The Making of "Living Well in Oak Park" / by Brielle DuFlon

Hi all! if you follow me on instagram or facebook you might have been bombarded fairly recently with quite a few photos of a mixed-media triptych commission I was working on that involved a lot of fabric collage. Here's the story behind the making of it and a series of photos showing the phases it went through as it came together! 

When Ali and Ryan Steers initially asked me about making a large piece for their living room over a year ago, I told them that although I was really interested, it might be a while before I was able to dedicate weeks to making them something. They weren't in a rush so the year passed in a fever of shows, camps and smaller or more timely commissions. When winter rolled back around, it was time to think about dedicating time to the piece that I'd promised Ryan and Ali and so I reached out and we decided to make a piece that was 6 feet long total but that was divided in three 3ft long and 2ft wide pieces. They wanted texture, color (especially red to interact with a red credenza in their living room), and they had a couple of fun and challenging things they wanted me to include in the piece somehow: wine (because they love wine and Ryan has developed his late father's appreciation, passion and memory for wine) and cycling (because it is something they love to do together as a family - little ones included - and Ryan is also a semi-professional mountain-biker).

I decided to go the abstract route and immediately thought of all the photos I took of peeling paint last February in Guatemala. I dug up a few of these photos and started taking shapes away from the patches of peeled paint, which I then drew in a more simplified fashion and cut out of paper. I also cut out three rectangles that acted as the three canvases and moved these weird abstract shapes around on them, ultimately settling on a composition I liked.

Then I thought, how do I bring in the wine? I wanted to symbolize it in a way that was abstract and not corny. I thought of all the ways that wine occupies space and remembered how it looks as it's falling through the air from one vessel to another. I looked up photos of wine getting poured from bottles into glasses and picked a few and recreated the shape of the stream traveling through air. Then, I placed those in the background of the drawing, behind the peeling-paint derived shapes. This is what it all looked like: 

I ended up tweaking some of the shapes even more in the end, but this was the general gist! 

I ended up tweaking some of the shapes even more in the end, but this was the general gist! 

Now it was just cycling that had to be incorporated somehow and I'm really happy with how I did that, but I'll wait to show you what I did later, once you've seen the finished painting. Here's the drawing on raw canvas: 

I painted the entire background space off-white. It's such a warm and calming color and I knew I was going to be bringing a lot of color into the abstract shapes. 

Then I painted the wine inspired lines in the background different shades of wine-inspired reds, from reds pushing plum to rusty reds. Then, I started on the fabric. It was really hard to start with the fabric though. I didn't have a lot of experience with fabric collage (none, really) and I didn't realize how forgiving it would be to work with, so I felt a lot of pressure to have to make the right decisions on the first try. Luckily I finally just took a risk and realized pretty quickly that not only could I cut and re-cut fabric and stretch and move it around, but also that making color choices was natural and I felt pretty confident about what I wanted. Always a good feeling! 

Where did I get the fabric for this piece, you ask? Up until this point I'd gotten quite a few fabric samples from The Second Yard in Charlottesville - an interior's store that sells grocery bags full of old fabric samples for really cheap. I'd also stumbled upon bags and boxes full of fabric samples and swatches in the free pile at McGuffey and I'd sorted them all by color. 

I wanted to add, before showing you all the process photos of the piece, that (and if you know me you know this) I'm concerned with our environment and in reusing, recycling and repurposing things in my artwork often. It's really exciting to feel comfortable using reclaimed fabric after this project because Americans alone send around 10.5 million tons of cloth-waste to landfills each year and I'm hoping in my small way to take away from that number by continuing to incorporate cloth-waste into my art! 

Without further ado, here's the coming together of "Living Well in Oak Park" :



Here I am with it, framed and all! 

lighting's not great, sorry guys :/

lighting's not great, sorry guys :/

Remember how I had to bring cycling into the pieces, somehow? I managed to fit two of Ryan's favorite trails from the Oak Park area into the piece subtly : 

Backbone trail: 

And Dead Cow Loop: 


Lastly, this is how great the triptych looks in the house !! 

Thanks for visiting everyone! Will be coming at you soon with a blog post about an installation I'm currently putting up at Brazos Tacos here in Charlottesville (also reclaimed fabric! Wahoo!) Have a great week!