Barbara Grey, whose “Rose” blooms on this week cover, works as a painter and collagist and is a member of the member-owned and run cooperative art gallery b.j. spoke, in Huntington.
Can you discuss your inspiration for this piece?
I visited the most amazing rose garden in Portland, with every variety and color imaginable, and took a lot of close-up photos. When I decided to do a mostly watercolor show, this was my starting point. I did the rose in watercolor, then added a few touches of collage. The leaves are also collage, and don’t look like real rose leaves. This is almost an abstract essence of a rose.
You’ve said your photographer’s eye was helpful when it came to your painting. Can you expand on that?
Ever since I was at Girl Scout camp with my little box camera, I’ve been planning my photos, waiting for the right moment, moving to a better angle (I didn’t realize this at the time, but it’s obvious from the photos). When I traveled to Europe I saw paintings everywhere. Since I didn’t paint, I took careful photos. I’m now painting some of those photos.
You’ve also read a lot of instructional books. What piece of advice was most useful?
One book said, in effect, “The world is not made up of lines. It’s made up of shapes.” That really resonated with me. Thinking and seeing in three dimensions makes it easier for me to build my images.
Can you talk about b.j. spoke gallery and the importance of artists working together?
Being part of a collective lets me learn from many people with their own styles. Advice and criticism is invaluable. We have “theme shows” that take us out of our comfort zone. We have our own show every two years and I try to come up with a new technique or perspective for the show. Whenever I walk in the door I’m still thrilled that I belong there!
As a collagist and painter can you discuss some differences between the two?
Painting and collage are polar opposites. Watercolor especially is spontaneous, unpredictable, never entirely under the control of the artist. Rarely does a painting turn out exactly as I expected. It often goes in a direction that I like and improves the work. Sometimes it teaches you “Don’t do that again!” Collage, on the other hand, needs to be planned, the template drawn precisely. Collage is meticulous. I can spend much time sorting through boxes of papers for just the right color or texture. I love to watch the picture emerge as the pieces are put down.
Do you prefer one to the other?
I’m glad I don’t have to choose. I use the medium that suits the subject matter. I love the geology of the Southwest and feel that collage expresses the strength and essence of these subjects. I think I find collage to be more fulfilling, maybe because of the detailed effort involved. And they do turn out more as I imagined they would.
Is there another collage artist who inspires you, who you think our readers should know?
I have books by Nita Leland and Gerald Brommer that have taught me a lot.
Where can readers see more of your work?
At least one piece is at b.j. spoke every month except March and August, when we have competitions. I’m working toward my next solo show at the gallery, which should happen next spring. At this point I’m doing linear art, something new for me. We’ll see what the next year produces.
See more at bjspokegallery.org/member-artists/barbara-grey