Jilli Blackwood Lecture at The Embroiderers’ Guild, Dumfries

I attended a lively and entertaining talk by Glasgow-based textile artist, Jilli Blackwood yesterday. Her famous ‘Slash and Show’ textiles are a riot of colour and texture and embellishment. They include hand-dyed fabrics, layering, weaving, pleating, with freely worked hand and machine embroidery. She has a loom in her home studio, and this informs her work, and she returns to weaving between her embroidery projects.

I had researched this artist in respect to contemporary embroidery in an earlier article, so will not repeat that material here.

As a third year graduate, Jilli had been invited to meet fashion designer, Jean Muir, who encouraged her to make a 1 metre square version of a layered and cut sample. She also offered Jilli a job, which she turned down, despite being a huge fan of Muir’s designs. Jilli strikes me as a very independent person, who was keen to develop her own ideas.

Her breakthrough moment for the future direction for her work came with the Millenium Kilt, an altered, second-hand kilt with a three-dimensional surface created with the techniques mentioned above. She told us that she had had a last minute moment of doubt about exhibiting the kilt in The McManus Galleries in Dundee (2000) as part of an exhibition called ‘Textiles for the 21st Century’. Was an ‘altered’ garment an original work of art? However, she need not have worried, as it went on to win the award for first prize and was then exhibited at the V&A as part of an exhibition called ‘Men In Skirts‘. Despite several offers to buy this piece, Jilli retained ownership of it, but went on to create a series of similar pieces for sale. A collection of ‘Art to Wear’ pieces, forms another series, including kimonos.

Jilli Blackwood, Millenium Kilt, 1999-2000

Source:- https://www.jilliblackwood.com/projects-millenium-kilt.html

It was interesting to hear about Jilli’s working practice: the piece above started as a sketch on an envelope, before hands-on work on the kilt itself. At other times she will dye the fabrics first. She uses Kemtex dyes because of their light-fast qualities. The dyed fabrics will be hung together so that she can see how the colours interact, as she selects a colour palette for the project in hand. Next, an A4 – A3 sized sample may be made, before the full sized piece is worked on. The work moves from floor to wall to sewing machine as Jilli works on it by hand and with her sewing machine, adding and subtracting elements until she is happy with the outcome. This process can take several years to complete on a single piece. Although, The Glasgow School of Art can make digitally rendered prints if large scale production is required.

One piece that she brought along to show us had not, she felt, worked, but instead of discarding it, she ended up cutting it in half, re-joining it with two upward arcing lines now meeting in the centre. This gave it a new dynamism that resembled various buildings she had seen, and Jilli wondered if the influence of this architecture had subliminally affected her development of the piece. The colour was altered by folding and over-dyeing the wall hanging several times, and it now has a background of dark lines with the bright pink elements glowing against it.

She advised us to try to develop our own ‘handwriting’ through playing with materials (much as we have been doing on the course!), because everything has been done before, it is just a case of putting one’s own mark on the different techniques available.

Another piece that I found interesting, consisted of a black ground fabric with machine sewn, irregular rectangles of silver leather attached. This had started as a landscape-format wall hanging, had been cut in half and joined to make a long portrait-format wall hanging, and had ended up being made into a skirt as a wearable piece of art. Jilli was sporting some of her wearable art in the form of a hat and tunic dress as she was speaking to us.

For the Flag Handover Ceremony at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, Jilli designed an eye-catching red tartan for the entire Scottish team. One aspect that she had to give thought to was that it had to be ‘larger than life’ as the human figures would be tiny in the huge stadium to the audience there, but would also be seen around the world on television. The design had to work in these two, very different situations.

After she had designed the Team Scotland parade outfit for 2014 Commonwealth Games, she was dismayed to find that the outfits had been photographed for publicity purposes, against a green countryside background, instead of the grey or dark background that she had envisaged. The interaction between colours is very important to this artist.

However the green in the photographs went on to inspire a bright green tartan which was used in the World Anti Doping Agency space at the games.

Jilli Blackwood, WADA design, Commonwealth Games 2014

Source:- https://www.jilliblackwood.com/news.html

More recent work has been embroidery over worn, antique, South African rugs, echoing the existing pattern. Jilli mentioned that as well as being extremely hard to work on, she was amazed to find all the ‘errors’ in the seemingly perfect patterns on the rugs.

Her future plans include re-branding her website and producing a luxury catalogue and generally ‘raising her game’.

We were allowed to handle some of her artwork and samples, which brought home the highly textured nature of the work.

 

What can I learn from this artist?

This was a timely example of how wonderful textiles can be created or altered, and will feed into my experimental approach to creating textiles on Part 5 of the course. Jilli’s playful, colourful, ‘anything goes’ approach was very refreshing, as was her persistence with pieces that aren’t quite working, but can be altered and re-formed by changing the format or colour palette, for example.


References:-

Websites:-

http://www.jeanmuir.info/pages/secret_life.shtml Accessed 12/05/17

https://www.jilliblackwood.com/ Accessed 12/05/17

http://www.kemtex.co.uk/ Accessed 12/05/17

http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/m/men-in-skirts/ Accessed 12/05/17

Coursework Part 5: Project 2: Building A Response: Developing Yarn and Linear Concepts

I made some drawings to inspire my yarn-making. These drawings explored the textures and type of marks found in the paper and plastic manipulations, both with and without added stitch. Sadly, I won’t have time to make all of them, so I will pick out those that demonstrate a variety of texture and line.

Yarn Concept #1, inspired by Plastic Manipulation with Stitch #2

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I was aiming for a springy look with loose texture, and used the French knitting technique. The first sample was made with a single strand of rayon embroidery thread. For the second sample, I decided to use a combination of the red, pink and burgundy found in my chosen colour palette. I added in a strand of invisible sewing thread with sparsely threaded white glass beads to represent the glints of reflected light seen in the plastic sample.

I think that the single thread was the most pleasing of the two samples – it has a simplicity of line and clarity of colour, lacking in the more complicated version. The springy loose threads and gleaming look of the thread were just what I was aiming for.

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Thinking of how I can take this texture forward: rows of the French knitting could be joined, or I could experiment with knitting or crocheting with a very fine thread like this, on large tools, to obtain a similar effect. Alternatively, I could make small areas decorated with this texture on a background fabric, or printed or drawn lines imitating this ‘scribbled’ line.

