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How to find emotional impact with colour and textures

I love attending art workshops because they open my mind up to new ideas, techniques and push my artistic boundaries a bit, which will always help me to develop as an artist. And the one I went to this weekend did that in spades!

The tutor started the day with a short summary of the origins and  history of collage, then she did a demo to show us the basis of her work explaining her use of some papers for the textures they create in the finished painting. Taking large sheets of  A2 card she started tearing different thicknesses of paper, screwing it up to make small creases making leather-like effects, crepe paper that almost melts down to nothing with the glue, tissue paper was more resilient making lovely creases, brown craft paper, string  and meshed netting could be used on top of all of that to make more specific texture. All of it stuck down with white PVC glue and allowed to dry. The whole image made a textured monochrome simple landscape of sky, far mountains and rounded foreground.  It could have almost been an image at that point. But, she wasn’t finished…..

She then carefully scattered tiny amounts of pure watercolour pigment from tiny pots. The pigment looked like spice – it could have been black pepper or paprika she was scattering, for what it looked like……

And then the magic. With a wave of her hand, she added the missing ingredient, the one that made us all go “OOOWwwwWOW!!!!!!” and lean forward in thrilled excitement.

And the name of this wonderful ingredient…? Lean close and I’ll whisper it in your ear…… its called “Water!” 🙂

She quickly brushed it over the textured surface, the colours mixing and finding adhesion to the different collage papers, stronger in some places, and more dilute in others, dark on the craft paper as it soaked up the colours. Instant amazingly bright and vividly wonderful impact, and filling our heads with ideas and an urge to get going ourselves. We eagerly grabbed card, paper, and glue and went off to create our own monochrome landscape, letting it dry over the lunchbreak, and then scattering three or four of the chosen colours to see how they reacted together on our work. I chose Prussian blue, rose pink, orange, and violet, which all made an amazingly interesting mass of colour on my landscape. It had to be left to dry before I could do anything more with it, and it will certainly be the basis of another piece of art.

We were then encouraged to create another landscape, taking more time to chose more specific craft papers, sorting through boxes of colours divided into yellow, red, blue, green.  Wrapping paper with flags, flowers, animal prints, and patterns, fabric, metallic paper, hand made papers, mixed up with unused pieces of painted watercolours made abstract shapes. None of us had any ideas in our heads when we started, just went with the flow, pulling out colours and textures, shapes and contrasting papers. Now we had more of an idea of forming landscapes and quickly placed paper on the A2 card, then started sticking it down. 

And something strange happened to me as I did it……

I got quite emotional about it. Getting caught up with the textures I’d put together, and how I’d arranged them together on the paper. And it wasn’t a good emotion, and wasn’t something that I wanted to feel. But it was still there, in the image.

A really upsettingly powerful image.

And at the end, when the tutor did a critique of the artwork we’d all done as we stood around and looked at what we’d all created in her workshop. I explained that the fact that I’d chosen metallic gold paper for my distant mountain range, with a bright vivid orangey pink sky, and that I’d used a tiger print paper for the foreground, along with a leopard print paper that had torn as I’d put it on the gold paper, making holes in it that showed the gold paper underneath, and that the string that I’d draped through the picture showing a flow across the paper had taken a lot of the red paint that I’d put on afterwards, making it look like bloody entrails, all made me think of the fur trade and poachers killing beautiful wild animals for money.

Where did all that come from? I paint happy pictures, not upsetting ones.

It was all there in the textures, and the collage.

What an impact that had! A massive learning curve that the textures and shapes in the art can have such  an effect. I’ll definitely do that again, but with more of a considered approach to the message I want to get across.

It must have been a good workshop, I came home with blue fingers! Always a good sign!