While working on 'The Grandmothers' project last year, I kept being reminded of my first portrait project '52 WEEKS::Heroes' and, of course, the 'Nasty Women' project (image above). The first two focused mainly on women in history while the third focused on women in my world today. I began to think about a combination of all three projects, still focusing on the portraits of women, but also chose to include their own words, like the 'Heroes', and also to share the stories of Canadian women who we may or may not know, but who have somehow helped shape the country we live in. There are so many amazing women, and while a lot of them are well known, I wanted to delve into the part of them people aren’t publicly aware of. These women come from fields as diverse as politics, music, sports and theatre and remind me of the progress of feminism and the trail-blazers who have brought the women's rights movement to where it is today. We still have so far to go for equality, equal rights, equal treatment and respect of women, but I was thinking how far we have come. To me, this is once again a collaborative project. Even though I’m in isolation at home, I still feel supported by other women through our virtual world and really want my work to focus on gratitude for the women who came before us. These pieces are created using acrylics on 7x14 inch canvases while continuing to feature the influence of street art in the layers of brayered and airbrushed patterns and colours. To me they represent the layers of experience and history of each of these Extraordinary Women.
The first step I always take when preparing a surface (paper, panel or canvas) is to apply a couple of layers of gesso. Because I like the texture created on the base, I tend to use larger brush with stiffer bristles. This gesso was homemade and tinted grey.
Typically, for my second step I use a brayer to spread paint around the surface. I love the look that a brayer leaves and also like the fact that the colour is applied very quickly. On smaller surfaces I tend to use a smaller 2" brayer and on larger canvases I lean towards a 4" or 6" brayer.
In this third step I like to use a transparent acrylic with plenty of water and some fluid medium to move colour around the surface. I don't cover the entire surface and sometimes even lift it in order to allow the fluid paint to run. I love seeing the colour underneath peeking through.
This is when I get to play with my airbrush and stencils. Using an acrylic ink, I add patterns at this point. Sometimes I use a colour I used in previous layers, other times I use something totally different. Once these layers have cured well, I decide whether I want to repeat any of the previous steps or add another layer of stencil patterns. Then I get to decide what images I'll paint on top of this base.
I've slowly been making a switch to eco-friendly solutions in my studio, and one of them is by incorporating Natural Earth pigments. As I haven't worked with oil-based paints in some time due to their effect on my husband who has severe environmental allergies, there will definitely be a shift in the way I work.
I began by mixing up the natural ground stone pigments with an environmentally healthy walnut oil which is a traditional media in the history of art though I'm not fond of the smell of eco-solve and at some point I would like to give lavender spike oil a try as a thinner since it's supposed to work as well and smell amazing. One thing I found interesting is how the different pigments mix with the oil...some blending quickly and easily while others took a bit more effort. Since I'm only mixing small portions of pigment, I think in future I will experiment with measuring different amounts of pigment & oil. I have to say that I definitely enjoyed blending the colours with oil as it was quite meditative, like making my morning matcha tea. There's something soothing about taking the time to do something repetitive.
I used two different types of surfaces and two different sizes of palette knives and I think I might have favourites. Initially I mixed the paint on a grey marble surface which was nice as the grey background is a wonderful neutral. Then I used a picture frame backed with a white sheet of mixed media paper. I also have a creamy marble which I'd like to try as a nice neutral background. Also, as the portions are smaller, I prefer using the smaller palette knife in order to have a little more control and to ensure that each grain is coated with oil though I am thinking of investing in a glass muller. Plus I'd like to get a non-toxic varnish to complete the work.
So far this experiment is going very well. Nothing like a pandemic lockdown to practice. My next step is to create a colour chart. That should be fun.