Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Papier-Mache Art 4: Some Experimental Variations

This current set of papier-maché art pieces was frankly experimental. I tried out a few ideas I'd been thinking about, with mixed results. But it leads me to think in new directions, and even the "failures" from this session have given me fertile ideas for future art-pieces.

A papier-maché bowl made from full, untorn sheets of Japanese origami paper. I used most of an origami packet for this bowl, about 7 or 8 sheets total, all decorated in traditional Japanese blue-and-white textile patterns, from the sort of cheap cotton clothing worn by peasant field workers and fisherfolk.

I decided to see what would happen if I did a bowl out of whole sheets of thin decorated paper. I happen to have a lot of origami paper on hand, which I mostly like because of the way such papers are illustrated and decorated. I get design inspiration from some of these patterns. I do a little origami, but I'm not very practiced at it, and not very good.

Visually I like this bowl very much. Because it's whole sheets, rather than torn or cut strips, there are folds and ripples in the fabric of the bowl. It's a little thick, a little unwieldy. So the shape is a little amorphous, a little weird. It was an interesting experiment, though. I think I might try another origami bowl later, but with the sheets cut into strips. You can still create a field of visual pattern like on the origami paper, but without the folding and rippling effect in the paper itself.

A second bowl made during this experimental session consists of torn strips from laser-printed illustration resumés I printed some years ago. I had made this illustrated resumé as a marketing piece for my design and illustration work; it consisted of a collage of several of my Photoshop art pieces, along with name and address. To make this bowl, I tore up several of these sheets, discarding the address texts, and layered the torn sections inside and out. I tore along a straight-edge, creating a deckled paper edge kind of look, but making clean edges that preserve the images. So this uses the images on that old resumé piece to make a bowl. Since I chose visionary art for that piece, the images on the bowl remain remarkably coherent in affect. The look and feel is coherent. So I think this bowl is successful as an art piece, even though it's 100 percent recycled older art.

And now for something completely different:

For this, I used a brownie baking pan I got at the dollar store. I've found several plastic bowls and serving trays and pans that will serve me as papier-maché form molds at the dollar store. I'll be experimenting with more of those soon.

Meanwhile, in this cake pan I had the idea of making a paper matrix that might serve as a deckled frame for other art. I think this idea has real possibilities, for mounting photographs within shadow-box style paper frames, for example.

I used two images I had made some time ago in Photoshop, orphans of the Spiral Dance series of visionary art, that probably won't make it into the final version of the series. But these two work well side by side, and make up a more unified piece. So this paper-matrix framed two-image piece is a new piece of art in its own right; I'm thinking of a title for it, and I'll probably actual sign and title it later on.

This experiment is only partially successful, structurally. As it dried, it warped, and was no longer flat. But I solved that with foamcore backing. I have some foamcore, bought at an art supply store, that has adhesive on one side; the idea being to mount art permanently on the foamcore, after which it could then be framed or matted or whatever. I mounted this piece on a sheet of the adhesive foamcore, which flattened it out and also raised the edges more into a box shape, more like a frame with depth to it. And with the foamcore backing giving it structural solidity, it now looks more like the unified piece I had intended; and it will possible to mount it on the wall, now, as a finished piece.

The reason the paper warped here, I believe, is that I used too light a weight of paper. A heavier, more bonded paper, like a medium-weight watercolor paper, might be less likely to warp upon drying. This paper was also too light when soaked in the papier-maché glue medium; it actually tore a couple of times when I was laying it down in the mold. So I'll use a heavier paper next time, to see what happens. White cardstock might actually make a good matrix medium for this kind of papier-maché frame.

Another thought, about the art to be put inside the frame. I am thinking I could mount a pure photo directly in the center of this kind of frame. But I could also do collage. Both by tearing and reassembling a single image into a collage, but also by making several adjoining images separately, and putting them together in collage form. David hockney has done this with Polaroids and other photos, in very interesting ways, that I have found inspirational. I actually thoght of doing this kind of photo-collage in this papier-maché frame first, but I decided for this initial experiment to just use whole images, albeit with torn edges, just to see how they would look.

I don't think this experiment was a total success; although I was able to "repair" it using adhesive foamcore, as a I said above. I've learned a couple of things already from the attempt, however, and will try to take it to a more finished level on my next attempt.

Meanwhile, we keep experimenting, and seeing what happens. I'm still learning the materials, too, after all.

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Blogger David-Glen Smith said...

Glad you posted these "experiments" and your reactions to the developing stages of work.

Reading of other artists' process is inspirational in itself.

Hope 2011 is filled with new ideas!

12:09 PM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Hi, and thanks for your comment!

I always enjoy reading about artists' creative process, too. That's often very inspiring.

1:25 PM  

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