Saturday, 29 October 2011

Approaching my last assessment this semester

I have spent the last few days at the print workshop, working on my 4th assessment for this semester.  I have struggled with finding the inspiration for the Visual Inquiry class, and have been working on images of Dad, created from text, which resulted from a piece of homework earlier this semester.  It does not really inspire me, and I feel I have said everything I want to say from this piece of inspiration.  I have also been using gum nuts in the design, which is potentially a problem as I have used these in another assessment and don't want to infringe the self-plagiarisation rules. 
Work in progress of Dad as he disappeared into Alzheimer's disease

Unfortunately I only thought of this once I had produced quite a body of work.  I had been thinking about printing with subtractive (discharge and devore, which bleach and eat away) and additive techniques (opaque, puff and foil, which are thick, raised or shiny).  I had started by working with discharge and devore using hand cut stencils of gum nuts. Once I realised how close this was becoming to previous work, I started layering techniques on top of each other, and kept the scale quite large, so it was nothing like the repeat print I submitted for Pattern & Meaning.  I then worked on some repeating images of Dad using text, and worked into it with puff and discharge, and spaced the images using the Fibonacci series.  I hope this makes it sufficiently original.  
A simple stencil of gum nut and leaves

6 layers of pattern

Another 6 layered pattern

Two layers of pattern - discharge and devore on polycotton.

Three layers of pattern - discharge, devore and print.

So my submitted work will be two pieces of mounted artwork, different versions of Dad fading away, and also a portfolio of samples of layered techniques.  We only need to do one final piece of work, but I had the time to experiment, so have done more than the bare minimum.  Assessment is on Monday afternoon, and I have tomorrow to spend preparing the samples as a portfolio.  This needs to have a slick finish and will probably take me all day.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Chemical qualities of inks and binder

I discovered today that the translucent binder and pigments contain ammonia.  For this reason, spare binder should not be kept in recycled plastic or glass containers.  We use recycled food containers extensively to mix and store small quantities of binder.  But we noticed that after a week or so, the plastic containers start to buckle slightly.   Apparently if left for a month or so, the plastic will degrade and start to leak.  Additionally if binder and pigment is kept in a glass jar, the ammonia makes the glass go brittle, and can break, particularly if pressure is applied when twisting off a lid that is jammed with dried muck. 

When mixing binder at Herts, we buy plastic containers for about 50p each from the print shop.  These have never buckled in use, so I suppose they are made from plastic designed to handle the ammonia.  I've never thought of recycling plastic containers at Herts, probably because there is a shop on site, providing reasonably priced materials.  It had not occurred to me that not every container is suitable for storage for print materials.  The print shop is definitely an asset, because it provides reputable materials, at near to cost price.  Cheap, convenient and quality control done for you.  What more can you ask?  Yet for some legislative reason, Australian universities are not allowed to run a shop.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Workshop practices at other universities

I have had an interesting conversation today with someone who has worked at various universities.  At Curtin, the technicians have an office down the corridor from the print workshop, which means students are often working unsupervised - and sloppy practice can result.  At Herts, my home university, the technicians office is a goldfish bowl at the side of the print and textile workshop, and the techs look out over the print area, so are generally quite aware of what is going on. 

A Curtin member of staff told me that on some courses, students are informed that the lecturer has academic authority and the technician has authority on workshop practice issues.  Strict workshop practice is applied, and the technician assesses students for 20% of marks on workshop practice.  So, if students apply sloppy practice, or don't clean tables, leave screens outside or damage equipment, potentially 20% of marks are lost.  The technician is credited for her specialist knowledge and the lecturer supports her staff member.

Another description that was given to me was how another university manages time on print tables.   There are about 100 students, sharing 3 x 8m tables!   First years are only allowed to use the tables on Saturday mornings.  Second years have a couple of days allocated to them, and third years share the remaining 3 days per week.  All testing is expected to be done outside of studio time.  Students are only allowed to book a table to print, once the technician has checked their design.  This requires the design to be agreed, test swatches completed, colour samples confirmed, trolley booked, binders made up, fabric prepared, cleaning rags, gloves, squeejees etc ready, and print buddy available.  Then the booking is confirmed, and the tech checks over all kit before access to workshop is allowed (!).  Because of the level of prep, no-one misses their booked session.  The technician checks the workshop for adequate cleaning and return of kit.  Because everything is run as a tight ship, huge quantities of fabric can be printed, and they have printed 50m multi-coloured hand print in a day.  The lecturer did say not everyone liked the rigidity of they system.

