Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Larger Than Life with Nancy Curry

I wonder if you have noticed that I have a different blog title (music-themed again) than what is on the photo that's supposed to attract your attention?  It is intentional and alludes to today's process. I'm Nancy Curry and today on the blog, join me in a journey of layers and choices.  We'll start with large format substrates (an anomaly since my wheelhouse is smaller formats) and will add random paint (limited palette) marks, motifs, and drawing without clear intention or attachment, before we finally curate the fate of the created pieces.  Cryptic? Just a bit. 

Before we dive in, it's important that I give you the backstory and inspiration. I love Jeanne Oliver's work and her class site.  If you haven't explored it, you should. Interspersed in affordable, explorative classes, there are also a few "tastes" of classes.  A mini abstract one caught my eye during the late winter and once I got up the courage to rethink my scale which is second nature, I set out to dip my toe in. The abstract below in neutrals/metallic was my first attempt. 

Surprisingly, once I got going I had a lot of fun working this piece in a gestural, emotionless, flurry of layers and media way. Once I adjusted my workspace (that's code for studio purge/cleanout) to fit the 22" x 28" piece of 140 lb watercolor paper, I found the neutral color exploration quite interesting and not as daunting as I expected. You'll see more of this piece (or is it pieces) later.

For today's blog, I chose a somewhat limited color palette and added motif and abstract StencilGirl® stencils.  For mark-making, I focused on a wide variety of brushes, varying the width and bristle type and adding in the often-used hotel key cards, Catalyst wedges, BBQ skewers, and bubble wrap. I also, brought out old rubbing plates by Canyon Textiles to add some heavy texture (also used in the first piece).  My fingers were also used here and there.  I continued with the same middle of the road watercolor substrate (Bockingford) but you could use a medium weight mixed media sheet or put it on a hardboard.  Rounding out the materials list as shown below are acrylic paints, clear gesso, cosmetic sponges, paper plates, white pastel, water cup, Amazon bubble wrap and, a Stabilo All water-soluble pencil. 

Diptych Materials       

Canyon rubbing plates

Stencils Used

                                     Stencil Links (L-R)


                                Daisy Daisy

                                StencilClub June 2021 (Info)


                                Abstract Comp Backbones Mask1

                                Soulful Scribbles Flourishes

                                Collage Texture/Patterns Leaves


Let's roll:    

Begin by adding a layer of clear gesso with a large regular or foam brush. This can also be a textural tool besides making paint application smooth.  If you have the time, vary the coat from thin to medium. When dry, start with two or three colors and begin blocking out color on your substrate.  Vary the brushes, the pressure, the trajectory of the paper (I changed that a lot), and get some paint on to create the first layer.  I went neutral first and then headed into the dark teal and aqua.  The darker values can be overwhelming so I deliberately did smaller areas with that dark teal.  If you overdo it, those dark values can be pushed back with a layer of white later on.  You can be a little heavier-handed with the dark values if it's a neutral. Move quickly.  Don't overthink.  Don't be involved. 


Continue with your limited palette until you have color throughout.  You can scratch through the wet paint with the end of your brush for added visual texture.  If the color is too vibrant, use a paper towel and pull off or dilute the paint on the paper with water and blot. You can use a Stabilo All or other graphite water-soluble pencil to loosely draw into partially or completely dry paint. I like to do that to add some detail to the background.  In my first painting, they were largely abstract marks, but since I knew I was going with a subtle abstracted floral theme for the diptych, I went with drawing simple floral and leaf shapes in different directions. 

I continued adding and sometimes subtracting with paint over other paint or over the marks until I was satisfied.  Here is what mine looked like before moving to the next layer.  


The next layer has many options.  I chose to use stencils, rubbing plates, pastel, bubble wrap, more drawing, and more paint. Be sure your first layer is completely dry. I began by adding white stencil marks in different areas to support areas that I was already finding interesting.  Sometimes I used stencil parts that were more mark making than obvious objects.  Other times, I used parts that were quite obviously flowers or flower parts.  I used white because I knew I liked it for unity in the first abstract.  I didn't overuse, leaving lots of areas of negative space to give the viewer a chance to breathe and make sense of the piece. I also used the rubbing plates by brushing on a thin layer of paint and pressing onto the paper.  You can vary the thickness and actually apply in an impasto (thick layer).  I did this in the first piece and then allowed it to dry before brushing black on top to create highly textural areas. 


Bubble wrap works the same way and is a wonderful way to change the color-blocking vibe. I'm a sucker for some organic-looking circles.  Since I'd already scratched some of those through the paint or painted them old school in the first layer, I decided to repeat that design motif in this layer.  I also darkened my original Stabilo line drawings with water.


This is how they ended up.  I thought my phone took a picture of adding the white blanket over some of the sections on the piece on the left, but it didn't.  What you didn't see is that I used a Princeton Wedge 4, a straight wedge to apply thick or thin areas of paint for movement, and pastel (rubbed in with a finger) in areas I wanted to push back the intensity of the first and second layers. I also speckled by tapping a brush on top of a heavily watered brush full of paint in a few spots.  

So we've had the "larger than life" part of the blog entry and now we move to curating, also known as "life in pieces."  I knew all along I wanted to cut these two large pieces into smaller frameable art, I just tried to stay in the moment and not compose as much as possible.  I found that came more naturally with the neutral palette.  I cut four sizes of viewfinders 1/4" larger than inside mat size for these frames: 4" x 4", 6" x 6", 8" x 10", 11" x 14" and 12" x 12". I went through each piece first, playing with all the different shapes and sizes, and then found the areas that I knew I wanted to include and penciled in the perimeters for each.  Those decisions will differ with each artist.  I typically love areas that include high contrast, asymmetry, surprising placement of elements,  so I looked for those areas first. I've compiled those pieces and the target areas from the neutral abstract (still uncut) into a slideshow video so you can see how the composition changes with the change in size.  They all have different personalities yet all are unified by the process and materials.                                                                 


I hope you find this process as interesting and freeing as I have.  We are all unique in our point of view so the possibilities are endless.  I look forward to seeing some of your explorations.  If you choose to give this a try, tag me on Instagram or Facebook, and on Instagram, use the hashtag #stencilgirlcurrylifeinpieces.

As always, it's a pleasure being on the blog and sharing some of my journeys with you.



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