TIF challenge January 2

I’ve got my first ideas down in my sketchbook.

January mindmap

One of the images that’s playing in my mind is tendrils, and serendipitously we were tidying up a mass of clematis this afternoon so I rescued some to draw later. The next step is to do some painting and drawing and think about what aspects to focus on and what textile techniques will lend themselves to expressing them. The only thing I’ve decided on so far is to knit something dark, maybe with wire, and see how introducing colour/light will transform it. I want to end up with a series of related samples in a visual journal format that is integrated and ‘designed’, at least more so than my usual messy random sketchbook work.

Take it Further challenge

I have been mulling over Sharon B’s Take it Further challenge for January – this is from her blog:

The key concept for January is a feeling we have all had, the feeling of admiration for another. Ask yourself who do you look up to and admire? Why? What is it you admire about them?… Take the idea, develop it into a resolved design during that month and apply it to fiber or paper.

There’s also a colour challenge but I’m going to focus on the concept each month as it’s in this area of visualising the abstract that I know I really need to be challenged.

I struggled for a while with this concept, finding that there seemed to be no-one I could admire without reservation – I was relieved to read a very clear articulation of something of the same feeling from Liz at Dreaming Spirals; and stunned by the imaginative way she’s resolving it. I think a combination of stifling perfectionism and a deep-seated desire not to be misunderstood were combining to paralyse me and I wondered about pulling out of the challenge…

But reflecting on what is common to the people I admire – often people whose names I don’t know or couldn’t share (sometimes quite hidden, usually quite humble), I realised that it’s often precisely because they are such a mixture of opposing qualities that I admire them. I’m drawn to the way they’ve confronted their particular darkness by allowing something bright and fierce and tender and courageous to grow in their lives. I began to think about radiance and colour breaking through strong bonds or tangled chains. I’m remembering an image from LeGuin’s A Wizard of Earthsea, a ‘clot of black shadow, quick and hideous’. And seeing tendrils, tiny shoots, frail in themselves, but becoming tenacious and powerful as they grow.

This is all a bit scary – I discover I don’t really like to expose my thought processes before I know where they are going or if I can make anything of them. It feels too vulnerable.

As to technique, I’m using the challenge to make myself work more consistently in a sketchbook so at this point I think my entries will be pages from a visual journal. It will allow me to explore the ideas in more than one medium and it fits in well with my other commitments.

seeing shapes

OCA Textiles 1 is (obviously) a textile course, but a significant proportion of the exercises involve design work on paper – I’m still not sure what I think about this or whether I’ll continue to work that way – it’s a big change for me since my previous method was basically to get out the materials and see what happened. It feels good, though, to be challenged so fundamentally. I did enjoy this exercise very much – to isolate interesting parts of an image using a frame and represent them, focusing on the shapes.

framed shapes

framed shapes

more French knots and other dots

I hoped I would get a bit more done last week, art-wise, than I did, but there was more work (day job) than I expected (which is good, really) and so in the end I was squeezing the art in around it. I did the machine quilting on the second of three panels for the appliqué assessment in my quilting course, and started on the hand stitching. It’s crazy, really, to be doing large amounts of hand stitching on a project like this when time is short, but I am, because when I decided to do that, it turned from an assessment piece I ‘had to get done’ into something that I feel engaged with and might even want to look at again afterwards.

For OCA Textiles 1, I’m still working on the pointillist stitching exercises. I tried some different stitches…

pointillist stitching

… and then French knots at a different scale, though not (yet) with rope as envisioned by Jude in her comment! This was just tapestry wool on canvas.

pointillist stitching

I enjoyed this exercise, which was to blend pastel colours across a sample. Though I had to scrape the barrel a little to find any pastel colours at all in my thread collection – just a few silks left over from something I made for my niece when she was a baby (she’s practically a teenager now and I don’t seem to have bought any thread you could call pastel since then – a few knitting yarns, that’s all).

blending stitches

The next exercise is to interpret something from my sketchbooks, also in pastel shades, in a pointillist style. Well, a quick glance through them reveals that even when I paint something that looks pastel-ish, I make it stronger or brighter or even a different colour! So I think the next exercise is actually to sit down with my sketchbook and some paint that includes liberal amounts of white, and see how pale and interesting I can be…

painting crockery