Friday, 29 January 2016

Sampling in the round

I searched through my archives yesterday for photos featuring circles and things interesting in their roundness and found many - two drawings of mine and some markmaking, photos of the artwork of others, round objects seen and those not quite round, and parts of things, arcs and segments.

Here is a sample of what I found.

                       
                           The base of an onion

            Expressive drawing with a finger, an oil pastel and a blue crayon.

            Markmaking with acrylic paint and a wax crayon

           An art installation at Heathrow Airport
   
           Artwork on a hoarding in Christchurch, NZ
    
           My son's favourite mirror
       
           A plaque inset into Writer's Walk in Circular Quay, Sydney
       
           Extraordinary architecture seen in Singapore, lit up at night 



     

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Designing something useful for a change

I rarely design or make anything that could in any way be called useful. However, the receipt of much-enjoyed coasters from my brother last Christmas have set me thinking. They featured some of his own photographs of places that we both love in Aberdeenshire and made a lovely personal present.

I have several friends to whom I send small birthday and Christmas gifts and now, as we are all getting older and are no longer in need of a great deal of new stuff, I often find myself struggling to find the right thing. The coasters idea seemed to hit the button and I've sent images off to Snapfish, the company my brother used, to be made into coasters for a college friend I've known for almost 50 years.

Like me, she visited Australia last year with a stopover in Singapore. I took these photos and several others at night as I looked over the waterways of Singapore and enjoyed the reflections, just as she must have done. I then played around with them in Photoshop, enhancing the colours and inverting, choosing colours I knew she would like and then cropping the results to the right size.




I will be fascinated to know how they turn out and I hope she will like them ...


Saturday, 23 January 2016

Cropping Circles

This time, a new take on cropping from my sketchbook, using circles made with a large hole punch to take focused sections from recent photos. I then took slightly larger plain cartridge circles (left) and a square hole punch (right) and simplified some of the images using a favourite 4B graphite pencil and a small piece of soft cloth to smooth out the shading.



And then one above the other?





Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Playing with stitch

My work just now seems to be calling out for a different stitching approach so recently I've been trying out thoughts.

First of all, I think I'll want to use seeding but I don't want it to become too obvious. I'm thinking suggestion, a drift of colour or tonal gradation to unify the image rather than a bold statement or line of stitches. It will need to be very small, almost dot sized, so I've been wondering how small it would be possible to go without it disappearing into the fabric completely.

Experiments were needed as I usually stitch quite large. The smallest here on a fine cotton measured about 2mm. Anything smaller disappeared into the cloth. 

Next, I experimented to achieve line in different weights using a fine crochet thread and a No 8 perlé using plain running stitch, back stitch and whipped running stitch. I then tried running stitch randomly spaced and thickened in places, working with and responding to pattern on the cloth. Last of all, I played with the boundaries of the piece, stitching beyond the image. 


Then I tried introducing a new shape perhaps to be used as a counterbalance within the design. 
Again it extended beyond the original image. I used a simple circle since I think circles will play quite a part in my work.


Next I played with ways of stitching one circle within the other using whipped running stitch, a vertical stab stitch, satin stitch shapes and lastly threads whipped with buttonhole stitch. All were arranged in circles and again extended beyond the original image. They used some of the imagery from my recent trip (I will reveal all when it's more formulated ...)


Putting all this together produced this study (and one or two others, not yet completed). It gives me lots to think about, which is, after all, what studies are for.




































If nothing else, I've realised one thing ... that I'll need to limit the number of different stitches in each piece or it will become a mere sampler, a piece using a multitude of stitches just because I can. 


Sunday, 17 January 2016

Observed pattern and mark

As I travel around with my camera, I'm always on the lookout for marks and patterns large and small that seem out of the ordinary in some way or which set me wondering. Today, I'm posting a selection of recent finds that have given me pleasure.

In the first photo, I was fascinated by the meandering quality of the linear marks in the courses of dried up river beds viewed from the air (at 32,000 feet and helped here by enhancement in Photoshop). They were no longer full of water but the braided marks of its passage were very evident even without help.

Aerial view of Australia's Red Centre

In the next two photos, it was the random nature of the marks that fascinated me and in the third especially their ever-changing character as the waves washed in and out.

Moraine in Fox Glacier, New Zealand

Sea weed in surf, Nugget Point, NZ

In the fourth, I liked the changes in scale.

Dappled sunlight through a patterned roof

And in the fifth, it was again the wandering nature of the marks in the sand and wondering who the people were and where they were going ...

The beach at Hokitika, NZ

Friday, 15 January 2016

Winter, like every year

In the last few days, the ceaseless rain has stopped, the sun has shone and it's been seasonably cold. Winter is at last here in its usual form and it's a relief, which surprises me.

I was out and about on Wednesday and took these photos on my mobile phone of flooded fields near the River Thames headwaters at Ashton Keynes (no camera). These fields flood most winters, often only for a day or two, and generally no houses are damaged so I feel I can enjoy the reflections without any thought of problems for nearby families.



























And next, over the weekend, we're promised a hard frost to enjoy. Funny how absence makes one fonder, even with the weather.


Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Intaglio printing and chine collé with Sue Brown

I will be spending Ten Wednesday mornings till easter Intaglio printing with the lovely Sue Brown at the yard ARTspace in Cheltenham. If today's first session is anything to go by, I'm going to learn a lot and it's going to be great fun.

