The learning log for my third level 1 (HE4) course unit, Textiles 1: Ideas and Processes, can be found at http://www.ninaoconnor.co.uk and https://ninaoconnortextiles.wordpress.com/, please join me there to follow my progress from mid-January, 2017.
For this assignment, I chose to have my formative feedback via Skype and this is a summary of the video conversation on 14th December, 2016 from my tutor, Rebecca Fairley.
“Overall this is a considered and well-developed body of work. Your final pieces are interesting and engaging. They are playful, inventive, clever and individual, expressing well a conclusion to this course in mixed media for textiles. There is evidence of a high level of craftsmanship in the final work and throughout the assignment with an innovative use of textile techniques as a print medium.
The work shows a good use of the creative process (drawing, research and sample making) to develop and resolve ideas. Throughout you have demonstrated your ability to use judgement to pick out strong ideas and to create pleasing compositions.
Throughout this assignment you have gathered and used appropriately some valuable research material. In putting it alongside your own work with your analysis you have demonstrated a clear understanding of how looking at and examining the work of others helps to develop your own practice.
I suggest you continue to work on ways to analyse the work of others and reflect on your own creative output. Remain in touch with those feelings that suggest something is going well and is exciting you. Consider print as a drawing technique and look for inventive approaches to textiles.
Pointers for assessment
Well done Nina, I have really enjoyed working with you and wish you every success.”
This course has been hugely beneficial, it has successfully facilitated my development as an artist and increased my confidence.
My tutor and formative feedback via Skype have been instrumental in my success. Verbal feedback has been clear with no room for misinterpretation or overly negative perception of comments as was my tendency during my first course.
I will, however, take some credit for my success, distance learning is difficult, it is sometimes lonely and frustrating. To make it work for me, I had to adjust my thinking. I took heed of the Formative Feedback, regarding it as pointers for development rather than criticism of my ability. I tried to stop fretting about the negative such as not drawing enough or not visiting galleries on a regular basis and identified my areas of weakness. I have no previous art education apart from an O-Level. I can manage an online learning log but I’m a tactile being and a child of the 60’s and 70’s – a pencil in my hand is more creative for my thinking than a keyboard.
I followed the learning logs of those on the newly developed ATV course and was envious of their skills and wanted to emulate them. So, I tried to identify some of the things that restricted my creativity, (apart from my fear of drawing), I took steps to join or attend groups and devoured books which explored practical creativity. I struggled with thinking visually and a sketchbook/workbook bursting with colour and texture was my aim. So where possible I joined local groups or workshops, some prohibitively expensive, others easily accessible. I made a note of anything of interest, nothing highbrow, just a useful method or tip. Whatever the age or make-up of the group, there is always something to be learnt.
I hover on the periphery of online forums and social media, I don’t turn to it naturally. It may look as if I don’t participate but I’m happy to share my learning log with anyone who’s interested. I’m grateful to those of my peers who share theirs, I’m inspired by them, occasionally reassured, sometimes challenged to do something different, often in awe.
With my change of attitude and immersion in the subject, I have enjoyed the Mixed Media Course to the full.
I started tentatively in Assignment 1 questioning ‘Surface Distortion’, particularly folding, never imagining I would be ‘pleating’ my prints to form an artists’ book in the final piece. Gathering momentum in Assignment 2, I felt more able to take risks, although I’m not sure I understood why I was joining or wrapping. However I became more ‘experimental’ as the course progressed. By the review at the beginning of assignment 5, I could see how each part had informed the next, I understood how drawing my samples and reflecting on my work and that of others taught me more about what I like or dislike and developed my visual language and understanding of the creative process.
I have enjoyed the less prescriptive approach far more than the style of my first course. I like to learn and explore new materials, so the course content has suited me. It has met its professed aims and outcomes, but one of the biggest benefits to me is that it has helped me to develop independent thinking. I have always been inclined to conform and follow rules, it has been liberating to find my voice and express myself, although there is plenty of room to grow.
Before making any decisions regarding the final piece, all of my course work from Mixed Media for Textiles was reviewed. I looked in detail at everything I had enjoyed and that had created a spark. Listening to my ‘gut reaction’, I decided to develop printing with stitch. I felt some conflict as I could see that casting into stitched vessels had potential and had to fight the feeling that I ‘ought’ to follow that lead. I tested the theory by pinning pages from that workbook on my pinboard and displaying cast samples but could not feel enthusiastic at the prospect. In the meantime, I was stitching and printing and jotting down ideas at every opportunity, so the decision was made, and it is very satisfying to feel to my core that I have been true to myself and developed areas that are most dear to me.
