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Spider Plants, One through Four (Mixed Media Art)

After the success of the peony paintings, and a foray into mixed media, we wanted more. We decided to use a much beloved plant of simple structure to run yet more experiments with mixed media techniques. The first one, the ‘mother of all spiders’, is the largest. It is mainly acrylic paints, variously applied and textured to experiment with shadow. To this we added cut and painted unprimed canvas to form the pot, cut canvas leaves, some art papers, also painted, and bright green fleece. From this initial effort, we got interested in focusing in on individual materials in greater detail, and created three ‘baby’ spiders.

The first of those, in the black frame, is made almost entirely of tissue paper. First we painted the canvas black. Once that dried, we added a layer of bright green, and as it dried, pressed a large sheet of crumpled tissue paper into the paint, and then slowly peeled it away. This created the crinkly background and also gave us a crackled sheet of green tissue from which to form leaves. Other colors of crackle tissue were also created and then laid out to form a nice looking spider. To this, for additional texture, we added a couple of pieces of prepared artist papers, especially to make the sprig with baby plants for a 3D effect. The pot is also crackled tissue.

The second baby spider, in the white frame, is almost entirely fabric. The background is acrylic paints on watercolor paper glued to stretched canvas. Assorted prints and solids were adhered to solid green fabric undersides using fusible webbing and cut into the shapes of spider leaves. These were then variously arranged to form the plant and glued into place (sometimes sewn, if we wanted to expose both sides of the leaf). Some artists papers, variously painted, were also added in for variety and to make the plant visually blend better with the background. The pot is a solid piece of leather.

The third baby spider, in the rust orange frame, is the most ‘mixed’ of these mixed media efforts, but is mainly made of wood. We began by painting the background a pale blue and as that dried, we pressed in a crinkled piece of tissue. But this time, we left the tissue to dry in place, creating a highly textured background. To build the plant, we soaked long curls of wood (mainly quartersawn sycamore but also Hawaiian Koa) from hand planing efforts on a woodwork project in water and straightened them out. Once dry, we cut them into the spider leaf shapes and glued them down. They had just enough curl left in them to give a really 3D effect. To these we added a couple of crackle tissue paper leaves and colored leather leaves. The pot is unprimed canvas that received the same crumple/crackle treatment as the tissue paper. For good measure, we formed a baby spider sprig from copper wire.

We made the frame for the mama spider from Sapele and finished it with satin polyurethane. The three frames for the baby spiders are made from tulip poplar and painted with acrylics to compliment the colors of the plants. We gave the frames enough depth to add to the shadow box, three dimensional effect of the plants themselves, and when they are lit from below, the shadow effects are really cool.

The mother plant measures 18 1/2” x 18 1/2” x 2” including the frame, and the three baby plants measure 13” x 13” x 2”.

They are for sale individually of course, but also at a little discount when bought together (two, three, or all four) as we like the look of them as a collection.

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