It Calls to Me…My Precious

8 Jan 2012

Precious by Russell Irwin, paper mosaic.
Precious by Russell Irwin, paper mosaic.

Okay, that might have been a little too Gollum from Lord of the Rings, but Russell Irwin's latest mixed media collage titled Precious is certainly mesmerizing because of the unusual creative process that goes into making it as well as its dazzling final form.

Irwin applying paper to the surface of his mixed media artwork.
Irwin sanding the surface of his mixed media artwork, Precious.
Irwin applying paper to the surface of his mixed media
artwork (top) and sanding it (bottom).
Precious is Irwin's latest work in his Gem series, which features works that are almost like abstract paintings made with paper that depict the gleaming facets and glints of gemstones and jewels. The artist terms all of these works "paper mosaics," attesting to the fact that they are created by layering torn pieces of paper on a surface, gluing them down, and then sanding into them with an electric sander to reveal bits and pieces of them.

What really left a lasting impression on me about Irwin's process is, ironically, that it isn't a "precious" process at all. There's nothing delicate about it. It looks like Irwin is building the artwork more than anything else. That kind of relationship with your mixed media painting materials can really give an artist a better sense of what those materials can do. I for one would never have thought paper could be so resilient and end up looking so painterly and have such depth. The end results are lovely but still give a real sense of the materials that the artist started with and how he produced the work—and that's something many of us can identify with and appreciate.

The thrill of the out-of-the-box artistry that excited me about Irwin's work is the kind of response I usually have to every issue of Cloth Paper Scissors, our sister magazine devoted to mixed media art. Artists take all kinds of materials and manipulate them, combine them, build them up, and break them down. If you want to broaden your artistic horizons and learn new and fun ways to incorporate novel process into your drawing or painting practice, Cloth Paper Scissors could be your answer! Enjoy!  


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