Tuesday, 9 June 2020

BIRDS AND BEASTS (Weekly Art Project #21, 2020)

 When I started the discipline of doing this weekly art project back in January, I made the choice that I would complete my 'Egypt' series in 21 weeks/projects.  Why?  Because I only managed 21 weeks of the project in 2019 before life interfered & I had to delay resumption until 2020. Also, 21 feels like a good number!  Today marks #21 in this current project, therefore it is my last one with Egypt as an inspiration.

It might be hard to believe, but I'm feeling some emotion!!  The whole process of focusing on a theme like travel has enabled me to relive the experience, which was one of my life's highlights. With that in mind this week's project had to be super special. What was I going to do???

Last week I used the Artisans of Egypt as my inspiration, this week,  my starting point is this incredible mixed media painting by Egyptian artist Ayman El Sameray.

Imagine my delight when we returned to Cairo after travelling around Egypt, entered our hotel lobby to discover that their lounge had been transformed into a gallery space showcasing this artist's work.  Oh my goodness. Sigh!  The piece above, the name of which I cannot find, was my favourite & I WANTED it sooooooo much it hurt!  Aside from the fact that transporting it back to Australia would be difficult, it was seriously way outside our budget.  Having grown up with the mantra "you can't always get what you want" did not help!!!

My attraction to this piece was due to a number of aspects, the colour palette & impacting composition of the huge white orb with the golden halo & sky blue background hit me first.  But what won me over were the simple line pictographs of what I interpretted to be symbols of everyday rural life.


 We'd had the privelege of visiting a number of rural communities, the farmers & crop growers who fed this ancient nation, all so very dependant on that all important River Nile.

During our travels I had become particuarly fond of one particular beast of burden, the donkey.  We saw so many. The majority were weighed down with overflowing loads and most were very poorly treated.  The photo above is one showing the healthier well looked after version of donkeydom!

I wanted to honor the donkey in this last project.

 As always, my process started with drawing.  I sat at the computer, flicking through the photos drawing donkeys and other reminders of life in rural communities...baskets of produce, hand woven crates, pigeon coops and of course everywhere, town or country, there were cats!

 My aim was to give that impression that lines had been scraped away from the surface layer, so not only did I have to keep the outlines of the design simple, I had to be mindful of where my stitching lines would need to be.  It took a bit of concentration, but here's how my plan stitching looked!


 The colour palette I wanted to stick to was sand & blue. Choosing blue as the background I made a fabric layer by ironing applifix to some calico & ironing on some strips of blue fabric scraps. Quick & easy because time was ticking on!!

 I had this beautiful variegated sand coloured fabric which was perfect for this project.  It took quite a while to stitch all those lines into my A4 sized piece!


 There was only one layer to cut back, so here's how it looked at the end of that fiddly cutting!  The pigeon coop does look a bit like a darlek but I was pleased with how my donkeys looked.  It just needed a bit more oomph!

  The addition of gold paint added depth & added interest to this composition & I'm really pleased with the outcome.  Were I to do it again I think I'd vary the background scraps of blue to be more random rather than the stripes.  Having said that the change from dark to light makes it less flat & more interesting. A very pleasing finish to the series.

At the conclusion of my 2018 weekly art project which was inspired by Istanbul I compiled each project piece into a page that became a fabric book.  It is wonderfully tactile, beautiful, rich in memory & is also an excellent display of samples showcasing how effective contemporary reverse applique can be.  Consequently, I plan to turn this project into a book too.  Therefore that's what I'll be working on next week during my usual weekly art project time slot.  I'll also be thinking about which travel adventure to be inspired by next.  Will it be Norway, France, Morocco, Spain, Iceland or Jordan? Hmmmmm!  You'll just have to wait and see!!

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

ARTISANS (Weekly Art Project #20, 2020)

 It's weekly art project time again & this week I wanted to honour the Artisans of Egypt.

One of the purposes of having a few extra days in Cairo was so that we could go & see the extraordinary craftmanship of equally extraordinary artisans that this city is blessed with.  As we visited metalworkers, glass blowers, jewellery makers, plasterers, ceramicists, marquetry experts, weavers & painters we had to constantly be mindful that we had a budget!

It was extremely hard!

There were two sites that were topmost on my to-see list; the quilters of the Tentmakers Street & the Souk El Fustat Gallery representing the Akmeem embroiderers.

The small stall like shops where the tentmaker men sit & applique their exquisite cushion covers & wall hangings was a kaleidoscope of colour in a dusty unassuming alley. The men were welcoming & keen to know where we were from & excited to share their beautiful work.
 In a complete contrast the Gallery showcasing the Akmeem embroideries was in a modern (& dust free) complex & there was only one person on duty who really couldn't tell us anything about the embroideries.  This meant that the brightly coloured works had to speak for themselves, so they told us visual tales of life on the land, the growing of vegetables, the management of stock and the importance of water.

