Archive for February, 2012

Project 4 Review

I finished work on Project 4: Developing Design Ideas a couple of weeks ago, so this review is well overdue. Partly the delay is because an earlier draft vanished into the ether, but more importantly it’s because even more than previous topics, this isn’t a thing that you complete and move forward. I want to –  and I have to – keep working on this. I need to practise and repeat and extend and hopefully get to the point where it’s so ingrained in how I work that it’s become a part of me. Not automatic, because I want to work with thought and intention, but one of those tools which is so familiar that it fits your hand like an extension of yourself.

Sometimes I can be embarrassingly earnest, but that doesn’t make the idea less true.

So, to the review questions:

Did you manage to ‘make space move’? Yes, in parts. Looking back at Stage 1, I now think I wasn’t very adventurous, but some examples in later exercises were moderately successful – and in one case I was able to recognise that space was moving rather too much and sliding off the page!

What are your thoughts about the drawings you did in Stage 3? As mentioned above, one had a problem with balance. Others I still find interesting and have developed further. Over the months of doing this course I have become much more relaxed about drawing and painting. It takes off a lot of pressure to see them, and the resulting work, as one step in a process, not a finished or polished thing in themselves. Plus it doesn’t have to look like the thing I’m drawing. Further design work could change it out of all recognition. In fact I’ve found that less “realistic” images are often more energetic and easier to develop.

Were you able to use your drawings successfully as a basis for further work? Are there any other things you would like to try? It was definitely a struggle at times, but I think some of the work I showed here is really interesting and has possibilities. I hope there will always be more things I would like to try. I’m very happy with the inclusion of computer-based work, which I think is a good addition to the “toolbox” of techniques and, well, tools.

Now that you have a good working method, do you feel confident that you can carry on working in this way independently? I can’t really claim to have a good working method yet, but I definitely have the beginnings of one. I’m going to have to keep returning to this, keep working on it. I expect there will always be grinding times as well as flowing times, but I’d like to change the proportions! I am confident that I will be able to keep working on this, able to keep improving and learning.

In my sketchbook work starting 9th February I worked on an idea based on one of my shell sketches. I tried various iterations and developments over a few days up to 16th Feb, and to an extent was able to follow the general working method. I didn’t reach a fully resolved design, but more material was developed and I may well return to it in the future.

I want to keep extending what I do, and have just re-read “Finding Your Own Visual Language” which has ideas and exercises very relevant to this topic (one exercise tried in the sketchbook here). Overall I feel very positive, very committed to carry on working, experimenting, reviewing, questioning, thinking, learning…

Dunnewold, J., Benn, C., Morgan, L. (2007) “Finding your own visual language: A practical guide to design & composition” (Committed to Cloth & Art Cloth Studios)

Developing ideas – continued

In the last post I struggled (at length!) with selecting interesting areas of drawings for development. Next step of the method is of course the development, and for this I used the small shell section. Below I’ll show and discuss some of the variants, but the full set are on the sketchbook page starting here.

First identifying lines and shapes using charcoal and working large (A3) and quickly.

Still thinking about lines and shapes, but moving further from the original and introducing some colour using conté crayons.

Next I moved to wet media, and started with pen and purple ink, thinking I usually enjoy that sort of work and find the results interesting. The results were not interesting. They were so not interesting that I got out the acrylic paints and totally covered them – producing a result which I liked even less. The black and white image shown here was an accident. I was processing a photo of the acrylic horror to put on the sketchbook page and accidentally hit the Colour/Threshold function. I think it looks like a woodblock print and I really like it. The lower right hand corner is pretty boring, but the rest could have possibilities.
This is hindsight and a chance variation. At the time I was annoyed with the work, annoyed with myself, and wishing my inner critic would take a hike and give me a break! The next attempt was again acrylic on A3 paper and added nothing new. I’d lost focus and control.

After a pause to regroup I tried again, this time working smaller (A4, and not the full page), starting with inktense pencils (which are becoming familiar and comfortable). It was really a return to the original image, larger and somewhat simplified, trying to identify what had caught my interest in the first place. After another false start I got to the black and red version (brushtip pen and crayon). Finally I felt I was getting somewhere.

