Sunday, 11 February 2018

Silk painting exploration 2

Following my silk scarf painting, I did some more exploration of this technique, on the principle that the more I do the better I should get at it. This time I was focussing more on the different intensities of colour I could get, and the effect of mixing colours on the fabric. I decided to do geometric type patterns with circles, as this brought up multiple areas for mixing all the basic colours with each other.

This was the first sampler I made. You can see that the gutta wasn't properly laid down through the fabric, and this led to some leakage of the dye. I like the way this works, with different mixtures of colours in the 'overlapping' areas. These colours I made by putting the colours one on top of the other while still wet (rather than mixing them in a palate).
I used black and white as colours of the background squares, and this gave some attractive results.

- thin gutta lines work, as long as you check them
- dye colours are bright and clear, so better not to mix them too much if you want that effect
- works better if you do each colour one at a time, so they are of approximately equal intensity
- this sampler has too many colours and looks busy

This was my attempt to make a pastel colour sampler.
- better not to wet the fabric first for small patterns like this one, because it encourages leakage through or round the gutta
- the background was too raw without any dye on it, so I coloured it a very pale blue which was better
- fewer colours is better
- pastel colours together looks ok, as long as there's no leakage, but the impression is totally different from intense colours
- magenta with a drop of yellow makes a good pink
- using pastel colours, you have to be more careful not to put too much water on, so wait for the colour to dry if you want to change it
- I obviously need more practice with this!

As practice in applying gutta and using pastel colours,
I decided to make an opera scarf for my husband,
so picked some of his clothing colours, sky blue, lime green, and charcoal grey
and tried out different patterns of circles and squares in my sketch book.

I pinned the silk to my frame, and drew equal squares on the underside using a fabric pencil.

Then I drew round a jar lid using the squares as a guide.
When the gutta was finished, this is what it looked like.
I have some way to go before I am skilled at this.
But that's why I'm practising!
I attempted to graduate the intensity of the colour from one end to the next.
You can see that because of the rectangular shape of the scarf, and the square shape of the frame,
the silk only took up half of the frame,
and the lack of frame on one side had a corrugating effect on the silk.

This is what the finished scarf looks like.
I like the pattern very much - it looks regular but interesting.
The colour variations in tone and intensity are not clear enough here.
More practice with graduating the intensity of colours is required.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Silk painting exploration

My first attempt at silk painting was on a French exchange, and I still prefer the method used there at that time - drawing with gutta on pongee silk and then filling in the spaces with silk paint or dye. I am attracted to this negative space way of thinking about an image, and also the flexibility it gives you. But the thing I like most particularly about it is the kind of luminous colour you can get this way.

I want to get better at doing it, though, and so last month I set myself some exercises to do that.

First, a couple of leaves that caught my eye:

While I liked them both, the one with the more
dramatic colour contrast and cleaner lines
appeals more for this project.
These leaves had fallen from a bush round the corner from
where I live. What appeals to me about them is
the unusual combination of colours,
and the way they show the plant's strategy
for surviving the winter -
withdraw everything useful that you can
from the leaf before letting it go.
The green parts still have chlorophyll,
the pink/tan parts have been drained of it along the veins. 

The beauty of death. A sketch starting to expore the leaf's visual properties.

This one shows that I had fun exploring it in various different ways -
this one using applique and embroidery.

I made some sketches to help me think about
composition, in the context of a square scarf.
And I tried out some colour combinations,
and texture marks.
This was a sampler I made to explore how to use silk paint, coloured gutta and sharpies
to create this pattern on a piece of silk 

I did another sampler, trying out the effect of dropping paint colours next to each other at various distances,
in spots and lines, to learn for myself how best to apply them for particular effects. 

This is the life-size outline I made for the
scarf, which lies underneath the stretched
silk to guide the gutta. 
 What I learned from doing this scarf:

- Silk paints are paler than they look when wet
- You can't change the gutta lines once they're on the silk
- I was excited, and started before I was completely sure which colours to put where.  Which led me to put them in the wrong places!
- Sharpies can make texture subtly or blatantly.
- The hole on the lid of the gutta bottle needs to be a bit smaller to make the line a bit finer.
...and most importantly,

The first scarf, still on the frame

Here is the scarf with adjusted colouring, with edges roll hemmed.
You can see that this one has the dark blue-green in the centre of the sections rather than pink
(IE reflecting the leaf more accurately), the texture is more subtle,
being made with different intensities of the same colour paint rather than with sharpies,
and the green is deeper and richer, which works better I think.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Overall composition

As a textile person I find myself drawn to the idea of overall composition as a way of focussing on and exploring natural textures visually.

