Friday 31 October 2008

October TIF - 12 Treasures

This month the challenge is to think about your textile work space. How do you feel about this space? What role does it play in your life? I wrote a post about this here but the real challenge was how to interpret this in textiles. I've had very little creativity this month but I have been doing a lot of sorting out - not only in my work room but also some of the miscellaneous boxes still lurking in the cellar ( so that's where my 'Paintstik' oilbars were!) Among the items I found was an old (Victorian?) silk velvet patchwork item , pieced quite coarsely over silk net , purchased at a Region 1 Area day. The dark blue/black fitted in with the colour palette for this month -I decided to use part of it to frame photos printed on fabric of some of the things I like about my studio space , some of my treasures. This was then mounted on a piece of silk ikat. Treasures 1-6 : quilt and textile reference books; Bernina Virtuosa 160 sewing machine(only 1 new circuit board and major de-fluff in 10+ years devoted service ) ; hand sewing threads ( mixture of old silks and ethically sourced hand dyed cotton perle ); Valdini and Oliver Twists variegated machine threads; Malaysian woven basket acquired at breakdown of World Orchid Show 1993 (used for storing rolls of paper etc); acrylic inks.

Treasures 7-12: Liquitex acrylic paints; a small glimpse of my extensive fabric stash; 'humbug' triangular pincushion stuffed with sheeps wool circa 1980 - made by my mum, great design as it doesn't roll around and the natural oil in the wool prevents rusting; needlepoint sewing case , also made by my mum, the closest I got to a Turkish carpet until I went travelling several years later; watercolour sketchbooks from my travels; my computer!!!

Monday 20 October 2008

Treading Water

" Source of the Thames" Michael Andrews

Before my art class last week I was looking through catalogues from past art exhibitions I'd been to including Michael Andrews at the Tate in 2001 (I'd been particularly struck at the time by his huge Australian canvases). By coincidence(or serendipity) ,when I was discussing potential local painting locations with Joy, she mentioned Michael Andrews paintings of the Thames (above). I love the quality of abstraction, design and colour but grounded in traditional landscape painting - what I'm aiming for in my own artwork. A wonderful re-discovery.

" Me and Melanie Swimming" Michael Andrews

I haven't posted for a couple of weeks because I've been struggling for a while in both work and creative arenas to keep afloat. I've been seeking advice to help me cope and correct for an overly negative view of life but until I get that support it's proving difficult to focus. The house has never looked so clean - normally household chores get put off for more interesting things like sewing and painting but it's good to do something where I don't need to think too much, I've even caught up with the ironing!

What I've got pinned up on my notice board at the moment, waiting for inspiration to strike, are several studies of waves based on photos and sketches in Greece. This mixed media sketch is in watercolour, acrylic ink ,'inktense' pencils and 'neocolour' crayons, trying to capture the different colours and the movement of the water.

I printed out a photo on fabric and quilted with different machine stitches with this splashy 60's print cotton as the backing.
I painted over this backing with acrylic paint. There are still glimpses of the pink showing through which I like but overall the effect is too realistic and photographic - this textile sample shows some skill but no soul!
What I'm after is the excitement of this detail from the initial mixed media sketch - how to maintain that on a larger scale?

Tuesday 7 October 2008

Back to Basics

Following my recent painting course at Malham Tarn FSC I realised that I needed more regular painting classes, to get 'back to basics' in the words of recent article by Robert Genn, looking at drawing, composition, colour control and other technical skills. In particular I want to become more proficient in using acrylic paints.
Most evening classes cater mainly for beginners ( which I'm not) but luckily there was a space on one of the workshop evenings run at Kew Studio, an artists co-operative. I'm getting to grips with still life for the first time since painting masses of them in oils for A Level art ( many years ago). It's proving an enjoyable challenge! Started off with doing several drawings in pencil and in my case watercolour to get a feel for composition
I then moved onto colour studies, using acrylic like oil paint on canvas papers. This was fun! I liked the vigorous nature of the brush strokes and the swoops of colour. I already found some of the limitations in my Liquitex acrylic paints - that some are transparent rather than opaque. This doesn't matter when using them like watercolours but it does when using them like oils! I'll need to construct some colour charts with my paints to get a feel for their properties.

