Sunday, May 11, 2008

Fun with Warhol

I just couldn't stop playing with the stencils and did this sort of Andy Warhol grid with them in the end, using the May TIF Challenge colours which I "read" as light and medium blue, pink and a browny-pink. It was great fun and I'm not displeased with the result even though it is something I might never have done but for the Challenge.

Here's the original grid, where I left white spaces between the squares which I subsequently cut out because I didn't like them.

Here's the used stencil. I cut it out of a piece of textured wallpaper because it's stronger than copier paper when it gets wet. However, when I used it texture-side-down, the paint escaped under the stencil and made smudgy images, so that's not recommended. I should really have cut two stencils, facing opposite ways or else used some other material that was smooth on both sides - live & learn!

Here is a pic of the little rose I did a few weeks ago - I unpicked the celtic knotwork beading I'd done around it, so it's ready to be used on something. There is a glass blob I found years ago, around which I tried out the cabochon technique, thinking it could be the eye of some creature. And finally, there is a lens that I think is called a "dragon's eye". It makes the world look faceted.

I tried to take some photos holding the dragon's eye lens against the lens of the camera - here are pix of the cabochon and the rose. I think I can use these in something, but don't know what yet.

Here's the back of the cabochon.

Finally, just a comment on a comment from Purple Missus, who said in part, "James Hunting said we must call ourselves artists and not textile or fibre artists that way people will take our art seriously. After all a painter doesn't call himself a 'paint artist'". I so agree - it's not the medium that defines the artist, it's the intent behind the making.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Playing with Self Portraits of the Artist

Continuing to think about the May TIF Challenge, and coming back to the idea of a self-portrait, I dug out some exercises we'd done in art class when I first moved here. I'd signed up to meet local people and to refresh drawing & painting skills. This first one was an exercise where you had to just write the same word or phrase over and over - I just used my name, Michele, backwards, upside down, forwards, large, small, printed, cursive, etc. It reminds me of a rug or mat and I think could work as a silk painting or using a rag rug technique.

Another exercise we did was to sketch ourselves, then do tracings of the dark, medium and light areas, then cut stencils from each of these tracings. We could then use the stencils to print out different images. I very much liked the cut out bits and mounted them together like this. It is part of my face, deconstructed, and reminds me of hieroglyphics - it's like you can "read" these marks and make up my face from them. This gave me the idea to applique various bits onto organza and mount them together in such a way that when you stacked them up together, you would get the whole image but individually they would only ever be bits of a face.

I didn't get the idea to work the way I wanted it to, but here are two pieces that I did make up, using up all the offcuts.

Here are some pix of a new self-portrait sketch. I think the marks are a bit better because I knew where I was going with it, that I'd have to cut out the shapes in such a way that the stencil wouldn't fall apart.

And here are some pix of experiments with collage of the cut out bits. In this exercise, I didn't use a medium value, just dark and light. Can you find the eye, nose, mouth shapes? I can see a sort of bouquet of vegetation in one collage.

I particularly like this one - it's just mirror images of my hair shape, with the shape of a nostril making a question mark at the bottom. I think it is a pretty good interpretation of "what do you call yourself", which could be read as, "fat head" or "in two minds about the question".

I copied the sketch on the computer, then cut different bits out. As you can see, I recycle paper, so both of these had printing on the back. I like this a lot, too, the cut out shape showing against the words, and may use this somehow.

Unfortunately, none of these experiments seem to suggest working with beads - o well, that's the way it is sometimes. Either I have to use another technique or get back to fishy or just do another bead design...

Monday, May 5, 2008

Thoughts on May TIF Challenge

Here are my ideas on the new TIF Challenge .

