A3; Self Assessment

 

DEMONSTRATION OF TECHNICAL AND VISUAL SKILLS:

I was quite ambitious with the number of materials I chose to experiment with: clay (air-dry and kiln), plaster, latex, thermoplastic, silicone, resin and expanding foam. I gained an understanding of some of the properties of each one, although I could happily have continued investigating for months to come. I didn’t find any of the materials too difficult to work with, although some are more enjoyable than others. To begin with I was slightly worried about measuring and mixing some of the more challenging materials, such as silicone and resin but the logical part of my personality managed this without incident. It was actually plaster that caused the greatest problems despite being comparatively simple!

Using my Tutor Feedback from Part 2, I tried to move away from pre-planned outcomes and be more experimental. This has definitely reduced the number of refined samples and increased the number of happy accidents. When sampling the skill was in noticing what worked and what didn’t, not in trying to create something I had designed beforehand.

As I said in my Written Reflection, drawing held the key to my enjoyment of Part 3. Inspired by Rachel Whiteread’s sketching, I too began to use Correction Fluid as a drawing medium, I found the unpredictable flow rather freeing. I also began using Inktense Blocks instead of my preferred watercolour pencils, which was pivotal because  it really loosened me up, not just in the drawings but in my whole approach to my work.

QUALITY OF OUTCOME:

I can see a massive improvement in this sketchbook to my Part 1 submission (and probably Part 2 as well). I think I proved that I can still maintain a good level of layout and presentation, while at the same time being less formal. I think there is a lot more of myself in this sketchbook, but instead of this meaning more of me ‘talking to myself’ I am ‘showing myself’, through the inclusion of more imagery. I used diagrams, sketches and resolved drawings alongside photographs, fabric scraps and notes.

I was much less sentimental about the Selection Process this time, obviously weight was a key issue but looking at the samples I could easily see which ones held potential and which ones could be disregarded. Discernment seems to be developing.

DEMONSTRATION OF CREATIVITY:

Strangely, despite being happier with what I have created, I am more apprehensive about sharing it. I think this is part of my slightly reserved and guarded self. During the Selection Process, I reflected that this sample feels like a metaphor for myself: refusing to be contained. Although I have considered this before in the way my drawings often spill off the paper, the work still seems to have become more personal.

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Bruce Mau’s Incomplete Manifesto for Growth (as recommended by tutor) had as much impact on me as Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist did during ATV. It felt good to be reminded of these principles and I have little doubt that they have instigated changes in the way I think.

A few weeks into Part 3, I felt really at odds with the course, I was at the stage where everything felt difficult and once again I was questioning my worth and ability. I think this is a natural part of the Creative Process as it happens to me repeatedly. I got over it by holding onto Cari’s comment: “this course, of all of them, will challenge you to explore methods and approaches that feel uncomfortable- embrace that!” and I did, and so I grew!

I guess many creative types would agree there will always be more that could have been done. I regret not exploring scale but given the restrictions of cost, time and weight and the number of materials I attempted, this was not possible. On reflection what I could have done was draw on a larger scale…

CONTEXT:

I tried to compliment the contextual research in my sketchbook with more academically toned posts on my blog. I still feel happier when the research is embedded in my sketchbook, where I am more confident about displaying images and passing ‘judgements’. This was particularly true when I reflected on works that evoked more complex emotions than “I like it because”. I don’t really feel qualified to judge other people’s work, it feels like criticism but I suppose to some extent when anybody places their work in the public sphere they are opening themselves to the opinions of others.

For Part 3, I have tried to improve my blog posts by responding to a set of predetermined questions. I cut and paste these onto each post and focus my response and analysis around them. I don’t always answer every question but having them there has definitely sped up my thought process. In addition to being mindful of repetition, this gave me much more time to draw and make. This is probably why I have met my deadline for this assignment!

When I summarised my samples for the Selection Process, I noticed that I was providing narrative, I have tried to keep this to a minimum and only use it where the curation of my ideas seemed necessary.

