This week I have been struggling somewhat because as I was reviewing my mark making I realised that I wasn’t maybe as happy as I had hoped and didn’t feel in my sketchbooks that my drawing was as I would like it to be. I find it much easier to express myself in stitch and colours and know my choice is very much dictated my mood or what I am trying to portray – to stitch these is far easier for me than to draw emotions or expressively (or at least I feel it is).
Consequently I have been looking at an artist magazine called Artists & Illustrators and debating all month whether to get it or not or whether it would be much use but a fall in confidence realised 20 plus pages on mark making might come in very useful! I will write a short review in the next couple of days at the end of this post on my findings and ideas – my initial reading is that it is more aimed at painters/artists as you would expect but at the same time the use of sponges and different implements as well as some specialised paint brushes and also a simple spray bottle on watercolour paint do give inspiration for my own development.
One of the articles expresses the view that it is important to build up your own vocabulary of marks and I do appreciate this is something I will build up in time and in line with this a suggestion is made for purely a sketchbook of your own marks – thinking of the A3 sketchbook I intend to pick up an A4 one too that I can continue on the theme and experiment further with the exercises in the first module. I understand the way marks are used and still love the simplicity of pen and ink to do them and also when they are used in conjunction with a very small range of marks – it is like using running stitches but in various tones and yarns and this could well be a way for me to think i.e. think of stitches and patterns and build up my sketched marks that way.
Certainly the background paper or medium has a huge bearing on mark making – a cheap watercolour paper as opposed to a high quality one will mean the marks look very differently even if done in the same paints and that would translate into a very cheap muslin used instead of a high quality linen or cotton but at the same time in textiles I realise I may want the effects given by the muslin. Obviously like different makes of paint or brushes different types of yarns, as I have realised and experimented with, do give different marks too even if the same stitch is used.
Bearing in mind all these factors I have been concerned about not developing my own style and voice. Yesterday my fiancé and myself went out to the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas in Staffordshire and I realised instead of looking at the sculptures as just sculptures I was looking from an artist point of view – and not just at the sculptures as I also looked at the tones on a lake and saw blue-grey reflection of the sky but tones of peaches, pinks, deep greys caused by the adjoining quarry. As I was taking photographs for my theme of Beauty in Decay I was also asking what I did like and also thinking about other works of art that I am drawn to and one sculpture has always stood out for me – that of the Naval Memorial.
That memorial is deceptively simple in that it is large coloured panels of glass that represent the oceans of the Pacific, Mediterranean, Atlantic, Indian Ocean and Arctic along with red inserts representing blood spilt. Also there is one yellow panel and one red/blue either end of it. The stone sailor to the left yellow panel end is positioned in such away that he is looking as the ship that appears as the setting sun lights the panels and it looks as though the ship is sailing into the setting sun – ‘At the setting of the sun we remember them’ … it is an incredible piece of art in its own right. You do not realise the panels until you view side on how immaculately they are aligned and also when you view the whole memorial you see the different tones and colours created by the overlapping panels.
As the sun came out the shadows and reflections began to really show off the memorial and you started to see the effects and what a remarkable installation it is.
Seen from another angle you can see how the sailor looks towards the panels and can imagine him looking as the ship sails into the sunset – unfortunately during summer it is not possible to see this due to sunset being long after the Arboretum closes to the public.
The reason I include this particular memorial is because I like it due to the blocks of solid colour with inserts of white or red but also the secondary effects caused by the shadows (and knowing what happens at sunset too) – it is deceptively simply whilst being incredibly complex and this is art I love i.e. something that looks incredibly easy to do but in reality has taken a lot of work. I decided I wanted to paint it for my sketchbook work with a view that it could be either a textile piece with combination of fabrics or just purely stitches or for a personal quilt idea (in truth it will without any doubt become both!) but now want to do a larger version for my own enjoyment and record – what I loved was using the different tones of blues and even blue-ish purples plus the highlights of red. To draw it was, as I discovered, deceptively difficult but the end result simple but complex and I think I may see how my textile voice may develop – I would love to do this piece in differing stitches and yarns or even just satin stitch done in differing directions and yarns to create the different panels but maybe on a linen background. It would also work using voiles over or under stitches to create translucent and luminescent effects too.
As said I can see a style that I like – that of bold shapes and detailed stitches to create a look that is that combination of complex but simple. I like variations in tone but those variations to be spaced apart so your eye scans to connect. I like simple use of line similar to the way Van Gogh did with his pen and ink drawings. I have ideas for using colour in different ways – for example pink trees with blue leaves – mixing things up a little so you question why. I use 1000 words when 10 would do and explain things in complex manner for something simple and I realise my textile voice will reflect that. I need to sort out my confidence as I will only be able to work my way when I stop trying to match up to other textile artists and work the way I find easiest and that makes sense to me. Many people love more traditional sculptures that it is easy to understand their meaning but I like the Naval memorial because it is not obvious but still very beautiful and that memorial is how I want my voice to develop.