Today by way of introduction, we used drypoint on a clear plastic sheet with chine collé. This was largely a mark making exercise and a chance to explore the techniques together with lots of practical issues to learn. Still, we all left with a print and a sense of achievement.

My effort is shown left. I took one of my recent photos, traced over the main areas of the image, experimented with mark making, added strips of masking tape and found some interesting tissue paper for the chine collé.

This gave a pleasing combination of effects. The masking tape (since it held the ink after the print plate was wiped) printed rather like a relief print (brown and left on the resulting image), the incised marks held the ink and the chine collé (tissue paper) provided the text.

I will admit this presented me with some technical issues! I put the glued side of the chine collé face down on the print plate instead of face up so it stuck to the plate not the print. (I was not alone!) In trying to rectify this, I got printing ink on my fingers and finger marks on my print ... such is learning.

Still, there was nothing that could not be rectified with glue - or camouflaged for this post with the Adobe Photoshop brush tool. What you see here is what it should have looked like! Maybe next time ...

In case your knowledge of all this is, like mine was before I booked on the course, decidedly fuzzy, I found the following by a quick bit of googling. First of all is a simple definition of intaglio and then a Utube video here (among many others), and finally an explanation of chine collé (if you can stand the advert before it starts).


Monday, 11 January 2016

Bruce Chatwyn, Songlines and marks on the carpet

In an effort to find out as much as I can about Aboriginal culture since I returned home from Australia at the end of last year, among other things, I'm currently reading Songlines by Bruce Chatwyn. Recommended to me by a friend, this book is a fascinating account of Chatwyn's travels across the country and his search to investigate the mysteries of Aboriginal belief systems and way of life.

Reading this book has reinforced what I had suspected. Although traditional Aboriginal life  has existed largely unchanged for tens of thousands of years and may appear to us amazingly simple and primitive, their cultural and spiritual life is complex, vivid and above all extremely private.

The Songlines of the title are the ancient and invisible pathways that cross Australia in all directions and connect Aboriginal communities. They lie over the land as 'ways' of communication between far flung tribes.

The songs were passed along the lines to 'reveal the creation of the land and the secrets of the past' and often went unrecorded visually unless they were drawn very simply in the sand by mothers explaining them to their children. The iconography representing them is deceptively simple in form. Circles of many kinds, dots, dashes, lines and horseshoe shapes predominate.

I suspect that the idea that the representation of Songlines or (Dreaming tracks) should be regarded as art is a purely Western concept, but I find the work fascinating in its beguiling preoccupation with symbolic marks. Like the life the marks represent, it is on the surface simple but at root extraordinarily complex. 

Interestingly, there was a wonderful, specially woven carpet in the arrivals lounge at Alice Springs Airport that features all these symbols. I spent some time enjoying it as we waited for transport to our hotel, that day late in arriving. The shapes, colours and sense of movement captivated me and have stayed with me since I returned home. 


At the time, knowing something of what it might represent, it seemed particularly appropriate to me that this work of textile art should be found on the floor of an airport - that embodiment of travel and communication in the modern world. Definitely a case of the new and modern meeting the ancient and it seemed bright, beautiful and perhaps even optimistic. But now I have read some of Bruce Chatwyn's book, I realise that things are not so simple. To the Aboriginal, there is hardly a mountain, cave or river creek that has not been sung. Everywhere is a sacred site. 

We in the Western world tread hard and heavy on the land. I can only hope that the building of the airport and the coming of visitors has not obliterated too many songs.


Sunday, 10 January 2016

Cutting, rotating and flipping photo strips with stitch

As I was clearing my work table this morning, (much needed), I came across a small pile of strips cut from recently manipulated black and white photos of a tented theatre structure photographed in Australia last November.This pleasant discovery was followed by a 'what if?' moment (I really enjoy those) so I immediately stopped tidying (now there's a surprise) and arranged them on black paper, rotating and flipping the 3 cm wide remains of images until I felt there was something of interest happening. 


I then stuck them to the backing paper and (this is the real 'what if?' bit as I do the strip cutting and arranging quite often) joined them to one another with small lengths of thread to offer contrast with the structure of hard-edged metal beams and canvas and perhaps to suggest the tendrils of vegetation that were coiling themselves around and inside the structure.

This done, I'm now forced to return to tidying. I wonder what else I'll find?

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Extending and echoing shape and pattern

Taking some of the abstracted images I've shown here recently, I played this morning with extended drawings of the lines in small cropped selections and with echoing the marks within them.

The photos are by this time much-enlarged and probably a bit pixelated. This slight pixelation is in itself an additional abstraction and creates small areas of accidental pattern and texture that I enjoy. The technique of adjusting the black and white levels and maximising them adds its own texture and slight changes to the shapes within each image. Both these factors are mostly beyond my control and add their own characteristic imperfections.


I find the serendipity in all this fascinating and there are many more small croppings to play with ...



Saturday, 2 January 2016

A theatre tent and abstraction

I have been (slowly) processing recent photographs and experimenting with some that I think may lead to new art work. I have especially played with the half dozen or so that I took of a tented outdoor theatre space we visited in Cairns in Northern Queensland. The examples given here trace the development from original photos of the structure to an abstract black and white image ... though there is still far to go before I shall be ready to start stitching or weaving in earnest.

Original photos 


First stage black and white images 





And then some cropping, inverting and rotating

 




I think there is scope here for some stitch ... now to experiment ...