Receive Blog Updates

Fill out my online form.

Categories

Usage

I retain copyright to my work at all times. However, you may use my words and photos on your blog without asking for permission, as long as the following conditions apply: 1) it’s not a commercial use, 2) the work is attributed to me, 3) copyright notice is included (© Janice McDonald), and 4) you link to this site. If you wish to use my words or images for anything that might be commercial in nature, please ask.

Reworking the studio space — the saga continues

It seems to be taking an inordinate amount of time to move everything back into my newly rehabbed studio spaces. I’m sifting, sorting — and evaluating whether I will ever use some of the potential collage papers and art materials that I’ve stored for a long time. I’ve gotten rid of stacks of magazines, a behemoth of a flat file, and a worktable in an effort to keep more open space. I’ve only been in the space a couple of weeks and I’ve already rearranged the furniture a bit! I’m pretty sure I’ll want to do more tweaking when I understand better how the spaces accommodate my process and workflows. And there is still a lot to resolve. And it feels like it should be DONE by now.

So it was a gift to stumble across a timely blog post, “Tidying Up,” by Austin Kleon today…

“The best studio tidying is a kind of exploring — I’m re-discovering spaces as I sift through the objects that occupy them. The reason I tidy is not to clean, but to come into contact with something special that I’ve forgotten that I can now use. This is a slow, dreamy, ruminative, reminiscent form of tidying.”

Really, I’m clearing space for future work / possibilities… plus making new discoveries and connections.

“…creativity is about connections, and connections are not made by siloing everything off into its own space. New ideas are formed by interesting juxtapositions, and interesting juxtapositions happen when things are out of place.”

Meanwhile, glimpses from the process…

 

 

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

Share

Studio re-do

The old family room… now officially integrated into the overall studio space.

Like a glacier, I’ve slowly been creeping into adjacent spaces at home to expand the studio… it now includes all the original studio space (that I used to share with my husband), plus the family room, and extends to the back porch on especially nice days! The two adjoining rooms had never had the same paint or carpet colors so this fall I had the entire space re-carpeted with industrial gray and painted an art-friendly white. What a huge difference. While this project was going on, all the studio furniture and art-making gear was moved and somehow compressed, stacked floor to ceiling, into our dining room.

All this upheaval gave me the opportunity to get rid of things that weren’t serving me well, re-integrate items that had returned from my previous out-of-house studio, and re-think how I store the somewhat shocking amounts of paper that I like to have on hand.

I’ve slowly been moving things back into the studio space and am now almost finished, with my deadline being asap, so that we can dine without debris for Thanksgiving!

The original studio, now intended as a design/business-focused office, being reassembled.

Switching up the way I’d previously used the rooms, plus a new furniture arrangement seems more efficient and allows the luxury of being able to get farther away from my work for the long-view perspective. I’ll post some final photos/video soon. Unseen in these photos, right now the detached brick garage outside the windows is also under construction (a whole other story).

I am so excited to begin working in this “new” space. Even so, I’m sure that I’ll also spend some time at the Art Gym each week just to get out and be around other artists.

Speaking of creative spaces… this morning I was re-reading a lovely essay by the poet Mary Oliver about the time, space and focus usually required to keep the thread of an idea moving forward.

“No one yet has made a list of places where the extraordinary may happen and where it may not. Still, there are indications. Among crowds, in drawing rooms, among easements and comforts and pleasures, it is seldom seen. It likes the out-of-doors. It likes the concentrating mind. It likes solitude. It is more likely to stick to the risk-taker than the ticket-taker. It isn’t that it would disparage comforts, or the set routines of the world, but that its concern is directed to another place. Its concern is the edge, and the making of a form out of the formlessness that is beyond the edge.”

The whole essay, titled “The Artist’s Task,” is here… a good read and applicable to most any creative pursuit.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Share

Standing in the shadow of the moon

I was vacationing with my family in Oregon during the total solar eclipse this summer (08.21.17). We took advantage of an eclipse-related festival and attended educational / cultural events at my alma mater, Oregon State University, for a couple of days.

It was wonderfully nostalgic — here’s a photo of me in front of Fairbanks Hall, the art building, which seems almost entirely unchanged since I graduated. The atmosphere, with smells of paint and views out the old glass windows, is just as I remembered. The gallery inside was hosting a really well-conceived show, titled “Totality.”

