Picking and Portraying

Drawing – Making marks – Expression – Suggestion – Representation

I consider drawing to be mark making. Progressing through this course has encouraged me to open my mind and push boundaries. Experimenting.

My heart firmly in the more traditional techniques but pushing these techniques. I consider drawing to be 2 dimensional, a fine line between drawing and painting. Blurring. Drawing with paint, painting with coloured pencil/soft pastels.

Undecided as to whether collage is drawing or painting.

Feeling that the delicate nature of plants requires a delicate touch, tempted by traditional approaches but wanting to experiment – I plan to use coloured pencil and white spirit when producing floral observational drawings also graphite pencil with the addition of graphite powder. Encouraging a looser style and with more scope for stitch work. A good balance. Techniques, touched on but not previously explored. Crossing the boundaries between botanical and contemporary expressive drawing.

Producing plant drawings since the late 1940’s, but better known for his abstract works, Elsworth Kelly reffered to his drawings as ” a kind of bridge to a way of seeing that was the basis of the very first abstract paintings.”

Contour drawings for the most part, Kelly’s plant drawings are clean strokes of pen or pencil. Relying purely on line. Conveying volume with no shading. Reductive but descriptive drawings. Creating depth through overlaps.

Botanical drawings – A horticultural humanist version. Kelly didn’t consider his plants to be specimens. He considered them to be portraits of flowers  that prompted specific memories.

The choice of plant equally as important as the act of drawing it. The memory of finding it.

Kelly’s plant drawings demonstrate “a mystical appreciation of abstraction in the natural world.”  (Karen Rosenberg – New York Times – Art Review – “Loving Flowers and Vines to Abstraction.” June 7th 2012)

Plant ll Lithograph Ellsworth Kelly 1949

Inspired by the work of Ellsworth Kelly, I plan to capture the delicacy of form through the use of pencil and pen. Contemporary twist on traditional approach to drawing. Producing contemporary botanical drawings. Small – a series.

Somewhat heavy handed in my approach to drawing plants in the past, I plan to develop techniques I have used before, enabling me loosen up but remain true to my traditional roots.

Detail and Definition

Initial thoughts. Detail and definition – an area of strength.

Pencil the only medium I consider to be necessary, producing the finest marks. Choosing not to experiment with any other medium or technique. I feel the traditional approach key here.

Additional sketchbook work produced, fine detail of patina on other garments producing more variety. The drawings from the chosen textiles not feeling to be enough, their lack of age a hindrance. The patina a chance not to be missed, resulting in particularly strong drawings in colour pencil.

Proving difficult to impart the textile story due to lack of age. Overcoming the obstacle with additional work, patina, embroidery. Chosen textiles may have proved more interesting to capture in detailed drawings if their story was in the age of the textile and not the age of the pattern from which they were produced.

As in previous exercises, both the front and reverse of the fabric was considered, a small graphite study produced of a section of reverse fan and feather stitch. Graphite lent itself well to this, as with the scaled up drawing of the fairisle embellishment. Light touch suggesting lightness of touch with stitch.

Focus also on fastenings, buttons captured in both graphite and colour, interesting how different qualities are emphasised with different mediums. Drawings equally strong.

Going forward, considering working with darned textiles – evidence of repair. Beauty in imperfection. Reverse embroidery – tangled. Having focussed on imperfections here, loose stitches, patina – bobbling on a knitted surface, uneven stitching – fairisle, stitching to popper fastening damaged over time.

The drawings working well as a series.

A challenging exercise. Playing to my strengths, although my choice of textiles letting me down due to their lack of age and imperfections. A real issue for me when considering fine detail. The sketchbook work strong, the chosen textile drawings the weaker.

Wabi Sabi

“If an object or expression can bring about within us a sense of melancholy and a spiritual longing, then that object could be said to be Wabi Sabi.” (Andrew Juniper “Japanese Art of Impermanence” 2003)

I surround myself with objects that transport me back to my childhood. Objects that belonged too me, clothes that were mine as a child or were made for me, toys bought that trigger a memory. All are tired due too their age. Worn, torn, chipped, patched, scratched, darned, incomplete, but loved more because of these imperfections. Imperfections that add to their beauty.

A second hand, 40 year old Fisher Price Sesame Street house, chipped plastic, faded stickers, incomplete figures and furniture, but of all of the toys in our house, this is my favourite. My son has Autism, he responds to this toy. He would rather this than a brand new version. Through playing with this house he is learning to communicate with us.

