Project Five Overview

Overall, I have been pleased with the resulting work from this project. I feel that my selection of sketch source material was appropriate for further development, and it was interesting to watch the designs evolving into something quite different to the original sketch idea. The work in the design project helped me to look at my sketches divorced from their origins and see new ideas to take inspiration from. I have tended to stick to poplin cotton for developing my designs, as I wanted the results to be quite crisp, and the prints predictable in the way they came out. It was interesting looking at how different fabrics took up Procion dye when painted, and feel I have an understanding of how to use their various properties in the upcoming project. I was more interested here in exploring layers of printing and painting directly onto each other, rather than layering printed and painted sheers at this stage. This was purely driven by the ideas that I had.  I am having my usual panic that I could do more work, and explore a wider range of ideas, but I think that is normal. I have certainly spent more than the recommended time on each stage.

My favourite smaller piece was the red and black Bauhaus inspired piece based on a sketch of rooftops. As I drew and redrew the design I was interested in adjusting the placement of the lines to create a dramatic but unified composition. The simplicity of the colour scheme and the dark tone enhanced the drama of the piece for me. The spacing of the marks was fairly uniform to create a rhythm throughout the composition.

Taking my yellow, red and green sample as my ‘main’ larger sample, I thought that it worked well. The individual prints have remained quite distinct within the piece, emphasised by the difference in print quality between them. As I was developing the idea I became very interested in how the base yellow would interact with the background white of the fabric, and how this could be used to create a sense of unity and movement between the prints. I think there is a contrast between the fluidity of the yellow, and the very prominent positive images in red. The green lines were used for added vibrancy and to reunite the prints once the red was added.  I also really enjoyed the effects created by blending oil paintsticks into dried acrylic prints, and feel this adds a lot to the interest of the piece.


Printed skirt

From my printed design based on Beverley Minster, paired with a woven design by Kaffe Fassett. The logistics of discharge printing 2 metres of fabric was a challenge, as I had to work fairly quickly to endure even colour change throughout the piece. The result is less tidy than the sample, but I rather like the haphazard irregularity of the prints.


Developing my ideas

I have already shown some of the work done based on my design project, and one larger sample. I used my Bauhaus-style rooftops sketch to paint in dye, but felt that the crispness and shading of the design was lost. My next stage was to rework the design in paintsticks, using masking tape to mask out lines and areas as I went. I didn’t stick rigidly to the original drawing, but used it as a guide whilst adding lines intuitively. I first used silver and iridescent purple, but felt it would look bolder and more dramatic in matt red on black. I enjoyed the angular marks in areas that I then repeated within the design.I feel I captured the mood that was intended, and made the most of the repeating shapes and stacked lines of the original view.  I made a mistake in the fixing stage where I accidentally used a greaseproof sheet that had previously been used on an iridescent design. You learn by your mistakes, and I have since made sure to keep glittery things separate and marked as such. This was my sample where colour was less important than line and shape.

I tried painting the Portland Ha-ha’s in procion dyes on different fabrics, but I’m still not convinced enough by the design to take it any further, as I have had four other designs with more potential.

From here I have concentrated on my design work related to a sketch of a fruit bowl. I have already shown my stencilled piece from this, and tried isolating completely different aspects of the design in this painting in Procion on cottton.

This was a really nice design, that would work well in its own right as a repeating design, but I wanted to go in a slightly different direction. I liked some of my design work where the white was allowed to show through with the yellow, as is the case above, but liked the idea of building up layers of colour in the design. I cut a lino design based on the shapes in the design to be printed in yellow acrylic, with the red and green marks applied on top. The lino was cut in such a way as to create sweeping lines through the design that would move across the whole repeat.  I then looked at how best to apply the top layers, and a colour scheme. Top left I have used fun foam printing blocks in red acrylic, with painted acrylic ink green lines. Top right is oil paintsticks stenciled and drawn in red and green. You can see where I have sampled a few greens to get the balance right. I felt the oil works best as the lino design showed through the oil in an interesting way. I worked the samples below in a narrower colour palette to see if that worked better. The resuts were not as vibrant or interesting, so I stuck with the original idea.

I then printed the lino repeat in a couple of ways to decide finally how the repeat would be arranged. By repeating the block in the same orientation each time, there was a fluidity of line from one frame to the next which was lost in other combinations.

The final print was 9×9 lino prints. I made slight adjustments to the green lines, adding one to improve the flow throughout the design, and removing another that I felt was too heavy with the extra added line.

Although I was pleased with the final design, I felt it was a shame that some of the shapes created by the tesselation of the lino cut were obscured by the design on top. I therefore decided to try a second larger sample using the same linocut in bronze powders on black cotton. I think this would have worked well, but I had trouble keeping the prints true and neat. I liked the juxtaposition of the quite rigid geometric centre and frilly edge printed with my crochet block.


