Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Cheat Book - Technique Descriptions

Last week I started a book of “cheats.” The idea is to collect a bunch of different techniques that I use to make my trashy collages. Some of these are going to be really simple and obvious and others not so much. The goal is to use the book as a guide, a way to get the mind going in particularly difficult periods. If anything it’ll be a document itself. There’s no proper plan of what I’m going to do with it other than provide a “technique” and then some commentary on that technique. The idea is to periodically come back and comment on what I initially wrote about say “The Tape Rip” example. Who knows, maybe I’ll have figured out something to add to it later on? It seemed like a fun project so why not go through with it? Here are the written descriptions of the first five things I have plotted out. Since I wrote a whole bunch I thought it would be best to collect them elsewhere in case something happened along the way.
The Tape Rip
I must have made mail-art for at least a year before I started doing the tape rip method. All of my early items were boring and painfully amateurish. Since I didn’t have a proper starting place (I don’t draw, I don’t paint etc.) I just had to start. Those first attempts were quite bad. Thankfully people were supportive or I might have quit before I got to something I liked.
I can’t say that using tape and then ripping the image from the page was completely original. There was no proper forethought; I honestly think it happened by mistake. I was probably playing around with the tape, it got stuck to a page, and I liked the results. Doing this was the first time I felt like I had made something interesting. All of the previous attempts were just bad in comparison.
For a couple of years I did this over and over again. I did postcard sized things, larger pieces; I did it on stickers…anywhere that tape would stick to another surface. It became what I did. People reacted positively to the tape collages I was making and because of that I continued to create.
Slowly but sure I started adding other elements from patterned washi tape to paint.
For a while I stopped doing the tape method, played with other things. I had to remind myself that I loved doing it and then I spent two weeks ripping up paper.
Tape Rip Transfers
With almost a one hundred percent certainty I feel like I saw this online. Someone posted a picture of it somewhere, or a link, but I know I didn’t come up with it. It’s simple, much like the tape rip method. Sometimes I stretch tape across the whole image I wish to make a transfer and other times I put tape down erratically. Doing it erratically means I get good lines in the tape once the paper has been scrubbed away.
Put tape on the image (preferable old paper because it rips better), run hot water in the sink, let sit for ten or fifteen minutes, pull off the big chunk of paper, and then you scrub off the bits off the paper attached to the glue. Of course you let it sit to dry.
It feels like I’m doing a childlike project when I’m creating transfers. It feels like something a second grade class somewhere in the United States is doing the same exact thing. It’s tactile and fun and you get to get your hands wet, it feels like I’m really making something.
I’ve used this method a lot for images of friends’ babies. It comes out quite unique even if it’s difficult to easily discern.
On a good day, you can find the real ones in thrift stores; you know the ones people used before they had video projectors? The math ones I can live without but the ones of towns and landscapes make for interesting collage fodder.
Bingo Markers
So easy to use, so cheap to buy, so difficult to run out of ink. I love making dots.
Paint
It took me years before I used paint. Isn’t that dumb? How obvious is it to use paint? Not that I know what I’m doing, not even sure if I’ve ever used a brush to put it on? I use one of those plastic things that you use to even out sheetrock dope.
I like the way it smears.
I like the way happy little accidents happen.
I like how it’s easy to give a work a sense of drama and movement.
This last part is one of the things I struggle with. So often my creations are flat and dull, no movement, very linear. I hate this. Before I finish anything I try and figure out a way to make it appear to be moving, more drama. Paint it what I so often used to give this feeling of movement by allowing it to pretty much go anywhere it would like. Sometimes this causes some challenges but overall things turn out fine.
I like using yellow and orange together.
I like yellow more than any other color.
Found paper
One of the perks of working at a school is that there’s an overabundance of paper. It’s literally everywhere. I don’t use a lot of paper since almost all of my assignments are done and then posted online, but other teachers seem to use a lot of paper. Also, there’s all of the administrative work that happens around a school which equals more paper. This paper has to go somewhere so I try and make use of it as much as I can.
One of my favorite places to find paper is in the classroom. Students will often leave homework, or notes to their fellow students just sitting in a classroom. Once I found a large collection of explicit poetry gently resting in the floor. Of course I kept it.
The garbage cans also are great places for bits of things. I especially like the can right outside of my classroom in the south wing. I think everything thrown away in that particular office suite gets dumped into one large can. Some of the things I’ve found there probably weren’t meant to be seen by use regular worker types.
My most frequented can is the one in the faculty office. The good one is meant for recycling. Often I find old assignments that teachers had misprinted. I especially like the anatomy stuff that ends up in there, often printed off dozens and dozens of times. Sometimes people throwaway books they have no use for. These are great, because you can easily rip them up and make them into other things.
Not only is my school a good place to find trash to make into other things, but I also like grocery stores. Grocery stores are great simply for grocery lists. People leave them everywhere, and although they seem a little dull on the surface they contain a lot of information. It’s fun to see the three or four items that people venture out of their house to get. For good karma I like to leave my grocery lists lying on shelves for other weirdoes like me to discover them.
Recycling bins are good sources. I used to get a lot of things out of the bin going to the Academy Street house. They seemed to subscribe to a lot of magazines. Now that I walk more on Hawthorne when looking for trash, I end up checking out the bulk pickup items. Less than a month ago I went through a whole box of papers and outdated computer stuff. I ended up making out with a whole stack of things, and while a little drunk, I might add.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Board Bunnies Traveling.

