Saturday, 29 September 2012

Textiles 1 Stage 4 Colour moods and themes Exercise 2

So after doing happy/ sad, bright/dull, male/female, I did the same for some colours signifying 'Peace', and made some peaceful marks. Initially I used watercolours, because they are better at conveying peace. Unfortunately watercolours don't really show up when I try to transfer them to the computer. I did some others in gouache, so that I could do some printing and here's the result.

Peaceful marks in peaceful colours.
Well,  some more peaceful than others.
The paper came out all blue in the photo, and the colours less clean and calm.
Then I chose some colours that seemed to demonstrate the feeling of 'Dancing', and made some dancing marks.

Dancing marks in dancing colours.
This is marked as exercise 4 but it should of course read exercise 1.

Then I moved on to exercise 2 - finding pictures of colour moods or themes I am drawn to, and collecting yarns and fabrics in those colours. I found this a very engaging exercise, and spent a lot of time enjoyably sorting out bags for two colour themes. They don't have words attached to them in my head, and I am a little reluctant to give them words because I think that will make me narrow my view of the range of colours in them.

The first one is very complex, and has a large number of different colours in it, so it took me a long time to get them all together. The Klimt colours were particularly tricky because he used colours together in a way that makes them appear to be other colours unless you concentrate carefully.

Colour bag 1
I loved the way there were some very bright colours in there (orange, purple and blue) but the overall feeling was rather mysterious and slightly gloomy but rich. Like an eccentric old house that has a lot of history.

Colour bag 2

The second colour bag was more comfortable to sit with. The colours haven't come out so well in this photo (again) - they are generally richer and more glowing than they appear here. I found it difficult to match some of the colours from my cupboard and went out and bought some knitting cotton for the mustard yellow and the paler turquoise.

What I notice about this exercise is that
1. I do have very distinctive preferences for colour moods.
2. Despite this I have not always collected the colours I prefer.
3. Working out the colours by doing this exercise has led to a much richer and complex colour palette and is inevitably going to make my stuff more interesting to look at.
3. So perhaps leaving it up to my 'intuition' isn't so effective after all!

'If you are unable to create masterpieces in colour out of your unknowledge then you ought to look for knowledge.' Johannes Itten

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Alice Kettle

Alice Kettle's website, as recommended by my tutor.

The first section of the website seemed to make a lot of references to Greek figures. The pieces all or almost all had figures in them, with classical Greek faces, sewn in quite simple lines on top of a more complex looking background. They were enigmatic, ie I couldn't really make out what they were about. The most interesting bit of them, to me anyway, was the way the backgrounds were thick with stitches and different colours interleaved with each other.

Kettle at work - photo by Joe Low
from the Winchester Making It website

Link to Winchester Craft weekend 
The photo above is of Alice Kettle making a huge textile art work about the history and narratives of Winchester city. I loved the colour of it, the size, and the way there were massive faces visible from afar, at the same time as the vivid colours and important details in close up. I thought that the large scale made more sense of the style to me. The way it unified a large number of different narratives.

Another part of her website has photos of more recent works. I was interested to see some with three dimensional use of fabrics to make a face come out of the hanging, as it were. 

Alice Kettle
Head (2008) detail

There's some thing creepy about this, as if the fabric is coming alive. It's also textured with stitches and folded in a man-made sort of way, like a combination of a tree and a mummy. I found it intriguing and want to see more of the piece. And maybe try some folding fabric myself. 

I have also copied in this detail of a piece called Pause. The colours are brighter than the Greek pieces, and that appealed to me. I liked the way the colours of the different areas were built up from different colours together. (I suppose I am thinking about this because of being in the middle of the colour stage of the course).

Alice Kettle
Pause (detail) 2009
I haven't really done a lot of drawings or even textile work with figures, other than a sampler-style piece in cross-stitch. I have avoided it, I think, assuming that because I can't really draw people in the classical way I shouldn't risk it. I have always thought that faces can be drawn to be symbolically strong, and from this website (and particularly this piece) I am also thinking figures are good for expressing emotional interactions.  

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Textiles 1 Stage 4 Moods and colour exercise 1

Mostly bright colours, but some richer ones.
Bit of a cliche

Lots of grey in almost every colour.
Black seemed right here, and a very pale brown.

