Welcome to the Appleton home studio of Willow Bayer

 

 

 

Willow received her BFA in Painting and Drawing from the Peck School of the Arts, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2018. During her last year of school, she discovered her love for collage. She originally created small paper works as references for acrylic paintings. This process helped her plan out the color and composition before painting. Recently, the collages have taken on a life of their own and no longer just references. 
 
 

WOODWALK 

Describe your work in three words

 

 

WILLOW

Colorful, Sentimental, Dimensional

 

 

 

WOODWALK 

What do you love about your chosen medium?

 

 

 

WILLOW

I love layering paper and constructing something physical to feel dimensional rather than tricking the eye with paint. I can still get different textures and effects that make the pieces feel tactile in certain spots. Over the years, it has felt like I am painting with paper. However, it still feels different from painting since the colors are limited in comparison, which I enjoy because it becomes a challenge.

 

 

 

WOODWALK

Tell us about the body of work you have at Woodwalk this year.

 

 

WILLOW

My work created over this past year has become more colorful than ever. I decided to think of the frame as an extension of the collage to bring the whole piece to life. The collages have always been a view into another world. The black frames were causing a roadblock in my brain. I still have some neutral framed work, but lately, I have had a lot more fun figuring out color combinations that coordinate with the work for framing. A lot of my work is very personal this year as well. I usually work with found photographs from vintage shops and antique malls. This past year, I inherited my grandma's photo album. The photos are of her and her friends in their late 20s having fun during the 1950s. Also, I stumbled upon my other grandma’s photo album in my parents' attic. This album had photos of my mom when she was young and my grandma and grandpa living their day-to-day life. So many of these photographs had drawn me in, so I had to collage them. The ones I have chosen to collage feel like moments that should be encapsulated and treasured. Among these collages, I also created scenes not from these albums and wildlife on birch bark, such as birds and flowers.

 

 

 

WOODWALK 

What are some consistent aspects of your creative process?

 

 

WILLOW

My process has changed a lot for me in the past five years. It has always started with taking or sourcing photos. I used to make a collage and then use that as a guide for my paintings. I would trace the different shapes in the collage within Illustrator to digitize the piece. I would then use a vinyl cutter to cut the shapes out and paint each shape as a layer. I was rebuilding the collage only as a painting on a larger scale. Now, I enjoy the collaging process so much I stopped painting, so I cut out the step of digitizing and painting the collage. My current process is sourcing photos and diving right into collaging. My new focus is more on how detailed and dimensional I can get the work. Usually, I have a general idea for a color scheme or overall look, but I don't go in with any set plan. Starting with no set expectations on how the finished piece will look leaves plenty of space to play as the work evolves. As far as what is going on in the background, it is always different. It depends on my mood that day. If I want to focus and cruise through work, I would choose a true crime podcast, music, or listen to The Office or Parks and Rec on repeat for the 20th time.

 

 

WOODWALK 

What does your ideal day in the studio look like?

 

 

WILLOW

My ideal day in the studio starts at 6 or 7 p.m. and then I work into the night. I know when a piece is going well when it’s 3 a.m. and I want to keep working. I thrive more at night because my partner and dog usually go to bed early. I can escape upstairs to my studio and work all night. I usually put on a True Crime podcast or documentary in the background to keep me awake. Sometimes, I play music when my brain needs a break from podcasts and documentaries. My work does not require much prep besides gathering the colors I would need. I usually have a few different projects started, but I typically focus on one for the night.

 

 

WOODWALK

If you could go anywhere in the world for a creative residency, where would you go?

 

 

WILLOW

There’s one in Door County I’ve been wanting to do just haven’t convinced myself I’m ready for it yet. The Dome House! I think the building is so cool and would love to spend time exploring Door County for an extended period and creating work of my adventures and the Dome House itself. I haven’t considered going anywhere outside of the U.S. for residency, but Iceland would be amazing to visit and create work about my experiences there.

 

 

WOODWALK

What inspires or influences you?

 

 

WILLOW

What inspires the style of my work is a love for animated TV shows. I’ve always loved the color and the crisp lines of animation. Also, being an avid reader as a child and throughout my adult life, I was inspired by illustrations in children’s books. Dr. Seuss had to be one of my favorites when I was young. He created such bright and inviting worlds for our imaginations to enjoy. I wanted to make something like his worlds, but with a touch of reality still there. I leave a photographic element in most of my collages as that bit of reality. These are usually the people featured in the photograph. 

