S O L D

Renewal

Friday, June 18th, 2021

This artwork was created for and accepted into BEGINNINGS/ENDINGS, a virtual exhibition organized by Kate Savage at Arts Connect in Lexington, Kentucky. It began with musings on the cyclic lives of trees as a resource. Searching my stash for collage ingredients prompted what I consider a spontaneous work of abstraction as much as an interpretation of the exhibition theme.
 
Renewal ~ collage on canvas J A Dixon

Renewal
collage on canvas by J A Dixon
12 x 12 x 1.25 inches
available for purchase

New Birth, New Growth, New Beginnings

Friday, May 28th, 2021

“Younger than we are,
      O children, and frailer,
Soon in the blue air they’ll be,
      Singer and sailor.”
 
  — Nest Eggs | A Child’s Garden of Verses,
      Robert Louis Stevenson, 1900
 

Today is the final day of “New Birth, New Growth, New Beginnings,” a juried exhibition celebrating spring at Art Center of the Bluegrass. My accepted artwork originated from a satisfying blend of subject, medium, and poetic reference.

The green space that surrounds my home studio has been a haven for multiple generations of robins. A surreptitious, close-up glimpse of their familiar nest eggs was the visual idea that dislodged any others I might have used to interpret the theme. Spring is my favorite time of year, as it is for many, and perhaps the finished piece captures how my imagination is charged with anticipation for nature’s annual season of renewal. There is also something about the chaotic order of a bird’s nest that ideally lends itself to collage ingredients. I wanted to include the textural patterns of printed text, along with actual organic substance — in this case, the inner membranes of hard-neck garlic stalks from the previous year’s harvest. The “patina” of salvaged wallpaper from a nearby historical tear-down provided areas of desired subtlety. Relying on reclaimed tea-bag material has gradually become an integral part of my technique, but I hadn’t put it to use before with such a linear quality. For zones that would benefit from deeper shadow, I added walnut juice to my typical polymer sealant and “smoothed” the eggshells ever so slightly with colored pencil and a milky tint (giving rise to the final description of “combined mediums”).

Human civilization has increasingly peeled itself from the balanced interdependence of the natural world. More of us are doing our best as individuals to fix that torn relationship. There are different ways to promote a necessary restoration. It’s important to discover as many as possible. I find myself taking more advantage of bringing art to nature and nature to art. I am thankful that my life conditions grant me creative opportunities to experience this healing process.

 

Soon in the Blue Air They’ll Be
collage with combined mediums on structured panel
J A Dixon, 20 x 25 inches

•  S O L D

March Ex(plosion)  |  Thirty-First and Done

Wednesday, March 31st, 2021

This is the final piece in my month-long collage-per-day ritual. I’ll bet I’m not the only one whose mom used to say, “Your eyes are bigger than your stomach.” The admonishment stays sharply influential. I feel that way in the studio at times, with a peculiar stash ready for decades of dining. But if one wants to keep on devouring, it might be important to watch “the size of the portions,” too. This plate was a ten-inch square dimensional collage on structured panel. And it would be unforgivable to neglect citing the hilarious scene from Philomena as another distinct motherly reference.

March is over. April is served. Bon appétit.
 

Size of the Portions
collage artwork by J A Dixon
10 x 10 x 1.5 inches
for the 2021 March Ex(plosion)

Synthesis — six details for study

Sunday, January 31st, 2021

“Great performers focus on what they are doing, and nothing else…They let it happen, let it go. They couldn’t care less about the results.”
— John Eliot

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
– Viktor E Frankl
 

Completion brings varied doses of relief, disappointment, astonishment, regret, and pride. To sort them out, it is beneficial to self-assign the task of tight scrutiny while a measure of internal evaluation is front of mind. It is sometimes interesting to experience a perceptible transition from “hate it” to “that ain’t bad” — or from “wow, cool” to “perhaps if I had instead.”

