05 October 2008

From Sketch to Form

I personally am interested in references that show the transition from sketch to other medium. I consider myself a mixed media artist who works primarily with textiles, though i am also interested in assemblage, sculpture and functional work. Sometimes i feel as if i’m making it up as i go along, because there aren’t a lot of sites or books dedicated to this area of development. The opinions and statements in this entry are from my personal experience and method of working.

Working your mind and hands together can result in unexpected unity on the page. The subconscious should be allowed to take over—no preconceptions, no planning, no agonizing over what the sketch “should” be. If this scares you, prep pages ahead of time, with washes of colour, scribbles, text, collaged elements. Put them away and don’t look at them until you use them.

It doesn’t matter if you “can’t draw”---and i say this to those who have just embarked on this adventure, whether it’s a plain sketchbook, an art journal or a project for presentation. When the idea is on paper, no matter how roughly, you can develop and explore the possibilities. Brain-storm, ask “what if”, get silly even. Paths open up and sparks fly into the air; you develop your own unique voice by practicing, practicing, practicing. Keep separate sketchbooks, if it helps themes, series or particular styles.

Turn things upside down, cut them into halves if three dimensional, or pieces. Juxtapose them with the unexpected. Get out the crayons, the watercolours, the scissors and paste. I use dyes a lot from my textile work and stack pages so seepage is absorbed by the underlayers. These pages often become more inspirational and functional than the top piece. Cut these pages up, cut up the main page and slap some glue on----collage your collages! Use photocopiers, home printers, photo editing programs to really mix things up. Simply changing the colour ratios, turning it into a negative, adding special effects to twist or swirl can open up new directions as well. There is a Latin phrase “Concupiscientia Oculorum ” that i have long subscribed to—it translates basically as “visual excitement leading to sensory stimulation” and is often thought of as “lust of the eyes”!

Drawings “fix” vision. The mediums chosen to translate the sketches into other forms are tools, not masters, to flesh out and bring breathe to your art. As a textile/mixed media artist, i then look at the resulting sketches/paintings and start assessing the marks—can this one be a hand embroidered spider-web stitch? Should this area be burnt or melted away in a “hot textile technique”? Does this one move into three dimensional form easily? Will these areas translate into a particular weave or texture of fabric? Artists in other media will look at areas that can become three dimensional in clay, steel, on canvas with different paint techniques, or a movement in dance. I have also successfully initiated an Exquisite Corpse textiles project, where sketches on fabric had to be translated into textile work.

Several books that i can recommend for textile/mixed media artists are:

Creating Sketchbooks for Embroiderers and Textile Artists by Kay Greenlees, a very comprehensive and technical approach to compiling work.
Embroidery from Sketch to Stitch by Pat Langford. Not a how to, but invaluable to see the translation from mark on the page to machine and hand embroidery.
The premiere writer/artist in this field, Maggie Grey: From Image to Stitch and her newest, Textile Translations: Mixed Media.

None of these are “project“ books, focusing more on technique and personal exploration. There are a plethora of books on other techniques that can be used with these references, but that’s something you have to define yourself. I have ordered the last book listed, starting a workbook a month ago in anticipation of the classes also being held online for buyers of the book.

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