Yarn Concept #2, inspired by Plastic Manipulation with Stitch #2

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This yarn concept was formed by stitch on plastic with acrylic painted dots added to represent the texture of the source material. The ‘Bargello’ stitch of the original was simplified to become three staggered stitches.

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I quite liked this idea, but felt that the plastic made it a little too inflexible, but it could be translated to a shiny red textile such as silk or synthetic organza. The white paint could become printed white dots or rows of beads. The scale could be exaggerated (larger stitches in a thicker thread or yarn, in which case the background fabric could be more substantial, such as a faux leather.)

Yarn Concept #3, inspired by Plastic Manipulation with Stitch #3

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This yarn concept was made from fine strips of plastic bag (much like the source material), but rolled, then tied at 5 cm intervals with rayon embroidery thread. The strands were slightly stretched and separated to give areas of irregular lines and waves.

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Although I was not particularly keen on this one, I think that it could inspire a textile made from areas of cut plastic, with some areas tied to give voids, or possibly a ‘woven’ cut texture with different directional cuts, or areas of irregular cuts interspersed with uncut areas.

Yarn Concept #4, inspired by Paper Manipulation with Stitch #4

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A synthetic fabric was cut and ironed into shape, then couched with chenille yarn, and decorated with black crochet thread stitch, and white glass beads.

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This has an autumnal feel because of the muted colour palette: the green was not as bright as the one in my palette. It makes me think of seaweed for some reason, but perhaps with a fluffier or more petal-like decoration instead of the beads, it might more successfully represent the source material. I did like the mixture of textures and ‘marks’, and can imagine branch-like areas of this set against a translucent fabric.

Yarn Concept #5, inspired by Paper Manipulation with Stitch #10

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A simple yarn inspired by the catkin source material. This sample was made from white yarn with tied bunches of embroidery thread in the soft green from my selected colour palette.

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I thought that it was delicate and quite attractive and did remind me of the tufty texture of the catkin-related drawing and paper manipulations. Thinking of how this might be developed: I can imagine this couched onto a light cotton fabric, perhaps combined with a muted, pale background pattern resembling leaves or branches.

Yarn Concept #6, inspired by Paper Manipulation with Stitch #10

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This yarn showed a more literal translation of the catkin texture, made with a fine punch needle, worked in two heights of stitch, on a synthetic ribbon, with added stem stitch. The punch needle makes a good texture that is very like the catkin texture.

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The time-consuming nature of this technique means that it would only be suitable for use in small areas of a larger project. I think that the varied textures work well together. This could be simplified to an all white palette. It has a delicate and organic feel to it, enhanced by the translucent ground that the stitch is worked on.

Yarn Concept #7, inspired by Paper Manipulation with Stitch #7

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Six strands of black embroidery thread on paper cord. This was almost exactly like the drawing I had made (shown at the top of this article), and I felt that the separating black threads represented the fine black pen lines of the drawing well. It could be carried out in a very regular way (side to side, so that the yarn lies flat), or (as here) deliberately irregular. The paper cord can be twisted to make the black looping stitches spiral round the cord.

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I think that the technique might suit textile jewellery, but the stiffness of the paper cord would be hard to translate to a textile, so I think that the best way of taking this forward would be to form a print for all of the lines and textures seen, or perhaps, just for the white lines, with the black carried out in stitch. It has a bold, graphic feel, that I thought was quite successful as a pattern.

Yarn Concept #8, inspired by Paper Manipulations #1 and #2

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This ‘twiggy’ yarn concept is made from lengths of fine plastic tubes, sewn and tied together with white and black threads. I tried a few methods of joining these units together, until I realised that I could pierce them with a fine needle and tie them together, leaving the loose ends to enhance the twig-like effect.

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I thought that this was probably the most successful of the yarns in translating the source material. I immediately thought of making a textile printed with these lines and then adding tied stitch over the printed area. Like the last yarn concept, it has a bold, graphical feel and reminds me somewhat of Chinese brush strokes.

Summary

I have some interesting textures, marks and lines to take forward to the textile design part of the coursework. The challenge will be to make them form part of a collection.

What have I learnt in this part of the course?

  • once again, the value of trying different techniques with the materials in hand has been helpful in finding solutions (for example, ways of joining the plastic tubing in Yarn Concept #8)
  • working from the drawings made initially, has given me something concrete to aim for, and has informed the sorts of materials that might work to produce the desired outcome
  • some of the yarn concepts have suggested direct translations to textiles, whereas others have demonstrated possible patterns that may be suitable for printing onto fabric

Coursework Part 5: Project 2: Building A Response: Paper and Stitch Samples

For the next part of this project, I evaluated the paper manipulations I had made, and considered whether they would benefit from stitch to give them added dimension. Some, such as #18 (yellow, ‘tufted’ card, inspired by the catkin), had a finished texture already, in my opinion.

I selected a single colour palette to take forward to the next part of the coursework. This palette was derived from a painting of a tulip. I liked three of the palettes, but felt that, if the resulting textiles are to form a cohesive collection, they need to be associated by the same colour palette, as well as by the theme of ‘plant life’.

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Drawing #10 colour palette

Paper Manipulation with Stitch #1, inspired by Drawings #1213 (plum tree in blossom)

Raffine on rice paper with folds.

These simple ‘blossoms’ mimic the plum blossom seen in the original drawing. This had a delicate and sophisticated feel to it, that I felt could work well on a fine cotton or linen fabric, with either pink or white stitch.

Plastic Manipulation with Stitch #2 , inspired by Drawings #8 & 10 (tulips)

Cotton and rayon embroidery thread on plastic with embossing.

Continuing the linear marks of the drawings, and selecting shiny threads to accentuate the gleaming tulip petal look. I used loose stitches in a Bargello-like pattern that reminded me of the colour blending in the tulip drawings. On a translucent material, the stitch marks on the reverse show through and become part of the pattern, so the stitch would look different on an opaque material. I liked the loose stitch on the plastic. It had a slightly ‘wild’ feel to it, enhanced by this colour palette.

Plastic Manipulation with Stitch #3, inspired by Drawings  #8 & 10 (tulips)

Red synthetic fabric, polyester ribbons, and sewing thread on plastic.

This was the half of the original sample (#14) that had small, irregular cuts in it (the longer, fine cuts on the other half, were, I felt, successful by themselves).  I tried to layer this in such a way that the cuts would open up to give more interest. The ribbons were added to enhance the shiny linear effect. It evokes a similar response to the last sample, but also resembles waves and reflections in water and would work well in blues and greens or greys for that purpose.

