This project is all about manipulating fabric and this both fascinates and scares me – fascinates because of being able to use fabrics in different ways to how I have before and scares for the same reason!
STAGE 1 – PREPARATION
I deliberately chose to work majoritively with fabrics that I had purchased for this project in a mix of greys, blacks, browns, purples and blues in a mix of tweed, felt, voiles, glittery fabrics and velvet but with further scraps or fabrics from other colour bags or my extensive scrap boxes. I also dipped into my colour bags for other fabrics if I needed them.
STAGE 2 – DEVELOPING IDEAS
This stage is about developing ideas from which to work from in fabric. The course material asks you to look through your A3 drawings or other sketchbook work and choose six interesting drawings or source material which has further potential for development – at this stage I realised I was not entirely happy with what I had in my sketchbooks at that point and decided to do some new work specifically for this stage but with a view to it being added into my theme book later as I had recently taken some photographs in our surrounding area.
As required by the course material I looked for composition of shapes, patterns and textures – this is where I decided to do the new work and spent time looking through photographs and images to find ones that had some expressive qualities or rhythm in them that appealed and also with thoughts on how to develop those images.
In all the drawings and images chosen the idea was to enlarge or play about with shapes in various ways and to look for contrasts in shape, proportion, colour and textures but not forgetting to look for harmonious relationships too including, as the course material states, ‘shapes that have an affinity to one another, shapes that make shapes, remembering that space around the shape is as important as the shape itself’ and to look for the effects of tones or dark against light (this reminds me of the Renaissance painters use of chiaroscuro so was of particular interest).
In the first series of images I had played about with the shapes in various formats including lino printing to develop a series based on harmonious shapes but with explorations of colour and textures throughout – some worked better than others and some I can see wanting to develop yet further in the future.
I also added some further quick sketches on some drawings as I have gone back and looked again afresh seeing new patterns and ideas emerging – some pages of my sketchbook for this part of the course have deliberately been left blank so this can continue in the future and work as long term reference sources.
The second image I chose was a photograph by Cezary Kowalski (who has given me very kind permission to use here and to do further work from). I liked the combination of hard and soft lines and contrasting shapes but with harmonious colours. The first sketch was simply based on the photograph itself followed by a simple rough watercolour to get a feel for the calming atmosphere although I emphasized the walkway in deeper tones.
I then added colours to one design – yellow and blue with secondary I colours in triadic colour schemes but have thought this could have worked better in a grey/orange colour scheme – I have seen someone use this in watercolour and it works wonderfully.
This is a design I later developed into my finished three dimensional sample as I liked the strong lines and contrasting shapes which are suggestive of textures – the lines I really loved with their feeling of perspective which gives the dimensional quality that I wanted.
The next image is a photograph I found on Facebook but have not been able to get the photographers permission – it is however in my sketchbook. I originally did an oil pastel and like it so much it is framed in our house – the textures, colour, lines and the whole composition appeal. In theory this should have been an easy picture to develop as it fits the requirements of expressive qualities and rhythms and definitely has both contrasts and harmonising qualities but in practice I found it more difficult.
I could see patterns with rhythm that I felt were expressive but as I type this I can now see an alternative area that I could have developed – the lower half of the oil pastel has a different selection of shapes and textures that would work really well and I will do some further work to add to this sketchbook at a later date.
From here I started to play with other ideas – initially focusing on the shapes due to their natural relationships with each other but varying the media and also adding in reflections and trying to give an impression of textures. I am not happy with the colours in the top image and feel that the colours and shapes are not harmonious enough nor contrasting enough for me. The marks in the lower image are too similar in size to create the impression of texture and feel these should be varied more but in addition the colours are either not harmonious enough to create a serene feel that echoes the atmosphere in the original photograph or contrasting enough to create a dramatic feel.
These images then gave me the idea to concentrate on the shapes surrounding the shapes and simplify the designs – these next two ideas seem naive and simplistic but the idea was to give me an impression of how this could potentially work in fabric.
I went back to the original image to try a simple collage using purely wallpaper – this may be very basic but again this gives a clear impression to me of how fabrics could be used with this image and to work with different patterned fabrics which are moving away from my previously very safe choices (I am formerly a quilter albeit not a very adventurous in mixing and matching fabrics).
Finally with this image I concentrated on the reflection in this image and reflected them horizontally and worked with wallpaper again in a collage format – this experiment I really like and feel the effect is harmonizing and has a feeling of calm.
The fifth image I chose was a new one and will be transferred into my theme book – this photograph I took in the spring at Elvaston Park in Derbyshire. I took several at this location looking at the variety of colours, textures and shapes and spent some time choosing this particular image to work from as I wanted to look at the overall balance in the composition.
From the image I did an initial watercolour – trying to capture the overall atmosphere as well as a reasonable portrayal of the textures and shapes. In my theme book, at a later date, I want to work with this more and do separate sketches of the shapes and textures as I concentrate on different areas and develop this image or one similar to it further to how I have for this project.
I also did a larger second version of this using a softer palette using Inktense pencils and watercolours and this image is in a new A3 sketchbook so have just added a photograph to this sketchbook for the purposes of this project.
