Today, please enjoy the wonderful energy of Robin Baratta.
Interview with Robin Baratta
Life has a funny way of making sure you get where you’re supposed to go, I’m one of those people who when asked ‘how long have you been an artist’ commonly replies ‘always, I was born that way’.
All through my educational journey art was my beacon. I designed the cover for the public school year book, I entered every youth art contest I could (and frequently won). I was an ‘art home room geek’ and earned a very small scholarship to go to Sheridan, which in the 70’s was the go to art school in Ontario. However I allowed myself to be persuaded not to go, but to ‘get a real job’. Consequently I spent 20 years desperately unhappy in various ‘real jobs’.
Art was my escape, and as soon as my kids were in high school I started to get serious about my art again. I became a gluttonous devourer of workshops and classes, and very active in the guild scene in the Greater London Area. I eventually took the Artist Educator course at Haliburton, and now teach from my studio, in area long term care facilities, and workshops.
I’m one of the directors of the Art Emporium, one of Southwestern Ontario’s largest artist run galleries, and serve on various other boards and steering committees for the arts in the Greater London Area.
What mediums do you work with on the TerraSkin® ?
Mostly Acrylic, I employ various mediums, papers, charcoals, pens, pretty much what ever I think will get the effect I want, and will not react negatively with the other materials I’m using
I’ve been having a blast playing with TerraSkin®, I build texture in a variety of ways. Gels, collage, various mediums, papers and found objects. I then either cut the resultant papers and reassemble like a quilt and or use sections of the papers as background. Most of my ‘foregrounds’ are painted on tissue then collaged on, and speak on my environmental concerns.
What initially drew you to try the stone paper?
Initially I was looking for a substrate for monoprinting that wouldn’t curl, was thin enough that hand pressure would give a good even print, and that was economical, since my budget for my arts program in long term care is not large.
I’ve gone on to use it for just about everything, the stuff has no limits as to how it can be used!
What technical discoveries did you make or find using the paper?
Both positive and negative, what solutions/adaptations did you discover to any road blocks?
I love the texture of TerraSkin®, it feels like a very fine chamois. It cuts like a dream, which inspired me to do a quilt inspired series.
I build a lot of texture into my paintings, and not having to fight the weave of a canvas or the grain of wood saves me a lot of prep time, I was working on wood panels, which I was priming then gessoing with at least 5 coats, very time consuming.
While teaching I’ve used it as a substrate for knife painting with finger paints, -in nursing homes everything has to be non toxic-, it gave my residents the feel of knife painting and really good results.
As mentioned above, my students and residents love monoprinting, as do I. TerraSkin® is a fantastic substrate, if they leave paper on the plate too long it sticks to it and tears ruining the print, that’s not a problem with TerraSkin®, it might need some persuasion to come off the plate but it rarely tears. It also makes fantastic stencils and masks for monoprinting.
It’s tough enough that if one of my sweet Alzheimer’s residents gets stuck and paints the same spot over and over it won’t pill up or tear.
I’ve used it in abstract sculpture with my in studio students. Its flexibility meant that they could twist and bend it into very interesting shapes and the ease of securing it with glues and furniture tacks to the base meant that they were able to take ownership of the project right through to completion.
They also were able to make the TerraSkin® curl by running it over a scissor blade the way you would ribbon.
Currently they’re making notan self portrait sculptures out of terraskin.
My students have been using TerraSkin® in a variety of ways too, including sewing it and cutting it into ‘fur’.
re: ‘fur’ as part of a lesson in body proportions, I made marionettes from clay with some of the kids I teach, when we dressed them one of my kids made a ‘fur’ jacket by cutting the TerraSkin® into a very fine fringe then curling it like you would ribbon. It looked really cool. One of the things I love best about teaching is that I often learn as much as I teach!
The only drawback I’ve found is that it has to be framed as any other work on paper. I tried mounting it on stretchers and wasn’t happy with the result. However my framer Olga of David G Guthrie, custom framing, has recently devised a hanging panel that can it can be mounted on. The work appears to float on the wall, and doesn’t need a frame!
What surprises, reactions, unexpected results or techniques did you encounter?
Often Artists go in with a set of well defined habits and find themselves opening up in a new direction.
As a mixed media artist I have a touch of art ADD, -well actually I just have ADD-, so I love to experiment and push the limits. I’m constantly reinventing my art, there is a definite thread of commonality through it, but it’s in a constant state of evolution.
I’m not sure that surprise would describe my reaction to some of the things I’ve been able to do with , so much as wonder.Serendipity plays a huge role in my art process, so the slightly unpredictable flow patterns that very thin media makes on TerraSkin® are to me a bonus, and if I end up with something that I don’t like I can scrub it out with a magic eraser. I cut them into very small pieces for control, and they’ll lift almost anything within 24 hrs of putting it down on TerraSkin®.
What changed in your approach?
The biggest change has been that I’m no longer restricted to traditional squares and rectangles, I can cut the TerraSkin® into whatever shape I want!
What are your thoughts going forward?
I’m looking forward to continuing to push the limits and see what I can do with TerraSkin®, I’ve done a couple of demo’s on TerraSkin® at the guilds and gallery, and would love to do more. It truly is an amazingly versatile product.
BTW If you have questions about working any mediums on stone substrates I can help!
Also I am collecting ideas that stone paper can solve in life. I have used scraps for garden markers, replacing frosted glass in a lamp- which lead to making lamp shades that are thermo formed petals of stone paper… you get the idea. Found any solutions yourself?
- 12 or 16 pt TerraSkin® rock paper
- Mono printing
- tear resistance
- 3D sculpture
- Acrylic paints
- liquid acrylics
- oil sharpies
- gel mediums
- knife painting