Paper Manipulation with Stitch #4, inspired by Drawing #14 (mixed media distant garden foliage)

Yarn, and embroidery threads, with tissue paper and wool balls on sandpaper.

The yarn was couched in place to define the creases and lines found in the scrunched tissue paper; functional stitch was added to hold the wool balls more firmly in place; and ‘twig-like’ lines were added to one side of each ‘branch’. There is something about this piece that I like: mainly the texture and almost abstract quality of the lines and forms. If I take it forward as a textile design, I would probably choose a more diaphanous background than is suggested by the textured sandpaper.

Paper Manipulation with Stitch #5, inspired by Drawing #13 (distant plum blossom)

Cotton embroidery thread on pierced tracing paper.

This paper manipulation was sewn with a sewing machine without thread to form the initial piercings. I had not been very keen on it, but the delicate stitch gave it an added dimension and texture that I felt was a vast improvement. I made this like a mini sampler, using various stitches, but felt that the three shown in the detailed view, worked best. The irregular patches of texture paired with the pierced areas could work on a fine cotton, or silk fabric. I just have to think of a way of making holes in such a textile. Maybe insets of a net or sheer fabric? The result is delicate and subtle and would suit a simple colour palette – maybe just the white from my chosen palette, or white and pink.

Plastic Manipulation with Stitch #6, inspired by Drawing #15 (chard leaf)

Couched polyester ribbon on melted plastic.

I aimed to add lines that highlighted the grooves in the plastic, echoing the veins on the original chard leaf. I thought that this sample was quite dramatic and exciting, and suited the red and black colour palette (which are thankfully both to be found in my chosen colour palette). It would make a dramatic contrast to the sample above. I will have to experiment to see which, if any, fabrics would react to heat in the same way as the plastic.

Paper Manipulation with Stitch #7, inspired by Drawing #14 (mixed media distant garden foliage)

Black quilting and embroidery threads on cut and gouged watercolour paper.

I tried to recreate the marks made in the paper, in stitch, varying the thickness of the thread, and type of stitch. I thought that this was quite an interesting sample and reminded me of insects in a garden. There is a lot going on, but the simple colour palette gives it cohesion.

Paper Manipulation with Stitch #8, inspired by inspired by one layer of Drawing #11 (abstract/pattern drawing of tulips)

Couched, cotton embroidery thread on Japanese paper.

This didn’t really work because I felt that the stitch was overpowering the delicate cuts and holes in the paper manipulation. I still like the cut areas in the paper, so will bear that in mind as the one positive element of this sample.

Paper Manipulation with Stitch #9, inspired by Drawings #8 and #10 (tulip drawings)

Machine stitch on wax-coated, embossed copier paper.

My sewing machine has broken down and this was the result of my using it anyway – jerky, crooked lines and incorrect tension control causing all sorts of chaos! (It is now with the engineer for repair!). If it had been in working order the orderly lines I had envisaged might have been more representative of the subject matter. As it turned out, the reverse showed the most interesting outcome: random marks that could perhaps be replicated by adjustments to the thread tension. They suggest distant foliage, a field of flowers, or a crowd of people, to me. On a practical note, I think that the stitch on paper would have worked well if the machine had been in working order.

Paper Manipulation with Stitch #10, inspired by Drawing #17, (stitch on catkin photograph)

Metallic embroidery thread on thin card, cut, knotted and wax-dipped.

The geometric stitch, or a printed version, might make a good background for areas of raised texture on a textile. I had seen some designers that combined natural forms with geometric ones in my research (for example, Lucienne Day).

I then went on to make some drawings to inspire the yarn concepts that I will make in the next part of this project.

Summary

What have I learnt in this part of the course?

  • a lot of thought will need to go into the colour palette for the yarns and textiles, if they are to feel like a connected ‘collection’
  • the scale of the stitch gives a very different aesthetic to the samples: some are light and delicate, others are bold and a bit aggressive in appearance. I think that the variety will make for an interesting set of textiles that can be combined, or layered

 


References:-

Website:-

http://www.robinandluciennedayfoundation.org/lives-and-designs/1940s Accessed 02/05/17

Coursework Part 5: Project 2: Building A Response: Colour Palettes and Paper Manipulations

 Colour Palettes

I painted six proportional colour palettes inspired by drawings from Project 1. I have shown them next to their relevant drawing in an earlier article, but here they are all together. They have quite different associations in my mind (left to right, top, then bottom):- soft, muted Spring-like; Japanese, masculine; Summer deckchairs; flower garden; romantic eveningwear; and this final palette reminds me of a Paul Smith striped shirt or scarf.

My husband, (being a software engineer), wondered if there was a programme that could carry out this analysis (to produce a proportional colour palette) automatically. He found TinEye Labs Color Extraction, which I used to analyse Drawing #6 (the collage). The software limits the palette to the most featured nine colours and it can be set to ignore the external and internal backgrounds. (Here it is ignoring the external background, but has been unable to judge the edge of the image because the colour differentiation is small). It has not been 100% accurate, but it is a quick way of generating a proportional palette from an image.

TinEye Labs - Color Extraction Lab

Inspiration

The artists I researched for this Project, may inform my work in the following ways:-

  • drawing first hand from source materials and using drawing for further development
  • making representational drawings, that can be simplified into more abstract forms
  • considering the associations that a chosen colour palette may evoke
  • use of layering
  • making a piece of work from smaller units, that are combined
  • the inclusion of geometric or other unexpected elements with organic forms

Developing Textile Concepts

The first task was to review and evaluate my drawings to see which ones I would like to develop.

I liked the linear marks in Drawings #12 and #13 and particularly liked the colour palette of #13.

I felt that the layered aspect of Drawing #11 had potential for further development.

The mixed marks found in two areas of the largest drawing, #14,  were interesting, and I could see them translated into stitch and surface texture.

The suggested textures in drawings #15, #17, #10 and #8 were possible candidates for taking forwards. The puckered nature of the chard leaf could work well as a textile, for example.

At this stage, I opted to use papers with the most appropriate textures that I could muster, and re-introduce colour at a later stage in the development process.

