In a little over a week, I'll be on a plane to Barcelona, heading for three weeks at the Centre D'Art I Natura
in the Pyrenees village of Farrera. It is my second residency there, and the last time I went (seven years ago, almost to the day) I lugged all of my oil supplies--my suitcase weighted about 80 lbs. This time, I decided to travel more lightly by bringing only water-based and drawing media, for work in mixed media and collage.
It's been years since I've done any serious work using anything but oils, and in spite of beginning with a carefully thought out supply list, I got a little carried away with buying new supplies. But I've been so excited thinking about the potential of various materials--alone and in combination with others. So I have watercolor, egg tempera, powdered graphite, powdered pastel, various types of gel mediums, water soluble pencils and crayons...and on and on..actually there is probably as much weight in all this stuff (plus various kind of paper and multi-media board) as I had with my oil paints!
In order to weed a few things out, or at least to prioritize what to take, last week I started to experiment and familiarize myself with some of my new materials. And at some point I realized it could be useful to paste swatches of especially interesting textures and surfaces into this small sketchbook, with notes. The page above shows a texture achieved by sprinkling powdered graphite onto clear gesso, and then spreading gently with a fan brush. It has a very delicate appearance, each particle of graphite distinct. This example is black and white, but I have also been discovering some beautiful color effects, layering materials in much the same approach as I do with my oils.
My intention during the residency is to respond to the setting I'll be in (the ancient stone village, craggy mountains, grassy meadows...) and to use particular aspects of my surroundings as jumping off points for abstract works. The new materials and techniques will be part of the exploration, but I want my focus to be on the place itself, rather than on the experimental way I'm working with the materials right now. So gaining some mastery over this media ahead of time seems like a good idea. I also plan to do some realistic painting and drawing in the field (again, something I have not done much of for years...since the last time I was there.)
I don't actually think I'll have to force any of that focus on my surroundings--it is truly a spectacular location!