A knitted stripy doll, “Bod” from my childhood. 37 years old, moth eaten, evidence of darning. Having had him all my life, he is more special, beautiful, interesting to me because he is worn. He tells a story.

A painting of an 80 year old Chiltern “Huggmee” teddy bear. The limited fur he has left, bleached almost white. Rough texture of the gold coloured fabric underneath, loose stitching around the nose, its rustic simplicity. Beauty that comes from age. I wouldn’t want him new, his age and tiredness makes him beautiful. – Flawed beauty.

One of my most treasured possessions, a child’s pullover hand-knitted by my Nanna over 30 years ago. My son wears it every week. I have had too replace the fasteners, patch the shoulder, the texture has become bobbled due to wear, but of all the knitwear my children wear, this one gets the most compliments and comments. People know it tells a story because its imperfections make it interesting. It’s not just a maroon cable pullover. For me, everytime I look at it and feel it, there are the stitches that my Nanna made. Through them I connect with her.

Acceptance of imperfection? I would rather imperfection. Life is richer for imperfection.

Hankering for a simple life for my children. Beauty in the basic. They need not be taught, Wabi Sabi is already there. A beaten up toy car chosen over a new one.

My chosen textiles are new. Some incomplete. Wabi Sabi is still evident. They are more interesting. Certainly to capture in observational drawing because of their incompleteness. Rough edges, frayed elements, loose stitches and yarn ends.

Child”s fairisle sweater equally as interesting from the reverse if not more. Its layers of threads – stranded – woven – complicated – confusing – not obvious – unclear. Its crudeness is compelling.

Kakuzo Okakura translates Wabi Sabi “at best to be only the reverse side of a brocade – all the threads are there, but not the subtlety of colour and design” (Kakuzo Okakuro “The Book of Tea” 2016)

Considering the Wabi Sabi aesthetic when selecting textiles will undoubtedly influence my future work. What we see are characteristics of Wabi Sabi. Wabi Sabi is a profound aesthetic consciousness. It transcends appearance. We are aware of the flawed beauty, but it surpasses what we see.




Collage and Creases

Initial thoughts – Attention to detail would prove challenging. Torn pieces of paper to achieve accuracy?

Working in colour (personal preference). Skilled in colour use. Certainly with the fan and feather sweater collage I considered a paint palette in front of me complete with oil paint. The basic palette of Titanium White, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, French Ultramarine, Cadmium Red, Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium Yellow and Pthalo Blue. All these colours found in the fan and feather Collage. “An overall Palette” taken in its literal sense. The overall effect being of beige, with red white and blue when viewed from a slight distance. More of an interpretation of the chosen textile than a direct representation.

The fairisle sweater collage, deciding to place the emphasis more on drape and embellishment, had  a limited colour scheme. Aiming for a direct representation. Well thought out, as it did not distract from the concept. (Blue, Light Blue, Old Gold and Dark Brown.)

With a limited colour palette, this I consider to be the strongest piece. The use of light and dark paper placement to suggest form through undulation and drape, executed to a high level. A piece of which I am most proud.

Kitchen paper proved invaluable as a source of paper, application on to previously placed coloured papers, acting as a dimmer. Taking the edge off the previously placed coloured paper and also in the creation of highlights. Tissue paper, old maps, glossy magazine pages, cellophane, foil wrappings and brown paper were also used.

I had considered recycling old art work, it became apparent that it wouldn’t be necessary though. A good decision.

Colour of base paper was not a concern as I had planned to cover it completely. Certainly with the unfinished sweater, to extend past the perimeter of the base paper was vital in capturing the loose ends of yarn, unfinished qualities. Characteristics of the Wabi Sabi aesthetic.

Manipulating papers through twisting, layering, twisting then tearing suggesting both tight and loose stitching. Perspective considered. Large pieces in the foreground, smaller and distorted further back, to create a sense of depth and the drape of the fabric with the effects of such on the surface pattern. Creating a sense of 3 dimensionality.

Overall an extremely successful exercise. A refresher, when revisiting collage after twenty years. A technique I plan revisit often, especially in sketchbook work, to capture observations quickly and effectively.

In hindsight, a coloured base paper representing the chosen textiles main colour could have benefited the fan and feather sweater. Slightly overworked, with a base colour coming through, sense of depth/ 3 dimensionality could have been achieved with considerably less paper applied. Less is more. This being one of the strengths of the fairisle sweater collage.

