The area surrounding Johnson and the VSC consists of forested hillsides which are lovely to walk in. One day at lunch, my new friend Rosa mentioned a beautiful “golden” tree she had seen on a walk. We thought she was talking about foliage, but she said no, it had bark that truly looked like gold. I didn’t believe this was possible, and I wanted to see it for myself. So four of us went out to see the golden tree, and I can now say that it really does exist. So cool! (It’s actually a Yellow Birch.)
On another excursion, my friend Sarah and I went up to the Johnson State College campus to have a look at their library. As luck would have it, there was a cart outside the door full of free books. Score! A good variety of technical things, with lots of interesting charts, maps, and other illustrations. I thought this was a gift from the gods for my Excavations pieces, and rightly so.
Another benefit of the Vermont Studio Centers is the visiting artists program. Any resident who wishes to do so can receive a half-hour visit from the visiting artist, which is rather open-ended, but can take the form of just a chat session, or a full-on critique, depending on how the artist wants it to go. I had visits by Katherine Bradford, Bruce Gagnier, and Chris Brown, with what I would describe as varying degrees of success. However, I did receive a suggestion to look up Mark Bradford, which was a great idea. I realized I’d seen him before from Art:21. He uses ad posters collected from the fences in his neighborhood to make work that is both visually fascinating and conceptually compelling – so inspiring. I watched another couple of videos of him on YouTube that afternoon.
Thus armed with new ideas and inspiration, I decided to take this canvas drop cloth I’d acquired from the rummage sale and put it on the floor. Yet another great feature of the studio – a large area of floor that I could make a mess on – something new and very liberating! I wasn’t totally sure what I was going to do with it, but having a surface to work on that didn’t cost a lot of money meant I could just experiment and see what would happen. Using tar gel & matte medium, I drew some script straight onto the canvas and let it dry to use as a resist, then brushed on thin washes of paint. I drew swirling shapes on pages torn from my trove of materials and glued them down. I used washes of Payne’s Gray & white acrylic over the pages, then when they were dry, I tore away the parts that weren’t stuck down.
This work went on for several days after that. It reached a stage, which virtually all of my work goes through, where I totally hated it and despaired of ever getting anything good out of it. At that point, the only thing to do is take some risks by adding more kinds of marks that are totally different from anything currently on the surface. Fast forward a little:
This is how it looked when I decided to call it finished:
One last thing: We all got a studio portrait from the VSC residency photographer, Howard Romero. I love mine!
There’s a group photo too, but it came on CD and I don’t have a CD reader in my MacBook Air. I’ll have to wait until I get home to post that.