Patterns in sea water

I was looking through my photos and found a large number like this.


Printed paper from Olga Hirsch Collection at British Library

My photo of the sunlight refracting through an unusual piece of glass

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Composition Research Point

Tacita Dean (from
Fatigues (E) 2012
Chalk on blackboard

Detail from Fatigues (E), showing that the written annotations are date and time, and an arrow saying 'direction' - not sure whether it says 'narrative direction', and it seems to have been written above and rubbed out.

Quatermary 2014
5 framed photogravures in 10 parts on Somerset white satin 400gr
239.5cmx709cm (total size)
Work that is not obviously landscape has included films of a series of blackboard images, or of a butterfly on a wall. Film is often there in her work either as a medium or as a way of looking at something that includes the idea of time. Eg Quatermary - the intricately detailed landscape seems to be divided up into a series of stills, making one aware of the imposition of structure (perhaps time, perhaps something else) from the viewer on the natural shapes. Why print it on satin? I don't know - perhaps to give it a smoother texture than paper or canvas?

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Trying out composition on my sketch walk

The instructions for exercise 1 do not actually tell me what I am expected to do! They imply, though that I should go back to the place I did the Project 2 drawings, and rework them adventurously.

Anyway, for this exercise I returned the park where I had done my original drawings of clouds and landscape scenes. My idea was to go back to the one with the path crossroads, but when I got there I could see that I could pick a vista which was more amenable to the composition ideas explored in my last entry. Reasons for this were that the detail in the foreground would have to be of the path (not very exciting), and the distant vagueness and blueness would end up being in the tunnel between trees (a bit of a cliche). So I looked for a view with trees in the foreground (which have interesting textured bark), something in the middleground, and an interesting distant object or two. 
I did my sketches with B charcoal pencil for the foreground, HB for middle-ground, and H for the most distant objects.

Landscape format
This was my first attempt - the trees were interesting in themselves and I could imagine having fun with their texture and the details round their bases. In the middle ground were some other trees, and a bar of houses with some white painted windows and other detail (which I have sketched in here as boxes within the bar). In the distance is a fairyland group of skyscrapers in the City of London. I didn't manage with this pencil to show the shapes or the grey-blue colour of this distant object. It was definitely separate from the rest in real life, with finer lines and bluer colour. Re the composition, I thought that the focal point of this arrangement is actually a relatively empty space in the middle point of the rectangle! Not what I was aiming for at all. Even if I could get the city buildings to obviously be in the distance, they would be in the wrong place in this composition to be the focal point. 

Portrait format
My next try was portrait, just to see what happened to the image.
This of course led to there being only part of the trees visible in the foreground,
and the detail being in the form of twigs and leaves rather than bark texture.
The middle ground detail is more rudimentary, and I felt the need to give it
a bit more depth with the charcoal. The distant towers look almost alien
floating on the horizon, as the blueness is too much.
Again the focus of the picture is the clump of trees below the city
rather than the city itself. This may be because the whole picture space
is divided in the wrong place, leaving the city dead centre rather than just off centre.
And because the portrait format flattens the depth.

This is the same sketched, cropped to put the city on the golden section line vertically.
This has the side effect of making the rectangle less narrow in relation to its height.
It seems to have the effect of making it more the focus, at the same time as making the
twig detail at the top more accessible to the eye movements, and the city looks more at
eye level than it did before. While it's better, I'm not sure its what I was after in fact,
because I want to feel I'm looking up at the magical city.

This is the same sketch, cropped the other way, so as to put the city at the
golden section the other way round. I think it works much better than the
previous ones, with a feeling of it being infinitely far away and unattainable,
like a fairy tale castle (which is what it felt like in real life). The
foreground looks more foreshortened too, emphasising the depth and distance.
Unfortunately the blue still isn't working as it's not grey enough.

Square Format
Using a square format, I felt the need to frame it in the foreground. I thought it would be interesting to use the drooping branches in the composition to 'point' towards the city, which would mean that it didn't have to emphasise itself in the same way to become the focal point. I dropped the blue altogether for this one, and the middle ground needs work too, but the idea, with the city as the target of the branch vectors has potential. There is lots there for the eyes to move around with, and the contrast can easily be adjusted in places to draw the eye around.
Last composition sketch on this walk. I put the middle ground and foreground tree at 5/8 positions, and the city just above the horizon. As I noticed in the duck sketch above, the close-up tree on a landscape format actually makes the eye look past it to experience the full space and depth of the image, ie the focus becomes the city rather than the tree. I added some directionality in the trees on the left and contrast in the middleground (especially on the right), to keep the eyes moving round the image. The tree, and the ground to the right of it, need more detail.