I’ve noticed that I tend to do more once I have more to do. When the schedule is wide open and I don’t have any projects needing to be finished I do little. Whenever I’ve got one thing going I end up starting another almost immediately. Within the week I have made and then sent out small Richard packages to about twenty people, made packages out of the stickers of my face, worked on getting together another rather involved project with a mail-art friend in South Carolina, and I started on these bunny faces.
Somewhere in the middle of doing all of the previous work it hit me, why not another add and return? Instead of making collaborative books or just add and pass sheets, I thought about doing something a little more permanent, a little more sturdy. I took a bunch of 9 x 12 boards and laid down a tape transfer base, all black and white, and almost exclusively words. Doing this gives the creation a bit of texture once you start layering a bunch of garbage on top. For no particular reason other than to peak others’ interest, I printed off and then cut out a bunch of 8 x 10 Ray Johnson bunny heads that I glued to the top.
The aim was simple, advertise an “add and return” where I send two of these almost identical boards to whomever was interested. They add stuff to both of them, keep one, and then send the other one back to me. Surprisingly, people were interested in the project, I got seven different requests in a couple of hours. To keep people from asking to participate well after the project was finished, I deleted my entries on the IUOMA page as well as my own personal page. I thought it would be fun to extend the invite to friends, which is something I need to do a lot more.
One of the problems with this project is that I had to do twice the amount of work. Since I wanted them to be somewhere uniform I made all of them exactly the same. I wanted to see the point where each person deviated from my main idea. Making all of them look the same meant I could see the pattern that each mail-artist was presenting. It was much of an experiment as it was an “add and return” project.
The second issue was the USPS. Postal rates are insane nowadays. Rarely do I end up sending bigger projects out of the country simply because of the price. It’s a real commitment to spend time and money and materials on something that doesn’t have a strong chance of coming back to you. Thankfully the two people that I sent to out of the country (one to Canada and the other to France) are both reliable people, folks that I’ve traded with consistently for a while. Thinking of the price I made 8 x 10’s to the international folks, cutting the weight and size down a little bit. The one to Canada cost a little over fifteen dollars and the one to France cost twenty-two dollars. Waiting on their return is the exciting point, never knowing exactly when they’ll show up.
Three of them I’m mailing stateside, and all three are to folks that I’ve traded with for years. Two of them are going to a friend in Winston that I can drop off at their house and the other is to my mom. I have a key to her house so I’m pretty sure I’ll get that one back.
Lynn Britton Radford (PA, USA) Moan Lisa (IA, USA) Allan Bealy (NY, NY) E Ambassadeur d'Utopia (Givry, FR) Erinn S Young (Innisfil, CN) Mary Crockett (WS, USA) Debbie Brown Foster (Lexington, USA)

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A Book of Ideas For Cheating

So I’m not exactly sure what I should call this particular book? The basic guts of the book are those iconic eighty sheet composition books that have been floating around since the 50’s. Maybe not the 50’s but that decade feels right to me? I love those books. For years I’ve made all kinds of things out of them from tour journals, to my mail-art address books, to where I put all of my doodles I make during meetings. I must have ten or fifteen of them filled with random stuff from over the past ten years.
This book design is a little different; it was designed for children, an open space for drawing at the top and lines for writing at the bottom. A nice book for a child to work on their letters is a great book for me to get down some ideas. The shape of the book and the maker are exactly the same as the old standard. I bought the book knowing that I was going to use it for something at some time.
Bored in my backroom where I keep most of my mail art items, I noticed the book had fallen on the floor. At the time I was a little listless, not sure what I wanted to work on or if wanted to make anything at all. Without giving it much thought I started riffling through all of the random techniques that I’ve employed over the years, searching for that one thing that sounded appetizing. I never found the thing; instead I put the book back on the bed and then went into the living room to sit in front of the television.
Then it hit me; why not make notes about all the different ways I create my trashy collages? I went back into the room and picked up the book and decided it would be where these ideas would be housed. So that’s it, I’ve started with these pages. Some are devoted to more involved tasks like the “tape rip method” and other pages will simply say “paint.” The idea is that I can use the book to help me through difficult works. I feel like there’s a name to this type of book but I haven’t come across it just yet.
So that’s the first half of the book. The second half is going to be ideas for collaborative projects. You know “one on ones, “add and passes” and these “add and return boards” that I just sent out this week. It should be a fun project to collect all of these things. In between I plan on writing out longer descriptions of the process, where it came from, and how I can make it work better.

I'm Ready For My Close Up

 A picture of my face taken in my office, monochromed, and then printed off in various contexts. Periodically I make printed copies...