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

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A week of experiments

I have to admit, I've been feeling a little "stuck" lately. New ideas have been slow to come, and I've found myself, more often than not, spinning my wheels and reworking past ideas. I couldn't manage to keep myself in the studio for any length of time. I needed a serious kick start, but wasn't sure how to begin.

So I started a little self analysis, always a dangerous thing.

One of the issues I discovered was that supplies were becoming scarce, tubes were wrung dry, and there were only a couple empty canvases around, big expensive canvases. It is a difficult thing to take a leap of faith and start something fresh when resources are low, what if I mess up one of those big canvases? So this all meant I needed to do a little shopping.

In the art supply store I told myself I was going to get at least one new thing that I hadn't tried before, or at least not in several years. I ended up checking out with a tub of powdered graphite, three inexpensive canvases, and replacements for some of those empty paint tubes. And some really pretty papers, those still haven't been touched!

Then I simply convinced myself that this was a week off, a week of experiments. I wasn't going to try to complete anything, just start mucking around and see what happens. I grabbed some paper and tried different transfer processes, using oil of wintergreen and lacquer thinner. The oil of wintergreen works much better, and is less flammable, a good thing. But being an oily process I wasn't so sure that water based acrylic paints were going to work well on top. So I picked up a canvas and started a different transfer process using acrylic. While that was drying I was in the powdered graphite, and chalk, and pastels, and pencil, simply making marks, with no thought of a finished product.

Papers were collaged, silver leaf was added, I found some stencils, and just kept going. I ended up with a canvas that was simply full, and thanks to the graphite, quite dark. So I started cutting back in with paint, highlighting favorite parts, blocking out the bits that didn't work, by the end of the day I had this...

Now I know some of you aren't going to be thrilled with this direction, but bear with me. I have always loved abstract work, and have dabbled with it from time to time. And this just felt so fresh, and full of life that I decided to keep going. But my next piece was started with a little more deliberation.

A few photo transfers, a little graphite, some mucky brushwork...

Then more photos, silver leaf, and you can see a rough pencil drawing of one of my latest studio finds, an old birdcage. Add to this some color, reworking the cage with a little more precision, map bits, old stamps, more, more more...

I was a little slower, this one took a couple days to complete, a little less experimenting, letting things dry properly before moving on. Learning from the process. I finally decided this one was done. Time to move on to the last canvas, and the week was coming to a close.

So the last one started like the others, with very little idea of where it was going (I am a planner, so this was a breakthrough and a relief in itself.) The nest was transferred to the right hand side. The "nest" on the left was collaged using old patterns. I like drawing parallels between humans and birds and our building abilities. Rubber stamps are repeated in the background, and the gauzy thin glove attached on top, I love how transparent it is, allowing the viewer to see what is going on underneath. The bird was painted, the three little eggs are stitched with little glass beads.

What I am enjoying about this process is how it started being so random, yet became more and more symmetrical. But still keeps the visual richness. And I know this week is going to influence my new work. I am looking forward to seeing where I go from here!

All three of these pieces are 20" square, I still have to fuss over them for a while to decide if I will bring them to shows. But I am happy to be on the other side of that case of "painters block" and looking forward to my next canvas!

Sunday, December 5, 2010


All other issues aside, I think I have made one of my more difficult to photograph pieces to date! "Nest" really does shine in person, unlike this flat image. But please bear with me, and maybe you'll be able to see it at a show near you.

This is a triptych, meaning it is 3 separate canvases that fit together. It's overall size is about 36" wide x 60" tall. Working from the background forward I started with a soft antique kind of blue, leaning towards the turquoise side, but a little bit dirty. The repeated pattern was created by carving the damask sort of pattern into a sheet of linoleum, it was inked just like a block print would be, with a roller, only the medium was acrylic paint.

For those of you who have known my work for many years, this may sound somewhat familiar. Some of the first pieces I ever exhibited were lino block prints. Perhaps I'll show some older pieces in my next post. In any case, I still love to carve linoleum, a slow process as one little curl after another peels off the knife. And I love the smell of the linseed oil in the linoleum.

So the block was "inked up" with paint, deep gray at first, and stamped like a big rubber stamp. The process was repeated for each block, allowed to dry, then I repeated the process, this time in creamy white. The blocks don't register tightly on one another, the white ones wiggle a little allowing the gray to show.

The nest itself was found in a rose bush in our front yard, cardinals come and build a new one each year. I photographed it and had them enlarged to this size and used an acrylic transfer process to get them on the canvas. I was originally only intending to use one, but the painting begged for more.

The dress was laid down on top of all this background, a vintage 50's house dress with a Swiss dot texture that shows through the paint and a little floral lace trim. And painted the "starter home" plan on top. With all the "bonus rooms" and "media rooms" in today's house plans it was fun to look at how they were laid out in the '60's when two bathrooms was considered a little extravagant!

NEST was stitched through the top with embroidery floss, and filled in with a little translucent yellow paint. Sometimes I think of nest as a noun, other times as a command, it changes the flavor of the piece significantly.

So what is the point? Well I was brought up in an era of "hope chests" and "starter homes." My nesting instinct was encouraged from a very early age. And I'm really not all that sure how I feel about it. So I often come around and take a little poke at the issue. Is it instinctive, like birds building nests? Is it taught through china patterns and paint samples? Is it just brilliant marketing?

Creating a home, a place of my own, is like a constant art project mixed with a search for comfort and peace. But others seem to be much happier constantly migrating, or need little more than one room with a bed and a TV. How does this happen?

This piece I'm sure will wind up in the home of someone with a great nesting instinct, art collectors often are "nesters," and I hope it brings a little comfort and peace, and introspection on how and why it got there. Enjoy!