Reflecting on the final piece against the assessment criteria:
Demonstration of technical and visual skills
Selecting quality inks, papers and equipment suited to purpose and analysing the skill of other artists has helped me hone my methods and improve my practice to demonstrate good technical skills. Using my observational skills to examine and reflect on mine and others art work has helped me to identify how line, space, shape, colour, texture and value has been used by others and how to use those elements to best effect in my own work. This is demonstrated having looked at the work of Sophie Munns & Leslie Avon Miller
and then experimenting playfully with collage, screenprinting and layering.
This coupled with reminding myself to consider materials, colour, placement, texture and finish as recommended in the course notes, has resulted in increased competence in visual awareness, design and compositional skills, illustrated in the harmony, variety, balance, rhythm, pattern and movement shown in the final series of artists’ books.
Quality of Outcome
The workbook and online learning log are presented in a logical and consistent manner, clearly indicating my thoughts and actions. I am particularly discerning in the choice of materials and colour palette in the workbook, keeping a consistency in presentation throughout. I have practiced with printing tools and materials regularly, immersing myself in the subject to build on the skills developed in Assignment 4’s mono and collatype printing, enabling me to apply the knowledge gained and communicate ideas. The emphasis on studying my own work and making considered choices, as recommended by my tutor, has without doubt resulted in a higher quality of outcome.
Demonstration of Creativity
I have used my imagination to stitch creatively onto a variety of materials to prepare components for printing and experimented with different methods of applying ink to create a variety of values. My personal voice is developing, enabling me to communicate my ideas, but I would suggest that identifying what lies behind my ideas and using my personal voice to express deeper feelings is an area for development.
As recommended in my last formative feedback, I have paid particular attention to my critical and reflective thinking skills which has been beneficial. I repeatedly reviewed and reflected on aspects of my work enabling me to make effective judgements about what to take forward and what to leave. In particular I think that analysing the work of contemporary artists has helped keep my work experimental and current.
Referring back to earlier sample making, three small back to back accordian books with hard covers were constructed. Of the original samples made, this style felt ‘right’ in the hand, the weight was balanced and it was easy to look through in a book form. The added bonus is that the structure is versatile allowing the books to be displayed and seen from different angles.
Following Alisa Golden’s original instruction with some adjustment to make more of the printed surface visible and adding interest to the shape, each book was constructed using two accordians, each with eight segments. The accordians were sewn together using pamphlet stitch, with paper covered cardboard glued to the flat surfaces of the last two pages to form the cover.
The books measure approximately 15 x 10 cm, 17 x 8cm and 15 x 5 cm. I did start by making a larger book with each segment A6, which would have resulted in an A5 sized cover, but somehow it was a little cumbersome and more difficult to see the prints on the inner surface. Also the larger cover adds weight, making the book more difficult to stand on its edges.
The papers for each book were carefully selected to match colour and provide contrast. Separate segments were also deliberately chosen and arranged to maximise visual interest by considering whether the shape and line complemented or contrasted with nearby marks and differences in value were observed. Where possible the paper was grained long or short to make folding more precise.
I did encounter some difficulties. The paper needs to be measured, cut and folded precisely for the most professional finish. Whilst I am pleased with the quality of production, there is room for more precision in measuring. Although the using a tab to join segments allows for small pages to be printed, it is more difficult to get even folds and perfect alignment than it would be with one long strip of paper. Also if the corner of the cover paper is cut too close to the edge of the board, the diagonals don’t meet. I didn’t quite achieve perfection here and need to calculate the best margin to leave in future. The 220gsm smooth cartridge paper was easier to fold than the textured 220gsm watercolour paper.
Overall, I am pleased with the colours. As mentioned in an earlier post, the orange came out with more yellow than intended and I would have liked a little more teal than turquoise, but am very happy that the yellow and turquoise complemented one another. I was using cyan, yellow, magenta, charcoal black and white inks which I was comfortable mixing, but although tested before printing, I couldn’t accurately envisage how a very light covering would print on the different paper surfaces but would expect to improve with experience.
Although I was keen to work in this colour palette and the books sit well together, I think they are perhaps too similar and more contrast in value of colour between the three might have been more striking.
Being critical, the inner surface of the 15 x 10cm book is a little dark and a brighter colour which contrasted more with the outside and more defined printed marks would have been more dynamic, although the covers are a successful blend of marks, line and texture with strong colour.
The 15 x 5 cm book was constructed with my favourite prints at the time with lots of layers of print and visual texture on every page.
My favourite is the smaller 15 x 5 cm book which was a surprise. I liked the original A4 print which clearly showed the ‘holes’ left behind when inking a rough circle of stitched fabric ready for printing, but thought it lacked something.
What I did not foresee was the effect of dissecting the ‘holes’ and looking at smaller sections which transformed the print, resulting in some lovely bold blocks of colour emphasising the delicate lines of stitch offset by the grey. I would definitely explore this further in future.
