Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Making of "Collared"- a Work in Progress

As many of you know, my technique for developing my collage paintings involves multiple steps. It starts with a drawing, then moves onto a small collage sketch on illustration board, then onto the large final piece on wood panel.

During the past week I participated in a facebook/instagram challenge put on by my art business coach Cory Huff at The Abundant Artist. Because of this challenge I created three short videos of myself discussing creating of my newest collage sketch for a piece I will call "Collared".

Here are all three videos, (each one is about 2 minutes long) along with pictures of the sketch at it's various stages.

 First, here is the image itself. I was attracted to the woman's collar - hence the title! I also find that the word has many, somewhat uncomfortable meanings and associations which I think helps add depth to the image.
Next, here a is one of two drawings I did of the scene, trying to simplify and create order of the image.

As you can see, I made the collage sketch while at the beach for a long holiday weekend. Maybe this is why I appear so jovial.
Making of "Collared" collage sketch, take 1 from Leslie Peterson Sapp on Vimeo.

This the first stage of the sketch:

Making of "Collared" collage sketch take 2! from Leslie Peterson Sapp on Vimeo.

Next I made a big decision about color. In the first picture, the table tops in this bar are tan colored. This tan color is my go-to color choice for table tops. But making"by route" choices is the downfall for a fine artist! The purple-taupe cools the image down and creates a mood.

In the final video, I talk about some of the last adjustments I need to make to feel "right" about the finished sketch.

The Making of "Collared" take 3. from Leslie Peterson Sapp on Vimeo.
And here is the final! (Maybe! I am still wondering about that wine bottle.)
Now I will move onto the final piece, which will probably 16"x20".
 (BTW, this collage sketch is also for sale! It is 4"x5" and is $150.00)

Monday, June 12, 2017

A Brief Primer on Collage.

Some of you have never seen my work in person. But even those of you who have, it can be difficult for people to tell how I make my art using collage. Often people don’t realize it is collage at all.

There are many ways to make collage art. I would organize it into two main techniques:
1. Cutting up and combining recognizable found images
2. Using colored paper as a form of paint, building an image similar to the way a pointillist uses dots.

Many artists use some combination of the two. Each combination of techniques has its pluses and minuses, and lends itself to different intents. Borrowed imagery tends to be more conceptual, because it makes us think about the imagery in a different way. Using colored paper as paint tends to be more formal or aesthetic. 

Although the deep history of collage is ancient, the modern concept of collage probably started with Georges Braque, in 1914 (though some credit his buddy Pablo Picasso with this)

Georges Braque, Still Life on a Table Gillette, 1914

Braque first added wall paper with a wood grain print to his cubist drawings as a sort of visual pun. The collaged paper also functioned as a color to support the abstract cubist design.

Georges Braque, Mandoline, 1914

He went on to use found objects and images such as text from newspapers and advertisements. Can you believe these darn things are over 100 years old?

A good example of an artist who uses found images is Hannah Hoch, who was a pioneer of the art form and used found imagery to create art that made social commentary.

Hannah Hoch, Da-Dandy, 1919
Hannah Hoch, Untitled, 1930

In the 1960's, Robert Rauschenberg combined found images with silk screen, paint and drawing. 

Robert Rauschenber, Skyway, 1964
Robert Rauschenberg  Mirthday Man, 1997

A couple of contemporary artists who do similar things are Ellen Gallager, and fellow Portland artist, Karen Wippich!

Ellen Gallagher, Getting Hair Did, 2005?
Karen Wippich, Basket of Adorables, 2017

Kurt Schwitters is a good, early example of an artist who used paper primarily as one would use paint, to create abstract designs. Although he did use text and photographic images, they were used as color, value and texture, rather than for conceptual references. (He was also an early developer of installation art.)

Kurt Schwitters, Fur Moholy, 1934
Kurt Schwitters, Santa Claus, 1922

Many collage artists used found images in combination with using colored paper as a form of paint. Romare Bearden was a master of this, using photographic images to create narrative and reference, mixed with pure colored paper to support the formal aspects of the picture.

Romare Bearden, House in Cotton Field
Romare Bearden, Springway, collage on paperboard 1964

Finally, some artists use colored paper exclusively, with no found images, to build a picture from the ground up. This is the technique I use, and Romare Bearden also used this technique in his "Black Odyssey" series.

Romare Bearden, The Water Nymph, 1970's
Leslie Peterson Sapp, Ino and Odysseus Have a Chat, 2017

At times I will also use text, but in the manner that Schwitters did, simply as color and texture.

Leslie Peterson Sapp, The Paradigm, 2016

Finally, there is contemporary encaustic art, which often uses found imagery embedded in layers of wax, creating an atmospheric, layered affect.

