Category Archives: collage

Three Kings

Three Kings - Carraher 2022
Three Kings
Acrylic, ink, paper collage on canvas. 11″h x 14″w.

I started this post weeks ago, but then a big dumb much-resented interruption came along and blew up my life for six weeks.  So let me begin again.

Not sure what motivated me to pull this then-unfinished canvas out of the incubation box last year.  Originally it’d gotten some blocks and stripes in phthalo blue, cadmium yellow, burnt sienna, and raw umber, and a few marks in black acrylic and ink.  I’d added just a few other shapes, leaving a lot of white space.  And that’s where it had stalled.  Lovely color, but no heart, no muscle.

On seeing it again I immediately had impulse to collage it.  I think it was when I pulled out that middle blue-and-black shape — it definitely felt it belonged. But the big gold flattened disc on the lower left got glued down first.  Then the blue shape found its position, followed by the big brick-colored shape over the gold disc.  On the right side, many many things happened before the final configuration was found.  (And I will note, this is the first time I used rice paper, which added interesting texture and dimension to some of the white areas.)

The feeling of a procession grew steadily.  I think it started with that blue-and-black shape, which when lined up along the bottom had strong forward direction.  The composition took on a kind of Mardi Gras feel for me.  Like a line of glorious empty suits in a parade.  Led by the oversized brick-colored shape with its blocky vermilion head, looking like it’s running off stage left.  And the part that took the longest to resolve, the candle-like figure on the right seeming wrapped in a glowing mantle and topped by a cross between a bishop’s miter and a flame.

They quite gripped me, this procession.  Whether they are mocking or sincere, the figures seem a great deal more about the power of their vestments and vestitures than they are any obligation that comes with these trappings.  Rather than the emperor that has no clothes, these are the clothes, perhaps, that have no emperor.

Anyway, the complexity and personality of the piece were compelling for me, and satisfying.  Some of it was the underlying structure of horizontals and verticals created with the original stripes and blocks – not something I usually work with though I’m very attracted to them.  Since this piece was completed I’ve been exploring more grid structure in my collages, learning about what’s actually attracting me.  Also at play:  saturated colors contrasted with muted, sending shapes forward and back, and creating a scene without losing the flatness of the picture plane.

FInal note:  I have a piece in the Mid-Mod show at Desert Art Center for Modernism Week, if you happen to be in Palm Springs for the fun!  Feb 17-28, 10 am-4 pm.

Out of the Canyon

"Out of the Canyon" - Carraher 2022

Out of the Canyon
2022.  Acrylic, charcoal, collage on canvas. 12 x 12 in.

Hello, dear art friends.  I did not go away forever, as you can see.  I knew I’d be back, when the time was right.

I last posted in April, at the time of the group show Wonder Valley Friends at the 29 Palms Art Gallery.  The show went quite well, with satisfying response and sales.  But that month I lost someone very dear to me, suddenly, in an especially difficult and life-changing way. The repercussions have been many, with the uncoilings of lifetimes.

So I will re-start today with this:  Out of the Canyon, a collage on canvas completed last July.

I hiked in and out of many a canyon with my departed friend.  Our walks in the natural world had no beginning and no end; they were a continuum, always picking up where we’d left off on our floating journey, a magical swim through an amniotic wild.  We were both comfortable, in our natural element, and at the same time utterly transported.

A few months ago, when October was at its most golden, sublime brilliance, I hiked alone and realized that our walks together had never failed to bring the precious combination that now seems harder to achieve:  transcendence, challenge, and sharing.

Were these thoughts conscious in my mind as I started work on this painting?  No, but these feelings, as well as more complicated ones, began to surface as the title of the work emerged, quietly, during the process.

The technique carried it all along, a technique typical of the way I had begun working just over a year ago:  translucent paper collage over acrylic and, in this case, charcoal, on roughly textured canvas.

All the new works I’d exhibited in the April 2022 show used this same technique and I’ve continued working this way, though some changes are starting to leak in.  More about that to come.  Right now, I’m just happy to be back.  I missed you.

