Monday, 24 April 2017

WATTLE

It is Anzac day here in Australia & in New Zealand. It's a day when we remember with respect the first time we joined forces to go to war, as members of the British Commonwealth, and as a result, this experience became a significant catalyst for the newly formed Australian colony, in establishing a sense of identity.

I sit here typing, wearing my red poppy earrings.  Many people are wearing red poppies today,  it's a symbol of remembrance.  Symbols are important, and as it happens...it's a symbol that I have used as my muse for this week's Art Project; the flower symbol of Australia, the Golden Wattle.

Splotches of yellow are gradually appearing on our wattle tree, bringing us sunshine on the greyer days!

Of course, getting up close & a lot more personal to the subject...as an artist must...reveals so much more information than previously understood about wattle flowers.

Sketching is a wonderful means of making notes.  Whilst my lines may not be perfect, with every glance up & then  scratch of the pen I am learning about this plant.  The proportions, the colours, the development from bud, to blob, to blossom!  From a distance the wattle looks really golden, but up close, the most golden part is the speck of pollen at the ends of all those stamen.

Having a few sketched 'notes', I  then start playing with design prospects.  Using a black copic pen, I  drew in outlines, before then playing with colour, using my water brushes & my pack of koh-i-noors!

I liked the idea of incorporating the long slender leaves, the patterning on the bud & a single blossom.

Once set on a design, I laid out my photos & drawings with potential fabrics to work out what the best options were for colour matching.  My stash didnt have perfect matches, but utilizing the mantra, "this is just an exercise", I chose the closest fabrics I had!!

My first task was to establish a background, and this was where I referenced those long, thin, strappy leaves, with stripes of pale silvery green, into which I then added a stem line down the middle.

With a little bit of careful placement, I inserted fabric for a blossom stem, before layering up & sewing in the border pattern.

Before cutting back the border layers, I added some fabrics for the blossom itself.  It is starting to make sense now!

Cutting back the layers brought me to this point & I'm pleased with how it looks.  The border references the patterning on the buds & the blossom has two layers, to reference the denser mid section of the blossom. 

I could have left it there & been reasonably happy.  However, I took it a little further.

Using the sewing machine, I added a lot of lines to the blossom, giving it a bit of a dandelion look!  It also gave it lot's of radiating energy!The final embellishment was the addition of beads to represent that golden pollen at the ends of the stamen.  Sadly, my bead supplies didn't include a sufficiently golden hue, so this just had to do!

Mission accomplished for this week anyway!










Tuesday, 18 April 2017

MAPPING HOME

The weather has been neither too hot nor too cold for gardening here lately, so instead of cutting back layers of fabric, I've been cutting back branches & in some cases pulling whole plants out.  The process of gardening often allows me contemplation time, & during my Easter weekend gardening I was thinking about ghosts!  More specifically, plant ghosts of what filled these gardens in the past!

Running parallel to these musings have been my facebook feed.  Rich with workshop photos from both tutors & attendees, I've particularly enjoyed those that have been about memory & place.  Wonderful explorations into how mark making can represent a reality or an event & thus trigger memories.

As if this wasn't already ample food for thought, my bedtime reading is currently Kim Mahood's 'Position Doubtful'.  In the section I'm up to, she has taken a large meterage of canvas, camping supplies & a convoy of experts up to the Tanami desert area, where she has begun the process of mapping the land.  Her mission is to not just map the physical landscape, but to map & record the stories & memories of the land onto the physical map. The experts include a geologist, who is able to read the physical landscape & describe the story of what happened in it's history to shape it to the landscape it is currently, and she has both male & female members of the Aboriginal custodians of the area.  It is important to have both, as they contribute both different stories & different perspectives to the same stories .  There are also the stories of the church missions & the cattle station families, of which Kim contributes from her own experience.

I am finding this a fascinating read, especially as it is so foreign to my own experience of 'home' & belonging to a specific area of land.

Having lived in a few different countries & having made several places 'home', words like; home, settle & belonging all prod at the deeper part of who I am...but...THIS is not the place to delve any deeper into my psyche!

Time to show you what I did with all this contemplation!!

I have always enjoyed maps, whether they be ones drawn up by the children at kindy, or the topographical ones that we wrestle with on walking trips!  Therefore, I decided to have a go at mapping my front yard!

This is where I start most days, it has been the site of family gatherings, easter egg hunts, children's birthday party treasure hunts & my son's engagement party.  It is a little piece of dry, weed infested land that I belong to... at the moment. (Nothing is permanent afterall!)

I began by sitting on my front porch, an A3 art pad on my lap & not worrying too much about scale as I started to map what was there, as well as the 'ghosts'...the things that were once a reality but are no more, the memories of what has happened in this space. 

Overlapping layers of meaning.

A mishmash of time.

 
It was not an inspiring resource until I added some colour!  This proved to differentiate the different areas & gave some form & direction to proceed further with.

