Sunday, February 28, 2021

Mark Making Class with Jane Davies


Collage as marks experiment. I was trying to keep this awkward and to leave some breathing room.

The main part of the class was using different tools to make a variety of marks and then combining them. There is a class blog we posted to. Jane makes comments on each experiment, guiding us to step out of our comfort zones and encouraging us to be aware of the mark. 

Testing handmade brushes. It's a messy but fun process.

There was also a lesson on making your own brushes. I'm not sure how many I will actually use. However it did make me more aware of the qualities of brush strokes. There are many ways to hold a brush and make a mark with it. I will try to post some of my brushes and tests in a later blog post. Splattering was also fun - I normally use a toothbrush to make stars on a dark background. I hadn't used splattering as another element in a collage, as in the first image above.

Our last lesson was “Collage as Marks.” I thought this would be easy for me. It turned out to be the hardest because I have so many preconceived assumptions about collage. The instruction was to add as much variety as we could and to keep these awkward. I am continually thinking "what would make this better," and "what would be harmonious?" After tossing those thoughts I think "how can I make this awkward?" Still I think it helped me to tune in more to things like differences between shapes, sizes, tones, etc. Hopefully I will become more experimental.

One of my favorites from the collage-as-marks group. Of course it's not awkward. My comment at the bottom: "I can't stop looking at these as composition. This one seems balanced to me. I do like the tiny fling of paint in the middle - maybe too small for the space. But while it doesn't hold together I do like the final version."
Another collage-as-marks test. This one seems all over to me, but none of these are finished, and will most likely ever be finished. My comments on the collages: "This one seems a little better, although I am considering the red and white as a light and a medium combined. I can’t decide if it’s unbalanced. I guess the long piece of map should have been closer to the center. The tan squiggle should be darker than the piece of topo map. But this one seems awkward in the sense that it’s all over and not holding together. That tan squiggle was made with a piece of tire I found on the road. It’s braided and frayed on the ends."

I usually approach my collages intuitively. I never really grasped the lingo of art - especially things like balance and composition. For me, it works or it doesn't. If it doesn't work I start over. That has led to some laziness in my approach. When I was younger I tended to be experimental, now I sometimes think I'm in a rut. Looking at things in a new way will be good. And if I can look at something and think "It needs a small element" that will be a real boon.

One thing Jane mentioned was that I need to decide what "balanced" means to me. I don't know that I could put words on it. Is it a felt thing for most artists? Do you know when something is balanced? It seems lazy to say "I'll know it when I see it," but it does seem like that. Some things make me happy. Do any of you have an opinion?

After I posted the collages above and a few others, Jane suggested I make another 20. I did in fact make 18 more. Below is one of them. Taking scans along the way helps me to see what's working and what's not.

This is from my last group. That's good contrast in size isn't it? I have stacks of painted papers now that are collage-ready. Also some that have paint dribbles and splatters.

Second stage of the previous collage. The grey lines are house paint dribbles. The aqua blue is a large posca marker. 
Third stage - I thought the grey dribbles were too dense so I tried putting white paint on a brayer and rolling that on. The house paint dried so thick the white paint stayed on the top of the grey dribbles for the most part. I'm still not happy but right now I'm loving the little red circles with numbers. I may try more white on the remaining grey lines. It's an interesting effect, but ultimately might just be a trick. 

I am getting very antsy to get back to making finished collages, so I think I'll be putting these aside for awhile. I would highly recommend this class to anyone interested in extending their mark making language.

I imagine almost everyone is aware of Jane Davies - but here are some links. Her website. Jane's favorite materials (the one I look at frequently). Upcoming workshops. 

I hope you are all well and safe. We are well here, and looking forward to spring.


Wendy Jordan said...

Thank you for posting your works in order that you made them, sharing the comments written below them. One, I am familiar with the idea of "awkward" to describe people but never the idea of art works. What does that mean? Is that the opposite of "balanced" as you discuss? Two, I think the works that you say "the map strip should be closed to the center" and other comments on those pieces could be better (more balanced) if the paper (substrate) were bigger. The collage elements, taken together, would be more balanced. Three, I'd like to see the brushes. Glad to hear that you'll be posting pictures of them.

