Decisions made prior to starting
- to use cleaning cloths left over from printing: they are neither white nor coloured but stained tending towards a prevalent colour
- to use machine stitch rather than glue
- to stitch the pieces onto paper rather than fabric
As stated in the brief I wanted to begin without a clear concept and see where the process leads. I started in one corner sewing on a piece at random using white thread, adding an other and an other. I noticed how the pieces overlap like horizons in a mountain landscape. However, I didn’t want to commit yet and toyed with an other piece of fabric cutting into it and tearing it. The torn strips tangled like branches. I liked that.
The landscape was now inescapable and I surrendered. What more can I add? How can I chisel it out more? It needed more depth and shape. I decided to add light and cut a sun from the gold plastic I had found. For this I used yellow thread and zig zag stitch. I let the stitching go beyond the circle of material. I wanted to repeat the material somewhere else in the picture so I made some reflections in the foreground, like reflections on water. I then sewed on the tree using yellow thread where the light would fall and dark grey in the shadow.
Some of the “branches” had twisted and I noticed how they move under the presser foot changing direction. I let them and followed with the stitching. This produced much more interesting textures and shapes. It is clearly visible in the image when I discovered this. I also started to stitch over an area several times which produced a pattern not unlike bark. For the trunk I folded the piece over itself to get away from its rectangular shape.
I then painted the sky bits with blue ink and tried to make some of the mountain sides yellow . They were too dark and the fabric sucked up most of the colour except on the stitches.
I like the sketchy quality of this. I like some of the details, the zig zag stitching on the top of the bottom most piece or the three rows of stitching in one of the mountains. These were not thought-through impromptu decisions. I also like the sun being a bit out of the picture and its glittery material in contrast to the stained fabric.
However, I think the picture does not have enough contrast between fore- and background to be readily understood. I decided to make an other one.
- Choose the fabric deliberately: pinkish for the sky, dark for the mountains, lighter and more coloured for the foreground and very much lighter and with clear colours for the tree.
- Twisting the fabric in the tree from the beginning
This already has some depth I think. I sewed this on and added yellow to the lighted mountain sides. I tried acrylics which did not work very well and added oil pastel to that. I think this is the weakest part of the picture.
I then added the sun, the yellow zig zag and the tree.
I tried not to overthink and control too much but I think this picture still lost some of the immediacy of the first. It has more contrast and works better due to that. The tree is better in this I think.
There also are some creases I don’t like in the mountains due to botched work.
By the time I let the fabric twist and stitched in a less orderly manner I felt that I had touched on what I had been searching for. Thrilling! When stitching on the first pieces I worked fast and not very carefully. I wanted to “jot down” the fabrics, like I might do with a pen in a sketch. But it felt more like botching. Is it? Or is this the voice of my teacher from sewing class? In the tree my stitching back and forth – also done quickly and with a wide margin for crooked stitching – felt more right. Here I wanted to give an impression of gnarled bark which gives it a purpose. On the other hand I like the jotted down zig zag stitch, the tripple seam in one of the mountains and the piece of sky that is stitched in to cover a hole when the rest of the sky is in one piece or the stains on the fabric. All of these do not have any purpose or reason. But the pictures would be much poorer without them.
I think it is this last characteristic that I was after all the time, the arbitrary details that give life to a drawing. Something I admire in many sketchbooks and drawings. I ask myself how did the artist think of that? Maybe they didn’t.
This is something I want to develop and use in my future work.