Tag Archives: multi-media

Material Girl

Material Girl: Surrounded with luxury, buried in debt, and still looing for the next shiny thing.  My latest piece is finally finished.  My final step was to add the crumpled papers along the bottom.  They are notices of overdraft, delayed payments, repossession, and foreclosure.  After searching the web for days, I was able to reproduce the series of documents on fabric and then use stiffener to give the appearance of paper.

This is, what I consider, my first deliberate foray into contemporary fine art.  It all started last spring when 2 of my husband’s paintings were included in Au Natural, the Nude in the 21st Century. This was an exhibit in Astoria, OR.  We went for the opening reception and had a fabulous time—love that town, and love those people.  I went as arm candy, but was inspired and challenged to come back next year in my own right.

It was from this that Material Girl was born.  The title actually came before the visual concept.  Knowing that I would be working with fabric, it was a no-brainer.  I also knew that I wanted to depart from the historical photos from which I had been working.  I wanted to create a piece that was contemporary in theme, as well as design.

Thirteen years ago, when I returned to the US from living overseas for a decade, I was struck by the massive amounts of stuff that we, as Americans, buy, own, and throw away every day.  I’ve learned to live with it, but it still disturbs me how, as a culture, we get so caught up in the latest fashion, or gadget. 

I’ve submitted Material Girl for the next Au Naturel exhibit and now I’m waiting for a response.


Trial and Error

As I make slow progress on “Material Girl”, I continue to be perplexed by the challenge of creating dollar sign striped wallpaper.  A few weeks ago I shared my multiple attempts to capture images from the pages of fashion magazines using gel medium, and then cut them into shapes that could be applied to my new art quilt.

too fragile for the blanket stitch

Having successfully cut out strings of dollar sings, the new challenge is how to apply them to the surface of the artwork.  My first attempt was to stitch them in place.  Knowing that the signs were essentially sheets of acrylic plastic, I assumed that close stitching would simply cut through the acrylic and shred it, so I used a blanket stitch that would only hop over into the acrylic surface every few stiches.  I also lengthened the stiches to increase the distance between perforations. Stitching along, just off the edge of my dollar signs it seemed that all was going well.  However. Once I had completed several inches of stitching, I stopped to examine the results.  I found that the acrylic was holding up well in paces where it was relatively thick, but was already beginning to tear in the thinner spots.  This would never hold up to time and travel.

tulle and filler stitching does the trick

Looking around the studio for ideas, I spotted my old friend tulle.  I chose a fine champagne color to lay over the background of the composition and was able to stitch around the dollar signs.  They are now held in place and protected.  The tulle has minimal effect on the overall appearance.  If anything, it helps to diminish the boldness of the background and put it in the supporting role that is was meant to play.

I hope to enter this piece in the Au Naturel: the Nude in the 21st Century exhibit, but the deadline for entry is fast approaching, and my next challenge is the foreground.  A short description of this finished piece will be:  “ Material Girl:  Surrounded by luxury, buried in debt, and still looking for the next shiny object.”  Can you guess what I’m going to do?  Here is another clue:  Unfortunately, I, like this girl, am running out of time. 


Show Me the Money

This first attempt didn’t work so well.


2nd attempt with smaller images and 2 coats

I needed money wallpaper for my latest piece, “Material Girl” and had to find a way to make it myself.  It turns out that all of those unrelated workshops where I learn seemingly useless trivia has come in handy.  I had a vague memory of being told that images on paper could be captured by painting over them with gel medium.  Once dry, the paper can be wetted and washed away, leaving the image on the plastic layer.   I asked about this at the art supply store, but no one there had a clue.  It didn’t stop me from trying.

Since “Material Girl” is about materialism and greed I bought some fashion magazines and found pictures of expensive clothes and accessories.  My first attempts didn’t work out well.  The images that I chose were so large that they were lost when I cut them into smaller shapes.  I put a thick layer of gel medium over the images, but the brush strokes left grooves in the surface that tore easily when I rubbed away the paper.  Also, I used a high gloss gel and the end results were just too shiny.

using a cloth is faster

Rub away paper with fingers

Back to the drawing board, I acquired a jar of matte gel and applied 2 coats to the magazine pages.  With the first coat, I brushed top to bottom, and in the second coat I brushed side to side.  The thicker layer held up better when removing the paper, but it also made the images less clear.  

Once the gel medium dries, it’s time to plunge it into water.  Let it soak for a short period of time, maybe 30 seconds.  Then lay it out on a flat surface with the gel side down, smooth it out as best you can and begin rubbing until the paper starts to roll up and off of the surface. I used my fingers at first as it allows you to feel the process and adjust pressure.  This was really important in my first attempts as the gel layer was thin and tore easily.  However, with a second layer of gel, the surface is more stable and can hold up to more pressure.  I found that I could use a wash cloth to rub off the paper.  This was much quicker.  I do caution that it is through trial and error that one finds the best pressure for working quickly without being destructive.

Dry, smooth and ready to cut

With the paper removed, lay the pages on a smooth surface one more time to dry.  It is important to smooth

money stripes

out each page and gently shape it.  Once dry, it is also important to gently lift the pages as they will have a tendancy to stick to the surface, especially around the edges.

I cut my shapes into dollar signs strung together.  I’m hoping they will look like wallpaper stripes.  In my second attempt, I chose several pages that had smaller images and looked similar overall.  Even though I cut my shapes from several pages, they all have a similar look.  In this way, I achieve some continuity of design.    My next challenge it to figure out how to attach these plastic stripes to the fabric surface.  Check back for more on that

Does it look like wallpaper?