Paper Manipulations #1 and #2, inspired by plum tree Drawing #12

#1 Japanese rice paper with folds

#2 black card and copier paper with areas removed, layered, one sheet in reverse

I felt that both of these manipulations represented the stark lines of the original drawing well. The folded piece would take stitch well, but if worked on textile, I think it would need to be pre-stiffened to hold the creases well, or maybe pinned in position with stitch to hold the creases in place. Having layering in mind from my research into Leisa Rich’s work, I tried two of the paper cuts layered and thought that it worked well, and could even have more layers added with different textures included.

Paper Manipulations #3 – #5, inspired by the blossom in Drawing #13

#3 punched and torn tissue paper, kitchen towel and copier paper

#4 machine sewn pierced holes on tracing paper (no thread used, reverse of piece shown)

#5 folded and cut tracing paper

The tiny fragments of paper in #3 could work in textiles, and would need gluing or sewing into position, or could be machine sewn between layers of tulle netting or translucent fabric, or soluble fabric. Both the punched dots and paper left after punching had a light and airy feel to them; the torn shreds were feathery and ephemeral, so represented the ‘blossom’ marks in the drawing quite well.

The machine sewn holes were not, I felt, a success. The oil from the needle marked the paper and the texture looked and felt ‘gritty’ and too fine – maybe useful in another context.

#5 was the most successful texture, with random ‘petals’ cut into the folded paper, these could be opened out and cast interesting shadows and could also be used in a layered construction.

I made a two evaluative drawings of #5 and decided to try two more paper manipulations with a more formal composition: one folded into rectangles with a larger five-petalled flower, and one with rows of large and small petal shapes.

#6 folded and cut tissue paper

#7 as above

The tissue paper gave more ‘drape’ to the sample than using tracing paper, and the larger petals of #6 gave more movement to the ‘petals’, paired with larger holes, which might allow layering options. I felt that this sample could be successfully translated to fabrics – either a fine silk or chiffon (for accessories such as scarves and shawls, wedding veil, or evening tops); or made in felt for a completely different weight (maybe for a bag, or home decor feature such as a lamp shade).

Paper and Plastic Manipulations #8 – #10, inspired by Drawing #15

#8 Plastic from a mailing sack, stretched and sewn

#9 Plastic as above, melted over a candle

#10 Scrunched tissue paper (also tried wet – sample not shown)

The plastic gave the result most like the marks in the drawing of the chard leaf, particularly the melted version. Stitch can be added to accentuate the ruching. I made two evaluative drawings of #10, looking at the highlights and lowlights, in felt pens (made looking at the plastic, not at the drawing), then in ink and masking fluid.

I think that this texture (as seen in the plastic manipulation), and as a print like the drawing, has potential as a fashion textile, or perhaps in performance costume where a dramatic effect is called for (the villain’s outfit). I feel that it would work in any combination of a bold colour (red, green, blue, white) with white or black marks. The puffy, 3-D version could be self coloured. The ‘blind’ felt pen drawing, or a detail of it, could be made into a tufted rug.

Plastic and Paper Manipulations #11 – 15, inspired by tulip Drawings #8 and #10

#11 wooden tool embossing on glossy photographic paper

#12 various tools embossing on glossy photographic paper

#13 various tools embossing on wax coated copier paper

#14 cuts made in plastic (from a carrier bag)

#15 embossing on plastic

Trying to capture the linear marks from the source drawings: the embossing on both types of paper worked well, and I even preferred the reverse (repoussé) effect. The fine regular slits in plastic were a good match for the felt pen lines in one of the drawings. The irregular, short cuts made little impact. Embossing the plastic made small drag marks in the material, as well as the lines, which gave an interesting texture, but not like that of the drawings. The red plastic had a very tulip-like colour and texture, giving associations with sexuality and ‘danger’. I can imagine punk-style fashion made using this material. Layering would again be possible. The embossed paper and card should take stitch well and could be an interesting background texture: it reminded me of abstract landscapes or wood grain.

Paper Manipulations #16 – 18, inspired by the stitch-on-photograph Drawing #17

#16 long cuts in copier paper, with some areas removed

#17 short cuts in thin card, one side knotted, one side dipped in melted wax

#18 fine, long cuts in thin card, folded in a spiral at base and glued

The copier paper version was drapeable and not very much like the drawing in ‘feel’, apart from the line directions

#17 had more body, and the knotted ends reminded me of the stamen in the catkin. The waxed side had the waxy, succulent look of the white part of the catkin.

#18 was my favourite: it was like a stiff natural brush, but the tips of the ‘bristles’ curled over and made for a texture full of movement and interest. Thinking of how this could be further developed: finding a textile or thread with similar properties, and making small areas of this texture against a plainer background could work well. It reminded me somewhat of Wanshu Li‘s beautiful jewellery that I saw at the Edinburgh Degree Show last year.

I made three drawings of aspects of the three paper manipulations. The drawing of #17 (white on grey) reminded me of frayed fabric; while the drawing of #18 (yellow on brown) made me think of batik marks or slashing, or loose, large stitches. The white drawing feels limp and languid, feather-like and wispy (lines like this could possibly be printed onto fabric), while the yellow marks feel more vibrant, lively and energetic.

Paper Manipulations #19 – 20, inspired by Drawing #14 (mixed media distant garden foliage).

#19 – sanding, cuts, gouges and piercing using various tools on watercolour paper

#20 – scrunched tissue paper and wool balls on sandpaper

I looked at two small areas of the drawing, using a viewfinder, imitating ‘marks’ in the first piece and texture in the second. The cuts and gouges gave interesting, fairly subtle textures, the pierced holes were more interesting on the reverse, where little mounds formed around the holes. These subtle processes might be useful for transforming a piece with a simple, monotone palette to create areas of different ‘perspective’ or focus.

I liked the variations in texture and the colour palette in #20. I think it could take some stitch to add further textures. I felt that the asymmetrical appearance and blank, ‘quiet’ areas worked well in representing the textures found in the drawing.

Drawings of the paper manipulations: of #20 using graphite, eraser marks, chalks and carved-sponge-printed gesso; of #19 using various felt pens and markers.

The piece with many small marks would convert to textile and stitch quite well, with overlapping marks, possibly on a patchworked ground; the tree/blossom drawing could work in a textured appliqué with large stitch on a finely textured background, or maybe on a tulle netting ground. I could imagine this design on eveningwear, or as a wall hanging.

Paper Manipulation #21, inspired by one layer of Drawing #11

#21 – scalpel cuts; and pierced holes made with needles, pottery tool and scalpel on Japanese paper.