I don't think I've ever been that prepared for a session, and I thought I was quite good at anticipating my workload for my workshop time.  In fact I know I've not been that prepared.  This tight workshop style would need a clear induction and commitment from all staff.  One of the benefits apparently was that they had an extensive range of functioning kit - because all kit was signed out, and signed back in by a tech, and not loaned to other departments.  This led to kit being kept in good condition and therefore the equipment budget was not wasted replacing basic things like irons because they had been abused.  Health & safety practice was good, because students knew that sloppy practice would be noted and affect their marks.  Also every student was reminded of their duty of care to each other, and had the right to point out correct practice to other students. 

It was a very interesting, thought provoking conversation.  How much fabric could I print if I were that organised?  I keep wondering about whether I could design and print enough gum nut pattern to make 4 sets of curtains for our bungalow!  Hmmm!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Jim is on his way back

I've just spoken to Jim on the phone.  He's heading back home from his trip around south west Australia.  He's done c50 miles today and is camping overnight in Mandurah.  He only has 43 miles left to get home tomorrow.  I'm ready for him to be home.  I'm fine while he's away but as soon as he's nearly home, I get fed up of my own company and just want him here.

Today I spent lots of time researching textile design.  I have a good lot of research for my Visual Inquiry file - but it's a pity I did not do this a few days earlier.  My Pattern & Meaning research file was a bit light, and I could have balanced the work between the two subjects a bit better.  This weekend, I've read a book on (UK) fabric design in the 20th century, and one on Henry Moore's textile design.  I've also got a book on the Weiner Werkstatte.  I'm definitely interested in modern textile history, and wonder whether this will form the basis of my dissertation when I get back to the UK.  Given I live in Braintree, where the Warner Textile Archive is located, it seems sensible that I should use this fantastic resource for research (and save myself a lot of travelling to uni).   

The textile work I like is largely illustrative in style.  John Piper, Henry Moore, Althea McNish and Eduardo Paolozzi.  I was quite surprised to like Eduardo Paolozzi's work because I loathed his mosiac work on the Underground.  But this is probably because it was difficult to keep clean in a dirty environment.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Thoughts on what we choose to make for assessment

I've been thinking about what we choose to make for assessment.  In the Pattern & Meaning class, we were given a very open specification to make a piece of cloth, leading to either a portfolio of samples, an application for the body, or installation.  On the face of it, this seems simple.  We were advised that a portfolio of samples needed to have a very slick finish - the sort of object that could be taken to fashion buyers.  Not much was said about installations - and the installations seemed to give more problems. 

I had not realised how much consideration was required for hanging cloth, as I have described.  Some students chose to apply their fabric to lampshades, upholstery, canvas frames etc.  But most of us are artists, not skilled soft furnishers, or upholsterers.  And I think the skills required to get a good finish are beyond our current competence, particularly for the youngsters.  As a mature student who has been working with fabric for 30 years, I have a wider set of skills than many, even if it just means I know I don't have the competence to get the finish required.  I think it would have been helpful for students to have an appreciation of the level of finishing skills required for the relevant application.

I have thought some more about the way my assessment was staged.  The way the black piece was hung was unfortunate. It would have been better hung next to, and parallel to the rest of the work. But it needed to be along a beam so we could support it while the ends were being tied. I had a massive emotional reaction once it was hung. Jim rang from the south west corner of Australia, where he is cycle touring, and could tell immediately I spoke that the staging was not going well. It was at right angles to the rest of my work, and created an oppressive little box in the corner of the room. Standing close to it while pinning it in place, I felt completely enveloped in black malaise. At assessment, I could not even go near it. I did not dare start talking about it, because of how much I hated it (you don't say negative things about your work during assessment). Yet when it was being worked on the table, and I had a lot of light around me, I could tolerate it. Maybe it's coming back to my feelings about vertical and horizontal lines. Vertical lines represent railway lines taking me somewhere I don't want to be (and this was black vertical fabric - taking me to depression?) whereas horizontal lines represent the breadth of my horizon and potential and are so wide they go out of sight either side.  I'm never again going to work on black fabric with the purpose of hanging it!
I'm going to spend the weekend cutting stencils of gumnuts and leaves at about A4 size and work up some complicated layered fabric samples using various print media, then overprint Dad's image. If I can make a hefty portfolio and finish it well, I will be quite pleased. I think I need to consider mark making again so I might do some monoprint too.   I will consider what the potential problems are with making a portfolio, and see whether I can make a good job of creating a range of samples.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Further thoughts on displaying printed fabrics.

I've been thinking about my coloured gum nut piece.  I had not fully understood how much you need to understand your application before you start work. 
Alzheimer's disease obstructing the beauty of ordinary thing.

