At very long last, here is my post about the "Chinese Checkers" class with Lynne Perrella.
"Creating offers us an opportunity." - Lynne Perrella
Lynne was here in NYC, teaching classes through The Ink Pad. The Ink Pad is Manhattan's only stamp store. They are an adorable little store in the West Village that is packed to the rafters with stamps! You have never seen so many stamps stuffed into such a small space. It's a delight for the senses!
I knew about Lynne from her reputation. When I first became interested in paper crafts, she was the first person whose name I remembered because her work kept catching my attention over and over again. This is an example of her work:
When I called the Ink Pad to sign up for the class, there was an enormous wait list. I was so sad.
But, then they called and said that there were so many people on the wait list, Lynne was going to do a second set of classes! Yay! I was so happy!
But, then they gave me the dates of the new class. Ack! I was going to be out of town. Sad again.
But, then they called a few days before the original class and said that someone had dropped out! Hooray!
All of which means, I totally got lucky and got to take the class!!! (btw: My husband thinks I use too many exclamation points. Whenever he reads my blog, he makes fun of me. But, I just tell him that my enthusiasm cannot be contained ;)!)
Since the store is so small, the Ink Pad holds classes over at the Westbeth Community Center.
(I snapped this photo outside the classroom - which is on the left.)
It was a wet and rainy day. Gray sky and a generally damp feeling in the air. But, the classroom is a lovely place with a wall of windows. I tried to combine three iphone photos for a sort of panoramic view. Take a peek:
- There's a small kitchen through that doorway. And the kitchen has a pass through to area #2.
- This area has windows on two sides. It's where we gathered for some of the collage activities and ate lunch.
- That's the main door to the classroom.
- That's the window where we hung our work to dry.
- That was my work station. We each got an entire six-foot table to ourselves. How lovely! Here's a close up of my work station:
The very first thing that we had to do was cover our red rosin paper with a layer of gesso. I rarely work on a piece of paper so large! It was about 24x24. Maybe a little more rectangular than that. But, I'm used to working small. Perhaps it's because of the little apartment? Perhaps it's because my desk is always so cluttered? Who knows. It was great fun to slap gesso all over that big surface!
Once we had generally covered the whole surface, it was time to create some texture. We used plastic forks and bubble wrap and credit cards and stamps and stencils...and anything else we could find to create that texture! Then, everything was set in the window to dry. (A daunting task on a rainy day.)
Side Note: I am a note taker. I always have a notebook in my purse. I take a lot of notes. Even if there are written instructions. I prefer to note things in my own personal lexicon. It helps me remember things more clearly and pay attention to the things that matter to me. For instance, I'm staring at a note from class right now and it says, "The finished product in your head never translates to creativity." I remember Lynne talking about letting go of your pre-conceived notions of what a piece should be, because it will just get in the way. But I digress.
Lynne had us gather in a circle for my very favorite part of the day. She calls it a "Dialogue Circle."
When I teach, I always force people to introduce themselves and say a little something about why they're in the class. I also believe in changing up the classroom environment by sitting in a circle. I knew that Lynne and I were kindred spirits as soon as she insisted on a circle of chairs for some introductions.
As a side note, not only was I very inspired by Lynne as an artist. But, as a teacher, she is exactly the kind of teacher I'm trying to be: generous, thoughtful, easy-going, helpful, creative...etc. The little chatty circle of chairs we made totally makes me feel like I'm headed in the right direction.
Anyway, it was so fantastic to hear everyone's stories and figure out where everyone was coming from - hobbyists, professionals, etc. It was a great mixture of people, including our lone man: Seth. I subscribe to his blog, The Altered Page, and it was cool to meet him and see his work up close and personal. In addition:
- Lynne mentioned two artists she loves: Sas Colby and Keith LoBlue.
- She talked about art as an accumulation process. I love that idea. It's such a simple statement but it really blew my mind and refocused some of my thinking.
- "If you're explaining, you're losing." This one is hard for me. I always want the viewer to spot on get what I'm thinking. I think that's why I use so much text in my work.
After our chat, we had our first design assignment. We were given an image to look at and told to cut a silhouette of or find a way to represent some part of it from a sheet of black construction paper. After we had cut our piece, we were instructed to make a collage, as a class.
- How startlingly literal I am. I saw a crown of leaves and cut the leaf frond in the upper right area of the collage. As you can see, most people were less literal and more creative than I was.
- How much absence really matters. The missing square in the center grid seems to tell a story by its absence. Or how about the scissors, which are recognizable as scissors because of that center hole. It makes all the difference.
- Collage has always seemed like a faraway idea. Something foreign and cool that I'm not capable of doing. This exercise reinforced the idea that its something I know how to do, already do, and isn't an esoteric art. It's simply about relating disparate objects to each other.
I could go on and on, but I won't. Because here's the best part. Lynne instructed us to get all the leftover bits of paper we had cut away - every single tiny scrap - and add it to the collage. We got busy with the masking tape and started hanging everything up!
There were a lot of lessons learned here (in fact Lynne calls the first exercise "learning" and the second one "unlearning"), but the biggest one? Well, I think it's kind of obvious, but I'll state it anyway: Nothing is garbage. The negatives and waste product of your intentions, are full of creative possibilities!
We went to lunch, giving our gesso covered red rosin paper some time to dry, and I snapped these totally fun photos (and completely unrelated to anything, but I wanted to share because there's something about urban decay that I love) on the way back from lunch:
Not bad for some iphone photos, eh? Anyway, when we got back to the classroom, our gesso textured red rosin paper was pretty much dry. So, we set about adding the color. I kept painting over my previous efforts:
That's the same collage, just layers added each time (truth be told, I kind of like the first one best). As we played, Lynne shared a variety of the techniques she uses to put together her collages. My favorite involves these:
Portfolio Water Soluble Oil Pastels are amazing creamy, lovely things. When I was going down the shopping list for the class, I stopped into my local art store to buy water soluble oil pastels and was told that there was no such thing. So I brought in my handy dandy water soluble wax pastels figuring they'd be the same thing. Not the same thing. These are cheaper, creamier, and they remove with water in such awesomely cool ways!
- You can use them dry.
- After applying them, rub with a paper towel to pick up the texture of the background.
- Use water to remove some of the color.
- You can use them wet - just dip them into your water.
Some day I will have to do a demo for you, but trust me when I say: they rock!
I snapped some photos of work from a few of the other students (please pardon the blurry photos):
At the end of the day, most people turned their collaged paintings into books. I ended up taking mine home and turning it into placemats! I painted the back of the collage and then used ThermoWeb Iron On Vinyl to sandwich the collage. Here are the results: