Archive for the 'Reading' Category



Reading

While going through all my Assignment 2 material for a final Reflective Commentary and then package it all up for snail mail (yay!!!) I realised I haven’t written about these two books.

Klein, Bernat (1965) Eye for Colour, Bernat Klein, Scotland and Collins, London.

Bernat Klein, a textile designer with an absolute passion for colour, used his autobiography to explain not only himself, but his theories about the nature and importance of design and colour. He was born in 1923 in Yugoslavia and was involved in textiles from an early age, as his parents owned and operated a textile wholesale business. Textiles and clothing – quality, colour, style and presentation –  were always important. The story of his journey from Yugoslavia to Jerusalem to Leeds in Britain to Galashiels Scotland, from religious student to Art School to textile technology at university was interesting in itself, but really a backdrop or preamble.

For Klein, “for those who can speak the language of colour it can express the whole gamut of human emotions” (p51). He argues that colour has been liberated, moving from symbolic use in ancient times to being a vital part of a richer, fuller, more civilised life. Artworks by Turner, Monet, Klee and others are illustrated and discussed in support of these ideas.

Klein has some strong views about the importance of well-trained textile designers to take advantage of and further this evolution – his program of study is quite ambitious and may have been overtaken by changes over the years. I also found his analysis of eye colour to guide colour choice in clothing rather dated. On the other hand his call to teach the young to consume intelligently (p. 94) is very current, as is the approach he took in his textile mill: “For a young, smallish firm to make its impact it must rely on brains rather than brawn, brilliant design ideas rather than quantity of output and turnover” (p 114).

The brilliant design is definitely there. Klein would start the process with an end use in mind. When a clear image emerged, often based on one of his own paintings, he would consider raw materials, equipment and processes. He would then work on constructing the yarn, being innovative in both materials and dye process. Finally there is the weave structure – often fairly simple, and the same structure looking very different due to the unique and unusual yarns and ribbons used in them.

The book finishes with large, detail photos of six fabrics, each with the painting that inspired them and a few paragraphs of text. These are wonderful. The fabrics are so complex you really need the closeup to appreciate them, and it is so interesting to be able to trace the original image in the final fabric.

Klein’s fabrics were very successful and influential, being used in designs by Chanel, Dior and Yves St Laurent.

My description above is very dry and dusty and has sucked the joy and colour and vibrant life out of Klein’s book and work, so I urge you to follow some of the links below and see for yourself.

Resources

All these links were accessed 28 April 2012.

http://nordarchitecture.com/projects/bernat-klein/. A series of photographs from an exhibition at the Scott Gallery, Hawick Museum August – October 2005. These are the best images of Klein’s work that I found on the internet.

http://blog.fidmmuseum.org/museum/2009/09/bonnie-cashin.html. The subject of this page is clothing designer Bonnie Cashin. It includes photos of a coat made using fabric designed by Bernat Klein. There’s a very good closeup photo – not my favourite fabric, but it does show the complexity of the component yarns used.

http://www.scotsman.com/the-scotsman/features/interview-bernat-klein-textile-designer-1-1987390. This interview by Jackie McGlone was published in The Scotsman 28 November 2011.

http://www.saltspringweaving.com/blog/?p=411 Weaving and an exhibition inspired by Bernat Klein’s work. The author, Terry Bibby, does beautiful Saori weaving.

http://www.craftrevival.org/voiceDetails.asp?Code=47 KAUL, EKTA KHOKHAR, Innovation in Creative Industry. This page includes some closeups of Klein’s textiles. There are also some interesting comments on the challenges facing the Scottish textile industry and innovation in traditional crafts.

http://thevintagetraveler.wordpress.com/2009/05/21/bernat-klein-photos-by-arthur-massey/ This post has photographs by Arthur Massey of a young Klein at work, and some of the garments created using Klein’s textiles.

http://www.nms.ac.uk/about_us/about_us/press_office/press_releases/2011/klein_acquisition.aspx. National Museums Scotland has acquired Klein’s archive – this is the press release from November 2011.

