some paintings from Carla Sonheim’s flower crazy 5 week class. I’m learning a few new techniques for watercolour, gesso, and mixing colours and textures to create “imaginary flowers”.
layers of watercolour lines and pens/markers with some pencil shading
painted imaginary flowers in watercolour with gesso painted over the top
watercolour blobs in 3 colours, with gesso masking off interesting shapes to create flowers. scratched lines and textures in the gesso before it dried
plus one of the “2014 — year of the fairy tale” exercises — this is my “princess and the pea” mixed media painting. it’s gouche, gesso and pens. the paints are applied using a credit card instead of a brush. it leads to a “free-er” line. I liked the gouche — they dried very quickly
making some geometric fabric folds on cotton since my copy of “Shadowfolds” book by Jeffrey Rutzky and Chris K Palmer arrived. this one is called “Fujimoto’s twists” — it’s a mixture of stitched squares, triangles and lines, and is a bit like smocking. I need to iron the front side flatter, but happy with how it turned out. I’d drawn the pattern shapes freehand instead of tracing the pattern as the book suggested, so the shapes are slightly uneven compared to the examples in the book, but I’m OK with that. makes it a bit more organic.
they don’t take too long to make either — I made this sample over a couple of hours whilst watching tv.
back side: (actually I like this also as a front side — might do another)
I sat down again to my stitch noodling frame today to relax and play and tried some thinner cotton. this time double stranded sewing thread. tried some button hole stitch — still my favourite ever since discovering Junko Oki’s work — especially her circles, last year. the first row is a row of straight edged button hole stitch. for the second row, I noticed the thread was settling into the fabric in a more organic way, not wanting to stick to the straight line. so I let it go, and it made this really nice organic, jagged line which I really like. it’s a bit closer to an open (loose) cretan stitch, but also looks more like a heartbeat, or simple audio waveform. sometimes it’s worth letting go of your plans to find the better line.
I’ve started the “sketchbook now” class to practice more drawing techniques for my sketchbook, and in lesson one we need to do some tests of our materials. I’ve used some from previous class exercises, which I hadn’t added to the blog, so adding them here as part of this class’ notes. the watercolour washes tests were exercises from Fred Lisaius’ class “Fall Watercolours”. I’ll add more tests here as I work on them
these are the watercolours I’m using most often — a mixture of Schmincke and Winsor & Newton pans:
testing different lines & pen textures:
watercolour bead washes:
watercolour wet in wet wash:
watercolour double wet / flood wash with salt added for texture. I used table salt and since the paper was thick, it didn’t work too well
more watercolour washes, on thicker, handmade paper
watercolour pencils (texta zoom brand) and pens to see what they looked like with added water:
I’m trying techniques for the fabric manipulation part of assignment 3 and came across this note called gorgeous fabric manipulation (velvet) so I tried it. I only used very small fabric samples to make initial tests, and I should have used a heavier weight fusing/interfacing as the velvet is heavier fabric than the light fusing I tried. apparently this works well for silk too
Use a cooling rack that has both horizontal and vertical grids. place velvet upside down and with a pencil push little bunches of fabric through. Take a fusible interfacing and then place on top of tufted velvet (wrong side) and iron. The grid should have little feet on sides so that the velvet is not crushed.
at first I couldn’t understand what she meant by using the pencil — I thought she meant to put holes in the velvet, so I only tried this on a very small piece, in case it didn’t work out. which it didn’t. but I did like the grid indentations in the velvet, so the experiment wasn’t all lost. I was going to try a metal collander also but the holes were too small for the velvet — perhaps silk would be better for this as it’s lighter fabric, though it would also be a hard surface to iron.
I didn’t have a metal rack with squares/vertical and horizontal grids, only horizontal rows, so I had to hold two racks together to form the squares. next time I might try buy another rack. or use small pegs/bulldog clips to hold the velvet through the holes, as it was hard to get it to stay in them. I had to iron it first to try hold the velvet into shape, and then iron the fusing over it to seal / hold it permanently.
