Sunday, 19 January 2014

Composition squares from all I've done so far

I don't know what the technical term may be (if there is one), but when I was doing Textiles 1: A creative approach, I found that picking out squares of images I had done for their composition was very useful in taking the process forward.

I have gone through my workbook with a couple of sizes of card squares and found these....

Of these, the ones that appeal most are....

It's the colours and light that work for this one.

Not sure how I would translate this into a screenprint.

I'm used to deciding the technique I'm going to use AFTER deciding on what it should look like, so doing it this way round is different, and I'm not sure it will work so well.

Have to work on it a bit and try some things if I choose this one.

This detail of the hallway photo in the dark appeals to me a lot, and this composition with only part of the rectangle of light at the top is interesting. I'm not at all sure how to get that blurred effect with spots of different colours using screenprinting - perhaps with literally spots of primary colours, greyed out, on different layers. Sounds a bit daunting but would be amazing if I managed it.

Rather blurry photo doesn't do it justice, but this appeals for the same reasons as the original scaffolding photo, but with the additional interest of the lines at either edge of the poles and the diagonals.

There's potential for interesting pattern repeats from rotating this around the four sides.

I'm wondering about trying out something like this in tapestry weaving. A bit like the woven pattern in the El Dorado exhibition at the British Museum.

As above, better as edging than a whole image.

This one would need less time to develop, which is a consideration now that I'm nearly at my allotted deadline.

It is dawning on me that I'm going to have to extend it. Again.

What made me think that any new job would be less demanding that the old one?! (It is, once I'm used to it, but that takes time).

 I think this could look very interesting if I used different colours as well as different tones.

Again needs sketchbook work to develop it further before using it.

Could look interesting as a repeat pattern or border.

This one gives me a good feeling that it could turn into something great.

I like the layered look like peeling paint. But it is probably more suitable for applique or something else.

The extra random bits of pattern and variations in the paint and texture that turn up with screenprinting (at least the way I do it!) are interesting and these lines seem to accentuate these effects.

This square has lots of interest and contrast and some texture. I could enjoy working with it.

This last one is appealing, but actually rather simple and therefore not so itneresting to work with.

Thursday, 9 January 2014


Alexander Rochencko (1891-1950) Cover for El Lissitsky's book 'The isms of Art' 1921

Doing this sketchbook exploration of scaffolding has been reminding me of constructivist images I have seen, like the one above, so I thought it was worth looking into the movement in a bit more detail than I have before.

Constructivism was an artistic movement in Russia which started just before the Revolution, but flourished after it with the full support of the Bolsheviks. It followed artistic experiments in other countries such as cubism, futurism, and suprematism in Russia. It contributed to many important subsequent movements in European art in the 20th Century including Kandinski and the Bauhaus in Germany.

The principle of the constructivists was that art was to have a social role. 'Tatlin's that the spiritual revolution of his creativity should act as directly and powerfully on actual everyday life as does the political revolution.' This quote, and much of my understanding of the constructivists, is from a PhD thesis by Wendy Bark (1995) Constructivist costume, textile and theatre design 1917-1934; a study of contructivism set in the social, cultural, political and historical context of post-revolutionary Russia' 

Model of Tatlin's 'Monument to the Third International 1920
This building, which was intended to be larger than the Eiffel Tower, and contain 3 blocks inside to house a political centre, was never built. It was not designed with engineering principles in mind, but a much more artistic vision with the spiral being a visual representation of the 'revolution'.
The model of this tower exhibited in the courtyard of the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 2011 was my introduction to Constructivism, and the accompanying exhibition of architecture inspired me with the excitement of the architects starting afresh. It reminded me of the way dress designers in the 1960s starting making very geometric designs and bright strong colours (and for some of the same reasons), and led to the exploration outlined in this blog.

Many sources quote Tatlin's idea as "Not the old, not the new, but the necessary", which to modern Western ears sounds as if he were trying to make the purely functional, a sort of anti-Art. Whereas in fact, he argued against the 'tyranny of forms born by technology without the participation of artists.'. According to the website Cabinet//Tatlin, or, Ruinophilia, his own slogans, 'Art into Life' and 'Art into Technology!', are not only about putting art in the service of life, but about 'opening the horizons of the imagination' to making art itself the medium of social revolution. He is quoted as having believed that his artistic movement was in some way a necessary precursor of the Bolshevic revolution.

