Day 12

09/20/2011

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Well, my trip is getting in the way of schooling, as you can imagine.  Between all the tasks I have to do and all the people I want to visit, this has been my first full day that I could do any schoolwork.

I should backtrack and let you know about a podcast I listened to last week.  It was about a couple who grew and dyed with woad.  Woad is a flowering plant whose leaves give off a pale blue dye.  The couple had no background in dyeing, but they had bought a house in rural France and found a windowpane that had been painted a pale blue colour.  They wanted to learn about this blue, and found out that it was woad.  They have been in love ever since.  Woad is paler and harder to work with than indigo, so it is not used much anymore.  It has a long history of use, however, before indigo was common in Europe.  Like most natural dyes, the dye had to be “fixed” using a mordant.  In the middle ages and the renaissance, the mordant that was used was stale urine.  The woad dyers would pay the townspeople to go drink beer for a whole weekend and then come back and pee into a barrel.  A man who did this was called a pisser.  I’m not joking!  Anyway, the smell was bad enough that woad had to be prepared far from any houses or inhabited areas.  Woad was also used in paint, and the first pastel crayons were made of woad suspended in other materials.  The word “pastel” comes from the French for woad, pastel.

I should also show you some photos of some of the stuff I have been working on in the past few weeks that I had to conceal because it was destined for another person.  Here are two of those things: first, the lace scarf that I knit for my stepmom:

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Tied view.
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Close-up.
The second one is the (rather short) scarf I wove for my mom:
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Full view
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Close-up with fringe.
Today, I started off listening to another podcast.  Unfortunately, it wasn't fantastically edited.  It was exerts from a lecture about the textiles found on some mummies in China.  I was really looking forward to it because the lecturer was the author of a book I'd really like to read, Women's Work: the First 20,000 years (her name is Elizabeth Wayland Barber).  I heard her speak a little about the mummies, and about how well preserved their clothes were, but not much about the clothes themselves.  She talked a little about how weaving spread from Mesopotamia to China, and then the lecture cut to a rather amusing tale about trying to chase down a rare sheep at a zoo for a fiber sample, and how she learned that the first wool for textiles could not have come from the sheep because the fiber was too delicate to spin.  It sounds like it would have been a great lecture to attend but there must have been some time constraints for the length of the podcast and unfortunately, I didn't really get anything that I think would add to my education.  It is a good reminder that I should look up the book though, which is as much a part of art history for me as a book about Manet would be.

Next I read my design book.  The chapter I was reading was on texture, which wasn't something I had really considered before.  Some texture is implied, as on a two-dimensional surface, but it is very real on a three-dimensional surface.  Sometimes paint can be used to create actual texture by layering with thick paint and using tools such as palette knives.  Also, sand can be added to paint to make it more textured.  Early in the 20th century, paper was added to paintings, a technique called paper colle (there should be an accent on the last e of colle).  This led to collage, in which all sorts of items were added to paintings, such as rope or chair caning.  Today, artists may use materials such as nails or other unlikely subjects.  Simulated texture is texture that looks real but cannot be felt with the hand.  These are imitations of actual texture.  Abstract texture is artificial texture that does not imitate real life, but is symbolic of something we would see, such as simplified woodgrain.  Invented texture does not look like anything known; instead, it comes from the artist's imagination.  Texture can be combined with pattern to create a pattern on a three-dimensional surface, such as a rug with raised tufts where polka-dots are, or engraved swirls on a sculpture.  Texture needs careful consideration in composition because texture can be so distracting that it can take away from the rest of the composition, so it needs to be carefully balanced.  The composition needs to have rests, or places where the eyes don't need to look too hard, or the composition will look cluttered.  Textures can imply space too: blurred, low contrast texture suggests distance, and sharp, strong contrast texture suggests closeness.  Textures can have psychological implications.  Texture is especially important in three-dimensional work such as sculpture.  There is a type of sculpture called an assemblage, which is sort of like collage except that it is usually viewed in the center of the floor rather than on a wall, and can be viewed from many angles.  It usually involves some found and some made materials.  When assemblage is in a painting format, it tends to project from the wall.  Texture can be used to trick the viewer into thinking that they are looking at another material, such as a realistic ceramic sculpture of a leather jacket hanging on a wall.

I also discovered that my textbook has a corresponding interactive website: www.mhhe.com/artstudio.  It's not quite as instructional as I would like, but I suppose if it was, there would be no reason to buy the textbook!  However, I look forward to using the site to review once I am finished the book.

Next, I finished off a drawing I have been working on since I arrived.  I am quite pleased with it.  I did it after I read the chapter on value.  Although I did not use a value finder, the study helped me immensely.  I look forward to making the value finder and improving my drawing even more. I should note that I used my blending stump as much as I used my pencil for this one.
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The subject. It was a cardigan that I fluffed and plopped down. Then the cat sat on it and I had to fluff it very carefully again.
Finally, I worked on business study.  My dad is an Excel genius and he helped me create a spreadsheet with my business plan.  This is very handy, as I can tweak numbers here and there and the entire thing will recalculate itself for me.  It's going to save me a lot of time!  I asked my dad to create the spreadsheet for me but I suppose he took the "teach a man to fish" approach.  I'm glad he did because it's not that difficult and now I can create any kind of spreadsheet I want.

Looks like tomorrow will be another free day.  More studying then!
 


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