Reading Klein’s book while working on Assignment 2 was very well-timed for me. While general and widely applicable, the course so far has used stitch and surface design as particular textile techniques. I’ve sometimes wondered how much the sketchbook work could feed into weaving design. Now I have a really clear example of how work in other areas, in this case specifically painting, can underpin weave design.

I should point out there’s a project later in the course on Woven Structures – I haven’t read ahead in the notes, but I’m mildly nervous about pushing myself out of standard weaver mode into a more expressive and innovative exploration. I need to remember the importance of the yarn, specific yarns created for a specific image and purpose. While typing this I realised an article I read last week in Textile The journal of cloth and culture is also relevant.

Harper, Catherine and McDougall, Kirsty, “The very recent fall and rise of Harris Tweed”, in Textile, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp. 78-99.

The article tells a wider story, but of interest to me here is the importance of the wool, dyed in a huge range of colours then mixed before spinning to create complex, subtle colouring expressive of the land, sky and sea of the Outer Hebrides. The colour blending is one of the most skilled tasks in the process of making the tweeds.  A rationalisation by a mill owner has put into jeopardy supply of the yarns, and so of most traditional tweeds. Another of many challenges in rejuvenating the harris tweed industry is introducing colours from other environments, in particular Glasgow urban.

I’ve got rather carried away here and this post is long, but I do want to mention briefly another (fairly) recent read – Pattern, colour & form: new approaches to creativity by Carolyn Genders. This beautifully illustrated book starts by reviewing a range of themes and approaches in design – abstraction; colour; line, structure and form; memory and place; play; size, scale and space; texture, surface and pattern.

The second part of the book has sections on eighteen artists. In different levels of detail we learn about each artist’s background, inspiration, design process, and particular concepts and concerns. Illustrations include source material, sketch books and works in progress as well as finished pieces. There are a wide range of disciplines used – textiles, glass, metal, ceramics, photography etc – textiles in particular being very well represented. We have Jeanette Appleton, textile artist; Jane Arkwright, whose experience as a textile artists influences her current painting; Jackie Binns uses basket weaving techniques in her artwork and has a “sketch box” of small samples. Without exhaustively naming them all, many of the artists use techniques traditionally associated with textiles in their work, even if the materials used and application of the technique is decidedly non-traditional. The design process is interesting in any medium, but I think the textile slant made this book particularly approachable for me.

This is a lovely book. I read it some months ago, before I started the design section of  Assignment 2, but flipping through it now I think it would be interesting to revisit. The reading pile only ever seems to grow!

 

Klein, Bernat (1965) Eye for Colour, Bernat Klein, Scotland and Collins, London.

Harper, Catherine and McDougall, Kirsty, “The very recent fall and rise of Harris Tweed”, in Textile, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp. 78-99.

Genders, Carolyn (2009) Pattern, colour & form: new approaches to creativity, London: A&C Black Publishers

Project 5 Stage 4

Lanaset dyes printed on silk (felting paj). Printed area 44 cm wide x 52 cm high.

This final stage of the project asked for a larger sample, a repeating pattern and/or a “single unit” piece – a design complete in itself. I felt I’d done enough repeating work already, so just went for the contained design.

The subject is a jug that’s been passed down through the family and I now have on permanent loan from mum. It’s appeared on this blog before – it was the subject of my very first OCA sketchbook page here, and blogged here.

There was a quick profile sketch then a paper cutout in March, which was used as a stencil resist in the orange and black scribble printed fabric that I was very excited about here.

Focused work on this iteration began on April 16, which I’m amazed to find is only 10 days ago – it feels I’ve been living with this much longer! A day by day, blow by blow description of the development process is in the sketchbook beginning here.

