Friday, February 8, 2019

Are You Technique Driven?

     When you create art, is it concept that drives you, technique, or something else? I used to be technique driven. That is to say, I was trying to learn new techniques and would create art as I learned the new skill. Then I would move on to the next latest greatest technique. That led to me having a good time because I love to learn new things and it led to some satisfying pieces, but it also had me creating pieces in isolation of each other. There was no theme or concept connecting them and they seemed to be in all different styles. I don't view that as a bad thing, though. I was enjoying the process and I was growing.
     In the past few years, I've abandoned several of the processes I didn't love (piecing and heavy machine-quilting to name two). I've also started creating in series with a common theme because it gives me the opportunity to explore the concept in depth and develop it more deeply. I felt that the energy I had for my last series on transformations has run dry and have been playing around with some new ideas for a series. To get going, I deciding to have some studio days doing one of my favorite techniques; thermofax screen printing. I got a great deal from a friend on a thermofax machine which allows me to make screen images on the spot.
     The images I've been working with have been influenced by some of the fabrics I've seen on my trips. I loved the patterns I saw in Morocco and Jordan. I love the fabrics from India. And when I was in SE Asia a few years ago, I collected remnants from the floors of tailor shops because of the beautiful embroideries on them. I've been craving using these global textile patterns in my art, but didn't know how to connect them to a meaningful series without being trite or using cultural appropriation. I photographed the textiles, manipulated them with various apps into black and white graphics, and made thermofax screens of them. And I had a blast printing them onto test fabrics.
On my design wall: top portion are thermofax prints, bottom portion has dyed pieces.
Also on the design wall
experimenting with transparency

     I used the reverse side of pieces of previously worked fabrics that I wasn't crazy about. They were all various hues of blue and blue-green, which turned out to be good because I didn't have to make color choices. It set a limit to the colors for backgrounds and I stayed within the blue family for printing just to see the imagery in different values so that I could focus on the patterns and what they might mean to me.
more thermofax prints
 I pinned them to my design wall to let the imagery sink in over a few days. And then something happened to create a spark. My husband was cleaning out the attic and found my precious old Nancy Drew books. I saved them originally to pass them on to my children, but, as it turned out, I never had any. Rather than donate them somewhere, I thought maybe I could use the paper for paper lamination or use the pages in the book for creating journals. I ripped some pages out and monoprinted onto them.
monoprinted book pages
then thermofax printed

     I laminated them onto some fabric using the global patterns and I loved the way they looked. And the ideas on how to use these cultural motifs just started flowing.
On my printing table:
The two on the right are paper laminated. One on cotton broadcloth and one on poly sheer
The one of the left is monoprinted and then thermofax screened.

  In this case, it was technique that led me to a new direction. I know that creating the new pieces will be a joy because I love the process of screen printing and the images I'm using bring back a flood of good memories. So, I guess for now I am both technique and concept driven. The thermofax printing will allow me to use the imagery I've been longing to apply. By the way I'd like to pass on my enthusiam for the thermofax so I'm thinking about teaching some classes on how to use it. (You don't need a thermofax machine... you can get your screens printed from many places online.) I would teach the class out of my studio in Central Florida so if you are interested, please email me and we can set it up.
I'm linking this to Off The Wall Friday where you can find other artists blogs. Please make comments on their posts so that they know you stopped by. Thanks for visiting.