As a series, the three books can be displayed in a variety of ways:
Golden, A (2010) Making Handmade Books, Lark New York
Preparing the final prints which would be made into an artists book, I referred to my colour explorations with collage and using acrylic ink coloured some papers using a brayer.
These were visually pleasing and potentially more exciting than a full page of collagraphed stitch and texture in the same colour, especially in carbon black below left which started as a rather flat value of grey all over.
Adding colour helped to improve contrast
and layering prints in different colours on a Daler-Rowney smooth heavyweight paper was particularly pleasing, giving a slightly sharper contrast in line and marks.
Conscious that I would need 2 x 8 sections for the first book, I tried to ensure there was some harmony between the pages in colour and print on the front:
and the reverse of the pages:
Being critical, I was a little disappointed that some of the intended orange was rather more yellow. Although tested before printing, I found when printing with a very thin layer of paint, the yellow was more evident than the orange.
Nothing was wasted, when inking up scraps of stitched fabric, I positioned paper to take advantage of the negative print, below left and right. Top right below and the background above shows the last remnants of ink on the plate sprayed with white spirit to create a pale speckle.
The following A4 on textured paper has some lovely contrasts in value and is made up of many negative space prints and some additional prints on tissue.
The more printing I did the more practiced I became at layering the stitched fragments. Delighted with some areas of the print, I would, in future, be more aware of the edges of the pieces of fabric. The distinct line created by the edge of fabric cut roughly or carefully with scissors doesn’t always work well as it draws attention away from the print texture. Having identified this, overprints were placed to blur the edges. Torn paper edges are an alternative. Larger stitched pieces could be used with newsprint paper masks. Blank areas can be marked with scrim, fabric, a brush, solvent can be added to create speckle.
The finished prints are a reflection of all the printing skills gained during this course, monoprinting, collagraph, with and without paper, fabric or stitch as masks, using the roller to ink background, off-set printing with the roller, printing by hand and press, inking the cloth with a plate through the press and directly with a roller, the negative and positive of stitch and shapes.
Next, to transform prints into books….
I started to consider the prints on paper and tissue and how to introduce colour. Wash the pages? Printing ink? I quickly learnt it was better to ink wash or paint the paper before folding and to colour the background and papers before sticking as both Matte Gel and PVA resist water and oil based ink when dry.
My progress was disheartening, the results were not as good as the test samples. (I omitted to photograph them). I went back to the drawing board, reviewed my work so far. I felt I could raise my game and returned to printing, overprinting earlier dark samples with white. Labelled ‘opaque’, ‘opaque’ the ink was, almost impossible to thin, obliterating the earlier print.
I felt a bit overwhelmed and spent too long placing and rearranging printed material on pages for a folded book. A single print on a white page was dull, definitely not enough impact when set on concertina pages.
Putting the prints to one side, I tried layering the screen printed fine fabrics and tissue.
This was better, more interesting, but would it fold well? The appeal of the books was the clean folds with the textured prints. I was still floundering. Could I get more interest if the background of pages were lightly printed with scrim, stitch or rollered? Would an all over visual texture in contrasting or complementary colour help? Yes, more visual texture would make the prints more dynamic.
To work out how many printed pages I would need, I questioned the structure again, thinking I had misinterpreted the instruction. Although starting with 2 x 8 concertina pages two of the eight were lost at each end when adding the cover. I adjusted the design when I realised that if I sewed the third and fifth fold instead of the 2nd, 4th and 6th I got more ‘diamonds’ in the structure, and more visible surfaces for the same amount of paper.
Also, using previously decorated or old print scraps and quickly decorating with inks or acrylic and a roller produced a looser more expressive look that is preferable to me at this stage and brings together the loose, expressive, lively combination of layering colour and texture that I enjoy about printing.
I sorted rigorously through my prints to date, retaining only the best. Reviewing the final selection again, I compared them with the samples in my workbook considering materials, colour, placement, texture and finish. I felt the existing prints could be improved, they needed more difference in value, contrast in line and shape to increase the visual texture. Back to the workbook again to identify stitch samples with potential: big loopy chain stitch, lines of chain stitch and textured fabrics had worked well, as had using double thread. With this in mind, some more stitched pieces were prepared.
Whilst assessing and reassessing my work, I saw the connections between the areas I had been exploring
They all use the same principle, ‘play’, add colour, visual texture, make connections in shape and line, contrast shape and line, arrange and rearrange until visually appealing. If I used a similar approach to the collagraphs, I could definitely ‘raise my game’.
I hadn’t really lost focus, but the choice was too wide, there were so many potential paths. By reflecting, I was succeeding in narrowing my focus. By re-examining and reminding myself of the skills practiced in earlier assignments and identified as having potential for the final piece, I was excited to get back to print.