The success of the collages meant that two were sufficient to meet the brief.

Lines and Edges

Ink and charcoal feature predominantly in this folio of work, observing the linear qualities of chosen textiles. Torn paper varying the surfaces used. Their shape considered when rendering the materials and linear qualities.

Drawing with PVA glue creating a very loose but confident result, due to the lack of control, holding the bottle up high and drawing with the trailing glue. Ink pigment dusted over the wet glue, mixed in, creating a dark line when dry.

Prints were also produced from this to create further pieces, different again. Kitchen paper proved an interesting surface for this when mounted on paper for support.

Electronic eraser removing marks on a charcoal surface created the effect of yarn – running stitch – a sense of movement achieved – life – continual – the suggestion of “less is more.” Your eye filling in the gaps. Building up layers.

Attempts at continuous drawing and drawing with eyes closed, elements incorporated into drawings, I don’t feel to be the areas of greatest strength, but to loosen up by standing further way from the paper and manipulating mark making with different tools proved particularly successful.

Using elements of drawings to create further drawings through tearing and manipulating those pieces, I have found to be liberating and the process has opened my mind to other possibilities. The main concern was the risk of overworking the drawings, this is where the printing and tearing was so successful. Creating new images without overworking, taking elements lacking in strength and developing them, adding to the folio.

On reflection, having incorporated tearing into all three folios so far, to revisit this technique too often could be to the detriment of my work. Although a requirement of collage, I will consider different techniques going forward.

Drawing with alternate hands to create a linear drawing with graphite pencil, my eyes closed for part of the process, suggests the stranding and repetitive quality of the fairisle reverse. I feel this to be the weakest piece. It has many qualities transferable into stitch, has considerable energy, but lacking in strength.

The shiny quality of the PVA glue drawings and the separating of the black ink pigments are two of the most favoured effects achieved. Equally the rendering of the double ribbed stitch with thick willow charcoal and a household brush, simple but most effective with countless stitch potential when observed both from a distance and up close. Great sense of depth achieved.


Recording and Capturing – Making Marks

Using a variety of different sized surfaces and although not necessary when considering the brief, the addition of colour when mark making, contributed to a strong folio of drawings, the result of close observations of my chosen textiles.

Additional words were added to the recommended list to consider, words that directly related to the chosen knitted textiles.

Tight – loose – raised – reverse – honeycomb – oxo – shape – linear – ribbed – oddments – stranded – chains – linked – memories – travel – time – connecting – past – twist – ply – finished – weave – feathered – laced – knots – stitch – bobbled – matted – dimpled – contrasting – flowing.

My knowledge of knitting I consider to be extensive. I was therefore surprised to learn so much more from close observations of the textiles themselves. Viewing the textile with a means to capture its qualities, when my focus is generally on the making of the textile.

Black ink, acrylic paint and charcoal feature heavily with the addition of soft pastel and ink providing accents of colour.

Limited regarding different weights of white paper, I introduced kitchen paper as a surface, manipulating it with spray mount and hairspray to strengthen and increase control over bleeding of inks. On reflection this proved to be well thought through as prints were produced from these drawings, the texture of the kitchen paper adding to the print. The kitchen paper also a surface for prints taken from other drawings.

Reverse was a key word when considering my textiles in observational drawings. In the case of all three textiles, the reverse of the fabric was equally and in the case of the Fairisle sweater, more interesting than the front. Stranded work and the woven nature, providing a sense of depth, looking through the stitches – captured in additional sketchbook work by adding and removing marks to create depth.

Very few traditional mark making tools have been used, pushing the boundaries – helping loosen up. Repetition was expressed using thumbprints, butterfly prints.

Painting with Cow Parsley heads as a tool, creating a random result with varying pressure and ever changing shape.

Household brushes were used to drag material across the surface or to stipple when creating sense of depth, when combined with more subtle marks.

Yarn was tied up and also used to apply ink, the dragging of which creating a blurring quality, particularly successful in the rendering of single ribbing stitching.

This folio is very strong, its strength lying in the more accidental outcomes, in particular the Fairisle prints and the thumbprints, the placement of which create an undulating effect that suggests the movement and drape of the fabric. Better results were due to loosening up – more scope for future stitch-work.






Recording and Capturing – Sketchbook work.