The Darling Buds of April

We are still waiting for spring.

I’m starting to think that this slow spring is some kind of seasonal protest. Maybe Winter overslept and just refuses to get out of bed. Or perhaps Spring is “working to rule”, hoping to wrest better job conditions, pay, and benefits from Mother Nature. Whatever the case, the outdoors are uniformly drab.

When I look out the window, I see our yard is a field of mud and construction debris leftover from the Great House Jacking of 2012. On a good day, the mud is frozen; on a bad day, my dogs coat the ground floor of our house with it.

When I look out the window with my mind’s eye, I see the yard as I want it to be: green grass, a lush canopy of trees, and flower beds all a-bloom. I think about where I would like to plant flowers and fruit trees, what colour palettes and garden designs I want to use, where I would like to put a walk way or steps, a raised bed or two…

Sadly, we are a long way from that reality. For the time being, I content myself with making some floral collages. Whatever it looks like outside, the garden in my studio is in full bloom and awash in colour!

Spring Iris I 
7×5 painted paper collage on panel, 
© 2013 Alyson Champ

Spring Iris II
9X9 painted paper collage on panel,
© 2013 Alyson Champ

Irises in bloom? In April?? No, not really.  But hey, a girl can dream, can’t she?

Tangled Up in Blue

I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way -things I had no words for. Georgia O’Keeffe

Photo ©Alyson Champ

I know that music is often spoken of as the language of the emotions, but what of colour? Colour psychology, which is a relatively new discipline with roots in ancient eastern medicine, tells us that colour has a profound effect on mood: the power to calm or to stimulate. Colours in the red/orange family are thought to be active and exciting colours. The blues and greens of the spectrum are soothing and passive. Factual neurological evidence aside, here in the West, we do certainly have strong, long-held associations of colours with particular concepts. For example, the colour red is associated with courage and sacrifice, but also love, passion, and appetite. Red is a favourite colour for restaurant interiors for that very reason. A bright sunny yellow is frequently called the colour of the intellect; green the colour of youth, nature, and life; purple the colour of nobility and wisdom; black the colour of mourning; white symbolizes the pristine and virginal; and when we hear someone singing the blues, we know exactly what that means, don’t we?

I’m writing about the impact and meaning of colour because I find myself at something of a turning point in my artwork. Having been an oil painter for more than twenty years, I am increasingly drawn to collage making as my primary means of artistic expression. Obviously this has necessitated some changes in my materials, most notably my switch from oil to acrylic paint.

As a painter, I never learned to love acrylics because they seemed to lack the richness and luminosity of oils. Acrylic colours always looked “plastic” and gaudy to my eye, like a cheap imitation of the real thing. But collage making has caused me to revise that opinion. Oil paint just doesn’t work for the type of collages that I want to make. I experimented with watercolour but didn’t like that either. Finally, I started fooling around with some tubes of acrylics, and guess what? It was a perfect fit.

Apart from the convenience of water solubility and the fact that you can apply acrylic directly to paper without any primer, I find that the quality of saturated, intense colour, which was the original reason that I hated acrylic paint as a painter, is the virtue I have most come to love in it as a collage artist. And the variety of colours available! It boggles the mind. I have become hooked on phthalocyanine blue and quinacridone violets. What the heck are they? Have a look below.

Purple Iris – 20×24 painted paper collage mounted on canvas
©Alyson Champ

This is the latest in my Iris collage series. For this one I moved away from strong colour contrasts of the previous flower collages, and have opted for a more analogous blue/violet palette, with the exception of the small punctuations of yellow and orange. I wanted the flower to have the appearance of emerging from its background and to make the picture so lush and rich in colour that viewer could just sink into it. Here’s a detail:

Purple Iris detail ©Alyson Champ

So, what’s the verdict? Soothing, calming, peaceful? I think so. I hope you are getting a little bit of what I felt as I watched the blue pigment soak into the white paper which was just, “…oh my….”.