 

A3, Written Reflection

Returning to the start of Part 3, to begin the Selection Process, illustrated to me how far I have come in just ten weeks! As soon as I received my Part Two Feedback, I realised that I was on the wrong path, making the same mistakes of over planning outcomes and allowing my research to distract me:

Researching Botanical Illustration and making prints was interesting to me but was not focus of Part 3. Nor were Paolozzi’s collage and prints particularly relevant.

I also found myself planning outcomes before trialling materials. Luckily my feedback arrived and I was able to address this by incorporating Investigative Play into my process, in place of this controlling predetermination. I also tried to remind myself of the objectives of my research in order to stay focussed.

I actually feel almost embarrassed by the first samples that I made but it is important to show them to highlight how much progress I have made:

The tiles do celebrate my love of repetition and pattern but I have come to realise that there are other ways to do this in less contrived and more unexpected ways:

Working with a host of unfamiliar materials was exciting and not nearly as difficult as I thought it would be. I think my methodical and logical (controlling) side was engaged by the process of measuring and mixing, which allowed my freer side to be more creative! I was able to try plaster, latex, silicone, thermoplastic, resin and expanding foam. I don’t regret leaving out papermache and concreate as I have worked extensively with these in the past.

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As always, I appreciated finding a way to incorporate knitting although I felt some of the samples were too closely related to Rebecca Fairley’s work. This observation led me away from this investigation into the pursuit of super smooth surfaces more like Victoria Ferrand Scott.

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I had to be especially careful at this point that my controlling side didn’t take over and try to make things too neat, finding Maarten de Ceulaer and introducing colour helped combat this.

Cari’s ‘Pointer for the next assignment’ to: continue to explore imperfection and irregularity, was also instrumental in this consideration. It made me more aware of how flaws can be used to the best advantage. As well as seeing this in my own work I tried to apply it when looking at the work of others, it really helped me to understand how Rachel Whiteread’s sculptures connect to their history.

I hadn’t forgotten the plaster/knit samples and still wanted to find a way to make the investigation more personal, which did not happen until my final sample; even though it is crochet rather than knit. What is different about this sample compared with my previous work is that it sort of evolved quite naturally and I had no idea what it was going to look like in advance. It progressed from a test to see if the expanding foam in the crochet sphere could be replaced with plaster. It builds on so many things I have learned: the choice of yarn, how to colour the plaster, not entirely unwrapping it, adding yarns and threads. Each one of these findings has been discovered through previous experimentation during MMT.

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As I became more familiar with the materials I found I was able to play more freely. I had several sessions where curiosity drove the investigation and I made decisions intuitively. This was a big breakthrough for me but even more important has been the effect that working in Mixed Media has had on my drawing.

I love to draw… but I always forget how much, discovering it like something new and exciting every time. I am deeply grateful to Cari for encouraging me to draw more. It feels like the key to my enjoyment of MMT. I began to think about how my samples could influence my drawing rather than how I could use drawing to plan an outcome. As soon as I stopped regarding the samples as finished or refined but merely a stepping stone to the next drawing they ceased to be so important. I began to shake of the precious notions I had: breaking, painting over and sanding back. As soon as I stopped worrying about creating beautiful things, I found they just started to happen.

I am concluding Part 3 feeling a lot happier than I have throughout the whole of MMT!

 

 

 

 

A3; The Selection Process (2)

A continuation of the samples I selected as holding the most learning and potential (see part one here). Note that the narrative is designed to curate the work; links are provided to provide more background and analytical discussion.

SELECTION 8:  POLYDOH BALLOON (Relevant post here)

A continuation of my search for an alternative material for the Balloon Pebbles after latex covering had to be removed revealing pristine plaster that was uninviting to touch. (Actually, similar to Ferrand Scott’s aptly named sculpture: ‘Restraint’, I still wanted to touch the pebbles but felt I shouldn’t… this would be an interesting idea to explore later. Similar to museums where you aren’t allowed to handle artefacts, or when you tell a child to “look but don’t touch”).

Once again multiple circles decorate the surface, this time the they are irregular in size, shape and arrangement; the only thing holding them together as a composition is colour and the form of the sphere (egg!).

