Sunday, 2 September 2012

Textiles 1: Stage 2 Preparation and North American Ethnography

Colour - Introduction and preparation

The instructions said it was 'almost impossible' to make a 12 colour circle with only 3 colours, which I took as a challenge!. This is my attempt, which isn't too bad I think. I picked a scarlet, a royal blue and lemon yellow as the starting points. I am glad I used pencils as the uneven colouring gave a nice effect that reminded me of Monet and Cezanne's way of colouring with lots of different colours adding up the final impression. I should have another look at those impressionists. 

The difference between tone and saturation is new to me. I have not used these words in this technical way before. So I have done my experimentation rather formally in order to try to get the difference into my head.

I was surprised at the change in the colour as white was added, especially with the blue and the brown. I think I need to do some more experimentation with this (and buy some more white gouache!) to start to correct my expectations about this. And to have a reference so that I can mix colours in future with some predictability.

After doing this 'tone' experiment, I read the first chapter of the book 'Colour A workshop for artists and designers' by David Hornung 2nd Ed 2012 Laurence King Publishing.  This told me that the pigments in gouache are very strong so to get a 50/50 tone you have to use a lot more than 50% white.   

For the right side of the page I used a different red - the brilliant red of the gouache set I have. I am still not entirely sure what saturation is, unless it really is simply the amount of a particular pigment as a proportion of the whole colour. But then each of the marks on the right of the paper has more than one colour saturation. 

The course work is admirably clear, both about what to do, and about the areas of interest and priorities for the exercise. The way it separates out the four ways of thinking about colour is new to me and helps me to organise my thoughts about colour in a useful way.


I expect they overlap a bit. A lot. Everyone being marinaded in symbolic and psychological effects and meanings. And these meanings having emotional effects on us as people.

This thought brings me back to what I read in the excellent 'Art Theory for Beginners'....that the work an artist produces is a product of their cultural influences, and cannot be separated from that. There is some relief in this from the ambition to be entirely original. And some awareness that the wish to be original is in itself a cultural norm. Reading this book I suddenly had insight into the fact that my desire to produce objects that express the hidden inner me was itself a culturally determined urge. The greater perspective this gave me than showed me how narrow my world really is, and made me feel a little dizzy with the hugeness of the subject.

 Works of art by North American indiginous people - Private collection
When I was in Toronto I stayed with a family who had a personal collection of objects made by indiginous First Nation people of North America. These objects were made using natural materials available to them where they lived. The range of colours was consequently very narrow but the range of textures was large and interesting. Most of them had an obvious practical or ceremonial purpose, unlike the works of art in contemporary Western cultures.

We squeezed in a visit to the Royal Ontario Museum's ethnographic collection. It was dark, and to someone like me with no knowledge at all of the different ethnic groups and their geographical locations there was little explanation that I could find in our brief visit. There were quite a few objects and clothes with more colour, but I believe these are more recent, from after the arrival of the Europeans (although I could be wrong about this - something to check). I was looking for the style and world view of those people before the invasion (because being from my cultural background I wonder if that can tell me something about human nature, or about aesthetics before the enlightenment). Of course, this is going to be very different from the attitude of their descendents, who may well be just as interested in the objects made by their grandparents or great-grandparents!

Some of the objects which caught my eye are below. I cannot attribute them correctly as I didn't have much time to record things, but I want to include them here all the same, to remind myself of what was interesting to me as a beginning of further investigations and experimentation.

Detail of the decoration of a robe from the
Royal Ontario Museum collection.
I found the combination of regular stripes and attractively
curved pattern intriguing. It made me want to experiment
with this myself.

This was embroidered in fine detail on what
looked like bark. I was told that the strips of
couched off-white are porcupine quills.
This is beautiful and accomplished in a familiar
European way and I am not sure if it would ever have been used for carrying arrows.

These two objects caught my eye. The top ones are made of what looks like very thin animal skins. I liked the way the leather was so thin and delicate looking with the wisps of fur at the top indicating that they would be soft and warm all the same. They don't seem very practical. (But then neither do many of the shoes I wear!). The waterproof bag at the bottom is made from the feet of a bird. I thought this was funny, and whoever thought of it was imaginative and pragmatic. 
I have been intrigued by the way animals are represented by some of the more northern people eg Inuits,
with the parts of the body being separated into their elements rather than joined into one.
Again, this is something I would like to look into more.

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