On the morning of the eclipse, we positioned ourselves in an open plaza area where we could see shadows cast by the trees and watch the sunlight project the eclipse through those openings and onto the ground, as if through a pinhole camera.

I was totally enchanted by the cast shadows that were the reverse of what we were looking at in the sky (with our special glasses on, of course).

Adjacent to the plaza was a sports court with a smooth blue surface. The images were even more distinct there, some of them looking like marbled paper. Even our shadows began to have some of those eclipse shapes in the negative spaces.

I was alternatively looking at the sun with my glasses and then taking them off to see what was happening on the ground. All the while the air was cooling as the sunlight diminished. (The white stripe bisecting the image with blue/green background is boundary line on the sports court.)

Below is a photo taken right before totality, when all the shadows of the trees went away as darkness fell mid-morning.
Just before the eclipse became total, shadows on the ground appeared that wiggled like snakes, kind of like the heat wave you see over the road when driving on a hot day. It was the glowing activity of the corona very briefly projecting itself onto us and the ground… an odd, almost dizzying sensation.

Suddenly it seemed like the moon snapped fully over the sun. I felt that I heard a sonic boom. Then it was dark above, with a glow 360 degrees around the edges of the horizon as if the sun had set not long ago… simply gorgeous. We were able to look up without the glasses during that time and try to absorb what we were seeing.

The image of the moon in front of the sun was so powerful. We were awe-struck. I feel like the image is imprinted on my brain — I can be recall it in a very clear way. The eclipse tinted us and everything around us a metallic gray color. The shimmery glow around the moon was beautiful. Totality lasted less than two minutes and then the moon began to move off the sun. We put our glasses back on and watched the remainder of the eclipse until the sun shone fully again. I have a whole new recognition of the three dimensionality of the moon and sun in space now.

I’m wondering how experiencing the eclipse might affect my work in the future. I’ve always loved circles and have taught myself how to rip pretty good ones, if a little ragged, to use in my collages.

I was struck when I got home from the trip and looked anew at this collage, “Replay,” made in 2012, which hangs over my desk. The correlations are rather interesting… it has a painted background with salvaged and painted papers applied on top. And yes, I ripped all those yellow-gold circle shapes and the half circle negative strips.

“Replay,” 2012, 36 x 24 x 2″, salvaged and painted paper on wood panel. ©Janice McDonald.

While the rest of the family has declared themselves to be total umbraphiles, I’m still processing this stunning experience… not sure if seeing another would diminish or enhance the power of the first experience. If you’ve never seen a total solar eclipse though, I believe it’s worth making the effort to get a location where you can experience totality… as my favorite commemorative t-shirt read, “Totality Worth It!”

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Share

Portable collage works

While I settle back into my home studio, I’ve been pretty content working on abstract collage compositions in a large Moleskine journal/sketchbook (8.25 x 11.75″). Despite my rather huge paper collection, I aspire to have a more minimalist lifestyle (eventually!) and working like this feels particularly right for the summer season.

These analog collages are made with elements ripped from discarded magazines. They do not include any added drawing or painting, just glue. Some imagery is just destined to be salvaged, connected, and transformed.

I’ve been posting these small collage works on Instagram. To see more, follow me there at janicemcdonaldart. In the meantime, here are snapshots of a few of the collages… including one in progress on a work table at the Art Gym.

Sketchbook collage {06.01.17}

Sketchbook collage in progress {06.02.17}

Sketchbook collage {07.06.17}

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Share

Unrolling

This spring, at Denver’s Clyfford Still Museum, I got to see the unrolling of a number of Still’s works that had been in storage for years. Many bundles of paintings have been unopened since arriving at the museum. Packages are opened when the conservators are ready to begin working on them. A docent mentioned the opportunity and I’d signed up months in advance to be there, along with about 25 other curious people — plus a team of conservators, photographers and museum officials.

Signed: Clyfford 1953

When Still finished a painting, he would remove the canvas from the stretcher bars so that the bars could be re-used to begin work on another canvas. Galvanized chimney pipes (the only easily-sourced tube that was long enough) were used to roll multiple canvases together. The rolls were stored in a barn. The rolls were numbered and some have notes and thumbnail sketches of what might be inside. However, even the conservators were not absolutely sure what was inside all the rolls.