During this whole period I’d also been spending time playing with photos of my sketchbook work. Gimp makes it easy to select areas, crop, flip and scale, plus lots of filters such as kaleidoscope, tiling, pinch & whirl etc. It doesn’t replace working with originals on paper but it seems to me a very valuable addition to the toolset.
I scanned in the A4 page, and this is a cleaned-up version of the black and red drawing.

By this time it was last Sunday evening and the work week was looming. I only had time to try a few variations, such as this tiled version which I think would look good printed on cotton and used in a summer dress or skirt.

Finally it happened. On Monday evening on the bus home I’d stopped reading and was vaguely looking out the window, when I suddenly realised I was running through variations and experiments in my mind. What if I inverted the colours and combined the positive and negative versions of the the motif? What if…?

Straight on the computer when I got home, and the ideas kept flowing. I inverted, rotated, tiled, kaleidoscoped… Then I decided to try putting some elements together, using one of the frameworks developed earlier in the course and recorded here.

The Map/Seamless function created the background. The medallions used Kaleidoscope, then resized and one of them rotated a bit. I tried using a few different sets of parameters in kaleidoscope, so that each medallion could be different, but it became too busy. I created the shape of the curved “pathway” using the Paths tool. I’ll need to practice to get a smoother result next time, but this was good enough to get the idea. I worked through lots of options to create the fill – solid in various levels of grey, graduated shading, outlines etc. The solids all took over a bit. This version is a graduation with reduced opacity so the background shows through. I wouldn’t call this fully resolved, but I can see it interpreted in nuno felt, maybe free-machine lace medallions. An alternative could be hand or machine stitching on a felt base in dark thread. It could be used for a cushion or maybe a cover for a laptop.

Feeling on a roll, I then worked on a different shell drawing, using some similar ideas. I like the result of the Seamless filter, which Tiles producing opposing light and dark diagonals. It needs some smoothing and fine-tuneing, but I can see this digitally printed on a silk and used in a light jacket. I finished the evening with a brief sketch of how that could work, feeling refreshed, invigorated, and relieved to get to one of the flowing periods after a time of grind.

 

Selecting from drawings, developing ideas

I’d really been looking forward to Project 4 Stage 3: Selecting from your drawings; and Stage 4: Developing design ideas. I’d read ahead in the Assignment notes and these Stages seemed really pivotal, bringing together all the skills and knowledge that we’d been building up and putting them to use together. With an introduction like that it’s clear where the story is going – I struggled. My 3-day a week job has been really hectic and 4- or 5-days a week since late last year and when I managed to make time for OCA work energy and enthusiasm were low.

During this time I read an anecdote in Itten about a sculptor, one statue convincing, the next a failure “because he had approached his work tired and without concentration, and had tried to achieve with his will power and intellect what one can achieve only through intuition and a free feeling for rhythm” (Itten, page 98). Darn. Itten later writes of the value of relaxation exercises and other preparation, but being un-relaxed and un-prepared I only saw “The painter must wait until he feels an urge to create” (page 110). Double darn. Not really an option for a middle-aged part-time student juggling way too many balls, and while the particular details of demands and commitments vary, most people I know are in the same situation. My solution to this is to keep grinding on when the going’s hard, and look forward to and appreciate the times when it flows. I’d be happy to hear others’ ideas!

Selecting from your drawings and Developing design ideas are exactly as the titles say. First look through all the sketchbook work, searching for areas with interesting and dynamic combinations – potential for further development. Then work with selected areas to develop them – which provides you with more material to select from and develop. It’s a clear, systematic, iterative approach to design work, and all the exercises up to this point give the tools and skills required to apply it. An exhilarating flow can be achieved, as imagination, intuition, feelings and objective assessment combine.

Or, at times, they don’t. When I started Stage 3 a couple of weeks ago I got out all the sketchbook and assignment work I’ve done since last August. I spread it out on the floor, put it into piles, ran L-shaped frame finders and mirrors over pages – and hated everything. I noticed the faster, more energetic things drew me, not so much careful “drawings” – but still no excitement. I created and printed a list of potential sources of contrast and harmony from Itten (proportion of various things, hue, saturation, texture etc), and tried again. Still negative. I tried warm up sketches, reducing distractions. I remembered that I have an unhelpful habit of over-thinking things and tried to simply Trust My Eyes. I found reflecting sections in mirrors gave very static results, more useful in my mind as a component than a design, which led to thinking about components and elements of an end design, versus the overall design.

