Sunday, 30 November 2014

Research Point: Contemporary art works with feeling

Julie Brixley-Williams
Untitled drawing from a daily series

Tracey Emin
Untitled 2008 White cube

Tracey Emin's drawings often have so much feeling associated with them. This one is sad and heavy somehow.

Unfortunately the example suggested on was no longer there. 
I looked at the artists website and found this drawing which looks as though it was made with wire. This artist describes herself as a sculptor.

This image looks as if it might be a person bowed down through struggling - perhaps with tied feet?! 

Michael Lentz 2012
Nude no 3716

I suspect that the expression referred to in the course work would be clearer when the drawing is not apparently representational

Nevertheless, the next drawing I found which was clearly expressing feeling was this one. I thought the way the black area was done gave it a bouncy, playful feel, that didn't seem to be due to the subject matter, or her facial expression on their own.

Presence and Absence X
Henri Kalama Akulez
Link to article

This painting is very well named. When I saw it I got the feeling of lots of jagged feelings irritating, but empty, with no content or purpose. It think this comes from the combination of the sharp strokes in the more focussed area, and the mustard yellow/white/blue colours.

Djochkoun Sami
Ink on paper

This ink drawing has a very physical feel to it, of something pushing outwards, pressure, and hairy spikes. But despite this, there is something unthreatening about it. Perhaps because of the softness in the tones.

The drawing below is more menacing, to me anyway, with the sharper swirling lines and shapes in a much deeper perspective.

Dorota Jedzusik

How might a drawing act as an emotional conduit between artist and viewer?

I suppose I think a drawing can be a non-verbal communication of an inner state, like the way you hold yourself, or how you move your hands and face while you talk.

It's natural to talk louder, gesticulate more sharply and deeply and use short hard words when you are passionate about what you are saying. The same has to be true of drawing - harder pressure, shorter sharper, or bigger deeper marks.

The drawings on this page show that different media can be used in different ways to express different feelings.

And of course what is drawn is going to have a major effect eg the position of a body has its own non-verbal message.

Is it the image, the medium or that act that brought the art work into being that makes it 'expressive or 'expressionist'?

I am assuming that the skill is being aware of how this works and using the image, medium and the way it is drawn together to express what you feel. I expect that different artists have different degrees of control over this, but that generally it can't be done by controlling all these things consciously. (I may learn otherwise during this course!) I can already say that some materials are easier for me to be expressive in, perhaps because they are the ones that don't allow the judging part of your brain to have too much control.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Project 1 Feeling and Expression

Exercise 1: Expressive Lines and Marks

Sharp, hard, messy, explosive, directional, personal, painful, hot, dark
Big paper = Big expression
Pressing hard, long sweeping lines
Different materials  led to expression of different styles and details of the feeling eg graphite pencil wasn't as dark as conte crayon so looked less intense, but ink allows a wider range of intensity than either.

Floaty, watery, quiet, smooth, breath, surface, stable, subtle
I found myself wanting to make some of the images even smoother so used my fingers to do this for the top right image. This one turned out to be representational, although I hadn't meant it to be. I think the calmest is the regular circles, if only because they are predictable. Top left is not really calm at all!

Spikey, trembly uncertain, fading out, shrinking, self-critical, withdrawing, all pervading cracks.
 I thought the top right one was the most successful in conveying the feeling of anxiety. And it also reminds me a bit of the repetitive and sometimes enigmatic shapes in Klee landscapes.
The top left one is the kind of strung-out anxiety you feel when it goes on for so long that nothing else can get a foot hold in your head.
This was fun, which made it a bit tricky to keep feeling anxiety! 

Bubbly irrepressible fizzing, embracing, radiant, piercing, contagious
Well, this one really shows that I was having trouble getting into this particular mood state. I left it to the end, and then found that whatever I drew didn't quite express it. I think the springy one on the bottom left is the most joyful. I was feeling that kindergarten feeling again at that point. The bottom right one is more like a virus or seed and interesting but rather too disturbing and spikey to be joyful I think. 