SELECTION 9: CASTING THE INTERNAL SPACE OF A CASTING OF AN INTERNAL SPACE (Relevant post here)

Here I tried to push the investigation a little bit further by exploring what was going on inside the Polydoh casting. The resulting silicone is a dense, pitted lump that was quite unattractive, but fun to draw. My intention is to explore the differences between this and the polystyrene casting pictured below, as the surface qualities are very different.

 

SELECTION 10: EXPANDING FOAM AND LACE (Relevant post here)

Exploiting and manipulating patterns is probably one of my strengths, it is certainly something I find incredibly rewarding and enjoyable. Once I discovered this technique, toward the end of a lengthy exploratory play session, I realised the potential this has for development. There are infinite possibilities of materials that could be treated like this.

The casting material refuses to be contained and pushes at the boundaries of the vessel, this feels like a metaphor I can relate to. The absence of visible constriction or binding is really important to me; there is nothing sexual or ‘fetish’ about this constraint, it is not brought on my any external force- the only thing holding me back is me…

 

SELECTION 12: EXPANDING FOAM AND CROCHET (Relevant post here)

Another example of a ‘failed’ containment, using the principles of the investigation above (selection 11). I enjoyed exploring the irregular shapes that escaped through an regular arrangement of holes. This is another pattern that I would enjoy working with (perhaps in Part 4).

 

SELECTION 13: COLOURED PLASTER ENCAPSULATED IN RESIN (relevant post here)

In my last feedback, I was asked by my tutor to continue to seek out imperfections. Here I am communicating my new found appreciation and understanding of this by encapsulating the broken pieces of a previous sample in a material that reveals all and conceals nothing.

 

SELECTION 14: COLOURED PLASTER WITH YARNS AND THREADS (Relevant post here)

A culmination of lots of previous experiments, the sample represents many lessons learned. For example: the crochet vessel in which it has been cast has only been partially removed to give the impression something precious is being revealed, an idea supported by the inclusion of gold thread. This improves on the Bonnet sample where I over zealously tore the hat away.

A3; The Selection Process (1)

My first attempt at reviewing what I have produced during Part Three led to another spurt of making. There is so much more I would like to do but for now must be content with identifying the samples with potential and collating them here.

As I presented each selection I noticed I was providing narrative, I have tried to avoid this over the rest of my posts. I decided to continue to summarise my thoughts as I curated my work but included links to the relevant posts where discussion is more analytical.

SELECTION 1: LATEX DISCS (related post here)

I learned that latex could be coloured and poured in layers either over or around textural surfaces. I found the samples work best as a collection as the regular size and shape counterbalances the imperfections.

The Latex/Sand combination was not what I expected at all, I had hoped to pick up a fine, gritty texture but the result was a strange spongy foam, with a crust like butter set over pate! Further work could be done to either improve this result or exploit it.

Encapsulating yarn led to further investigations into how Latex can be used in a rather more linear format (see selection 2).

SELECTION 2: LATEX YARN (Related post here)

I felt these samples deviated slightly from the brief, I include them to show that I quite naturally sought to develop the samples as I went along, rather than waiting to be instructed to at the end of 3.1

Impregnating yarns with Latex solves problems I have come across in the past. It hardens the yarn whilst still allowing it to remain flexible, this will allow me to sculpt with it like wire and to emboss the texture of the form I create from it, albeit knitting, weaving or crochet. A really useful discovery.

SELECTION 3: LATEX, GOLF BALL AND AN EGG CUP! (Related post here)

Now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d type! I felt quite frustrated by the authoritarian tone of many of the moulding tutorials I came across, I sought a creative solution inspired by the principles of Bruce Mau. (Thank you Cari)

The shapes and pattern in this sample became thematic during the course of Part 3, they can be seen being developed across many of the following samples.

SELECTION 4: MULTI-MEDIA RESPONSE TO TWIGS

I was keen to explore the pointed ends of the twigs rather than the surface area which seemed more predictable. This ‘end on’ idea was inspired by Sanne Schuurman who has a rather unique way of looking at the materials she uses. The ends were pressed into Mouldable Polymer creating a spiralling pattern, made up of smaller circles.