I have spent most of my time on this aspect of project five as I have found it really enjoyable, and there are so many possibilities from varying the printing block properties, the medium used to apply the print and how thickly it is applied, and the properties of the paper or fabric. My initial prints were quite haphazard as I was learning the basics.  I started by printing with woodblocks I bought at the Stitch and Craft show, and found that liquid ink gave a paler print with a tendency to bleed in overinked areas. Tube acrylic with textile printing medium worked really nicely, and when mixed using a roller, interesting sculptural effects could be created and rolled gently onto the fabric. I tried roller printing where the inked rubber roller is rolled firmly across a woodblock before printing, and found this worked really well. I tried this with bottled ink too, which gave a ghost like quality to the printing. I tried overprinting with different colours and techniques, and again practised printing with my lino cuts based on Beverley Minster.

I also tried printing with ormaline mixed with bronze powders onto black cotton, which was very effective. On the left is a print from my own linocut, and on the right I made a block by crocheting string and glueing it to a hardboard backing.

I then moved onto monotype and monoprints using a piece of glass from a clip frame with masking tape around the edges. Tube acrylic with textile medium gave the best, clearest results, and I particularly liked the sample on the left created by drawing with my finger in the paint before transfer onto paper. I used a grouting tool on the right sample, overprinted with liquid ink and a woodblock, which didn’t work at all.

Monoprinting is done by making marks on the reverse of the paper whilst it is laid over an inked plate. This was a useful technique to explore, but I think I prefer the control of monotyping, where you are manipulating the ink before applying the paper.

Over two of my monotype prints, I printed with hardboard stamps made with different crochet designs, and string applied loosely as it is.

I have also made blocks from erasers, and fun foam glued to hardboard. This is my favourite piece printed frm erasers, based on the view of houses stacked on the hillside, against the new tall houses of the Olympic sailing village on my approach to work.



Painting on fabric

I have been working on the printing and painting project all month, and have finished it, but got so involved with the process that I have not kept blog posts up to date. I will therefore be presenting an overview in the next few posts. There was a lot of overlap between the various sections as I used my sketches as a starting point for experimentation a lot of the time. I have paid particular attention to Ruth Issett’s books on printing and painting fabric and paper for this project.

Before starting painting with Procion MX dyes, I bucket dyed small samples of a selection of fabrics to see how they took the same colour dye. I made up solutions as per the instructions in ‘Drawn to Stitch’ (without urea), and have the seperate solutions in plasic milk bottles ready to mix as needed. All the fabrics I have used in this project have been prewashed, ironed and where applicable, stretched on a homemade printing pad. I knew that Procion are not intended for synthetics, but was surprised that there was no penetration of colour at all. A sample with factory machine embroidery in cotton and synthetic thread demonstrated this well. Silk did take the dye, but was much paler. The strip of cotton on the left was used to pin the samples to as they dried, and I liked the effect of the colour running and separating out. I tried dripping fabric made with teabags and bondaweb with the Procion, but it didn’t take the colour as well as I had hoped. I used a scrunched up sheet of pale handmade paper to mop up the excess, and was really pleased with the resulting marks on the paper. Amongst the fabric samples was a piece of bamboo cleaning cloth, which also dyed up very well.

I then tried painting a few marks onto dry fabric and overlapping colours, which worked well. I used sponge brushes and rollers on various fabrics, and particularly liked the effect of rolling colour lightly onto towelling, as the weave of the fabric provided a natural masking effect from the colour.

I tried painting on wet and dry fabric, using my Bauhaus style reworking of Portand roofops as inspiration. Both pieces have their merits, but the dry sample predictably gave stronger colours with less mixing and sharper lines. It also allowed parts of the original fabric colour (white) to show through.

I had protected my printing pad with a sheet of handmade paper under the wet sample, creating a lovely print as a by-product.

Having dyed some small squares of white cotton, I rinsed, dried and fixed them before experimenting with discharge printing and painting. For this I used Milton applied directly with sponge brushes, or printed from a lino cut I made in project four.

It was tricky getting the amount of bleach on the lino correct, as the print develops over minutes rather than being immediately clear. I also found that the longer the bleach was left before rinsing, the more complete the discharge of colour. Where too much bleach was applied and it was left for too long, the pattern was obscured.

I then wondered how well this technique would work on commercially dyed fabric, and tried discharge printing black cotton.

The revealed colour ranges from a deep terracotta to a pale orange depending on how long the bleach is left in place. The resulting patterns reminded me of ancient Greek vases I had been looking at when I started this course. I had also been reading Zandra Rhodes book from the reading list, and was interested in using this technique and my lino cuts based on Beverley Minster windows to create a directional print. From here is jumped straight to producing my first larger sample.I’m really pleased with this and it is forming the basis for a summer skirt I am making myself.