When I have given talks or run workshops, I have often referred to my 'pattern' as a 'map', because it isn't just a design.  Not only do I record   where I'm going with an art piece there  & how to deal with what I expect to encounter, I also ask questions, I erase & rewrite, constantly evolving my idea alongside the challenges of the technique.


Time was spent simplifying my mapping data back to a design that I could use for art making.  I chose the colours, then the fabrics...and then got on with layering up, before cutting back!

My very first layer, with such a simple few lines of stitching gives so little away.  What could be lurking underneath waiting to reveal itself?  What memories is this cloth going to be the keeper of?

A few cutting back efforts later, & it is starting to look like a map.  I rather like it at this point.  The combination of curves & line capture me...but maybe that is because they are recognisable...they mean something to me!

Further cutting and more detail is revealed.  It may seem an odd choice to choose green for the garden & ochre for the lawn.  However, in this little patch of the planet, the only green to be seen is growing in the gardens & the lawn is so dry, that when my husband mows the few remaining weeds that grow there, he causes a dust cloud!

At last I paint in the memories, like ghosts...long passed but still present in my mind!  The ones I have chosen to record here, are the croquet hoops from games with family & friends during my son's engagement party, the wiggly net & shuttle cocks of badminton games with my daughter, a water bomb fight with my nephew & the rain shapes lower middle are from the rain dances my children would do when they were very young as the rain would fall after a long dry period of summer heat!

A few more details & it is complete.

I am so happy with this!  I realise it is not pretty.  Nor is it proportionally accurate.  If my family were to sit down to discuss this map, they would each layer into it their own memories & perceptions & remove some of what I have kept safe in this map.  An ongoing palimpsest!  What fun!

I'll leave the closing words to Kim Mahood;

"You can move your stock over it, you can fence it in, you can steal the livelihood of a people, but you cant steal the memories and the family histories and the conception sites that connect people to their country.  These things persist wherever the people themselves persist."
Kim Mahood
'Position Doubtful'





Monday, 10 April 2017

BOTTLE BRUSH

This week's art project will be short on words & long on photos, as, in the process of producing my art piece yesterday, I wasn't quick enough to remove my right index finger from the proximity of the sewing machine needle!  Consequently I have a painful gash sliced through the tip...at the exact spot where my finger touches the keys when typing!!  Such is life!

Like koalas, kangaroos and the brightly coloured birdlife that flourishes in Australia, trees covered in the  red bottle brush flowers always gives me a buzz of delight & wonder!  We have a droopy one in our garden & I love each stage of it's life cycle.
So much inspiration to glean from!


And so exploration & design development commenced!

I loved these & would have been quite happy to leave it there, but I ventured forth...

...to the conclusion of my plan.

I'm not enamoured with it at all, but that's ok.  I played with the images  a little and looked with hindsight at other composition options.
I really like this last one.  Perhaps because it is reminiscent of Maori designs from my homeland.  Whatever the reason, if I were to take this subject further, I think I'd like to start again with this! 

Art making could be seen as a never ending story!



Wednesday, 5 April 2017

THE VALUE OF LOOKING UP


One of the problems of having garden areas completely surrounding ones home is that there is a LOT of watering to do!  

I was out with the hose, rehydrating the poor plants, when I looked up & noticed there was some form of blossom peeking out of the top of our big-spikey-plant.  I dashed inside for the camera (with a zoom lens) and with it,  saw this...

A few days later I took the camera out again, zoomed in to see it had transformed to this...

A few days later still it had become...

...this!  It was such a rare occurrence in our garden that I chose to make it my focus for the weekly art practice this week.

Where to start?  Of the many photos I took of this flower, I chose to work from...

...this photo.  I chose it because I liked the way the thick linear leaves broke up the space & framed the buds in the centre.

Time was in short supply again this week, so I spent minimal time playing with design options.  I did two quick pen studies.

The first, which I REALLY liked, but soon realised it had way too much in it for a 15cm square to be completed in contemporary reverse applique!

This pared down sketch became much more do-able & was the basis for my design.  Although the flower is off white with green tinges & leaves , I LIKED my black & white version & chose to follow through with that option for my piece.

I found a few different white fabrics, with the difference coming from weave & pattern.  These differences don't show up very well in the photographs, you'll just have to believe me...they are there!  For the background I came across a scrap of grey fabric that I had speckled with black paint years ago, obviously for another project.  I liked the way it looked, giving potential movement & energy to the background without overpowering it.

I carefully sewed my outline through the sandwich of fabric layers & drew in my first lot of cutting lines before getting out the scissors.

Cutting back went from this to these...

Hmmm...it's a bit hard to see the difference isn't it?

I decided to add a little bit of visual help.

Using a fabric pen in a limey green, I added some detail to give it a lift. 


It was all coming together quite nicely, but I wanted to add a reference to those wonderful bold leaf lines, so chose to add some stitch, the results of which also contributed to the 'framing' effect.

All in all, I was very happy with the end result, even if the camera really didn't like those whites! I was glad I had had that moment, albeit whilst doing a tedious chore, to look up & see this beauty!