I knew I wanted to create a long piece of fabric with a subtle change of colour along it, and the repeat print exercise required a 6m length of fabric.  Therefore I just assumed the design should extend the length of the fabric.  Then I changed my mind about hanging it horizontally to vertically, because I could not get a professional finish to a horizontal piece.  Pinning it to the wall was deemed shoddy.  I did not think to measure how long the drop would be from the rafters in the classroom (3.2m max).  So my careful delicate colour changes extended down the full 6m.  And could not be effectively displayed in one drop.  As it happened, I had not thought how heavy 6m printed canvas mounted on plastic pipe would be.  (The roll at each end was symbolic of how life continues before we can remember, and after we are gone - you can't see either end).  It was far too heavy for me to hang while standing on a ladder.  Jim was away cycling so I had no assistance.  Next time, I will ensure he is present for my assessments to assist with staging, as well as moral support!

So when it came to assessment, I was just lucky that I was in a room with a fixed worktable 1.2m wide and 4m long.  Even so, when the tutor realised there was more colour variation at the beginning of the cloth, she looked decidedly unimpressed as it did not fit its space, and asked me to roll it out for viewing, which I did.  I suppose this is a typical learning experience, in that, it was not until I had experienced how my fabric did not fit the display space, that I really grasped how you need to think through every aspect of what you plan to make. 

Another conclusion is that making a portfolio of samples is much easier than making an installation or application.  Yet, I thought displaying a length of fabric would be easy.  I expect there are considerations for doing a portfolio of samples as well.  I know sample portfolios need to have a slick finish and I would find this demanding.

The day after assessment

I woke up early this morning, with my mind still churning over yesterday's assessment. So I got up, and downloaded the photos I had taken of everyone's work. Just look at this and see the standard of work by new pattern makers!
Stef with optical illusions
Apri with hand drawn illustration

Paschael's work - contemporary retro
Hannah with broken glass print

Cassie with print inspired by her grandparents
Lauren with kaleidoscopes
Sam with intimidating fashionistas
LeeAnne with snowflake design
Pam assessing work
Mollie with voyeur prints
Tracy with bricks and torn posters
Emma with criminal prints
Seth with vanity prints

Victoria with handwriting prints

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Pattern & meaning assessment

Today was our Pattern & Meaning Assessment.  I felt really fraught last night, because I had problems hanging my fabric.  I planned to hang both the coloured print, and the black one, but discovered the coloured print was too long to hang to show the full variation in the colour print.  After much angst I decided to display the coloured print along the 4m table.  The black print was hung by Paschael, who although tiny, is surprisingly strong, and very agile, to be able to hold a roll of fabric and tie each end on to a beam, while balancing on a ladder.  I just can't do this because I have a long term back problem.

Black fabric hanging, with design development work
When the fabric was hung, I found it really depressing and oppressive.  I did not like when I was working on it, but my emotional response was surprisingly heightened when it was hung. I thought it was horrible.  But I reflected on it and decided not to express my full views on it at my review, but focus on the coloured piece. 

I had planned carefully what I wanted to say in my review (this is something I learned at mid-semester - don't fly by the seat of your pants in your self assessment).  I talked about the careful colour mixing I had done.  I thought I would be pulled up for not hanging the coloured piece, and I was right. I explained that I physically could not hang it - it is very heavy because it is worked on canvas, and I thought the fishing line would break and I'm just not strong enough or flexible enough to get up a ladder and fix it. I was criticised for making the confused section end with a straight line. But to me, the confused section ended with a straight line which represented death - so a straight line indicates the sudden finality of it. Pam thought I should have worked the hand frame to give whole leaf images forming a straight line. I was asked for my views on the black piece and said I felt it was worked like a commission - to a customers specification - but that it was not my taste.  I restrained what I said, but I think my body language showed how much I loathed it.

I went out for lunch with another student afterwards, and we chewed the fat.  We noted that the feedback given to different students appeared inconsistent.  One student was told work needed a concept: meaning behind the work, because this is a Pattern & Meaning class. Therefore work needed to consider what meaning the viewer would get from the work and it is the role of the artist to define the meaning in advance.  Yet when another student was not clear about what the viewer was to take from her body of work, she was told "maybe it's up to the viewer what meaning they wish to give it". 

Also we noted that both of us had had the tutor pull out some samples from our mid semester assessment, stating these were really interesting and that we should have worked up these samples as they were amongst our best work.  Which was probably fair comment.  But during the mid-semester assessment, when these pieces were on display, and had been privileged by a good position for viewing, they had been completely ignored for comment.  Which is a bit frustrating for the person receiving feedback.

I noted that my work was criticised for being displayed on the table, but no mention was made of how accurately I had rolled it at either end, onto white plastic pipe, cut precisely to length, filed so no snags detracted from the aesthetic.  Yet comment was made about sloppy practice from students from other classes hanging fabric from wooden dowel that protruded either end from the fabric, which detracts from the aesthetic.  I know the assessors have a lot to take into account when evaluating so much work, so fast, but it would be nice to have some recognition of details well done.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

I have knitted an unusual cardigan!