How was I going to honour these artisans in my project this week?

 It has taken more thought than you would imagine, but in the end this faded and tatty cushion cover helped.

It is one I bought from the Tentmakers & gave to my parents-in-law who are now deceased.  I actually rescued it from the rubbish pile when we were sorting through their household.  I wondered whether I could use it as a base, a starting point for my project.  Perhaps I could alter it in some way without losing it's charming qualities.

 I sat at the computer scrolling through my photos, making visual notes of motifs that leapt out at me & gradually my idea started to unfold.

 Rummaging through my (newly tidied) box of plain coloured fat quarters I found what I needed & began the process of bringing my ideas to reality.

 Having carefully traced the lozenge shape & cut out enough fabric needed to place over the existing ones, I began to stitch in the lotus design I'd drawn on each lozenge.
 With the addition of a new centre, I was ready to let the cutting back begin!  Here's how it went...





With embroidered embellishment & a bead in the centre it was ten folded back to maintain the A4 size & shape I've kept with all the other weekly art projects.
I don't think I've ever attempted this type of repurposing or upcycling or revamping...(whatever one wants to label it), but I am very pleased with the outcome.  If I wasn't restricted by time I would have liked to have added more running stitch.  It is an appropriate reminder of my visits to see artisans at work, as well as remembering my in-laws who never had the opportunity to visit Egypt but were fascinated by our adventures there.  It never ceases to amaze me how art making can link so many seemingly random connections!  I hope your art making is making you feel as satisfied this week. :-)

Monday, 25 May 2020

MUSEUM PORTRAIT (Weekly Art Project #19, 2020)

Our time traveling in Egypt was quickly coming to an end.  With a few days in Cairo before flying out there was a LOT we wanted to pack in to that brief amount of time.  The most important being a visit to the Egyptian Museum.

Sadly, as with many museums, cameras were most definitely forbidden.  Therefore I have no photographic images to remind me of the extraordinary artifacts I was privileged to see in just a few short hours.  Let's just say...I had to remind myself to breathe.  The sculptures, the carved wood & stone, the exquisite plaster work, the gold from Tutankhamen's tomb, the sarcophagi....sigh...EVERYTHING!  When walking through a place like that, knowing that this is likely to be the only time in my life to see these remarkable & beautiful objects, it feels that if I don't breathe time will slow down so that I can absorb it all the more permanently!

One of the sections I most wanted to see was focused on Akhenaten . I have long been fascinated by him, partly because of his bravery to change the whole way in which his people worshiped, but mainly because I've found the elongated body features with their exaggerations visually beautiful.

The above photo was taken in a museum where I was obviously allowed to take a photo, but sadly I don't recall where that was.  It may have been Alexandria. I can see why I took it though, & why, even though it's slightly out of focus, I kept it in my photo collection. Not only is the face  elongated (albeit slightly), but I LOVE the hair treatment.  Therefore, I'm choosing her as my muse to represent 'the Museum experience'!

After drawing a resemblance of her within an A4 space, I gathered my fabrics, stitched in the design & got ready to cut back.  Here's how it went...






Here she is, the final outcome.
I did consider doing this piece in a landscape orientation, but to do so would have meant losing that wonderful long sinuous neck, & I felt the neck was important to keep!
One of the successful aspects of this piece is that I achieved it in a relatively short period of time!  Yesterday was rather time-restricted in terms of studio work, & when that happens I need to be able to adjust my expectations in terms of design complexity.  This is quite a simple design, but it captures the components I wanted it to; exaggerated eye, long features, skin tone & a nod to that fabulous hair.  I'm also pleased with the choice of background fabric too. It may not be perfect & is certainly not a resolved enough design to reproduce for sale purposes, but it is a sufficient aide-de-memoir for me.  Sometimes sufficient is enough!!

Monday, 18 May 2020

THE LIBRARY (weekly art project #18, 2020)

Wouldn't it have been amazing to visit the Great Library of ancient Alexandria?! A library that held up to 400,000 scrolls & led to the city being heralded as the capital of knowledge & learning.

Well that ancient wonder may no longer exist, but it's modern version does & we were very VERY excited to visit it during our exploration of Egypt.

The current Library was inaugurated in 2002 and as well as having space for 8 million books, the interior also has it's own planetarium, a state-of-the-art conference centre, museums, art galleries and a restoration laboratory for manuscripts (I would have loved to have been allowed in there!!!!) It was such a special privelege to be able to wander around inside & have a look .

