Packing materials can be useful to an artist. My earliest exposure to using or recycling styrofoam packing forms came from a sculpture instructor while I was in college. He used the forms to create a negative mold into which molten bronze was poured to replicate the three-dimensional styrofoam piece in metal. Adjustments were made to the styrofoam before creating the mold and once encased in plaster the styrofoam was burned out of the mold, creating the negative space into which the metal would be poured. I liked the idea of making something out of usually discarded materials.
Packing materials are still of interest to me. Every once in a while something I have purchased is packed in not only an interesting box, but surrounded by paper cast forms to hold the item in place during shipping. Packing peanuts hold no special place in my life, and I am always pleased to see inventive, peanut lacking solutions to shipping problems. Recently one such piece of cast paper surfaced around an object I purchased. Although I am still unable to remember its origin, I did save it for one of my collages. While I was an art teacher I remember giving one of my classes an assignment to create a mixed media painting using found objects. My example used Altoid cans and round head brass paper fasteners. The brass fasteners were glued head down to the canvas, leaving the points sticking up to create a texture. How and why I decided to save this piece is also not part of my memory. This dangerous canvas moved from NJ to NY and lived for a while on the wall of our basement. Once I found the cardboard packing form, I decided to reuse the mixed media example. Everything was removed, leaving only the painted surfaces.
After glueing the cardboard piece to the canvas, I added some fruit netting and stared at it for a long time. Once I printed a number of my Great Blue Heron images from the web cam screen captures I attempted to start another mixed media piece. Expecting this would not be terribly difficult, since most of my collages follow a similar process of building up layers, I again moved things around on the surface and hoped for some inspiration. None came.
The canvas went to the basement and stayed there for a month or two. Fearing that my absence from the creative process was extending beyond an acceptable length of time for me, I decided it might be time to tackle the piece again. Since it was uncomfortably hot outside today I also decided an indoor activity seemed logical during the afternoon. Trying to make thoughtful but spontaneous decisions for a direction didn’t seem to be working. Instead I just started glueing things down and knew paint and colored pencils would determine the final outcome.
Although the result is not high on my list of artistic accomplishments, I do feel satisfied that at least I powered through and attempted to deal with the challenge. The resulting mixed media painting has a relief surface created with a cardboard packing form. Colored pencils helped to redefine areas and shapes. This piece will probably go back to the basement for now.
Recently I ordered some Wallis sanded pastel paper which allows a thin layer of acrylic paint to serve as an underpainting for the pastels. Having never tried this, I look forward to a challenge with a new material. I also bought more watercolor blocks, since both my collages and watercolor paintings had depleted my supply. After teaching Art for 32 years, I had become spoiled by the availability of art supplies. Knowing the high cost of art materials wasn’t so painful when I was spending school money (which was indirectly my own tax dollars, since I lived within the district in which I taught.) Students who wasted materials really didn’t understand how lucky they were to have such an abundance of supplies at their fingertips. Maybe my present attitude toward using found objects in my art has something to do with my refusal to spend a lot of money on my supplies. Some have accused me of hoarding (totally off base, by the way.) I prefer to think of myself as ecological.