Apart from the obvious of wanting to meet course requirements, I was interested in extending the work previously done. The printing on silk I’d done in Stage 3 led to some interesting overlapping images and had me thinking about the nature of memory and images from the past. The process had also highlighted some technical issues in terms of size of prints I could achieve. I felt the use of perspex plates seen in the scribble print could help with that.

After a couple of quick sketches I settled into the practicalities – for example to keep on shape and the squares on a grid I would have my printing surface, then a full-scale printout of the vase silhouette complete with a printed 5cm grid, covered by clear plastic; then creating lots of paper resists and playing with placement.

This blog post by fellow OCA student Lucie stopped me in my tracks. I’d forgotten the design process. I hadn’t explored options, I hadn’t focused in on interesting areas, I hadn’t tried different media. I’d had an idea and I’d set about making it happen. <– Note the full stop.

Worse the idea was so literal – a jug plonked down in the centre of the image.

I’m being a bit harsh on myself. There had been play with collage materials, even if it hadn’t proceeded to making a collage. There was work to be shown in conte crayons and pencils, plus on the computer. A work by Picasso that I’d seen in the recent exhibition at the NSW Art Gallery was in my mind (Man with a Mandolin, 1911 – a photo is included in this article) which I remembered as having a central focus, but I looked in the catalogue(*) and read a bit about analytic cubism (**), then felt pretty foolish. Rather worse was when I noticed the wall mural in the supermarket carpark – blocks of colour, overlapping silhouettes…

I tried a quick idea of some kind of still life (thinking about Cézanne this time, and a little sketch thing I did here) but my heart wasn’t in it. Apart from anything else I was curious – would the ideas I had so far work?

After all the preparation and thinking, in the end it came together quickly. I had a printing session yesterday afternoon, then when I went to continue the work this morning I decided it was enough. None of the additional ideas I had would make it better – just different. Now having steamed and washed and ironed and pinned it up on a board and sat looking at it a while I can see heaps of flaws and problems and things to do better, some specific things I wish I hadn’t done – but overall I’m very pleased with it.

Some specific areas for reflection suggested in the course notes:

Selection of design material: The designs I selected back here were shells, Tutankhamen inspired, ink scribble and bird. The ink scribble worked best – it had a strong graphical element which worked well with the stamping technique. I also enjoyed the liveliness and flexibility it offered. I did a lot of stencilling with the shell design. It was reasonably effective, but unsatisfying in that I didn’t develop it further in the process. That’s in part due to the nature of repeating patterns – design and plan up front, repeat as accurately as possible thereafter.

My favourite tutankhamen design didn’t work out. I didn’t like the dye-paste print on the silk that I had in mind, and more importantly I think I’ve used the design enough for a while at least. On the other had I was able to use elements from it as stamp motifs and they worked nicely (they were the basis of the overlapping example shown above).

Although not on the list the jug has appeared repeatedly in my work to date. My use of it also built on the scribble technique and the layering achieved with the tutankhamen column motif. Overlapping and fractured images fit with my ideas about ageing and memory – topics that I’m considering exploring as a theme later in the course. The jug is part of family history, family memory, and it has a range of seemingly unrelated motifs jumbled around on it. I think this works well with the techniques used.

Fabrics chosen: I tend towards natural fibres and in particular I love silk in all its guises. It’s partly the simple “natural = good” message, although I don’t hold to that in dyeing. Silk is special. It dyes easily, takes colour well, generally feels good whether satin smooth or raw and slubby or crisp in organza. It seems to generate or amplify light.

For the final stage I chose a very light felting paj. It gave the most interesting patterning in my sampling and has a beautiful gleam. I have vague notions of using some of the ideas in nuno felting in the future. Finally, it’s light and postage limitations are always a consideration for the course. I did consider some heavier silks, but the habutai just looked a bit bland and I thought a textured silk wouldn’t work well as an interpretation of a glazed ceramic.