With Synthesis, I found that I didn’t need for a state of high criticism to slowly diminish. This time around, a sense of broad satisfaction could not be denied. Even so, I undertook my customary ritual of zoomed-in photo crops, looking for strengths and weaknesses before the full aura of the creative process had faded. The handy smartphone camera makes for an uncomplicated post-mortem examination. Self-directed questions don’t always have answers, but it is important to ask them anyway. Have you made effective use of your ingredients? Did you achieve your hoped for balance of design logic and intuitive spontaneity? Is there a coherence when you compare the overall impression from a distance and the up-close, microcosmic structure? Were your original aesthetic goals for a well-composed yet “maximalist” effect fulfilled?
 

   

   

   

Synthesis (six details for study)
collage on canvas by J A Dixon
48 x 36 inches
available for purchase

Thursday, December 31st, 2020

2020 JOURNAL:
Looking at my final experiment of the year while developing a large work on canvas.

Did we leave 2020 better than we found it? Each individual will decide.
 

Untitled (dark4x)
collage experiment by J A Dixon
7 x 5 inches

Strike a light!

Sunday, May 31st, 2020

“Edinburgh Collage Collective would like to send a huge thank you to all the participating collage artists from around the world who have joined us for this project. Our matchbox project has attracted over 1000 submissions. It’s been a great pleasure and inspiration to receive and share all the incredible work. We have certainly seen examples of artists thinking both inside and outside the box. The exploration of the medium has resulted in a wide variety of diverse approaches and interpretations. We have seen everything from 2d flattened boxes to full blown dioramas – all taking their inspiration from the humble matchbox.”
— Rhed Fawell, E C C
 

I was inspired to compose something different for the “STRIKE A LIGHT” Matchbox Project, an open call from Edinburgh Collage Collective, which invited international collage artists to make work incorporating the matchbox as a visual starting point. It was a fun submission for me, since I rarely explore 3D collage.

The two shuttle trucks by Tootsie Toy® are from 1967. The original Union Match box (with Vincent peeking out) is one I brought back from Brussels in 1974. The whole thing was sparked by finding a tree frog.

Better not ask me to explain how my mind works. I’m still as baffled by creativity as I was when I decided, as an adolescent, that there was no possible aspiration for me other than to become a visual artist.
 

Strike a Light
photo-collage by J A Dixon
created for the #strikealight2020 project

a ‘Mother’s Day / Collage Day’ weekend

Sunday, May 10th, 2020

 
“And if my own children
  should come to a day,
When a new Mother comes
  and the old goes away,
I’d ask of them nothing
  that I didn’t do.
Love both of your Mothers
  as both have loved you.”
— Joann Snow Duncanson
 

Happy Happy to all the mothers on their day of honor!

The two 10x10s I posted yesterday on Instagram are my salute to World Collage Day, an international event contrived to celebrate and boost participation in the medium. The ingredients were generously sent to me by members of the Arizona Collage Collective. Using elements not personally selected was a rewarding exercise — an opportunity to better understand the distinction between my process of spontaneous composition and choosing qualities in the subject matter itself. For those who enjoy seeing my newest work, follow “thecollageminiaturist” at Instagram, too.
 
 

When You’re Going through Hell
collage on structured panel by J A Dixon
10 x 10 x 1.5 inches, unframed
available for purchase

 

When the Going Gets Tough
collage on structured panel by J A Dixon
10 x 10 x 1.5 inches, unframed
available for purchase

It’s all about the stash.

Wednesday, April 29th, 2020

“This is a stash, not a hoarding disorder.”
— source unknown
 

I guess that I’ve been stashing printed scrap since I was in my teens. Not so much as a collector, but acquiring things that caught my eye in a particular way. It grew into an illustrator’s reference “morgue” for client assignments, and then it gradually became my primary source for collage ingredients. I’ve got enough stuff to last “the duration,” but I’m always looking for peculiar finds. In the interest of domestic tranquility, quantity is no longer desired nor sought.

Although the process of collage creation involves many essential things, the practice of collage is all about the stash. One must periodically reorganize and refine it. New ideas inevitably result.