I developed the Polydoh sample with embossing and casting in alternative materials. I am very keen to work on this some more, I particularly want to use the Silicone casting as a print block and to try and elongate the depth of the holes (perhaps by drilling) to create spikes rather than dots…

SELECTION 5: PLASTER AND KNIT (Related post here)

The samples I made with knitted swatches appear to reference my research into Rebecca Fairley’s process, however, the inspiration also came from Victoria Ferrand Scott. At the time I was feeling really unhappy with MMT, I identified with Ferrand Scott’s frustration over the delays of her Holocaust Memorial Project and decided to adopt a more physical approach to my sampling, just as she did. (more on this in sketchbook too)

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This was my favourite of all these samples, I like the regularity of the stripes combined with the imperfections of the stretched knit texture and embedded fibres.

SELECTION 6: PLASTER BALLOON PEBBLES (Related post here and here)

Whilst I understand the need for imperfection in Whiteread’s sculptures, I sought to eradicate the flaws created by human use, more in line with Ferrand Scott’s smooth, silken shapes. The balloon allowed me to do this.

Difficulties filling the vessel created palm sized samples that are really tactile and cry out to be held and felt like pebbles. Unfortunately the impermanence of the latex covering meant I had to unwrap them. In their pristine state they are less inviting to touch, this led to an investigation into alternative materials for casting (Polydoh/Resin) and methods of colouring.

SELECTION 7: COLOURED PLASTER: (Relevant post here)

Introducing colour to the plaster with Brusho was effective. In these samples the vibrancy of the colour enhances the textures. Finding Maarten de Ceulaer, heavily influenced my thinking here. He welcomes imperfections and uses them to his own benefit, this was a lesson I needed to learn.

 

The Selection Process continues in my next post…

 

A3; The Selection Process Begins…

Beginning the Selection Process was a bit of a ‘False Stop’ (as opposed to a False Start!), just when I thought I was done I suddenly found myself with a host of new ideas! With a bit of time and space between me and some of my earlier samples, I began to see other possibilities.

A discussion with fellow course mate Inger, led to me considering the use of scratching and sanding as means of embellishment. This was something I hadn’t considered before- interpreting embellishment as the addition rather than subtraction of materials. This realisation led from these:

Becoming this:

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Which led to this:

I know that I should be avoiding this sort of narrative: “I did this, then that” etc. However, this seemed really quite important: I would never have dreamed of treating a sample like this in the past. I would have been too precious and ‘afraid’ of spoiling it to try and alter it. All the playing in Part 3, has led me to be much bolder in this respect. Even though the samples are not resolved or refined, I can appreciate them for their part in my learning.

The negative space in this Balloon/Plaster/Brusho sample was interesting:

I explored the possibility of a Kintsugi style join on shards of plaster left over from the Bonnet sample. This was inspired by a technique I tried during Part2, using a glue gun and transfer foils:

This method proved unappealing but this was useful because it forced me to consider another alternative:

Learning from the Whiteread ‘paperweight’ situation (read here) led to an inclusion in Resin which isn’t perfect: it has multiple air bubbles and a dirty great finger print right on the top. I started to wonder how much these things matter- the learning is more important!

Finally, I just couldn’t shake the feeling there was more to the Crochet Spheres…

I combined the two ideas above and using lessons learned from previous sampling created this:

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Drawing this sample in my sketchbook felt like a better conclusion to Part 3, than where I had previously decided to stop. It serves as a joyful reminder of what Mixed Media can do for me!

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3.2; Expanding Foam

Aims: To explore the performance and properties of Expanding Foam.

Degree of success: What worked/What didn’t? Why? I tried about six methods for casting with this unfamiliar material and two were successful in that that hold the potential for future developments.

Even though I classified the above samples as ‘failures’ in truth they were as useful as the ‘successes’ below. I learned about the performance of the foam from each attempt and carried this knowledge forward to the next sample. This very act of investigative play shows me how much I have learned about the creative process during Part 3.

Sample properties: Look/Feel. Structure/texture/colour.

SAMPLE ONE: The foam has extruded through the lacy apertures, like whipped cream.