Here are some photos, taken in the conservation room at the museum… The paintings looked pretty amazing flat on the table so it will be especially exciting to see these re-stretched and hanging in the museum sometime in the future. I’ve also included a photo of some of the inventory sketches, done by Still’s wife, that the museum uses as reference. Charming as they are, it made me especially grateful for all the amazing tools we have these days to document, inventory and archive artwork!

Beginning the process

Galvanized stovepipes were used to roll the canvases

Unrolling, layer after layer of paintings

Dean Sobel, museum director, gives his initial reactions to the paintings

Huge canvases, layered and now awaiting conservation

One of my favorites… the energy in those brushstrokes!

Glimpses

The inventory notebook initially created by Still’s wife

SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Share

Lull

You may’ve noticed that I’ve been quieter lately… not so present on social media or here on the blog. I’m recovering from a total knee replacement and that’s been my priority project since the beginning of the year. Sessions of elevating, icing, rest, physical therapy, walking and stationary bike riding have punctuated my days and been my focus.

Ice with a view, after physical therapy.

Ice with a view, after physical therapy.

I’ve used our Botanic Gardens membership nearly daily for parts of the spring… lots of surface types to walk on, uncrowded, and so much inspiration in nature. What a luxury to be close enough to do my walks there!

Exploring the gardens, spring 2017.

Exploring the gardens, spring 2017.

Thankfully my recovery has coincided with a period of time when show commitments were negligible. And while I haven’t completed much work lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about collage, concepts for future works, and the place of art in my life. Not to mention reading, looking at art, and watching way too much political coverage.

Since moving out of the studio at 910 Arts on Santa Fe last fall, followed by dealing with my Dad’s death, I’ve not finished moving back into my home studio fully… and simply haven’t had the mobility to muscle boxes of paper around until now. So organizing the space is high on my list of summer priorities. In the meantime, I’m enjoying working a bit each week at Denver’s super cool Art Gym.

Work table at the Art Gym and one of my sketchbook collages ~ 12 x 9."

Work table at the Art Gym and one of my sketchbook collages ~ 12 x 9.”

Just beyond the studio, the about-to-fall-down, 107-year-old, garage in the back yard has been demolished and we await the building permit variance required to rebuild. I’ve resigned myself to having the family bike collection in the dining room with miscellaneous tools and garage stuff on the back porch. Meanwhile, my stationary bike is positioned in the middle of the art studio, soaking up the crazy, unkempt, creative atmosphere — as I ride to nowhere! But it’ll turn out to be somewhere, no doubt. I’m ready to get back to work.

Share

Collect, Compose & Create — a collage workshop

There have been a lot of requests to learn more about my collage processes, so yes, I’m finally offering a one-day workshop! It’ll be happening on Sunday, October 16, 2016 from 9am to 4pm at my studio in Denver, Colorado. 

Demonstrating techniques at the Art Gym last spring... no microphones will be needed at the workshop!

Demonstrating techniques at the Art Gym last spring… no microphones will be needed at the workshop!

I’ll be discussing collage in general, collecting materials, and composition — as well as reviewing supports and adhesive techniques, including my signature wet working process. There will be plenty of materials to work with and finished examples to enhance our conversations along with ample time to experiment, work on collages, and discuss.

Attendance is limited to six people so there will be plenty of space to work and so that I can spend adequate time with each person attending. Workshop cost is $120. plus a $10. materials fee.  Information about what to bring will be provided to all registrants by September 20. Most materials will be provided however you may want to bring special items that are of interest to you.

I’m really excited about spending a day immersed in collage activities with some of you! For more information or to register, please contact me via the connect page on my website.

***9.21.16 Class is now full. However, please contact me if you’d like to add your name to a list to receive advance notice of future classes.***

Share

Un-Masked… unveiling a collage for The Mask Project

Last fall I was invited to create artwork to contribute to The Mask Project, an auction to benefit Denver Hospice. Once I agreed, I received my “canvas,” — a cold-looking, almost life-sized, white plaster mask.

Mask upon arrival at my studio.

Mask upon arrival at my studio.

