For this assignment I started by looking back through my sketchbooks, I really liked the pieces I’d done using strong bold colours and fairly simple lines. I also noticed that although my theme book covers a general theme of ‘people’, a lot of the sketches are just portraits of faces. I especially enjoyed creating sketches or paintitngs of faces with lots of expression on them, like the monotone screaming faces.
So I started out by looking for some photo’s of expressive faces for inspiration, then working up some sketches from those using various amounts of colour or black and white. My favorite sketch is the woman’s face on the pink background using solid paint sticks.
After feedback from my tutor, he suggested that I looked into doing a piece involving a picture of myself as he found the assortment of self portraits I’d done in my theme book very interesting. So following the theme of simple black lines and a single colour I chose a simple charcoal sketch from one of my sketchbooks to work from. I first created a background by drawing with inktense pencils on green cotton muslin, then adding water to soften the colour changes. I then traced my original sketch on to some cotton and layered it behind the green piece so I could see where to stitch. Unfortunately, as I worked on the piece a lot of the extra colour rubbed off the green cotton leaving it looking quite plain. I really like the simplicity of the finished piece, but think it would be too boring for a larger final piece.
I then sketched a new self portrait, trying to keep it quite simple so it would be easy to translate it on to fabric. I wondered if I would be able to transfer the sketch straight on to fabric by laying a piece on paint covered plastic between the paper and fabric, then tracing over my original sketch. I attempted this twice on to paper as a test, but it didn’t work very well, so I experimented with leaving the paint to set for longer before tracing over it, but I found if you left it too long then it didn’t transfer any paint at all. I made a number of different of backgrounds to try printing on to but found that just plain fabric worked considerably better.
I wasn’t particularly happy with any of the results from printing, so I tried working up a few more sketches, none of them were brilliant, but I liked the subtle use of colour in the oil pastel portrait. I also tried experimenting with embroidery and applique to see if I could create a portrait I was happy with that way, but the end effect is more cartoon like than realistic.
After not coming up with a new sketch I liked better, I went back to the sketch I used for printing, but reworked it to make it have more shading, and a more interesting shape. I then photocopied my sketch and coloured it in using bold colours like I previously used in my sketch books, as well as a softer version with uses colours from the oil pastel portrait I did. I then copied the softer portrait on to some fabric with dylon fabric paint, trying create an almost watercolour kind of effect. I was very pleased with it and decided to add long stitches to try and bring out the colour’s more, but found that although it looked good from a distance, close up it looked very messy.
At first I wanted to make a large wall hanging similar to my long stitched piece, but it was difficult to make the sketch larger by hand without it ending up all out of proportion, so in the end I settled for a piece large enough to make a cushion cover as that was as big as I could manage to make photocopies of my sketch. I traced a simple outline from the enlarged photocopy, they used black fabric paint and water to paint my portrait on to some natural coloured linen. I really wanted to include subtle pops of colour in my piece, but thought the long threads I used in my previous sample would be completely impractical on a cushion cover as they would catch on everything and get damaged, so I returned to my embroidery piece for inspiration, but this time I used layers of organza and leather to create more subtle coloured areas. I’m really pleased with how this piece is coming along so far, but I ran out of time to complete it, so some areas of leather are only glued on and require further stitching, and I feel the eyes need a significant amount of work doing to them still.
- Can you see a continuous thread of development from your original drawings and samples to the final designs?
I can certainly see a development from the softly coloured oil pastel portrait I drew, through sketches and trials of colour and stitch, to the final piece I ended up with.
- Do you feel you made the right decisions at each stage of the design process? If not, what changes would you make?
I feel that I had so many different ideas going in different directions that it was hard to stick on one track. My original idea was to create a large wall hanging using print, applique and embroidery, but I struggled to bring those 3 things togther, ending up with a separate sample for each process. Ideally I would’ve started with a print I’d made then worked my applique and embroidery on to it to develop my ideas.
- Were you able to interpret your ideas well within the techniques and materials you chose to work with?
I struggled to move on from painting and sketching my ideas, which I feel very comfortable with, to creating them with stitches instead, but I feel that once I got used to working with the fabric and threads then I was able to interpret my ideas a little better.
- How successful is your final design in terms of being inventive within the medium and coherent as a whole?
I feel my final design works in a coherent manner, and all seems to sit nicely together with nothing jarring the overall look. It’s not particularly adventurous or inventive, but I struggled with how to translate my chosen theme in to a 3D piece. I had visions of a textile sculpture of a figure when I chose the theme, but that wasn’t where my work or interest took me in the end.