Friday, May 25, 2012

Empty Spaces (in my head?)

Jane Davila -
Usually I have more ideas than I know what to do with, more ideas than I have time to implement. Lately though (does the last 7 months count as lately??) the urge or drive to create has dropped way off. The ideas are still there, but the impetus is lost. I found myself in a creative slump, feeling insufficient creative energy to make anything, doubting every process and technique. I know most of us find ourselves there at one or another point in our artistic journeys. Knowing this doesn't necessarily shorten the torture, though it is consoling to know one is not alone.

One of the obstacles I set up for myself is that I knew I wanted my piece for this theme to be the second in a series that I've been wanting to pursue for a long time. In fact I had made a few false starts on a second piece any number of times in the last couple of years. Initially I had created a piece for a mixed-media exhibit a few years ago and, when it was done,  made a mental note that it was a direction I definitely wanted to follow and develop into a series. Subsequent attempts weren't successful from either a compositional or technical standpoint. I started to think that the first piece I made was destined to be a "one-off". I decided to give it one more go for this theme. Nothing like adding a little pressure to your stress!

Carmina Figurata -  the original piece in this series

It can be helpful, when encountering a creative block, to go back to a place where you did create something you were happy with and make another in that series. Because I had already attempted this avenue with this series and felt that the results were less than successful, I knew that this strategy wouldn't be as useful as it could be. However! Sometimes forcing and pushing through and around that block is possible with persistence.

All of this is a long way of saying that my piece is complete. I pulled fabric and paper for a color palette to work with (oddly, none of these made it into the final piece).

I returned to my beetles as subjects, gave them a sense of movement by placing in and out of the frame and in different directions, and aged or distressed them with ink and paint. I played with the "empty spaces" or negative space between them and also kept them as stark silhouettes where the positive and negative spaces of their bodies spoke to the theme as well.

Instead of the painted canvas that I used in the first piece, I choose an aged linen on a thick stabilizer as a substrate this time. I machine quilted arced lines into it and then added hand embroidery with a variety of coarse linen threads.

The beetles themselves are sewn onto a piece of Arches watercolor paper that has been heavily embossed with a variety of textures found in my studio. I collaged other embossed papers onto the watercolor paper as well.

The final piece invites the viewer to step closer to see all of the bespoke details. Now I am looking forward to creating more pieces in this series and hope that I have seen the back of this particular creative block!

Artius Vacuus

Thursday, May 17, 2012

"Empty Spaces - New Growth"

Carol here.

In my last entry, I wrote of stitching several of the phrases "empty spaces" in a cream colored thread, which would reward the viewer that takes a closer look.
I really love the additional texture that added to this canvas!

I finished up the piece by transferring the enlarged & cropped lily onto the canvas. I used a graphite transfer paper to trace parts of the drawing onto the canvas, freehand drawing the remainder (I had drawn the image several times already in my sketchbook so I was very familiar with the lines of it).

You will recall in my previous post that I wanted to add a touch of red into this piece.
As chance would have it the Lily Leaf Beetle (sometimes called the Scarlet Lilly Beetle) is a pest to the Crown Imperial Lily.

I practiced drawing the beetle in my sketchbook.

Sometimes things just work in your favor, don't they?

So I added three of the red beetles, munching on the plant as they leave their own empty spaces.

I wanted to have one of the "Empty Spaces" phrases more prominent so I stitched the chosen one in red. I used a very light application of watercolor paint inside the letters.

The last thing I did to finish this piece up was to stretch the canvas over stretcher bars. I had planned on this finishing technique from the beginning so I was very careful about where the lily and the phrase was placed.

One of my favorite things about this piece was how the layering all came together in the end. I have many layers of text, transfers, stamping, collage, paint, molding paste, machine stitching and drawing on top of this canvas. 

When you view the entire piece, you can see peeks of each layer.

"Empty Spaces- New Growth"

I hope that you all allow the empty spaces in your life to fill with new growth.

