I have set upon my little virtual studio like a mad man. In it's endless infinite borders I am happily dwelling. Certainly, it's ability to morph into and out of central London with a click of a button has added to its charm. One can delve into hours of the messiest experimentation in oils and chalks and conte' and then, quite simply, one is back at a desk; clean hands, peering out the window at pigeons and then London skyline.
Having moved to printmaking a few years back I had rather thought I had found my new medium, leaving my poor slowly drying oils behind. The ability to mix the very modern of technology and the very ancient act of printmaking rather suited my peevish habits. One could go willy nilly from computer to photographs to inky presses as the mood hit.
When planning for this first venture into my London sojourns I puzzled out the complications of hiring a studio space, carting printing inks and papers and various machinery to a foreign climb. I even went so far as to wrapping up some such paraphernalia, trotting it down to the post, and having it weighed and costs given. It did not sit well.
I am already wont to travel with far too much. I would have rather suited my ancestors time, when one had boxes and cases and travel trunks set ahead with kind lady's maids whilst relaxing on the roomier and more comfortable decks of ships. Travel was a process and not a race. However, foolish me, I still travel with far too many cases. Taking the best seats I can stretch my little budget too, to allow me enough cases, I go about airports with porters to ease my burden.
The lightweight modern suitcases with little plastic wheels and pop out handles? I opt for instead a large leather and tweed set that was my mothers and drag about an old LV suitcase that once saw my Grandmother happily to Paris. Therefore the round about meaning to my ramble is that I have far too many things cluttering up my trip to the airport, as it is, so having to receive boxes full of things once here and then carting them to some as of yet let studio space left me in a quandary.
As many an art school Prof is like to tell their pupils, "happy accidents", which is meant, of course, to make one feel better when they are tipping over paint pots onto their work or muddying up their paints because the bright colored tubes somehow keep resulting in messy brown blobs. Like them I cried, "happy accident": the conundrum of studios and latch keys and far too many shipped parcels let me to look at my computer and technology in an entirely new light.
The virtual studio was born for me. It can be carried about like a much loved book in my bag and hold the secrets of the Gods or the power of a museum full of artists. Lucky for me that the technology itself has caught up to the realities of such a venture.
Therefore, in my rather long winded and round about way, I can say that my love of mixing the past and present has come together in the form of the machine. The result is my return to oils with the ease and combination of things one could not attempt in real life. Fast drying times, mixing of oils and waters and layers upon layers in a very forgiving manner.
This messing about with oils and paints in a more traditional sense feels rather good and one is apt to spend hours playing about with virtual paints and brushes. This has lead me to realize a new turn in my work: layering a more traditional style oil painting gleaned from my own and collected photos of the past, with a collage of imagery readied for a final application of my own form of graffiti over it all with screen printing; clear as mud, I am certain, but to me perfect sense.
Layering various levels of media and process has always been a part of my work. I love to build and add and mix like some fabled witch over a cauldron in her wooded hut, tossing frogs, and wayward children in my pot in the hope of some wonderful thing coming out. This is the formula for my new work then. This build of up reality mixed with fantasy melded in the virtual world pretending to be oil paints and to have it printed with archival inks upon nice rag and then to be "tagged" or graffiti-ed by my own hand-made real world silkscreens.
I will share here, then, two pieces I have been starting on. They are in their current virtual oil painted state. They have still to have more layers upon them digitally. Then with some further thinking and dreaming up a sort of textual graffiti pattern, this will be created on the computer and then made into a negative, burned onto a screen to be hand printed on top of these pieces once they are finished and printed with archival inks on good quality rag.
The first is from an image I snapped whilst spending the morning strolling in Hyde Park. I had taken a break and was watching the birds in the ponds and enjoying a coffee when The sun hit a distant figure of a woman. In her bright green coat, she was set off by the brilliance and light and dark of the distant trees. I have taken artistic license with the color palette, but with a freedom I would not have had before.
As it is in the digital realm, one can be prepared for more forgiveness with color and light. That says a lot about the freedoms this new digital art movement is going to give to we artists. Probably far too fearless and head strong already, we are only going to be given more leeway in our adventurous spirits with the ease and magic of the digital.
The second is a painting, also done in virtual oils, from an old photograph in which I have added the chair. As some of my work had previous dealt with, the chair is always a device I find the need to use. There is something in the empty chair. It is waiting for someone who has just left or it is ready for someone who is to come. It can also be waiting for someone who is hoped for but never comes or for the one who is solitary and therefore, like Schrodinger's cat, may or may not be alive or dead in the state of being alone in the house or garden: The provenance and battleground of women in history.
I lived as a 1950s housewife for three years. Click below to see that project.
Donna Davis is a painter and printmaker living by the sea. Her work deals with women, history, the seashore, and moments in time. Follow along to see the process behind the product.