Next I moved onto using oil paintsticks. I have one iridescent Markal stick, and a range of colours in Winsor and Newton oilsticks, including gold and silver. The W&N sticks seem a lot easier to use as they are softer and blend easily. I have a colourless stick to aid with blending if needed. These have been brilliant for simple mark making, blended with a toothbrush or left unblended. I have also used them with masking tape, and Fablon stencils. I did try using fablon as a mask to outline with markal but found the result disappointing as the shape created at the edges of the paint hae such an effect on the negative shape left in the centre. In this sample I used my woven sunset as inspiration, again using a mixture of blended and unbended marks. The next piece started as an outline of a wheatsheaf shape created with shapes from the minster windows, but I kept adding lines until the original idea was obliterated. I am pleased with the effect.

For my stenciled piece I took shapes from my development work based on a fruit bowl and created a new pattern. I thought this as really effective and the drawn ines hold the whole design together, creating a sense of movement. The orange was created by blending primaries.

Paintsticks can also be used to create rubbings of woodblocks, but I have not tried this yet. I have had a go at drawing with expanding 3D puff paint and drawing marks over the top with oilsticks with pleasing results.

Project 4 Overview

Did you manage to make space move?

I think I have managed to acheive this in my work. I tend to approach these things with a bit of a formulaic mindset and certainly find this helpful initially in trying to dissect why a composition evokes the feeling it does. I felt that rhythm in line, uniformity in shape and size, or at least a feeling of progression creates a calm composition. There is the risk that if a compostion is too calm it becomes boring. As well as the anatomy of a composition, I have enjoyed learning how to create areas of contrast and draw the eye. I did some experiments with old masters, glancing at them and remembering where my eye was drawn and how it moved around the painting to try to understand this further.

What are your thoughts about the drawing you did in stage 3?

Having lost my confidence slightly when I was lacking inspiration in the final part of stage 2, it took me quite  along time looking at my sketch work and selecting areas I thought were interesting enough to develop. In the end I was especially pleased with the design work that came out of the fruit bowl sketch. I have been surprised at how many ideas have arisen from a 10 minute sketch I had done for drawing practice. I found the exercises in seperating colour, shape and marks particularly helpful as a starting point when I was stuck. For example, I liked my sketch of the stone ha-ha on Portand, but needed to go through the motions initially to get to a point where I could take it further. It has been interesting taking the sketch work as the starting point rather than being concerned with the original subject. My sketch work since starting this project has taken on a renewed energy, and some of the work done in this exercise has come from sketches done in the meantime.

Were you able to use your drawings  successfully as a basis for further work? Are there other things you would like to try?

I think that I have selected well, and I was pleased with work I did on the sunset painting in particular, because I recognised reasons why I wanted to use it, but needed to do some manipulation to give it further potential before taking in forward. I always feel as if there is more I could do at the end of a project, but I try to keep to a timetable and move on at an appropriate time so that I can meet my deadline. The main thing that I think would be interesting to explore is digital manipulation as I haven’t touched on this at all. As I have said previously, I have enjoyed the physical process of moving fragments of drawings around the page, but have seen lots of exciting work from other students using software. I will do this at some point soon I think.

Now that you have a good working method, do you feel confident that you can carry on working this way independently?

I do. I was already halfway there in my sketch work previously, taking elements of different photos and putting them together, and making my sketches interpretive rather than concerned with realism. I do find it difficult to keep a sketch to one medium, and most of my work ends up with oil pastels on it at some point! I have organised my handbag so that I carry a field watercolour set and oil pastels/ink pen/graphite with me when I go out. I have also taken the time to go on more walks and time put aside for sketch work. My sketch a day has been good in ensuring that I am spending enough time on this aspect of my work, and I find development ideas are coming more freely from them.

Hats to Handbags

Last weekend I attended a study day at Dorset County Museum that was organised to compliment their ‘Hats to Handbags’ exhibition of vintage accessories. Veronica Main joined us as a guest speaker from Wardown Park Museum in Luton. She is curator of costume and textiles there, and hugely knowledgable on hats in particular. It was a really informative and interesting day, mainly on millinary history and techniques. I feel well versed on the varying constructions of straw hats, from rosette crowns to button crowns.  Considering the construction,  a hat should be approached like a basket that you wear on the head, and it should be remembered that in the past hats were designed to wear on the the hair rather than the head. I was particularly interested in straw plaiting, which was used to create plaits to be wound in a spiral forming the hat itself, or used in the decoration of a hat. Some plaits were plaited with dyed fibres, although these are relatively rare now as the dye caused the fibres to perish. Various fibres have been used through the ages to make ‘straw’ hats, including paper (rags based), woodchip, horse hair, hemp, grasses and reeds,  cereal crops, artificial silk and later cellophane. I was excited by the idea of shredding fibre based paper and using it to plait and use in constructing a 3D form. I know that there is a 3D project coming up on this course and have been inspired to create a hat for this.