 

 

Good Ol’ Boy Dada

Monday, January 27th, 2020

“When Schwitters made the first collage by literally picking up a piece of rubbish, a sweet wrapper, a bus ticket and a piece of wood, that was pure invention.”
— Sir Peter Blake
 

For the many who revere his art, there’s a distinct Kurt Schwitters for each of us — rebellious creator, fearless performer, relentless out-of-the-boxer, proto-beatnik, or visionary theorist. In combination with his towering individualism, he was, by reports from those who knew him, affable, witty, optimistic, entertaining, and a practical joker. This is the Kurt who would be a pleasure to “hang” with, who others in the internment camp on the Isle of Man would hear each morning, barking like a dog. In our local Bluegrass culture, there is a phrase for such a character. Around these parts, he likely would’ve been known as a “good ol’ boy.”

In response to the international call by Ric Kasini Kadour to build a Schwitters’ Army collection at MERZ Gallery, the two pieces I created pay tribute to this particular K.S. Both were fashioned from street debris and highway litter accumulated from my immediate vicinity. One of them was mailed to Sanquhar, Scotland. I haven’t decided what to do with “part 2.” Perhaps the series will continue.

In 2016, I wrote the following in my published essay on a hundred years of Dada: “Those of us who create collage art may not always describe our works as a tribute to the enduring, inclusive concepts of Merz, but that is precisely what they are, and we are indebted to that legacy.” As one who has never wearied of the endless astonishments in the far-reaching innovations of K.S., I am content to describe myself unabashedly as a working “Merzologist.”

Schwitters may or may not have been the original artist to embed found detritus in collage, but certainly he was the first to fully master a modern-art version of the medium when it emerged at the close of the Great War. Embracing every conceivable source ingredient, he would codify the new visual vocabulary, give it an umbrella name, and bequeath the methodology to unborn generations. He may have sensed that the window of opportunity for him to preside over such a grand human venture was closing. He never got to take by storm the art world of 1950s New York — something eminently suited to his personality. His work and writings have had to speak for themselves.

For me, the seminal creations that launched what we know as Merz can never be separate from the man himself — the one who directed subtle, irreverent jabs toward a gang of thugs who hijacked his culture, until it was impossible to stay put, and then, after facing further persecution in Norway with his son, reckoned that an icebreaker just might evade Nazi torpedoes long enough for them to reach the coast of Scotland. Probably that dauntless, wry, “Good Ol’ Boy” side of him was satisfied to leave us with this simple thumbnail declaration:

“My name is Kurt Schwitters.
I am an artist and I nail my pictures together.”

 
 

Good Ol’ Boy Dada, part 1
collage artifact by J A Dixon
7 x 9.25 inches

 

Good Ol’ Boy Dada, part 2
collage artifact by J A Dixon
7 x 9.25 inches

Sisters of Sustenance

Friday, December 13th, 2019

“If a work of art does not live in the present, it does not live.”
— Pablo Picasso
 

I am not unlike most collage artists who find strong visual appeal in my stash of vintage scrap, but I cannot bring myself to limit the process to old ingredients. I have no intention of knocking the current practitioners who’ve mastered the use of antique material as a self-imposed constraint, but, for me, an artwork lacks contemporary vitality unless up-to-date components from our own time find a place to “belong” in a new piece.

Featured below is my response to a project by artist, designer, and educator Clive Knights, who recently introduced his “Corporeal Gestures” investigation to collage artists worldwide. It’s an extension of his long-term effort to re-identify “the nine muses as the cultivation of the orderliness of the human body” through shared necessities. I picked “nourishing” as a catalyst to explore the theme with both old and new paper elements, all of which had retained no intrinsic value and likely would have been recycled or ended up as more rubbish.

Collage will always have the potential to nourish our sensibilities by transforming apparently worthless but renewable paper into enduring artifacts with fresh symbolic power. Thank you, professor, for a most stimulating exercise.
 
 

Sisters of Sustenance
collage on book cover by J A Dixon
6.875 x 10.125 inches
for the Corporeal Gestures project