Scale, spacing, contrast and harmony: The scales of the marks and shapes work well in the piece. The individual motifs vary in size providing variety and additional interest.

The fabric itself is well suited to the project, as discussed above, but in this form is not really practical. It is too lightweight for durability in most applications. If used in felting I would expect loss and distortion of the image – which of course has its own potential.

When I decided the piece was finished I thought there was a good balance of shapes across the design – not even, but balanced. Now I see it finished and pinned vertically some areas that I thought were restful and interesting white space don’t really work. In particular the space in the left background near the handle is too large and it would probably have been better to indicate the narrow area near the foot more clearly – or at least one side of it. However I am very happy with the overlaying of images and colours, the positive and negative shapes formed and the complexity of image I achieved.

Soon after beginning work I changed my mind about how to handle the definition of the edge between jug and background. My original intention during planning was to use masks all around the edge, but I was concerned that this would make the overall shape too obvious and literal. I decided to cut off rectangles with a sharp angle when crossing the boundary, giving a kind of pixilated-on-large-scale edge, then define some areas with an added line. I thought this would make an interesting contrast of geometric and organic shapes. In practice I found the diagonal cuts jarring, and felt the complexity of the decoration would work better with a smooth, curving boundary. The early cuts are still there of course. I think it was a good choice to change.

The top of the jug is also a problem area – the spout and horned detail are too dark and flat, the top curve of the handle too undefined.

I particularly like the areas where the motifs cross the boundary of foreground and background (although the one on the right below has one of those annoying sharp diagonals).

I prepared both positive and negative versions of stencils to get further variety in the image which generally works well, except for a clumsy repeat of white on black close to black on white of a small plant mid-right background. Also I intended a more gradual and general movement of value in the background from dark at the bottom to light at the top. Unfortunately I haven’t achieved that. Really the overall balance of value isn’t right.

I like the range of colour used. Possibly it could be richer/deeper, but I didn’t want to risk losing the overlaying of shapes and imagery.

Overall success of sample and design: All the above issues aside, I think there is both contrast and harmony in the piece, providing an interesting, varied and harmonious image.

The layering and complexity of motifs works well, providing interest at a detail level. The treatment is very appropriate for the subject matter. The distance view is not quite so successful, with some distracting, clumsy areas. Also with so many rectangular elements I wanted to make the outside border of the image uneven, but I think the result goes too far.

Near the bottom right in the background is a small stencilled jug shape. I thought it might make a good visual clue if the overall design turned out too messy. I’m probably too close to the image to judge, but I hope that the overall shape is apparent (effectively making the small shape unnecessary and a bit cheesy).

The orange defining lines were a late addition to the design. The original sketch used black lines and the idea of the complementary orange was always on the list of “maybe somewhere”. In the end I think the amount of orange used is about right, and the extra definition helps to clarify the shapes. Although there were some poor choices, I was pleased that I was well prepared but not over prepared – there was still some flexibility and spontaneity while actually doing the printing.

I’ve read comments (and made them myself) in blogs and forums about various difficulties and disadvantages of being a distance student. On the other hand distance learning has the advantage that in the end you are responsible for everything. There are lots of resources available – course notes, tutor, the internet (especially blogs and youtube), books, friends, guilds … – but in the end you choose the specific task to meet the requirement, gather the equipment, find solutions to problems and get a result (even if the result is “I don’t like this” or “it didn’t work”). I love going to classes, but they’re often exhausting, you can easily miss a vital something that makes everything work and there could be specialised tools or materials that you’re unlikely to invest in at home. To get the best learning I need to come home and try the technique on my own, using resources and material available to me. With this piece I feel a real sense of personal ownership and confidence. I know how to do every step involved.

Overall I’m very pleased with my result. To be honest, this Assignment has taken so long I would have said “good enough” to almost anything, even a disaster that I could learn from. As it is I like the result, I like seeing the progress shown in my work and the development of ideas and techniques, and I’m sure similar elements will appear in future work.

