Thursday, 29 August 2019

Image for sketchbook day

I chose this image of fractured slate to work on today because:
There are only two colours, both of which are in my palate.
I wanted to practice drawing sharp lines.
The overlapping slates of different sizes and shapes are interesting in their own right, and keep the eye moving

Dark places
Black pencil
Fine lines
Adding the base colour blue
I didn't have exactly the same blue as the image,
so made it using this colour for the base and a more turquoise blue (see left of sketchbook) on top.

Adding the second colour I discovered the need for yellow and bright salmon pink as well

What I learned:
Using the colour intensities for perspective works well
I need a pale sky blue pencil!
Part of the appeal of the image was the overall intensity of colour, which is missing in my sketch
The shadows work a lot better in brown than black or grey.
The lines aren't sharp enough, and the pencil lines detract.

Next time: 
Pick a smaller region of the image
Use gouache for the colours, with intensity all over

What it looked like when I did this:
I like the way this looks (apart from the poorly focussed blur).
I didn't have time today to add colour

Tuesday, 18 June 2019


I went to dinner with a friend who has amazing taste, and she had a massive bunch of extraordinarily beautiful peonies. So for a thank you note and (late) birthday card I copied a photo of peonies in silk painting and made it into a card.

I traced the lines

Traced the lines and the lightest patches
 with gutta onto the stretched ponyo silk

Added the pinks, and decided on a dark green background
as the best for showing up the pink
The gutta was washed off and when dry the silk was ironed and mounted onto a card 
And framed it to cover the raw edges

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Wasp moth coat: the hood

This particular coat has a transparent hood designed to look like one of two pairs of moth wings. These images trace the process of designing and making them.

Design board for this coat, set up to discuss final design decisions
with the commissioner.
You can see some inspiration photos chosen by her to guide my design
 and some samples and sketches of my ideas.
(Permission given to publish photo) wanted to make something as striking as this wasp moth, particularly the shininess of the wings,
and the bright orange and black contrast.When I think of moths I think of how fluffy they are,
so the way I made it had to allow for softness.
I drew the wing pattern
onto PVC with a sharpie
I tried out some
acrylic paint (which wasn't going to work)

The black was cut from
a remnant of soft black

After some more exploring, the plan was to make a hood out of a large pvc collar, so that when it wasn't raining the upper wings lie over the woven wings of the moth on the upper back of the coat. But when it was raining it could be zipped up into the hood, with the wing shapes beside the face.

Inspired by Elsa Schiaparelli, I made buttons from supersculpy
 in the shapes of developmental stages of the wasp moth
(My commissioner preferred a zip, so these aren't in the final design)

This is part way through machine-stitching the soft black fabric and zip onto the PVC collar,
using tissue paper to stop the machine sticking to the plastic.
Yes, that is my kitchen table.

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Looking at SS 2019 colours and patterns

Now I've explored my own body colours a bit I'm looking at the fashion colours for SS 2019 to see how they compare and work out which colours to focus on now. My collection of pins for this season

Fashion Colours SS 2019
From the marvellous
Pantene colour of the year living coral
The more intense versions of this are 75% colours for me

Add caption
Too intense for me

What would work for me?

Princess blue 100% only if muted

Fiesta 75%
Pink Peacock 75% only if muted
Living Coral 75%

Toffee 25%
Pressed rose 25%

Sweet lilac 25%
Jester red 25%
Brown granite is a 25% colour for me
Hm, they're all variations on pink with no other blue or green than the rather too pure princess blue...
Too strong for me
Another prediction range

OK, looking at this one, I can add
Peacock blue 100%
Aqua 75%

Sticking to the principle that the colours I like 
are the ones that go with my natural colouring, 
then I am going to go for:

Peacock blue or blue-grey all over

Fiesta & Living coral & aqua with neutrals 

Blue grey or brown granite neutrals (and may have to use a light neutral eg pinky beige or soft white)

Accessories in sweet lilac, muted pink peacock, jester red
Mmmm nice.

Fashion Patterns SS 2019

I see grid checks, Prada regular geometrics (with straight and ovals),
and fun prints eg D&G lollipops in very un-beachy colours,
and Stella Jean vintage look, all of which work for me.
These large blocks of strong pastel colour always
appeal. I could wear the lavender 25%, jade (100% pastel),
 sky blue 25%, pink 25% and princess blue 100%
I like the abstractness though, and
can imagine them influencing something.

Aha! I can work with this.
Variations on calm tweed/checks
This appeals to me, goes somewhat with 30s style, and is in some of my colours
mint green, cherry red 100%, neutral grey 100%, bluegrey100%, pink, sky blue
It would be an influence rather than the whole idea.
(Except perhaps for the lovely dress in the middle!)
So next time sketchbook to work through some of these ideas.

Colour palette:

Neutral brown granite
neutral blue-grey

Contrasting colour

For all over colour

Contrasting colour living coral
Contrasting colour

Jester red accessories/ in patterns

sweet lilac accessories/ in patterns
This fiesta red is too intense and orange
so cancel that 

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Underground upholstery design

Upholstery underground
I saw the way this design is interesting to look at both macro and micro, is definitely about London, and is practical, all at the same time. And it made me want to know who designed it and what else they have done.

Turns out it was a design consultancy called Wallace Sewell (Their website)

Some other things they have done can be seen on their website.

They obviously have a fantastic way with colour, using unusual combinations in a way that looks fun and friendly. I particularly like the rug they designed to celebrate 100th anniversary of the underground, using all the colours of the lines on the tube map. 

Finding out about this has led me to some of the other designers who have made fabrics for the underground since the Metropolitan line opened in 1863.

