Monday, February 21, 2011

Surf, Sun, Saddles and ...Art?

Halt - Sandy Spicer and McGill, photo courtesy of Line Thibault

Every now and then a business opportunity arises which is just too good to pass up. No matter how frantically busy I think I already am, I can see I would be a fool to squander such a chance to expand the audience for my art.

I am fortunate to have a collector of my work who is not only a cherished client of long standing, but who, over many years, has also become a good friend. It is through my friend Line Thibault that I have recently been given the opportunity to send some of my collages down to Florida- to the winter horse capital of North America, in fact. Yes, my art is going to Wellington, Palm Beach County!

My friend's horse trainer partner, Jacques Ferland, is the North American sales representative for French saddle maker Bruno Delgrange and they have a booth at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington. The booth needs decorating, so.....

What this means, of course, is that I have to stop what I was doing (Well Dressed Dogs, etc.) and concentrate on collages of horse-related subjects. The collages must be finished, varnished and framed, ready to go to Florida by the second week of March. Enough blogging! I have to get to work. Here is a recently finished horse collage called simply "White Horse"

White Horse - 7x5, painted paper collage on panel, ©2011 Alyson Champ

and some photos of Wellington for you to drool over. Yes folks, this is a barn(!).....

White Fences Barn - photo by Sandy Spicer, courtesy of Line Thibault

An indoor riding arena...

A White Fences Arena - photo by Sandy Spicer, courtesy of Line Thibault

The grounds.....

Horse Paradise, White Fences Equestrian Community - photo by Sandy Spicer, courtesy of Line Thibault.

Are you drooling yet?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Everything's Coming Up Daisy

Daisy and Arnold waiting for a treat. Photo by the artist

Daisy, a miniature Dachshund, and Arnold, a Dachshund cross, are the much loved fur children of Margot and Tommy MacKinnon. The MacKinnons kindly submitted to my weird request to photograph their dogs wearing their doggie sweaters with a view to including Daisy and Arnold in my Well Dressed Dogs collage series.

Daisy and Arnold are something of a study in opposites. Daisy, the smaller of the two, is nevertheless the louder and more assertive- definitely a wild, feisty female.
Daisy standing her ground. Photo by the artist.

Arnold, on the other hand, has more of a laid back vibe going for him. He is lovably goofy (but polite) and will do pretty much anything for food.
Arnold, what are you looking at? Photo by the artist.

We had a good photo shoot on a nice mid-winter day. Outside first, but the space of the yard was a little too distracting for the dogs, so we went inside. In my mind's eye I had imagined making a collage of the pair of dogs together on a chair. This was a little more difficult to arrange than I had anticipated: two dogs with two very different personalities and two different attention spans where the promise of a cookie is concerned. Arnold might have sat nicely for me all day. And Daisy? Well, forget about that idea.

Eventually I settled on the design for two separate collage portraits (both keeping the chair idea) which I hope revealed a little bit of each dogs personality. The preparatory drawing for Arnold is below:

Arnold Would Like a Cookie - 8.5"x11" pencil drawing
on paper ©2011 Alyson Champ

And for Daisy:

Pencil study for Daisy Wears Red (©2011 Alyson Champ

Happily, I was able to get the Daisy collage finished. And here she is:

Daisy Wears Red - 8"x7" painted paper and fabric collage on panel, © 2011 Alyson Champ

If you would like to see the step by step progression of this collage, please check out my Facebook fan page. Photos are posted there.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Trial and Error

There have been a couple of eureka moments in the past couple of weeks. One such moment came when I found a reference photo I thought I had lost forever (Filing system? I don't need no stinking filing system!) and the other moment came to me after watching the work in progress of fellow collage artist Elizabeth St. Hilaire Nelson.
When I shifted the focus of my art making away from oil painting to painted paper collage, I found myself working in a medium for which I had had no formal training - in fact, I'm not sure if formal training really even exists in the art of collage. Although this was a very liberating experience artistically, it also meant that I no longer had any tried and true method or efficient working system to fall back on. Basically I have been making it up as I go along. My first collages were made on paper, which I found wasn't really a heavy enough support and maddeningly prone to buckling.

My first serious attempt at collage: Rocky © 2007 Alyson Champ

After trying out rigid, acid free mat board and then canvas, which were better than the paper but still posed problems, I tried out medium density fiberboard, or MDF, as a support surface and this I liked: it's rigid and stable and smooth. Unfortunately, it needs to be completely sealed to make it archival and safe.

I chose to seal the panels with black gesso because my idea at the time was to have a little of the black background show between the pieces of paper to give the collages a stained glass appearance.
Yellow Iris (2009) in progress. Note the "puzzle pieces" of collage on the black background.

The problem with the black gesso was that it was so dark that I had to work blind; I couldn't transfer my drawings onto the black surface because no pencil, chalk or charcoal was really visible on the black. Nor, as it turned, was the stained glass effect quite as appealing as I had hoped. So, what to do?

For a while I continued working as I had simply for the lack of a better method. And then I happened upon Elizabeth's work (shown below) and EUREKA! She draws directly on the panel and then preserves the drawing, while also sealing the panel, with a clear, acrylic sealant. Duh! Now why the heck didn't I think of that?

Fine Feathers - in progress, ©2011 Elizabeth St. Hilaire Nelson, photo used with permission.

As you can see, Elizabeth works free hand on her panel. I still prefer to make my preparatory drawing on paper first, work all the kinks out, and then transfer the main elements of the drawing via tracing paper onto the panel. Having a drawing to refer to and a basic drawing of the planned collage on the panel itself certainly is making my life a lot easier! And if you think Elizabeth's drawing is terrific, I encourage you to check out the finished collage on her website, It is fabulous!

What's On the Easel?

Quite a lot, actually! Thanks to some generous friends, I now have many more reference photos for my Well Dressed Dog collage project - yeah, I know I keep changing the name of the series but I swear "Well Dressed Dog" is it!

I'm also continuing to work on my large collage "Mara Under Water". Check out the drawing and prepped panel below:

Pencil study for "Mara Under Water" © 2011 Alyson Champ

"Mara" transferred to the 20x24" panel

You can see what a help Elizabeth St. Hilaire Nelson's method has been.

This week, I almost managed to finish another collage, my second rooster to date. The very handsome subject of this collage is our own rooster, Pretty Boy Floyd.

Pretty Boy Floyd - 9x13" painted paper and fabric collage on panel, ©2011 Alyson Champ

He knows he is good looking. I'm not sure if my hens have an opinion.