I've been taking photos at different stages to identify what needs more attention and also to capture areas I'm pleased with. The trouble with having to work all over the picture is that you sometimes have to paint over areas that you like and of course they're never as good again. For instance I liked the folds in the fabric in the early stages above but lost the plot afterwards!
The tuition has been just what I want - mainly leaving me to get on but with helpful suggestions ( eg removing the sugar bowl from the painting) and when to leave alone ( I'm a terrible fiddler). We've had some interesting discussions about art and exhibitions eg Peter Doig at the Tate earlier in the year.

For the first attempt at still life in years I'm reasonably pleased ( especially with the fruit in both paintings even if the pear was switched for a lemon this week - can you tell?!) More attention is definately needed in drawing ( teapot handles in particular) and in painting folds in fabric. You'd think as a textile artist I should know better! Next week we're concentrating (at my request) on a restricted palette.

Sunday 5 October 2008

Textile Work Spaces

This months 'Take it Further Challenge' is to think about your textile work space. How do you feel about this space? What role does it play in your life?
This was the subject of my very first post on this blog, written when I was about to move from a much loved space in a partially converted loft ( 2 photos below) and wondering how it would work out in my new home. This loft space had 2 Velux windows and was the full width of the house with built-in storage and work surfaces. Access was by a ladder which had its advantages in detaching myself from the world while I was up there and shutting the hatch on the mess when I'd finished.

Over a year later after we moved in , I've pretty well sorted out my working space - the 'master bedroom', the largest room in the house (except for the kitchen). As compensation, Ian got the bedroom with the best view overlooking the garden as his study ( and we can wave at each other across the landing)
The main difference is the loss of a design wall but this hasn't caused as many problems as I thought it would - I've hung a sheet from the back of the door but mainly use A1 size cork boards which are easy to move around.

The main working space is a huge desk (thanks to Sue), with our old solid butchers block kitchen table at right angles - a reasonable height for cutting out. For storage, I've just put up some bookshelves saved from the living room of our old property - they're just the right width for the alcove ( must be Edwardian Proportions, both old and new houses date from around 1905). For my art equipment I've got Ikea Ivar shelving and boxes that have aged nicely after 15 years.
You wouldn't believe the amount of stuff I got rid off during the process of moving but I've still managed to fill this huge 3 door wardrobe with fabric, smaller pieces in these baskets, yardage in big plastic crates.
In theory this is the guest bedroom ( a single fold-up bed) but they'd have to put up with the pins - Ian has a sofa bed in his study which is probably the safer option. The bed unfolded is quite useful for propping up the design boards.
I used my previous studio space for both stitching and painting, which meant being meticulous in clearing up between different activities and carrying buckets of water up ladders. Now, I've taken over the conservatory (more of a lean -to) for painting and printing. The light is fantastic even on a dull day (although it can get very hot). Money ran out before we could replace the lino - probably just as well - I trod on some monoprints that I'd left to dry on the floor and left a trail of glittery footprints. What is also different from my previous workspace is that it also houses my computer and printer. When I work from home on scientific papers etc, the cutting table is handy for laying documents out. The computer can of course be a terrible time waster but the benefits of being able to print fabric out or work directly in Photoshop means I'm much more productive ( and not having to shin up a ladder everytime I feel creative)
So overall while my working space has always been important to me ( and major factors in buying the last 2 properties), it is now the room I spend most time in , both for work and pleasure and my output has increased accordingly.
Now how to interpret this as a textile piece ? I'm wondering about a collage of photos from various viewpoints (it's a while since I used 'stitch -assist') or concentrating on one or two key items. I'll keep you posted!