I've been working on a turquoise summer cardigan since I came out here.  I started the last sleeve during the mid semester reviews, and today finished it. I had huffed and puffed at various stages, because the garment was using more yarn than pattern stated.  I realised I would not have enough yarn to complete the button bands, so blended some print binder to a close approximation of the colour, and coloured some white linen, to create a fabric button band.  This went surprisingly well. 

When I sat and finished the sleeve today, I took the rest of the knitted sections out of the bag, and discovered I had knitted 3 sleeves!  I thought the pattern was using a lot of yarn - and this is why!  I must have been really stressed when I started the third sleeve, and forgotton that I had already packed away one sleeve.  So I've decided to continue with the fabric button band, and have put the neck band on.   I have some neat little novelty buttons - tiny turquoise pencils, which I think will really set it off.  However, some people might think a third sleeve would set it off better! 

Expensive dentistry

Fortunately the medical insurance from University of Hertfordshire has agreed to pay out for my dentistry here.  Last year's university insurance did  not cover dentistry, so I am very, very glad that Herts changed the insurers, and upgraded the insurance for this year's Student Exchange programme.  I have just received the treatment plan and costings. The remedial work for infection, root canal and make-good filling (4 visits) is c$2,000!  (About £1300).  If I want the crown fitted here, it's another $1400 on top, which I think I would have to pay, if I want the work completed here.

When I return to Herts, I will be publicising that anyone travelling to Perth, should make sure they have their teeth seen to before travelling, because Perth, being the 4th most expensive city in the world, is mega expensive for dentistry.  Perth is a mining town that supports mineral extraction further up the west coast, and consequently with high wages, everything is expensive.

But at least the insurance will cover the basics, and the dentist is excellent.  In case anyone wants a recommendation - Dr Darabi at Lifecare Dental, Perth.  Surgery is in Perth station complex, so easy to access.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Pleased and virtuous!

Today could not have gone better.  I went to class and arrived at 8am (this is Sunday!).  Even at this time it was hot.  I was not the first at class - in the corridor, 3 students from another class were setting up their exhibition for Monday morning. 

I checked the texiflock glue, and although still a bit granular, it looked good to use.  I spread the fabric, and considered how to position the half drop repeat.  As I was not sure how far the glue would go, I did not want to do too many prints, and run out half way along.  I decided to space the prints by using a spare 12" frame as a spacer between the prints with my gum nut screen.  By 10am I had done all the printing and it was drying quickly in the hot classroom. 

At 10, Lauren arrived, a bit stressed because she has a lot of work to do before assessment on Thursday.  She was horrified when she checked the opaque and translucent binder buckets (both empty) and the yellow pigment was also spent.  We had a bit of a think about it, and checked out what containers of left-overs she could use.  There was a lot of green translucent binder, and because she wanted to use brown, we added some red pigment, and changed it to a brown.  Lauren had her own silver metallic which pearlised the binder nicely.

While Lauren got on with preparing her print, I foiled the half drop repeats with silver and glossy black foil.  The black has come out quite subtle, when printed on black linen.  I think it looks good, even though I don't like black.  I think my colour version and the monochrome will work well together.

Lauren's print went well.  She was quite surprised how well it went.  I think she just has natural talent - she had a natural touch with how to handle the mechanical printer, good steady pull, just the right pressure, even and consistent motion with no bounce or smudging.

I cycled home in 38 degree heat - fortunately it only takes 15 minutes.  Once it was about 4pm I sat outside and drew some pomegranate flowers.  Everything was well with my world. 
My new pastels

I have great plans to build a library of drawings and maybe work them up into prints.  I can see the pomegranates in a repeat design for furnishing fabric, and greatly enlarged for fabric for accessories such as cushions, so only part of the image is on each cushion, maybe stitched into.  I have great ideas.  I'm hoping to participate in the 3rd year print class, and spend time working up a portfolio of resolved samples.  (And maybe work myself some curtaining fabric in the process!).  Not that I have ideas above my ability or competence!  But if you don't dream, you don't aspire.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Frustration first thing, then a good day

I cycled to class this morning, Saturday, to get some more printing done on my black  linen using texiflock glue, prior to foiling.  Unfortunately the glue tub only had dried scrapings left.  I peeled all these bits off, and rehydrated them with 3 tablespoons of water, and gave it a good beating.  (My experience of making lumpy roux sauces came in useful here!).  It was still too granular to use, so I decided to leave it overnight and see whether it improved by time to stand.  So I will go into class again tomorrow to see whether it will work - I don't even know if rehydrated glue will work. And both my class and the Surface Design class are using the workshop today, so the rehydrated glue may be used anyway.