 

Old photographs are another way I find inspiration. It is addicting to collect these old photos that no one seems to want anymore. It feels like I am saving a moment in time. A moment that was deemed so precious at one point to this person. I love bringing new life to the photo and giving it the space to be appreciated.

 

 

 

WOODWALK

How has your work evolved over the years?

 

 

 

WILLOW

It’s crazy to think I’m still in the infancy of making this kind of work. In a short time, my work had evolved very quickly. If I think back to when I was in my second year of college, I had no clue what I was doing. I transferred to UW-Milwaukee halfway through college. At the time, I loved drawing and only dabbled in painting. Once I got to Milwaukee, it felt like I had to become a painter because of the structure of their program. I struggled through styles, playing with oil and acrylic paint, the size of the work, and trying to find my voice. In my second to last semester, I took a collage class to fulfill one of my requirements to graduate. This class helped me discover a way to make studies for my paintings. Collaging allowed me to play with composition and color before committing to painting it. I was making collages based on photos I took or from my imagination. When I’d paint these, I’d tape off each shape by hand to ensure they had sharp edges like the collage. Lastly, I would finish the painting by drawing on them with a pen like the collages. My process evolved into digitizing my collages by outlining each shape in Illustrator and using a machine called a vinyl cutter instead of taping off everything. It was more accurate but still very time-consuming. The more collages for paintings I did, the more I realized I enjoyed making the collages more detailed and layered. Within the last few years, I decided to take a break from painting in this style and focus on paper collages. Lately, I have been using old vintage photographs that I recreate into colorful moments. I can sense there will be a time soon when I will branch out into more imaginative work. I’ve only been working with paper for the past 6ish years. I’m excited with the great strides I’ve made already, but even more excited to see how the work will evolve in the coming years!

 

 

 

WOODWALK

Is there another medium you would enjoy exploring?

 

 

 

WILLOW

There is not necessarily another medium I would enjoy exploring at the moment. It would be interesting to explore different ways to execute the paper medium. I’ve always been interested in installation work and thought my senior show would be a form of painting plus a film/animation element, but then I found my love for collage and went a different route. I have toyed with the idea of using my collage style on a massive level so people would feel immersed in these colorful worlds. Recently, I’ve been thinking of using the same paper medium but creating something other than framed work, such as an animation with paper or illustrating a book.

 

 

 

WOODWALK

Is there anything else you'd like to share about your process?

 

 

WILLOW

My studio is many things to me. It is where I create, it's my office, my safe space, and where I eat a lot of my meals. I store all my finished work at home on my studio walls. I like being able to see what I have available and see how the work is constantly evolving. Above my work table, I have a bulletin board of letters of thanks from commissions and words of encouragement my friends and family gave me over the years. Sometimes, I need this constant reminder to look up and see some people believe in my work as much as I do. It is not just me hiding away in my own world. There is a whole life and purpose for the work beyond the studio. I am grateful for my partner, family, and friends, who all encourage me to keep creating when I feel stuck. My favorite part of the day is when my dog, Wilson, joins me in the studio. Sometimes, he shows up only to snag a carrot from my pocket and leave. However, he recently started enjoying the couch in front of the window. He can still patrol the neighborhood from up high and maybe sneak in a nap. One final thought, as an artist it is so hard to find balance in life. I feel very much in the beginning stages of my career in this field. It is hard to figure out how to work as a full-time artist around an almost full-time job, while making time for my partner and dog, family, taking care of the house, the list could go on and on. It all feels impossible. I know this is not just me, this is just life. As an artist though (and people feel this with any passion), most moments of the day I want to be making art. It is always in the back of my mind almost like an obsessive thought. Something about the work is screaming “Finish me!!!”. This is the reason I have such a hard time finding balance because there is so much work to be done. I fill the cracks of my day with art. It is important to remind myself to step back, take a sip of coffee, pet my dog, take a deep breath, and know as long as I am working on projects they will get done. I am still an artist if I work 2 hours or 50 hours in the studio this week. That is all that matters.

 

 

 

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