I also tried a small metal egg cup, though it was harder to iron due to the irregular (non-flat) shape
I’m reading “Drawing Projects – an exploration of the language of drawing” by Mick Maslen and Jack Southern as recommended by Sandra Flower, one of the OCA Textiles tutors. it looks like a very thorough book with some theory as well as many practical examples and exercises and analysis of artists’ work. at the start of the book is as section “What we know and what we see”. whilst this might seem to be a basic, easy concept, it’s one that I have forgotten so am including a couple of quotes here.
prior to this, the authors talk about how children draw what they see – “the drawing incorporates the child’s knowledge and experience [of the pond] as a whole body experience perceived through all of their senses, and not just through their eyes, or from a single point of view. In some ways, this is children’s drawings at its best, and perhaps it exemplifies something of what Picasso was searching for when he is reputed to have said that he had spent 80 years learning to draw like a child.” (page 10).
later, as the child becomes older, they learn more words and concepts and then (perhaps) start thinking their drawings are not perfectly matching reality, so they stop drawing. “Unfortunately most adults’ drawing skills do not develop beyond those of the young adolescents who gave up drawing. The world is full of educated people who, it is assumed, see the world as sophisticated adults, but draw like adolescents.” (page 11). I can relate to this! I stopped drawing after grade 10 art class, which was a very long time ago.
“When we are making drawings, we must learn to use ‘what we know’ selectively, and only when it helps us to communicate a clearer understanding of what it is we are attempting to describe in the drawing. Students are continuously told by their teachers to ‘look more carefully’, and to ‘draw what you see and not what you know’. The most common mistake we make is to draw our limited and ill-conceived knowledge as a pre-conceived fact, and in this case we are making it up from what is probably our poor and limited visual memory. As a general rule, it is always better to look very carefully, and draw what you see. Not looking intently enough usually results in using generalised and ‘unseen’ information that has been conceptualised and become fixed.” (page 22)
this is something I was coming to the realisation of when I made notes for my previous post on sketching and seeing.
today I went to a workshop called “drawing with thread” at the Art Gallery of NSW where we played and tinkered with stitches and coloured threads. it was taught by Alex Falkiner and was lots of fun. Alex showed us how to use different stitches to recreate drawing marks, different lines and block colour techniques, and to ask ourselves “what would happen if …”, and to find the whimsy, playfulness and randomness in making. there were a mix of fluoro colours which I hadn’t used before, so it was fun to try. very relaxing. Alex also spoke of making things that don’t *have* to be functional. this is something I need to practice – previously I’ve don’t mostly functional craft making over the years
lots of great discussions also, and names of other artists to check out – recommended by Alex plus others in the workshop.
stitches & tips:
– spring stitch (stem stitch) – transitions between shapes
– scribble on the fabric with your non-dominant hand in pencil then backstitch over it to draw the lines
– threading needles – bring the needle to the thread to make it easier
– button hole stitch for the loose netting
— —> | —> | —> | then back the other way | <— | <— | <—
– french knots – olives: if loose, then come back to the side with another colours and tack it down
– linen thread is loopy / rounded by nature so good for the curved netting shapes (gutermann linen thread)
as part of the work on my “bee” theme, and as part of the closing assignment for “Year of the Fairy Tale” illustration class I’ve been taking this year, to learn more painting techniques, I’m doing an illustration for a Fairy Land zine on magic animals. of course I chose the bee. but as “bee” was already taken, I decided to be more specific and chose the “Australian sugarbag bee” aka Tetragonula Carbonaria bee, which is one of the native bees of Australia. this is a stingless bee, though it can give you a bite instead.
collating info here about the sugarbag bee as part of my research. another Australian bee I like is the blue-banded bee. there are a number of coloured bees native to Australia, which are different to the introduced yellow coloured honey bee that everyone is used to seeing.
for the illustrated page, I need to write a line about why this is a magic sugarbag bee, and draw a matching picture.
