I decided to start last week with drawing. A drainage grate I was clearing had some bracken in it, which gave me a subject.
Sunday 21st. Pencil sketch on tone gray 118 gsm sketching paper, a little less than A3.
Tried to focus on observation. Always difficult. I also tried to give at least a little connection around it – some shadows, a sense of the wrinkled white cloth the frond was lying on.
One issue is that I get tired and rush. Perhaps I should try a run of smaller attempts, quick impressions.
Monday 22nd. Printing using the bracken as a stamp, onto A3 kraft paper that I had pre-coloured with watercolours prior to the journal making workshop with Adele Outteridge but not used (25-July-2014).
Partway through I followed an impulse to add some text, for texture and interest. The text is from NSW government information on bracken (link) – an attractive native plant that is a weed and toxic to livestock.
I was happy with the actual printing – acrylic paint colour mixing, the prints really showing up the texture of the plant (I rollered the paint onto the bracken, placed it on the paper with some paper towel on top, then gently pressed by hand). The layering is pleasant. The base covering of the paper is not really evident, but the fan-folding left ridges in the paper which in some lights creates an interesting contrast and a little structure to the page.
The text (nib pen and ink) gets lost, too spidery. Possibly a change of scale would help. Also it’s another overall pattern. I need to push myself on composition.
Tuesday 23rd. The base A3 cartridge paper was also prepared for the journal workshop. There was not a lot of colour, but the paper had become soft and floppy. I decided to explore text a little more. My first attempt was to create a font on the computer, with text outlines filled with images of the stamped texture from the previous day. The result was uninteresting, with a bad balance between the image texture and letter clarity. The second attempt was on a much larger scale, using parts of the actual bracken to form the letters.
Wanting to avoid the gloss of mod podge, I used a thin base of acrylic structure medium spread on with a palette knife and pressed the bracken into that. The surface left by the knife was too smooth, so I created texture around the text by repeated pressing in bracken fronds and lifting them. The medium didn’t actually take the shape of the bracken, but became much more “organic” in appearance. On a whim I rollered an iridescent medium over everything. This made the text too indistinct, so I added some dark green metallic rub to the leaves, which at the detail level really brings out the texture of the plant.
Overall it doesn’t work – the placement on the page, the jarring (rather than intriguing) contrast between organic letters and polished page.
Pluses: the feel and finish of the paper. It is still soft and pliable, I think it could be stitched into by hand or machine, it has an interesting texture and a lovely soft metallic glow. I wonder if the structure gel and iridescent combo would work on fabric without changing the hand too much.
Wednesday 24th. Experimenting with simplified shapes, using charcoal pencils and a number of different black pens.
Thursday 25th. Scanned the previous day’s page, and selected one shape for further pattern development. All of the versions on the right were created using gimp. I like the sense of movement in the individual shape, and think it works quite well in the different repeats.
Friday 26th. I had an indigo dye day coming up (more on that in a later post). I wanted to create a design that combined a shibori effect and the mottling of indigo with another level of patterning. The image on the left was a simulation of the design.
Plan A was to print the bracken on silk, direct from the computer on silk ironed on to freezer paper. I’ve done this years ago, on a different printer. This time I jumped straight in to A3 size on my quite new printer (which has a rear feed, so no rollers to go around). I didn’t get good adhesion on the freezer paper, tried to print anyway and the silk got caught part way through. After some anxious moments I cleared everything and the printer seems to have survived – but it was time for Plan B.
Saturday 27th. Plan B: carving a stamp in ezy carve. The A4 page on the left shows the simplified pencil tracing I made of the bracken shape, and some proofs as I refined the carving of the stamp.
I tested the stamp (in red) over a printout of the original shape from the computer. The registration is off semi-deliberately – it’s hard at any time, and I think the movement is more interesting.
I chose some white linen and used black textile ink to stamp on my design.
Sunday 28th and Monday 29th. Around A3 size, this was a new combination of techniques used over the past couple of weeks. I used the carved stamp with acrylic paints onto tissue paper. The colour mixing was similar to the previous Monday. The leaves were torn out by hand – I wanted to stay with an organic feel, and liked a variable boundary around the shape. The individual pieces were stuck onto a tissue paper base using mod podge – rollered on for a light uniform coverage. When that was dry I used some structure medium over the top to integrate the surface, stamping into it with the carved stamp to create more texture.
I like the back-lit photo. A nice glow, and some interest from overlapping colours and pattern. It could be useful to have something that is equally interesting in both back and front lighting. It’s light and soft and pliable, but there’s a plasticy feel to the surface – I think you’d need a sharp needle to punch through. Even after a couple of days the surface is still a bit sticky which could cause challenges in use.
On Monday I also prepared fabrics ready for indigo the next day.
Tuesday 30th. This shows the stamped linen, now dyed with indigo. The section shown is around A3 size – there is some plain border around it. The patterning was a whip stitch over single folds the length of the fabric. Some refinement is needed, scales and spacing aren’t quite right. Just a bit more space between stitching and the stamps would help. The stamping might show up a bit better with a minute or two less in the vat. However I regard it as a successful experiment in showing that shibori patterns can work in combination with other elements in a design.