Project Four – Design

Here is my initial work for this project looking at making space move. I was interested with how the orientation of each black square affected the appearance of the space as well as their relationships to one another and their position within the space. I found that a composition was more tense where the placements appeared more random, unpredictable and pushing the boundaries, teetering on the edge of falling out of the composition. In my dynamic arrangement of lines, I have tried to keep the eye moving around the composition, with as much variation in the shape and size of resulting shapes as possible. In contrast the restful composition as quite still and there is a calming predictability in the placement of each line. The viewer would be able to add their own lines without disturbing the composition.

For the next stage, I have used yet more pictures from our month in Canada. I took so many photos of shapes and textures they could keep me busy and inspired for years! My initial reaction to this project was that I was already doing a lot of the things that we are working towards. I thought this would mean that I wouldn’t struggle at all, but conversely I have found it more challenging to pick apart things that I am tending to do at the initial sketching stage. I hadn’t realised how much I edit out and focus on various aspects whilst sketching, altering relative proportions and colour to fit the ideas the subject had inspired.

I really enjoyed working from the reflections photo here, and by coincidence I had already been working and reworking a similar photograph in various media. I tried to select areas that I found visually interesting and arrange them in the frame for maximum impact. The ice sketch on the left looked quite quilterly to me. I liked the mathematical arrangement of the paving lines against the irregular patches of ice. The area sketched on the right was interesting in the context of the original photographic composition, but cluttered when taken in isolation.

From the reflection photo I made some initial studies of the marks, colours and shapes. I was particularly pleased with the collage and found this the most pleasing. I like the contrast of the shapes cut out by the windows and the irregular marks bound by each window. The colour study was done in soft pastels, and gives a lighter more airy study than watercolour or gouache could.

My final piece was a collage to emphasise the shapes, and keeping the marks implied rather than drawn. It is difficult to see in the photo, but I took strips of patterned card with properties similar to my marks study, and glued them between two sheets of gold tissue paper. This was then recut into strips in the opposite direction and collaged with strips of blue tissue paper. In places blue was glued over the gold and rubbed back whilst wet. Oil pastels were rubbed over the top in selected areas and the whole collage varnished with Modpodge to portray the glass.

I tried reworking this in different media and using different techniques. From left to right we have combed ink, sponged and brushwork ink, oil pastel rubbings over a woodblock I bought at the Stitch and Craft Show this week, and oil pastel with watercolour wash worked in the opposite direction. Although some of these gave interesting results, none of them captured the original idea as well as the mixed media collage. If I wanted to take this further, I would take some of the ideas from these paintings to redo the collage above.

At this stage I had my first uncomfortable experience of being blocked. Art to a timetable doesn’t always go to plan. I was really stuck for ideas on what to paint, and whilst thinking I started arranging my ink bottles.

I did the preliminary sketches and whilst painting my first interpretation taking into account marks, colour and shapes, I became more interested in the relationship between the bottles and the light. The oil pastel drawing isolating the light was the most successful here. Unfortunately the soft pastel drawing was overworked and not as effective.

In addition to the exercises I have been doing some general reading on theory of composition and design for artists, and have been trying to put some ideas into practice. In this sketch today of rooftops on Portland, I concentrated on the shapes and their relation to each other. The marks were kept sparse, concentrating on areas I wanted the eye to be drawn to. Their is rough observation of the rule of thirds and the house on the far left and marks at the lower edge act as stoppers, keeping the eye on the page. The main correlation of marks is top left to bottom right, although most lines are drawn perpendicular to this. When I stood back from this sketch, my fondness for Klee seemed wuite obvious!

I am starting to research Bauhaus, as well as reading Zandra Rhodes’ book and ‘Colour Moves: Art and Fashion’ by Sonia Delaunay. This project is taking quite a while as I am putting more time into my sketchbook work, reading, and have been a little sidetracked by looking at heat tools and other techniques for altering and distressing fabrics. Having read two of Kim Thittichai’s books and ‘Fusing Fabrics’ by Margaret Beal, I have invested in a heat gun, Fabric master with extra pyrography tips, tyvek, lutrador, kunin felt and other bits. I can’t wait to get going with it!



March holiday

I have had some time on holiday, and like all good students have taken the opportunity to do some sketching and visit some museums. I had a week at home with Mum to visit Dorset, and we visited the Blandford Museum of Fashion. Amongst other things we were both interested in Dorset buttons and Dorset Feather Stitching which was developed in the 1950’s by Olivia Pass. It consists of brightly coloured feather stitches, usually in a paisley pattern arrangement, and patterns created by couching rick-rack. It will be interesting to have a go at these techniques at some point.

We then spent a week in East Riding, and visited Yorkshire Sculpture Park(YSP),  Beverley Minster, Bempton cliffs, The Deep aquarium and Ferens Art Gallery in Hull. The holiday was full of inspiration and I took lots of notes of techniques that would be interesting to try to incorporate into my own work. One particularly good exhibition for this was the Ferens Open exhibition which had a mixture of textiles, mixed media, painting and printing. I took notes on colour ideas, construction techniques, composition and patterns. At the Deep Aquarium, there was an exhibition by artist Martin Waters which featured a number of assemblages and collections of plastic found in the river. Some of these were really striking and can be found on his website here. At the YSP we saw the majority of the Miro sculpures ahead of the exhibition opening this weekend. I spent time with the vast numbers of Henry Moore sculptures, admiring not only their form, but the patina and marks visible close up.