Stingless bee rescue (ABC) http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2003/05/08/2045526.htm
“Unlike a hive of honey bees, which can produce 75 kilograms of honey a year, a hive of stingless bees produces less than one kilogram. Stingless bee honey also has a distinctive bush taste – a mix of sweet and sour with a hint of lemon. The taste comes from plant resins – which the bees use to build their hives and honey pots – and varies depending on the flowers and trees visited.” (note, European honeybees don’t use resin in their hives, but the Australian native bees do. some call this resin the sugarbag, others call the whole hive – bees, honey, brood and resin the sugarbag)
Stingless bees have been shown to be valuable pollinators of crops such as macadamias, mangos, watermelons and lychees. They may also benefit strawberries, citrus, avocados and many others.
The Meaning of Sugarbag
Sugarbag is honey made by Australian native stingless bees; sugarbag has its own special flavour and is a highly prized food of the Jawoyn people who hunted it from wild nests; it’s real bush tucker! It has formed an important part of the Jawoyn diet and was the sweetest and one of the most favored bush foods. The Jawoyn term for honey is Wam. Ancient artwork centuries old can be found on Jawoyn land depicting the types of animals, fish and food available in the surrounding area including the site “Sugarbag Dreaming”.
‘Sugarbag’ is an indigenous term, incorporating everything related to honey, including stingless bees.
Of the 1,600 species of wild bees native to Australia, about 14 are stingless. All are small (3 – 5 mm) and black in colour, with hairy extended hind legs for carrying nectar and pollen; because of the latter, they are sometimes mistaken for bumblebees.
The Yolngu world is divided into two separate moieties (or broad kinship groups): Dhuwa and Yirritja. Two types of stingless bee that are particularly significant to the Yolngu of Northeast Arnhem Land are the Yirritja birrkuda and the Dhuwa yarrpany.
Both sugarbag complexes have their own set of songs, dances, power names and sacred objects as they are derived from the essences of different ancestral beings.
Lucy Ward http://henryfskerritt.com/tag/sugarbags
“This sense of connectivity can be seen even more clearly in Lucy Ward’s signature image of ngara (the sugarbag). Ngara refers to the honey made by the stingless native bees. There are two types of bees native to the north-west Kimberley, the tree-dwelling bee (Waningga) and those that build their hives in rocks (Namri). Ngara is an important totem for Lucy Ward – not only was she born in Ngarangarri (the land of the Honey Dream), but according to Ward, she was also born under the shade of a sugarbag tree. Along with the image of the Wandjina, the sugarbag has been one of Ward’s defining motifs. However, whilst Ward’s depictions of Wandjina have remained relatively unchanging – undoubtedly due to the sacred nature of the image – the sugarbag has provided her with a motif of incredible flexibility. Over her diverse artistic career, it has been an endlessly malleable aesthetic form, in which she has found a seemingly boundless array of conceptual and aesthetic variations. Ward’s gallery representative, Dr Diane Mossenson, notes with amazement Ward’s “capacity for artistic re-invention. Unlike many Aboriginal artists who paint a limited number of images, Lucy has remained strong to her stories, but she continually recreates the imagery, finding new ways to express her stories.””
“Like the cave paintings of sugarbags, Ward’s earliest depictions show the sugarbag motif as distinct, individual objects. Each honey pod is depicted as an irregular square or circle filled with coloured dots. Sometimes these squares or circles are sub-divided, while in other cases they are not. In late 2005, however, a major development began to occur in Ward’s portrayal of sugarbags. The sugarbag became an increasingly open signifier, whose individual unity slowly disappeared. In her most recent works, such as the monumental diptych Ngara (Sugarbag) Story 2008, exhibited at the Arthur Guy Memorial Art Prize, any sense of this indivisible unity has been shattered in favour of an all-over dotting that covers the canvas in a pulsating invocation of the aerial landscape.”
“Despite these external prompts, however, Ward’s development has shown a clear and uniquely personal epistemic trajectory. In the paintings of Lucy Ward, each mark upon the canvas is like a fingerprint, betraying the trace of its creator’s movement. In painting her ancestral homelands, her marks revel her ownership of the country, like footprints in a landscape that she has traversed by foot, understood instinctively and known intimately. But just like a footprint, they exist as the memory of presence, a nostalgic echo of past travels.”
