When I first saw Roz Leibowitz's artwork, I thought I was looking at collage on lace. Only closer inspection showed that what I perceived as crochet and cutwork was actually hand drawings.
|'My Milk Teeth,' 2001, graphite and ink on
vintage paper, 14" x 8."
By Roz Leibowitz.
Roz fills the backgrounds of her artwork with heavy patterning (some might call it repetitive doodling or Zentangling) as a solution to negative space.
"Empty space—I can't work well with it," says Roz in the Spring 2012 issue of Drawing magazine. "My unsuccessful works tend to go wrong when I have to deal with white space. So I fill it in."
"Fill it in" is an understatement. Roz packs the page with marks and line. The patterns and borders she creates—with ovals, curving lines, checkerboards, floral motifs, bracelets of intertwined circles and loops, and bull's-eyes—are something she can do practically with her eyes closed. Actually, she works on them lying down while watching TV or listening to music.
Roz also fills the white space of her drawings with collage elements and sometimes pierces the paper with needlepoint pricks, a crafting tradition that goes back to the early 19th century.
In fact, as Artist Daily Editor Courtney Jordan notes in her profile on Roz, themes of vintage needlecraft and women and there societal roles are woven throughout the New York City-based artist's work. The patterns in her drawings call to mind the detailed designs often found in quilts, lace, crochet, and knitting.
All have historically been designated as women's work,and they have personal significance for the artists, too. "My mother loves lace, textiles, engraved and cut glass—so anything heavily worked appeals and is meditative to me," says Roz.
|'The Glass Beads,' 2010, ink and gouache on vintage book pages,
14" x 18.5.
By Roz Leibowitz.
One of the ways she infuses her work with history is by drawing on vintage paper such as ledger paper, papers from centuries-old catalogues and books, legal papers, and deeds of sale.
"Sometimes drawing over papers with patterns, as in 'The Glass Beads,' plays on the Romanic sensibility of hidden worlds and the idea that there are souls in things considered inanimate," says Roz. "So to me it is not 'just paper.' I'll take something that was printed or written on in the 18th century and move it forward in its existence. It feels as if you are connecting to the past."
Roz finds the process of creating her complex layers of pattern or collage simultaneously constraining and freeing. "The work is controlled and concentrated," she says in the Drawing article. "But my mind is free. I look through the work and there is a world inside that opens up."
You can read more about Roz Leibowitz's artwork and learn about other artists who mix drawing with techniques like collage and encaustic, in Drawing magazine.
P.S. How might Roz's background-filling technique inspire your artwork? Would you use it in a collage? An art journal? Let's talk about it in the comments section below.