Bridget Benton, Catching the Fall, 2016

I don't tend to use borrowed imagery because, frankly, my mind doesn't seem to work that way, and I just get all confused while I am doing it. I have chosen to do collage because cutting paper forces me to simplify shapes in a way that makes my art stronger.  But who knows what direction my art will eventually go????

Friday, June 2, 2017

How Do Artists Restore After a Big Show?

Last month my show “Man of Many Wiles” at Gallery 114 was a wonderful success! The turnout was good, I made some sales and got a lot of support from friends new and old. This success was because of a tremendous effort of time, energy, will and risk-taking. I pushed the envelope of my comfort zone on multiple fronts. Thankfully, the efforts paid off and I am satisfied with the results.

Now that the show is over and done, I find I am a bit out of sorts. I expected myself to keep the momentum going and immediately started to think about what to do next. It has taken me a bit of time to realize that what I really need is to pause and restore.

I have a lot of things to consider:

Do I continue doing more work with The Odyssey?
Do I go back to my Film Noir series?
Do I expand my Odyssey series to include other sources from literature, such as The Metamorphoses, Norse Mythology, or even Shakespeare?
Where do I show next? What is my next venue?

I have a tendency to ride myself a bit hard. I have realized that I can’t simply continue to produce without taking some time to relax, dream, and reassess my desires and goals. Some of the ways in which I am restoring myself are:

  • Back to doing little, no-pressure drawings and sketches. 
  • Reading things that interest and inspire me. 
  • Catching up with things I couldn’t do while I was working so hard.
  • Gardening.
  • Cleaning up my studio, reorganizing my stuff in a way that feels good. 
  • Looking at other artists’ work and becoming inspired. 
  • Beach time!

I trust and respect my process.
I trust and respect my inner rhythms.
I trust that "it" will come back to me, better and stronger than ever.

How do you restore yourself after a huge endeavor?

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Athena, Telemachus and the Origin of the Word “Mentor”

Telemachus, walking the beach now, far from others, 
washed his hands in the foaming surf and prayed to Pallas: 
“Dear god, hear me! Yesterday you came to my house, 
you told me to ship out on the misty sea and learn 
if father, gone so long, is ever coming home …

Athena came to his prayer from close at hand, 
for all the world with Mentor’s build and voice, 
and she urged him on with winging words: “Telemachus, 
you’ll lack neither courage nor sense from this day on…”
"Telemacheia" Leslie Peterson Sapp 16"x20" Collage painting on panel.
And so Athena, daughter of Zeus, assured him. 
No lingering now—he heard the goddess’ voice— 
but back he went to his house with aching heart 

I love the way the gods appear in mortal form throughout The Odyssey. Sometimes it is Athena, sometimes Hermes, sometimes they appear as strangers, sometimes as people known to the character in question. There is a common theme in each appearance; the character meets a person who acts as a guide or helper. After this guide or helper leaves, the character realizes they have not been talking to a mortal person, but a god in disguise. The cloaked gods are described as having a numinous quality, or being beautiful, or glittering, or youthful. In this piece I attempt to express the simultaneous presence of mortal and divine with the figure of Mentor and the face of Athena in the sea and sky. 
"Telemachus knelt where the grey water broke on the sand" W. Heath Robinson

It is not my intention to tell you the entire plot of The Odyssey here. If you want a little background you can always visit cliffnotes.com (yes, cliff notes!) to get the context of the plot. What I want to show you is why I am inspired by this scene, and also to show you other artists' versions.

At this point in the poem, Athena has decided to go to Ithaca and advise Odysseus’ youthful son Telemachus. I am touched by Telemachus, who has grown up without a father, and longs to find him.

"Athena and Telemachus" lithograph by Marc Chagall, 1975
Prince Telemachus, 
sitting among the suitors, heart obsessed with grief. 
He could almost see his magnificent father, here … 
in the mind’s eye—if only he might drop from the clouds 
and drive these suitors all in a rout throughout the halls 
and regain his pride of place and rule his own domains! 
Daydreaming so as he sat among the suitors
Telemachus and King Nestor. Apulian krater. Mid-4th century BC. 

Athena persuades Telemachus, recently come of age, to go on a journey in search of news of his father.
Telemachus is gripped with self doubt. So, he goes down to the beach to pray. He is approached by the form of Mentor, a friend of his father.
Telemachus’ courage and conviction are revived. We all need encouragement and guidance. Sometimes we turn to those in our lives, and sometimes we turn to a spiritual practice. And sometimes it feels as though the divine universe has sent us someone to help us on our way… like a mentor. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Song of the Sirens!

