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Abstract landscape in Blue and orange
Ethel Hills – Bands of Color – Mixed Media Collage on Paper – 7″ x 5″

I posted this image earlier this week to give you an idea of what I’d be teaching at my upcoming workshop. Not all pieces will be this complicated or this colorful, but I wanted to give you at least a bit of an idea.

I started this piece earlier this month with just a hint of an idea. The idea came from an old figure painting that I wanted to reuse.

I loved the blues and oranges in the original, so I tore off a fairly quiet piece for the background/sky and a much busier colorful piece as the “major player” in the painting.

One thing about this piece that makes it a bit different is the use of thinner, lighter weight papers. In the past, I’ve primarily used watercolor paper for the collage elements. Unfortunately, gluing heavy papers like this is time consuming.

For my workshop, I knew that I was going to need to use some lighter weight papers that we could glue and then keep going. For this reason, I have all kinds of alternative papers in my studio. I’ve taken to painting on sketchbook paper, oriental papers, drawing papers, etc.

Turns out that using the lighter papers really helped me out on this one.

I usually try to have a pretty good idea of where I’m going before I start gluing. It doesn’t always work, but it makes it easier if I’m not making major design changes in the middle of the gluing process.

At one point, I decided that I really needed to start on this painting, so I went ahead and glued the first couple of pieces. I still wasn’t sure of the rest, but I knew that the blue that became the horizon line was right – the right color and value, and also the right location. The next piece was the dark red just below it. That was a much larger piece of paper. It’s the dark red just below the horizon line, but also the darker blue at the bottom of the painting.

Now, I just needed to figure out the placement of the rest of the elements. I was pretty sure there would be quieter blue and orange bands to contrast the more complicated blue and orange piece from the figure painting. I still needed to sort out the order, the size, etc. A lot of it is a question of relationship – how this piece relates to that piece – color, value, size, space between elements, etc.

After gluing down one of these pieces, I realized that the spacing just didn’t “feel right”, so I adjusted it by gluing on an extra piece. This was much easier because these collage pieces were watercolor painted on a lightweight drawing paper. It was a simple fix and basically invisible to the viewer.

I finally decided on the final touch. I added two small verticals in the orange band. They’re hardly noticeable because I kept the values very close, but the painting feels so much better with them than without them.

When I finally finished it, I was so excited. The painting has depth that I just wasn’t seeing until it was complete. The whole really is greater than the sum of the parts.

If you’d like to see the original, the painting is up at the Barn Gallery in Ogunquit, Maine until we close on Columbus Day or until it sells, whichever comes first.

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