A corner detail of a residential block in the Narkomfin development, 1931.
An experiment in communal housing. Photo by MA Ilyin/ Schusev State Museum of Architecture

Marxism encompasses the idea that 'the environment determines consciousness'. It isn't surprising, therefore, that many of Tatlin's followers happily became propagandists for the new regime with their 'contempt for literary and artistic idols and passion for formal innovation'.

This movement followed a period of revitalising of the folk crafts and an increase in prestige for the applied arts in Russia, for example through the journal Mir Iskusstva. And this background can be traced through into Tatlin's respect for the qualities of the materials he used, and the introduction of unusual materials into art works, the legacy of which can be traced through 20th century sculpture.
Self portrait of Alexander Rodchenko 1933 showing his wish to show images from all sides at once, as if walking round a sculpture.
taken from

Other committed Constructivists include Alexander Rochenko; his wife Varvara Stepanova (1989-1924), and Liupov Popova (1889-1924).
Varvara Stepanova 1923 in sports clothes she designed to be functional yet attractive, deliberately moving away from fashions
designed in Paris in a bourgeois capitalist culture.
Textile design was thought to be a particularly good way to communicate socialist principles to the masses, who might otherwise have little exposure to them. The design process was effectively restricted to 5 centres after the revolution. Designs were expected to avoid over luxuriousness or bourgeois   sentimentality, and this can be seen in the use of flat colour, and the lack of embroidery or rich fabrics. 

Popova's Painterly Architechtonics 1918-19
Photo: State museum of contemporary art copied from Guardian website, which comments: 'It is a strange idea, both arrogant and naive, that compositions in oil paint might shape cities.'

Rodchenko collage 1919
From max.mmlc.northwestern.educ/

Rodchenko cover for Marietta Shaginan's 'Novyi byt and Art' 1923

How I respond to these images and ideas:

While I am not a communist, I can definitely relate to the idea that design of environment can have an important effect on the ideas you have. And while it is naive to think that you could teach socialism to the masses by the design of textiles, or by making a play, its scenery and its costumes in one coherent whole, it is an idealistic hope that appeals to me.

I am enough of a socialist to want everyone to feel able to be part of the same human race, and not excluded from the hub of things by distribution of wealth or accident of birth. I have some sympathy for the idea that pastel colours and prettiness is middle-class sentimentality, which can make being a crafty middle-aged white woman rather an uncomfortable place for me at times. 

What do I see in this style of art? It's all very flat - even the architecture! With very little in the way of textural variation, except where the photographs bring it in. The colours are clear and strong and simple. The lines are strong and their interest is in their relationship to each other. The mood is positive, forward-looking, hopeful and excited about the possibilities.

And rightly so, at least in artistic terms, in view of the huge influence these ideas have had on art and architecture in the following century. 

I think that is what I like most about this style - that feeling that creativity is being given its freedom and art might even lead to a better society for everyone.

Paper dress, Dispo (Meyersohn & Silverstein Ltd), 1967, London.
From Victoria and Albert Museum no. T.181-1986
An example of a 1960s dress design which gave me a similar feeling of hope and creative freedom.

Sunday, 5 January 2014


When I first started doing textile art with OCA I went around taking lots of photos of things, and this was one of them, enlarged and printed out.

What I liked about it was the combination of curves and straight lines, regular irregularity,
and the amazing shapes the shadows make on the netting.
Which is a strange colour - I don't know why I  say that - perhaps it will come to me.
And the edge, with its pattern of parallel lines.

I worked on it in my 'coursework' sketchbook, looking at the different parts of the design separately.

This pink tissue is cut to reflect the darker parts of the shadowing. I found it difficult to cut this pattern accurately with scissors and I think in future I might try with a craft-knife. It turned out rather less repetitive and geometrical and sharp than I hoped.

It's pink because I found that if I then covered it with blue tissue it would make a dark grey like the actual colour of the shadows.

Here it is with the blue on top.
The edge is scalloped like it is in the photo.

And here are both layers covered in tracing paper, on which I have traced the pattern of the poles.

The planks are reinforced by black strips of paper under the tracing paper.

I like the way the tracing paper changes the colour  underneath just as if it were adding some white to it. I particularly like the poles sticking out at the edge and how the eye is drawn to it because of the greater contrast of the detail there against the paler background.

