Research Point 2: notes & reflections on artists who use floral and leaf motifs

I chose a mixture of artists that I already knew from the list (and liked), and some that I had never heard of before to look into and inspire my work.

Elizabeth Blackadder – I absolutely fell in love with her work. Her awareness of composition is strong. She manages to create a sense of peace, respect and intrigue. She plays with the spaces in between with confidence. Her love for flora and fauna and the natural world is obvious. I watched an interesting video about her and the way she creates a world, and engages with her environment. The use of floral elements in her work help to create something dynamic, since they are always growing, changing and moving. They interrelate with space very well, especially leaves and stems and therefore ‘bring together’ many of her compositions.

Tord Boontje – I knew from the lightshade ‘Garland’ design that made him famous. I didn’t realise how broad his work was, and I appreciate the variety.  His textile designs are dynamic and have a sense of movement. He shows innovation and seems to be apply techniques that we wouldn’t readily think to use –  “Little Flowers Falling” for instance his stencil/cut out work for textile, creating pattern and a flow.

Jane Askey -I found had similarities with Elizabeth Blackadder’s work. However she uses bolder, stronger colour ways. Although initially her work seems to try and capture the beauty of the flowers and items that she chooses to paint, there is a sense on closer reflection that she chooses the objects, textiles and flowers with meaning. They seem to be placed with care and thought.

Her statements on her own website remark on her interest in evoking and working with memories. That she uses still life as a means of exploring many themes and capturing in essence her travels and encounters.

Matisse – Seems to be work magic, he is versatile, and his work is rich with colour, themes, layers, textile, pattern and composition, his work is prolific and there are too many examples to talk and cite here. He applies the flora/leaf theme in a number of ways: as backgrounds in portrait, figure work, interior scenes and as more formal still life studies. I find some of his composition techniques share some similarities with Askey and Blackadder. The way  he ‘flattens’ some of his paintings, by exploring the background and foregrounds, the positive and negative spaces with equal thought and attention.

Interior with Phonograph – Henri Matisse, 1924 / Spanish Still Life are two paintings I looked at a little more closely when reading and researching his work.

Marni – On a completely different tangent, Marni’s printed designs on their clothes are bold, adventurous and very playful with scale. This inspires me to have fun with paper sizes and really working more and more in extremes.

Project 3: Picking and Portraying

Drawing, what is it?

I always think of it in it’s widest sense as recording something visually. Thinking something through visually. A visual way of describing what one sees, what one is engaging with. So one can choose any tool to record this, if it is creating a visual note of it. Drawing therefore does not need to be only about line and pencil. It is to capture the qualities of what is being observed. It is there to make a visual record of all the elements. Tone, contrast, texture, space, form, relationship between objects, movement, shape, mood. Drawing allows us to fully understand something, visually.

There are many tools for the job. The past two projects I have used pen and indian ink and brush with joy, so I think I will push this further in the next project. Although part of me judges this as not being experimental enough? The mixture of using ink and water inspires me to use some watercolour too, so that I get begin to look at colour too.

I would like to work in different scales and formats. Putting together pieces of paper as I go.I also made a beginning in investigating collage, and I would like to continue to see how I can make use of this.  I’d like to go even further and possible use more printing techniques. I’d like to do some screen printing, but it depends if I can gather the materials and resources in time…

The Art of Spinning and Dyeing

A while ago, I joined my local Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers. And so grateful that I did. I have so far attended one meeting, where I felt a bit out of place and very much a novice. All the women there had their looms and spinning wheels and were confidently working and chatting away at the same time.

I finally plucked up the courage to approach a lady with her spinning wheel and asked her if she would be happy to teach me how to use a drop spindle. And before I knew it, I was sat down and part of a circle, spinning away. And what was lovely was that everyone was so encouraging, despite me spinning a very uneven yarn. I really enjoy the process. I’d like to spin more and create 2 ply, 3 ply maybe even 4 ply yarn.

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A couple of weeks ago, I went to the annual dyeing day. I had to prepare by getting some undyed wool and create skeins (I used the back of a chair), and then washed them and put them in a pot with mordant – alum and cream of tartar. The following day was spent with a  a number of women from the guild, all bunging their skeins in to vats of onion skin, chamomile, daffodil heads, fustic chips, brazil wood and indigo. It was fun, intense and lots of quick decision making on the spot. As a complete beginner I did have any agenda other than to experiment. I learnt that next time, it would be a good idea to somehow tag or label my skeins after bringing them out of the dye pot, because by the end of the day I couldn’t remember which skein had been dyed with what, especially when it came to me mixing things up, creating greens by putting the yellow skeins in to the indigo, and viva-versa.

I don’t know what I’ll do with these yarns as yet. Maybe the next step is for me to rent a loom from the guild and learn to weave?!

Research Point 1: Notes on Wabi Sabi

I have known of the Wabi Sabi concept previously, but was glad to be reminded of it.