The drawing that inspired this paper manipulation was made up of stylised shapes with different pattern infills (lines, dashes, dots) and I tried to recreate those patterns without outlines, suggesting the shapes of the flower heads. For the pierced areas, the reverse of the paper shows the most texture. The scalpel cut areas were the most successful, giving clear lines that would allow a second layer to show through and they had a bold, graphic feel to them. The paper is drapeable, semi-opaque and has a delicate look and feel. The simple, off-white palette (shown here against a black layer) would be suitable for home decor, or in silk or organza as scarf or blouse fabric.

I will now try adding stitch to some of the paper and plastic manipulations as the next stage in the textile development process.

Summary

What have I learnt during this process?

  • using a simple palette at this stage keeps focus on the marks, lines and textures made
  • drawings may suggest further developments
  • the reverse of a piece may be more interesting that the front
  • my first time using the paper cut technique
  • taking away areas of a paper, or using a transparent or translucent paper gives an opportunity for layering, which may be useful when translated to textiles

References:-

Websites:-

http://labs.tineye.com/color Accessed 19/04/17

https://www.liwanshu.co/graduation-collection Accessed 24/04/17

Exhibition Visit: New Quilting, Rheged

My friend, Margaret, and I went to see the New Quilting exhibition earlier in the week. It was hosted by the Rheged Centre in Cumbria and runs until Sunday 23 April 2017.

There were a variety of styles of quilting, from art quilts to historical pieces from the Helbeck Hall collection, and some three-dimensional work. As ever, the lighting was rather dim to preserve the textiles, so my photographs have a yellowish tinge to them.

I have been a fan of Elizabeth Brimelow‘s work for a number of years, and was pleased to see that she had several pieces of work in the exhibition. She is interested in landscape, especially nature, history, and the effects of farming on land. Her work begins with drawings, that are then translated into textiles through stitch and fabric manipulation.

Elizabeth Brimelow, Round Meadow, (silk fabric, labels, hand & machine stitch, hand quilting, knotting).

This piece was described by the artist as “… a journey through my sketchbooks …”, and featured plants, ponds, land features etc on a narrow band of fabric, which was coiled into a spiral for display. I would love to have seen it uncoiled to appreciate all the little details. As well as an unusual way of presenting work, it is a wonderful visual diary of all the things the artist has taken the trouble to observe, draw and stitch.

Elizabeth Brimelow, 461 Days – A Slice Of My Life, (fabric, card, stitch)

This long, concertina book had a scrap of fabric and a brief written note to represent each of the 461 days of the diary. Another interesting idea for making a personal journal.

Elizabeth Brimelow, Mellow Yellow (silk, appliqué, reverse appliqué, hand and machine stitch, fused, hand knotted)

I feel that this quilt relates to the coursework that I am doing at the moment: drawing plants (autumn fruit, leaves and berries, in this case) and combining them in a textile; using a variety of techniques and marks to represent the objects.

Sara Impey‘s quilts feature free-motion sewing machine stitched text as an integral part of the design.

Sara Impey, Social Fabric

This quilt told the imagined story of the piece of antique mattress cloth that the artist had found at a car boot sale. Sara ponders on its significance, its previous owner, and what it went through to end up at a car boot sale. She states that the associated memories make our possessions unique. I thought that this gave poignancy to what could have been an overlooked or discarded piece of cloth, and it underlines the way an item’s history can affect the way we see it and feel about it.

It reminded me of Julie Arkell’s French market find of a scrap of ribbon with the word ‘MAMAN’ embroidered on it. It conjures up the image of child carefully making a hand-sewn gift for her mother, which was then treasured for many years before eventually ending up in a house clearance, being sold at a market and finding a new, appreciative owner. It gives this tiny scrap of fabric and thread immense meaning beyond its constituent parts.

julie arkell maman ribbon

Source: Julie Arkell, Home, exhibition catalogue, Ruthin Art Gallery, 2004, p36 (detail).

Kate Dowty is a new artist to me. She has a background in graphic design and her works are all wall hangings with a focus on colour and texture. I loved the colour palette of this quilt, inspired by the music of Miles Davis and the artist’s ‘Winter blues’. I feel that it captures emerging from the dark days of winter, along with the improvisation of jazz music well. The beautiful indigo colour is enlivened by the textures of the different types of fabric patches and the dense stitch. The red lends a sense of electricity and makes me think of ideas fizzing into being.

P1290666

Kate Dowty, Out of The Blues (fabric collage, machine stitch)

This piece had raw edge patches and was not ‘finished’ at the edges. As a personal preference, I like the image to go all the way to the edge of the quilt without a border, so this appealed to me. I am always interested to see how the quilts are constructed, and another quilt by this artist, Everything Connects, seemed to be made up of small units, which had then been sewn together at the end (much easier to handle under the sewing machine, from a practical point of view!).

Marita Lappalainen was another new (to me) Finnish artist, whose work I found very appealing. She says that her work is based on her own experiences, but she is happy when it resonates with others. She works mainly in appliqué and hand quilting using recycled textiles for ecological and other reasons. These textiles are imbued with meanings, signs, memories and the touch of “… times long gone”. The artist likes the fact that textiles made and owned by others will live on in her work.

Marita Lappalainen, Sweet City (recycled woollen fabrics, knitted garments, crocheted potholders).

I love the fantasy buildings with their abstract, but “fairy-tale-like” exuberance. The repetition of shape; the variety in textures; the colour palette of pinks, mustard, red, brown and green; the mixture of tones; and the placement of the composition on the ‘canvas’ were all elements that I felt made this piece successful.

This is a small taster of what was on display and it was well worth the visit for those interested in textiles.

Summary

What can I learn from these artists?

Elizabeth Brimelow – draw what interests you, and translate those drawings into fabric and stitch. Her ideas for visual journals were something to bear in mind and show new ways of presenting textiles.

Sara Impey – consider using text as an important element of a composition: to tell a story, to make a political point, or social comment, or to add humour to a piece.

Kate Dowty – don’t be afraid to use raw edges in quilts; make a larger piece out of smaller units, which can be joined at the end of sewing. Link the colour palette to ideas and emotions.

Marita Lappaainen – use recycled textiles; concentrate on:- composition and placement; the colour palette used; repeated motifs and tonal distribution.


