Wabi-sabi … first progression of ideas

This is the first series of sketches and ideas for my theme book and were also done with a view to putting into practice the lessons learnt in Part Two regarding design and composition.


In theory the composition lessons make sense but as I found in Part Two theory and practice can be quite different things!  Using my view finder I looked through my initial sketches and chose the one to the right as I felt it had a variety of shapes, colours and textures that could surely produce some dynamic combinations (please ignore the blue tack in the photo – evidence of use of view finder!).






The first sketch I tried was using a portion of my original drawing and concentrating on the shapes and colours – I decided to use block colours father than shading as in the original.  I also felt on completion that the colours were not defined enough in some sections and that it was lacking something – it was neither calm and peaceful or exciting despite the strong shapes and variety.  I loved the contrast in the colours between the reds and purples, lights and darks and with the browns, greys and ochres in the bottom right but it didn’t ‘do anything’ or spark any emotion.  Rather than scrap the piece I added some black lines to emphasize some colours and shapes but not in every area and this seemed to bring the piece alive – there is a clear contrast between the deep red colours and the more muted and calm violets and greys and pale pinks.  The ochres and browns add a further small dimension but my eye is still drawn to those deep reds in the centre and top too – the black lines draw your eye around the painting.  Media used was new acrylic paints in cadmium red, Paynes grey, ochre yellow, violet purple, titanium white and burnt sienna.

IMG_1541I still wasn’t happy overall with the first progression but didn’t want to scrap it either so decided to try using the view finder to see if any areas were worth developing further and this really worked for me.

The photo is not terribly clear as with my flash the central colours would not show and without I have slight shadow.

I simplified some shapes and added one or two more lines and also used purely Inktense pencils – after letting the whole piece dry thoroughly I didn’t feel there was enough contrast with some colours so intensified them further.  I also added a little dark grey pencil to separate the pale colours in the centre as they were harmonising a little too much.

What I am not happy about is that there seems to be 4 corners on this piece and although there are links it confuses me as it looks like different layers over something – as if you had several different petals or leaves being layered without a cohesion.

Time to try something different and with a different area and colour combination.

Taking inspiration from stitches I felt that I would try and use different patterns to add textures whilst retaining form/shape and using colours.  The section of the sketch I chose immediately reminded me of a hillside scene hence the choice of greens, red, purple and yellows for the bottom 1/2 to 2/3’s.

I am happier with this as the shapes themselves contrast with the detail within (large to small) and yet there is both harmony and contrast in the colours too. I feel this piece is energetic and dynamic but without being too dramatic – it feels balanced in composition to me.

IMG_1544For the next trial I decided to try oil pastels and straightening the curved lines within the section chosen – this immediately gives a dynamic energetic feel which I felt suited the colour palette I chose.

I am using a multi-media paper for all the sketches and this gave me a nice texture with the pastels.  In some areas the lines still look curved despite my best efforts but this contrasts well with the defined sharper shapes so maybe it isn’t such a bad thing.

Do I like it and does it work? the jury is out as I write as I am not convinced but nor do I dislike it either.

IMG_1553At this point something drew me back to look at the original sketch again and I found a series of shapes that really appealed.  Again I changed tack with the colours as I immediately saw a sea/blue theme would work really well – unusually for me to try a monochromatic scheme but also a challenge to create something very peaceful and calming.

I stuck to using acrylic paints for this one (my set is new so I am still getting used to theme) and just used a combination of ultramarine, cerulean, violet purple, titanium white and Payne’s grey.  After completion of the initial painting I was happy with the composition in that the contrast of large and small shapes and differing blues worked well – I wanted light against dark and bright against muted so that each shape stood out against each other.

The problem I had at that stage was the piece seemed flat and dull despite the colours – not calming at all but dull.  As I had in the back of my mind the thought that tulips could transform in this sketch into a sea theme I remembered looking at how beautiful rain drops on tulips looked last spring and thought of bubbles in the sea so added varying sizes of white dots to the darker area – if I had added them in dark colours to the lighter areas I feel it would have been too much.  The dots bring harmony to the piece as they seem to connect the areas and the darker colours with the light and also add life and energy taking the painting from dull to gently calming as if the blues were lapping wave-like against one another – a simple but effective solution.

IMG_1547So what else could be done?  I have recently started experimenting with lino printing and decided to see what I could do with the sketch above albeit using different cuts for texture.

I kept the majority of the shapes roughly the same and wanted to try to contrast the light and dark areas by using a variety of cut marks.

I am, as said, very new to lino printing and I have no doubt I will look back in time and think this is very basic but for now yes it works for me.  I wish I could get some of the lines smoother on the curves but that will come with experience as will learning how to create different textural marks and different drawing lines.  It is interesting to see how different the shapes and sketch look when done this way and how it creates a very different feel to it.

IMG_1550Finally I thought I would take the same lino cut and try printing it on to a deep red card and this produces a dramatically different feel – suddenly what set out to be a calming peaceful idea is turned into something much more dynamic and dramatic.

Changing the colour of the card gives me confidence to try doing this with other prints and sketches too as it is fascinating to see how different it looks – the marks are all the same and the ink colour identical but it has a very different feel to it and for me create a different emotion (one of nervousness or anxiety rather than fear or anger that red is often associated with).



IMG_1552One other lino print that I have tried from these tulips so far is a simple and basic copy of one sketch – this was to get an immediate feel of how the lino printing would work and to effectively use the lino printing as a different form of sketching.

The point I must remember is to reverse the sketch on my lino if I want the print to be the same composition as the original piece – this is a mirror image.

On the whole I feel relatively happy with this but feel it needs more black left towards the centre but that is purely for more definition as the tulip itself was very detailed. It is difficult for me at this stage to show the different delicate textures on the flower but this will come with practice and experience as I have noted above.

On point I do need to ensure is to wipe my lino down before printing to get rid of any small bits of cut lino or dust.  In addition I feel I need to use more printing ink and rub more evenly with the brayer to produce a better overall print.

As a health and safety point I also need to ensure I use a hand guard or keep my fingers behind the cutting tool – this is a lesson well learnt because now I am keeping a small first aid kit next to my desk complete with antiseptic wipes and plasters and am buying steristrips too!




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