“In the wake of colonial incursion, elders like Ward cannot live on their traditional lands, but return only occasionally to tend to the country of which they are the sacred custodians. Returning to her sacred sites, Ward sings out to the spirits, warning them of her arrival. Her song echoes through the stony ridges and it is as though she is a young woman again. It is this memory of the landscape that reveals itself in Ward’s paintings. Each mark connects Ward to her landscape, making her one with the Dreams, songs and topography of her land of honey.”
“In this context, the sugarbag is a profound tripartite symbol for the personal (as Ward’s totem), the physical (the bush honey pod) and the spatial (Ngarangarri country: the land of the sugarbag dream). In shattering the individual unity of the sugarbag – literally opening it up – Ward fuses these three categories. Rather than fingerprints, the dots meld into a pointillist landscape that shimmers into being with a cosmological unity.”
“These seemingly abstract shapes thus become a complex metaphor for the inter-relationship of identity, culture and country. They are part of a sacred and personal geography that Marcia Langton has termed ‘placedness.’ For Ward, the past is not, as L.P. Hartley has famously suggested, ‘a foreign country’, but rather a familiar country that situates and unites all moments in time. Ward’s paintings become what Langton has described as “site markers of the remembering process and of identity itself.” They inhabit a temporality that is neither past, present nor future, but part of the sacred link that connects Lucy Ward to the timeless Ngarrangarni.”
Geographic Cosmology: The Art of Lucy Ward http://henryfskerritt.com/tag/sugarbags
(this page is an extended text of the article, “Geographic Cosmology: The Art of Lucy Ward” published in Craft Arts International, no.78, 2010, pp.34-39)
“According to [Lucy] Ward, in the Ngarrangarni, this Wandjina broke with traditional law, and took another man’s promised wife. This angered the man’s family, who pursued him across the country, seeking to punish him for this indiscretion. They finally caught him in Ngarangarri country, where he was beaten, speared and killed. From his prostrate body rose the sugarbag trees, making Ngarangarri country the land of honey. It is a powerful story of the connection of all things. In death there is creation; in punishment there is redemption; in the bitterness of tears, the sweetness of honey.”
DH[david hudson]: In my grandmother’s country, when folks heard the sugar bag, little native bees humming inside a log, they thought it was someone playing the didjeridu. But it was the sugarbag busily working making honey inside the tree. So the sugarbag led people to the didjeridu. http://www.didjeridu.com/wickedsticks/voices/hudson.htm
Kumbaingiri Billy’s Story from Oscar and Lucinda http://www.victorianweb.org/neovictorian/carey/oscar/billy.html
We thought they were dead men. They climbed hills and chopped down trees. They did not cut down the trees for sugar bag. There was no sugar bag in the trees they chopped. They left the trees Iying on the ground. They cut these trees so they could make a map. They were surveying with chains and theodolites, but we did not understand what they were doing. We saw the dead trees. Soon other white men came and ring-barked the trees. At that time we made a song:
Where are the bees which grew on these plains?
The spirits have removed them.
They are angry with us.
They leave us without firewood when they are angry.
They’ll never grow again.
We pine for the top of our woods,
but the dark spirit won’t send them back.
The spirit is angry with us.
There are over 1,500 species of “true blue” Australian native bees.
Commercial honey bees (Apis mellifera) are not native to Australia. They were introduced from Europe in about 1822.
Australian native bees can be black, yellow, red, metallic green or even black with blue polka dots! They can be fat and furry, or sleek and shiny.
Australia’s smallest native bee is Cape York’s minute Quasihesma bee. It is less than 2 mm long.
Australia’s largest native bee is the Great Carpenter Bee of the tropical north and northern NSW. It is up to 24 mm long.
Most Australian bees are solitary bees which raise their young in burrows in the ground or in tiny hollows in timber.
Australia also has 10 species of social native bees (genera Trigona and Austroplebeia) which do not sting!
Stingless bee honey is a delicious bush food and stingless bees can be good crop pollinators. So stingless beekeeping is becoming increasingly popular.
Native bees are also important pollinators of Australia’s unique wildflowers and are a vital part of our Australian bushland.
explorations in textiles, mark making, drawing, sketchbooks, art school & uni art work