During ICAD this (2016) summer, I did a series of cards that were, in effect, whitewashed. I had been playing around with a collaged background, and I kept thinking “if only I had some gesso.” Buying supplies isn’t possible right now, but I thought about the fact that my art student’s art box was sitting right there, unattended for the summer. While he doesn’t have gesso (they aren’t prepping canvases yet), he does have white acrylic. Bingo!
I wasn’t sure if I would get a similar effect using white acrylic, or if I would be able to work on top of it. It was, really, an experiment. I retrieved his tube of white acrylic, grabbed a brush (just any ol’ brush), and squeezed a bit of paint onto the brush and started spreading it around, working to keep it as thin and transparent as I could in places while still giving coverage.
I was really haphazard in doing these. I didn’t use a palette. I didn’t have water on hand. I did no diluting of the paint. At times I felt I was scrubbing the paint into place. But there was texture. There was some transparency that allowed the colors from the collaged elements to peek through. And, once dry, I was able to write on top of the paint with a pen. In places, it was tough to get the pen to show up. On some of the cards where I used the white acrylic, the paint resulted in a texture that was hard to get ink to show on top of.
But it worked. I did what I could with the ink, letting simple black outlines do their job on top of the semi-opaque backgrounds.
To me, the cards felt whitewashed. There was a freshness to the white that surprised me. It wasn’t the same as using a white card. There was texture. There was the feeling of age and weathering and layering. But there was the crispness of the white.
For a few days, I was really enamored with the look, feel, and process.
The sample photo above is one where I wish I had left things alone just a step behind the final card. But the end result is still a part of this series and a testament to some explorative work this summer in ICAD.
The following phone photos show the card at various stages of the process. You can see how the collage gets muted in this process. The collage lends the card its tone, but the collage itself is sublimated. I made deliberate choices in the collages, and in most of these cards, those choices were masked by the whitewashing. It’s all about balance, and there is more I could explore with this.
As for the white paint and the art student? He will never miss it.