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  • Carol Wiebe

Anne Bagby DVD, four viewings later

I recently posted about Anne Bagby. After watching her new DVD four times, I have to say that one of the things I highly appreciate about her is what she seemed most uncomfortable with: the “tricks” she employs to put her collage paintings together.

Let me give you an example. She had a dog drawing which she wanted to add to her collage, but it was too small so she took it to a printer to have it re-sized. She made a “stencil” out of the correctly proportioned drawing. This way, she could test the positive shape on her collage to decide where she wanted to place it. The stencil was then put in place around it, the dog was pulled away, and she had a perfect guide for sponge painting the dog shape, guaranteeing correct placement and proportions. In fact, she kept cutting the dog apart, and tracing the different parts (the neck, the feet, etc.). She commented that we, the viewers, would think she couldn’t draw.

Anne, I never thought that for a moment! You rendered a dog, beautifully, and didn’t want to reinvent the wheel. I am all for using appropriate technology if it helps you get the job done. And you certainly get the job done . . . superbly.

I was reminded of Mary Pratt, the well known Canadian painter who stopped painting and took up sewing at one point in her career because  she doubted “the validity of using photographs.”

She was unaware that her style — using the camera as a tool and the slide as a record of light and subject matter — was consistent with that of many Canadian, American and European New Realist artists. Fortunately, she returned to painting in the new year and completed the well-known Eviscerated Chickens (1971).

Since then, there has been a definite sea change (and just what is wrong with taking up sewing?):

Misty Mawn teaches workshops using image transfers of faces from old art books or magazines, ephemera, old text, old poetry books.
D.J. Pettitt provides face templates in a kit for some of her classes.
Kelly Kilmer teaches a workshop, called About Face, on how to paint right over a magazine face to create one of your own.

Many artists employ various methods to produce their work that might not be considered traditional “art school” techniques. The beauty of collage painting is that just about “anything goes,” as long as you have fun and are satisfied with your results! ( I say “just about” because using someone else’s copyrighted images will NOT  be accepted by magazines.)

Oh, and just wait until you find out how Anne makes gorgeous papers out of scraps and deli paper! I’d lend you my DVD, but I have the popcorn ready and am off to watch it AGAIN!

When I have this kind of itch, I scratch, because my rivetted attention is a direction post for me. As I watch, over and over, I know that I am integrating certain techniques and putting my own spin on them. It’s like the child who wants to take the same story out of the library again and again. That narrative holds a key to a door he or she wants opened. Children cannot articulate such a desire, of course. But I know, from past experience, that fascination leads to integration and results in exciting new work.

UPDATE: See a great post about Anne Bagby at Nancy Standlee’s blog.

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