Artificial - difficult to get colours this bright by mixing paints!
Oh look, I missed the turquoise

Surprised to find that red and yellow can be dull.
(So surprised that I didn't dare add them in paint - oops)
Mainly grey - even more than for sad.

The next suggested pair was active/passive, but I wasn't really inspired by that. So I chose to do this one instead. I've been thinking about this because of some of the references to feminist ideas in The Textile Book.

Turned out surprisingly pink and pastel
The silk ribbon is a cheat because it's the texture that's female 
rather than particularly the colour.
It turned out prettier in the paints - more pastel.
I think the colours of things are quite badly distorted when
I put them on the computer - eg the blue reel of thread.

I think this one worked well. The strong colours reflecting the decisive
and not very nuanced part of me that I think of as masculine.

I'm thinking some other words that might evoke distinctive colour collections ... limpid/ mysterious, healthy/ sick; ecto-, meso- and endomorph; even sanguine, choleric, melancholic and phlegmatic! Watch this space.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The Textile Book by Colin Gale and Jasbir Kaur pub 2002 Berg

Reading further on in this very ambitious book, I have reached a series of chapters about the different types of textile worker. Well, some of them anyway. The chapters are entitled The textile designer, The Designer-Maker, and The Textile Artist. I found this slightly annoying as the repeated thesis of this book is that such distinctions are more about the market than the practice of textiles.

Having said this, it was useful to have some distinctions drawn, if only to contradict them. So it seems that a professional textile designer, has most of their work being driven by a fairly strict brief, and while they can be freelance, they are often employed by an organisation to do this job. And that some organisations train their textile designers in the house style. I was interested to find out that Liberty designers are trained in botanical drawing. It sounds as though there is limited scope for individuality here.

The book goes on to say, and give some interesting examples, that someone starting as a textile designer can go on to apply their design skills to other areas, and that this can lead to the separation of the design process from the making process, for profit reasons.

Designer- Makers appear to be largely from the affluent West, are more often motivated by the physical sensations of making, and the mastery of their craft. They tend to sell their produce to specialist markets or as luxury goods. This description did make me wonder about the skilled craftsmen and women of non-Western cultures. Presumably they are driven by similar satisfactions and their produce is appreciated by people with disposible income in their own countries. I do not really understand why there is a difference between this and US/ European craftspeople.

Finally, the textile artists. What this book says about this agrees with my impression that there is not yet a clear idea of what this actually means. There was some discussion as to whether it 'should' mean the equivalent of fine artist, or whether, since textiles have something particular about them, the wish to be accepted as a fine art is in fact a wish to limit ones practice to someone else's rules. Perhaps for culturally elitist reasons. I suppose that since anyone can call themselves a textile artist, it will eventually mean the group of people who wish to do so. The book rather reassuringly went on to say that since most fine art, and most textile art, is in the 'low to middle' art section of the market, such distinctions are somewhat moot.

I don't know quite where I stand on this. I deliberately chose to do this particular textile course because it resembled a fine art foundation course, rather than the craft-based courses which predominate. I wanted (and definitely still want) to find out what twisted path my creativity will take me on, rather than learning to more accurately produce a particular style or technique. Believing that what I make expresses something about me that may not be expressible in any other way. Or may be most effecively communicated in this way. Even that I may learn something about the inner me by seeing what 'comes out'. The emphasis, therefore is much more on ideas (concepts I suppose) and following subjectivity than on technique or even the finished product. This is not something that can be coded for and done by someone else. And while I am in awe of master craftsmen of many kinds, and I am attracted to the physical qualities of textures, fabrics and yarns, I do not see myself dedicating myself to mastering a craft. Unless, of course, that turns out to be a necessary step in my journey to express my inner truth!

So, it looks as though I fit best in the textile artist definition, at least at this early stage in my creative development. Although of course I have a great deal of learning to do before I can really call myself that! But having said that, I do feel uncomfortable with the Cinderella Art model of textile art. That if only the fine art establishment looked this way without prejudice they would see how fine we are. I am guessing that if we are really 'fine artists' then we will not restrict ourselves to textiles only. Because what we are doing is not 'Textiles', it is 'Ideas'.

After getting this far in The Textile Book, I thought for a while in my sketchbook about how the use of textiles as a medium can carry a message in itself. And I suspect that this is a much bigger subject than I have understood yet. More surfing for textile artists required I think...

