The Dark and the Light of Growing Older
For the second project in the online class I was working on in January, the instructor told a story about her grandfather, using photos of him as a boy and later as a man. She said she heard he had some troubles as a young man, and to illustrate this she pasted copies of the two photos she had on separate light backgrounds and mounted them on a dark board, leaving a space between them to represent the time in his life when he had troubles.
As I tried to think of a similar story in my family, nothing came to mind, but I have been aware recently how my own life is changing in ways I don’t like. At the same time, I have many things that I am thankful I can enjoy. I decided to tell my story of how things are right now.
I didn’t want to make a book with these cards, so I borrowed an idea from Seth Apter, where he uses kid’s flash cards, works on both sides, and makes a case for them.
For the cards I used stiff cardboard from the back of watercolor tablets, cutting blocks that are roughly 4.5” x 5.5”. I used pages torn from old books with printing and diagrams, to cover them on both sides using matt medium, and folding the sheets over the edges as the instructor had demonstrated.
After they were dry, I laid the eight cards on newspaper and covered them with black gesso on one side, let it dry, and used white gesso on the other side. On the sides with the white gesso, some of the printing on the paper shows through.
I made a list of what I wanted to put on each card. For each less than happy development on the dark side, I chose a positive thing about my life at this time.
The hardest part of this project was finding images to illustrate my situation. Magazines are loaded with young women. Even ads for products that older people might need rarely have a person who appears old unless they are face down on the floor and can’t get up!
I glued the carefully trimmed images to the cards with matt medium. I didn’t coat them with matt medium, but I probably should have.
One of the cards was about not being able to reach things in cupboards and closets, and not feeling comfortable on a ladder in the yard sometimes. On the back side, I acknowledge that I’m feeling ready to let go of things I don’t use, but I keep because they belonged to someone in my family.
After the images were glued, I printed out words to go with them. These were trimmed close and glued with Yes paste. The gessoed background had a bit of a gritty texture, so I decided to finish the cards with a layer of encaustic wax. I like the feel of the waxy surface.
However, some of my images became transparent when I waxed them. The print from the other side came through, as on this image of a robe. It seemed to happen with images taken from a monthly publication from a nearby shopping center that uses a newsprint type paper.
On this card you can also see the printing on the paper that was the first layer on the left side behind the clock, and on the right side behind the robe is a piece of a map.
While I was waiting for things to dry, I created a case for my cards. I have a big old garage with lots of storage, where I have a closet of small and odd size boxes and containers. I painted the box with black gesso, added some images and words, and covered it with a coat of a gloss gel medium.
This was not a project I intended to put on display somewhere. It was a way for me to get my irritable thoughts out of my head, and remind myself of all the aspects of my life that I can celebrate. I get to stay home in bad weather, wear what I want, sleep late if I need to, read all kinds of things, and make art with my friends.
One thought on “The Dark and the Light of Growing Older”
Marilyn. I hope you bring this to show and tell. Its a great idea.