The Path to a Piece

The path from initial, exploratory work to a final, titled piece is a long and meandering route. But for this piece (an infinite cloak of air), I think I left enough breadcrumbs. Shall we follow the trail?

It starts with daily practice: I make art every work day. On days when I just need to use my hands and eyes, there are trial compositions in a sketchbook or the like. This diptych was one of 30 pairs in my square sketchbook, which turned out to be its own project of collages speaking to each other across the gutter.

Other days, I need to compose even less: I create colors and textures to capture with my scanner, using a paintbrush, my mini printing press, or just printmaking tools like rollers and maybe a bit of texture. Within Photoshop, I might combine several layers to make a rich color combination, like this magenta, itself made up of 3 scanned layers. If I’m without a scanner, I try to make do with my camera, as with this watercolor paint experiment.

The work towards this piece started in earnest when I decided to combine all those pairs of sketches into unified compositions. I grabbed each scan from pair #9 and placed them over top one another in Photoshop. Then, I pulled from my array of colors and other sketches, other series to try some combinations. These two sketches from last year each seemed to have an affinity, and looked worth a try.

Here’s an intermediate result. The layers are:

  • Magenta prints (3 layers) as the base.
  • The November collage on top, at 60% normal
  • The early 2020 sketch at 71% pin light.
  • Sketch pairs #09, right side, at the top, lighter color only, at 60% opacity
  • Its buddy, sketch pairs #09, left side, as the bottom left, luminosity 76%. This piece has a layer mask, which I added just a bit of digital pen-scratching to remove the pink in spots, and add more line.
  • The blue watercolor as a subtraction layer (which changed its color to brown) at 70%

In on-going discussions on composition, Melinda Tidwell suggested tracking more of the stages of evolving work. Here’s a progression from that first saved version to the final one:

When I’m getting close to what might be done, I add a layer to check and adjust the levels, making sure the histogram is centered as I mean it to be. In this case, the colors got richer.

And there’s always a hidden layer, that I don’t count: a conversion to black & white, to check my values. This stripping of saturated color showed me that there were good areas of lights, darks, and middle ground, each with interest and texture.

Now: picture that progression on this piece, happening simultaneously with several dozen other experiments, many discarded along the way. That is how I get to a full series: a long path, one day at a time!

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Sarah Short says:

    A mini printing press? That sounds intriguing….

  2. Terri MacDonald says:

    WOW the best information in just 2 minutes. Understanding your process by seeing this has put a whole new way to understand what a layer really is. Thank you Liz

Chime in!