Lynn sanding a work in progress
Experimenting with mixed media on wood


For the past year and a half, I’ve been down a rabbit hole of my own making as I continue to deepen my voice as an artist. It has been a time of great experimentation with hours of trial and error. Moments have ranged from ecstatic discovery to a lost-in-the-woods kind of feeling. Much like Alice and her venture into Wonderland, it has been replete with unusual creatures, illogical happenings, and riddles to be pondered.

I have, in part, been driven by a deep-seated hunger to embrace more personal themes, something I have been yearning to do for a while now. The time feels right and I'm excited to rise to this calling. Even so, it is taking considerable courage, not only from a creative standpoint but also in terms of sharing this work, especially given how much of a departure it is from my last series.

Nonetheless, I’m determined to follow my muse, or shall I say, “white rabbit”, wherever she takes me.

So Many Questions

Much of the process has involved asking questions such as, “What materials am I naturally drawn to? What style do I want to pursue? What types of art move me the most? How do I best unlock imagery from my subconscious? What makes me, “me”, artistically speaking?"

Mixed Media Work In Progress
Layering mixed media and inkjet pigment transfers

Every artist must tackle these questions and more. Color, size, technique, subject matter, etc. all need to be considered. The decisions can be mind-boggling! Now, more than ever, the sky is the limit, as new media and processes are constantly being developed. It is also an age where all types of art or “isms” are a go, running the gamut from realism to abstraction and beyond.

In Search Of A Playground

The first order of business was to decide what materials and processes would serve as my playground.

More than anything, I wanted processes that would disengage the logical part of my brain in order to explore subjects in a fresh and dynamic way. One of the most freeing ways for me to generate imagery is with ink on clear film. It is a method that allows me to produce a diverse range of shapes, marks, and textures that will ultimately serve as building blocks for my pieces. 

Lynn Nafey's ink drawings
Ink drawing and mark-making session


Another must was the flexibility to both add and subtract media repeatedly. I know from my college days that strict subtractive processes such as wood or stone carving -- where one mistake means ruin -- often left me mumbling obscenities into my dust mask. Thanks, but no thanks!

Besides, I love the magic that occurs in the building and tearing down of surfaces. 

Mixed media on Dura-Lar archival film
Mixed media on Dura-Lar (an archival polyester film)


After a lot of experimentation, I found a material called Dura-Lar that fits my needs perfectly. It is an archival polyester film that is a sturdy, flexible, and graciously allows the push and pull of materials. It also accepts a wide range of media, including ink, paint, colored pencils, and the pigment transfers which have become integral to my process.

Dream Logic

Next, came the question of which stylistic genre would best suit my vision. For a long time now, I have been paying close attention to images and photographs that take my breath away. Though I have resonated with work across the spectrum of abstraction and representation, it is those that swim in between that intrigue me the most.

There is something about the opportunity for inventiveness that excites me. It is a world ripe for surprise and discovery, where, just as in dreams, laws of logic can be broken in the name of emotional impact and meaning. Free from conforming to reality, elements such as color, shape, and line, can be exaggerated to express a point of view.

Untitled. Mixed media collage by Lynn Nafey.
©Lynn Nafey. "Untitled". Mixed media collage.


For this reason, I find a great deal of inspiration in primitive and folk art, as well as artists such as Paul Klee, Ben Shahn, and Romare Bearden, just to name a few. Here are two of my favorite quotes on the subject:

“Art does not reproduce what we see; rather, it makes us see.” (Paul Klee)

“When you see a fish you don't think of its scales, do you? You think of its speed, its floating, flashing body seen through the water. Well, I've tried to express just that. If I made fins and eyes and scales, I would arrest its movement, give a pattern or shape of reality. I want just the flash of its spirits.”  (Constantin Brancusi)

As my images emerge intuitively through the creative process, I see them as riddles to be contemplated and explored, but not necessarily "solved". Often multiple meanings and associations are infused into a single work resulting in an intentional ambiguity that is open to interpretation by the viewer.

Things Felt And Unseen

Another key ingredient in my art is most certainly the layering of textural marks.

Eternally inspired by weathered and timeworn surfaces, I find great expression within the serendipitous combinations that occur while I work, especially when their synergy suggests things felt and unseen. I am always on the hunt for that sort of haunting emotional resonance.