Textiles 1 Stage 3 exercises 3 and 4

Well, after the last attempt to match colours I was a bit reluctant to try again. But, aware of the time passing, I picked a different postcard today - one with lots of bright artificial colours from the British Museum's life and death gallery. I cut out a section of it, rather than masking it, because it seemed a more effective way to prevent distraction.

The central image is Cradle to Grave - detail of pills
Created by Susie Freeman, Dr Liz Lee & David Critchley
British Museum Dept of Ethnography
copyright 2011
It is a photo of different kinds of pills under a transparent wavy sheet.

I found the greys easy to do, and it was interesting how many different variations of grey there were in such a small area. (the colours have not photographed accurately). the browns and greens were also doable, although I found that their water content got higher and higher as I mixed, so eventually the colours were almost washed out. This was disappointing and rather frustrating to me.
When I got to the pink pill, I mixed a large number of variations of purples to find it, and whatever I did  I couldn't match the violent violet pink that made up the strongest colour in the central pill. Whenever I got close, and added white, it turned muddy.

As a result of this experience, and the last one, I realised that I had to learn more about mixing gouache, and about mixing colours in general.  I asked a friend who had done an art foundation course not long ago, and she reassured me that it is not a simple thing to mix colours, and that the most difficult part of it is seeing the colours as they are rather than as you think they are (as implied in the course work file).

I went back to the suggested reading book - Colour A workshop for artists and designers Second edition by David Hornung 2012 Laurence King Publishing. I re-read Part One 'seeing colour' and Part Two 'first principles'. I find that violet is noted as the only colour that you cannot make a clear version of using the 6 primaries, which could explain my problem with the postcard exercise above. (Although it doesn't explain the problem I had making the blue in the previous attempt). Part Three 'materials and techniques' showed me the mistakes I had been making when trying to mix designers gouache, and I think/ hope solved the over-diluting problem for me (by explaining that you mix in the water first, before combining the colours).

The first chromatic grey study from Colour A workshop,
done using old newspaper. Approaching colour mixing
in this way let me appreciate how much I have already learned
about mixing colours, and to relax about it a bit more.

Doing this, very different, kind of colour study made me feel more relaxed about trying out the next exercise in the course work. I picked an apple and a pencil to put on some yellow paper because it seemed to give me a variety of surfaces and shadows to match the colours to. Making it look like the shapes of the objects made it a lot more rewarding to do.

Colour study from life for Exercise 4

After a series of exercises that I found difficult and felt I wasn't getting anywhere much, I had a change of perspective with this one. While I was doing it I realised that the mixing of the colour was less of an issue than the SEEING of the colour in each of the various parts of the set-up.

I was pleased with the changes of colour on the yellow paper with the shadows. I was surprised to find that right next to the pencil appeared lighter than areas further away; that there was a line of shining pale separating this from the darker shadow; that the shadow under the apple really was various shades of purple, and that the relative darkness of parts of the pencil were not predictable (by me at least). I didn't get the green of the apple quite right. I think it should have been yellower overall.

I think I need to have more practice at this, and I want to do some more of the colour workshop exercises. But given the fact that I have spent longer than I should on the colour section of this stage, I will have to do these things as sketchbook work while I get on with the next stage.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Heatherwick Studios at the V&A - OCA Study Visit

Ambience - The V&A is an impressive place with its large scale classical architecture and massive reputation for design and visual arts. The traffic cones over the entrance, the Chihuly ringlets over the reception desk, and the smiling tourists laughing out loud as they swing almost upside down in the Heatherwick metal chairs in the lobby all showed that its attitude to design is lively and up to date.  

A (blurred) page from my notebook on the day.
The clay study interested me because it was obviously the result of
Heatherwick playing with is thumbs in the clay.
The physical process of making quote is from the professed ethos
of the Heatherwick Studios.
The bottom wavy lines are to remind me of what I liked about the
woven metal screens at the bottom of Guy's Hospital Tower. 

The room that houses the exhibition is not particularly small but it felt cramped with so much, and so many people, stuffed into it. However, I found that I didn't mind this as much as I expected because what there was to see held my attention. 

