Thursday, 30 April 2009

Pixelated Seascapes

Thanks to Olga with her post on her trip to the seaside, Ian and I caught the train down to Bexhill on Tuesday for my Birthday Outing. It took about 2 hours with only a change at Clapham Junction :we had a walk along the beach ; a look at the Susan Collins exhibition; a delicious leisurely lunch of local produce and a bottle of Rioja overlooking the sea;another walk along the Prom and a final look at the exhibition before heading home. What a blissful way to spend what should have been a working day!
Although the large scale digital prints in the exhibition were intriguing (particularly those with odd coloured pixels where ships, birds etc had passed in front of the webcam), it was the 5 real-time projections set against a window with the seascape panorama behind that absorbed us. I've download one from the website but it's not quite the same without the backdrop. Visiting the exhibition twice, at midday and then around 4pm , made us much more aware of the nuances of colour depending on the direction of light and the weather conditions ( it was supposed to rain , but despite some clouds , it remained sunny all day). As soon as we got home I downloaded the photos I'd taken and had a go at using the 'Pixelate Mosaic' filter in Photoshop. Not quite the subtlety of those in the exhibition but worth exploring further.
Pixelated Cropped Image Bexhill 28/04/2009 15:18
Bexhill 28/04/2009 12:07

Bexhill 28/04/2009 15:52

Bexhill 28/04/2009 15:26

I'm thinking how these images could be interpreted in material - torn strips perhaps? These gorgeous dyed fabrics that arrived on Monday fit the bill perfectly ( a generous gift from Sandra for guessing the identity of her mystery photo correctly).

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Layers in the Landscape

For my birthday present this year from Ian and his parents, I chose to have a 2 day workshop with Amanda Hislop at Art Van Go . I'd only seen her work on websites but I like her approach to landscapes. 'In the flesh' her pieces recently displayed at the 'Prism' exhibition are even more interesting and textured.

During the workshop we tried 3 different approaches:dyeing different papers and tissues then layering them on muslin; painting a calico surface with acrylics then stitching into it and building up layers; tearing a variety of papers into strips and assembling them with PVA. It was interesting with this latter technique to see how differently the papers absorbed the dyes, especially the torn edges. Dyes (procion but without soda and salt)were painted on afterwards. I loved how intensely a torn Colour Catcher (below) absorbed the dye - I'm glad I wasn't too neat with the PVA as it acted as a resist!

I concentrated on dyeing and layering papers as acrylic painting was something I'm more familar with while I don't readily have access to dyes

Art work and dyed papers drying
For inspiration I used a painting from the Dales that I did last year on a course with Katherine Holmes. Katherine also incorporates papers, grasses and leaves into her paintings.

After a morning dyeing papers (and fingers- guess who forgot her Marigolds!), these were torn up when dry(ish) and applied to a backing of scrim muslin with lavish amounts of cellulose paste, with a final layer of conservation tissue and then left to dry overnight.
I'd tried a similar technique on workshop with Cas Holmes at Cowslip workshops a couple of years ago. Whether it was the strength of the glue, the openness of the backing or that it was just papers topped off with tissue rather than a mixture of papers and fabrics , but it seemed to hold together better. The downside was the initial disapointment in the toning down of the bright colours because of the top tissue layer (above left). I'm glad a took a photo then before I started spoiling it by digging out bits with a scalpel and applying acrylic paint too heavily in attempt to recover some of the more intensely coloured areas. I was able to retrieve it in some measure by glueing further layers over the top (above right) and then giving it a layer of acrylic medium to seal it.

I now need to get the croppers out and select the best bits for further work and stitching. It's in two halves at the moment - a more traditional landscape (above) and a more abstract area at the bottom with fibres and kozo (below). I particularly like the sky area which is crumpled dyed Indian rag paper with some white acrylic paint scraped across. I really must complete my notes before I forget what I did !
The back also looks rather interesting.