I particularly like the area around the bridge due to the contrasts in textures, shapes and colours – the area is harmonious but there is additional strong contrast in light and dark and I decided to do an initial pen sketch concentrating on this.
At this point I decided to try one of the suggestions in the course material and that is to cut up one of my photographs of a sketch and to try rearranging the shapes – I understand the principle and can see patterns emerging but think I have to try this more to really achieve something workable.
I also tried a colour version of the pen sketch concentrating purely on the shapes and colours but changing them into brighter more vibrant hues – it gives a very different feel to the area and one that I like.
The first page had two experiments – the top with taking the same image as the black and white pen drawing and changing the colours and marks again to create textures with contrast but harmony in my palette choices.
The bottom image I used a simple primary colour palette and cut the image diagonally before rearranging – this I now feel that in retrospect that I could have used this further as I can see further shapes and patterns that have potential. I think the reason I did not use this before is because of lack of confidence at this moment but will be having another look at this and perhaps developing in my theme book.
The second page concentrated on a smaller area and I generally played around with different colour ideas and also in the top image reflections. I do like the contrasts between light and shadow and also the softer muted harmonizing colour schemes of the middle image.
The bottom image I tried varying the marks and creating a play of light and shadow within the hues – this is successful in some areas but in others I need more contrast.
My sixth image was one that eventually was problematic in terms of design. I took this photograph at Chad Water in Derbyshire last autumn due to the shapes and colours that I witnessed – that orange complimenting a pale blue/white sky was just beautiful. The black and white copy gives a good impression of the textures and light/shadow plus a clear definition of the shapes produced by the fauna.
An initial watercolour and sketch concentrated firstly on the colours and secondly on the shapes of the orange fauna which reminded me of sound waves on a computer screen. The quick sketch I could see being done in different machine or hand stitches – something to remember to try and may have a bearing on some theme ideas.
Again this image will be included in my theme book as the area is quite close to where I live.
The top image I took direct inspiration from the sound wave sketch and the bottom was the shapes left over from cutting out the image on the following pages – the shapes produced by the shapes! The watercolour top image I am not happy about but despite this I can see how this could translate into fabric or silk paint as a possible background.
The shapes themselves were the focus of a wallpaper collage type ‘sketch’ as I liked the defined edges of the shapes and the patterns they produced – new shapes emerge and I wanted both to be seen in my choice of paper as this could translate into fabric choices. These do have a natural rhythm due to their shapes and a calming quality about them. I chose papers that contrasted but complimented each other and set of the negative space between the main shapes.
There are further options of placing the shapes either closer together or further apart and with smaller versions of the shapes on top of the larger to produce further shapes and rhythmic patterns.
Going on from working with the images and drawings the course material then says to match some of the fabric with my drawings and overlap or overlay sheers on fabrics and to experiment freely for a while – this proved interesting but challenging. It is then stated to combine textures or altering surfaces of the fabrics by removing threads – I chose not to do the latter but combining the textures was interesting to see how they worked with and against each other.
After experimenting with the fabrics the course material states to make 5 or 6 small collages of fabric with different proportions against one another in formal or overlapped arrangements.
My first trial is not experimental enough as it easier for me to specifically match a sketch rather than do random collages and experiment freely with colour and texture and proportion – it is easier for me to have a specific goal in mind. On the other hand this collage does give me a good idea of how the fabrics and the contrasting textures work together.
The course material states to look for relations in texture, colour and weight and this I do feel I started to do relatively naturally. It also states to try and relate some of the collages to my drawings and to see what moods they reflect or express and this was interesting to see – how one calm drawing can change atmosphere or emotion to something very different due to the choice of fabrics and their relationhip to one another.
The second two collages were based on furnishing fabrics (left over from collecting samples for a fabric sample book) plus cotton and checks from my fabric selection. These two I tried to vary the proportions and do a more random collage that although very simple gives a definitive idea of how these can be developed.
My fourth collage was bigger and bolder and again combined furnishing fabric scraps with my chosen selection of fabrics – it was loosely based on the image of the bridge at Elvaston Castle and has a lively feel to it with more chaos than perhaps I would ideally like. The choice of fabrics has directly changed the atmosphere of the original image.
Taking the same image I deliberately choose a colour palette and choice of fabrics that was closer to the original – I wanted softer textures and a softer overall feel so deliberately choose scrap cottons and silk (the green on the left is part of some sari fabric). The rough or wool textures of the tweeds, furnishing fabrics, mesh and hessian from before are replaced with cottons and silks and the emotions that it reflects are calmer and more serene.
The last collage was a very simplistic and based directly on the photograph of Chad Water but loosely reflecting the shapes both horizontally and vertically. I deliberately choose contrasting textures of tweeds against soft cottons and harsh straight lines with no soft edges. I wanted the dark and light to be dramatic.
The emotions of ones that I feel are mixed – calm and serene but at the same time harsh and stubborn – the latter emotion I type on instinct as I look at the image but it feels that these are lines that refuse to move and are impenetrable.
Overall these first two stages have been more challenging that I expected but at the time revealing – some images I am a lot happier with than others and I know my choice of source material will be now changing as I look more closely at compositions with a view to how they can be developed in textures, colours, shapes and lines and to see potential designs within them.