Theme - The creative process of the Heatherwick Studio since its opening 14 years ago.
How it uses experimentation with materials and the making of models and prototypes to develop designs. And the amazing innovation this has produced.

Display - The items were approximately in groups according to how the creative problem had been solved, with a section in the middle relating to Heatherwick's personal collection of found objects and childhood cards. Because they were grouped in clumps, it was not immediately obvious that the groups were together for a reason, and walking round the exhibition was a voyage of discovery in this sense (as well as many others).

Lighting - The lighting appeared to be dim when I first entered the room, but I quickly forgot about this, and had no problem seeing the objects or signs. 

Explanation - The signs were clear, with a central discussion of the group overall and what it showed about the process of design in the studios. The same information was on the programme obtained by turning the handle of a machine in the entrance. There was sometimes too little information about the individual items for my taste. For example the first object - an iron chair with curves on either side like sheeps' horns was referred to only briefly as a student object. I would have liked to have known the brief and something about the thoughts that went into designing it.  

Visual - There was a lot to catch the eye, with large items on the wall, and strange and intriguing shapes everywhere. There was strikingly little colour.

I have picked out a few of the items that interested me most in this exhibition.

Cloud Bridge
I haven't been able to find a picture of this on the internet. The bridge is supported by flat circles. In the model these were made of card. A model beside it showed how it was carefully constructed so that the diameters of the circles were in the right places to support the weight of the bridge, but their unusual shape and size gave an illusion of lightness.

This bridge is decorative and functional. I thought it looked more like confetti than cloud, and wondered if there may have been a wedding (in which case it would have been symbolic as well).

I loved the way it looked casual, almost accidental, with lots of spaces visible between the circles. There was something very clever about it being strong and this strength being hidden at the same time.

Temple Design
The form of the temple was determined by folding over a piece of rubberised foam. This was then translated into the model using wooden sticks. At first I thought they were lollipop sticks, as is traditional when making models! The combination of the soft curved shapes given by the foam and the precision-cut wood was delightful.

For a model for Kyoto temple design - click here

Because of the design being determined by fabric, it refers to natural curved folded shapes like clouds, hills etc.

Is it decorative, expressive, functional or symbolic? Hm. All of them I think. But mostly functional (I believe thought will have been put into the functioning of the building as a temple, but there was nothing to indicate this that I saw) and symbolic. A place where the usual rules of the street do not apply is amply demonstrated by the shape of it. There is something comforting and transcendent about the roundness and the organic shape.

I liked the way this shape made me feel. I'm not sure how it would be to have it by the side of a road. I'm not sure what it would be like to be inside trying to pray. During the discussion one of the other textiles students expressed my opinion that this was interesting but the community centre built in the shapes of stones next to it in the exhibition was not. I think this is because the stones one did not give me the joy of the new. It may be that it would be new and exciting to be in the building, but the way it was displayed did not indicate this to me.

Seed Cathedral
This 'building' was to display a collection of 250,000 seeds for an expo in Shanghai, to demonstrate to the Chinese that Britain isn't stuck in the Victorian past.

The marvel of this is that it is so very different from any conventional idea of how to display a collection of things. And so light and appropriate for seeds, being in the shape of a seed pod itself. And so very different from any building you've ever seen!

It is decorative, expressive and of course symbolises an optimism for the future. Since the aim was to change the view of the Chinese, I am sure that it was extremely functional too.

Link to Guardian picture of seeds in acrylic rods

Link to a picture of Seed Cathedral

I like the way the shape of the building developed from the shape of the display inside. And the seeds look great in their rods. The 'superfluity of repetitive attention' reminds me of the excess and built-in redundancy of most seeds.

I am rather in awe of the amount of work that must have gone into designing and building this building.

What I have learned from this study visit:

This was my first study visit with the OCA. It was a chance to meet Jane and James, and of course some of my co-course members.

Things I have learned from this visit:

1. It has made me aware of how much I have limited my own imagination by thinking about the practicalities of time and manpower. That there's no harm in dreaming!
2. I delight in the playfulness of these innovations, and see that other people do too (and laugh as they play on them). I should definitely play more with any materials I can find.
3. I have always made things from what I have around, rather than going out to get the proper materials, and this has resulted in some unusual ways of doing things. I have been thinking that I should curb this, and concentrate on using the proper materials, but this exhibition has made me value making up new ways of making things a bit more too.
4. That a notebook can be just as evocative as photos. If not more so.
5. That good design is good design and that a boundary between designs using different materials may be entirely artificial and counterproductive.

