Wednesday, 1 December 2010

watercolour paper gouache walk in birch woods and collage

I sampled a piece of machine, free embroidery, onto watercolour papers. After walking in birch woods in a storm the darkness showed up the quickly denuding tree branches and the showers of yellow birch leaves. I came home and painted colours and shapes with gouache. these were then cut up and machine stitched onto more watercolour paper. I wanted to catch the complexity, energy and almost chaos of the woods on that afternoon and think I made a good attempt to work spontaneously with colour, collage and stitch.

pages from the sketch book

The selection seems rather hotchpotch now I have collected them together, but a great deal of this was about my buying a selection of gouache paint tubes and trying again not to be frightened to sketch / paint with colour. I watched a dvd of Mary Fadden at work with gouache which gave me joy not least because she also used collage with pieces of former prints or paintings and that seemed apposite given this section of the course.
Colour washes of the sky and sea and the small glens around the house have made me see new colours and combinations of colour not noticed before and of course this is a never ending exploration as the light and seasons change !!

samples of furnishing fabric and collage

I was given some samples of furnishing fabrics by a local shop. These were in a very limited range of style and colour but I used them to put together some shapes and colours to reflect some images I had chosen and done some sketches for. The images range from frozen ice formations to an oil painting of the Highlands, to photos of sand and sea, an ancient egg decorated from West Africa and a block printed piece of fabric. I know on reflection I shouldn't have restricted myself to using the fabric samples I was given as the range of texture and colour didn't always capture what I was looking for. However given the context of the assignment the process got me thinking and appreciating what I will look for in the future. Sadly the samples were all off cuts from long ago so there was no clue to their fibre content or make but I have included small swatches of them for reference.

Devore and velvet

I came across some work by textile artist Dionne Swift and sent for her instructional dvd on how to use the devore technique. I wanted to explore this as part of the exploration of negative imagery / shadows/ reverse applique. Velvet is , along with silk, my favourite fabric so although I tried samples in satin and cotton, the velvet stole my heart and resulted in many sample pieces. I tried both procion dye technique and the double dye technique from Fibrecrafts which involved using 2 types of dye for silk and viscous in the same dye pan.
This exploration alongside my continuing love of geological formations led to an experiment of pleating some velvet to look like rock formation. Although it was a quick trial piece this is something I will return to. At the very least the shop now has a new line in for Christmas as several scarves emerged from the fun.

plastic bags and an art journal

I decided to use up the few remaining white plastic bags here by cutting off the shop logo and then fusing layers of them together with an iron.
Using alcohol inks the bags were coloured with autumnal tones and when dried cut up into patchwork like pieces.
The arrival of a new puppy at the croft has seen much activity as he has explored house and croft. However with all such explorations there are casualties and so it was with a hardback book. Fortunately not a great favourite, so off came the cover and I rebound it with some folded watercolour papers. These will be used as an art journal experiment.
The plastic pieces were applied to the cover, inside and out, using a gel medium. When dried I applied soft light modelling paste over the spine in the form of a tree trunk. This was coloured with inks and small embellishments attached. the final addition was a stamped image of skeleton leaves with ink over which I applied some embossing powder. The same application was made to initial the cover with the letter F. This is my first book made, first time I tried to recycle plastic bags in this way etc etc
The many layered effect and the texture and dimension of the modelling paste pleased me. All that remains is to fill the pages over the winter months and to keep the book away from the puppy !!

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

bibliography 2

Sandra Blow - Michael Bird Lund Humphries 2005 isbn 0 85331 921 9
Sandra Blow's scale of work - shape, colour and texture is a wonderful inspiration to me and I ended up buying a copy of this book to have with me always !

The Art of Annmieke Mein - wildlife artist in textiles Search press 2001 isbn 978 0 85532 977 8
the embroidery, attention to detail and colours are beautiful and wonderful to see how line and texture are captured and represented

Techno textiles 2 Sarah E Braddock and Marie O Mahony Thames and Hudson 2005 isbn 978 0 500 28684 5
As before a wealth of information about technological developments which is mind blowing. I became especially interested in the use of light / electricity within fabric ( being married to an electrical engineer !). Illustrations are beautiful. On the shelf alongside volume 1 !!

