Curves: A Work in Progress

In my last post I mentioned my recurring fascination with spirals, curves, and swirls.  At the time I was just beginning a new collage that I hoped to have finished in two weeks or less.  That was a little over a month ago, so you can guess that things didn’t go exactly as planned.  In fact, that piece turned out to be quite a struggle.


I began with an abstract idea involving curves.  I sketched a fluid arrangement of interlocking swirls directly onto a recycled 9″ x 12″ canvas panel.  The panel had originally been used to playfully clean my brush while taking a studio class with John Sevcik. I intentionally left it that way as an underpainting.  From the sketch I jumped right in to the collage even though I hadn’t worked out all my color choices.  That was where I ran into trouble.  I planned to see what would happen if I let the totally unrelated underpainting have a subconscious influence on my color choices.  This turned out to be a mistake, though not a fatal one.  It just made my progress slower.

The extraneous color influence might have been less distracting if I’d had a very firm idea of where I wanted to go, but the nebulous color scheme I had in mind this time had a hard time competing.  I laid out some color choices over my design at various stages to help visualize the next step.  Once I cleared them away to make room to work, however, the somber colors underneath strove against the more vivid colors I was trying to visualize.


To make smooth curves with irregular straight-edged pieces of paper, I work the inside of each curve first then smooth out all the jagged edges when I work the outside.  This piece was entirely composed of curves changing direction every few inches, so I had to jump continually between color sections.  This made it hard to develop a rhythm work rhythm and even harder keep track of where I put the piece I wanted next (the one that was the exact shade of blue-green that I was certain I’d been holding a minute ago).  I kept some of the smallest pieces close to hand on a blank sketchbook page while others congregated in small piles all over my workspace.

I did start getting some pleasing color transitions in a few of the sections I was working on, but even that was a trap.  With most of the collage going badly, or at least only proceeding with a struggle, the parts I liked initially became almost too precious to tamper with.  I didn’t let that keep me from making changes, however.  Hardly a single area of the collage wasn’t tweaked at least once.

After I had most of the main areas roughed in, I spent several more sessions making minor revisions.  Unfortunately, it very hard to capture this stage.  What happens is this:  I’ll look at my nearly-finished collage and pronounce it a total waste of time and effort. I just want to finish it and get it out of my sight.  It will sit there piteously for a while and eventually I’ll see one thing I can fix — an edge that can be softened, a color shifted, or a noisy section toned down.  I might add just a half-dozen new pieces, then go back to despising it for a few hours, or even a few days, until I figure out what to fix next.

At this stage, each step is so small that it doesn’t seem worth documenting.  Then before I know it, the whole collage is completely changed.  It should be, since I’ve actually put in the equivalent another full day’s work on it, 10-15 minutes at a time.


Thats where I am now.  It’s arguably a finished piece but something is still nagging me about it, so there’s still work to be done.



3 thoughts on “Curves: A Work in Progress

  1. Pingback: When a Collage is Finished … or Not | Cricketswool

  2. Pingback: Title Troubles, or What’s in a Name? | Cricketswool

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