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Creating Imagery with Mixed Media and String Workshop

Week III: Creating Imagery with Mixed Media and String


The third week of my residency at the ABRS was an exciting milestone- it marked the first workshop I facilitated in the space. Over two days, just over twenty participants were invited into the space to play with mark-making, imagery, and mixed media. It was such an honour to invite others into a process so dear to my heart and which I had up until this point, developed mostly in solitude. There was a deliciously versatile mix of attendees- from formally trained artists and art therapy students out of Saint Stephen’s college, to school-aged artists, and members of the broader University community.


In this workshop I hoped to invite people into the joy of the creative process without the pressure of worrying about or placing value judgments on the final product. We warmed up exploring the mark-making potential of charcoal by creating textures based on intangible/abstract prompts.

Adults exploring art-making can sometimes fall into a tendency to try to create realistic, representational imagery. This, in turn, has a limiting effect on texture as we get caught up in the specific details of each object. By focusing on texture with intangible prompts, the luscious experience of making marks can be investigated. It is an exercise I come back to myself from time to time and I often find it to be grounding. And then there is the expressivity that occurs in the quality of marks made. In the book Drawing : Mastering the language of visual expression Micklewright (2005) puts it very well:


“The most extraordinary thing about marks is that individually they often bear little resemblance to what is being described in the drawing. The world is not made of dots and lines but the visual ambiguity of marks allows the observer to transform them into equivalents of reality, whether a tranquil landscape or a violent scene…The most extreme example of this is the line. There are hardly any lines in nature, only the edges of shapes and objects abutting one another, yet we immediately understand a line drawing”


After playing with mark-making, participants selected their own images and used a viewfinder to isolate and pull forward different parts of a composition. Often we have to simplify detail in a more complicated composition to avoid an excess of visual information. Conversely when we simplify the overall composition of an image, ’space is made’ for emphasis on texture, tone & gesture.

Finally, participants selected their favourite ‘viewfinder’ sketch and used it as a base for a mixed media piece that played with texture in a more physical sense, incorporating string, paint, fabric and other textured objects.

There were landscapes, images of animals, faces, and all kinds of imagery. Plus, participants used and incorporated materials and objects in ways that I wouldn’t have ever come up with myself. It was amazing to witness the delightful array of artworks created in the workshop.


This String Portrait Project  is supported by the Edmonton Arts Council and the City of Edmonton.

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