Lastly, I hope you don't use Jim's toothbrush for splatter!

Wendy Jordan said...

Five, I like the last piece (house paint with white added) very much.

Thanks for including Jane's link. What great work.

Judith Hoffman said...

Hello Wendy, I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. Yes, “awkward” here could be the opposite of balanced. However, as Jane says, “balanced” is overused. She suggested I decide for myself what balanced means to me. I assume awkward could also be different to different people. When you look at an unsatisfactory artwork, do you think “It needs a small dot over here?” Or do you think “that looks unbalanced?” Do you have an idea of what balanced means to you? I don’t know that I could articulate either balanced or awkward. I have noticed this last month that I sometimes think a collage is lacking until I splatter some paint on it in the end. But is it unbalanced or is it just unappealing to me? I do like those marks that look random or accidental. I need to practice those a lot more.

Are you saying the piece with the strip of map would be better if it was on a larger substrate? So it needs more breathing space? I would agree with that - that one looks too crowded to me. Of course I was aiming for unbalanced and awkward. And the goal was to keep it awkward as I added more marks.

I did not use Jim’s toothbrush! Although that makes me wonder if the vibrations of an electric toothbrush would make interesting splatters?

I’m glad you like the last piece. When I look at it now, small and online, I think I like the first version best. It’s simple and has such strong contrast, mostly in size. But these are all experiments, and making mistakes is part of the process. I do believe making mistakes or experimenting is beneficial.

eileen2000 said...

It is wierd to me to think about the relationship between balance and awkwardness. Like, I feel there has to be this intuitive spot where maybe the awkwardness/randomness and balance/harmony are balanced or feel integrated or something. I have seen works that feel like they are disproportionately awkward and those feel chaotic/too uncomfortable or overbalanced with no real emphasis or focal point and those feel dead. And sometimes subject matter that provides emotional context can determine whether or not something has resonance between materials, technique and subject matter. Good stuff to ponder.

Judith Hoffman said...

What good points! I think you're right that there needs to be a balance. For me if a piece is too random or awkward I don't respond well. And if it's too perfect I don't like that either. And yes, the subject matter plays a big part in how much awkwardness is "right." I find recently that I really like the more messy, maybe even awkward things because they seem to have so much life in them.

I do think at times you say something you have drawn "needs something," or as in the piece reacting against your inner critic, you wanted to defend yourself, so you added more. That doesn't seem like an "it needs balance" but I can see how the things you added really enhanced the drawing.

I am also pleased it's intuitive for you. Maybe putting a clear definition on how much balance or how much awkwardness something should have is a bad idea. After all - it seems to be those definitions and rules that end up making things seem flat and dead. Still it is good to think about.

coolsnags said...

Judy, did you take the class live or is it a series of posted videos? I think your experiments came out well. I love those Posca markers!
I’m putting Jane Davies on my list of future classes.

Judith Hoffman said...

The class was a series of posted videos, also PDFs for each lesson. The videos were short - Jane demo-ing the technique. They were very useful - for example when we experimented with our handmade brushes the motions she made with her hands and arms were much more varied than mine. We could post our experiments and thoughts to the class blog. Jane looked at everything and made comments. I found the blog very useful. Janes’ comments helped clarify or re-I nforce the instructions and in my case, let me know when I wasn’t getting it. Here is the comment she left on my second try for the collage-as-marks lesson. That would include the examples in this blog post.

“ Jude, these are terrific. What do YOU mean by “balanced”? Seriously, it is a word that is over used to the point of meaninglessness in art, so I ask so that you can reflect on your meaning. The pieces are asymmetrical. They are also beautifully (to me) spare. If you tried to ‘balance’ them, what would you lose? What might you gain? Your attention to negative space is awesome – you created interesting space around all of the marks. I would suggest you do about twenty more of these before considering adding anything to these ones. It is a good mental practice to let them feel a bit unfinished for a time (while you make more), and then see them with fresh eyes.”

There is a lot to think about in that comment. She also has tons of videos on YouTube - you can get a good sense of her teaching. I find her very clear and the videos are good. She’s definitely on my list for future classes.