The raw mask sat in the studio looking blankly at me for quite awhile before I had time to begin working on it. I’d wondered how well papers would adhere on the curved surfaces but my wet working process allowed them to flow with and adapt to the shape, attaching well. Granted, I was working with fairly thin papers and small pieces and I’m sure that helped. It was fun to work on a different kind of support and to respond to the facial features in my own whimsical way.

mask work in progress

Just beginning work on the mask… to almost finished.

The mask, “Foundling,” will be on display as part of an exhibit in the Kaiser Permanente Grand Court of Cherry Creek Shopping Center in Denver, Colorado from September 12 through October 25, 2016. A number of masks from celebrities and artists are available for viewing and auction. Online bidding on the masks begins September 12 — view (or perhaps bid on!) mine here. Bidding ends October 9.

My mask comes with an added premium item: a $150 Gift Certificate for Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox, an amazing restaurant / bar / performance venue. Thanks, Ophelia’s!

Final mask for Denver Hospice’s The Mask Project, “Foundling,” by Janice McDonald.

Final mask for Denver Hospice’s The Mask Project, “Foundling,” 8.75 x 6.75 x 1.5″, collage by Janice McDonald.

Share

Unboxed… a stealth project (until now)

And now for something completely different…

Over the last couple of years, I’ve been fortunate to work on many commissioned collages, most with references to landscape, assembled on sturdy wooden supports. My last solo show, Paper Trails, reflected and continued that series. As I was working on those collages, I started to wonder what it would be like to work on more casual pieces with random edges, pushing collage beyond the boundaries of straight edged boards/supports.

So I’ve been quietly working on a new idea for about a year and a half now, first thinking and sketching, then exploring some trial pieces and musing about the possibilities, collecting materials and beginning to work on the new series in earnest. I was really unsure that it could be the basis for a show, but wanted to push in that direction.

It all started with boxes…

An avid recycler, I find myself carefully deconstructing and flattening the many boxes that flow through our household. I’m struck by the beauty and craft in these common materials. The packages have surprising perimeters, that are revealed once taken apart, and unexpected details in their construction. Each box comes with its own history of purpose, content, transport and consumption — ending as a void, an emptied container, just debris.

"Unboxed 003," 17 x 9" collage on granola bar box. © 2015, Janice McDonald.

“Unboxed 003,” 17 x 9″ collage on granola bar box. © 2015, Janice McDonald.

It seemed natural to try using the unfolded boxes as platforms for collage compositions. I like the idea that the salvaged papers are resting on, and relating to, a salvaged support.

I’ve enjoyed responding to the boxes’ varied shapes and scored fold lines with found / recycled papers. The hard edges of the diecut boxes contrast with the ripped paper elements. While the collages are non-objective works, some of the pieces have a whimsical, almost totemic feeling about them. I think it’s a function of the edges. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of impression they make collectively. That’s something I won’t know until they’re hung on the gallery walls.

Once I had a significant start on the series, I finally determined that the collages are strong enough to make a compelling show. “Unboxed” opens at Spark Gallery later this month! Perhaps you can join me at the opening reception on Friday, August 19 from 6-9pm.

Stealth because…

For a long time, as the collage works progressed, I was quite unsure of their merit and didn’t want to be influenced by feedback from others. And I was oddly possessive about divulging this concept! So I haven’t shown any of them, anywhere, except in a postage-stamp-size image on a gallery promo card. Especially not on Facebook or Instagram, where I have often posted work in progress. Only in recent months have I finally started to show a few samples and discuss them with close family and friends. Now that the series is established, I’m comfortable posting collages from the series here, on my website gallery, and social media. Stay tuned to see more from the Unboxed series as it unfolds, literally!

 

 

Share

Sequence / collage work in progress

Everyone is always intrigued with work in progress and the sequence of how a collage comes together, so thought I’d do a quick slide show documenting a recent work: “Honey,” a 36 x 36″ collage on wood panel. For whatever reason, this composition developed mostly from the center out toward the edges.

I am working with found and salvaged papers, including chunks ripped from old art posters… so anything that appears painted is appropriated from the poster imagery. When using bits and pieces of other’s artwork, I always try to rip/crop the elements in ways that take the color/texture completely out of their original context so that they become simply an ingredient to use in an entirely new composition.

Lately I’ve been trying to document work in progress on Instagram (along with other inspiration/adventures)… so if you are interested in how collages develop, please follow me there @janicemcdonaldart!

Share