Photographed from above this distorts the floral motifs in a similar way to my manipulations in Part One: Cutting Holes, where I used shadow to alter existing patterns:

From a more sideways perspective the height can be appreciated.

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How does this relate to my contextual research? Had I selected black lace the colour contrast would have been greater but I was glad that I chose the neutral colour because I think I have avoided some of the sexual connotations of lingerie and whipped cream! Jeff Muhs work awoke feminist principles I never knew I had. Although the only readings of his work I could find were positive saying that he: celebrates the strength of the female form by translating it into a durable material like concreate, I disagree. The deliberate, albeit aesthetically clever, restraint and constriction of the material by provocative garments such as a corset or a Jimmy Choo, to almost comic proportions feels disrespectful. I get a very definite ‘sex sells’ vibe from the work, which I was keen to avoid in my choice of materials.

If I have misread Muhs intentions, I apologise, I am only now beginning to write about work that displeases me. It feels disrespectful to criticise another persons work; responding to work that elicits a more complex response than “wow, that’s pretty” is new to me. I am actually in awe of his sculptures because they forced me to think beyond the surface, beyond decorative qualities and think about how I felt in relation to the work.

Sample properties: Look/Feel. Structure/texture/colour. Expanding foam challenges the boundaries of the crochet sphere. The irregular protrusions appear at regular intervals, a balance has been achieved between perfection and imperfection.

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Did I feel comfortable with the materials/techniques? Was there anything I particularly enjoyed? I became very immersed in the whole ‘play session.’ Even when it seemed like I wasn’t going to achieve anything I could use, I was still enjoying the experience.

How could I use this sample/technique/material/research in the future? Drawing unlocked the potential of the samples. In addition to my favourite watercolour pencils, I have used pen, correction fluid, inktense blocks and acrylic paints, varying the methods of application to explore the marks I can make.

I am coming to the end of Part 3 having learned to be more receptive to Mixed Media, seeing the positive effects it is having on my drawing.

What do I want/need to do next? Time to review what I’ve made so far and begin the Selection Process!

3.2; Incorporating Wrapping and Tying

Aims: To explore the possibilities of distortion using wrapping and tying to alter the shape of the vessel; plaster filled balloons will be wrapped with yarn.

Why did I select this material/process/approach? The balloon always gives the material inside a similar egg shape, I wondered how binding and constricting areas could alter this regularity.

Sample properties: Look/Feel. Structure/texture/colour.  Irregular shapes were formed, they are smooth and bulbous. Fine linear creasing forms at the intersections providing a contrasting texture.

I was hoping that ridges would form where the yarn was wrapped but the plaster was rather too forgiving. This technique is more useful for dispersing volumes of plaster into other areas, which because they are contained by the elasticity of latex, form bubbles.

Did I discover anything new/unexpected? No not really, this set of samples feels rather safe and predictable…

How does this relate to my contextual research? The visual research in my sketchbook clearly relates to my samples. By spending time drawing the work that visually attracts me, I gave myself extra time to think about the forms I wanted to create. I wonder if this is why my samples feel predictable?

I enjoyed researching these bulbous forms. It was really interesting comparing Ferrand Scott’s sculptures- which I really like to those of Jeff Muhs- which leave me with a bad taste in my mouth (see sketchbook).

I didn’t enjoy the process of actually casting, wrapping and tying, which is strange because the practical elements are usually the most joyful moments. Whether I simply tired of balloon filling and was treading old ground, or whether I had already decided my outcome in advance, I don’t know- I simply feel there was no sparkle.

Determined to get something out of this set, I concentrated hard on the characteristics and qualities of the samples through drawing. This was enjoyable:

How could I use this sample/technique/material/research in the future? Drawing revealed what wasn’t at first apparent. It has given me ideas for development using fabrics.

What do I want/need to do next? I have discovered half a tube of Expanding Foam, in Mother-in-Law’s shed, I feel quite optimistic that an unfamiliar and less predictable material will provide the sparkle I am missing here.

In my research I observed that Ferrand Scott’s materials push outward and extend to the boundaries of their containment. Muhs’ constricts and contains his concrete. I want to push beyond the barriers.