So as my plans for a productive day had come to naught, I took myself off for a trip to Perth to the Art Gallery of Western Australia.  I had a wonderful afternoon.  I looked at the Annual Indigenous Exhibition, and the work I liked best was a series of ambiguous dual photographs.  There was a head and shoulders photo of each Australian Prime Minister this century, superimposed over an image of an indigenous Australian, challenging the incomers' assumption of Terra Nullius.  This is where the English set up their own parliamentary system, assuming that because no previous european style government existed, there was no valid system in place, and we could impose our government on the indigenous population.  I'll have to go back to identify the artist - I looked at so much art I can't remember his name, but I want to credit him.

Then I went on to look at the Collection in Focus exhibition - Plates, Blocks and Stones; five centuries of international prints.  Wonderful.  I saw quite a lot of prints by artists who we had covered in my Historical Issues in Art & Design class.  These include Josef Albers, William Blake, Toulouse Lautrec, Albrech Durer, Paul Gaugin, Francisco Goya, Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Rembrandt and Renoir.  How good is this!  Additionally there were prints by names that I knew - Muirhead Bone, Georges Braque, Eric Gill, David Hockney, Wassily Kandinsky, Edvard Munch, Paul Nash, Bridget Riley, Egon Schiele, William Scott, and Andy Warhol.

The Art Gallery is an example of Brutalist architecture.  I was not greatly impressed by the exterior, but I think the design is based on hexagons.  The interior was fantastic.  Wonderfully spacious and somehow the hexagon format enhanced the viewing area.  I have no idea how, but it made a really lovely space.  Additionally I noted that the Japanese prints were displayed against a muddy turquoise wall space, and the rest of the prints were on the usual art gallery white wall.  I wonder whether the turquoise was designed to enhance the flat colours in the Japanese prints.  There must be a  reason.

And I treated myself to a box of pastels.  I've been admiring the pomegranate flowers at the flat, and the seed pods are starting to swell, so I want to record all the stages of fruiting.  And they are such lovely colours, they are crying out for pastels.  And I got a 10% student discount, so I felt virtuous buying them as well!

Friday, 14 October 2011

Printing on my black fabric

Yesterday I used the repeat screen and printed two layers of grey outline print on the black fabric, to give a general confused background. 

Today I worked into the fabric using the hand screen, using some dark grey binder, and quite a lot of almost white binder, to make the confused areas vary in intensity.  Tomorrow, Saturday, a few people from my class are going in, to work on our assessment pieces.  I plan to take in my small hand screen (must remember to take it!) and add a half drop repeat pattern in glue, so that I can foil over.  I'm planning to use some silver foil, but also some black glossy foil.  I've never used the black glossy foil, but I think it might look quite good on the fabric I've printed so far.
First layers of gum nut print

Clarity and confusion

Repeat print masters by Apri and Mollie

Brick design master by Tracy

Also today I handed in my Historical Issues in Art & Design essay.  I chose to write about Grayson Perry, and his challenging pottery, which I think is fantastic.  I allied his work to the Expressionists (Dix and Grotz) and Satirists (Hogarth).  I've worked hard on it, and I do hope to get a good mark.  It's worth 35%.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Peaks and troughs

I've had a couple of days of alternating successes and frustrations.  On Wednesday morning I went to the textile workshop to print using my repeat screen.  I cleaned the table, rolled out my fabric, set up the binder, and attached the squeejee to the frame.  It was a screen I had not used before ... oh dear!  I had emulsed and exposed it with my design, but when I went to attach it to the mechanical printer, I discovered one of the four screw fixings was missing.  No matter, I thought, the other 3 will be enough.  But when I tried to put the screws in, I discovered the thread on each screwhole was completely spent.  So I spent the rest of the morning finding Geoff, from the wood workshop, and waiting for him to repair the screen.  This took the rest of the morning, so I achieved completely nothing.  But I can give credit where it's due - Geoff made a fantastic repair to the frame (all 4 fixings now working perfectly) and made something that was completely defective, into a fully functioning screen that will be useful to everyone in the class.  So I was really hacked off, having wasted my morning.

Then in the afternoon, we had the last Private Lives, Public Issues lecture.  The tutors were giving really good analysis about where this module could take people who wanted to continue into their 3rd year,talking about final year project, MA and even on to doctorate level.  I have found it a very useful module, and it has dramatically improved my critical reasoning and writing, but because I'm an art student, I think I can do more focussed modules next semester.  I was very flattered when the tutors specifically approached me when I left, to find out whether I would be continuing.  I know I am one of the students who is more likely to contribute in class, and because the subject was structured in a way that enabled us to link it back to our personal experiences, I often had something to say.  It was very encouraging to be wanted to participate in the next class, particularly as I had never studied anything like it before.

