More Piecemeal Paintings and Some Thoughts on How You Can’t Get Away From Some of Your Habits

January 17, 2014


Above: A piecemeal painting I made in December 2013, working with an early 20th century mugshot. It’s all part of my non-archival phase. Approx 20 x 9 inches. Richeson Recycled Watercolor paper and various other papers, masking tape, washi tape, staples, gouache, acrylic markers, and a rubber stamp (those goldish rectangles).

Partly because I didn’t want to finish my journal too early at the end of last year, and partly because I wanted to work bigger and bigger, and partly because I had been working on single sheets as part of my journal work last year, I started doing a new series of paintings at the end of the year (instead of working piecemeal style in my journal).

I’ve been working with old mugshots and some 19th century non-mugshot photographs.

I’ve thought a lot about why I’m doing this—i.e., using non-archival items like tapes and odd papers. And I finally decided after talking with several friends about this (half of whom loved this direction and the other half of whom couldn’t wait to get away from me, fearing, it seems, some form of contagious dementia), I decided this simply falls in the, “Don’t try to understand it cateogry.”

It’s incredibly fun. I started the painting with masking tape framing the area I thought I’d fill (barely his eye fits in), but I quickly started adding more and more sheets. I particularly enjoyed stapling things.


Left: I’ve included this detail image with labels so you can see how I painted over the masking tape, see some of the underpainting, and see some of the paper overlapping. If you look on the far right of the blue area in the FULL image above you’ll also see staples. Lots of fun going on.

What I wanted to mention today was that it grew and grew, as these types of pieces do. Then it got to this stage and I thought, that’s fine. And I mounted it to a mat board backing and trimmed off the slightest bit on all the edges.

Next I let it sit on the easel for a couple days while I walked past it. And walked past it. And of coursed wondered what I was up to and why I enjoyed doing it so much. (Clearly I need an OUTDOOR bicycle ride.)

On the fourth day, just when I was going to put it away as finished (I’d been debating whether or not to leave all the negative space areas, particularly that white patch) it hit me. I had unconsciously laid out a book cover. I grabbed a ruler to check. If you find the middle, leave space for the spine, everything falls in tidy spaces leaving room for the title, author, and of course back cover copy and logos and such.

I started to laugh. I’d just had a busman’s holiday.

Sometimes we just can’t help ourselves. And you know what. That’s OK.

I followed up this painting with two more that were definitely vertical to avoid this “comfortable” arrangement of space.

And had tons of fun working on them too.

I’ve saved shots taken during the process and plan to use them in a class later this year on gouache and piecemeal style.

But I had to write about it today to remind you (as I have been reminded) how easy it is to bust out of our patterns only to find we are actually still wallowing in them.

It isn’t necessarily a bad thing—as long as we are aware of it.

Have some fun painting this weekend.

    • Miss T
    • January 17, 2014

    You know I love this one, with its bookcoverishness and its staples!

  1. Reply

    I love this mixed media painting, complete with all the funky texture. For me, vintage photos are a rich source of ideas and materials, and I love to see your take on that.

  2. Reply

    Thanks Sherry, I’m glad you enjoyed this piece. I’ve been collecting 19th and early 20th century photos since I was a child. They always intrigue me by the stories we can’t know. And they tend to be lit well so that you can tell where the planes of the face are!

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