Inspired by this exhibition to use the qualities of materials,
I folded the information sheet into spirals so that I could
stick it into my sketchbook without losing the information on the back.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Textiles 1 Stage 3 Exercise 3

This is another colour-matching exercise, this time to a postcard that is 'particularly rich in colour.' I had a few to choose from, but most of the really richly coloured ones had a rather limited range of colours. I think I must go for that, seeing it as harmonious.

What I chose in the end was this cut out piece from a magazine, which has some tricky features in the skin in and out of shadow, transparent brown skirt, and a variety of different colours in the embroidery.

This is as far as I got with this exercise today

I found this exercise difficult.

The brown was more purple than brown, and just wouldn't look the same on the page as it did on the brush. The effect of the light on it in the top right hand corner was unexpected - that it didn't look brown/purple at all but a sort of cream. And the gouache wouldn't spread for the large area of brown, so I added some water which inevitably changed the colour. I was quite pleased with the colour of the transparent section of skirt at the bottom, but then I found I had put my brush in the wrong part of the palette, and ruined the subtle colour. And the brown section I painted between her legs under the embroidery has dried looking as if there are red blotches in it.

I had particular difficulty with the blue colour. Nothing I could add to either blue would make it look like this, and I cannot tell (as I usually can) whether it needs more green, or red, or yellow. I am stuck.

This shows how many different blues I have made to try to match the light blue embroidery.
So at this point I stopped trying to do this exercise today. Next time I will decide whether to persevere with this one, or pick a different postcard.

Looking on the bright side, the colour exercises I have done so far gave me the confidence to try to paint the autumn colours of a huge rhubarb leaf, and this is how it turned out.

Rhubarb leaf
Pencil and inks

My colour mixing page for the inks I used

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Tutor Feedback Assignment 1

Student name
Christina Rogers
Student number
Textile 1: A creative Approach
Assignment number

Overall Comments
You have got a great attitude to this course which has enabled you to be bold in your experimentation.
Do get into the habit of labeling your work with the materials used. Part of the purpose of these exercises is to build a visual vocabulary of both materials and techniques that you can refer back to when looking for a technique to express a particular idea.

Assessment potential
Formal Assessment: You have indicated in your learning blog that you would like to submit your work for formal assessment. More and more people are taking the idea of lifelong learning seriously by submitting their work for assessment but it is entirely up to you. We are just as keen to support you whether you study for pleasure or to gain qualifications.  Please consider whether you want to put your work forward for assessment and confirm your decision when you submit assignment 2.  I can then give you feedback on how well your work meets the assessment requirements.”

Feedback on assignment Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity
Project 1 mark making
The aim of this project was to explore a range of mark making techniques first with pencil and then using various media. The objective was to break down the process of drawing, encouraging you to broaden your range of marks and challenge the way you think about the marks you make. Through this you discover the different qualities of line and texture that you can create. This will form the basis of drawing for designing purposes that you will develop in later exercises.

You have created a wide range of marks in this project using a diverse range of materials. You have been inventive in using objects to make marks with. Do continue to experiment with these techniques and apply them in sketchbooks and the design stages throughout this course.

The mixed media pages for Stage 4 of the pineapple scales and the tangled threads are particularly successful. You have use the media and techniques well to express the image.

Project 2 Developing your marks
In this project you take your mark making into stitch learning a range of different stitches and how to translate your earlier mark making results to use them to create texture.

Again beautifully executed stitches for these samples. You have used a range of thicknesses of yarn as well as different types of threads and backgrounds. Notice how the light reflects differently off different yarns and also with the direction of the stitches.

The samples for Stage 2 shows have a lovely rhythm to them. I like the way you have created textures in the way the density of the stitches are regulated.

Your sample for stage 6 using the images of marbling from your sketchbook has a lot of texture to it. Again you have used a good variety of yarn types and thicknesses, stitches and stitch lengths to create texture. Your bold approach has paid off.

It seems a small thing but, do be careful how you label your samples. If you do go for assessment you will need to put your name, student number as well as the project, stage and exercise. I notice these have got a bit confuses for your stitch samples.

