Yesterday, I was in art heaven at a Julie Fei-Fan Balzer workshop, sponsored by The Ink Pad, which was held at the Westbeth community art center in New York's West Village. What could be better than an entire day being creative, playing with paints, stamps, stencils and collage? And of course, being surrounded by like-minded artists is inspiring, with the exchange of ideas and tips.
I didn't know what to expect, all I knew was that we were to bring six pieces of 6" x 6" watercolor paper and a whole bunch of art supplies. We all showed up looking like we were about to take a flight to Paris, with rolling suitcases full of paint brushes and supplies rather than clothing and accessories ... but just in case we needed that one special item that was accidentally left home, we had to bring almost everything, right?
Unlike many classes where the instructor shows you a finished product and says: "This is what you will have at the end of the class," Julie purposely did not bring samples so we would create without a plan or vision in mind.
|This piece was held out, and did not get the final layer of paint, stencils and stamps.|
We worked in layers, having no idea what was coming next, working on all six at the same time. Well, I am a notorious over-achiever, so I worked on nine. After about the third step of the lesson, I decided I liked one of the pieces too much to go on, so I tucked it in my bag. I often wonder "what if" so I held it out to compare to the finished pieces and see which I liked more.
Julie is a terrific instructor. She is really funny and fun-loving, but also serious and real, and is able to be direct, in control, non-judgmental, and make everyone feel special and talented.
I used my favorite acrylic paint colors, some of my favorite stamps--commercial ones and hand-carved originals too. I also used some of my favorite stencils, mostly from Artistcellar. After the painting was done, we added collage materials. I had all kinds of papers, including some imperfect vintage magazine pages gifted to me from Susan Morgan Hoth.
I was deeply engrossed in my own process, but at one point, I looked at what the woman across the table from me was doing and saw an awesome stencil, which really called my name. I loooove urban industrial design, especially NYC manhole covers, doorknobs, and architectural grill work. The manhole cover stencil she had used was from a set of designs by Michelle Ward, which are exclusive to the Ink Pad. Fortunately the Ink Pad had a mini shop set up and I ran across the room and snagged a set.
My last layer uses Michelle's stencils. It was late in the day, I was a little tired, and my artwork was a little damp (even after blasting it with a heat gun) so a few of the images came out imperfect, but the workshop was all about allowing yourself to be imperfect and pushing ahead anyway.
In the photo of the nine pieces, the one in the center is the piece that I held out and tucked in my bag. It is very "me" and a little too safe, a little too much of what I usually do. The eight pieces that have additional paint, stamps and Michelle's stencils are a less safe, less predictable, but still have my style and feel.
In case anyone is wondering why I chose the words that are in to collages, especially the Heinz Baked Beans, it was pretty random. I like to use text--especially in foreign languages and assorted fonts--as a design element. I was tearing some of the vintage magazine ads and that text was the size and style that felt right at the moment. Not that I don't like Heinz Baked Beans...they were a staple of my childhood diet...but now my taste buds prefer the organic, homemade varieties.