Portraying by drawing. (1.8)

I have decided to start with a simple watercolour on paper of all the plants. I had used my non dominant hand and a single brush. I find that if I use my non dominant hand I have less control and the marks are clearly not accurately representational and as such have character and a looseness that I can’t seem to achieve with my right hand, which will aim for perfection and then fail,  leaving me with an image that looks like it was meant to be accurate but has not achieved that. Here I struggled with the variety of green colours that the plants displayed. I used a limit palette of primaries mostly and tried to mix the variation between greens but was not even close to accurate. 

Here I have loosely drawn the lines of the subject in ink and then overlaid with watercolour. Trying to capture the chaos of the linear grass and then separately bringing in the colour. Again non dominant hand for the lines and following the lines within the plant and looking at the plant rather than the page. This time I have reversed the process and painted first and then applied the lines over the paint. I have not traced around my paint, but redrawn the image in ink repeating lines until I felt they were right. 

I love experimenting. Here the plant had a soft white fuzz on the surface of its leaves. It suggested to me that I could use the colour in the background and create a soft edged negative space to represent the lines of the plant. 

Continuing to experiment with separation of colour and line. Here I have a deconstructed saltbush. I have looked closely at all the shapes and sizes within my tiny saltbush plant and turned the page and the plant repeatedly and drawn the line of the leaf that my eye alighted on. Then I have applied colour in thin watercolour, noticing how the waterproof ink resists the application of colour. 

I thought I would use the ink resist quality on a different scale here, but used a different pen, which clearly was not waterproof. Instead it ran and separated reducing what was once clear detailed line to colourful blurry blobs. This was not my intention but I have included it as the separation of colour does give an organic feel, that does resonate with the blemishes and holes in the leaf that I was drawing. 

Similarly to the grass image, this image was created using lots of line first whilst focussed on the plant. This line was then used to guide the loose application of appropriate colour. I was trying to highlight the spiky nature of the tiny flowers on this little plant. 

Here I have looked closely at the tiny clusters of flowers on my plant and drawn the outline in yellow ink. The configuration of these three suggested a flow across the page to me, so I have highlighted this with a swath of yellow watercolour. 

The miniscule little stamens in the tiny flowers were repeated over the paper in yellow sharpie. This configuration has moved away from direct observation a bit and is reminiscent of the fields of dandelions that grew in my childhood backyard. The sharpie resisted water even more than ink. You can’t see it in the photo but the texture over the sharpie is different to the watercolour. 

Here I have looked at the various growth stages of a flower on a single plant. I have overlaid drawings of these in sharpie ink. Then I had allowed colour to diffuse around the outside and into areas left untouched by sharpie. 

Sources and media (1.7)

I have chosen a small cluster of plants from the Australian Arid Botanical Gardens in Port Augusta. We passed through there on route to Central Australia and I chose these plants as they are plants that are hardy but beautiful. Suitable for the desert landscape that I will be living in for the next few months. 

This is a view from the bird hide in the Arid Botanical Gardens

And a close up of the little tube stock plants they had for sale at the garden. This photo is taken after we moved on to Woomera, in the window of the old men’s quarters of the rocket base. I tried to choose plants that showed a variety of leaves, flowers and grass. They have travelled with me whilst I drew them.

I would like to say that I have chosen the media to suit the subject, but that is not completely true. I have chosen to use recycled paper, ink and watercolour to produce my images. I did want to include the greens and yellows of the plants, and have chosen watercolour for it’s ability to shade and vary itself. I am using recycled paper because I had a good lot of it that came in a journal I bought in Melbourne. It has the interesting quality of not being sized, so it absorbs the colour and the water quickly and to some extent unevenly. I am never after a photorealistic image, but rather just a sense of some qualities of the subject and I am happy to embrace organic marks that occur due to the nature of the media. I enjoyed the possibility of line in the previous exercises and have chosen to use linear black ink to contrast with the gentle fluffy coloured watercolour and to allow a range of possible marks. 


I’ve previously considered the nature of drawing as opposed to painting or printing. I have done all three as university subjects in my ongoing fine art degree and whilst I feel once the lines between them would have been quite clear, in the contemporary university world the lines are much more blurred with increasing overlap. 

For me drawing is mark making. So any mark produced by any means, that wasn’t there before, is a form of drawing. Of course with this wide definition, painting and printmaking are in fact subsets of drawing. Not sure how painting would feel about that :). Traditionally I recognise that most people would associate drawing with more discrete marks, like line and dots, and traditional mediums of pencil and ink, rather than blocks of colour such as used in painting, but really a block of colour is just a fat line, and is certainly a mark. Watercolour seems to fall under the auspices of drawing, despite the fact that it is called watercolour ‘painting’. 

I am especially interested in setting up situations for the creation of serendipitous marks in my drawing, and would like to embrace a wide range of marks, mediums and substrates to achieve the results I look for.

