I started experimenting over the weekend. I didn’t intend to create a bunch of sets of fairy wings. As with most of my artwork, it started out with a me asking a question. I wanted to see if I could take pieces of rigid plastic packaging and make something approximating insect-like wings for the tiny dolls I’ve been working on for since January.
I’m limiting my time out of the house to once a week, so I had to use the art supplies that I have on hand. I didn’t want to order any art supplies, or have to figure out how to combine several errands into one trip that would coincide with the opening hours of a shop, or the specific errands I needed to run either. So, not only have I asked myself one question, but then set up several additional parameters for the project as well.
I like setting up different problems (challenges?) for myself. I feel like it keeps me from getting too stale in my thinking or in the artwork that I produce. At least I hope that it does. It never seems to take the route that I imagined in my head, and it always teaches me something new. Sometimes what it teaches me is that I don’t know nearly as much as I think I do.
In the case of these fairy wings, I did arrive at a product that I like quite a bit. What I found surprising was the fact that what I thought would be a ‘quick and dirty’ method of creating some okay looking wings, turned into a much more complicated and involved creative process that had me reaching into my knowledge of fine art printmaking.
I took a lot of printmaking while I was in art school. I have experience with stone lithography, wood and linoleum cut, etching, and monoprinting processes. I loved the physicality of stone lithography. There was an element of flying by the seat of your pants with wood and linoleum cut, especially since I did a lot of ‘suicide prints’. I was poor and couldn’t afford a separate piece of wood or linoleum for each color run. Etching seemed like magic to me. I loved everything about printmaking. I loved that you could make multiples of the same piece. I loved that you could alter the image or create separate monoprints that you could work back into with other mediums. It was a lot of fun and the processes all made sense to me. They seemed logical and orderly.
Once printing process I never really got into was intaglio. I just couldn’t physically handle the way in which the drawing is created on the matrix. The scratching on the metal or the plastic just makes me nauseated! It feels like the scratching and scraping are being done inside my stomach. Yuck! So it makes perfect sense that intaglio, crossed with a little scrimshawing is the way in which I think I can create fairy wings.
I thought that what I would do is take some of the plastic packaging that I had pulled from the trash for this. My initial idea was that I would take a metal needle tool and quickly scratch some wings onto it. Then I would use paint (in this case, acrylic, because it’s what I have) and paint it onto the surface of the plastic. Then I’d wipe off the excess. The paint would stay in the scratches below the surface. Then I could cut out the wings and attach them to a doll. Easy! Right?
Here is the first set of wings. More of less a ‘proof of concept’ construction. This was to answer the questions: will the plastic I have work? Does the paint stick to the places I scratched? Can I sew the wings together easily?
The first wings were wonky and frankly, sucked. So I went on to the second set of wings. For this set, I created a drawing to work from that was placed beneath the plastic. I taped the plastic down and then scratched the lines on the wings onto the plastic.
This second try was better in that they looked more like butterfly wings, but I just couldn’t get the paint to stick inside the areas that I scratched. I think I’d applied paint and buffed it off three separate times and there were still spaces where the lines were thin and scraggly looking.
On to the third try. This time, I decided to add two more colors. I thought by adding different colors, I could add some dimension to the wings, while at the same time hiding some of the areas where the paint would not adhere to the plastic scratches.
The third try was wonky. I got some better coverage, but the way in which I was removing the second and third colors (robins egg blue and a yellow) were just cruddy. I used too little paint and it dried more quickly that I thought it would and it was hard to wipe down with either paper or even to get off with at a q-tip.
On to the forth try! I used a different plastic for this set of wings. I think the container held some kind of refrigerated pasta salad or something like that. It was slightly thicker, almost spongy compared to the other rigid plastic I had used for the previous three wing attempts.
I feel like I figured out what I wanted to do with the wings by this set. I don’t like the plastic itself. The way the painting turned out, as well as the sealant, I liked very much. I also learned that I need at least two holes poked through the center of the wings so that when I sew them together, they hold well and don’t wobble back and forth too much.
I decided that for the 5th and 6th sets of wings, I would change up the color schemes. One was done with red, orange and yellow(s) and one was done with blues, purples and pinks.
I used four colors; red, orange and two different yellows. With the 5th and 6th attempts at these fairy wings, I realized that I needed to scratch the stylus into the plastic much deeper than I had previously done. The plastic is thin, and there are a few places where I kind of started a repoussé technique with the plastic. It’s only visible when you’re really looking closely though.
With the 6th set of wings, I used blues, purples and pinks. I left much, much more of the color on the plastic than I did in in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th sets of wings.
You can see how much paint I left on the reverse side of the 6th set of wings. I sealed the sides with paint on them with a sealant, which is just Eri-Keeper, slightly modified. I like how it begins to make the see-through portions of the wings look like glass from windows prior to the turn of the 20th century; wavy and uneven. These last two sets of wins I think are the ones that I think I will be using on the two tiny dolls that I intended to have wings.
I had a lot of fun creating these sets of wings. I already have ideas for other techniques I would like to use to create wings for dolls, or just to create interesting surfaces for larger, more complicated pieces of art that I would like to create. I think there is a lot to explore using plastics and paint, as well as the intaglio/scrimshaw treatment of the plastic sheets.
The one thing that is kind of gnawing at me a bit is the fact that I’m not a big fan of fairies per se. I mean, I don’t hate them or anything. They’re just not my thing. Same thing with angels. I tend to root for the monsters and creatures other than fairies. ANYWAY…I’m not sure what possessed me to create fairy wings. The wings I made looks more like butterfly wings, but since they will be attached to tiny dolls, it makes them fairy wings by default.
Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you again next Monday.