VIDEO 5 – 2018 – Vera’s Dispatches from the Art Studio – In the Art Studio – Talking about the first part of the mixed media paper weavings – creating the paper strips
Below is a blog that is based on my vlog about my brand new mixed media ink on watercolour paper artwork, from my art studio in Wimbledon Art Studios. In the video, I share some of the background of my inspiration for a new series of artworks inspired by textiles entitled “Woven Contemplations”, some details on the paper I use, and some details on the techniques that I use to create these artworks. Please note, I’ve edited this blog from the original video version for clarity and brevity :-) To see the full video go here fore Facebook and here for YouTube.
Hi everyone! Welcome, I’m Vera! I am a London-based, nature-inspired abstract artist. It’s so nice to have you here with me today as part of my weekly video series “Dispatches from the Art studio” where I share with you my life as an artist in London, what I’m working on in the art studio, and some behind the scenes peeks of some of my inspiration and my influences.
We’re at the end of January now, and it’s a bumper week for me because my birthday is coming up very shortly. Because of that, this week, I’m a special birthday treat both to myself and hopefully for you as well, if you’re enjoying this video series, and I’m sharing two videos, including this bonus video. This week, I had a chance to see some art exhibitions around town that I’ve been meaning to see for quite a while that are closing very soon. Yesterday, I went to see the Basquiat exhibition at the Barbican Centre and I posted a video on Facebook and YouTube with my thoughts on that fantastic exhibition. It was amazing! If you have a chance to visit it, this is the final week and you definitely should!
Today, I’m back in the art studio continuing work on my weaving series of mixed media ink on watercolour paper artworks. You might remember that at the end of last year, I created three brand new mixed media artworks that were part of my Woven Contemplation series. This series is inspired by my love of textiles – their history, comfort, their look… and physically the weaving aspect of textiles. In late 2017, I created the first three artworks of that series and they all quickly sold to very happy collectors, so this year, I’m creating a few more. They art part of a direction that I’m going towards – revisiting some of my ink on watercolour paper work.
As you know, I work in a couple of different key media – one is ink on watercolour paper and the other is acrylic and other mixed media on canvas. And you can see maybe a couple of my acrylic on canvas artworks hanging in the studio walls right now.
Today, I wanted to share with you the first part of the process of creating the mixed media ink on watercolour paper weaving artworks. In front of me, you might be able to see that I have the final “raw material”, if we can call it that- they are strips of watercolour paper that I have torn to create these deckled edges and I have painted over, and then textured. Once the painted and textured paper strips have dried, I’ve then applied additional paint in the form of pencil and paint pen to add some more texture and achieve some additional detailed effects. So this [torn, painted, textured, dried, and overpainted watercolour paper strips] is really the raw material that this big roll of plain white paper is going to turn into. And then once I have all the raw materials (i.e. final watercolour paper strips) in the colours that I want to work with, then that’s when the weaving process actually starts. As you can imagine, creating these painted and textured watercolour paper strips is quite a labour intensive process. There are a lot of steps to do and they all take their time. But here and now is where I first start out with the watercolour paper and then I literally (this might seem like craft hour when you’re back in school) fold it and tear it into strips.
When you create a new piece of artwork that you haven’t made before, it takes quite a while to experiment and to figure out all the details of how you actually want the artwork to look. To somebody else, it might seem that some of these experiments are about minor details, but in reality they’re not. As the artist, you have a very clear vision of what you want to do… as the artist, you have a very clear idea of when something looks good and when something could look better. And part of the experimentation process when you first start a new series of artworks is to figure out what you want.
So in this case, there were quite a few different experiments that I tried before I committed to doing the three weaving artworks last year. It might sound elementary, but one of those experiments was how to make the paper strips themselves. Initially, I thought that it would be less time consuming to paint one big sheet of paper and then cut that into strips. When you are painting one big sheet of paper, you have all the materials ready, it’s a much bigger surface area to work on, and you can be much more free, so it is easier. But then when I did that, I didn’t think the final effect is as good as it could have been. If you do the other approach (where you first create the strips and then you paint them individually), everything that happens in those paper strips is self-contained - all the texture and additional detail is self-contained within these strips. So the watercolour paper strips become like mini artworks. On the other hand, if you do the other approach where you start with a big piece of paper, you paint that and then you cut that up, a lot of the detailed and texture lines and curves on the strips would be cut off. And I didn’t think that looked as effective as first tearing the strips and them painting them. After all the experimentation, I decided that the way to go is this approach – where I cut the paper first before I paint.
