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Karen Walter
River Street Artists
Mixed media drawing

For a number of years I have been building an ongoing grid of 7”x 7” mixed media drawings. At this period in time, there are over 300 drawings in the grid. The sheer act of producing so many pieces has greatly expanded my vocabulary of mark making and use of materials, and it has led to the evolution of second body of work.

The early drawings were simple organic forms made with a few basic media such as charcoal, graphite, and walnut ink. The marks were primarily bold and gestural or applied as a solid, heavy tone. The paper was typically white watercolor paper with a smooth surface. Along the way, I have expanded my choice of media to include egg tempera paint, sumi and colored inks, conte crayon and, recently, tinted graphite and tinted charcoal.

Since the earliest pieces, which relied on curved marks exclusively, I have become more aggressive, scratching and digging into the paper surface with sharp tools. Yet over time lighter, more delicate lines have also emerged, frequently straight and more suggestive of architecture. Consistent with my “day job” as a paper conservator, I have delved into a richer selection of papers that have grown to include toned, textured, and antique papers, antique papers with letterpress, and papers imprinted with (my own) dry point etchings.

A new pattern of form and growth was established when I began to see a challenge in resurrecting the “unsuccessful” drawings that did not make it into the ever-growing grid on my studio wall. The typical flaw being that they were overworked, adding more media wasn’t an option. Instead, I began to tear them up and collage pieces from one drawing onto another, then working over the whole. These works may call out to each other in pairs or clusters, but they do not demand a place in an ever-expanding grid.

The two separate bodies of work, the grid drawings and the collages, feed off of and inform each other in a very organic way. When a drawing feels complete, then it goes into the grid. If it can’t be resolved, then it gets torn up for collage. Also, when a piece in the grid no longer holds my interest, I will either re-work it and place it elsewhere in the grid or tear it for use in collage. There is a freedom to this creative process which has allowed me to take chances and experiment with media, marks, and imagery and has eliminated the fear of failure that can make for timidity in approach. The result is that the drawings have advanced in a way I never could have previously imagined.

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