‘Come closer, famous Odysseus—Achaea’s pride and glory—
moor your ship on our coast so you can hear our song!
Never has any sailor passed our shores in his black craft
until he has heard the honeyed voices pouring from our lips,
and once he hears to his heart’s content sails on, a wiser man.
We know all the pains that Achaeans and Trojans once endured
on the spreading plain of Troy when the gods willed it so—
all that comes to pass on the fertile earth, we know it all!’
boat, bondage, collage, collage art, contemporary art, greek mythology, island, man, odysseus, sea, ship, shipmast, Song of the Sirens, the odyssey
"Song of the Sirens" Leslie Peterson Sapp 16"x20" Collage painting on panel
So they sent their ravishing voices out across the air
and the heart inside me throbbed to listen longer.

Although this is one of the most well known episodes of The Odyssey, it is surprisingly short. If you want to know the context of the story and some analysis, you can visit cliffnotes.com here.
"Ulysse et les sirènes" Pablo Picasso, 1947
"Ulysse et les sirènes" Pablo Picasso, 1947
The goddess Circe, Odysseus’ sometime seductress, sometime ally warns him of the dangers of passing the Island of the Sirens.

The high, thrilling song of the Sirens will transfix him,
lolling there in their meadow, round them heaps of corpses,
rotting away, rags of skin shriveling on their bones …
Race straight past that coast!

She gives him a plan to safely pass, knowing that Odysseus himself will not be able to resist his own curiosity:

Soften some beeswax
and stop your shipmates’ ears so none can hear,
none of the crew, but if you are bent on hearing,
have them tie you hand and foot in the swift ship,
erect at the mast-block, lashed by ropes to the mast
so you can hear the Sirens’ song to your heart’s content.
But if you plead, commanding your men to set you free,
then they must lash you faster, rope on rope.

In the Victorian era, there was really only one way that a painter could depict nudity or sexual themes, and that was to base the painting on some kind of pre-Christian mythology. So this story of the Sirens was used again and again to show The Sirens as sexual temptresses, bent on snaring innocent seafaring men to their death.
 "La Sirena" Giulio Aristide Sartorio, 1893, The Sirens
"La Sirena" Giulio Aristide Sartorio, 1893
"The Sirens and Ulysses" William Etty, 1837, The Song of the Sirens, the Odyssey, greek mythology
"The Sirens and Ulysses" William Etty, 1837

"The Sirens and Ulysses" Herbert James Draper, 1909, The Odyssey, TheSirens, greek mythology
"The Sirens and Ulysses" Herbert James Draper, 1909 
The theme of woman as temptress is one that inspired Max Beckmann again and again. (He is one of my favorite painters, but sometimes his obsession with this is something I have to look past!) His painting gave me the idea of placing Odysseus in the foreground. I wished to place more emphasis on Odysseus’ ordeal, rather than the seductive forms of The Sirens.
"Odysseus and the Sirens" Max Beckmann, 1933,The Odyssey, The Sirens, greek mythology
"Odysseus and the Sirens" Max Beckmann, 1933
While I think that this story taps into a universal truth of temptation, I tend to think of it as a temptation of ego, rather than exclusively about sexual temptation. If you hear their words, they are not just seductive women. They flatter Odysseus’ ego, calling him “remarkable” or ‘famous”, “Achaea’s pride and glory” and a “great chief”. Plus they promise knowledge and wisdom, and they lie, claiming he will be able to leave once he gets his fill of information. But, of course, he would never get his fill, and would have simply wasted away, listening to their flattery, unable to let go of their ego. 
The Siren Vase, red-figured stamnos, 480BC-470BC, The Odyssey, greek mythology, the sirens, greek vase painting
The Siren Vase, red-figured stamnos, 480BC-470BC

Friday, April 14, 2017

Penelope, the Matchless Queen of Cunning

So by day she’d weave at her great and growing web—
by night, by the light of torches set beside her,
she would unravel all she’d done.
boat, collage, collage art, contemporary art, greek mythology, leslie peterson sapp, mixed media, moon, mythology, odysseus, Penelope The Matchless Queen of Cunning, sea, the odyssey, weaver of fate, weaving, web
"Penelope, the Matchless Queen of Cunning" Leslie Peterson Sapp 16"x20" Collage, acrylic, cheese cloth, fiber paste