I have started to post a sketch each day on twitter to motivate myself to keep at it. My first day effort of a window was somewhat diasappointing. I had done a pencil drawing then painted watercolour afterwards. The next day I tried another window, this time sketching in watercolour and adding pen on top. The result was far better, and I have decided to stick with this technique. I also did some landscape sketches. The pen doodle was inspired by a pattern idea I saw in a book bought at the YSP called ‘Pattern’ by Drusilla Cole. I also incorporated ideas from the day and motifs I had seen.  Today’s sketch is an oil pastel drawing of our newly replenished and overflowing  fruit bowl. At the moment I am working on trying to loosen up my style, keeping the media varied and trying out a variety of ideas.

Research Point – Homemade dress

For this post I decided to focus on a dress I made just over a year ago for our friends’ civil partnership. This is a photo of me in it, taken by a friend for a project she is doing on ‘Objects of Importance‘. The dress is a basic shift dress made with a fabulous cotton dress fabric designed by Alexander Henry, called ‘Home Sewing is Easy’. My attention was first brought to this fabric by a friend on twitter.

Image courtesy of Caroline Blake

Obviously I know how it was constructed and put together by machine and finished by hand, as I made it myself. I like the fact that the design is a sort of self referential pun as it refers directly to the processes involved in making it. I feel confident and proud when I am wearing it, and it appeals to my love of needlework, graphic novels (I collect comics) and is bold in its use of colour. It was made for a special occasion not possible in years gone by with friends of old, and the fabric was found by making new friends via twitter. With this in mind it says a lot to me about love and friendship in our society now, whilst referencing relationship dynamics of the past (“Look at the way she’s dressed. She must be throwing Harry’s money around”).

I think that when I am wearing it I appear more confident, as it looks bold and different. If anyone takes a minute to think about it, it should be obvious that I made it.  I don’t think it obviously alludes to my financial status, as dressmaking is considered an economical thing to do, and described as such on the fabric, but the irony is that it costs £13 per metre.  I love it and to me it is priceless.

Project Three Overview

I have now completed my final sample for stage 6, exercise 2 of this project. I hope that I have managed to convey the way in which the light moves from one shade to the other, interrupted by the shapes in the glass. I initially stitched the piece referring back to my initial pastel shade interpretation of my sketchbook work, and later finished the piece without referring back, trying to keep the original glass in mind.

Were you able to mix and match colours accurately?

I expected to find this exercise quite difficult as it is an area that I have struggled with when painting and selecting fabrics and threads in the past.  I felt I learnt a lot by producing the colour wheels in various media and experimenting with tints, tones, shades and mixing opposites. I find myself referring back to them a lot in later exercises. Trying to match colours from images and fabric was really challenging, but I think I achieved what was expected in the end.

Were you able to use colour expressively?

I was pleased with the work I produced in this section, but find myself heavily influenced by cultural and societal ideas of what different colours represent. I explored the idea of how cool colours recede and warm colours stand out, which was a real revelation. Whilst visiting the Ferens Art Gallery in Hull this week, I looked at portraits by Arthur Gaskin and Alfred Wolmark who both used vibrant colours backgrounds, and was surprised by the effect on how the sitter appears.

Can you now see colour rather than accepting what you think you can see?

The painting of objects on a coloured background was really interesting and I have found I am looking at the world very differently now.  Impressionist still life paintings have never looked so true to life. A documentary on Hockney this week where he talked a lot about light and really looking properly was very relevant.

Did you prefer working with gouache or watercolour paints? What was the difference?

I prefer working with gouache as the colours stay truer, opaque on dilution and do not seperate on drying. The granulation of watercolours and their translucency is useful where you want to exploit the unpredictable nature of the paint or for building up layers in sketching. I enjoy the process of painting thickly with paint, moulding and speading it in an expressive way. I enjoy oil paints for this but much prefer gouache as it dries so quickly.

How successful were the colour exercises in Stage 5? How did they compare to the painting exercises?

I was surprised with how much direction of stitch affected the colour of each thread, and enjoyed exploring all the variables. Despite not setting out with a plan, I tend to produce rather stiff organised samplers. I approached all of the exercises in this project in a very methodical and scientific way, but found the results pleasing and useful to refer back to.

Is there anything you would like to change or develop?

I am contining to keep a record of exciting colour combinations and ideas on colour themes in my colour sketchbook, and have learnt an appreciation of light and colour that I think has changed the way I view things forever.

Project Three – Coloured Stitches and Pointillism

For stage five, I chose to work red and blue stitches on black fabric. It was interesting to see how the depth of each colour changed depending on the proportions used in relation to the background as well as each other and the direction in which the stitches were worked. The red and blue both appeared brighter when small spots of red were worked on a blue background. The blue appears more purple and the red richer in the reversed arrangement. Again,  have worked a quite formal sampler, but am pleased with the final piece.

