Monday, August 22, 2011

The making of an exhibit piece

It is the start of another week and I have just now finished the art piece heading for an exhibition.  This piece has been in the making for a long time.  Prep work started in June when I was sketching out ideas hoping for one to capture what I hoped would be the best of the best in my sketch book.  Time passed on and I knew that I had to get working on this lest I leave it down to the wire and barely get it submitted before the September 01 deadline.

Well, I finally decided on a simple Japanese scene that I titled "Serenity - A Zen Feeling."  What I thought would be a simple piece to put together turned out to be anything but that.  I started the actual piece last week after deciding on some modifications to the original design.  By Wednesday I had progressed and had most of the background done.  But, I was not happy with the way it was going together and I scrapped the whole piece leaving me with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.  Maybe I was not going to make the deadline, maybe I would not have a piece worthy of showing, especially at an exhibition with 200 artists all working on the same sized piece - 6 inches by 8 inches.  You would think that with such a small sized piece of paper to work on, it would be easy to put together a mixed media piece of art.  Well, it was not as easy as I had originally thought it would be, but with a bit of perseverance and a lot of labour, I have completed one of the most arduous pieces I have done to date.

Working with strands of embroidery floss, I painstakingly laid one piece after the other to form the scene.  The background went down first and I thought I would never get my eyes to focus normally after that.  Each piece of floss had to fit tightly against the previous one so that no paper could be seen.  I spent at least 8 hours on that part of the piece alone.  Then the trees were the next to be laid out.  To make them look at realistic as possible, I use different colours of embroidery floss and built up layers of bark just as one would see on a real tree.  I am quite pleased with the way the trees turned out considering that I had never worked with this type of mixed media prior to this.

After the trees were finally in place, the little bridge had to be put down on the paper.  Cutting toothpicks to the size needed was interesting.  I found that I had a nice little pair of cutters that could cut through the toothpicks nicely but found that I was chasing bits of wood as they scattered through the studio.  Finally, I had enough pieces cut to build the bridge.  Thank goodness I only wanted a small one, I am quite certain I would have gone quite squirrelly had I tried to build a larger one.

Now, I was making progress!  I could actually start work on the cherry blossoms, the bush and last of all the geisha.  The cherry blossoms went together quite nicely and did not take too much time.  The bush was the easiest piece to put down on paper.  Taking pieces of yellow and spring green embroidery floss I managed to pull them together at the base of the bush and glue that in place.  I had really wanted to have three trees, but there just was not enough room on the paper.  The main element was to be the geisha and I wanted to ensure that there was sufficient room to give her the proper placement so that she would stand out.

To put my lovely little lady together, I drew her on a separate piece of the etchu hagaki paper and started to form her kimono out of purple floss with a pink floss forming her inner kimono.  The obi was made out of a lighter purple embroidery floss.  The black floss made up her hair and white floss her face.  The piece was finally done or so I thought.  I sat looking at it for quite some time and felt that something was amiss.  I just did not like the look of the kimono, it looked so plain.  Rummaging through my stash of Japanese paper scraps, I found the perfect accent piece that I added on to the kimono.  The difference this little piece of paper made was incredible.  How could such a small piece of paper have so much impact?  I think with all the solid colours laid down on this small piece of paper, the bit of pattern stood out and made the geisha seem more authentic.  At least that is what I think and I am sticking to that theory.  At this point, there is not a moment to spare for second thoughts.

I look at this small piece of art that I so carefully put together and have mixed feelings about it.  While I am proud of it, happy that it was completed with plenty of time to get to where the exhibit will be held, I truthfully cannot say that I am totally happy with the end result.  I know that I put a lot of effort and time into this small piece, but it still seems raw, not fully thought out and executed to the level that I had hoped to make it.  Maybe I am being too critical, but there is always room for improvement in every piece.  I will try some more Japanese scenes done on the same paper with embroidery floss with some paper accents.  I would really like to make a series of these pictures and place them in a handmade album that I construct using some wonderful Japanese paper on the cover.  The inner pages will likely be black cardstock in order to show off the pictures to their full advantage.  But, that is a project I will start on another day.  For now, I plan to tidy up the studio, bin all the scraps of embroidery floss, bits of paper that are of no further use and just generally get ready to start my next major project.  That will be a story for another day!

Let me know your thoughts on my art.  I am posting pictures here  of the different stages it went through and then, the end result.  I am open to all critiques, good or bad, as they will help me grow into a better artist and show me where I might have finessed the piece a bit more.  You know how to hit the comment tab at the end of the post and it will open a window for you to key in your thoughts.  I will be looking to see what you have to say.  Be honest, be sincere, that is all that I ask.

Have a great week!  Take some time for some artistic moments of your own doing.

Sincerely,   Rutheemac

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