The other aspect that I experimented with (again it might seem like a detail but it’s actually not) is how do you actually cut the paper to create strips? Initially tried to cut the big roll of paper with a cardboard cutter, or a craft knife or scissors. But then I realized quite quickly that this creates a very clear and sharp line. Normally, this is good. Normally, it’s what you want. But in this case, I thought that these sharp lines and edges don’t complement the organic and raw nature of textiles in general and the textile-inspired artwork that I was trying to create. I thought that the edges being so clean cut was too mechanical. Because of those sharp edges, the watercolour paper strips didn’t have that handmade textured feel.
So after all that experimentation, I decided that the best way to cut the paper (even though it’s more time intensive), is to do it this way where it’s a bit like when you were back in school when you’re dividing craft paper. It’s when you literally fold the paper in half, apply some pressure in some way and then you carefully tear it. And with that approach, you end up with this deckled edge which I think looks much more organic, raw and interesting.
So there we have it! That’s really the first stage of the process of creating my mixed media woven series of artworks. This first stage of tearing the big sheet of paper into smaller strips can take quite a while. Sometimes, people have this idea with art that everything you do is super creative and super fun and as the artist, you’re in love with every part of the process… I don’t think that’s true! I think the reality is that it’s like anything else – there are elements that are particularly creative and which are less creative. And there are elements, which are actually quite repetitive… like this first stage. Turning all these large rolls of paper into little strips takes a long time and it’s not super fun to constantly be tearing, folding, and pressing, and tearing again. But it’s a necessary part of the process. It’s the first part of the process of creating the artwork. And I think that you find your own rhythm with it. Often times, I listen to music, particularly when I’m doing something repetitive like this and you go off into your own little world.
The other element that I wanted to talk about is the paper that I use. There are so many different watercolour papers out there! First of all, watercolour paper has to be artist quality, acid free, archival watercolour paper. Those are the key words that look for when we talk about paper that you use for a work of art. Those key words mean that the paper won’t yellow over time and won’t degrade over time. They mean that the paper is a much better product for artwork that you expect to last hundreds of years. There is no comparison with standard craft paper.
But even within the world of artist quality, acid free, archival watercolour paper, there is huge variety. There are lots of different brand names and they all have their advantages. In my case, I tend to use a lot of watercolour paper made by Fabriano. Fabriano is a paper manufacturer based in Italy that has been around for hundreds of years. They create these amazing papers that come in three different textures. You have the really pressed (which is actually quite smooth), the intermediate and the rough. In my case, I use both the smooth and the rough. You can maybe see the different texture of the paper on the two paper strips that I’m holding up [in the video]. I’m not if you can see the difference in the texture of the paper on camera, but in real life there is a big difference. And this texture difference exists even though both papers are classified as the same weight (GSM – grams per square meter). Because they have been manufactured to have different textures, this means that how they interact with the inks is also quite different. And that’s part of the fun for me to mix and match and to combine them in the same artwork.
I use a lot of the Fabriano paper, because I love it. Not 100% exclusively, because sometimes I think there’s interest in variety but mainly I do. All of the paper rolls that you see behind me are Fabriano. All the watercolour paper strips that you see in front of me are Fabriano. It’s a paper that is really high quality and I particularly love.
So that’s it from me for this week as part of my weekly video series Dispatches from the Art Studio. I wanted to share with you what I’m working on with my textile inspired artworks. And this is really the initial stage, where I take the raw paper, tear it up into strips, then paint them, texture them and paint them again. I’ll share the second and third stages of this process in one of my later videos.
Thank you very much for joining me this week! This week, with the bonus video, I shared two different kinds of videos - the first one being my thoughts on an art exhibition and this one being a behind the scenes peek of what I’m working on in the art studio. Hopefully, they’re both interesting for you. Maybe you’re working on something or making progress on your own projects, whether they’re creative or related to work or life.
And as this is the end of January, I just wanted to say that I know that for many people, January is a difficult month. But don’t forget that February is just around the corner so onwards and upwards. Thank you again for joining me for this video series! I really appreciate all the feedback and all the love that you’ve given me! It’s amazing to know that there are people who are interested in what I do and who love to see a bit more about what I do and how I do it and why.
So thanks again! Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, I hope you have a lovely week, and I’ll see you next time. In the meantime, if you want to connect with me in real life at the Wimbledon Art Studios, or on social media, my handle is always Vera Vera On The Wall. I hope to see you again next week and thank you so much for joining me! Bye!