Sketchbooks Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Demonstration of Creativity
Sketchbooks are an integral part of this course aimed at helping you to practice techniques, collect information visually and also in note form about things you see, record ideas you have. If you decided to go for formal assessment sketchbooks together with learning logs will make up 20% of your marks.

Your notes in your reflection on part 1 suggest you can already see the benefit of regular work in your sketchbook. You comment on using it not just for drawing but for collecting images making notes etc. That is very much the case.

Learning logs or Blogs/Critical essays Context
If you haven’t already found it there is a very good discussion about this on the OCA website in a video interview with Pat Maloney one of the writers of this course. It’s called ‘Linda Beadle’s Logbooks’ and you will find it under OCA Resources, and the Latest Videos section.

Your blog has lots of information in it and charts your thought progressions illustrating how you have overcome concerns. Your comments in your reflection on part 1 show that you have taken on board the importance of research.

You have made some comments in your blog about how much freedom you have to interpret the instructions in the manual. Generally, particularly in the early stages, you are asked to experiment with techniques so this does give you freedom to try things out. I think the way you expressed it in your reflection on part 1 sums it up very well. There are many ‘right’ ways of doing things and you are encouraged to develop your creativity. As you say this course focuses on developing your own self expression through the medium of textiles to find a personal voice. These things take time to develop, and you have made a great start on this journey.

Suggested Reading/viewing Context
Have a look at artists such as Alice Kettle and Audrey Walker
They both use machine embroidery to build up pictures. Their style and subject matter is different but the technique is basically the same.
Another artist who uses sewing to draw is Shizuko Kimura, but in a very different way.

Pointers for the next assignment
There is quite a lot in this next assignment. You will look at colour theory, mixing and recording colour and then into the building blocks of designing including printing, composition and building patterns and repeats.

Tutor name
Charlotte Grierson
6 September 2012
Next assignment due
5 November 2012

My thoughts on reading this report and additional aims for the next section of the course:
Overall - I'm pleased with this feedback.
I do need to think of all these exercises and sketchbook work as building up a reference collection so that I can find the techniques I need when I have something to make.
It's a little strange to be spending so much time doing this. In the past I have had something in my mind to make, and worked out the techniques to do it in response to this. Doing it this way round makes me feel a little frustrated at times, but then I do have a lot to learn! And I can see already from the mark-making and stitching exercises that it does help to have samples to look back at.
When I'm doing the exercises, or working in my sketchbook, to be aware that what I am doing is building up a library of examples, and label them accordingly.

Project 1 Mark making
It's useful to have the feedback about particular examples being successful, because it clarifies what the exercise was intended to do. I have looked back at the two examples given, because in fact I hadn't thought that they were particularly successful. I had been more excited about how the teddy bear one had turned out.
Looking at them I can see that while the teddy bear one has some interesting 3D appearance, it is not at all a good representation of the feeling or appearance of the original drawing. Whereas the pineapple one does give something of the nobbly complexity of the original, and the stalks were rather like the original in feeling.
Do some more of this exercise in sketchbook to find out how to translate and explore drawings without losing their nature.

Project 2 Developing your marks
It is good to have some positive feedback, especially since during this project I had quite a lot of doubts about whether I was doing the right thing.
I really enjoyed these exercises and want to do more of them, but I can see that there is a lot of work on paper in the next section and more embroidery will have to wait until I have got a little further with the course.
Labelling is one of those things I am just going to have to get used to doing thoroughly the first time.

I have enjoyed working/playing in my sketchbook. I really noticed the difference in my rate of inspiration when I slowed down to alternate days at the beginning of the school term.
Keep up a daily sketchbook entry.

Look at stuff suggested in assignment feedback.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Textiles1 Stage 3 Exercise 2

Matching fabric colours

My first try

I picked a colourful piece of fabric with enough colours to give me a good idea of how to match colours,  but not so grey or dark that it would be unnecessarily difficult for me to do it.

Using my colour mixing pages from the previous exercise, I found it easier than I expected to mix the orange and pink. I found that I had a reasonable idea of what kind of purple would turn into that pink when I added a bit of white. And from my colour mixing page I knew which blue to mix with which yellow. The background colour seemed to be nearly as easy to mix, despite the rather subtle colours in it.

