Alexandra Sheldon

Spring Thursday Class #2

Alexandra SheldonComment

Dear Marsha,

Thursday night class #2: Working into the 'grounds' (the airy, space filled fields of color and light) by adding geometric shapes like lines, triangles, circles and squares. It's always helpful to go back to the grid. Cut strips of colored papers and collage them in. Absolute attention to color at this point. Feel the palette, intuit the colors, ask the piece: what do you want, what do you need? This is not about thinking, this is about following the feeling of the piece. I do not plan, I go one step at a time, always staying in the moment. Some people plan a collage and figure it all out before they glue anything down. This can be a great way to work and I am always intrigued by those who work like this. This is not my process though. I change one thing at a time and it shifts the piece into a new place. I suggest working on a series of pieces so that you can put things up on the wall and let them rest. Look at a piece from a distance. The image of the artist standing back and looking at the canvas on the wall is very true. Let stuff breathe, it will tell you what it needs if you let it. Suddenly you may get a message: more black in the upper corner. Listen, open, always asking the questions: Does it need more light? Does it need an image? It feels static, what could I do to enliven it? It became atonal, what can I do to the color to enhance it? I really like to work on a few pieces at a time. This way, when I get stuck, I can switch to another. Or try this: if you are stuck on a piece keep your hands moving - work thru the block. Every once in a while someone in the class says: I'm throwing this away and I run over and get the piece and ask "Can I sand it down with my electric sander?" It's always fun to take the sander and go at the rejected collage. Then, put a glaze of color over it and often you have another beautiful 'ground' to start fresh on.

Tonight I talked about abstraction versus using images. I don't see much difference. One learns what one wants. Jim Dine, the printmaker, talked about "needing a hook to hang his hat on".  He figured out that he needed an image, something realistic like a bathrobe or a heart to anchor him. I have a student who makes collages that are like drifts of colors, ethereal clouds moving through dreams. Her abstraction is what feels right to her. I travel around as an artist not unlike a hummingbird: I want to visit every flower; I draw houses and trees and I make very abstract collages too. What do YOU need? In art school I was told by a teacher named Don Moulton to visit many museums and shows and to find out what I loved to look at. He said to pay extra attention to the art that made me feel: "I know I could do that - THAT feels familiar and exciting". Maybe that's what inspiration is: when you can't wait to try it. It's contagious.