Since starting this project, I have been looking at the impressionists, especially pointillism (Seurat) and fauvism (Matisse). As well as reading, I watched a really interesting documentary on Seurat (The Private Life of a Masterpiece, BBC). The idea makes sense that allowing the eye to do the mixing, the colours appear more luminous as you are seeing the fluorescent halo around each colour. I have found that this works when two colours are used, but once further colours are added the resulting combinations can look rather muddy at a distance. It is interesting looking at works by Matisse, where relatively large areas of white are left between the marks, and Seurat where there is dense packing of marks and underpainting to block out main shapes in the composition. In researching Seurats work, I have been bowled over by his conte sketches and the light and shade in them. In my colour skechbook I have tried out a couple of ideas. Here I have worked a section based on a Seurat painting. I then used ink and cotton buds to experiment with mixing colours myself.

I worked my first french knots sample on blue again, looking at matt versus metallic threads, mixing primaries and adding in a secondary colour. Red dots made the blue appear more violet, yellow brought out an olive hue, and adding a third colour dulled the background in keeping with my previous observations. The image below is strobing a little on the screen but looks better viewed full size.

I then moved onto mixing pastel shades, first moving hrough each colour in turn, then viewing one, two, then three colours intermixed.

For the final part of this stage I thought I would use a sketch that I had made of my bathroom window. It was one of the only pastel sketches I had done, and I thought it made sense to use a sketch of light rather than an object to demonstrate pointillism, which to me seems is all about perception of light.

My first sketch was quite literal, and following receiving comments on my first assignment, I took advice and thought about making some more expressive images and using different media. (I was really pleased with my first report by the way!)

I worked a series of paintings as below and felt I captured the properties I wanted to.

In the end though, for this exercise I felt the initial painting was most interesting for development. I started by selecting an area to work on, and chose the shape I did to emphasise the movement of the light and graduation of one colour to the next through the piece. I then repainted a sketch of the area in the pastels I would use. The main idea is to move from blue to yellow, and I have used the pink for shade, using the idea that a third colour tends make the resulting mix appear less vibrant. I am working the final embroidery from this rather than the pencil dotty drawing as I want to have a less uniform distribution of knots and be a bit free in my interpretation as I work the piece. It’s not quite finished yet, so photos next post.

Circuit boards and lino cutting

I have had this circuit board for a while as I had thought of cutting it up and making jewellery from it. It has been on my mind that printed circuit boards could make a good themed sketchbook, so this was an exploratory initial sketch. I can see lots of potential for prints and collage.

I also bought lino and lino cutting tools. I know this is something we will be exploring a bit later in the assignment but I have been itching to have a go for ages. I approached this by first trying some mark making with the different shaped cutting tools, and found that the prints were more successful where the cut areas are fairly wide and the intact areas were not too big. This is my first attempt at a complete design, and I had Van Gogh in mind when I cut it. I found it quite difficult to get neat prints each time, but I think this part of the charm of hand printing over mechanised prints.

Project Three Stage Four

I started exercise one by experimenting with colour combinations in my colour sketchbook. My two best ideas were ‘fresh’ versus ‘decay’ and ‘warm summers’ versus ‘cold winters’. For ‘fresh’ my colours were primary or secondary and inspired by fruit and vegetables. The ‘decay’ colours were mainly browns developed by mixing the fresh colours with their opposites. I had lots of development ideas for the warm summers versus cold winters, so therefore moved forwards by thinking of more words associated with each of them. I enjoy both seasons, and therefore wanted the winter colours to be quite vibrant and lively like the summer. I spent some time making marks inspired by these words.

I took my most successful marks and used them to develop patterns as below. I wanted the panels to look like dress pattern fabric designs. The colour palette was inspired by Bollywood films as for me they evoke the warm glow of a summer day. Top left I was thinking of lollipops, ice cream cones, parasols and of course the sun. The wavy lines were indicating the relaxed feeling of reading a book in the sun, and the wavy distortions of warm air. The more obvious inspirations are deckchair designs and bunting.

For the top left image here I was thinking of the ‘teeth’ of frostbite, fairisle jumpers and layers of clothes as well as layers of snow. The top right image was inspired by crystals and ice. Bottom left I was thinking about the marks left on the ice when we were changing out of our ice skates on the Rideau canal in Ottawa last year. Bottom right are rows of icicles. I used the silver to emphasise to hard edges and glinting sharpness of ice.

For exercise two I was inspired by this peacock feather in our dining room. I love peacock colours, and for me it reminds me of the End of the Road fesival we go to every year. Peacocks are almost synonymous with this music festival as it is staged at Larmer Tree gardens in North Dorset, and the peacocks roam freely amongst us as we watch the bands.

I have been trying to produce at least one sketch each day, so I paused at this stage to make a colour sketch of the feather using gouache and oil pastel.

I put together my colour bag with direct reference to the feather and an image I found that portayed all the colours I could see in the feather itself. As well as the teal and blue that we usually associate with peacocks, I was keen to reference the olive, pinks and browns that for me are as interesting.