I was very pleased with this try, and decided to use it prepare a print of all 3 layers, so I could experiment with different ways of making a pattern with screen printing.

So, this is my much more accurate tracing of the shadows and light areas than I managed with the pink tissue.

Doing this made me more aware of the repeats and alignments than I had been, and it became more interesting to me as a result.

Sometimes I think there's no point in doing things over again in a different way, and then something like this happens.

This one us of the two tracings superimposed, which I did to make sense of the placement of the shapes before cutting them out of sticky backed vinyl. (Below)

The idea of this is to add paler sections to allow the background colour to show through, leaving 'shadows' elsewhere.

This one shows the vinyl stencil and tracing taped to the screen. As you can see I decided to give the multiple screen a try despite some misgivings, partly because of just wanting to make something!

Trying out different pressures and papers:

Since I didn't have a teacher handy, I started by trying out different pressures on the squeedgee when printing.

This shows what happens when I didn't press hard enough - not enough paint got onto the paper.

The one that was the most even and therefore gave the clearest edges was the one that I pressed hardest on.

These were done on rougher, more absorbent paper.

The light pressure one came out more textured. Again the higher pressure gave a better result.

I tried setting them next to each other to see how making use of the negative space would work out - it looks interesting, and I could use it.

However the bottom right one shows what happens when there isn't enough paint - again interesting but not very reproduceable! Instructions with the acrylic paint indicate that as well as being mixed with other colours (eg white in this case), it could be diluted with water. This is me trying this out, and printing on cardboard from a cereal packet as one step more rough and absorbent than the last paper. 

Watering it down was successful only up to a point. After that it got bubbly, which looks interesting but again not very controllable.

The printing worked OK on this cardboard, but not as well as the previous paper.

On the left is my try at printing on brown parcel paper. The paint didn't 'take' as well, and you can see places where it leaked through under the tape I used to make the stencil. (Also above).

Not sure what to do about this as the glue was loosened during washing of previous paint off the screen.

Experimenting with the shadows stencil:

This is what it looks like when I overlap the shadow stencil so that it repeats.

Again, I learn the importance of marking where the repeat comes on the frame. This one worked reasonably well, not perfect.

It could work as a border.

I'm not sure about the sqare tops to those triangles and the right edge looks messy and unintentional.  The printing itself worked well. The colour of this photo is not correct. Printing this, I realised that I had got the colours the wrong way round for these experiments, if I was going to use them all the way through the process until the final 3 layered print. But I carried on with this colour for these bits of the experimenting.

This is where I tried repeating on a diagonal.

Keeping it aligned was much more difficult for this one. I think I'm going to have to work out how to do this better.

Overall, the pattern isn't so appealing. The rows of triangle and leaf patterns would work better if they were more evenly spaced, I think.

On the right is the effect of using just two rows of the leaf pattern.
 It turned out pretty. And reminded me of the regular floral patterns in February 2014 Vogue. Another possibility for a border, or for an all-over pattern.

This red one is a sample I made of the basic 'shadows' stencil on red background, not least to see if there is any effect of the background colour on the surface paint (which it does, but perhaps not enough to use like tissue paper).

The high contrast makes it pop which I find attractive and reflects that aspect of the scaffolding netting.

At this point I printed out some repeats on cotton fabric that I could work on with the sewing machine (which I'll talk about in another post).

Experimenting with the scaffolding lines stencil:

I mucked around with the scaffolding parallel lines stencil on various papers and combinations.

This one appeals because of the way the clay came through onto the paper in places (perhaps because it was still slightly damp), giving the lines some definition, and how some of the broader lines have only printed in some places leaving white spaces in parts.

I also like the collection of dots in the middle which are there I think because of the way the clay dried.

This one on grey packing paper, which is very soft and perhaps more able to take the paint, gives more detail and complexity. I tried aligning the parallels in some places and not in others to get an idea of how both would look.

Below is what it looks like on top of the background colour. I am a little disappointed about the lines coming off the edge as I particularly like the way that looks in the photo and it hasn't worked so well with the stencil. Perhaps because the lines are broken?

So, after all this I haven't yet produced a 3 layered print as planned. The trying things out took over. I still want to do that, and also to do some machine sewing experiments using these patterns. And the next thing after that will be sampling bits of all these images to work further on them.