Detail of work in progress with layered textures
In progress detail from  "Where Do We Go From Here?"


While some textural elements are created directly on the surface with ink, paint, or pencil, many are applied as pigment transfers.

To this end, I pull from my growing library of textures, both created and collected. Some have their genesis in hand drawings, ink washes, and monoprints, while others are captured photographically. 

These are combined and transformed digitally through a coloring and blending process, before being printed on a specially coated film in preparation for the transfer process. A solvent is then used to release the archival pigments onto the working surface.

Textured layered to be applied as pigment transfer layer
Printed film ready for the transfer process


Concealing and Revealing

Shortly after I began using Dura-Lar, I found a quartz rock while beachcombing that grabbed my attention with its milky glow and weaving veins of color. I was mesmerized by the complexity and mysteriousness of its hazy layers.

Quartz rock inspiration
Inspiration in the form of a quartz rock


I knew then that I wanted to incorporate these qualities into my new work and that Dura-Lar, with its translucent surface, would be the perfect material. By using it as a "veil of obscurity", I could embed elements below the surface and into the deeper recesses of my pieces. 

Endless possibilities percolated in my brain as I realized what fertile ground this dynamic of concealing and revealing could be.

Lynn Nafey with a work in progress showcasing the translucent surface of Dura-Lar
That's me demonstrating the translucent quality of Dura-Lar


A theme of particular interest is the psychological exploration of what we allow, and don't allow, others to see. Each of us wears a carefully crafted mask honed from years of experience. What is it that lies beneath? What parts of ourselves do we bury so deep within that no one ever gets a glimpse? Most importantly, how do we reconcile our inner worlds with these outward personas? 

The multiple layers of "Place Of Beginning" by Lynn Nafey
©Lynn Nafey. "Place Of Beginning" before final assembly

Putting It All Together

Brewing with ideas, my heart was set on these multi-layered assemblages. Now I had to figure out how to construct them.

This alone took hours of research and experimentation. From cutting acrylic sheet to tapping miniature screw holes, there was a great deal to figure out. Not only did I want the final construction to be durable, but I also wanted it to be as mysterious as the images themselves.

Lynn Nafey tapping acrylic sheet for assembling layers
Tapping holes in acrylic sheet


Each step of the way, I made a point of choosing only materials of the highest integrity. The Dura-Lar film and maple panel base are both archival, while the inks, paints, and pigments were all vetted for their strong lightfastness rating.

Lynn Nafey with a work in progress showcasing the translucent surface of Dura-Lar
Preparing the archival wood panel that serves as the base for my assemblages.


I also needed to find a varnish suitable for the variety of media I use in each piece, particularly one containing UV inhibitors for an extra dose of protection. After months of testing to get the application and sheen just right, I settled on Golden MSA Varnish. 

I must compliment Golden's customer service for going above and beyond to help me out. I'm impressed with how much they care about the artists who use their products.

Lynn Nafey - preparing to varnish her mixed media work
Coating "Place of Beginning" with Golden MSA Varnish.


Buddha Had It Right

As much time and patience as it has taken to explore the nooks and crannies of my rabbit hole, I am excited to have emerged with a strong sense of direction that is filled with so much possibility.

I feel "at home” within all these newly discovered materials and processes that are reflective of my inclinations and vision. I love the anticipation of what imagery will emerge next. It is always a surprise.

Mixed Media Work In Progress by Lynn Nafey
Detail from a mixed media work in progress



Nonetheless, digging deeper requires courage that I muster anew each time I enter my workspace. There is a quote hanging in my studio that reinforces my sense of purpose in times of doubt and impatience:

“Your work is to discover your work — and then with all your heart to give yourself to it.” (Buddha)

Curiouser and Curiouser

Just as Alice utters, "curiouser, and curiouser" when she finds herself growing leaps and bounds after eating the cake, creating instills in me that same sense of miraculous wonder as works of art take shape before my eyes. 

"Where Do We Go From Here" - Mixed Media Work by Lynn Nafey
© Lynn Nafey. "Where Do We Go From Here?". 12 x16 in.

For the curious among you, I invite you to browse a photo gallery with additional behind-the-scenes peeks into my journey. Since my emphasis has been on discovery over finished work, most of what you will see is experimentations and works-in-progress.

Thanks for reading!

Check out my Behind-The-Scenes Photo Gallery
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