What Comes First?

How do you start work on your blank page? And what does that say about it? Is it something that needs fixing, improving, covering up? Or, if you like that first round, are you stuck not wanting to change it?

I used to start with photography, and still do, with my ongoing Details series. In 2016, I moved to collage, starting with my Grids series. Now, the photos and collages are just elements in a larger piece, and the first layer tends to be a simple wash of color. You can see that in these recent works in progress, where I’ve added some collage to a background of paint.

I do like to build up a surface, all the better to cover it up. I was intrigued by a recent post from Robin Olsen, who starts by ripping collage. How can you start by ripping?? Luckily, she explained it, here:

Her goal of a textured surface is a goal I can relate to: I like to paint or ink over my starts, and the more texture there is, the more interesting it looks to me.

But I am torn (ha ha, collage joke, sorry, leaving it!) between starting with a strong element versus a throw-away element. Another artist I follow, Elaichi Kimaro, recently scribbled her critique of her first layer on top, knowing it would be covered up. Working in encaustic or paint, she can choose to completely change each layer, or scrape it back if she likes. Her philosophy of appreciating each layer, and accepting it as part of the whole, is a good model.

Recently, I grabbed some painted starting pieces, and added some scribbles to them with abandon. Oh, wow, so fun! I giggled out loud, as if I was a kid again. That’s a good sign, I’d say. Whether each layer contains critique or joy, each addition is a part of the piece.

Starting or finishing, art is hard work in between those moments of joy. What about you: how do you get started? What gets you to put pen to paper, or hands to keyboard, or whatever your equivalent process is?

Chime in!