* Laporte, S. (editor, 2011)  Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris, Paris: Musée Picasso, Paris.

** Maloon, T. (editor. 2010) Paths to Abstraction 1867 – 1917, Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Project 5 stage 3 – printing and painting on fabric. Part 1

It’s funny what you don’t see – until I put these photos together I thought I had pretty much followed the plan (the black and white version created on the computer). I had a printout of it right beside me. Darn! The original is much more dynamic. While working I thought it was my sloppy positioning and some smears that made the difference.
On the positive side, I think it shows that computer-based work is useful – I think it gave a good indication of how the pattern would work, apart from the execution mistakes. It’s also a reference for the effect of background fabric. I used a light to medium weight white stonewash linen, blue and yellow cotton voile, and a mid weight cotton that I hand-dyed a mottled blue some time ago and overall like the white linen best.
Next up is some raw silk in a loose, uneven weave that I bought during the week. The stamps used were based on sketchbook work, culminating here. I used some ezy carve printing block I got from Lynne at Batik Oetoromuch easier to carve than the plastic erasers, and of course you can cut the size you need. Hopefully it’s obvious that the imagery is based on the Tutankhamen work I’ve been doing. So I don’t forget the method: I liked one side of a sketch variation and traced over it – first on one side of the tracing paper, then turned over to get a mirror image for the complete shape. I rubbed charcoal over the back, then put the paper on the ezy carve block and drew over the lines in biro to transfer the image. After cutting out the positive image I stamped it on another piece of ezy carve block and cut out just the stamped areas to create the matching negative image (not sure if an extra step would be needed for a non-symmetrical design). I particularly like the positive/negative counterchange area and I think the colours and texture of the base fabric work well.
Next was trying to combine different types of stamping to form a single image. All of the stamps used have been seen before. The base fabric is a mottled orange/brown/green cotton homespun I dyed some-when. I rather like this, especially the “feathers” of the bird – actually overlaid impressions with different ink levels of the plastic eraser leaf stamp.
I continued with the leaf stamp, looking at ways it could be put into combinations to create overall patterns. I didn’t bother doing lots of repeats, but clearly the cross and star arrangements could be repeated, rotated, combined etc to form trellis and other arrangements. This is a medium weight red cotton.
On the same red I tried combining the leaf and column stamps. It looks rather clumsy here, but this idea could work for the larger piece I’m thinking of for the next stage.
I also tried different colour combinations for the positive/negative column stamps. All use black for the positive image. Top row has blue paint for the background. It looks very dark on the red fabric but has potential – especially with the flashes of red coming through. Middle row is yellow for the negative image – on the left direct on the red, on the right with white stamped on first. In some lights you can just see the yellow on the left, but only just. I need to practice with registration when over-printing for the idea on the right to be used. Plus using the black last instead of first would help. The bottom row has variations of amount of white used.
All of which doesn’t seem a lot to show for a large chunk of yesterday. There was time spent creating a couple more sample pages (like the ones here) for the raw silk and also some stripped polyester/cotton shirting material. I’m very aware of time ticking away – at one stage I hoped to get Assignment 2 finished by the end of January, now it looks like I won’t manage end of March. This is largely due to non-OCA commitments, but I’m also trying to heed my tutor Pat’s advice to take the time to explore. There are a couple more techniques that I want to try – one in particular should help me be a bit less neat and regular, a bit free-er and spontaneous. That’s scheduled for next weekend (yes, I realise I’m scheduling being spontaneous). Of course the balance is that there’s always more to try. I’ve been reading “Fabric dyeing & printing” by Kate Wells, which has reminded me of a heap of things and introduced me to a heap more, most of which I won’t be able to touch this time round. Next time… 🙂

Wells, Kate (1997) Fabric dyeing & printing, London: Conran Octopus. – which will be added to my new list of reading done for the assignment – here.