Link to the London Transport Museum webpage about this

Another take on the designs

My pinterest board about this

Designs by Enid Marx, one of the 1930s/1940s designers

I find the 30s designs very appealing. There's something about the geometric/ repeating organic patterns that looks organic and interesting. Something worth exploring in my sketchbook session.

I've also be reviewing 30s fashion with a view to making some clothes for myself.  My 1930s pinterest board. It seems to me that there are three 'styles' there:

1. Madame Vionnet, and more affordably Ghost bias cut dresses. These are the ones that famously sexy women have worn in the evening. They float around the curves and make the wearer look longer and more feminine.

2. Day dresses, often of cotton or silk, in patterns like the 30s ones I've pinned above. These tend to have a high waist (higher than natural waist in some cases) and an unstructured bust, with the length hitting at the widest part of my calf ie not flattering, and while I love the patterns I can't get away from the feeling that they are intrinsically dowdy. (On me at least).

3. Sports clothing. By which I mean beach pyjamas, jodhpurs, tailored straight skirts with some movement at the knee or below, tailored wide-leg turn up tweed trousers, little silk blouses with some feminine embroidery at the neck, lumpy home made jumpers and cardigans with ribbed waist and sometimes puffed sleeves. Shoes are brogues with a heel or riding boots. Hair is generally short and wavy. This is the one for me! I've started making a 30s influenced woollen biker jacket which I'll post when it's done.

Monday, 21 January 2019

Investigating my favourite colours

One of the more memorable things about 'Interaction of Colour' by Joseph Albers is that each of his students tended to prefer colours that had the same qualities as their own physical colouration. This has been percolating round my brain for a few years now and it seems to be time to pay more attention to this aspect of my making.

I once 'got my colours done' by a lovely woman with House of Colour, and this is what she came up with: I am a summer which means that the natural colours of my body, eyes, hair etc are cool and muted (at least compared to pure colours). She then tried lots of actual coloured fabrics against my face, and came up with a hierarchy of which colours are best for me to wear. 

Hanky made out of my body colours as divined by House of Colour.
The large rectangles are the colours which best complement my natural colouring.
The squares are next best, and the triangles good only in small amounts.
You can see that my very best colours are all dark or bright, although not as dark as black or as bright as neon. They look darker and brighter on me than they would on a person with a 'winter' colour range.

So how does this professional analysis relate to the colours I have chosen myself? If Joseph Albers was right, I should be naturally choosing colours in the summer range. 

Here are some of the things I have made to test out that idea:

Skin stole (detail) has a base of slightly nude pink, with marks in mid-pink and coral, all muted colours. But perhaps that's cheating as it's meant to be like skin and naturally I used mine as a base.

One the right is the outside and below the inside of a piece I made to express how different I feel inside and out. You might think that the outside appearance is more cool and clear, but in fact the pale blue is slightly greyed. The inside is also slightly muted and despite the hotness of the impression it gives it is actually a cool pink.

On the left is a cloak which has 
colours that are obviously outside 
the 'summer' range. But I made this
cloak to reflect the personality and colouring of one of my daughters, straying deliberately from my usual

This is a t-shirt I screen printed. At the time I was telling myself off for making it so grey-looking!

On the right is a rather unsuccessful drawing of a duck skeleton. Looking at it now it seems obvious that the colours
 I chose were awkward and clashing because of being in different colour families, (among other problems.)

Hm. Interesting.

To explore this a little more, I decided to try to match each of the biggest colour patches using silk dye. And secondly to overlay them on the silk so I could see what kind of colours they make when mixed together.

Here are the first two colours. The red was easy - just a touch of yellow added to the magenta. The green a mixture of cyan and yellow. where they overlap they make the dark purple of the hanky. The actual green is more like the deeper one where the two green lines overlap.

As I want them to bleed into each other I haven't put any gutta on the silk, so the edges are irregular and it looks pretty messy. I was using a hairdryer to try to reduce spread.

Unfortunately there was one colour, the cornflower blue, that I can't mix using the three primaries and black which is all the silk dye I have. It ended up looking blue-grey and very watery, which mucked up the look of the square.

I do like the way the edge of the purple vertical line has run in a wiggly pattern a bit like fjords.

The final square against the light. It looks sort of like tartan, and making it has certainly reminded me that since I like creating fabrics myself it might be a fun exercise to repeat this square on a loom, using yarns of the best colours.

It is striking that it is made up almost entirely of medium-dark colours, with some brights, meaning that there's not a lot of contrast. I wonder what it would be like to put one or two of the paler of my body colours into this square? How would the contrast affect the way the other colours appear? 

What I have learned from this colour exploration:
  • Joseph Albers was probably right!
  • I need to work out how to make cornflower blue 
  • These colours blend together beautifully, so if I stick to them my work will blend together too (and if I don't it will look awkward and jarring, like the duck skeleton)
  • Some of the overlapping colours haven't mixed (see the vertical green row), presumably because they were dried out before the second was painted.
  • These dyes are very radiant so don't look much different against the light.

What I could do next time:
  1. Try redoing this square with cornflower blue too. With gutta separating the colours, but sticking to the idea that where they overlap gives another good colour. That way I wouldn't have to use the hairdryer and the colours would have more chance of mixing well on the overlapping squares.
  2. Redo the square without gutta (which looks too white) with one or two of the palest colours from my palette. Or with the silver gutta I have which would fit into my palette.
  3. Experiment with a smaller selection of colours to find out how the colours interact with each other.
  4. Some of the colours are darker than I can make with a single application, and it would be good to have a record of all the colours in different degrees of intensity, so I could try out each colour in one, two, three etc layers.
  5. Try to replicate the fjord pattern.
  6. Repeat the exercise on my loom.

Ah! This might help to explain why I want to paint all the rooms in the house rather intense moody colours! (And why my 'winter' husband would rather they were all stark white).