Additive Art

by Elizabeth Stitch

As I dive deeper into my explorations with fine art photo collage, I can't help but notice the similarities to fine art painting. Both methods are innately additive, where as traditional photography is innately subtractive. In other words, traditional methods of photography implore the methods of subtracting elements from a given scene by cropping out objects within the frame. The modes of representation indicative to photography expressly convey a subtractive approach to visual storytelling. Conversely, the method of photo collage, like painting, begins with a blank panel or a blank canvas upon which the artist must build their narrative.

I decided to interview a fine art painter living in Oakland, CA. He happens to be another brother of mine. Like my last post, I chose to keep this week's submission in the family (my brother happens to be visiting me this week)! Matthew Robertson, a recent graduate of AAU, is currently living in Oakland and has shifted gears in his approach to painting by going much more abstract with his aesthetic. Matt and I often discuss topics such as composition, narrative, formal elements like line, shape, color and intent. Since he has gone more abstract with his art, we have noticed a similarity between his painting methods and my photo collage approach. We are both working with narrative driven, autobiographical imagery and our processes are much the same.

Matt: It's interesting how similar our approach is to our imagery. Photography plays a huge role in my work. It's my reference and the tool I use to create my line, color, shape and texture. The function of the visual components of our imagery is very similar.

I asked Matt about his approach to his unique compositions, and his response was quite interesting.

Matt: My paintings are like totems. I vertically stack my narrative elements on top of one another. I plan about 70% of my composition ahead of time and leave the rest for discovery as I'm painting. The process of creating is organic and I like to leave some room for my work to guide me.

Matt is a more experienced artist than me, and he spends a lot of time during the development stages of his work to make sure that his process is well thought out and cohesive. I appreciate his recognition that the process of creating is organic and it follows logically that we, as artists, should respect the process and allow room for unexpected developments. We should allow the work to develop naturally by allowing room for intuitive adjustments.

Speaking with Matt and drawing comparisons between his work and my own has been both interesting and fun. These connections that we've drawn between our mediums has opened a new line of communication between us. The connectedness between our different mediums has made me realize the importance of expanding my research and development to include other forms of art.

Images are from