Book Review – Sonia Delaunay

Color Moves: Art & Fashion by Sonia Delaunay is the catalogue of an exhibition last year at Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. The exhibition focused on her fashion and textile designs, so naturally the catalogue does too. Delaunay (1885 – 1979) was an abstract painter and designer who, it seems, approached both her painting and her design work in the same way, creating form using colour.

I knew very little about Delaunay before reading the book – just a few of her works that were included in Paths to Abstraction 1867 – 1917 exhibition at the NSW Art Gallery in 2010 and occasional bits read here and there. The essays included left me wanting more. This is not a negative reflection on the catalogue as such, just the result of the exhibition’s strong focus and my own lack of background. One essay concentrated on issues in the dating and recording of the textile designs. Another looked particularly at Delaunay’s work and relationship with Metz & Co, a Dutch department store which produced many of her designs. This was interesting because it gave some context about the other designers of the period, plus a few glimpses of Sonia Delaunay the person. There was also a more general introductory essay by Petra Timmer, “Sonia Delaunay Fashion and fabric designer”.

Delaunay kept a series of workbooks through her textile design career and the catalogue has many very good reproductions of pages from them and from the records kept by Metz. It is fascinating to see for a design the original gouache, ink and pencil drawing, the master print, and swatches of the final fabric in 6 colour-ways. The photos are large and crisp, so you can see the weave of the silk and the pencilled notes on the design cards. Delaunay cut some printing blocks herself, but many were created by a couple of commercial suppliers and it’s interesting to see the slight changes introduced in the process – especially relevant to me given the current stage of my OCA course. Some of the colour combinations she used just sing  (yes, I’ve noted some that really appeal to me in my sketchbook). There are only one or two of Delaunay’s artworks included and I’d like to track down some more as I want to compare her choice of palette for painting (unlimited) versus textile printing designs (3 or 4 colours and the base cloth). The fashion sketches and photos of models wearing Delaunay’s creations are also very interesting, but of course the contemporary photography was black and white.

I keep flipping through the book, admiring the colours and designs and working methods of a woman who had such a strong and clear vision and who was personally involved in a very interesting and creative period. I think the book is a great resource with such beautiful and clear images. On the other hand, I’d be really interested in any suggestions of books that take a broader view of Sonia Delaunay and her work.

McQuaid, M and Brown, S. (2011) Colour Moves: Art & Fashion by Sonia Delaunay. New York: Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution

Edited to add: I’ve just found a lot more material on the exhibition here, including a long video of an evening discussion by the curator and others.  I haven’t had a chance to listen/see everything yet, but a word of warning – some of the links failed for me because the link started with “beta” instead of “www”. If you get “server not found” just fix the address in your browser.

 

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)

Recent reading

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

This is one of the recommended course texts, and I was lucky enough to find a copy in the local library. In it Itten writes about the foundation course he developed and taught over many years, from Vienna in 1916 to the Bauhaus at Weimar, to Berlin, Krefeld then Zurich in the 1940s. It’s not a syllabus or course in itself, more a presentation of what and how he taught.

Each chapter has some discussion about the topic, how Itten approached it and his observations about students responses, then page after page of students’ work, sometimes with more comments by Itten.  Some of the work is beautiful and complete in itself, some – well, they’re student samples, repeating with variation, trying ideas, focused on aspects of the particular topic.  I found this much more helpful than either finished works that include elements on topic, or careful cut-down samples by the instructor that don’t show a lot of variety.

There are multiple works from some students, and it’s really interesting to see how their personal style was apparent in different exercises. The index is very helpful in tracking this … there was just a pause in writing as I looked at a few illustrations of Gunta Stölzl’s work, saw one was of weaving, checked the internet, suddenly made a connection and checked the Mad Square exhibition catalogue* – and yes, it was her design I stared at just a few months ago. All very logical, quite reasonable that Itten would include the work of a student who went on to become a Bauhaus master (the only woman, and a weaver) – but it feels very exciting and personal (although the catalogue mentions Paul Klee’s influence, not Itten’s).