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Starting Drawing 1

Part One Feeling, Memory and Imagination
Warm Up Temporary Drawings

I read through the first stage of Drawing 1, got together my materials, and bought a couple of large sketchbooks. I have been using small ones, so that I could carry them in my bag at all times, and because I have been a bit nervous about 'wasting' large sheets of paper by doing a rubbish drawing. 

So the first, warm up exercise, of doing temporary drawings in various ways, was a great way to get me into a better, more joyful and experimental state. 
This is a short film of me drawing circles of green
washing up liquid in a sink full of water. The line I was drawing showed up as
a moving wave in the surface of the water. I found myself
flinging it widely and smoothly, enjoying the free movement
of my arm and feeling like I was in kindergarten again.
Initially I felt a little silly and embarrassed at what I was doing, but quickly felt more playful and had ideas about what else might be fun, without my usual concern about how useful it would be.

This is what it looked like on still camera.
The presence of the water made the washing up liquid
sink and disperse very quickly. I tried it with
warm water, which made lines of tiny bubbles, both in the
water and in the air above it. It was only later that
I realised I could have done this exercise without the water!

This is a temporary drawing I made with wet woollen yarn.
 Some of these drawings were more temporary than others.

The grass was long and wet, so dragging a broom along it
gave a paler trail, like the line behind an aeroplane. I tried
to capture this on video but it was awkward to do both at once.
Then I made drawings with dead leaves.
I was surprised by how important the rhythm of the movement (or lack of it) seemed to be when I was flinging my arm around. 

Deciding to sign up for OCA Drawing 1

I have done two textiles modules and the third HE4 module was for me a choice between painting and drawing. In fact, if I could have done introduction to sculpture I think I might have gone for that. But since it is not on the pathway for a Textile Art degree, I thought carefully about which course to choose next.

When I started with OCA two years ago, I didn't really expect there to be so much drawing. I suppose I thought the exploration aspect would be done more with fabrics and yarns than on paper. Over this time I have gradually learned the value (and relative speed) of working out the visual aspects of a piece on paper first. It gets the ideas out there, and lets me see in reality, rather than just in my mind's eye, what is possible, and what doesn't really work so well. It also allows me to be freer in what I try out, as drawing is not as restricted by the properties of textile materials and techniques. This is not to say that I haven't sometimes made something without putting pen to paper at all, just that there is more freedom and possibility when I do.

After thinking this, and deciding that learning more about drawing could only help my textiles, I read an article in Craft magazine which discusses the contribution of drawing to the work of makers. In it Kyra Cane (2014), a ceramicist and curator of an exhibition at Contemporary Applied Arts gallery in London, comments, 'The concentration required to make drawings builds a resource based on the experience of looking'.

This has been very true for me. Not only am I building a store of images to work from, and a thread of my inner interest to follow, but the act of drawing them has brought with it a change in the way I have seen the things I drew, which is intensely meaningful to me. How meaningful? Drawing brings me to a state where I am able to exclude other things, and see qualities of the thing I am drawing so they appear to be more real than the way I saw them before. It brings to my attention the illusions and assumptions I habitually carry around with me. At least on a good day.

I am hoping that doing this course will help me to have more good drawing days. And now that I have come to this point, I can see that this course is likely to make a more profound difference to the way I see things, and make things, than perhaps a sculpture module could at this point.

