I was lying in bed one morning, listening to the chickens next door as the sun began shining through my window. I had recently taken up snorkeling again and my mind remained captivated by the beauty that lay just below the water’s surface. I had been trying to think of a more abstract mixed media work that would capture the beauty of this, with the clear blue ocean, glorious flora, intriguing ruined buildings and warm sunshine. As I slowly woke with my dogs snuggling against me in their it’s-morning-time-to-be-goofey-way—as dogs like to do. The idea struck me—an image that I felt captured the beauty I loved here on Terceira.
When I had a free moment at work, I drew this quick sketch to remember my concept until I had time to begin work on the piece.
Image 1: I cut out the basic window form and glued the papers down with matte medium. The grey is a white crackle paste; I mixed it with black ink to create a look similar to concrete. As the paste dries it cracks, this was a style I felt worked very well to portray the aesthetics of abandoned and aging structures. In the upper left, I mixed a pale blue/pale pink iridescent powder with matte gel and applied the gel to the canvas with a palette knife. The palette knife application was preferable to brush application, because the texture is more random and thick. The matte gel also maintains a slight translucency because it is only mixed with powder and not opaque paint. Those elements combined to create the appearance of abstract water.
Image 2: While the previous stage remained wet, I adhered the white shells to the canvas with matte gel. While the blue matte gel was still wet and malleable I pressed the paper fish shapes into the gel. On the right, starting with the lower corner I attached black and cream colored skeleton leaves. I mixed Windsor Newton ink (Emerald green) with matte medium to create a sense of depth in the vegetation. I like that particular brand because it has a strong vivid color, but is also translucent—therefore designs and patterns will remain visible under additional the layer of color. I then lifted the canvas by the right side and tilted the canvas horizontally down to the left, this I like allowed the access ink to drip freely among the textures and papers in the piece. It is freeing to allow color to simply move and absorb into paper and drip where it will.
Image 3: After the piece had dried thus far, I attached the remainder of my fish silhouettes and the papers in the window with matte medium. I developed the shading on the window frame with a brown Windsor Newton ink. In the lower portion of the piece, I created a gradation of violet and orange iridescent powder, brown ink with matte gel and matte medium (this makes the texture less thick and more malleable). This was applied with a brush near the shells, to help create a strong seal between the shells and the canvas. As I blended the colored paste into the dried grey crackle paste, I used a palette knife to create a thick wave sort of texture.
Image 4: Before that mixture dried, I used a very wet brush to move a hint of that color onto the white shells. Once that violet/brown section dried a glued pressed hydrangea flowers onto the surface (Lesson learned—hydrangea flowers lose their color when adhered with matte medium, although, I did end up liking the aesthetic of the tan flowers just as much.) I painted a red velvet heart green, to keep with the color scheme of the piece, and attached the rope-style yarn. The skeleton keys I found at flea market in London and in an abandoned house here on the island.
Final Image: After the whole piece had dried entirely, I drew in details, patterns, and emphasized visual elements in the piece. I make myself wait at least 24 hours—which can be difficult. When I know I am this close to finishing a piece, I just want to finish it. I felt this final addition hand drawn lines in black ink added an element of cohesion, creating unity in the piece as a whole.