Notes for future reference: Chiaroscuro (tone value; light-dark harmony); colour (contrasts: hue; light-dark; cold-warm; complementary; simultaneous; saturation; quantity); materials and textures (fibrous, rough, smooth, hard, shiny, grooved…); forms (contrasts: triangle; rectangle; circle; cylinder; point; line. horizontal-vertical; long-short; broad-narrow; large-small); proportion, contrast, harmony, balance, positive-negative, 3D-projected onto plane, visual paths, picture space/line/value analysis, scattered points of accent – distribution; rhythm (repetition, stresses; regular; irregular; continual; free flowing); expressive forms (heart, hand, eye); subjective forms (the nature and talent of individuals).

 

Gordon, B. (2011) Textiles: The Whole Story, London: Thames & Hudson

I first wrote about this book here,  last October, when I was very excited about it. It’s taken me three months to read it – admittedly with many other books coming and going in the meantime. I think it’s a great book – an ambitious scope, a clear point of view and purpose, lots of clear and relevant images, an engaging style of writing. The author has managed to select examples that illustrate each of her points and is willing to allow them enough space, enough surrounding detail, to give them substance and make the book more than just a long list of facts. Even so I found it difficult to read. There is just so much information that it got overwhelming. Gordon continued to make connections, to refer back to previous sections, but I wasn’t able to retain the mass of detail. I have a lot to learn, and don’t have enough framework of knowledge for the brief touches on such a broad landscape to hang together (mixing metaphors with abandon).

However I think that this may in the long term turn out to be the book’s strength. There are lots of notes and information about further reading and resources. I suspect this book will be great to dip into with a particular focus, get what I need or pointers to other sources. I’ve heard that a review pointed to some inaccuracies in the text, but unfortunately don’t have specifics. However for me that isn’t a major concern (some trembling in case this is academic heresy). No history is ever complete, there is always selection, differences of emphasis, perspective, context… No matter how well researched and edited, there will be errors and omissions. There is a wide enough range of examples within each major theme even if a few of the supports are suspect.

As it happens, I have a very small and indirect connection with this book too. In the final paragraphs Gordon writes about The Thread Project, a project creating a physical reminder of our global family united by a common thread. One of the participants in weaving the banners was Kaz, who mentions it here and here, and my brush with fame is that the loom Kaz used now lives with me. Typical but human – to take that huge mass of information in the book and make it about me 🙂

I’m looking forward to reading and using this book for a long time to come.

* Strecker, J. (editor) (2011) The Mad Square: modernity in German art 1910-37, Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Back to work!

The last time I posted about actual OCA assignment work was in late December. I can be confident that not a day has gone past that I haven’t thought about it – the one thing I’ve been able to maintain is at least at little sketchbook work every day (started 14 Dec, so 39 days including Jan 21). This weekend I’ve finally been able to get some time together.

I had produced a design and really liked it – so much so that the next step, doing three more drawings based on the first one, was really difficult.

The distance in time helped. I also was very clear that I wanted to base the new drawings on the old, not reproduce it. I wanted to see if pushing further even when you’re happy with something helps to find new possibilities.

Stage 2 Exercise 3

Version 1 uses dry media – conté pencils on black watercolour paper.

The instructions were to keep one’s point of view clearly in mind while working. I wanted to focus on pattern and texture development within the very rigid geometrical grid.

The end result is still very close to the original, but I think successful in the texture and pattern focus. It now looks much more “stitcherly” in nature, while the first looks like a graphic print.

The columns are now much less distinct against the heavily patterned “background”. I considered putting some white onto the columns to give them more presence, but decided it would all get too busy and start fighting for attention in an unpleasant way.

Version 2 asked for wet media. This gave me lots of trouble, in large part because the original was in watercolour (? or gouache – can’t remember just now).