We finished off with a review session of everyones work - such a delightful mix of people and variety of styles. I'm looking forward now to the CQ Summer School.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Kozo Revelation

One of the delights of doing a workshop at Art Van Go is going on a hunt for treasures in the packed storerooms. My find this time was beaten kozo (mulberry bark). The sheet form is bleached, soaked and beaten to produce the irregular 'twiggy' form. After soaking a piece of 'twig' in water for about an hour , it can be teased out into a wonderful lace of fibres - and it takes dye wonderfully. I incorporated some of it in the piece I was doing with Amanda Hislop (more about that in another post) , trapping the undyed fibres under a layer of tissue soaked in cellulose paste. It gives the appearance of trees or bushes. In this piece, I trapped some dyed, dried kozo 'lace' under some dyed tissue. I also discovered coloured hemp string which I used to outline shapes in the landscape. Just as well I like the effect of it bleeding slightly when placed under damp tissue!

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

April Challenges

My April Contemporary Quilt 6 x 12 inch Journal piece is based once again on old peeling distressed doors, in this case on the remnants of paint that pick out the patterns of woodgrain in this photo from Greece below.

I used a woodgraining 'rocker' tool from a decorating shop to make patterns in acrylic paint on a piece of plastic and then took monoprints using a variety of fabrics - silk noile worked particularly well
Love the patterns it made but after quilting between the paint lines, it looked a bit anaemic so added more paint with a palette knife afterwards.

The BQL challenge for April was quite different. Handbags aren't really my thing either in real life or in quilts so this challenge was well outside my comfort zone (but Good-For-Me)

But having discovered this very large African waxprint of purses to use as backing (for scale, this is 12 x 12 inch), I decided to use scaps of African fabrics and other wild prints, embellished with beads, buttons and ribbon.

The handbags were pieced from strips of background fabric around a central 'handbag' cut using a template, and then trimmed to size. I wish now I'd introduced some 'wackier' angles in the style of Gwen Marston - I used to really enjoy improvisational piecing and taught workshops on 'wacky stars'.

Ian and I were woken at 7 this morning by the arrival of pallets of paving stones , gravel and sand - the challenge for the rest of the day is to trundle these through the house into the back garden without doing our backs in!

Friday, 10 April 2009

Art Meets Science

I've been involved in a small way in this new exhibition showcasing the work of the Millennium SeedBank , contributing some plant cultures in jars and some orchid seeds. I particularly like these sculptures made in willow by artist Tom Hare of seeds. Five have been installed so far and five more will be crafted on site over the summer ( with a chance to join in! )

In the Nash conservatory,three giant 3 metre long fibre glass devil claw seed pod sculptures by Tony Gibas hang from the ceiling. As a film set designer, Tony also made the mock growth room where some of my plants are displayed.

The exhibition also features some of the amazing coloured electron micrographs by Rob Kesseler . A few years ago there was an exhibition of his pictures of pollen, hugely blown up (shown below) I loved the idea of the trees and gardens showing through the images and it started me off thinking about how I could combine images in Photoshop and use transparency in my own work.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Art v. Science?

There's a wonderful lesson in philosophy on Robin's blog that has really got me thinking:

"a person can be good at many things. We are all multi-faceted, and it's the constraints of society that often tell us to only do one thing"

I'm thinking in particular of the supposed gulf between art and science, a gap in understanding that I attempt to bridge every day. At school, I was good at both art and science and was lucky enough to be able to do both at 'A' level ( with a bit of leverage on my chemistry teacher who was devising the timetable). My art tutor wanted me to go to art college but I decided in the end to study Botany at university as I could continue to paint and draw as a hobby but it wouldn't have worked the other way round. It was a decision I've never regretted and I have built my career in science while continuing to develop my artistic skills.

Creativity is not restricted to the art field - it is essential in my job to devise new ways to grow plants in the lab for research and conservation. 'What if.... ' is a frequent phrase and with limited resources we have to be imaginative in approach. Likewise, attention to detail, planning, analysis ,observational skills and putting the hours in are just as relevant in my art work as in my day job.

Sometimes it seems that both the science and art worlds like to maintain a sense of mystery and arrogance and both are often poor in promoting understanding of what they do.

So for a change, I'll share some creative projects from my science life.

This insignificant little plant is the subject of several high-impact scientific papers in the field of evolutionary biology

Lovely swirly root patterns here!

This little cauliflower is part of a series of simple experiments I'm devising for schools - so far both teachers and children are excited about these practicals

And this is my creative work space!