Colours of summer

On my trips to the local shops I always pass these wonderful displays of red hot pokers and agapanthus – they are growing wild on the reserve above one of the local coves.  I keep meaning to stop and photograph them, so on my way back from the hairdresser this morning, I did just that. 

I love the colour of agapanthus – in Victoria they are a declared noxious weed – but here, they seem to be everywhere (I guess that is what noxious weeds do!). Shame to call something so pretty noxious.


Elements and Principles of Design Course

Oh dear, so much for my resolution to blog more regularly. Never mind, I will go for quality not quantity. I have been excitedly looking forward to starting my on line design course, and it began this past weekend – Liz took pity on us all gagging to get going and posted the class notes early.

The first unit looks at lines and shapes (elements) and balance (principle). If you had asked me last week what is more interesting, lines or shapes, I would have immediately said shapes – well of course!! But having taken some time to create different lines, to look for lines in the landscape – both natural and man-made – and thinking about lines – what we use them for, what meaning do they convey etc. I have decided that lines are pretty interesting all on their own.

Liz kicked off by repeating an observation she had heard that line is the least used element by art quilters. I am still thinking about that. Although I immediately thought of an exception – Dianne Firth, Canberra-based quilter who is a master of using line in landscape abstractions.

We started off doing the sort of different line studies that I am sure you are familiar with if you have any books on design – these were done quickly, using Photoshop and my graphics tablet – feel more comfortable with that than a pen or pencil, besides which I didn’t have a chisel pointed marker, which we were supposed to use.

Then I followed Liz’s advice to pay attention to the world around me and took my digital camera on my lunchtime walks and found an amazing array of ‘lines’. That made me start to think about lines. I started thinking of so many different types of lines and uses of line imagery in our speech that I did a mind map: click to enlarge. I was surprised to find how many types of lines there are in our world – literal and figurative.

There are real lines – telephone lines, pipelines, railway lines, production lines, power lines, even fishing lines and clothes lines – that serve a useful purpose and make our lives easier. Then there are the ‘imaginary’ lines that help us make sense of the world. Lines are fundamental to the way we perceive our world – think of the horizon line.

Seeing it skewed immediately produces a visceral reaction (literally making us feel sea sick). Our instinctive reaction to the second picture is to tilt our head to try and view the horizon line as a horizontal. We divide our world with lines – the lines of latitude and longitude; the line around the centre of the earth that divides north from south (although technically, these lines are in fact shapes, as they join up to form a circle), the north south line in the Pacific that determines where one day ends and another begins. We superimpose contour lines to try and make sense of our weather and the very ground beneath our feet.

Our days are ruled by lines – deadlines, timelines, guidelines.

We use them to delineate space – to point out where we may go and keep us on track

or where we cannot go

We use them to show the way and to create order they can help keep us safe

In the built environment they are often straight and strong and provide structure and strength

Things lined up look orderly. ‘Stepping out of line’ denotes rebellion, dissent, lack of co-operation – although visually, one element slightly out of line with the others looks much more interesting.

My absolute favourite discovery is ‘desire lines’. These are lines created in a landscape by people (or animals) walking a particular way. In the old days, these well worn track eventually developed into formal roads and routes – hence the higgledy piggeldy routes of laneways and roads in medieval towns. In the modern world, in the built environment, a desire line emerges when the landscape designer makes pathways take a certain route, but the people using the space decide otherwise. I like the notion of people ‘voting with their feet’ and silently rebelling against a structure being forced onto them that doesn’t suit their needs. There is probably a whole series of quilts in there – formal structures overlaid with slightly haphazard, organic lines that refuse to submit to the underlying structures. I’ll have to go away and make some notes and drawings in my notebook.

Yes, I have a notebook – at last. This course makes me keep one, and a good thing too.

And let’s not forget nature – she creates a whole set of her own lines -usually much more organic than the regimented ones that man uses to try and impose order. I will have to find more examples of natural lines to add to my image collection – these just reflect what are in my immediate surroundings at home and work.

We also looked at the design principle of Balance this week. Personally I have always found formal symmetrical balance to be incredibly dull and boring – might be okay in classic
Greek buildings, but in quilts and textiles, I find it a big yawn. That is probably why I love scrap quilts – a barely contained riot of colour and shapes. The idea of making a whole quilt using the same block over and over and over and over again……………..hardly bears thinking about.

