Tuesday, February 24, 2015

It Don't Mean a Thing...

...if it ain't got that bling.

Well, that turned out to be both true and not. Yes, there was bling, but it de-blinged and then re-blung when, in the course of a book-cover collaboration between myself and Jon Wyble, Jon discovered a shiny trinket wedged in between the boards of his closet floor and decided it was something I should have.

I had already added the crow, you see. The crow with the love for shiny trinkets. Which Jon knew, because I'd sent him a few work-in-progress shots. What Jon didn't know was that in my mind I had pretty much declared myself finished because I couldn't figure out how to complete the piece. What neither of us knew was that the wrapping Jon chose for his closet trinket would pay a pivotal role in the reconstruction of the collaboration. 

But let's not go there just yet. Instead, let's start with the completed cover, which features Jon's closet trinket and the iridescent-blue-eyeshadowed lady who came along for the ride in his wrapping:
The finished cover. I really went to town, so to speak, and not much is the same as when this first
 showed up on my doorstep, as you will soon see. Jon's closet trinket is that branch-like assemblage at upper left.

A detail of the closet trinket (and the little pinup "monocle" that I couldn't resist gluing over the blue
eyeshadow lady). And spoiler alert! Even though I swore I wouldn't move Jon's hardware, I did wind up
relocating the bottlecap.

How It All Began
It started the way a lot of collaborations do, in this case an email from Jon: "Hey, I have some odds and ends ... and was wondering ... I have something that for months I've thought LTH would do a bang-up job finishing off." Well, I would never say no to that! Send it on! Imagine my delight when I opened the package and saw not only a deliciously textured book cover but that Jon had embedded hardware--an old bottlecap and screw--into the cover. Hardware! I love hardware! But it would be quite some time before I got to adding anything like that of my own. The challenge for me was figuring out where to start, how to springboard from the strong elements that Jon had laid down.

The cover was a playground of grungy texture and John had embedded a bottlecap and screw.
He had made this strong visual triangle, and anything I did was going to interfere with that.
So I started with something innocuous, some paper from an old French grammar book.

The texture of the cover seemed to call out for texture on my end, so I planned on some
gel transfers and some d├ęcollage. I chose eggs because I liked the colors against
both the old paper and the cover.

This just shows the eggs flipped so that when I rub through the backs of
the images, the ink will stick to the paper.

This is what the gel transfer process looks like about halfway through.
You can see the egg emerging nicely.

And here are the finished gel transfers, plus some flowers to fill the space to the spine.
The crow head was just about the right scale for the cover and didn't cover up the
original embossed gold lettering, so on it went. I hated how the flowers looked like some
weird bouffant bird hairdo, but figured I could deal with that down the line.
I liked where this was going, but I was still stumped about the relationship of what I was doing to what Jon had done. I hadn't figured out a way to work with his visual triangle and couldn't find the unity. Because the texture on the lower part of the book cover was really nice, I didn't want to collage over it, so I decided to start echoing Jon's hardware, to see where that would take me.

I'm a bit of a corvid myself when it comes to collecting shiny things. I dumped a ton of
bling on the table to see if any would work. My idea was to top-load the bling to see if that
would take the focus, even a little bit, off the bottlecap and screw.
To delineate the crow and add some separation between the top and bottom
halves of the cover, I added some shiny beading and distressed it
with ink.
Then I added a bunch of dangling stuff. I was trying to break up the
bottlecap/screw dynamic and if nothing more, my solution was distracting,
so I snapped a picture and sent it to Jon and told him it was almost good. But
in my heart of hearts, I wasn't really satisfied. It looked like somebody had sneezed bling
all over the book cover, particles randomly flying through the air just like some virus.
And then the closet trinket and blue eyeshadow paper arrived....

When I looked at Jon's closet trinket and fashion ad, I knew both had a place in the final composition of this collaboration, and I knew what I had to do. The first thing I did was remove the bling. Then I stripped off the beading. I rubbed off the floral paper at top left and added the eyes and eyeshadow, with additional birds over them. I pried off the bottlecap and moved it to the top part of the cover, where I found it had a nice relationship to one of the gel-transfer eggs. I put back some of the beading in little clusters. Jon's closet trinket went on top, a branch-like form. I added a round element to the screw, for balance.

The reworked cover, almost done.
Lastly, I adjusted the color of the scuffed bottom part of the cover, adding layers of alcohol inks and gesso and then more alcohol inks. The colors picked up what was happening on the top and promoted the feeling of unity I had been seeking.

Layers of ink and gesso let me create a background that was more in keeping with the piece.
A thin coat of varnish protects the cover from further peeling. 
Many thanks to Jon Wyble for involving me in this project and reminding me that the world can turn on a treasure found between floorboards in a closet and blue eyeshadow. He's a wonderfully inventive artist, and if you don't know his work, you would do well to check it out at http://www.same-day-vice.tumblr.com.
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