I've got those designing blues again...almost every time I begin working on a new design for tapestry I have trouble. I know where the trouble comes from...it's from not knowing if my composition is developing well, if the concept is of enough significance to spend the next few months on it and if the tapestry to be based on the design will be successful.
I like the process of weaving so much that I often rush through the designing. I don't give myself enough time between the mark making to making the cartoon for the tapestry to adequately analyze what I've done. So far, I've been working on this piece for four days.
I spent one day deciding on size and beginning the initial sketching. I use several ways to create the images from which I weave...in this method, I use visual references and also work spontaneously with ideas. I looked through my many sketches of trees made in the past year thinking I'd possibly use one of those as the starting point. I found a couple that were possibilities for the long, narrow vertical composition I want (to be woven and then turned 90˚ in the finished piece).
I work on the design the size I want for the tapestry using unstretched but gessoed artist canvas. This time, I began by sketching with soft graphite sticks and also using magic rub eraser as a drawing tool. I drew quickly using large motions...referring to the sketchbook drawings but more sort of "finding" the image on the surface. Using the soft graphite allows me to use a large brush and water to begin to alter the white of the canvas pretty quickly by brushing and pushing the graphite around with the water, turning it into a wash. I also use the magic rub to take out some of the gray, once it's dry.
So, a few days ago I spent a few hours measuring out the canvas, clamping it onto a large drawing board and making the first effort. Like I said, I used the sketchbook images for reference but soon began to work more intuitively as I made the marks, big motions filling the space with bold trunk and limbs--but truncated--cut off by a framing border but with some marks of the tree extending into the frame.
The next day I worked into the drawing, again with the magic rub and more graphite, then a bit more with brush and water. I realized that I'd need to see the whole piece to continue--the drawing board, although large, wasn't 60" long--as I needed for the length of the canvas piece. My work table is that long so I folded the legs up and propped the table upright against shelves, clamped the canvas to that and now have a "drawing board" large enough to hold the 28" x 60" design I'm composing.
So, once the table/board was up I just looked at the composition for awhile...didn't do anything to it for a day or so. But before leaving the studio last night I decided to paint a pale blue around the tree, inside the border space.
This morning, though, I realized it would have to move on somehow and having the blue in place helped me begin to think past the grays of the drawing/wash. As it turns out, there's a wonderful tree just outside the window next to where I'm working! I raised the blinds to look at it and the low morning light was creating beautiful shapes of dark and light throughout the trunk and limbs. So, leaving the blinds up so I could see the tree I mixed a dark neutral using primaries of acrylic paint in one palette, and squirted out a bunch of white paint on another one. Mixing back and forth between the two palettes (really just styrofoam picnic plates) I began to paint over the graphite drawing/wash, looking at the real tree outside as inspiration for light and shade.
So, I worked on this for maybe an hour or so. Later in the day, I came back to it and made a few changes of limbs, painting over some and changing direction of a couple of others. I did that mostly through painting more blue over background, hiding those parts.
Before leaving the studio tonight I decided to measure the border and interior to draw lines for the actual size needed. I'm giving a 5.5" border/frame around the piece--trunk and limbs extending to and being cut off by it. At first I thought I'd leave the border white and indicate the smudging and lines of the partial limbs as I wove...but then decided to add color instead.
Into white I mixed yellow ocher with red and blue, then quickly painted it around the outside border area. Now all of the canvas is covered with color...the graphite is completely gone.
Tomorrow I'll take a look again...I took a few photos of the stages and possibly will post those later. Maybe seeing them out of context and on the monitor I'll be able to see the composition differently. Maybe I'll paint over the whole thing and scrap it all!