When dealing with art, anything is possible. LaDonna West has proved that by fusing mosaic art and paper maché to create brightly colored textured paintings.
As a mixed media artist and owner of The Mosaic Maché Studio in Johnson City, West said her paintings implement both art techniques.
“I call it ‘mosaic maché’ because it’s really a cross between mosaic art and paper maché,” she said.
Taking torn paper and making it into what she describes as a pulp, she adheres the mold to a wooden panel to sculpt and set the shape of her subject.
The next step is using acrylic paints to add color to her creation.
“The cool thing about acrylic paints now is that there are so many different materials and elements out now,” she said. “So, this makes mixed media a really cool medium to go into.”
Because she uses wood to mount her designs, West said it also allows her to integrate another technique into her pieces, as seen in her favorite painting she’s made, Isaac’s Seed.
“One of the reasons why I like Isaac’s Seed so much, is it’s the only piece that I’ve done where I’ve actually carved into the wood,” she said. “So, I’ve done probably three different techniques in one piece.”
West, originally from the Midwest region, said she has always had a love for art.
As a lot of her pieces involve outdoor scenes and landscapes, she said she does believe now that some of her inspiration comes from her childhood years spent in Wisconsin and Missouri.
“I was inspired by a lot of the farming community — the fields ... and trees. I’ve always been around trees,” she said.
Attending Howard University in Washington, D.C., West said she signed up for the engineering program as a practical measure to ensure she could support herself and make a living. After her sophomore year, though, she switched to graphic design, deciding to take a more creative route.
It was as a design student that West began to experiment with shapes, colors and an idea that would become a basic foundation in her work today. In her classes, she said they used color swatches from Color-aid to make all of their designs.
“This was back before computer graphics got really big, so we had to manually do our designs,” she said.
Never throwing the swatches away, West said she stumbled across them one day and began experimenting.
Taking a year of graduate school at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee. N.C., West said a class called experimental studio allowed her to dabble once again in the old project.
“I really believe that I was always kind of doing it all along, in some form or another. But, I do specifically remember doing a project,” she said.
After moving to Johnson City with her husband Walter and their two sons, Nathan and Ben, five years ago, West said she was primarily a home school mom, doing little arts projects on the side.
When her friend, Candice Powell, owner of Yarntiques, was looking for someone to give her daughter and her friends art lessons, West was approached for the job. Starting out with just four students, she said her classes kept growing until she felt it was necessary to open her own studio for more workspace.
It was with that first class of four students that her art classes were selected to be named the Color Chameleon Club. The name was created and voted on after the students did a number of chameleon-related art projects.
West said she had never pursued the idea of teaching before, but fell in love with it right away.
“To me it’s exciting to see a kid figure out how to do something with what I give them,” she said. “They are so used to being told what to do and how to do it, that it’s hard for them to think independently of that. So, I love the position of being able to show them that there are so many more ways that you can do something with art.”
Now admitting up to eight students in her classes for the fall and spring semesters, West said she sees a variety of student ages spanning from seven years old to college kids.
She said with all materials included, the classes cost $250 for an 18-week semester. Classes are held Tuesday through Friday from 4 to 5 p.m., and private classes are also available.
The next big thing involving her studio is Mixed Media Mania 2012, a three-week summer fine arts camp she started last year for kids ages 7 and up.
While unable to pinpoint the exact moment she took up art, West said she couldn’t imagine her life without it.
“I would do this regardless of where I was,” she said. “I feel like I would die, spiritually die, if I could not do something creative.”
The Mosaic Maché Studio is located in Burlington Place at 2203 McKinley Road, Suite 117.