The architecture was very modern, with the interior set out in terraces like a coliseum and lots of light & airy space. The exterior looked like the prow of a large ship from the entrance, but when viewed from across the water it looked like an armadillo's armoured shell! What attracted me the most was that this outer surface was decorated with engravings of all the alphabets of known written forms of language.  It was mindblowingly beautiful.

An obvious choice to use as my muse for this week's art project.


I know that it was only a few weeks ago that I created a language inspired WAP, but that didn't stop me choosing to use this style of design for another week's art making practice.

This week I wanted to use the library itself as the source of my series of glyphs. therefore I sat at the computer with my few photos on the big screen & drew quick line drawings of different sections of the building, both interior & exterior.

I had purposefully drawn quiuckly because I wanted the essential lines & shapes that grabbed me, I didn't want to get too caught up in the detail.  With that part of the process filling two A4 pages I had plenty of scope to creat my own lettering.

Using calligraphy pens in 2 thicknesses I started trying out line combinations, repeating them over & over until I was happy with how they 'read'.

Once I had sorted out my favourites it was time to think of layout.  The armoured shell of the building was constructed using different sized tiles, so I wanted to have a bit of variety somewhere in my layout, whilst keeping in mind the practicalities of an A4 size & my time limitations.  I also wanted to reference the grey colour scheme with a dash of woody tones for the interior.  I liked the graphic solidity of black forming the letters, so with these thoughts in mind I set about rummaging through my fabrics.

This was how it looked when I was ready to cut back.  Each patch only had one other layer before the black base & some of those patches had shiny black to create a bit of difference from the matt black.  I'd originally intended that each patch would have a piece of each of the fabrics mixed up in it's layers, with the hope to create an interesting relief effect as I cut back.  However, I didn't have enough fabric of each of these & the time to get these few fabrics together was way too long already.  I opted therefore, for the less is more approach.  With so few layers there wasn't going to be a lot of cutting back, which with the clock ticking wasn't a bad thing!

Here's how it went...

Hmmmm.

Well I think I should've just stuck with the 'even less is more' approach & kept the single layer cut back!  I don't think I put enough thought into tonal variation for the lower one in particular.  Never mind...we live & learn!

As it happens I was having camera issues again.  The outcome of one of my photography attempts has proved to be a very exciting alternative to the textile outcome! Take a look at these;



How cool does this look???? So all is not lost, this outcome is a very happy accident!  I hope that you have some positive outcomes from your art learning-by-making this week!

Monday, 11 May 2020

GOLDEN MUMMIES (Weekly Art Project #17, 2020)



 When I woke up yesterday morning I asked myself whether there was something I could work on for my weekly art project that would  fit in with Mother's day.

With a smile, the answer soon came to me...MUMMIES...of course!!

 From the White Desert we began our journey back to Cairo, stopping in the Bahariya Oasis where we wanted to see the Golden Mummies.

 Sadly we were not allowed to take photos in the small museum that contained these particular Mummies, and sadder still I didn't even mention them in the travel blog I was writing at the time.  In fact I could easily have forgotten that we'd even been there if it hadn't been for this note in my small sketch book.  I may not have been able to take photos, but so enamoured was I by the various ways that the wrappings were woven on the Mummies, I had drawn some rough lines to remind myself!

Flicking through that sketchbook there were a few variations of 'Mummy Wrapping's', so it is these visual notes that have informed my weekly art project this week.

 It might be hard to believe, but it did take a fair amount of time to work out my design & longer than I would have liked to choose my different 'gold' toned fabrics.  It was a relief to get to the sewing machine, partly because I wouldn't allow myself any lunch until I'd sewn in that design! (And I was hungry!!)

Here's how the cutting back went when I finally got back to it!!







 Theoretically this should have been the final outcome, but to me it just felt unfinished.

 Inspite of the fact that I had allowed my WAP to continue on into this morning (a serious breach of my self imposed rules!!) I still wanted to take a bit more time to finish it off better.  I decided on painting a simple lotus motif in the lower corners .
I'm glad I did as it makes the piece feel more whole.
All in all I'm quite pleased with this outcome.
What I'm not happy with...and I apologise profusely for...is the photography.
I continue to have an issue with my 'new' camera, which is so clever & fancy schmancy that it doesn't actually have a mode for full frame focus!  This means every attempt to photograph my art results in out of focus edges.  I can't tell you how frustrated this has made me & how long I've spent wading through YouTube video tutorials to try & 'sort' it out.  I eventually resorted to my old camera, but for some reason my computer no longer wishes to upload photos from it!  Therefore I'm left with my phone camera & what you see above is courtesy of that! Arghhhhhhhh!
Still, working on this week's WAP was a good way to calm down from my unresolved photography issue. I hope your art making is considerably more stress free! Cheers!