Falling Waters

I’ve been six weeks in my home studio now.  Although I find that I spend only 2-4 hours out there on any given day, I have been making progress on a piece that I want to share.  The title is still pending, but it’s based on a photo I took from the American side of Niagara Falls last summer.

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A work in progress . . .

As you can probably tell, I’m working on gallery-wrapped stretched canvas, 12×24”.  I am wrapping the design over the edges, all the way to the back of the stretcher boards, so the image will be visible from all angles when hanging on the wall.  I bought two canvases this size because I plan to create a collage of the Canadian falls, too.

The sky and the trees were easy to reproduce, but when it was time to add the Observation Tower, I had no idea what to do.  I found inspiration in a box of manipulated papers that I have.  The term “manipulated” paper implies that some artist has taken a piece of reclaimed paper and added to it somehow.  I don’t very often paint or dye my own papers, so most of what I have I have received during paper exchanges at the Atlanta Collage Society’s holiday parties.  I owe a big “Thank you!” to whomever provided me with the ideal papers for this collage.

For the Observation Tower, I layered two complimentary papers.  The bottom layer is an old piece of Manila paper imprinted with a purple-inked dittoed geometric pattern.  To make sure that the shadowy angles of the building were precise, I glued strips of dark magazine paper on top of the Manila. On top of that I layered a thin piece of semi-transparent spongy packing material that had been dyed randomly with clear phthalo blue acrylic paint.  I had to use ModPodge as adhesive for the packing material because my water-soluble YES! paste just wouldn’t hold it in place.

The next challenge was the walkway and bridge.  They had to appear to reveal the background through the bridge supports.  For the pedestrian walkway (above) I found just the perfect magazine artwork which had the pattern of a chain-link fence in the foreground and the correct shade of sky blue in the background.  For the section in front of the trees, I cut up an ad for a wrought-iron park bench with a grass-green background.  Over the strips of paper I used cotton floss to bring out the support structures of both the pedestrian walkway and the bridge to Canada.

Once the tower and bridges were out of the way, I tackled the water and the falls themselves.  I have to work in small sections, in layers, from the source of the water in the direction that it is flowing.  I’m not used to working from right to left, but I am adapting.  So far, my biggest challenge with the water is finding enough bright light/white papers that still have patterns and variations of shading in them to represent foamy whitewater.  Most white/light backgrounds in magazine papers allow words and colors to bleed through from the backside once wet with paste.  Sometimes this works favorably and creates an interesting look, but most often it’s just annoying.  I’m up against this problem currently, and so it requires me to go back through my light papers stack to see if I have anything else I can use.  In the worst case, I’ll have to dig through more magazines to find usable bright light/whites.  I don’t like to put a project on hold for a day or two while I patiently page through magazines looking for usable material.  It’s very boring, and it interferes with my “flow.”  I’d much rather pick out my papers before I begin and have them all in front of me so I can constantly push them around and paw through them as I work.

As reference, here is a copy of the original photo I took last June.  What in the world did we do before we had good cell phone cameras?

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Looking across the American Falls to the Observation Tower from Luna Island

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