Cane,K Sept/Oct 2014 Drawing Conclusions Crafts pub. Crafts Council
'Out of sight: Drawing in the Lives of Makers' was at Contemporary Applied Arts 89 Southwark Street in Sept-Oct 2014

On 27 Nov 2014, at 10:59, Christina Rogers <> wrote:

Hi I have just signed up for Drawing 1 and have been given your name as my
tutor. I have completed two level 1 textiles modules with a view to working my way to 
a textile art degree. 
I want to learn more about drawing because those two courses have shown me how important seeing is. 
I read an article in Craft Magazine about how drawing is naturally central to most makers process, and this seems 
to be true for me too. 
I have a lot to learn about how to do it better! I have done one day of life drawing 
and tried teaching myself with 'Drawing on the right side of the brain' and no other courses 
since school (I am 50 and work as a doctor). I don't know quite what else to say here other than I am hoping to learn how better to capture the things I find interesting in what I see. 
My previous limited experience also leads me to hope that my 'eye' will be more tuned in as well by the end of it. 
My one reservation at this point is that I am going to miss the feel and the 3 dimensions of working with textiles. We'll see!
My learning blog is at At the moment I am waiting for a change in internet provide, so the initial blog entries about this course will have to wait until that's working. Not too long I hope. 
I see from a quick look at some websites that some of your work is very textured and three dimensional too! Looking forward to working with you,
Christina 510830

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Reflection on Assignment 5

Can you see a clear line of progression from source material through to finished piece? Was there enough information in your source material to stimulate your imagination and sustain your enthusiam?

There is a clear line of progression from my source material of light in the darkness and my drawing of a slit in cork bark through to the finished piece. I did bring in some of my sketchbook work on roots and bark half-way through developing the finished piece, and while I was constructing the piece this aspect came more to the fore. This was not because there was no further interest in the source material, but more that the sources had less to say about what was surrounding the slits than what was within them.

I have some ideas about developing the light in the darkness idea further, for example a series of experiments with mixed yarns, and using light emitting wires, which shows that there was plenty of potential in the source material for me.

Do you feel you made the right choices and decisions when selecting at each stage of the project? If not, what would you change and how would it alter the outcome?

The main forks in the path were
1, Decision to go with the purple/yellow colour scheme, rather than the alternative. I think this was a good choice as it allowed me to pursue my interest in the dark light idea, and in fact I think it works well in my final piece
2. Using repeating pattern rather than single slit. This decision became more obviously the correct one once I had decided to make a glove, as it allowed an interesting rhythm to the outer layer, and variations in what 'shines through' the slits. My sketchbook drawings showed me that the size of the glove required smaller and repeating shapes to be in proportion with the size of the fingers. This led to my using the source images, and incidentally the roots images, on a smaller scale than I had initially anticipated. I think this worked well.
3. Choosing a fabric which was already in parallel folds. This supported the development of the roots/bark symbolism in the final piece, but also resulted in the fingers and thumb of the glove being less smooth-edged and elegant than I had initially intended. In context this is perhaps even an advantage, and it is not obvious to me how it could have been avoided, other than by not lining the fingers, with the consequential effect on the colours.
4. Choosing to make a glove rather than a mask or lampshade. I think that a glove does have the reference to identity of the person inside that I was aiming for, without the weight of contradictory symbolism that a mask might bring. The idea is not hiddenness but something interesting showing through. A lampshade might have been a good choice too, but I had some reservations about being restricted to non-flammable materials and other practical considerations. This would not necessarily stop me from making something of this sort in the future, but for this project it would not have been possible to address the identity issues that I thought were more important.

Which stage did you find the most exciting? Which stage was most arduous and difficult to get through?

For me the most exciting time is when I have decided what I am going to make. I love the adrenaline it gives me that means that everything else in my life has to go to the bottom of the to do list for a while. What my husband calls my 'sewing frenzy'. I have to slow myself down a bit at that point to stop myself from just diving in and making something from what I had in the house. Rather than being more thoughtful about using the best materials I can find for the purpose.

I found that the fixed structure of the stages in this last project was a little frustrating at times as my own natural way of working uses experimenting with textiles and then returning to the sketchbook in a more iterative way. I mean that I do some sketches, then go to textiles and other materials, then return to sketches, then feel the physicality of the materials again, several times, rather than the one or two cycles described in the stages. I was sometimes uncomfortable torn trying to stick to the 'rules', (and not always successful).