Good Vibes

"Louise with Vibes" - Carraher 2022

Louise with Vibes
2022. Acrylic and collage on canvas. 14 x 18 in.

The Wonder Valley Friends show is now hung and waiting to open on Thursday at the 29 Palms Art Gallery, with reception on Saturday from 5-7.   There were five of us there but the process went smoothly; too many cooks did not spoil the broth, I’m happy to say.  The task was to integrate work from six different artists in one not overly large gallery, and we ended up mixing everything in together rather than creating sections for each artist.  The room is idiosyncratic, as it is the old adobe section of the historic gallery and has a fireplace and several niche-like alcoves that must be worked around.  But using group “spontaneous insight”, as organizer Joe Chaplain likes to put it, it all came together quite nicely.

It’s always a particularly arresting moment when your work comes out of the studio and is hung out in public for the first time.  The new context can cause its lifeforce to suddenly expand or even contract.  And I felt these small, brightly colored pieces gained dimension next to large abstracts by Adrian Field and Olive Toscani, gleaming photographs on metal by Perry Hoffman, a whimsical armchair by Doug Smith, and deeply subtle photographs by Joe Chaplain.  Joe also created a bottle tree sculpture, a sophisticated and artful version of a typical desert yard decoration.  The bottles were beautifully colored, and he decoupaged each with a “label” that was a modified photo of the various “friends” participating in the show.

Louise with Vibes is the largest of these collages that I’ve done so far.  The base color is a transparent iron oxide yellow.  I was not expecting to bring in primaries with the earth tones and neutrals, but that’s what the painting wanted.  So that’s what it got.  It’s one of seven collages that will be in the show.

Eve Swings

"Eve Swings" - Carraher 2022

Eve Swings
2022. Acrylic, charcoal, collage on canvas. 12 x 12 in.

Got the paintings back from the framers, and I’m very happy with them.  No surprise there; Plaza always does a super job.  So I just need to make some labels and they’ll be ready for hanging the show on Monday.  Relieved!  That’s one thing I can check off the list.

And I can’t complain, the studio is very close to checking off, as well.  The painter will finish tomorrow and, gotta say, it looks nice!  It may not have looked this good even when it was new – and that was a very, very long time ago.  What it’s lost in vintage authenticity and ramshackle charm it’s made up in simple, clean freshness.  It looks veritably sprightly!  I did use shingles that are in line with the original look, and a slightly cool gray color not far off from where the cabin started.  So, in sum, it looks almost like a dream version of the old cabin, renewed. A few minor items remain but those may be completed over the weekend, we’ll see.  Tomorrow I start taking old shingles and other debris to the dump.

The above painting, Eve Swings, had a twisting (okay, tortured) path to completion.  I loved the big olive-y green shape with the pink base color, the torn white piece, and the smaller red square-ish, but things went through a lot of changes from there.  There were a couple more pieces intended, but once I got this far I changed my mind and left it in this simpler state.  The orange and red rod shapes retained their edges, conveying the halo effect I noted in my last post.  I don’t think this photograph gives the colors their due; their cool but juicy interplay in the original is a big part of the “swing”.  LOVE reds; the infinity of reds gives me an infinity of pleasures.

Scrambling

"For Juana" - Carraher 2022

For Juana
2022.  Acrylic, charcoal, collage on canvas. 14 x 11 in.

Life has been generous with the curveballs lately, and I’m a little stressed out with trying to both keep up and keep from getting hit.  I think the only reason I’m able to settle down and write a post today is that yesterday I finally got my paintings safely deposited with the framer and feel secure they will be ready for the “Wonder Valley Friends” exhibition opening two weeks from today at the 29 Palms Art Gallery.  When last I posted I had expected I would be getting them in to the framers the next day, and I was much surprised on that visit to learn my venerable long-time framers don’t deal in the particular frames I wanted to use.  Yikes!  Not what I expected to hear!  So then the scramble was on, the mad details of which I’ll spare you, but I did eventually find what I wanted on-line, the two suppliers were surprisingly prompt and well-packaged in their shipping, and yesterday the batch of seven paintings and their intended frames were delivered for assembly to my regular framers.

