Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Using weaving in my theme book

During these exercises I have been working on my theme of The Sound of Cicadas, exploring images and designs for my final piece.

This is my copy of a cicada photo I found on the internet, using acrylics to explore the shapes and colours.

I was particularly interested in the patterns of veins on the wings, the spots, and the folding abdomen.

I found from reading about them that the males who make the cicada sound to attract females, do so by making the layers of their abdomen go in and out and scrape against each other.

I am intrigued by the way the wings are made. How are they grown like that - filmy with the lines joining like the lines between soap bubbles, and yet strong and stiff enough to fly with?

Although I have been telling myself to move on to other images and ideas, I have found myself drawn back to these wings repeatedly.

This is another page of my sketchbook showing a more detailed drawing of the wing veins, and the patches. When you look at them more closely you can see that they don't reach the edge of the wing. That the patches are inserted within the lines rather than between them. That the relative proportions of vein to wing fabric is smaller than you would have thought necessary to keep it stiff against the wind resistance. So the fabric of the wing itself must be stronger than it looks.

The angle of curve of the wing at the top where it attaches, and on the inside edge are very distinctively wing-like - recognisable from lots of different sorts of flying creatures. I wonder if those angles are necesary for aerodynamic reasons.

Doing this drawing, and the weaving exercise at the same time made me think about the possibility of weaving the wing out of something strong but translucent.

This is my attempt to do so, using wire, tracing paper, and strips of plastic from a milk carton.

Making the wire shapes was easier than I expected. I didn't quite get the angle right at the bottom edge.

In order to fill the irregular triangle space between the wires/ veins, I cut the strips of plastic as long thin triangles, and wove them through the wire 'weft'.

At the angle of the wing, it seemed important to curve the strips upwards. I put coloured tracing paper (from a newspaper advertisement) into the spaces where the spots were on the wing.

Looking at the result, I can now see that the horizontal lines of the warp are wrong for the wing - the stripes of weave need to be in the other direction from wing tip to attachment, in order to reflect the movement of the image more accurately. The degree of translucency is good, but the colour needs to be graduated from grey to yellow. And the lack of flexibility of the plastic is a problem here, because it means I cannot really curve it without distorting the wing shape. And because it leaves irregular gaps in the fabric of the wing.

I have been interested to find how working in different ways on these wings has helped me to sort out their complexity into an understandable model in my head. Initially the design of the wing looked almost like random lines with spots randomly on it. Now I can see much better how it is constructed, and what I would need to do to make something like it.

This reminds me of seeing anatomical drawings from 500 or 600 years ago, next to similar drawings from 100 years later, and how without a hypothesis as to how the body worked, the detail was simply not visible to the artist/ scientist before a certain date. (At an exhibition at the Wellcome Institute a couple of years ago).

It reminds me that following my intrigueometer is a good way to work in my sketchbook, and I shouldn't resist it.

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