For me the most difficult period was after the feedback from my tutor about the last assignment. I found it difficult to disentangle my own motivation and creative direction from what I thought she would want me to be doing. And the result was that I did very little during the weeks afterwards. I am aware that this is because I only 'see' the things I could do better. I think that every time this happens I learn a bit better how to 'see' the positive bits of the feedback too.

Do you like your finished textile? What are its strengths and weaknesses?

I am pleased with the finished piece.

Initially the colour contrast and textures give it the light through the darkness feel I was looking for. The texture of the outer layer is pleasant, reflects the rhythm and organic regularity that appeals to me, but, perhaps because of the deep colour, it does not overwhelm the overall glove shape as I had feared it might.

It may be that the bark/roots aspect of this will lead some people looking at it to think of it as the 'arm' of a tree, rather than see the intended meaning. Making it life size was intended to refer to its representing a real person, but I could perhaps have tried out the effect of larger or smaller gloves. I'm not sure.

I am pleased with the texture and pattern of the underlying yellow parts. I think that if I made this again I would try to make the slits a little larger to allow more of the interesting complexity/regularity of this netting to show through to the surface.

Generally, I like the ideas/ symbolism that come with gloves, and I may well make more in future.

Experience of this course in general, referring to my initial hopes and expectations:

My initial hopes and expectations were as follows: 'When I was looking for a course I wanted one which would allow me to learn by experimenting...I have some themes at the back of a lot of things I make - femaleness, beauty and disgust, hidden secrets and transparency - I want to learn how to express these things in what I make'.

I have certainly done a lot of experimenting. Some of my experiments have been apparently dead ends but have turned out to influence what I do later (eg the roots). I like the way I have learned that this is more than tolerable, it's actually the process. This has been very freeing for me, as can be seen in my regular sketchbook practice during the research section of this course.  My experiments have led me to adapt techniques for my own purposes eg the knotted nets used in friendship bracelets, making visual illusions by printing computer images onto organza, and using PVA to mould coloured tissue paper, among many others.

Exploring ideas has brought me to expand my themes to include light and dark effects, and some gender issues, but also to find something of the common theme of all of these, which is about the way we can hide our own infinitely interesting light under a rather less flexible shell of our own making. I am certainly getting better at expressing this in objects, but of course there is still a way to go before my intention is clear to other people!

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Piecing the glove together

My first task was to make netting in the golden glow colours using the 'friendship bracelet' knotting technique I learned on holiday. I used yarns varying from polycotton sewing thread, embroidery silk, plastic yarn from a door curtain for its reflective qualities. I also used some copper florists wire, in part because of the shine and colour, and also because it gave the net a structure and stiffness that meant it would not move too much between the other layers of the glove. As you see I focussed on regular parallels of brown knots in some places, and more organic-looking lines in others, to reflect the complexity that I wanted to symbolise by it.

I cut out the fabric to the size of a cheap shop ring stand hand that I bought on the internet. I pinned the netting to the part of the glove which would be on the back of the hand, and unpicked the pink sample I had made to check my glove pattern.

I used two colours of orange - the paler one I used in the last entry, and a yellow-red shot fabric I had in stock which gave a particularly attractive deeper glow. You can just see in this photo that it also had a pattern to it, but I made sure this didn't show.

You can see that I cut the paler yellow on a slant to vary the colour contrast coming through the outer glove.

The seems are on the outside because this is the lining of the glove. I didn't dare do this on my machine as the fabric was very easy to fray, and the seems narrow and curved, so I had to be accurate.

At this point I realise that I didn't take any photos of the outer layer during construction.
How I made it is I cut out the pattern as for the lining, using the tracing paper pattern, and patterns I had traced from the thumb shape and finger gussets. I made it quite a bit longer than the lining, because I was thinking about the finish and thought it would be better to have the edges trailing and trimmed into the shapes roots make, so that the feeling was more evocative of bark/ roots. And the idea of hemming it like a normal glove obviously would detract from the whole symbolic idea of it.

