If you've landed on this page, you may notice that my last posting was in May. This is because, after 2 daughters' graduations, etc., I've been immersing myself in acrylic painting — a new medium for me — these last few months.
There's a substantial learning curve, and because I have a part-time day job, I need to focus the rest of my time and energy on actually painting. So I've decided to paint, communicate a little, paint some more.
If you're interested in my thoughts about my art, other people's cool art, images of new works, etc., please follow me on Facebook and sign up for my very occasional newsletter.
I hope to pick up this blog again in the future, and will share posts on Facebook when I do. Thanks for reading!
Meanwhile, here's the image of a painting I shared on Facebook... as yet still unnamed. but possibly called "Toward Green." I hope you enjoy it!
Toward Green ©2016 Julia R. Berkley. 18" sq. Acrylic on canvas panel.
So I bet you thought I'd be showing you the early workings of a collage or painting... but instead, it's the early stages of studio rearrangement! The two experiences are quite parallel -- both involve disrupting comfortable patterns, long patches of thinking or exploration, and a general messiness until everything comes together.
Recently I came to the conclusion that I need a dedicated space for painting. My studio is in the walkout basement of our house, and until now the space was perfect for me. But now, as I explore more with acrylic painting both alone and with collaging, it's frustrating to have to completely disassemble my painting table (plastic table cloths, water jars, paints, brushes) in order to spread out my work on a collage with fabric, and vice-versa. Fabric and acrylic paints really do play nicely together in a collage. But fabric alone does not want to be near paint! And fabric alone often requires spreading out in order to be cut.
There are some puzzles to be solved in this process. How do I make sure I get enough light? How can I block out the exercise equipment that's hiding behind the very temporary curtains? How can I cover the ugly grey carpeting so I won't get depressed while painting? How can I spend the least $ possible doing this? Which table(s) will work best in the painting area, and which can I sacrifice from the fabric area?
And am I really willing to give up looking at the pretty rug (above) while I'm working, in order to make my studio more utilitarian?
How it looks right now...
If you could see inside my mind during the early stages of creating a collage or painting, you might see something very similar to this. One area is sort of a temporary holding zone -- very rough ideas floating around trying to become something. Sometimes stuff from previous work floats around in there, and sometimes there is some blank space, usually when I'm standing in front of a work table.
Other moments my mind's completely jumbled with too many ideas, loose threads, what's important/what's not? What source of inspiration do I want to turn to? And of course, why didn't I do a better job of cleaning up fragments after the last piece?
(The pic below is not how I work -- it's everything being moved around to find new homes.)
Ultimately, like this studio will, it all comes together and something gets created! Here's a simple little collage from a long time ago, just for fun.
I've decided to use this blog space to share past artwork, as well as explain process, especially when I'm busily working on pieces but have forgotten to document what I'm doing! I hope you'll enjoy a featured collage now and then.
This is the Through the Gate Triptych. It's on display at Boston Children's Hospital and was recently spotted there by a friend who's little daughter was in surgery. (all came out well). It's a happy, fantastical collage! In it I was able to make use of some vintage lace inherited from my Aunt Ruth, as well as some shimmery gold fabric that was looking for a home.
Early last November I posted about a walk I took in the Acton Arboretum. I liked how the photos I took looked abstract out of context. You can see them all here, if you like.
In December and January I've been working on little 4.25" square mixed-media pieces based on some of those photos. I love the movement of the curvy grasses in the image above, so I used paint to create that effect. Here are the first three based on the photo above. (Their numbering starts at 2, because a postcard for the Fountain Street Fine Art anniversary show was #1!)
Arboretum #2 never got the grasses -- it was so full and complete without them that I decided against adding the overlay. This happens often -- I start out with one intent, and then have to go with the flow when something else I like happens!
Since I still intended on capturing the grasses, I made sure to keep the foliage simpler on Arboretum #3 and #4, so there would be visual space for the grasses. Lots of movement in these two!
Currently I'm working on 4 more mixed-media pieces inspired by this photo -- I'll share them when they're done!
I just completed a landscape panel I've been working on for a bit and thought I'd share the process of creating it with you.
Inspiration comes from everywhere, but the New England woods in autumn are particularly inspiring! I was excited at the idea of working in a variety of colors again, after having worked for months in the more subtle variation of denim shades. I missed my nature colors!
So it's position, photo, view on-screen, reposition, photo, screen, etc. If you're not me, you probably wouldn't see the difference between many of the versions. I made about 25 of them.
At last, I was happy! I took my final layout apart and laid all the pieces in clusters on another table. Then I started to assemble the collage, referring to the photo of the finished layout and used drafting tape for positioning. When you're gluing by hand (vs. using fusibles or stitching), you have to continually lift long pieces out of place to apply glue. You need a way back to your original plan! The drafting tape becomes my guide.
I added the layers of bushes at the base of the trees...
Autumn Grove ©2015 Julia R. Berkley
30" x 15". Overpainted and commercial fabric on canvas board.
I had the pleasure of walking with my friend Kate in the lovely Acton Arboretum yesterday. I took some photos for future inspiration, and I thought you'd enjoy seeing them. I like imagining them as abstract paintings.
This one's a bit different -- look how sculptural!
Often the background of a piece is lovely by itself. Though it's really just a few pieces of fabric stretched and glued onto the canvas board, the combination can be quite beautiful, thanks to the original fabric. In this case, I've also over-painted both the sky and multi-colored "water" fabric.
There are many more layers to be added to this new collage, but I thought you might like to see this image before I add them.
"Where do you get your ideas?" is a common question artists hear. Since ideas generally come from all over the place, this can be hard to answer! But occasionally it's fun to look at a few pieces where I actually remember the source of inspiration and can share that with you.
Once I was inspired by a humble piece of brown upholstery fabric.
As my spouse will surely tell you, I don't have a history of being attracted to brown, though that has changed quite a bit due to his consciousness-raising.
This was just a fuyzzyish chenille in a dark brown coffee color, but the color and texture brought my mind right to cattails and their ilk.
With the chenille in hand, I went looking through my fabric collection for colors that would work as background. I tried out several pieces, and finally found a wonderfully rich, water-colorish fabric that reminded me of an intense sunrise. After much experimentation and imagining, these two starting materials led to the two Wetlands Daybreak collages you see here. (Click on them to see more detail). A long journey from a scrap of brown to these fanciful pieces!
Every once in a while I experiment to free up my creativity. Sometimes I get too focused on producing a certain piece or series, or am loaded with expectations of myself based on art I've produced in the past. Then it's hard to get loose and come up with new approaches.
So I decided to collage the way many other artists do -- assembling as we go, so to speak. No preplanning. Just layers of fabric and acrylic medium serving as glue. I re-discovered how much I still prefer using my archival glue instead of medium. But at the same time, I had a lot of fun freely arranging shapes and patterns and textures until it was all done.
This is called "Counterpoint."
To see more of my art, please visit my website.
Do you remember a while back I was auditioning some of my handpainted and overprinted fabric for the next abstract piece? Here's an image of some of the fabric I was considering:
The first piece I made was from the gold and green piece on the left. But recently I took a good look at the blue fabric and decided the color needed to be richer and more interesting, so I added deeper blues and greens and some white until I was satisfied. Then it was ready to go. I added three reddish forms and turquoise and white scrim to create a dreamy half-ocean half-sky piece.
It's called We Three and it somehow reminds me of reading and singing Wynken, Blynken, and Nod to our kids when they were little. Fond memories!
If you're curious about the rest of my art, please visit my website.