But that little drama pales beside the larger disruptions, the greatest of which is the construction happening on my studio.  It’s needed re-siding since…well, since before I even bought the place, but I loved the original look and didn’t want to change it.  But my property insurer was less enamored of the vintage look and demanded I replace the ancient disintegrating shingles or lose coverage.  The journey from there has involved all the distresses familiar to our current climate such as shortage of skilled ready labor, shortage of supplies, lost materials, late deliveries, etc., plus some associated wild-card mishaps such as motorcycle accidents (not mine), failing septic systems, and vehicle breakdowns.  The last couple months have been an adventure, and not a fun one.

Be all that as it may, at this moment the old shingles are off the studio, new windows are installed, plywood sheathing and black paper wrap are in place, and half the new shingles are up. The yard is a jumble of materials and tools and the interior of the studio a mess, but progress is now swift and in a few weeks I believe all will be back to rights.  I can’t wait.

Above is another of the new collages, this one also featuring charcoal.  I got a similar speckled result from the main color layer that had also occurred on the preceding piece, “Karma”.  Once again, I rather liked it.  Notably in this painting I retained the translucent edges of the collage pieces rather than trimming them off.  The combination of slight reflectivity and cloudy translucence bestows a kind of aura around the shapes that appeals to me.  So this piece marks a distinct development in my handling of the edges of my collage bits, a development that has continued in following works.  Counting the days until I can get back in the studio and do some more.

Karma

"Karma" - Carraher 2022

Karma
2022.  Acrylic, charcoal, collage on canvas. 12 x 12 in.

Karma.  One of the new collages I’ll be featuring in the “Wonder Valley Friends” group show at the 29 Palms Art Gallery in April.  I’ve been working on these steadily but just finally got some more photos last week.  I’ll be taking maybe half a dozen of the paintings to the framer’s on Wednesday, which should be fun.

The camera had a challenge capturing the finely spotted appearance of the phthalo turquoise pigment.  I’m not sure why the paint separated as it did.  Perhaps it was the airbrush medium I used to thin it, or perhaps it was the preparatory layers of fixative I sprayed on the charcoal causing the paint to kind of bead up.  Anyway, I liked it!  Chance, rather than control, governs the initial stages of these collages.

It’s not generally advisable to have a big bright red shape almost in the middle of your painting.  Common principles of composition oppose it.  But as soon as I placed this collage shape there, I accepted it.  That’s probably when the name – Karma – came to me, as well.  An asymmetrical wheel of life.

I haven’t been posting much lately.  It’s a combination of changing feelings about the work and a period of naturally arising silence.  Although, as always, my mind never stops, I don’t feel like sharing the insights.  They seem either depressing or inconsequential, in the grand scheme of things.  People don’t need more depressing thoughts just now, right?  And there are sooo many words and images drowning us every day, I recoil at the idea of adding more.

But nevertheless I continue working happily and steadily in the studio, fully engaged, and generally pleased with the results although not always, of course.  Experiments sometimes flat-out fail, or take us on a troublesome journey before resolving.  It’s the nature of the beast.  The nature of adventure.

Celestial Regatta

"Celestial Regatta" - Carraher 2021

Celestial Regatta
2021. Acrylic, charcoal, collage on canvas. 14 x 11 in.

The earliest of the new collages.  Surprised me completely.  Still trying to get back in the swing after October’s Open Studio Art Tours, I’d prepared two canvases with texturing, a coat of titanium white, and then a gesture set in black acrylic with a round brush.  But I didn’t know where to go from there.  Both canvases sat around for a while, then I got a sense that I wanted to stain this one with a dilute phthalo blue.  I then went over parts of it with some more opaque blue, and while the paint was still wet got an impulse to draw into it with a narrow piece of willow charcoal.

