I had been thinking about which objects would best fit the theme I had chosen: Nature’s Larder. I had words such as ‘shard’, ‘fur’, ‘spiky’, ‘splatter/spatter’ and ‘jagged’ in mind and came up with some found objects:- a broken bottle, a twiggy branch, feathers, and added to these some items from home – a ‘furry’ knitted scarf, a knife, a slice of watermelon, a claw or tooth like pendant, a mixture of beads and buttons for the ‘splatter’.
I started out arranging the items fairly close together on a white background. I had quite quickly rejected the pendant as it seemed a bit too obvious a choice and the colour didn’t suit my theme of reds, black, silver/grey, glass and green.
I felt that some parts of the arrangement were working, such as the random spray of beads coming off the end of the scarf and over the feathers. I thought it might be better to see the point of the knife, so tried this (second image below):-
I didn’t think that the fine red fabric added much to the composition. I thought that a dramatic splash of red from the scarf and smaller elements would be more effective without the red in the background.
Next, I tried a black, textured background, and smooth black base and a different arrangement:-
I liked this much more: the broken glass contrasted well with the textured black backdrop (a skirt). The red also looked more dramatic and although one feather lost some contrast, the gleam on it meant that it was still visible. I thought that the whole scene had a more menacing, dangerous feel to it.
Next, I tried a dazzling contrast (thank you Bridget Riley!) with bright green, fluid material. I also tried a more spaced out and carefully placed arrangement for some of the items, especially the beads and buttons. The broken bottle and claw-like twig were tried both lying down and upright.
The convolutions in the fabric hid some of the beads and made others roll about where I didn’t want them; the glass and twig became less obvious and although the red and green contrasted well and I liked the black and white feathers against the green, I decided that I preferred the black background. The arranged buttons didn’t look much like random spatter and the other items felt too disparate and unconnected.
A diorama-type effect was what I aimed at next, taking a large box and lining it with the black fabric, setting it on its side with the opening towards me. I arranged the objects so that they seemed to be clawing or striking their way out of the blackness. I liked the claustrophobic, Gothic horror feel of this arrangement, but felt that a more open composition showed off the jagged glass better, and I preferred a flat base.
I returned to a black texture background with flat, black base, tried several more arrangements before coming up with this:-
The knife is suspended in a fairly upright position (‘invisible’ thread to the rescue) and the scarf is pinned higher up so it appears to undulate down the right side of the composition and explode into ‘droplets’ in the foreground.
After my first study visit on Saturday, I had ‘layers’ in my head, so tried one more experiment with the fine, semi-opaque fabric in front or partially in front of the group of objects.
I think the way it blurs the view of the objects is quite interesting. The reflections off the glass and knife become more of a focus, while the twig and scarf blend into the background. I may try a drawing with this veiled view, but will use the version in the large photo above as my favoured option. The piece of melon will be changing daily, though!
This was an interesting exercise. I am surprised at how much difference a different background makes to the emotional ‘feel’ of an arrangement. The textured black gives a woodland or cave-like feel that makes me think of wild places. I wanted the knife cutting into the melon ‘flesh’ and the knitted ‘fur’ scarf to represent an animal’s gore-covered maw; the claw-like twig reminded me of a hawk’s striking claw and the jagged bottle was like teeth or claws, but also represents danger and violence. The feathers (fragility and vulnerability), with the ‘blood splatter’: the unfortunate remnants after the predator has feasted.
I had been quite pleased just to find the objects that I wanted (especially that broken bottle – not something I would normally be overjoyed to see!). In the past, I might have stopped at the first arrangement, but I think the colour scheme of black and red with glistening, jagged elements tells the story of ‘red in tooth and claw’, and the circle of life and death in the natural world much better. If I could change one thing, it would be the twig – I like the claw-like shape, but would have preferred something with thorns.