 

 

References:-

Books:-

Julie Arkell, Home, 2004 exhibition catalogue, Ruthin Art Gallery, Wales

Websites:-

http://www.quiltart.eu/elizabethbrimelo.html Accessed 21/04/17

http://www.katedowty.com/index.html Accessed 20/04/17

http://www.maritalappalainen.fi/ Accessed 20/04/17

http://www.quiltart.eu/elizabethbrimelo.html Accessed 20/04/17

https://www.rheged.com/event/new-quilting/ Accessed 20/04/17

http://www.saraimpey.com/ Accessed 20/04/17

 

Coursework Part 5: Project 2: Building A Response: Research

I borrowed several books from the library featuring the work of David Hockney and Vincent van Gogh because I admire the lively and colourful way that those artists depict flowers in their artwork, but felt that their work did not really represent the direction that I feel drawn to, of simplified or abstract landscapes and plants based on observation. I therefore identified a few artists and a jeweller that I feel are working in a way that I feel empathy with. So although these artists do not all depict flowers or plants, their way of working is something that I wished to examine.

Sarah Symes is a Canadian artist, who has also lived and worked in the UK and USA, but is now in Squamish, Canada. She trained and worked in graphic design before becoming a professional artist.

Sarah Symes (titles added to each image)

Source:- http://sarahsymes.com

Sarah works by cutting textiles into the shapes she requires, pinning them to a base textile, before machine sewing the pieces into position. The image shown at right, above, was digitally designed and printed onto banners and was one of three award-winning designs that she produced for display in her local town.

The artist describes her working process as beginning with sketching. She then selects forms which suggest the landscapes she is depicting and aims to depict feelings, memories and emotions through her chosen colour palette. Textiles are purchased, washed and some are hand dyed to suit her requirements. The finished artworks are built up in “… an improvised process, like painting or collage, enabling the gradual build up of colour and texture.”

I like this artist’s work because the pieces are very evocative of the subject matter she depicts, but allow the viewer to bring their own associations to the shapes and colours she uses. For example, I can see buildings and windows in the Havana piece, and the colours evoke brightly painted buildings, dry earth and sun to me. Others may see something quite different.

 Leisa Rich is a Canadian artist whose work I had seen when researching drawing for this part of the coursework. Her layered work and experimental combinations of media are of particular interest to me.

Leisa Rich, titles appended to each image

Source:- http://monaleisa.com

Leisa takes an experimental approach to her artwork, but states that her favourite techniques are 3-D printing, and free motion machine embroidery. She mentions an interesting, heat-sensitive base material that she enjoys working with, called ‘Fosshape‘, (which I see is out of stock with the UK supplier, but is worth noting for future experimentation). Other materials used by the artist include:- thread, plastics, fabrics, mixed media, and re-purposed waste materials.

The framed pieces shown above are made from two or three layered frames featuring plastic with cutaway areas, stitch and paint or other media. The frames can be recombined in different configurations according to the viewer’s whim. The layering gives an added dimension to the artwork, and I like the simple method of presentation, and the technique of building an artwork out of smaller units.

Her artist’s statement has a touching story of how she came to make art. In it she says “… it is art I come back to, to notice, to capture, to recreate that feeling” [of a peaceful childhood in which she noticed everything]. Tiny objects which are often ignored are recreated in her art, through suggested structures, forms and textures.

I came to see Anna Gordon‘s jewellery through reading Kyra Cane’s book “Making & Drawing”. Stylised versions of plants, with abstract additions in some cases, have lingered in my memory.

Anna Gordon

Sources:- http://www.annagordon.com and Cane, 2012

Anna draws on all sorts of sources in her environment for inspiration, including nature and the repeated motifs found in textiles such as Japanese silks. She sketches her ideas before making the pieces by hand, trying to capture the quality of her drawn lines. Thought is given to how the “sketch” (ie, jewellery) will appear on the body, causing light reflections, shadows, movement and contrasts. The artist works with simplified organic and geometric forms in metal, combined with natural media, gemstones and/or enamel.

I find these reinterpretations of natural forms very successful, and the strange little additions give a moment of added surprise. The artist’s method of development, trying to capture the nature of her drawings in a new media is particularly pertinent to the forthcoming projects in the coursework.

Philip Hughes is an artist interested in landscape and the affect of man on that landscape. His work includes paintings, drawings, murals, rugs and tapestries. I recently discovered his work in the form of a book called “Patterns in the Landscape: The Notebooks of Philip Hughes“. I was captivated by his drawings and notes made in situ, showing landscapes in the UK, Australia, Iceland and the USA, amongst others. He worked, at that time, on recycled brown paper sketchbooks in pencil, making linear, contour drawing-type marks to describe the view in front of him. Small amounts of painted colour are added for later reference when making the finished artworks. I loved the look of the flat colour and pencil lines on the textured brown paper so much that I have ordered a kraft paper sketchbook (which I hope will be similar) to try for myself (and the paper seems appropriately ‘earthy’ in texture for representing plant life upon). In Philip’s drawings, some of the land forms are quite recognisable, but others evolve into abstract patterns. The colour palettes are very evocative of the particular country (or area of the country) depicted, and together with the artist’s notes (which might mention the weather, an animal seen, or details about the location) make a fascinating journal of his travels.

Philip Hughes

Source:- http://www.philiphughesart.com

Colour palettes and carefully observed forms in the landscape seem to be key to this artist’s work.

Yesterday I went to the New Quilting exhibition at the Rheged centre in Cumbria. The work of textile artist, Janet Twinn was particularly relevant to this part of the coursework. For the art quilt shown below, the artist made a number of drawings and took photographs of garden plants to inform the shapes she would use in the piece. She then considered the colour palette. Janet dyes her own fabrics and/or paints or prints them, and keeps records in a separate technical book. In her artist’s statement, Janet says that colour is the most important aspect of her work, and that she is interested in its “… emotional effect on our senses and in how it can convey mood and atmosphere.”

Janet Twinn, Green Blooms, and developmental work for the piece

I felt that this art quilt was successful in conveying a sense of vibrancy and growth both in the use of colour and in the suggested plant forms. The palette used has analogous greens, including muted shades, combined with contrasting orange and purple from the secondary triads of the hue continuum. The use of hand coloured and decorated fabrics allows the artist control over the pattern and colours she creates.

Summary

What can I learn from these artists?

