Archive for the ‘Part 1’ Category

Brief: Using thread and yarns to create textures

I found this stage the most enjoyable of all of the exercises in this project.  In fact, that is why I begun with this stage and finished with the stitch practice.

My first attempt at this was perhaps the most successful in my mind as it was more intuitive and fluid – whereas I seemed to struggle much more as I began to think about it.

Sample #1 : Tree bark (I guess everyone starts with this…).

I am not sure if the colours I reproduced remotely resemble the photographic image.   However when you continue to zoom into the photograph, a whole range of colours start to appear which are initially invisible.

tree bark

Brown paper always seems much more forgiving when doing initial colour sketches…also it is the only way I can process my junk mail.

sketch with watercolour pencils

I used hessian on my first stitched sample as it is a natural fibre which seems sympathetic to the subject.

Handstitching.  Knitting yarns and embroidery threads stitched on to hessian

My second version uses blue grey lining fabric – I think it either a little too fine or I am too aggressive with the sewing machine as the tension starts to show itself in creases of the fabric.

Machine stitching version

Sample #2 : Peeling paintwork on tower door at Torosay.

This was much harder than I thought it would be… I initally started burning fabrics to see if this would re-create the peeling effect on the doors.  It didn’t.  In fact what actually happened – was that I vowed to only use natural and naturally dyed fabrics from that point onwards.  The coloured samples I did have, sizzled as I burned them.  One yellow polyester produced a repulsive brown goo.. and there were also a couple of fabric fires that I had difficulty putting out.  Lesson learnt.

Leaving that experience behind me, I moved on to using the pages of a very old book I had on the shelf.. I did not achieve the peeling paintwork effect but I did have fun with it in other ways.

Peeling paint on door at Torosay. Detail

Using a view finder, I selected a small section of this image focusing around the largest break in the cracks with spider webs.

Scribble sketch in watercolour pencil

I did a couple of samples of this, both machine embroidered and one with a backing fabric.

Book print, machine/hand stitching, inks and nail varnish.

Red linen backing fabric, book print, machine embroidery and inks.

Sample #3 : Fountain.  Photo taken from Reflections, lines and textures post.

This was impossible…in fact I now realise that it is extremely difficult to imitate the delicacy of water.  I wanted to dye fabrics at this point but I just could not achieve quite the right colours..

Fountain at Torosay

My first sample was created by stretching and pulling apart delicate muslin.  I did attempt to add some coloured highlights with ink..but this did not work so well unfortunately.

Stretched and pulled muslin with ink.

My second version includes more stretched muslin with the addition of french knots – although these are hard to see.

Stretch and pulled muslin with embroidered french knots on cardboard.

My conclusion at this stage is that I would like to come back to some of these images and try again – especially the peeling paintwork as I know this could be achieved somehow…. I just don’t know how I personally will do it yet.


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Brief:  Working with stitches and threads to make marks and create texture..

I have never really done any sewing…(this seems odd considering my desire to study textiles)..and for this reason it took me a considerable amount of time to ‘mentally’ warm up.  I did everything the wrong way round…finding it impossible to follow the simple instructions specified by the course literature.  In fact I started on Stage 6 and finished by completing stages 1 & 2.

I have tried to insert a few examples here for the learning log in as logical an order as possible.

Machine Embroidery

I bought my first sewing machine 2 months ago – it is quick and effective.  I confess to having snapped a few needles in the learning process…

I also find that, more often than not, the underside of the cloth with the tangle of bobbin threads is much more appealing.  I like it when there is a big loopy dense mess.  Unfortunately I think this will result in a short lifespan for my new machine.

Machine stitching: Testing and varying the tension of the bobbin and upper threads

I have also experimented with making a few different types of paper – after reading Drawn to Stitch by Gwen Hedley from the reading list.

