Side excursion

This is an angst-y thing trying to work through some thoughts – no promises about coherence, conclusions, or consistency with previous writing.

Last post I was pleased with my results. That’s viewing the work in context, as an exercise or sample in the ongoing process of developing my skills and knowledge and understanding. There is an element of emotional response (“I find this pleasant or interesting to look at”), but I expect (hope!) that at some future time I’ll flip back through the work and see it as just the beginning of future progress. I try to approach my work critically in the sense of can I identify strengths and weaknesses, how can I improve or develop, but trying not to compare too much with any “objective” standard or work produced by others (not easy).

I was pleased and felt I was making progress – so was taken aback yesterday to discover what seems to be a big hole in my understanding to date.

I’m trying to approach my sketchbook each day with purpose. Not just showing up for 10 or 15 minutes and covering some blank paper, but answering a question. Not a big question about life or the world, but things like how is that painting structured so my eye moves around it, or can I combine those colours I found on the inside of the lychee skin with one of the line designs from my project work. There is the idea of producing interesting marks for future use and development, plus I’m trying to improve my observational skills, so I may draw my hand – resulting in the next day’s question of what went wrong with those fingers, how do the knuckles work.

So yesterday I was thinking about drawing texture. Texture as the thing being drawn. Why? I’m not comfortable with it. I don’t understand it. Texture is an automatic or integral part of textile work – in fact one of the things that draws me to textiles. Reproducing texture seems forced, unnecessary. Is it a question of visual versus actual texture? When does a set of lines or marks become visual texture? Is drawing texture a way of creating content, a subject of a piece? Is it a way of understanding or seeing an object?

By this stage of thinking I was off the bus (favourite thinking place) and walking in an area with brick paving (through Sydney Eye Hospital, for those who know Sydney). No camera with me, so I’ve done a little simulation. The bricks were scored in a diamond pattern, and laid in what I think is stretcher bond (just found a fascinating page on wikipedia which I need to explore later). There was variation in colour of the bricks. There had also been considerable subsidence, so the surface undulated, creating distortions and variation in light and shade. Altogether I found it a visually interesting and complex texture – but as a field within a design, not as a standalone thing.

I finally negotiated the crowds queuing for good positions for the night’s fireworks, and met my friends for a wander through the Picasso exhibition followed by lunch. Last visit I was looking at line and colour. This time I was preoccupied by texture. One painting in particular caught my eye. “The Weeping Woman” (Paris, October 18, 1937) has what looks like scraping back through wet paint. (I finally found an image of the right weeping woman here – it’s the bottom image on the page). Texture and mark-making and colour integrated. What is texture, what is mark, what is line?

When is texture a thing in itself, rather than a field, something filling a space? Making marks makes sense, and a series of marks can create texture. In early projects I created texture in a random way, for example by laying plastic wrap or waxed paper on wet paint. Yesterday and today I created texture a bit more deliberately. With a photo of treebark beside me (the top image in my botanical photos collection here) I painted a base of various browns and greys in acrylic paint. This morning I mixed up a lighter brown with some matt medium in it, used a plastic trowel to spread it over the base, then scratched and scraped and smoothed to expose the base. It doesn’t look like bark and it doesn’t express anything, but maybe there are bits that can be developed in some way.

I’m not getting anywhere and I’m not even sure if there is a particular somewhere for me to get to. Re-reading this I think it’s something I struggled with before (the last stitch sample in project 2). Guess I’ll just let it sit in the back of my mind, read back through the course notes, and see if it develops or goes away.

In the meantime I’ve just done an update on my sketchbook, and the pages I’ve mentioned can be seen here. 19 days straight (including today).

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