Now that you all know a bit about my past and how I came to create these dreamy, curated works I think you need to know HOW I make them. I will say that an artist's process is kind of like the secret sauce recipe that your grandma will never share with you, no matter how many times you ask (or annoyingly guess.) So this will be an abbreviated version of what goes down in my studio when I create - especially what I did for the Bouquet Series.
So you're still getting to know me but I'll go ahead and put this on the table - music is very important to me. Any artist will tell you it can totally change what you paint and how it looks. But think about it... it's the same when we work out, right? You can't burn 10,000 calories while listening to "History of the Ladder" on repeat (anyone catch that parks and Rec reference??) The entire mood has to be perfection... your definition of perfection. I'm not here to judge.
So what did I listen to on Spotify when making the Bouquet Series? I've included them below and linked three to get you started!
***see my previous blog post with my January 2018 Studio playlist to listen in!***
2. Set Up.
Now that the perfect mood has been set with the music, we must have sunlight! My studio has two big windows to let in all the natural sunlight right by my mixing table where all of my color dreams come true. I don't have any curtains (sorry neighbors.) and the light is indirect so it's perfect. However, this means I don't paint after 4 pm most days and I can't begin until 9 am. So the early bird gets the worm in this case. I also can't paint during bad storms or heavily overcast days. Why? Painting is a complicated thing. With inconsistent lighting, the colors alter and appear like something they truly aren't. So if I don't make work on days with same-same sunlight, I would constantly be backtracking to color correct. I can't have cool blues sitting next to warm oranges! Color theory is an ongoing love/hate relationship. One day I will master it. And until then... only working in these median conditions. Read this scientific breakdown:
Feel smarter? Me too. For the pieces of Bouquet that the Caroline Nix Gallery is representing, Brandon and I built our wood panel "canvases" in our garage with MDF board and treated pine. If you guys would like to see a video tutorial or step-by-step of how we do this, leave a message in the comments below. I'd love to show you. I've had a lot of inquiries about this and other artists reaching out to me about potentially building their surfaces for them. Flattering, yes. But also silly because it's not as scary as it may seem.
3. My Process.
Once we had our massive surfaces built, I primed them all with water-based KILZ. So easy. Also, fun fact, using house paint in your work means you're using a fade-proof, light resistant product. Think about it... house paint can withstand ANYTHING! Although I only use KILZ in my initial priming layer and it may not be revered as the finest of materials, it's affective and gives me confidence that my wood panels are being set up to last for many, many years. I've noticed a lot of artists who work with larger format pieces are incorporating more house paint into their pieces. I think it also speaks to this conversation of bringing something unconventional and intimate to create something, in turn, intimate. The materials we use to make work are always another component to the depth of the story we are trying tell.
We think about everything, all the time.
There also is a second part to this series, my paper collection! Yes, of course you know this. It's launching on my site February 5th. These pieces are all composed on watercolor paper. In the past I'd used bristol which I love - it keeps the paint fluid and my ink layers really agree with it. But I wanted something with more tooth this go around and I'm so glad I did. I removed my box of found papers from undergrad from my studio closet and used a few very special pieces of patterned tissue in my 'blue' pieces. Again, a story within a story.
4. My Style.
This is something that's pretty impossible to try and explain but I'm going to give it a whirl anyway because, as an artist, you must be able to talk about your work! In a bulleted format I'm going to *attempt* give a breakdown of how I do what I do while concealing 95% of it because, #artthieves.
I don't need everyone and their mom making AJCo. originals, ya feel me?
- My surface is white and ready to go. Normally, I start with a wash of color around the center. Just to get the intimidation factor down of beginning a new piece. Sometimes I substitute this with my signature parallel line groupings.
- A wash of color. Organic shapes and lines are a focus here.
- Let. This. Dry. (I still struggle with patience on this step. Especially if I'm in my flow.)
- Pencil marks. Vary your weight!
- Paint swatches and incorporating now my foliage + floral shapes.
- Other steps. (Secret sauce steps.)
- Sometimes scraping??
- A lot of wiping. Think wax on, wax off.
- Basically starting from the beginning again and being terrified if I need to stop now or keep going. (Answer: Always keep going. One lap around this track is, and never is, enough.)
- Varnish or spray with a protective layer.
- Send to happy client!
I repeat this loose sequence over and over again until I'm satisfied. I'm still learning when to stop and let it be. I know a piece is done when I look at it and don't feel any kind of anxiety. The anxiety comes from my eye constantly searching the surface, asking myself "what is missing?" and once the gang is all there, I'm happy.
It has taken me months to get my rhythm down and to fine tune when I need to take certain steps in my work. I'm talking long hours past those aforementioned sunsets, a few tears, a lot of huffs and puffs, and a few squeals of success. I'm really proud of how far I've come since October 1st (when I officially started Day 1 as a full-time artist) and I can't wait to see where I'll be by October of this year.
If you have any other questions about my process, why I do what I do, or even how to take the first steps to start your creative journey please reach out to me! I love emailing with you guys about your dreams and how to get there. If I can do it, you can too.
I'm rounding out the Bouquet Series blogs with Part III: Selling to clue you in on life after creating! After all, we don't make art to have it sit in our closets, do we? Xo, Allison