Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Mixing The Old and New In Mixed Media

Interpretive Landscape 4
2005 - mixed media, 9"x12"

During my years as a graphic designer, I spent a fair amount of time in front of the computer. So when I decided to return to making fine art, I re-discovered the joy of tactile experiences. Materiality is very much a part of my process – and yet the computer remains a familiar tool.

I enjoy mixing old and new technologies/media. In my Interpretive Landscape series I combined digital collage with pinhole photography and encaustic medium. The digital component enabled me to seamlessly execute my vision with disparate mediums (photo and abstract watercolor) while pinhole photography and encaustic require the physical engagement I find so desirable.

The concept of an image captured through a tiny pinhole was around long before photographic processes became available to make the image permanent. (It was the basis of the camera obscura - a drawing tool used by many artists in the 17th and 18th centuries. However, documentation of such a device can be found as far back as the writings of the Chinese philosopher Mo-Ti in the 5th century BC.) The pinhole camera is based on a simple law of the physical world. Light travels in a straight line and when some of the rays reflected from a bright subject pass through a small hole in a thin material they do not scatter but cross and reform as an upside down image on a flat surface that is parallel to the hole.

Encaustic (a medium comprised of bees wax, resin and pigment) is another "old process." This sensory-rich material was used by ancient Greek and Egyptian painters and is currently undergoing an overwhelming surge in popularity.

So today, when it is so easy to capture an image with a digital camera, it is utterly appealing to “go at it from another angle” – to bring physical engagement to the process – and to combine ancient technologies with modern. For me, the computer is a tool among many.


Anonymous said...

I was intrigued with the way you are mixing your media. I have rarely done this. I am a painter mainly with acrylics right now. I was wondering one basic thing. The longevity and the fading of the color of the piece.Just dont know much about the chemical mixture with encaustic and photo works. I love the piece and it is wonderful with the colors and the depth.

MDH said...

Like any fine work of art, you would not want to hang one of my pieces in direct sunlight. That said, I use Epson pigment inks which are fade resistant for about 100 years. Encaustic is simply bees wax and resin (and sometimes pigment) and holds up better than traditional paints over time. Since I only use quality materials - my pieces are highly archival.

If you think you might be interested in trying out the encaustic process, you might want to check out a workshop at I highly recommend them!

tiffany carroll said...

i totally hear you about the graphic design thing. i was a graphic design student for two years and it was really wearing on me sitting in front of a computer for six hours straigh [shudder]. when i finally realized that i needed to be a fine artist, i was (and am) really into process. i think the first few years i did whatever i could to mix it up-- like using sticks and making really primitive monotypes.

i'm glad that you are able to mix digital with your own painting elements. it's not something i've had the courage to try. i went extreme from the computer and prefer not to use it at all unless it's documentation. smart thinking with the encaustics-- super archival.

were you saying you do pinhole photos? i love that. i want to eventually turn my extra bathroom into a low-tech dark room to make more.

MDH said...

Yes, I use pinhole photography in my work. I made a camera out of mat board and black duck tape. I use a 4x5 Polaroid back and then scan the Polaroids. This gives me more interesting results than a digital camera while enabling me to work without a dark room.(The only draw back is the Polaroid film is expensive.)

Anonymous said...

I'm just starting college. I'm majoring in Graphic design and minoring in Photography. I also love to paint and draw, I would like to say that I am very good at both of them. People who see my drawings and paintings say that they are really good. I paint more abstract art, one lady I know said that my paintings look professional. I would like to have a career in just paintng and drawing but that won't make enough money where I live. So I have to do something extra inorder to get by. And I don't won't to be an art teacher. So is Graphic Design really that boring if your really interested in doing something towards painting and drawing and photography?????

MDH said...

Graphic design is not boring. It can be a very lucrative, exciting career. It can also offer the kind of flexibility an artist needs to earn a living and have time to do his or her art.

I was, and still am, a practicing designer for over fifteen years. The thing I started to miss was the physicality of working with other materials besides being in front of a computer. I have children, so my time is limited. I made the decision to cut back on my design practice so that I could spend more time pursuing fine art.

However, there is no reason why you can't do both. Design is great!