I sewed together the finger and thumb seams and then put it onto the stand over the lining. This was because it became obvious that once I had sewn it all together it would not be stretchy enough to come off. This is a bit sad because it means the glove cannot be worn by a person. Perhaps if I ever make a pair I will make sure the lining is made of more stretchy fabrics! I suppose this late realisation just goes to show that it's  a good idea to make a trial run.

As I was piecing together the outer layer by hand, and during the next step when I was cutting slits in the valleys of the fabric to let the glow and netting show through, I had lots of time to imagine how I was going to finish the piece. I could see that there was a need to make it more obviously bark/root like, and that there was a lot of movement in the parallel folds of the fabric. The solution seemed obvious - to sew the folds together to create oval negative spaces like the ones in the purple tissue-paper sampler.

Detail of back of the hand of glove showing the shapes I made by sewing the parallel folds together in places.
Between them you can see the knotted net, and below that the yellow and orange lining fabric glowing through.
I did this over the back of the hand, and wrist, but felt that doing it on the rest of the glove would be excessive, and would remove the nice bark-like contrast between the two sides of it.

This photo shows the bark-like effect of the parallel folds without the slits or sewn shapes.
In a way it helps this illusion that the thumb became a bit twisted during the making!

At the bottom of the glove I snipped it and created an irregular widening base so that it looked a bit like the roots of a tree reaching the ground. This may or may not work when a glove is worn on an arm, in this case it is displayed on a stand, and the lower edge of the glove is therefore 'rooting it' to the surface it sits on. I made a couple of longer 'roots' by snipping into the edges of folds, in order to reinforce this visual idea.

My final piece for Assignment 4 showing the texture made by sewing the folds together
and the root-like edge finish

My final piece for assignment 4 in different light which shows the contrasting glow
and complexity within

Glove Colour Pattern and Texture

When I went to find the right colour of red-purple fabric for the outside of my glove, I was thinking that it had to be fine and pliable, so that I could use it a bit like the tissue paper in the sketchbook sampler shown here. But with slits showing an underlying layer of fabric and 'friendship bracelet' inspired netting in the contrasting fabric.

Sketchbook sample showing tissue paper
PVA and gel pen design

I was lucky enough to come across this fabric, that is made already covered in quite deep parallel pleats, with much finer weave in between them.

Here is what it looks like against cream background. The colour from this photo is very inaccurate - it's much less blue than this in reality. 
But you can see that the underlying fabric is visible as long lozenge-shapes of paler colour between the soft parallels.

I made slits in the valleys and tried this over pale orange fabric. This gives two different contrasting colours - the subtle change in the purple where it is not cut, and the more glowing colour contrast where it is.

And this one shows what happens with a lemon yellow background fabric. Instead of the glow imparted on the orange by the contrast, in this case the purple makes the yellow look almost lime coloured and it loses the 'dark light' visual motif I was going for.

My next step was to try out laying the slitted fabric over the netting and the contrasting fabric.

This shows what a single slit could do, which had the contrasts, and the shape nicely, and reflected something of the way I was hoping the curved pleats might fall.

So I then tried it with multiple slits...

As you can see this didn't give me the visual appearance I was looking for - the fabric buckled in a way I didn't want; the curved lines were not variable in width and complexity; and there was no opportunity for using the difference between the contrast described above. It lost most of the aspects of its appearance, contrast and texture that I was after! The one on the right shows the same thing but taken with a flash.This allows you to see how much more interesting it is when you can see the yellow both behind the netting and in the valleys. The colour is a bit more accurate too.

I decided to try putting slits in further apart, so as to utilise this difference in glow, and to allow myself more opportunity to use the curves of the parallel pleats for texture and pattern.

As you can see this worked well to give me a resulting sample that reflected the attractive
aspects of my sampler (above)