Wabi: Freedom from attachment / Subtle / Profundity / Simple / Humble

Sabi: Austere / Sublimity / Asymmetry / Weathered

Wabi-Sabi: Simplicity / Tranquility / Naturalness / Grace

This quote,  “wabi-sabi is the art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in earthiness, of revering authenticity above all,”

and from the same site:

Wabi-sabi reminds us that we are all transient beings on this planet—that our bodies, as well as the material world around us, are in the process of returning to dust. Nature’s cycles of growth, decay, and erosion are embodied in frayed edges, rust, liver spots. Through wabi-sabi, we learn to embrace both the glory and the melancholy found in these marks of passing time.

Robyn Griggs-Lawrence, Wabi-Sabi: The Art of Imperfection

I find these notions life affirming, and helpful not only in creative making, but approaching living in general. It makes me think of not fighting against something. To live with surrender, it eases the need to assert/prove oneself. It is about accepting things, and realising that true beauty comes from the ability to recognise the beauty, the good everywhere.

Leonard Koren discusses the relationship between Wabi-Sabi and the notion of beauty, “the condition of coming to terms with what you consider ugly…that beauty is a dynamic event”.

This concept of ageing, that that beauty is not static and cannot be found in something not changing.

Sabi things carry the burden of their years with dignity and grace: the chilly mottled surface of an oxidized silver bowl, the yielding gray of weathered wood, the elegant withering of a bereft autumn bough. An old car left in a field to rust, as it transforms from an eyesore into a part of the landscape, could be considered America’s contribution to the evolution of sabi. An abandoned barn, as it collapses in on itself, holds this mystique.

http://nobleharbor.com/tea/chado/WhatIsWabi-Sabi.htm

On reading this, I immediately took my camera and ran out to my garden, and behind my own sheds there is a field, in which there is that type of abandoned barn, collapsing in on itself. I look at it everyday as I park my car near it, and am always drawn to it, never really knowing why. Apart from maybe, thinking, when is it going to fall? Or will it do so, so slowly that I won’t even notice? Photographing it today, I noticed how much more it has crumbled and fallen since i originally moved here. And yet I see it every day? So I didn’t notice.

Wabi-Sabi seems to be about the art of balance. Of noticing how far you can go, or how little you can have, or  how ruined, how old, how minimal, how unfinished, how incomplete. It seems to be about having a peaceful relationship with time. With anything that is dynamic actually. So, relationships and creating come into this too.

Sources:

http://www.utne.com/mind-and-body/wabi-sabi.aspx

http://nobleharbor.com/tea/chado/WhatIsWabi-Sabi.htm

http://www.touchingstone.com/Wabi_Sabi.html

1.5: Collage & Creases

As I write about the last exercise in this project, I have observed the way I am using the learning log is to bring my work together and note some aspects of it. From looking at other people’s blogs, they have much more writing, and this is something I still need to assess and work out how best to get my notes, thoughts and reflections down. It continues to surprise me as I normally love writing, especially reflective type thoughts!

Anyway, the collage work was interesting and engaging. I don’t think I got to complete grips with it, although I did find it helpful and liberating to look at the work of other collage artists. I created this Pinterest board which helped to define the areas and aspects I found most interesting. I found it quite a discipline to look at the items through shape, colour and pattern without my normal reliance on line!

 

I also painted some sheets with different media ranging from watered down acrylic, gouache and inks. I created little thumbnail colour palettes to help me extract the colours I thought I needed to use. I also used some very old coloured etchings I had made over 10 years ago that were sat in my draw.

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I did find that working from the photos meant I was creating quite flat images. I really had to look to see how to create more depth and texture. I found layering helped, and getting creative with the magazine papers I used, not always using full blocks of colour.

I didn’t always ‘finish’ or complete the collages, I was working on solving how to create and record these blankets and found that the best way was to keep having a go at different compositions.

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1.4: Lines & Edges / 1.6: Detail & Definition

I found the archive items I had chosen much more conducive to being recorded and observed via these exercises.  I have grouped them together because at times I was using both the idea of line to look at the details, the damage, the close ups. This is probably due to the blankets being blankets, quite flat and 2 dimensional, but with plenty of texture and pattern to record.

 

I recorded the drape and patterns of the teal Lewis blanket using ink. I kept adding papers together as I went. I found this a liberating way to work, only committing to more space as and when I needed it.

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The details, especially the edges, the fraying that occurred in the Flintshire blanket was really interesting to me, as was the pattern from the Lewis blankets. I made many small pencil drawings of them when visiting the collection.

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I then found further ways to explore these marks, with pencil, ink and drypoint printmaking and watercolour washes.

 

I also use ink, pen on acrylic washes, mono print and dry points to capture the lines and details. I found that trying to record the whole item was so difficult, it was much easier to focus, go close-up or pick out key parts that I wanted to record.