Matisse his art and his textiles - book to accompany exhibition Metropolitan museum New York 2004 - 2005 isbn 1 903973 47 3
A wonderful gift to me - I have had time to gaze at the details of textiles within the paintings exhibited and to link these to the collection Matisse made for himself of textiles. magical book.

Victoria Crowe - Painted insights Victoria Crowe and Michael Walton 2nd edt 2009 isbn 978 1 8511495894
A book I came across by chance and I am delighted to have found this artist. Her mixed media work - the juxtaposition of interior and exterior fragments are breathtaking.

Raoul Dufy 1877 - 1953 Arts Council of Great Britain isbn 0 7287 0381 5 Exhibition catalogue and accompanying essays. An artist I had never known and yet now whose use of line and colour I can see echoes of in interiors and fabrics I love. The way he portrays botanical subjects without them being predictable or staid is something I want to return to.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Lys Stevens – contemporary Scottish artist

Lys now lives part time in Gairloch and she very kindly gave me an interview for my OCA work and granted permission to use extracts and photos from her website.

“Lyssie is happiest on a deserted Scottish beach, a field or glen, surrounded by colour and texture, finding endless inspiration in the interplay of land, sea and sky, light and weather. She is excited, calmed, always moved by a transient mood and is compelled to celebrate her involvement visually. She uses acrylics and sometimes incorporates other materials sympathetic to the work.”

Lys Stevens is an artist who captures the texture and fragility of textile structures within her landscapes.

Using her vast resource of photos, Lys often uses Adobe Photoshop facilities on the computer to begin to create her images. Changing and heightening colour and creating montages from several photos, these often become her working sketches.
Lys then creates beautiful, and arresting paintings. Working in acrylics, texture is often added using sari silk strands, sandpaper or even pebbles in her landscape work. The effect is one of vibrancy and yet intimate invitation to enter into and feel surrounded by her work.
As an artist Lys described for me the necessity of producing such personal visual imagery as a necessity of communicating her inner world through the visual medium.
During the years she dedicated to teaching art to young people with special needs, impressions and images caught her imagination and she promised herself that one day these would be painted. Here are relevant quotes from her web page which capture much of the conversation we had together:

“I hear and I forget
I see and I remember
I do and I understand”
Chinese Proverb
And also
"looking is not enough, to really see something I need to paint it"

“Lyssie studied drawing and painting and graduated from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in the early seventies then qualified as an art specialist in secondary education. After working for some time in Mainstream, Lyssie spent many happy and fulfilling years teaching art in Special Education.”

I understood the following quote from the web page so clearly when I realsied the move Lys had made from teaching to being a full time artist.
“Lyssie has travelled many roads and is re-energised and enthused as she sets off on another long awaited path.............”
The quote also describes the actual ongoing process she engages in every time she begins new pieces of work. My time with her and constantly looking at her work left me feeling energized and excited and yet with a sense that no one artist truly knows where the journey of discovery and creativity will lead.

She was honest about some of the tensions an artist faces, such as having to go to galleries and promote her work. Or taking the constraints given by the organizers of exhibitions and painting to a size they specify in order to be considered for inclusion in the show.

We discussed the importance of context in work and apart from her obvious love and many returns to the Highland landscape in her art, there were also the practical concerns of what size of canvas can she transport in her car to galleries or exhibitions, the constraints of the studio space etc. All these hidden practical considerations are not things I had considered before.

I was really fortunate to see an exhibition in Gairloch of a collection of paintings inspired by the shoreline and hills of the Scottish Highlands. Seeing a body of work together which shared this theme and where the colours of Lyssie’s art danced and delighted my eyes was a memorable experience and will remain with us in a very tangible way as we were fortunate enough to buy our favourite canvas !

The interview time concluded with Lys generously showing me photos of her many works, including early art school pieces and direct textile work. Having avoided an embroidery module at art school for fear of being made to create traditional embroidery work, she expressed her surprise at seeing other students contemporary work and how she might well have enjoyed such a module after all ! Certainly her own embroidery pieces were exquisite.
It seems to me that Lyssie’s love of texture and textiles has found its rightful place in her work and I for one will return again and again to her work for inspiration and just sheer joy.

Esther Ward September 2010