This body of work began sometime in the mid 1990's, as an experiment, seeing if I could adhere a dress to a canvas and create a painting over all the textures. "Dress painting" is a term I came up with to explain these when I simply couldn't think of anything better. Over the years they have evolved, with new elements of collage being added. Dress patterns, photographs, and embroidery all appear from time to time, as well as lino block prints, rubber stamps and gold leaf. I will use this space to explore the beginnings of this series, as well as showing my latest work. If the piece is available for sale you'll find the price at the bottom. Free shipping in the U.S. Contact me at kallencole@aol.com to purchase.

Would you like to see my full website? Head over to KathrineAllenColeman.com

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Paper Dress Collage

If you've ever seen my work at a show, you are familiar with these little paper dresses. But this one is a little different. I begin by collaging bits of vintage dress patterns in the background, then paint the shape of the dress. But rather than use paint this time, I've collaged a little piece of marbled paper. This is one of the last bits of paper I marbled myself at a workshop in Victoria many years ago, a tiny fraction of the u-haul truckload of "things" Scott and I drove across the country when I moved here...but clearly I digress. Once the collage elements are all glued down and have had a chance to dry, the dress shape is stitched. I punch the holes with an awl, and sew the dress by hand with embroidery floss. The little halo is a circle of white glass beads that are also stitched through the paper.
The backing paper I use for these is a soft rag or cotton printing paper from France, and they are all matted in an eight ply conservation quality matboard. Backed with acid free foam board, and shrink wrapped. The overall size is 9" square, with the art being about 5" square.

Monday, January 25, 2010


Well here she is! I enjoyed the idea of setting myself a deadline, that's one way to quit staring at a blank canvas and actually get working on it. She was finished late yesterday afternoon, but there was no place for me to snap a picture as it was dark and pouring cats and dogs here in Georgia!
Attagirl is 20" square on a wrap around canvas, this is one of the very few times I kept the dress similar to it's original color, but the Wedgwood blue seemed to fit the composition. The "voice" for this piece came as I was walking between the studio and the house. Walking past the dogwood tree, a little chickadee started to holler at me for getting too close to the bird feeder. The whole idea of how nature pushes through, with trees setting buds in the cold of winter, and the tiniest birds surviving the storm, became the story I wanted to tell. That is tenacity, and truly deserving of an "attagirl." (I can still remember my Dad saying those words to me, it's amazing how one almost word can make you proud.)
So the tree branches in the background are from my dogwood, and although I don't think this is the same chickadee, this one was willing to pose. I love the transparent underpainting of the branches, which I cut into with almost opaque pale blue grey. And although the dress looks a similar color, it has several layers of paint on it as well, to deepen the shadows and make the high spots shine. Remember "attagirl" every time you weather a storm!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Bare Bones

This is the little number sitting on my easel right now. Just the bare bones. I've attached the dress, and figured out who I want her to be, "attagirl." Her name is stitched through the dress and canvas, so I'm ready to paint. But I'm miles away from figuring out where to go next.
People come to me at show asking about where I get all my great ideas. And there is nothing better than when a painting comes together almost intuitively. But sometimes the paintings just sit there, staring at me, and neither of us knows where to go next. This is one of those.
So what to do? The answer is always the same, get out to the studio and paint. Just paint. Often roadblocks drop away in the process, one brushstroke leads to the next, and finally her "voice" rings out. That's what I'm hoping for today. I'll post the finished piece before the weekend is over. How's that for a personal challenge? Send all the positive painting vibes you can, I think I'm going to need them!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bird in the hand - Nest

Well here's a quick jump forward in time, from one of the first dress related pieces, to one of the most recently completed. I've done many of these glove pieces and call them all "A bird in the hand." They are all 12" square, on gallery wrapped canvas. The vintage glove is adhered to the canvas and the painting begins. In Georgia we are fortunate enough to have an abundance of bluebirds willing to pose as models for seed. "Nest" was stitched through the canvas with embroidery floss, and also painted over. One of my favorite things about this piece is the translucent paint that surrounds the bit of damask pattern in the background. Acrylics are very flexible in allowing the painter to use them transparently to opaquely, and everything in between. Sold.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The first post.

How do you start a blog? I mean your first post, it seems like it should be grand, or at least noteworthy. Well, the best thing I could come up with is to start with...

In The Beginning...but it's not really, it was a few years after the beginning, but let's start here, just for grins.

This little piece is, if my memory serves me correctly, (and often it does not), the first multi-colored lino block print I'd ever done. It is tiny, 3" x 4" I think. It is dated 1994, 16 whole years ago. It is also one of the first pieces I'd ever sold, it was an edition of 6, and this is the only one I have left. But as far as beginnings go, I think this is also the first time I used a dress for imagery, something which has turned into a full time obsession.

Why a dress? I am constantly asked this, why not a pair of bluejeans, or a man's shirt?


Because dresses are little wads of memories, they can be memories of the occasion it was worn to. Or of how it was purchased, it doesn't even have to have been worn to have a story to tell. The dress hanging in the closet unworn to a canceled date has power.

So the dress is where I begin my story, the first piece in the puzzle of building a character. And the best part is when you look at the painting and see yourself.