So asymmetry is definitely my preferred way to work. And I paid attention to radial balance,

which I probably haven’t taken a lot of notice of before. We had to do our exercises on 4” x 6” cards – I found that radial balance didn’t look right in the rectangular format – it seems to look
better in a square format.

Normally I would shy away from making a quilt or anything much in a square format, I suppose because I particularly like landscapes and they just don’t work in squares. But I can see now that if I HAD to work in a square format, then doing a piece with radial balance would work really well.

So, that is week 1. We are on to colour next week – yippee!!

colour and design play with photoshop

I am continuing – slowly – to work my way through my Photoshop course. I am looking forward to doing Liz Berg’s online design class, which starts on 21 Jan, and in preparation was going through some of the abstract design exercises in recent editions of Quilting Arts magazine. Combined with this was the spooky experience of second guessing Sharon Bs colour scheme for her Take it further challenge, and it all came together in a session playing in Photoshop.

I decided to use the colour scheme chosen by Sharon for the TIF challenge and playing with it using simple shapes in PS. You can replicate the colours from Sharon’s sample exactly by typing in the number at the top left hand side of each colour into the # box in the colour picker window of PS (to open the colour picker, just click on the foreground colour square towards the bottom of the main toolbar). Then create a document with a shape for each colour and save it as your reference. When you want to do some design work, or just play around seeing the effect of using different proportions of the colours in a design, open a new document and have your original which has a sample of each colour open alongside. Use the eye dropper tool to touch the colour you want from the original and that will set the foreground colour in your colour picker to that colour. Then just play with whichever tool you want to create shapes and fill them with the desired colour/s.

Here I just used the rectangular and ellipse marquee tools to create shapes in the different colours, on a textured background. No great design principles at play here!

Next I had a go at creating unity through proximity.

In this one I wanted to create a sense of movement, with the triangular shapes falling across the page. I also played with transparency with the pale yellow overlays. You can do this by varying the opacity.

The very first image I made using the rectangular marquee tool, then hit it with a filter to distort the shapes and make them more organic – I also used a gradient filter for the background. BTW all of this can be done even if you only have Photoshop elements (I tried it on version 2, which is pretty old!). I don’t know why, but I feel more comfortable doing these sort of design exercises on the computer, rather than with real fabric bits. I guess I don’t feel that I am ‘wasting’ fabricd – and I can always hit the ‘undo’ button. I also don’t flatter myself that any of these are great examples of design! But as I said in my New Year’s Eve post, I am resolved to follow Rayna Gillman’s advice to accept the crap quota – so the more I do, the better I will get.

DISCLAIMER: Warning – playing in Photoshop can be a serious timewaster – don’t blame me if you don’t get the laundry done and dinner is late!

Balloons and colours

It was my daughter’s birthday last week (on Mother’s Day actually – we had a joint celebration). Some of her friends sent her a bunch of balloons. I was idly looking at them the other day and realised they formed a sort of colour wheel. There was some brightly coloured cellophane with them, which is the type that melts well. I cut a piece and folded it over on itself then ironed it between parchment. It melted up nicely. I put a piece of dark fabric behind it for the scan to show up the holes. The balloons have taken on the look of melted crayons. Not sure what I will do with this – maybe an ATC or postcard, with some stitching?

I may be going crazy

Well dear reader – flushed with success at my first post, I tried a second today and disaster struck. I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice to say that I have spent many hours trawling through Google help (without success), as my blog ‘disappeared’. In despair, I created a new one, and thought all would be well, but little did I know…the same thing happened.

I was about to give up on blogging, deciding it was clearly way too complicated, when miraculously, both blogs appeared again, and (as far as I can tell), are now going to let me post further messages.

So, here goes – this will be the third time today I have tried posting this message, or a variation of it, on two different blogs. If this doesn’t work, I really am giving up!

This is a bundle of fabric samples that I carefully unpicked from some sample cards I bought more than 10 years ago – those were the days before Internet shopping, when you sent away for actual samples of things – imagine!!

I decided I could put these to good use doing some colour exercises, like the ones I did in Module 1 of Dale Rollerson’s Playways – check out The Thread Studio website for more info.

I also plan on maybe using some in the Journal quilts I intend doing during 2007 – more on that later.

In preparation for Take a Stitich Tuesday on Sharon Boggin’s website, I have been sorting through my fabrics and threads, and found these two pieces

They were ‘play’ pieces using a variety of stitches to create texture. I quite like them.

Alright – the moment of truth – I will try and publish this and see where it ends up. Wish me luck.