New and old version of "Observation"
Every artistic medium requires a deep familiarity with the materials, which is only acquired though experience working with them. When I switched mediums from quilting with fabric to felting with wool, I was playing in a different sandbox, for sure! I struggled (and still struggle) with this medium. One of the challenges is that every action is slow to complete, and only once it's completed can you see whether you've made a mistake or not. Unfortunately, if you've made a mistake, it's a little heartbreaking and physically challenging to undo that mistake. My tendency is to continue to add elements in an attempt to balance out what I see as unsuitable. Sometimes it leads to the correct solution, but just as often, it leads to more work and frustration. Eventually, after staring at a piece for weeks or months, I'm ready to declare it done, just to get it out of my way and off my mind.
That sense of finality can help to clear up my thoughts, but ultimately, every time I see the picture, I'm still haunted by a nagging feeling that the work isn't right. Luckily, after some time has passed, I have the energy again to sort it out, rip out hours of work, and start fresh. Also, with time and experience, new materials and new techniques have been discovered, which might just provide the solution to the problem I had encountered so long ago.
So it was with "Observation". From the very beginning, something wasn't working for me. Maybe it's the composition (once laid down, so hard to change), definitely it's the color palette, so unusual for me. I also had a limited range of colors at that time, and was challenged to make them work together. It was a piece whose primary goal was to experiment with the sculptural possibilities of wool. I was feeling nostalgic for the precision and beauty of quilting, and wanted to unlock the potential of wool, something which could not be matched by quilting. In what sphere could wool stand on its own, I asked myself. I understood that it is in its ability to be molded, to form a relief. I set out to exploit that in this piece. I'm happy with the results of that exploration, the achieved texture, but everything else felt like a mess. Even though I knew everything was off, eventually I just needed to be done with it.
I don't know what finally pushed me to unpack this artwork and start ripping everything off it, but I'm glad the inspiration came. I replaced all the figures with soft and subtle versions made from beads. They have a light airiness to them, and a faint sparkle. They seem there, yet not there, as opposed to the heavy, solid figures of the first version. The primary figure at once recedes and captures one's attention, as opposed to .... I don't quite know what, but it wasn't effective. Also, when I made that piece, I hadn't yet discovered how to blend wool and apply it to create variegated foregrounds. In this piece, the ground appeared splotchy and in spots too high contrast and in others too low. I overlaid a piece of silk organza to give a more consistent appearance, as I didn't want to completely cover and restitch the ground. That really would have felt like starting from scratch. If I had the equipment to dye fabrics, I would have created a more customized color, but instead I had to use what was available to me.
So, I have to say that, while this process and results are not perfect, I'm pretty satisfied with the improvements, and I'm glad that I made them. Now I have an eye to other earlier artworks that can be tweaked :)
After many months, and a bit of agonizing, I finally made something happen with this background that I had felted last summer. I was in a bind, as my initial idea seemed too intimidating, and I needed to come up with a new concept which would fit the dimensions of this background. I was in a state of hesitation for a while, a bit scared to move forward, especially after what felt like quite a long hiatus.
But then something which at first seemed negative, turned into a positive aid. In March, my Etsy shop was suspended, along with all shops in Russia. I was bummed, to say the least. For the last several months, I had been engrossed in making products and planning new ones. I always had something to keep my hands busy, so it was one more excuse for not focusing on fine art. As soon as that was put on the back burner, and my hands were threatened with idleness (!!!), I got down to business and began work on this piece.
Blending wool is one of my favorite aspects of the work. I love the layers of color which simultaneously add such motion to the design.
Once the wool is laid down and secured, it's time for it to be stitched down with silk thread. This part is tricky in the sense that there will always be a trace of the stitch, a texture, so I have to decide what impression I want the stitches to make - flowing, static, linear. For this piece I chose a combination of groups of flowing stitches, separated by groups of x's to stop the movement of the eye.
After forming the shapes of all of my human figures, it was time to start arranging them, followed by stitching in place.
The shadows at the end gave me a lot to pause, think about, redo. It was a bit of unexpected trickiness, to be honest. But anyway, it's done!
It's fun to see an idea come to fruition, from this....to this....
If you enjoy this piece or other work of mine, feel free to share on social media! I am unable to use Facebook and Instagram at this time, so I would really appreciate any help on spreading the work
So, things haven't quite gone the way I've planned....I've found myself in the middle of another artwork hiatus, with every good intention of returning, it being a matter only of "when". The answer in my mind is always, "soon", yet the months keep moving forward. But it's not what you might be thinking - it's not a creative crisis, it's just life (as many artists will repeatedly lament). Once the train gets off the tracks, it can be hard to get it back on.
Last summer, I decided that I wanted to enter the local Russian university, which meant that in order to pass the entrance exams taking place in a matter of just a few weeks, I had to learn the same knowledge that students have been studying over the course of years. I furiously read up on all the necessary topics, constantly tested myself online, and learned the basics of drawing (haha, for all my years as an artist, I never formally trained in drawing). These activities seriously threw me off my routine and at the same time left me stressed out and unable to concentrate on new work. Then, I passed all my exams and found myself a new student in the fashion and textile design program. Soon, it was time to arrange my travels to the US in order to obtain my new visa - and in the age of covid restrictions, this also was stressful and required a lot of preparation. But, I figured I'd only be gone a few weeks, and then can get back to my art practice. Ha! Life had other plans.
I was ultimately stuck in the US for 2 months. That's when I began making the sequined Christmas stockings I so adore (found on my Etsy shop). Anyway, by the time I returned in November, I was a little out of sorts, out of my routine, and needing to catch up on school work. I barely looked at the blank felted background I had so long ago prepared. No big deal - I'll get to it soon enough, I figured.
Now it's the end of February and the blank canvas mocks me still. What could possibly have created yet another delay? Well, slipping on ice and catching yourself with your right hand doesn't help you create artwork....especially by the third time it happens. Yes, this was an icier winter than most! It left me with a sprain that took months to heal. Partly it was my fault, as it was so hard to accept that my right hand was virtually useless. I couldn't accept the inactivity for a long time, and added extra strain to the original injury. For a person who lives by her hands, it's very hard to live without them. It was a "growth opportunity" for my psychology, to say the least.
Now things are finally improved, and I have hopes for beginning this artwork which has been in my mind for at least 6 months. I hope to be able to share it here before summer! Fingers crossed that life doesn't get in the way!