Splitting hairs: That was my first reaction to the distinction between art and craft. A quick trip to the dictionary seemed to confirm this - both definitions use the other word to provide explanation, with the word skill included. It seems to me that art critics have given rise to this so-called distinction. Have you ever heard of anyone called a "craft critic"? I suspect they would feel hurt and disparaged if we started to call them that. 'Nuff said. It's all about using your own feelings and sensibilities when coming to define what you are and what you do, and not using others' definitions. I'm an artist because I say so. My idea of being an artist is that I look at the world with pleasure and wonder and my whole raft of emotions, distill that stimulus and mirror it back into the world through the work of my hands, heart, mind, intellect, social conscience, and means. This gave the idea of a self portrait, looking straight at the camera and enlarging the eyes, while the rest of the pose would show me working on something. Think of Rembrandt at his easel. Maybe I could include a messy hairdo with split ends? An exaggerated parting?

The Outlaw Area: This is an idea from Buckminster Fuller, but I couldn't find the reference in my library. He was explaining about people who go their own way to explore the world and find themselves outside the mainstream social context, where they permit themselves to do the outrageous and frequently come back with extraordinary discoveries. The idea is profoundly appealing to me, and makes me think of pirates, freedom, sailing ships, oceans, both exterior and interior space, solitude, wonder, courage, independence - o, it's very rich and evocative - and I believe this is what artists do - but how to represent all that? Good challenge - I shall have to think about it some more.

Blessings: Yes, I feel blessed to be an artist, and this made me think of one of my favourite poems, Dylan Thomas's "Poem On His Birthday", in which he counts his blessings...

"Yet, though I cry with tumbledown tongue,
Count my blessings aloud:

"Four elements and five
Senses, and man a spirit in love
Tangling through this spun slime
To his nimbus bell cool kindgom come
And the lost, moonshine domes,
And the sea that hides his secret selves
Deep in its black, base bones,
Lulling of spheres in the seashell flesh,
And this last blessing most,

"That the closer I move
To death, one man through his sundered hulks,
The louder the sun blooms
And the tusked, ramshackling sea exults

There are plenty of strong images, lots of them related to the ocean, making me think of coral and fish, etc. I read somewhere that Picasso represented himself in some of his paintings as a goat. I guess I think of myself as a fish - a revelation. I wondered why I kept coming back to this as an image in my art.

Spirit: Finally, taking Sharon's challenge question further, "What do you call yourself and why?", I have for a long time pondered questions such as "Who are you?", "Why are you here?", etc. I believe that I am a splinter of the divine, mirroring glory. Yup, that's me, that's what I call myself because that's what I feel at the core. To make this into a design, well, a fish has been a symbol used by the Catholic church. I'm not sure what it represents in that context, but I like it very much, so I guess the beaded fish I just did may count as my May challenge piece. The irridescent beads actually include the colours in this month's pallette, too.

Looks like I've talked myself into working on that fish collage I just started, although I think I'd like to do machine embroidery on it and I'm on a beading streak just now...

On the other hand, the iris are just stunning and maybe I'll do that, but no, I'm trying to stay with the colour pallette...


After finishing the needlelace bag, I resurrected an embroidery I started years ago, in which I'd made some coral reef and what looked like a fish head using a piece of abalone shell, but I could never figure out where to go from there. It was looking at beading blogs and experimenting with bead embroidery that I found the answer - the fish's body could be beaded.

Here's a photo collage of reference books, sketch, started embroidery (top left, under the needlecase). There's also a started piece of needlelace that will eventually be coral, just the outlines couched down. I photographed the National Geographic book opened to the page that inspired this idea, as well as the dust jacket shown in the top right corner.

Here are pix of the piece in progress and the finished embroidery, which just needs to be mounted once I decide whether it will be a book cover or bag or wall art.

I started this piece while waiting patiently for the first of the month for Sharon Boggon's May Take It Further Challenge. I didn't even look up the challenge on the first of the month because I was so wrapped up in this beading. Next post will deal with that.

Meanwhile, here is another fishy piece that has been collaged and now awaits machine embroidery and bead embellishment.