Then this morning I went to the Pattern & Meaning class, and my print went swimmingly well.  The screen fixed perfectly to the mechanical printer, the black fabric gummed down well, and I printed with opaque binder in two layers, to give a confused overprint.  The opaque binder is more difficult to use as it clogs the screen easily but all went well. 

Mind you, there is friction building up between our 2nd year class and the 1st year Surface Design class who have the room the day before us.  We are totally fed up of how they leave the print tables covered in glue, binder and general debris, and the state in which they leave the sinks and emulsion room.  They are getting through huge quantities of materials, which means there are insufficient materials for our class.  Significantly, today we ran out of opaque binder (again) and (again) the outside drain where we clean screens, was blocked.  I think they are mixing vast quantities of binder, then when they don't need it all, they just throw it down the drain ... and flood us. 

Lauren, Mollie and I had booked the repeat print table tonight, and cleaned it between us, and people in this class kept asking if they could use our table as well as their own.  We kept saying no, and then someone blocked the sink with red binder.  Mollie asked them to clear it, and all of them denied responsibility.  So I ticked them off, stating we were all sick of cleaning up after them, and their excessive use of class materials.   4 different people in my class have each spent an hour clearing up the first years' mess, so that the technicians don't end up with it.  We are also fed up of their wastefulness. Surprisingly, no-one could make eye contact with me.  But it really has got to the stage where if they waste our materials again, or if I clean up after them again, I'm going to make a formal complaint.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Feeling brighter today

I've felt downhearted for the last few days. I was getting myself all upset and hurt about feedback for my Visual Inquiry module. 

Last week I had feedback that my project portraying Dad's Alzheimers' was didactic.  I was working with text, and using the words to create background texture and the shading to create a Dad's face.  The backgrount text was describing all his positive attributes, and there were going to be 4 deteriorating images, indicating how when the person regresses, you also lose the ability to see the things you respected about them.  I found it really difficult to accept that what I was portraying was didactic! The tutor did not like my work because it dictated what the viewer was meant to see.  (And a couple of weeks ago, she slated another student for say that the viewer could take what they want from her artwork).  In fact, I completely fail to see how using words like "supported education" and "enjoyed music"  can be deemed didactic.  In fact, in no way did I accept it! 

But for the following week, I reworked the background, using words that described the behaviour of people with Alzheimers.  I loathed it, and it does not convey the feelings and emotions that I wanted to portray. It was pedestrian and predictable. The tutor liked the words about Alzheimers, and the words were not deemed didactic. This time the feedback was that the tutor did not like the style of the text, and that I should make the more "like a drawing".  I was asked if I understood what she meant, and whether it helped.  I said no.  So the tutor used the same words and repeated what she had said.  And asked again whether it helped.  And I said No.  Then it was suggested I make the background script smaller - but this will make it similar to the script in the main image and will lose definition.  I felt really hacked off.

Today, I've had a bit of a think about it.  I don't care if the tutor thinks my work is didactic.  I want to portray my feelings about the positive attributes of my father that I've lost, and I'm going to use the words of my choice.  It's my work, not hers.

And I'm feeling more light-hearted because we had the Historical Issues In Art & Design test tonight, (10% of marks) and it went ok.  My essay (35%) is due to be submitted on Friday and is at the final proof-reading stage.  I only have the two practical modules to finish in the next 2-3 weeks, so I can spend lots of time, messing about in the print studio.  As Jim has left for a 3 week tour around south-western Australia, I can spend as much time as I want, playing with fabric.  So all is well with my world.

I'm now starting to think about next semester.  I definitely want to do another module about history of art, a practical textile print module to create a textile portfolio, another module on printing on paper, and the 4th one I have not yet decided.  This is almost totally different to those I put on the Study Abroad form, but I'm hopeful I can change my options.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Classwork all weekend

On Saturday I met Tracy at the print workshop.  We had agreed to work together on some more coloured versions of her repeat print.  I started by working up a couple of designs for my Visual Inquiry class - images created from script, of Dad.  I emulsed a couple of hand screens and left them to dry to expose on Sunday. 

Tracy had brought some red, blue and orange fabric samples, and wanted to work into them in the same way she had worked the yellow original.  This involved mixing binder with pigment, to reach the required colour.  I have done quite a lot of colour theory, and assisted Tracy to get the colours right.  I think she was surprised at how cautious I was in adjusting the tonal values of the orange, to get the right impure colour.   Tracy made a good job of documenting the process in her visual diary, and ended up with some good colour samples and process description.  This took nearly all day.  Once she had finished with the repeat screen, we cleaned off the design, and I re-emulsed it ready to have another print session with my gum nut pattern.  I want to do a print run on black fabric, to complete a piece of work that takes the mid-semester feedback into account.  And I want to have more than one piece of fabric to display at final review.

