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I’ll never forget the moment we first opened up the door to one of the outbuildings, shortly after buying the farm. This surge of panic consumed me, as my brain tried to absorb all that my eyes were seeing. The stacks upon stacks of this and that everywhere, right to the ceiling was just a bit too much to take in at once. I turned my eyes back outside to the big trees and big sky and took a deep breath. “You’ve got this, Rhonda,” I said to myself, or probably something more like, “What’s your freakin’ problem? You like this kind of shit!”
It’s true; I do like me an old rusty can or weathered hubcap, but seeing all of the things at one time? Not so much. This was going to take some planning, and some time ’cause this is not the kind of job that you want to move and then move again, and then again. Once you make a decision about something in a pile of rubble and chaos, you have to stick with it or you’re just contributing to the chaos.
Everything inside that building (and many of the other buildings as well, actually) had that familiar patina of rust which coincided with THE smell. You know the smell I am talking about….the smell of rust? It’s very distinct and usually saddled up to the scent of engine oil and mildew. It’s a funkiness all unto itself.
So we rolled up our sleeves and came up with a bit of a plan. I reverted back to the education I received in the old days of watching The Learning Channel…back when it was still a channel about learning. There was some kind of show about gutting the homes of people that were either on the verge of or steeped in hoarding. One of the processes for clearing out places like that was to make piles that had the following designations: keep, toss, sell, donate. Once you put an item on that pile, you couldn’t change your mind. That was the rule. Plus, you were not allowed time to think about it for too long. You HAD to let it go where it needed to go, swiftly. We added a “scrap metal” pile to that as well as a recycling pile. Keep. Toss. Sell. Donate. Recycle. Scrap. As you can imagine, in a room filled with up to a hundred years worth of stuff, those piles became mountainous.
But as we started to sort through everything, some of the small, rusty little gadgets started to turn into other things. Hmmm…that would make a neat piece of jewelry. Oh! That would look really neat as an assemblage in a shadow box. Brad started getting in on the ideas, passing me small gadgets and saying, “Do you like this?” Of course he knew I would. I was starting to make an “upcycle” pile too, and it was growing by the day. The creative juices were flowing, and only allowing myself up to a minute per item truly crunched the grey matter into idea development.
With all of the items I collected, I threw them in buckets and brought them home; carefully sorting them into bins for projects. It was enough to create a new years resolution that had me proclaiming that 2019 is the year of upcycling. I have always believed in upcycling in my art, but this time was different. I decided I would not allow myself to buy any new, unnecessarily needed supplies for creating my own art. Do you know how hard it is for an artist to walk into an art supply store and only get exactly what they need? It’s TORTURE! But man, has it ever made for fun in the studio. I’ll share a couple things that I have made with stuff from the farm below. It’s pretty neat to think about the process that we’ve gone through to get to the point where I’m holding an old chunk of rust in my hands and turning it into something fun and uniquely new.
Yet, above and beyond collecting and creating new art, the rust found on items becomes fodder for creativity itself. I have always enjoyed a close inspection of the patterns and textures that are created on the surface of rusted metal and seeing the effects of corrosion. I have countless photos of rusty things. In Japanese aesthetics, there is a term called “wabi sabi” which is basically the art of imperfection. It is the roughness and textural quality that happens to items when they are left to their own devices of decomposing. Interestingly, the word “rustic” has been used to describe the art of wabi sabi. Need I say more? Sometimes when I see an old rusty something or another, I find myself blurting out, “Wabi sabi” and pulling out my camera.
And even beyond that, as of late, I have taken to trying to emulate the patina of rust in my own paintings. Last year when Angie Burke posted her beautiful photo of an old rusted truck abandoned in the bushes of McKenzie Island, I asked if I could have permission to draw and paint that truck for a painting party. Angie kindly agreed. I turned her photo into a winter scene and the truck itself a Christmas tree delivery truck, and kept myself very busy for weeks teaching people in the district how to paint one for themselves.
Now I am going to jump back to the outbuilding full of stuff and take you on the creative endeavor I have found myself in lately with rust. When Brad and I were cleaning out one of the buildings, I came across about 100 different lights and reflectors for multiple vehicles. Many were in pairs, and in excellent condition. In my research on becoming an eBay seller, I decided that these would be something that people would want for restoring old vehicles. I started to sort them, clean them, find out what they were worth, catalog them…yadda, yadda, yadda. Ultimately what I did was waste my time because eBay is a pain in the ass to use (basically I am too impatient to sell stuff on eBay and learn the ten billion rules that one has to follow to become an eBay’er). So they all became art. I wanted to rearrange these reflectors in a creative way on a board that will allow integration of other rusty bits and pieces from the farm plus a few old license plates. But what would I mount them onto? I wanted the background to suit the objects, but didn’t have something large enough to house all said items. So…I used a large wooden panel that a friend gave me, and did a faux rust finish on it. It looked so neat, that I decided to share a tutorial with you on how to make a faux rust finish in your own art too.
I am not finished that art piece yet, but I did glue the reflectors and lights onto the painted panel today, so the commitment to the design is definitely there. Once I have it up and completed, I will be sure to post photos to the resource library for you to see. Speaking of the resource library; it is there that you will find the link to watching the tutorial about creating a faux rust finish with acrylic paint, if that is your thing.
EDIT! The art piece is complete and available for sale. It is 2 feet wide by 3 feet high. It’s loaded with creatively placed reflectors with back lighting. It looks great lit or unlit and is a perfect piece for anyone with an appreciation for vehicles and rust! Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a viewing or purchase.
This blog just stands to show that there truly is beauty in chaos if you’re patient enough to let it come to you. It’s easy to think that something old and rusty may no longer have purpose but there is always the opportunity to creatively resurrected anything into something appreciated in a completely new way.
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