Sarah Symes – begin with sketching from first hand source material. Consider the forms used (representative of the source material), and colour palette (what associations does it evoke?).

Leisa Rich – take the time to notice small details (through use of the sketchbook and careful observation). Adopt an experimental approach and consider using new technologies and novel methods of presentation. Build a large artwork from smaller units. Consider the possibilities offered by layering and compositions that can be reconfigured.

Anna Gordon – concentrate on drawing from source material, then capturing the nature of that drawing in the new media (ie, paper, yarn and textiles, for me). Consider mixing unexpected elements with natural forms, such as geometric shapes.

Philip Hughes – make carefully studied drawings from first hand observation of source material. Keep notes and colour samples for future reference. Develop abstract forms from accurately rendered sketches.

Janet Twinn – use drawings and photographs of directly observed source materials. Use further drawing and painting to simplify and develop designs and colour palettes. Consider altering materials to your exact requirements.


References:-

Books:-

Cane, K Making & Drawing, 2012, Bloomsbury, London, pp 14 – 17

Hughes, P Patterns in the Landscape: The Notebooks of Philip Hughes, 1998, Thames and Hudson, London

Websites:-

http://www.annagordon.com/gallery?dsc_0109-jpg Accessed 18/04/17

http://www.janettwinn.co.uk/artist.html Accessed 19/04/17

http://monaleisa.com/ Accessed 18/04/17

https://www.parkinfabrics.co.uk/fosshape-300r.html Accessed 18/04/17

http://www.philiphughesart.com Accessed 18/04/17

https://www.rheged.com/event/new-quilting/ Accessed 19/04/17

http://sarahsymes.com Accessed 18/04/17

Part 5: Project 1: Option 3: Floral Compositions

Having looked back over my drawing research and drawings made in previous parts of the course, I looked at images on Pinterest and ello.co to find some inspiring drawings of flowers and foliage to inform this stage of the project.

Drawing Inspiration

Source: details about individual artists can be found on my Pinterest boards.

From this research, I can see that layering, mixing types of mark and types of media, simplifying forms and using carefully selected palettes are important for producing these enticing outcomes.

My approach was to use a wide variety of media and techniques for information gathering from the plant source material. The course guide stresses the importance of making new marks and sourcing new colour information to feed through to the development stage, so that was another point to bear in mind.

The source material was also to be varied, to provide interesting drawings to take forward. I selected a bunch of roses, a bunch of tulips and, taking inspiration from Elizabeth Blackadder‘s flower paintings: gathering inspiration from my garden: a chard leaf and views of plum blossom and a wider view of part of the garden.

I experimented with different backgrounds, lighting options and whether or not to include other objects, shown in the collage below are some of the experiments.

Coursework Part 5 collage

Another preparatory exercise was to make a mind map describing the flowers and making some associations.

roses mind map

#1

Gouache paint and chalk on watercolour paper. A3 size.

I wanted to start with something fairly ‘realistic’ and the colour of the roses suggested gouache paint to me as a medium – it’s chalky, opaque colour seemed an apt way of trying to capture the colour palette of the arrangement. I had added in the coffee pot as it made a good contrast to the bright colours, and I selected the sky blue wall as the perfect foil for the colour of the flowers. The colour of the flowers was echoed in the tea-towel and oranges.

I was pleased with the colour palette in this piece – although not identical to the original, I really like this range of hues from all round the colour wheel, with touches of brown and white. I think this looks rather old-fashioned (a quick Google search provides numerous examples of artists painting roses), but it could be simplified and rendered in other media, such as a print on textiles. Roses provoke associations with romance and love. The colour palette perhaps gives it a more modern vibe.

On the downside, the position of the arrangement on the paper was not good – the roses are all cramped up at the top.

P1290732

Gouache painted colour stripes representing drawing #1.

#2

Felt pen on smooth sketchbook paper.

In this drawing, I concentrated on the pattern and lines found in the flower heads and leaves. I thought that this was quite successful in capturing the pattern made by the petals and could imagine this line drawing layered over a patterned cream or grey background, or in red against a black ground to make a fabric design. Its simplicity means that it could work with a number of colour palettes. The fineness of the paper was perhaps more suited to the subject than the thick watercolour paper.

#3 and #4

#3: Pencil on cartridge paper. A3 size. (Two details shown).

#4: Pigma Micron pen and Aquarelle pencils on cartridge paper. A3 size.

Trying out a different, simpler arrangement, laying the flowers out like scientific specimens. One quick pencil sketch using a mixture of soft and hard lines. The second drawing is a simplified, version accentuating the form and features of the roses. I find that I prefer to make a realistic drawing first and then, having observed the source material closely, I can more easily identify the aspects that need to be included in the simplified version. It is a way of getting familiar with the subject. The simplified version is perhaps suited to illustrative uses, such as greetings cards or wrapping paper. The colour palette is ‘cute’ with pretty pastels.

#5

Pencil and gel pen on cream watercolour paper. A5 with 2.5 x 2.5 cm boxes.

Concentrating on tiny details, identified with a viewfinder. This exercise had been useful in Assignment 1, and I tried to highlight rose features that define the plant (leaf, thorn, petals, sepals etc.) The resulting snapshots provide some interesting patterns that could be developed in stitch. Tiny drawings in flat bright colour might be something to try on another occasion.

#6

Paper, textile, and mixed media, collage on mount board, 40.5 x 27 cm

A first ‘realistic’ attempt at this arrangement. The purple/pink blooms were already twisting downwards away from the main bunch. I used suggestions of walls and a table for the background with the painted lace fabric giving a cottage/’shabby chic’ feel to the piece. I also tried printing a background with lace, but that didn’t work well with watercolour, maybe with acrylic or oil paint it would have done. The stems alone are fascinating in the way that they twist springily out from the bunch and could probably be represented by couched yarn or similar. The colour palette of bright colours against a muted background is, I feel, successful. I can imagine these working well in a quilt or wall hanging. The placement of this arrangement on the page was more successful than the first painted roses drawing.

tulips mind map

#7

Wax on Khadi paper, size A4

This drawing explores the waxy quality of the tulips with wax applied with various tools to the paper. The drawing concentrates on the silhouette of the flowers and foliage. I experimented with pattern to represent the jug and background. The leaves and flower heads worked well with this media, but I’m not so sure about the rest. Using wax means that the paper becomes translucent when held up to the light where wax has fully penetrated the paper. This might be useful for free-hanging work. I like the monotone simplicity of this palette: shades of grey give it a subtle and sophisticated air – like a damask curtain fabric. One possible future development is to work on textile using a batik method, and to introduce colour.