Today, Sunday I have spent my time working on my essay on Grayson Perry.  For some reason I'm finding it hard going.  I have so much to say, but only 2,000 words to write.  And I'm finding it difficult to fit what I want to say, to the marking criteria, and be sufficiently articulate, without using lots of the wordcount on narrative.  Still, at least I only have to tidy up the text in order to finish it for Friday, when it is due.  I find all the fiddling about getting suitable high quality images, and correct referencing very irksome, and it does not put me in good humour.  I was just finishing for this evening, when I pulled out a file from the bookcase, and let out the most almighty squawk!  Jim rushed through to the bedroom where I was working, to find me holding a ring binder with trepidation.  I had seen a cockroach on the edge of it!  Jim knocked it to the floor, and killed it, and disposed of the remains outside.  Jim commented that I don't usually get jumpy about creepy-crawlies and he knew it was not a false alarm so came rushing through.  I know there are cockroaches in Australia, but it's the first I've seen in the flat, and I was tired and not expecting it, so it certainly made me jump (and squawk!).

I'm tired now, and mercifully I've completed all the filing.  If I don't keep on top of the educational paperwork, I'm lost.  I'm not naturally tidy, and have to really work at it to keep things in order.  So now, feeling virtuous, I'm going to bed with a good book.  Revision for Historical Issues in Art & Design test can wait until Tuesday.

Friday, 7 October 2011

A steady week

Having spent all last weekend working, I have had a steady week, without working myself into the ground. 

I've made good progress on my essay for Historical Issues in Art & Design, writing about Grayson Perry and what modern issues and historical influences are portrayed in his pots. 

I had a good time in my Pattern & Meaning class, when our project proposals were returned to us, and I scored 79%.  I think I was the first in class to finish my repeat print, and I have decided to change the hanging of the fabric.  I originally planned to hang it horizontally to represent a timeline, but I don't have the skills or facilities to create a rigid frame, so I have decided to hang it vertically.  The classroom has an apex roof and there are plenty of beams from which I can hang a dowel supported on fishing wire.  I'll add a photo when I hang it to demonstrate what I mean.

So for the last few days, I've been to class to assist other people working on their patterns.  I've assisted various people to emulse their large screens, and to set up the mechanical printer.  Like most things, it's easy when you know how, but when you don't, processes are really difficult.  Also with printing, there are a multitude of ways in which you can mess up your print, but once you know how to avoid them, it is a simple process to create something that looks quite professional.

Today I worked with Tracy to get her repeat print done.  She was printing a drystone wall brick pattern and my role was to pour the binder ready for her to print.  Her design used more ink than me, and about half way through, we were not sure whether enough binder had been mixed.  Fortunately the litre of binder mixed was just enough.  It is very difficult to mix another batch, exactly the same colour, but we were lucky, with just a couple of tablespoons to spare from the original mix.

Tomorrow, Saturday, I'm going into the workshop again, and a group of us will work to finish projects.  I will take in some drawing for the Visual Inquiry module, so I have some designs ready to expose for Monday's class.  This way I make use of the spare time when waiting for others to be ready to print and require my assistance.  

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Hard work but good

Yesterday, I went to college for a whole day's printing.  It could not have gone better.  Tracy and I met at about 9am - her plan was to design her repeat print, and my plan was to print the second and third colour layers and get the fabric to the stage where no more accurate print needed to be done, so I could lift the fabric.

Tracy, with better planning skills, had brought milk, tea and florentines, which were very welcome during the day.

Hand screen used to overprint a coloured layer on the outline print
 I started by printing over the outline print, starting at one end with a fairly bright clean green, and as I worked along the print run, I added a spot of magenta at a time until I ended up printing with a sludgy brown.  This was to represent the deterioration of mental processes.  Two thirds of the way along I went back to a bright clean green.  This represents how life carries on, after someone with Alzheimer's dies.
Half way along the first colour layer.