Aside from the interesting literal story, this scene also taps into the archetype of Woman as Weaver, or the Weaver of Fate or Destiny. This is a universal archetype, with versions in cultures all over the world and across time. 
Click here for a little list of weaver archetypes in mythology.
Mayan Teotihuacan Spider Woman, boat, collage, collage art, contemporary art, greek mythology, leslie peterson sapp, mixed media, moon, mythology, odysseus, Penelope The Matchless Queen of Cunning, sea, the odyssey, weaver of fate, weaving, web
Mayan Teotihuacan Spider Woman
Included in my depiction is a couple fanciful elements: The tiny ship in the deep background… could it be Odysseus coming home? Also, the scene she is weaving is about Scylla and Charybdis, an incident in Odysseus’ adventures that Penelope could not possibly have known about. I thought it would be interesting to propose that maybe she is unconsciously following her husband’s wanderings in her dreams or in her deep creativity.
Penelope Unravelling Her Work at Night, Dora Wheeler, 1886 Silk embroidered with silk thread, boat, collage, collage art, contemporary art, greek mythology, leslie peterson sapp, mixed media, moon, mythology, odysseus, Penelope The Matchless Queen of Cunning, sea, the odyssey, weaver of fate, weaving, web
"Penelope Unravelling Her Work at Night" Dora Wheeler, 1886
Silk embroidered with silk thread
I also like this scene because Penelope is a person who is making the best of a situation where she is almost powerless, and must use her cleverness and guile to survive. She is put into a difficult position by her husband’s extended absence, a position that is difficult for us to comprehend today. It displays a big difference not only in the position of women in society and succession of kingship and property, but also of the sacred tradition of hospitality. 

To learn a bit about hospitality, read the analysis section of cliffnotes.com or a great article about The Odyssey in one of my favorite online magazines, The Art of Manliness.
Penelope and Laertes’ Shroud. Red Figure Red Vase, boat, collage, collage art, contemporary art, greek mythology, leslie peterson sapp, mixed media, moon, mythology, odysseus, Penelope The Matchless Queen of Cunning, sea, the odyssey, weaver of fate, weaving, web
Penelope and Laertes’ Shroud. Red Figure Red Vase. S. 440 BC.

For a description of the context of this scene, look at cliffnotes.com.

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Land of the Lotus Eaters

So off they went and soon enough 
they mingled among the natives, Lotus-eaters, Lotus-eaters 
who had no notion of killing my companions, not at all, 
they simply gave them the lotus to taste instead … 
Any crewmen who ate the lotus, the honey-sweet fruit, 
lost all desire to send a message back, much less return, 
their only wish to linger there with the Lotus-eaters, 
grazing on lotus, all memory of the journey home 
dissolved forever.
"The Land of the Lotus Eaters" Leslie Peterson Sapp 16"x20" Collage painting on panel
The Lotus Eaters is another brief but well known episode in The Odyssey, and takes place on one of the many islands that Odysseus and his crew stop at, and they barely escape. Not because of a fighting foe, but because a potential pitfall of basic human nature. 

Most of the time people interpret this scene with two meanings; either The Lotus Eaters people who are lost in drug addiction, or people who have rejected society’s requirement to work, or strive, to achieve, and they live in the moment, at peace and one with nature. There is a famous Tennyson poem about it. Here is a link to an essay by Mike Jay about how the The Lotus Eaters symbolizes a rejection of over work, progress, colonization, imperialism. 

"The Lotus Eaters" W. Heath Robinson
I have a pretty unconventional version of the Lotus Eaters in this series, in fact, you could say I took a flight of fancy to a meaning no one else, as far as I know has arrive at.

When I start working with an image, I often start with a google search of images, to see who else out there has painted the scene and how they interpreted it, how they dealt with the space, the positioning of the characters, etc. When I did a search for the Lotus Eaters I ran across some pretty unexpected images. 

Some were connected to The Lotus Eaters, a new wave band from the early 80’s. They were one of the very earliest bands that were ascribed a gay identity. 
Along the same lines I came across the a Yaoi graphic novel series called The Lotus Eaters. Yaoi is a genre of graphic novels and fiction from Japan that focuses on same-sex romances between boys (but produced for a female audience). 
From these things I made a leap from The Lotus Eaters being a symbol not only of the rejection of work and strife to being a rejection of the masculine compulsion to prove one’s masculinity. What if the incident is a fable for men’s’ constant anxiety to appear strong, capable, macho, and above all, not gay? What if the horror of being perceived as gay is enough to compel one another to never even touch on that isle for fear that once you taste it, you’ll never escape?

But I brought them back, back 
to the hollow ships, and streaming tears—I forced them, 
hauled them under the rowing benches, lashed them fast 
and shouted out commands to my other, steady comrades: 
'Quick, no time to lose, embark in the racing ships!’— 
so none could eat the lotus, forget the voyage home. 
They swung aboard at once, they sat to the oars in ranks 
and in rhythm churned the water white with stroke on stroke.” 
To me, this scene also has a great deal of humor to it. I love the image of grown up tough guys being dragged away, tears streaming down their faces, like children who don’t want to leave a playground. I think it is funny that these men, so adventurous and brave, would cry over something like that. I love that they simply forgot all about the important mission they are on, and didn’t care anymore.

I think Odysseus’ reaction is hilarious; “Quick! No time to lose! Let’s get the heck outta here before anyone else eats these flowers!” He knew that if too many of his men tasted the flower, his plans to return to Ithaca would be doomed.