My choice of medium and substrate for Project 3 is dictated by availability as well as the media I would like to experiment with more. I like things that have some degree of unpredictability and organic random marks. I like to work to a ‘rule’ that is guided by my observation of the subject matter. I want to include colour, not just because it is fairly intrinsic to the observation of plants, but because colour is important to the aesthetic I am looking for. 

Detail and definition (1.6)

Some of the earlier works have already looked at detail, but for this section I decided to use 3 colours of sharpie pens and five pieces of square printmaking paper that I had torn for another project, to create a small series of simple drawings of detail from my textile pieces. I have tried to utilise the tendency of the Sharpie to spread and run into the soft paper to create a (somewhat limited) variety of marks. 

Collage and creases (1.5)

First collage is made from a piece of hand painted paper in my attempt at indigo colour. It was then cut into small kimono shaped pieces. The original plan was to tessellate but that didn’t work well so I moved on to using one edge of the shape to define the line of the whole kimono. I struggled to keep the small shapes glued down so I had to resort to cover the lot with a piece of non woven textile I had with me. It’s red which has nothing directly to do with the kimono, but it was what I had with me and it’s sort of a Japanese colour. It serves to soften the line of the kimono underneath and unify the collage a bit. 

All collages are made from hand painted paper because I’m travelling and didn’t bring a big range of coloured papers. In this collage I have painted a piece of paper leaving one area white, and then torn it into strips and woven it together in a crude representation of the ikat weave of the kimono. More time and thinner strips would have worked better, and I also should have had some strips completely painted to achieve the shape of the weave properly. 

Looking inside the sake bag and seeing the light through the holes was the idea behind this collage. I have painted a light background on shiny paper and then cut holes through another piece of folded paper to emulate the symmetry of the holes found in the bag. I would have like the background glossy paper to shine through the holes more brightly and in retrospect it would have been better to make the contrast between the background and the foreground paper even higher to highlight the holes. I’m guessing that these are things that could be reworked down the track prior to assessment, but at this stage I am battling to get the work done before my first submission. Seems that I don’t have as much time while travelling as I had hoped. Still I am enjoying the work.

A partially shredded piece of paper from a perfume shop in Melbourne forms the background for the final collage. Hand painted and torn patches are applied to the top, in a crude representation of the boro futon cover. I have allowed the patch edges to lift and be rough, as the patches on the futon cover. 

Lines and Edges (1.4)

Here I have started with a simple silhouette drawing of the three textile items. I have drawn them to each fit the page rather than show relative sizes, although I could have added extra information if I had approached it that way.


Next I have manipulated a photo to show the weave and patterning on the kimono in black and white suitable for line drawing.


The resultant drawing is created with broken lines of watercolour. The variation in density of the watercolour and the curves of the lines add an extra dimension of depth to the drawing and I think this is my most successful “weave” drawing to date.


I then attempted to draw the bag in a single line. Not a continuous line doubling back on itself but truly just one line. I loaded the paper with ink and then did one scrape with the credit card edge. Within in this line you can see texture and variation of tone creating secondary lines within the contour of the line itself. It’s not clear in the photo but the line also has physical dimension where the drop has build up and set at the bottom of the page.


For the next drawing I’ve taken inspiration from Debbie Smyth’s shaded thread drawings to create a silhouette edge from scribbled line with the intention of illustrating the frayed edge of the futon cover. To show the less frayed edges of the patches I’ve used an irregular but single line. This drawing is done with Indian ink and a 0.8 mm technical pen. I discovered I can create thicker and thinner lines with this relatively wide bore technical pen by moving slowly and heavily or quickly and with a lighter touch.


While this next drawing is all lines I have kept them short and used only line to draw the pattern but arranged the pattern in the geometric shape of the kimono. I have used this to highlight the simple shapes used to construct a kimono.


I was finding the sake bag a bit of a boring image, so I decided to look inside and draw the curves and light through holes that is created inside the open bag.

APC_1344This is the photo I worked from, and I also used an inverted version to highlight the lines of light coming through the holes in the bag.



Looking at the course outline in the middle of the night on the ferry, I decided to do my drawings with my eyes closed. It was pitch black so I couldn’t cheat and didn’t look at my drawings until the sun came up the next day. I was surprised by how little detail I could actually remember despite spending lots of time studying my textiles, but I was not unhappy with the spontaneous look of the drawings.


And finally for this exercise, I had to do a continuous line drawing. I drew every linear aspect I could see and I found to my surprise that if I drew the linear folds in the fabric it suggests form and drape.


I feel like I’ve only just scratched the surface of drawing line but I have to keep moving as I have got behind, with all the responsibilities of setting everything up before leaving for our trip. Now the trip is underway I’m hoping that there will be more time for art.

