Looking for shapes

This next section of work has a lot to it and I feel the need to take my time, exploring possibilities. I haven’t got far yet, but already feel the need to record and reflect on progress.

The task is to take some images and use a frame to select arrangements of shapes, thinking about what is interesting, active, generates visual tension, or is dull and cluttered.

For base images I scanned a number of pages from a book about Tutankhamen and printed them in gray-scale. I then used tracing paper and a chinagraph (high wax) pencil. A couple of these I looked at the finished result and couldn’t see what initially excited me (for example second row right and bottom row left). Others I like, perhaps with minor adjustments (for example bottom row right, rotated 90°).

The notes suggested experimenting with different shaped viewing frames such as garment shapes. I wanted to try a specific garment shape – a Vogue pattern by Marcie Tilton that I’ve bought but not used – using the computer. The main reason for this post is to record my steps for future use, plus think about the pros and cons of the method.

  • Get an image of the pattern line drawing, here.
  • crop out just the front view and copy into the centre of a new layer
  • select the background by colour then invert selection to get the line drawing
  • darken lines to a solid black (I just brushed over with the paintbrush tool)
  • select the area outside the garment. Fill with grey
  • select by colour the white areas inside the garment. Delete (so they effectively become transparent).

The result is a layer to be used as a frame for exploring image areas:

  • open one of the scanned Tutankhamen images
  • copy the frame layer and paste as a new layer in the Tutankhamen image
  • at this point I saved the result as a new file (.xcf, which is the native file format of gimp, my preferred image manipulation software).
  • working with the frame layer, move, scale and rotate to view different areas of patterning.
  • I also played with the colouring of the base image, desaturating and doing a colour inversion.
  • Save results as required.

Here’s a sample of the results


One of the things I like about this method is that I can build up a collection of standard pattern outlines for future use. It was a matter of moments to open a different image (an old favourite from the Botanic Gardens in Sydney) and reuse the frame.
Overall I think no real con, as long as I’m careful to develop paper-based as well as computing skills. The underlying purpose is developing my own visual awareness and for me both paper and computer have a place.

Ford, J. (1978) Tutankhamen’s Treasures, (Albany Books, London). Note to self – check proper referencing.

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