Unfortunately, with the background colour I forgot to do a test square at the edge of the paper, and I found that the colour of the paint on my brush was not at all the same colour it became when it was put on the paper. I finished putting it on, and waited for it to dry, and then decided that I would have to start again if I was going to learn how to match colours accurately ie the purpose of this exercise.

Better background, not so happy about the brown

So what I've learned from this exercise is
1. That I have already learned something about what happens to colours when you add white; that I can usually make a good guess about which colours to mix together; when to add a small amount of the complementary colour (when there's anything brownish about it).
2. To ALWAYS test it on the paper before putting it down.
3. That very bright colours can look good together too.
4. That it is best to have the 6 basic colours that can be mixed together rather than pre-mixed ones.
5. That I have a lot of practising to do if I am going to be able to predictably mix colours.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Textiles 1 Stage 3 Mixing Colours

Mixing colours with designers gouache

This exercise was to practice mixing colours. I starting by using designers gouache as I knew I would have the correct colours for this, having bought what was listed in the course work file.

Making a colour circle
The first part was to paint the colours of a colour circle, and I did that as well as I could, but realised pretty quickly that there were more possible colours than the ones I had chosen if I used every combination of the 6 colours I had. I also realised quickly that I needed to find a way of labelling each colour I mixed to help me to use the information gathered in this exercise in future. I used the numbers of the paint colours according to the manufacturer.

Adding white
The next part of the exercise was to choose a few of the clearest colours and add white.
I assume that the reason for choosing the clearest is because they are most likely to remain clear rather than getting rapidly too dark or grey to be distinguished. This is from my reading of the Colour Workshop introduction, which implies this. I chose the clear colours that appealed to me most - orange made from cadmium red and cadmium yellow, an emerald green, cadmium yellow itself and ultramarine.

Adding white to clear colours seems to not only lighten them but to a certain extent changes the colour eg red to pink, in a way which is not necessarily intuitive to me. This revelation added to my fear that I am not a natural colour person and that I may have to spend an extra long time on this section.

Adding black
Then I added black to each of the colours I had chosen. It was quickly obvious that black paint has a very strong pigment that overwhelms anything else in the paint, so they all ended up being black.

Adding grey
Then I added grey (ie black and white in various combinations) to these colours, which resulted in some lovely subtle colours. I particularly liked the colours resulting from adding grey to the yellow and green.

Adding the complementary colour
Finally, I added the complementary colour. I wasn't always sure of which shade was the complementary one. And sometimes the complementary colour was a mixture of two others, which left me the decision about how much of each to add to it. (I think I made a mistake with the Ultramarine, thinking its complementary colour was lemon yellow when it should have been an orange). But when I did it right, this resulted in a variety of lovely browns, some of them greenish/ khakhi and some more orangey/ rusty. It kind of clicked for me when I realised that adding enough of the complementary colour led me round to the line of colours on the other side of the circle!

I started to realise that this is how people know what to mix together to get a particular colour. That the more I did of it the more useful information (and if I am lucky more 'intuition' about this). And I  enjoyed doing this colour mixing so much that I did more columns of other colours - cerulean blue and a purple.

Using Designers Gouache
I found the designers gouache paints were not very forgiving if I left water on my brush. That made the paints run, be irregular in their pigment, and look washed out. If there was no water on the brush at all the paint was difficult to put onto the paper smoothly. I love the richness and softness of the colours they make though. And the way they dry very quickly is useful when I'm working in my sketchbook.

Using Watercolours
I tried mixing more colours with watercolour paints. I had less variety to choose from, and made the colour wheel as best I could from what I had, which did not require me to mix any colours but gave me a slightly inaccurate range of blues and purples.

Mixing colours with watercolour paints

I think the colours weren't changed quite as much by adding white. Can that be true?
I didn't do the black/grey part of the exercise because I didn't have a black.
Perhaps I could have made up a 'black' by mixing colours together. I think that is suggested in the Colour Workshop book. I will look it up and see if I have time to do some of the exercises in it during this section.

The complementary colours were again very interesting, but much more difficult to judge for these colours which were provided already mixed, than with the colours I mixed myself in the gouache section. The result is a couple of nice greens rather than the browns I expected.