My first idea was to move away from the heavy geometry to a more organic, less controlled image. I wanted to use watercolours to form those hard drying lines to make the patterning of the background. This went very badly – way to much water around for a start. The end result was ditched as an assignment exercise, but recycled into sketchbook work. You can see it here, but it’s still unexciting.

Plan b was to continue the focus on patterning, this time using stamps to create the texture.

First I created a cardboard stencil, to protect areas of the image while stamping. Since I had it, I used the stencil to gently colour and texture the background with sprayed, diluted, sepia coloured ink. I have a motley collection of stamps gathered over the years. This image has some chinese stamps carved with my sons’ names, a couple of (maybe indian) wooden blocks, and a variety of business stamps that were being thrown away at a workplace. I used acrylic ink (black and burnt umber).

Ignoring the clumsiness of various things, I find this result interesting. I like the reduce colouring, which makes apparent how strongly coloured the previous versions were. The columns don’t work well, but I like the overlapping and incomplete stamping on the lightly coloured background. Some very nice marks there.

I like the result on the stencil too. I think the colour combination is one to use again.
The image on the left is another experiment. To create the stencil, I used my stored photo of the original design, and using gimp created a layer with all the major lines. This was printed onto a light card and I cut out along lines as required – you can see some of the construction lines I didn’t need on the stencil under the stamping.
Further work within gimp produced what might be an e-stencil (I just made that term up). It’s made up of layers, and I’ve put in a screen grab of my layers dialog hoping it makes some of the following clearer.

The bottom layer (ignoring an info layer where I’ve put some reminders to myself) is the background or wall. In the example shown I filled it with a stone pattern (extra detail – to get the slope of the pattern right, I created a separate image and filled it with pattern, then rotated that image by -64 degrees before selecting a square, copying and pasting into my background layer).
Next up is the column layer. It has two parts – the layer and a mask. The mask controls which parts of the layer are actually seen. Where the mask is black, the layer is blanked out – it doesn’t show in the end result. I have the column shapes in white on the mask, so that part of the layer will be seen. I used the same technique as for the background, this time using a purple lightening pattern and rotation 26 degrees. The purple lightening columns are seen on top of the background.

The spray decoration is another layer, again with a mask so only selected areas of the pattern are visible. This time I rotated the pattern by eye to get what I wanted (there’s nothing magic about the other rotation amounts, just what works for this particular design).

Finally I have a layer at the top which puts a little frame or border on the image. I now have a file which can be used to audition colour and patterning ideas for the design. I could even scan or photograph some fabric and use that in a simulation.

Back to the assignment. The third media was collage materials. I used some calendar and magazine images, plus some tissue paper from a shop. The black spray area is actually a calendar photo of lava (maybe?) by Frans Lanting. I think this is the least successful variation. Perhaps there isn’t enough contrast between background and columns, plus the different background images don’t meld well. It reminds me of patchwork, and if it really was it would need significant stitching to reinforce the directional lines and perhaps differentiate texture – say leave the columns relatively unstitched and slightly puffy.

Hopefully in all of these my textural/pattern point of view is apparent. I’m still mulling over my texture questions from my earlier angsty post. I emailed my tutor, Pat, who gave some helpful advice and reassurance. The other day I came across a book in the library, “Capturing texture in your drawing and painting”, and have been reading through. It’s full of techniques in all sorts of drawing and painting media, some interesting stuff that I want to try out… but I’m beginning to get the idea that you get so involved in producing an image that a lot of the freedom and gestural mark-making gets lost. It all gets very controlled, which might be fine if I wanted the image as an end product, but perhaps not so much as an exploratory, resource building for other work exercise. A lot of the stilted problem is due to being a beginner and it all being new to me of course. Always more to learn and think about.

Warr, M. (2002) Capturing texture in your drawing and painting London: B T Batsford Ltd.


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