Project 3 Review

With each project and assignment there are review questions. It can feel repetitive, but I suppose part of the point is that we should be constantly reviewing and reflecting on our work, thinking about what does and doesn’t work, what’s working or not and why, where we need to develop…

Were you able to mix and match colours accurately? Overall yes. I sometimes had some trouble, for instance getting just the yellow I wanted, but with perseverance and the tools I have collected I was able to get a result that pleased me.

Were you able to use colour expressively? This is the weakest part of the work. I found it difficult to juggle all the things I was trying to think about – selecting colour, mixing, mark making… I also started second-guessing my reactions – what were just clichés and what really meant something to me? It’s all about context – partly cultural, but also a colour in one grouping can appear differently in another – and I’m thinking of emotional difference, not optical effects. There is definitely more development needed.

Can you now see colour rather than accepting what you think you see? This is a skill that takes a long time to develop. I think I’ve made a decent start.

Did you prefer working with watercolours or gouache paints? What was the difference? I did most of the work in gouache, with just a little watercolour and acrylic. Gouache is easier to use to get a flat, solid colour, which I thought more appropriate for the exercises. Watercolour’s transparency has advantages in the right circumstances, but not here. I wanted to do the colour mixing on the palette, not by layering on paper.

How successful were the colour exercises in Stages 5 and 6? How did they compare to the painting exercises? All of the exercises were successful in the sense that I learnt from them and looking at them triggers ideas and questions for future exploration. They hint at some of the possibilities, and I’m glad I used both hand and machine stitching because they seem to offer such different things. Painting is much quicker than stitching, for me at the level I’m working. There is also the advantage that you can mix up colours as you go, rather than being restricted to the particular yarns and threads on hand (I can always dye more, but it’s not immediate), balanced by the disadvantage of paint colours changing as they dry.

I like the textures that textile work allows – the different qualities of threads and fabric, the way the stitches are worked, the three dimensional nature that results. Painting in gouache and watercolour can suggest texture or mimic texture but generally aren’t textural in their nature. Threads are round and sit on or pass through the surface.

Is there anything you would like to change or develop? I enjoyed and was excited by the layered cross stitches I did in my second sample in Stage 6. I would like to try taking that idea further.

Overall, I simply need to keep practising, trying things out – as suggested in the course notes. I haven’t been working regularly in my sketchbook. When working on a project, especially in the earlier stages when working on paper, it feels like doubling up. Yet I know how useful it can be, to follow up other work (eg the lemon) or as input to later work (eg the Monet colour analysis). I’m wondering if it would also be a useful shift of focus when I am working on a project, along the lines that it is often good to walk away from something for a while and see it with fresh eyes. So I’m going to make a serious attempt – at least 10 minutes every day. Current count: 2 days.

A final note: I’m current reading a book by Sebastian Smee about Picasso and Matisse (mum bought it when we visited the Picasso exhibition). Smee writes about the influence on Matisse of Paul Signac, “… the most convincing of Seurat’s Neo-Impressionist followers” (page 30). The leader of the Divisionists, Signac “… applied pure colour in discrete, highly organised cells, following an almost scientific system of local complementaries and overall harmonies” (page 32). I’d never heard of Divisionism, but from a brief check in wikipedia I gather it is a variant of pointillism with a more technical, colour-theory based approach. In writing about Matisse’s shift from Divisionism to Fauvism Smee explains that Matisse realised “…that the effect of colour, its intensity, was crucially bound up with the size of any given area of colour.” “The problem with Divisionism … was that breaking colour up into discrete dabs or points created an overall haziness which – for all the rhetoric one heard about the primacy of colour – actually diminished colour’s potential effect” (pages 63 and 64). I’ve been trying to think through implications of this, especially given the exercises in Stage 6. Perhaps it is that for all the theory and techniques we may learn or develop, there is no silver bullet or formula. Thoughtful, purposeful choices informed by experience, knowledge, and intuition, selecting the most appropriate answer for the current, particular question is the goal. Perhaps.

Smee, S. (2002) Side by side: Picasso v Matisse (Duffy & Snellgrove, Sydney)

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December 2011

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