A sort of hiatus

I don't think I really know what I'm doing at the moment.  I'm questioning lots of things about my work.  And pondering several, as yet unresolved, ideas.  I'm not sure - yet - where my work might go next; but it feels as though something is shifting.  This is not exactly the most comfortable place to be.  

I know the worst thing I could do would be to stop working.  That would just increase the frustration.  So I figured I might as well use the time to try new things and prioritise the experiments and play - rather than force myself to make more of the same just to satisfy my need to feel I'm "Working".   So while I'm in this awkward between phase, here is a round-up of what I have been doing recently.  

Colour mixing.  This is partly preparation for another colour study.  I figured that while I'm not doing anything else I might as well progress this.  This puts me in research mode - logical, analytical - rather than creative, but it's all part of building the underpinning knowledge.  

Experimenting with folded forms.  I came across a book, aimed at graphic designers, that looks at many different ways of folding printed material.  So I tried out a few.  I liked the different ways pages were revealed or concealed.  They suggested different ways of telling a story.  I was thinking about book forms.  

Painting pages with ink.  Sometimes this is all I feel like doing.  I used scraps of lining paper, newspaper, packing paper and painted them with washes of ordinary fountain pen ink.  Diamine make this in lots of different colours.  It behaves a lot like dye, which is probably why I like it.  I enjoyed just washing one colour over another and seeing how they changed as they ran together on the paper.  Turning wet pages over and laying them on top of each other meant that they stained and marked each other.  I like these accidental marks.  

I also like the accidental marks that end up on the sheet of paper I always lay underneath to protect my work surface.   Accidental drawings.  

Then I started playing around with the painted pages.  Folding and layering different textures, colours and marks.  

Until I ended up with all these on my studio wall.  I like the way the paper behaves compared to cloth - more structural.  Inspired by my earlier paper folding experiments, I was folding and wrapping pages around each other to hold them together.  Then I stepped back and looked.  

The middle one with the leaf print was one of the first ones I did and it bothered me.  Although I like this kind of imagery in other people's work, it confirmed for me that in my own I prefer the imagery to be more ambiguous.  In fact, studying what I had done, I could see that it was all about lines and edges, overlapping colours and textures.  I like the way many of the lines emerge from and disappear into the background.  And, as with the folding experiments, I also like the sense of things being hidden and revealed between the different layers.  

I doubt these paper pieces are particularly light fast but I am wondering whether they could be developed into "work" in their own right.  Perhaps they will influence what I do next with cloth too.  

Drawing.  In between all this, I've started drawing my flint collection.  Using different media, different scales, close up details and larger more abstract impressions.  Just observing and playing around with the marks and colours.  Lines, edges and marks again.  

I'm sure all of this will feed into my work one way or another.  

All about … brown

Brown is the colour you don't want when you're colour mixing, right?  Mix three primaries together and you end up with "mud".  But … adding brown is also a good way to neutralise bright primary dyes to get subtle, earthy colours.  I've always used a pre-mixed black and a dark brown dye alongside my six primaries to tone things down.  

Until last summer I was happy to just use the dark brown I buy straight from the jar.  But then I had a defective batch  … and of course I only realised after I'd dyed several metres of cloth the wrong colours.  So, I decided it was time to learn to mix my own.

Well.  There are 21 possible combinations of six primaries (if you use both the reds, yellows and blues together as well as separately).  And then there are several possible ratios of each possible combination that could result in something brownish …   But after a lot of experimenting I ended up with some really interesting … greens, reds, plum, violet … amazing how often you can mix all three primaries and not get "mud".  But there were also lots of browns.  

Which was great, but now I need to narrow that selection down to two or three that I can use regularly.  

So I spent Christmas playing with dye.  Not unusual in my household.   I chose a few candidates from my now vast selection of browns and tried mixing them with blue or black.  I was looking for the ones that would give me a palette with lots of cool toned neutrals (and not too much red or green).  

It was hard to mix consistent shades when the combination required several dyes so, now I know that for practical purposes I need mixes that use no more than four.   

These are the results.  I was really pleased with the palette I mixed from the last batch - some lovely greys and cool toned browns.  

  Dye Book

Dye Book

  Favourite on the right

Favourite on the right

I still need a good reddish brown - but I need my studio back ….