Thank you for following along with me as I created this artwork.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Finished but Nameless

Liz Kettle posting. My piece for the Empty Spaces theme is finished. I decided to mount it on a canvas because the two parts of the diptych are small and I was worried that they would be lost when hung directly on a wall. Plus, it was important for me to have the space around and between the two pieces to be white which you can't always count on in a gallery setting.

Hopefully you can see some of the stitching in this detail photo. The left side of the diptych is stitched along the black lines in cotton thread. The right side is stitched in the white spaces with silk and rayon threads. I hope this piece evokes the question of what is 'empty'.

I haven't decided on a name yet. Usually, when I hand stitch so much on a piece of art I have plenty of time to mull over a name but this time I didn't come up with one. I will have to make a list of ideas and see what resonates. Let me know what you think in the comments.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The evolution of "Faith" - my empty spaces piece

Gloria Hansen here. In thinking about "empty spaces," my mind was jumping to many interpretations,  and I quickly realized it's a theme that we all can explore for a very long time. To quiet my jumping thoughts, I decided to keep it simple, keep it simple, keep it simple, and see what flows.  This is how my piece empty spaces piece evolved:

 I started with an empty box and added a red square.  Working digitally, I created a line of progressively larger dots. I envisioned french knots, with the larger knots having an extra wrap of thread.
In this version, I added lines of digital stitches.  Another way to think of it is a line with "empty spaces."

I added black to further break up the empty space, and added more lines of vertical digital stitches.

I turned off the digital layer with the stitches and started to experiment with the shape of the black rectangle.

I added perspective and then experimented again with digital stitches.
Still clueless as to what would evolve, those shapes immediately reminded me of a show I saw in London at the Museum of Design. There was an exhibit by John Pawson, an architect who is described as a "minimalist" and is known for his process of reduction and for creating designs of "simplicity, grace, and visual clarity." The image above on the left was central to the exhibit, a "site-specific 1:1 full-size installation." I'm standing within the room in the image on the right.  I and my business partner, Derry, who took me to the exhibit, spent a lot of time sitting on the bench and absorbing the incredible peaceful feel of the space. Although we were sitting in the middle of a busy museum, it felt more like we were sitting within a zen garden.

Also of interest, on the other side of the back wall are people looking at a different piece in the exhibit.  While anyone within the room could see those behind the room, those outside could not see in. More food for contemplation.

As I thought more about that exhibit, I started going through folders of photographs I'd taken around that time period. In the process, I started pulling out copies of ones I might want to work with. After weeding them down, I decided on two below to form the basis of my piece -- an open road that I took from the front passenger seat while traveling out west and a photo of a window from a decaying building in England.

I selected more photos with things that can move through space -- a bird, a sheep, a train, a flying machine, and I selected an escalator and a statute. The escalator was taken inside a science museum, and I loved the neon colors reflected on it. Two photos that comes up a lot in my personal work are a replica of daVinci's flying machine that was on display at the V&A Museum and a Paris-bound train with daVinci artwork on it (although I've added to the image above). The flying machine is in two pieces I've made: The Journey and Another Journey, and the train image is in a piece not on my website yet.

I opened all of the images in Photoshop and began working with them. Night after night, more nights after night, I worked on the design. Version after version, layer after layer.

This is one of the versions I came up with.

As you can see, the above has a lot of layers, groups, and groups within groups of layers going on. My next goal was turning off layers to see what I could remove. 

While experimenting with various versions, I added a black/white adjustment layer to remove color altogether. By dragging the color sliders, I experimented with the tonality of the image. Using a black/white adjustment layer is a better option than simply desaturating an image as you can control the value of the lightness and darkness of each color within your image. 

Because the size requirement is based on 8, I experimented with different scales on the elements within the design. 

While I like this, it seemed to also need some type of framework.

The above is the final piece called "Faith" which is left for you to interpret however you wish.  While the image is bordered in gray, I suspect there will be no binding or border on it, but rather a facing.  My intent is to print it on silk and hand stitch it.  Because I have several versions of it, in color and without, I also hope that it is the first in a series.

I often find the path to a new work is an interesting one, and I hope you've enjoyed the thinking behind this piece.