In this example I layered cotton string and embroidery threads between newsprint and tracing paper – overlaying this with machine stitch in various parts.  The reason I have used this example is because I like the blurred effect that the tracing paper gives – it makes the picture look in and out of focus simultaneously.  The stitches are crisp and vivid and the threads below obscured.  This is something I would like to study more in the future.

Machine stitching on newsprint and tracing paper

Hand Embroidery

After initially feeling frustrated at the time constraints of hand embroidery – I returned again to it in the last week and found something infinitely satisfying in the slow controlled stitching.  I read an article called ‘Beauty Therapy’ in the most recent issue of Selvedge magazine (issue 46 May/June 2012) which discusses the brain’s responses to beauty from the perspective of aesthetic philosphers and psychologists alike.  Whilst it is undoubtedly a personal feeling as to what one likes/dislikes, the article suggests that the human brain likes visuals that make sense – drawing security from predictability.  At the same time however, it is drawn to interest in detail and exploration within that environment.  This is something I find infinitely fascinating and again would like to explore this in the future.  Hand embroidery would seem like a good medium for this.

Stage 1 of Project 2 suggests trying some stitches out.  I enjoyed this…simple but effective.

Straight Stitching

Chevrons (a)

Chevrons (b)

French Knots

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In my recent post ‘Mark making research…work I like‘ – my final example of work was by a Canadian artist named Val Nelson who uses the ‘blind drawing’ technique in this example of her work.  When I emailed Val to request her permission in using her work as an example – she was very kind in her response, granting me full persmission and encouraging me to try it myself.

After finding an old red moleskin diary from 2011 (completely empty as per each preceding year) – I am using this as my mobile sketchbook instead of throwing it away.   Over the years I have collected many old scrappy books so this seems the perfect opportunity to start using them…recycling makes me feels good.

Learning to draw from the beginning again is frightening.  I read in the college guide that you should draw anything, anywhere and practice, practice and practice more… and so it begins.

One of the things I am trying to learn is to sketch quickly without hesitation or fear of making mistakes…so I take less and less time on each drawing..

Starting in the kitchen…


Kitchen at work. 5 minute sketch.

Craignure Pier. 5 min sketch.

As my blind drawings are a little chaotic, I often end up scribbling over them to create some kind of form.  I like the freedom of line that drawing without looking at the paper gives you – it becomes much more exciting visually.

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I did a little research on the internet today on mark making.  Amongst the suggested artists (Picasso, Klee & Van Gogh) – I found a few other examples which I particularly like…

Joel Shapiro, "Untitled", 1969, Fingerprints on Graph Paper.

I hadn’t thought of using my finger to make marks..even though that is what we did at school…it looks good.

Jo Lankester, Echlin St Quarry Juxtaposition 1, right panel, 2010, Etching Aquatint

Jo Lankester is a printmaker who uses a combination of drawing and mark making – it hints at landscape but allows the viewer to read into it in other ways.

Cai Guo-Qiang. Gunpowder

The piece above is by Cai Guo-Qiang – a chinese artist whose work includes drawing, installation, video and performance art.  I was unable to find a date or a title for this unfortunately but it is one of his works which explores the properties of gunpowder.  This work led to him working with explosives on a much larger scale and his ‘explosion events’ became his signature work.

Cy Twombly, Untitled, 1970

 Cy Twombly was an american artist famous for these large scribbled..’graffiti like’ works.  These are 2 of my favourites.  I think his use of colour is exceptional.

Cy Twombly, "Wilder Shores of Love"

Val Nelson, "Madama Butterfly, Act 2, 2010" Ink on Stonehenge Paper

Val Nelson is a Vancouver based artist who also writes a blog called “Optimistic Pursuits” which details her passion for drawing, exhibitions visited, inspirations and includes some of her work and works of others, inside and outside of the art world.  It is an excellent blog.  This piece is a drawing she did in the dark (blind drawing) at the theatre – layer upon layer of fast sketching detailing the scene.  It is a technique that I would also very much like to try.

