Go Deep – Progression of a Piece

Simple sketch with a phrase from the book "Let Your Life Speak"

Simple sketch with a phrase from the book “Let Your Life Speak”

Lately I’ve been digging into the past. It’s almost like the last decade or so rolled over me too fast, like a crashing wave with my heart flailing in the tide. Seaweed and treasure alike tumbled by, and I landed on the shore dazed. Now, I find myself filtering through the debris, trying to make sense of it all.

Have you ever identified a theme word or phrase for a year? Mine this year is “Go Deep.” I’m digging deep into all those haphazard piles. Because somewhere in there, I suspect there might be messages in a bottle.

While driving in Southern Colorado, I noticed a hillside carved away and defined by erosion, with a sturdy little tree perched defiantly on top. I thought about all the roots that must anchor the tree and the soil, far beyond where the eye could see. That image flashing by on the highway became my inspiration for the piece “Going Deep.” Here’s how it progressed:

I’ve always loved the collagraph process – a printmaking technique I learned in college. Textures are glued to a solid surface, then inked, and transferred to paper:

Using "Yes Paste", I glued foil, string, sand, and pieces of paper to a sturdy piece of cardboard.

Using “Yes Paste”, I glued foil, string, sand, and pieces of paper to a sturdy piece of cardboard.

Next, I rolled oil-based printmaking ink over the surface.

Next, I rolled oil-based printmaking ink over the surface.

In the absence of a printing press (my studio is our over-size laundry room & I can't quite fit one in amongst the dirty clothes and machines), I used one of my favorite possessions, an old wooden spoon I've owned for a couple decades, to apply pressure and transfer the ink from the collagraph board to my paper.

In the absence of a printing press, I used one of my favorite possessions, an old wooden spoon I’ve owned for a couple decades, to apply pressure and transfer the ink from the collagraph board to my paper.

The ink has transferred.

The ink has transferred.

Then, from there, it’s no holds barred to add color, more texture and pattern using watercolor applied over cheesecloth, oil pastel and charcoal to deepen my blacks, and pastel.

Initial washes of color applied.

Initial washes of color applied.

In my initial washes as I tried to figure out my color composition, I felt I lost some texture from the original black & white collagraph. So, I cut up a second print from the same collagraph board and collaged the pieces over some areas of the first. I also thought a lot about a time in my life when the storms battered and God called me to sink roots deep into places I’d never been before.  Filtering through old journals from that time, Lily’s 2005 adoption, I found key words that wanted to live in the soil: courage, wait, believe. Then deeper still: He, the Lord, will be the stability of your times and My times are in your hands. And finally, in a place that certainly must be near the sacred center: abundant goodness. I added a rubber cement resist of the word deep.

Go Deep; 2013; 18 1/2" x 24 1/2"; mixed media collage: pastel, oil pastel, watercolor, collagraph, and ink.

Go Deep; 2013; 18 1/2″ x 24 1/2″; mixed media collage: pastel, oil pastel, watercolor, collagraph, and ink.

Honestly, the final image frustrated me. But, in the end I decided to share it. Perhaps because I’ve come to believe that the process of growing roots, the humble humus that lies deep below the surface, is what it is really all about anyway. When the harsh winds blow and drought withers, the call of God is always to come closer, to grow towards the sacred center. And that, I have discovered, is always a journey far beyond what is visible.

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