Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Observations on Observation

I've been a member of the Quilters Guild of the British Isles since 1986 and like to support their ventures. For its 25th Anniversary the challenge was ' Silver Threads' and I produced this piece 'Silver threads (among the gold)' applying techniques taught by Alison Schwabe, inserting thin strips of fabric.The current challenge to celebrate 30 years is to produce a quilt on the theme 'Pearls, Pearls,Pearls' - and I'm really struggling. I did a lot of searching for images on the web linked to pearl fishing and the sea ( as a lot of my recent pieces have been seascapes); with my scientific head on looking at diagrams of oyster and mussels; trying to work in references to my name ( Margaret means pearl and the freshwater mussel in latin is Margaritifera margaritifera ).
I took some photos of an assortment of freshwater pearls I'd bought some time ago for jewellery making , then tried to capture their qualities in acrylic paint and iridescent medium. I had several attempts - the trouble with painting on already quilted fabric ( that old Durham quilt again) is that it's difficult to define the edges.

I also experimented with photo transfer paper and more loosely painted shapes.
I'm currently playing with these painted pieces overlaid with photos printed on silk and cotton organzas

These techniques have been interesting to apply and develop ( I love the process of experimentation) but as I can't resolve even a small piece beyond a sampler of techniques, sadly I don't think this is going to evolve into a full size work.
In analysing why I don't think it's working, I'm beginning to draw some conclusions about my preferences in working methods and subject material.
1) I don't like using other peoples images - I felt uncomfortable with using pictures I found about pearl fishing as they weren't mine. Although I really enjoyed the Studio Journal course I did last year, I couldn't bring myself to do the lesson on using clip art for similar reasons.
2)Most of my work is based on direct observation through painting, drawing and photography. The subject has to mean something personally, a special place or time, for me to have 'ownership' of the images and involvement with what I'm working on. Although I was interested in observing the pearls I'd photographed and experimenting with paint, as a subject they didn't really grab me.
3)In subject material ( and appreciation of art ) I'm drawn to strong compositions. Sometime I think I carry a frame in my head (mainly portrait format) observing the world for its potential in shape and colour. And this is where this pearls venture principally fails. Different sized blobs do not make a satisfying composition however I place them .


Yvette said...

I like the way you make us aware of your process of creating.Pearls...tears of happines

neki desu said...

may i suggest that you crop the center image and work just with that?
it is visually strong, but it gets drowned by the images forming the border.

neki desu

Eva said...

If I find pictures I'd like to use, I'm not shy to ask. If the photographer is an amateur, he or she in most cases will be happy to get a reference and will agree. If not, okay!

Maya Sara Matthew said...

Thanks for sharing the process you follow in creating a piece.The end results are sure to be stunning.

Linda B. said...

What an interesting process to go through - in terms of analysing your own responses. You are fortunate to be able to personalise your work by being able to use your own images and I can see why you've let this one go.

It will be interesting to view the submitted pieces to see what inspiration people used and how it is interpretted.

Aussie Jo said...

Interesting thought processes.
I also find I need to have some sort of emotional/creative connection to whatever I am working on, even if it's just practicing techniques.
Perhaps you could organise a diving trip to photograph pearls in their natural environment!!!!

The Idaho Beauty said...

As I was reading through this, I thought, What a good start. So I was surprised that in the end, you were not intrigued enough with your dabbling to continue. I thought your reasoning behind your current "working methods and subject material" very authentic; more artists should do this kind of analysis more often.

My first thought upon hearing the theme was to see strands of pearls undulating across the surface. I wonder if that was influenced by seeing your silver piece first. You may not want to go back to that same format, but what if you created similar blocks, but with the inserts being your painted or transferred pearls? Your color scheme could mimic that of the sea and this could be a very abstract landscape/seascape.

Olga Norris said...

Perhaps now you should start from the other end: is there a design you are working on/have had in mind which can from some oblique view be seen as fitting into the theme? A sheen? A piece of grit turning to something glorious? Something to cast before swine!?

Olga Norris said...

I've just remembered that the word Baroque originally meant a distorted pearl, and that someone once described the Baroque building as a Renaissance building seen reflected in moving water.

As you prefer to work from your own developments, perhaps you could play about with distortions of your photo of pearls.

I must say I admire your ability to work to themes. I generally find that I get myself into a mess and then give up.

margaret said...

Your struggle with this subject does seem to have paid off in terms of validating your way of working. I too am struggling with "blobs" as such - even with the delightful information about the latin name of the freshwater mussel, the subject doesn't grab me at the literal level. Back to the drawing board...

margaret said...

Yes, a hard one to do "literally". Chop it up and put it together with ... something else??