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Exercise 1 & 2- Marking marks with pencils and creating tone

I found this exercise very difficult if I am honest…I found it frustrating and ended up just scribbling everywhere basically.  After chiding myself – I had another go … I realise that every exercise is important and it reflects badly on me that I had difficulty applying myself.  It did serve as a good warm up however.

I would normally describe myself as a careful ‘drawer?’ – but I found the most consolation in the hard fast scribbles with a soft 3B. This is unlike me – but I found it hard to fill the 8cm box with careful repetitive marks…

I enjoyed the tonal exercise much more – there being a kind of satisfaction in creating depth.

Exercise 3 – Alternative methods and materials for making marks

I love using scrap materials so I pulled out all the paper from the recycling and kindling basket by the fire.  I also found  my old typewriter to see what marks could be achieved with that…(not many as ribbon needs replaced it turns out).  Using twigs, slate, shell and stones that I found on the shore i persevered – the only issue with these was that they do not hold the paint like a brush- therefore you need to keep applying more and more as the lines fade out quickly.

Materials: Newsprint, tissue paper, black and white card, graph paper, parchment and tracing paper. Marks made with biro, pencils, graphite, pastels, tea, typewriter and flame.

With great reluctance (fear) I introduced some colour..using paintbrushes, slate, matchsticks, cork and shells to varying degrees of success.

I scribbled over an old postcard with the matchstick which was fun – I love the idea of recycling old images to make new less lifelike work.  I also used a pinecone on this page.

Exercise 4

Wax Crayons…..I hate wax crayons… so much that I couldn’t bring myself to buy any at the local Spar (I put them back prior to payment), and instead resorted to stealing a plastic pot of decaying fat crayons from my neices.  I have a new  technique for working with materials or on subject matter that does not appeal to me: – I keep doing it until it does… I find that with perserverence that one can learn to love any material or find some good qualities within it.  In the case of the wax crayons – I dislike getting really dirty or using very basic primary colours (fear of producing little more than a childish scribble?) .  However…after a bit of layering and quite a lot of pressure from my upper body to get the crayon to release its colour – I started to notice attractive qualities.  Although the inks painted on top (wax resist) did not really seem to work – I thought the layers of colour and the scratchy tones were impressive.  I would apply the same theory to the whole theme of ‘Making marks’ – at first it seemed just a warm exercise to loosen one up…but now after pondering it and researching it – I realise that it is an art movement in itself.  Although all categories of drawing and painting could technically be referred to as ‘mark making’ – the technique of creating work based’ around marks’, e.g. Cy Twombly, (rather than accurate reproduction of reality ‘using marks’ e.g. the English Romantic painter John Constable) is what the terminology actually means to me now.

I guess I also felt some hesitation in making rubbings… I remember going around the Edinburgh botanical gardens as a child and furiously rubbing away at the bark on the trees – and proudly presenting a crumbled, half torn piece of paper back to my teacher.  For this exercise I chose a red watercolour pencil which has a slightly softer tip than a regular colouring pencil.  I restricted myself to the house and 10metres around it so as not to get carried away.  Unsurprisingly, after approaching wood, rock and stone – I found myself inorexibly drawn to leaves.. there is a reason children are taught to take rubbings of leaves – they display a wonderful skeleton.

Rubbings with watercolour crayon, indoors and outdoors

Wax resist

Rubbing away and blanking out. Graphite, biro, eraser & tippex.

Acrylic paint applied with sponge, cotton bud, cork and paintbrush.

The last suggestion in exercise 4 is to make a collage using scraps of paper.  I was totally at a loss of what to do…short of copying the exercises by Gwen Hedley in ‘Drawn to Stitch’.  One thing I am attempting to do with these exercises – is to not buy anything new..(very hard) – so I just keep returning to the waste paper basket for materials.  This ‘collage’ (if it could be called that ?) took 5 minutes using an old envelope and a box of matches at the last minute to create the burns.  I think the burning could be my favourite discovery in making marks…

Cut up envelope and matches..

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