This back-and-foward went on for a week or two, and finally I had a pinboard full of drawings with areas roughly framed where I thought there could be potential for further work. The board was visually very confusing – it’s propped up in a position so I can look at it as I’m moving around the house, and it was difficult to pick out the chosen areas. Since I’ve photographed pretty much everything, it was a quick fix to go into gimp and for each drawing crop out the selected section and print it out.

Here are the selected areas.

I like the broken quality of the lines (original was charcoal) and the contrast of light and dark. There is a sense of space and peace.

The top left area doesn’t work, but something about the way the shape fills the space and the area around it appeals to me. There is some contrast between curves and more angular lines, plus some contrasts in scale. I get a sense of a contained and closed area, and a more flowing section which doesn’t have a complete boundary, which I find interesting.

I selected this section trying to get a horizontal alignment of objects across the centre, with a diagonal top right to make it more lively and less static. Looking at it later, it just seems to be sliding down off the page.

I chose this image mainly for the colour combination, but I also find the quality of the marks and the contrast between areas of colour and lines interesting.
The final selection is part of a shell. I did some editing in gimp to continue the dark area around it. I find it quite an ambiguous shape, forceful.

So by this stage, last Saturday, I declared Stage 3 done. I haven’t finished the story, but this post is long enough, so To Be Continued.

Itten, J. (1975) Design and form: the basic course at the Bauhaus, revised Edition, London: Thames and Hudson

Project 4 Stage 2 Exercise 4

This exercise asked for drawings from real life, putting together skills already learned – finding something visually interesting, having a point of view or attitude, quick preliminary sketches separating shapes, colours and textures…

I started with a group of shells placed on a dark turquoise piece of card. I’ve been working repeatedly with one of the shells in particular in sketchbook work, with the idea that getting familiar with one thing and working in a kind of series could be interesting. I tried to arrange the shells to create an interesting space and shadows between them. I actually spent a lot of time on this, trying out different colours of background, different placement of lights to make shadows, moving the shells around, picking different shells…
Finally I decided it was good enough, if not exactly exciting, and I started with charcoal, separating out lines and shapes. Throughout this exercise I found it difficult to draw just the area that interested me, and overall this is really bland. If I screen out the rest and just look at the the central spaces between the shells I find it much more successful.
Next I moved onto A5 watercolour paper, using inktense pencils. Once again I lost focus, both in terms of the area I was drawing and the particular element of colour. Looking at it now there is a lot of line and shape information. However if I can get past the clumsiness of the middle shell, which is dreadfully wrong, I can say that the colours, while not objectively accurate, are satisfying to me. I don’t actually find the “real” shell colours very interesting.
Next up was in theory texture. Off track again, I was thinking a lot about the positive and negative space in the centre, and spending a lot of time playing with shading to indicate form. Again, trying to look at it charitably, I can say the relative roughness of the lefthand shell and smoothness of the righthand one are apparent.
The final drawing. I used ink with pen and brush. Once again I need to frame out a part of the drawing to get to what really interested me – the central space with the different shapes of shells and shadows, the contrast between the surfaces of the different shells. I like the effect of the flat background colour contrasting to the grey-tone and line volume of the shells (apart from that dratted middle shell!).
In terms of creating a satisfactory finished drawing this exercise is a failure – but I don’t think that’s the point, given this isn’t a drawing course. In terms of using a good method and process, part of developing design ideas, I’d rate it a bare pass. I wasn’t able to stick with my focus and point of view, I can’t neatly line up each preliminary sketch with what it was meant to be investigating… but in the process I did learn and see more about my subject, there are parts in all of them, particularly the final, that I find intriguing and I think could go further. Nothing as it stands could be directly translated into textiles, but I think parts will be seen again as I go through the course. Plus I’m now quite happy about drawing real objects – I can approach it with some confidence that I will get what I need – raw material for design development work and new visual knowledge of the world around me.


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