This shows the change from sludgy brown, back to bright green. 
 Then I used another hand silkscreen to do another layer of colour on the gum nut pattern, once again working from right to left, from a brightish green, to very pale green.  As I worked along the pattern, this gave a lot of pattern definition to the part where confusion starts.  Technically it also demonstrates quite advanced colour mixing.  I've always loved colour work and I'm really starting to understand how colour represents emotion for me.  Previous work of mine has used quite high colour, but now I'm working with conceptual issues for my degree, I'm getting better at using subtle, muted, complex blends of colour.
Overprinting at random, to represent confusion

Really starting to get the confused, obliterated effect I want
By the time I'm finished with the overprinting here, the dark section will have very little white fabric left.  Dark, murky and confused.  Unfortunately, by this time, I was getting tired, and I have smudged some dark binder onto the light green area to the left.  As I want a straight line where the where the dark, confused area returns to perfect pattern, I should have taped some sheets of paper over the section to remain clean.  So I may have to extend the dark area to cover the smudges. 

Once I have the confusion graduating down the print, I plan to overprint again with glue and foil, using first the outline print, then the hand screens, demonstrating how the thought processes get disrupted by amyloidal plaques building in the brain

As I had finished all the area that needed to be accurately printed, I tidied up my workshop while I waited for the print to dry, and then lifted the fabric and rolled it back on to the cardboard roll. 8 hours well spent, and I was totally exhausted.

Tracy had a good day too, having mastered her repeat design, exposed it onto a trial handscreen and printed a couple of repeats on fabric.  This demonstrated her design repeated accurately.  I like working with Tracy.  She has a calming effect on me, and asks sensible questions to enable me to clarify my thoughts (even if I scowl at her occasionally when her questioning leads me to conclusions that I don't want to do, even though I know she's right - like testing more colours before I print with them!).

Saturday, 1 October 2011

An irritating start, followed by a creative day

I went to Curtin yesterday, hoping for more success than the last few days. 

I had cleaned the table Thursday lunchtime, ready for printing my 6m white fabric length on Friday. There was another class Thursday afternoon, and I noticed someone starting to use my clean table as I left. I inspected the table on Friday morning, and noted some large black print marks at the far end. I took advice from our technician, Mark, about whether I should reclean, and he just touched the marks, and thick wet black binder came off! I had nearly rolled my white fabric over it! So for the 90 minutes prior to my tutorial, I thoroughly cleaned the table (again). Because I had to use a lot of water on a permanently gummed table, it was now soaked, and it needed the 90 mins of my tutorial to dry to a level where I could gum down my fabric. I was not best pleased, as I had planned to spend the time before my tutorial setting up the mechanical printer, and going straight to print afterwards.

So in the afternoon, I gummed down my fabric, and Tracy and I set up the mechanical printer. Mark was astonished at how much green binder I had mixed - 4 litres. But this is what I had been advised to mix by the other technician on Thursday. Mark checked my measurements (these are always a bit hit and miss) and I started printing in positions 2, 4, 6 and 8. Then we held our breath and I printed position 1, and to our joy the repeat print fitted exactly. I printed 1, 3, 5 and 7 and, even if I say so myself, it looked good. You print even positions, then odd, so the print has a chance to dry, and you don't pick up wet binder on the back of the screen, and make smudgy marks all down your print run.

Tracy pouring coloured binder for my next print pull

I'm the first in class to get to this stage, and I think Tracy, Mark and I were all delighted with the result.  I took the repeat screen out of the printer, and cleaned it thoroughly. 

Because I had only used about half a litre of the 4 litres of green binder, I decided to overprint by adapting some of this colour.  I have decided to start at one end in bright colours, and slowly muddy them as I work along the cloth.  This is to represent deterioration of Dad with his Alzheimers.  The registration of the overprinting will become poorly aligned to represent confusion, so that the pattern becomes broken and eventually unrecognisable.  I will overprint with silver lines, representing thoughts and amygloidal plaques (symptom of Alzheimers), up to a point where the confusion ends (death) and the pattern returns to perfect colours and registration, indicating that life goes on.  In my mind it looks great, but I'm not sure how well it will transfer to print.  But I think the concept is strong, it's just a case of whether I can make it work.
Outline print for first colour layer
The full 6m length prior to printing

So yesterday, I did a full run of repeat screen prints, then worked with my A3 size hand screens to work back into it, with slowly changing colours. I managed to do two-thirds of the second print layer.  Tracy and I have agreed to go to class today (Saturday) so we get a day of peace and quiet to get a lot more printing done.  I want to finish the second layer, and then do a complete 3rd layer.  After this, any subsequent printing does not need to be exactly registered, so if I need to lift the fabric, it won't matter. 

Printing always takes longer than you expect.  We only have 2 tables, and about 12 people in class.  The classroom has other classes booked for about half the week.  We have 3 weeks to the end of semester.  I suspect there will be a fight at the end of term, over who can use the tables, for how long, and in what state the tables are left (by my class and others) for people wanting to print their assessment work.  I'm glad I'm likely to be one of the first finished.  I just hope everything goes well today!

Off on my bike to class now (no buses to uni on Saturdays!).