Archive for February 10th, 2012

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


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February 2012

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