I stopped there because I didn't think I was learning what I wanted to learn using pre-mixed paints. I loved the feel of painting with these watercolour paints, though, and was surprised to find how rich the colours could be if I didn't add much water. There was none of the difficulty or blotchiness of the gouache paints, and they went onto the paper very smoothly each time.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Monet, the impressionists, and colour 1


Impression soleil levant
Claude Monet
Oil on canvas

This was the painting that gave rise to the title Impressionists. 'One of the canvases submitted for the First Impressionist Exhibition in 1874, this was singled out by an antagonistic critic as typifying the "half-finished" look of all the works on show, and he dubbed the group "Impressionists."In the personal terminology Monet used to describe his various types of paintings he would normally have called this work a pochade (sketch). However, as he said himself, he called it "impression" because "it really could not pass as a view of Le Havre," and he subsequently used the same word for a number of his paintings, all of them quick atmospheric sketches capturing a particular light effect. An "impression" for Monet was a special and limited form of sketch, and although the other Impressionists accepted the word as a reasonable description of their aims, Monet himself used it only when he felt it appropriate to a particular work.'
excerpt from Monet by Trewin Copplestone

Impressionist ideas and techniques:
The following information is from

This says that Edouard Manet, another French painter, stopped painting in the very slow classical way of preparing, adding layers which had to dry, and then varnishing the painting, and decided to paint a whole oil painting in one sitting. This allowed him to paint from life which appealed to him as a 'Realist' school painter, who wanted to paint things as they really are, rather than as they would ideally be. The impressionists used this rapid painting technique to allow them to capture particular qualities of light which were too transient for the classical technique. 

In the 1860s, several artists met near Manet's studio at Café Guerbois twice a week including Monet, Renoir, Degas, Alfred Sisley, Émile Zola, and sometimes Paul Cézanne, Camille Pissarro, and others. 

The other relevant innovation of Manet was 'tachism' which was a word to describe how he used patches of colour to indicate light hitting colours, rather than using shading with a series of different kinds of that colour. The impressionists took this idea and broke up the patches into smaller areas. 

I tried to find a painting of Manet's that I would be able to see this technique in, but found this instead, and on a website I found the Margaret Atwood poem about it, which was published in the Winter 1993-4 Ploughshares. I include it because it made me laugh by how accurately it describes my slightly sickened response to this painting. 

Oil on board
Musee D'Orsay, Paris

“Manet’s Olympia” 
She reclines, more or less.
Try that posture, it’s hardly languor.
Her right arm sharp angles.
With her left she conceals her ambush.
Shoes but not stockings,
how sinister. The flower
behind her ear is naturally
not real, of a piece
with the sofa’s drapery.
The windows (if any) are shut.
This is indoor sin.
Above the head of the (clothed) maid
is an invisible voice balloon: Slut.
But. Consider the body,
unfragile, defiant, the pale nipples
staring you right in the bull’s-eye.
Consider also the black ribbon
around the neck. What’s under it?
A fine red threadline, where the head
was taken off and glued back on.
The body’s on offer,
but the neck’s as far as it goes.
This is no morsel.
Put clothes on her and you’d have a schoolteacher,
the kind with the brittle whiphand.
There’s someone else in this room.
You, Monsieur Voyeur.
As for that object of yours
she’s seen those before, and better.

I, the head, am the only subject
of this picture.
You, Sir, are furniture.

Get stuffed.
by Margaret Atwood

It makes me wish I had been there at the exhibition to see the outrage. Although, remembering my confusion and fascination with Manet's Dejeuner sur l'herbe as a teenager, I might have been as disturbed as everyone else.

Looking at copies of this painting on the internet, I found an interesting comment about the controversy by one of the impressionists, .......saying (in my interpretation of his words) that since there are plenty of naked or semi-clothed women in the Louvre the outrage was unreasonable and should show people their hypocrisy. This had the effect of a revelation on me. This was conceptual art!

But then later I realised that the 'unfinished' style and the deliberate provocation could well be a reason for outrage, making it less of a masterwork of meaning than it could otherwise have been. 

The technique isn't really visible to me in any of the reproductions I could find online. So I am moving on, the subject of my second Impressionist page being what happened next...

'Colour is my day-long obsession, joy, and torment.' Claude Manet, quoted in Colour a workshop for artists and designers' by David Hornung.
Port Gouphare, Belle Ile
Art Gallery of New South Wales