#8

P1290568

Felt pens/POSCA pens on ‘marker paper’. A5.

Trying out a new type of smooth, coated paper, ideal for felt pens. It has a satiny sheen to it that suits the shiny texture of the plants. I used lines to try to capture the lines on the surface of the petals and leaves, and to show the way the light gleamed on them. The flower heads worked well in this drawing, and I can imagine using embroidery or machine stitch to recreate this linear pattern on textiles. I find the pink and orange of the flower at top left to be a particularly pleasing colour combination that would work well in fashion accessories such as scarves.

P1290728

Gouache painted colour stripes representing the palette found in drawing #8.

#9

Chalk and nail varnish on watercolour paper. A5 size.

It occurred to me that nail varnish had the right kind of colour and shine to it to represent tulip petals, so this was a quick experiment to see what it would look like. The viscous liquid is hard to work with, which means that only a rough approximation can be achieved. The shine is apparent on the finished drawing, but the smell of the chemicals is horrible, so I would probably not repeat the process. Thinking about it, one could probably make a whole picture using make-up (eye shadow, pencils, lip stick, blusher etc): a thought to bear in mind if the subject matter is appropriate.

#10

Acrylic paint on tracing paper. A4 size.

I wanted to try a close-up view of one of the ‘blown’ tulips looking at the details in the centre of the flower (inspired by the work of Georgia O’Keeffe), and using thick acrylic paint to try to capture the ridged, succulent petals in texture. The paper was really too thin for this type of paint (it wrinkled), but its waxy translucent quality did feel like a good fit for the subject matter. The simple colour palette of shades of red with touches of black and white was dramatic and could inspire eveningwear in the fashion world, or accessories such as an embossed, faux leather handbag. The thick acrylic paint did provide the most accurate rendition of the texture and weight of the petals.

P1290733

Gouache painted colour stripes representing drawing #10.

#11

Ink on watercolour paper; pencil on tracing paper; POSCA pen on cellophane. A4 size.

In this drawing I was exploring ways of layering marks and patterns (inspired by the work of Leisa Rich) and using the tulips to inform the created marks. Another link is Escher’s Three Worlds print in which a reflection of trees, the surface of a pond and the fish in the depths are shown. In my somewhat less accomplished piece, the eye is drawn in to notice the main top layer, and then the more faded and delicate marks beneath.

I think that this area is ripe for further experimentation: introducing colour, transparency and hidden areas; using cutaway areas; introducing texture. This could lead to dramatic artwork, ideas for printed and embellished textiles and free hanging layers which might be useful in home decor.

#12 and #13

Graphite block on cartridge paper; chalk and POSCA pen on Khadi paper. A4.

Exploring line in these two drawings of a plum tree. The first, graphite drawing concentrates on the lines and patterns made by the branches; the second introduces the additional layer of emerging blossom. I like the simplicity of these drawings and feel that the linear pattern of the branches could feed into textiles as a background pattern, or a close-up section (example shown at top left, above) could be developed into an abstract art work by itself. Black lines on a white ground look striking and austere. The introduction of blue and white gives the palette a Japanese feel.

P1290731

Gouache painted colour stripes representing drawing #13.

#14

Mixed media on cartridge paper. A1.

Inspired by Alicia Galer‘s wonderful drawings, brimming with mixtures of marks, I decided to try a distant view of part of our garden (most of the plants I have drawn so far have been in mid to close views). This also showed plants in a natural state rather than arranged in a vase, and was worked on a larger size of paper. I enjoyed making this drawing – using which ever medium and technique seemed suitable to the subject (eg, felt pen for the spiky chives, blended chalk for distant or indistinct foliage, sponge printed paint for the new leaves; splodges of thick white paint applied with a bunch of fine wooden dowels for the blossom). This method generated a variety of types of mark, including overlapping areas, that could be taken forward for development into stitch. The palette is restricted to greens, browns, and grey with a touch of yellow.

#15 and #16

#15 Aquarelle pencils and felt pen on cartridge paper. A5.

#16 Oil pastels on cartridge paper. A5.

Comparing fast and slow study of the subject: the Aquarelle drawing took an hour or more, the oil pastel drawing was completed in a few minutes. The first drawing captured more of the succulent texture of the leaf and stem, but there is something lively and recognisable about the quickly-made drawing. The colour palette of the first drawing is one that I like: cherry red, muted green, and purple with white highlights. The leaf quickly dried out and flattened, which is something to bear in mind when using source material that can degrade.

P1290730

Gouache painted colour stripes representing drawing #15.

#17

Photograph, metallic thread, beads on glossy photographic paper. 15 x 10 cm.

Inspired by the work of María Aparicio Puentes, whose work I had seen in some previous research, I took a macro photograph of a willow catkin and added stitch and bead embellishment over the top. I considered quite carefully the amount of stitch and the placement of the stitch, as well as the colour palette to use: opting for sparkly pink and silver to add an interesting extra layer of texture and contrast to the image, without overpowering it. The lines echo and extend the stamen and perform the function of highlighting the structure and pattern of the catkin.

I liked this technique and the outcome, and can imagine using it in collage work or as a way to add a layer of interest and texture to 2-D images. The colour palette of soft brown, yellow, white and pink with a touch of green is very Spring-like and delicate: the sparkle evokes a frosty morning.

P1290729

Gouache painted colour stripes representing image #17.

Summary

What have I learnt in this Project?

  • To make a quick outline to check the position of the subject on the page.
  • Begin with a ‘realistic’ drawing and use the information gathered to generate more simplified images.
  • Layering marks can give depth and interest to a piece and should be translatable into exciting stitch and textiles.
  • Mixing media and using colours and marks appropriate to the subject was a freeing way to work and generated interesting material for further development.

 


References:-

Websites:-

http://blog.aliciagaler.com/ Accessed 14/04/17

http://www.georgiaokeeffe.net/oriental-poppies.jsp Accessed 14/04/17

http://www.mariaapariciopuentes.com/ Accessed 14/04/17

http://monaleisa.com/archive/ Accessed 14/04/17

http://www.scottish-gallery.co.uk/artist/elizabeth_blackadder Accessed 14/04/17

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Worlds_(Escher) Accessed 14/04/17