I liked what was happening, but wasn’t sure of a next step and set it aside.  In the meantime, I was throwing some translucent collage pieces on a painting that I’d started early last year and that had come to a dead stop.  I picked up some of the collage pieces and started placing them on this blue painting.  Excitement!  It took a lot of fidgeting but eventually I got just the balance I wanted.

The colors felt like pennants hanging in the sky, which brought to mind Raoul Dufy and his many paintings of regattas in French harbors. But I saw this painting as purely celestial, in the heavens.

I finished the painting on the one-year anniversary of my mother’s death.  As she lay dying I saw her in a twilit world, without color.  But since then I feel her rocketing around the cosmos in a kind of super-sled, attending to business I can only imagine.  This painting is for her.

The Pony Tale

"The Pony Tale" - Carraher 2022

The Pony Tale
2022.  Acrylic and paper collage on canvas. 12 x 16 in.

I frankly scorn cheesy play-on-words titles, but this title occurred halfway through the piece and wouldn’t go away.  So I accepted it.  Gotta say this painting really pleases me.  I liked the strength and simplicity of the initial gesture, which was done with a flat brush rather than the round I’d usually use for this purpose.  And I’m also quite happy with the muted gray-green ground over the texturing contrasting with the range of reds.

But mostly I like the ambiguity between abstract and narrative here.  It almost seems like there is a “tale”, but then again not really.  It fits inside the crevice between.  I feel no compulsion to figure out which it is; it seems quite complete as is, with no need to be one or the other.  I like that place.

The New Look

"Harlequin" - Carraher 2021

Harlequin
2021.  Acrylic, charcoal, collage on canvas. 12 x 12 in.

Well, I finally did get some photographs of the new work.  This was one of the earlier pieces, from December, and it delights me.  This is the inside of my mind while listening to jazz, people.  Here you see what I’m really made of.  It’s like an x-ray of my synapses.

How it happened:  I drew with willow charcoal of two different diameters over a canvas texturized with my trusty Golden Light Modeling Paste.  I sprayed the charcoal with a workable fixative, and when the canvas was dry I stained it with a very diluted quinacridone gold acrylic paint, then brushed over in areas with more quin gold lightened with titanium white.

The collaged pieces are all deli paper painted with acrylic, and in this case I limited myself to bits I’d created specifically with the palette I’d chosen for this piece:  quin gold, quinacridone red, phthalo blue, and a little cadmium yellow. The more opaque paint bits had been applied to the deli paper with a palette knife; the translucent were more dilute and were brushed on.

This technique is basically what I’ve been using for most of the current works, of which I’ll share photos in the coming weeks.  On this one I put a lot of work into retaining the original feathery edges of the pigment on the collage paper; I think I’m getting better at that.  The earlier collages were rougher.

I get a lot of joy working with these shapes of pure color and combining them with a very textured colored surface and gestural line.  When the arrangement of these elements reaches a certain relationship the work springs to life for me and achieves a sense of inevitability.  Color me happy.

A Collage

 

"Jul11" - Carraher 2019

Jul11
2019.  Acrylic and collage on wood panel. 12 x 12 in.

Haven’t been posting because I’ve been painting and not feeling like switching to the talking-about-it channel.  I have several new works but haven’t been able to settle down to signing and photographing them. 

This is a collage from 2019, done on a cradled wood panel.  The smoothness and solidity of wood panels are so different from canvas and provoke different moves from me.  The materials here include the green handmade paper, a bit of resume paper, the linear piece of my precious vintage construction paper in a dusty rose, and a disk of matte photo paper painted red.  The red netting is, indeed, plastic produce netting from the supermarket.  It was gratifyingly easy to shape and glue down. 

I enjoy making collages and always feel I’m about to make more, though I rarely actually do.  That may change someday.  I hope so, as they are a distinct channel with results I don’t get any other way.  I think perhaps because I usually base my paintings on line, but the collages are much more about shape. 

Anyway, I like this one.