Making Marks (1.3)


Here I am trying to capture the drape and movement of the little kimono with loose line, repeated inexactly. Not unhappy with this but will also try on a larger scale with wet media like watercolour. Wondering if a bit of vertical dripping will emphasise the upright nature of a kimono.kimonodrape.jpg

As I had my ipad with me and inspired by a blog post from another student, I decided to try a quick digital image of the kimono too.



Next I have tried using wet liquid pencil. Not as successful at suggesting the movement related to the drape of the fabric. Outline now a bit heavy and the liquid pencil didn’t run to emphasise the fall of the fabric.



Finally another go with watercolour. This time I have stretched out the length and allowed the watercolour to flow to the bottom points to emphasis them. This is subtle but I think more successful.



Looking at the close detail of the ikat weave, I have done a drawing based on weaving. The watercolour lines are drawn back and forth with breaks in the line where the resist has meant the thread is not dyed. I have bent the weave lines slightly as they are in the source image hoping this would show the underlying flexibility of the cloth, but I don’t consider this has worked. The image looks too rigid and hard compared to the softness of cotton cloth.




Tried again with a bingo marker, thinking that it will give a softer mark, more in keeping with the fabric weave, but it isn’t right. All the negative space behind is actually shadow and should be dark.



Zooming in even closer, I’ve now started by inking in shadow and then filling the weave in with watercolour. I like this much better but it’s just a little tester size thing. An interesting byproduct is that the weave that got wet by watercolour has bubbled a bit and added to the textural effect. It looks more like a stone wall though than close up weave. That’s because of the granular separation of the watercolour, which I like, but which doesn’t say softness or fuzziness.



I’ve looked ahead to upcoming exercises and seen that I will be doing both line and close up so possibly I should be focusing more on drawing the complete object for this first exercise.

Couldn’t resist one more go at the weave though. This one is just watercolour and I’ve used lots more water to blur the edges and give it a softer appearance. It does look softer but still very flat. I think it lacks the deep shadow in the groove to give it texture and dimension. Not going to keep going with this now as I have to get on but will revisit this problem in the upcoming close detail exercise.

Just accidentally pressed on my keyboard and zoomed right in to the above photo


The granular appearance is enhanced by the texture of the paper and the pixels at this level of zoom. Printed it off to include, just because I can 🙂


Final whole kimono drawing that isn’t all line. This time I have joined four A3 papers to make a bigger one by using masking tape on the back. That way I figure it can be folded and unfolded for viewing. The masking tape could come off and it could be presented as a series of four either assembled as taped, or in fact in a line might look interesting.

I’ve used a wide paint scraper to apply black ink. Here I was trying to emulate the way a kimono hangs because it is constructed from smaller loom width pieces of fabric. The dense black does have shade and curves within it. I drew the whole thing from the neck down so it would be falling as if hung. Not all the drip lines were intended (it was windy outside) but once I had the ones off the sleeve, I decided to purposefully include some vertical ones, as hanging thread or simply just to indicate the hanging nature of the kimono.



Had one more go at drawing the weave of the kimono in watercolour and trying to soften the edges more in keeping with fabric. Not an very arresting image but the blurred edges and tonal variation are more in keeping with the texture and tone of the fabric.



Need to move on as wallowing here

Boro futon cover:

Here I’ve used line contrasting with solid areas to illustrate the repaired and holey nature of this piece. I’m quite happy with this little drawing in its simplicity. I wonder if I’m really meant to be drawing more realistic drawings of each piece but I am pretty short on patience to do that. Instead I’m trying to focus on qualities of the textile and how I can represent these. This work is too graphic to show the patchy and worn nature of the piece bit hopefully some of that is conveyed in the irregular lines.



In the next work I’ve focused on the stained nature of the textile. I felt it needed a framework to place the stains but I thin that the high contrast with line and the very textural and opaque nature of these stains is not right. I was looking for something that more melded with the paper by seeping in and this did not do that. The paper is a piece of found paper and I have torn the edges reflected the raw edges of my textile.


Trying again with stains. This little series was just one stain that was a tester in my little notebook. It soaked through to create these three. I have used water colour, gouache and liquid pencil, plus a bit of ramie fibre that was literally floating around as I am packing for our central Australian working trip. This photo looks great but I have cheated by photographing it on my lightbox while it was still a bit wet. I’m still getting a stoney look rather than fibre though.


Next I have used two different papers to see if I could get better seepage. I have painted watercolour into water on the watercolour paper and then, in keeping with the Japanese origins of my textiles, I have overlaid this drawing with a piece of Japanese rice paper, whilst it is still wet. To my eyes the resultant image on the rice paper most reflects the seepage of stains and the differential movement of the pigments creating linear edges.


Finally I tried this one earlier which took ages to dry. That’s ok I think because stains are developed over time in life as in art :). I used kids painting paper and it must have a certain resistance to water because it seeped very slowly. I was happy with the yellow edges that developed but otherwise find this one hard looking and again not reflecting the absorbent nature of fabric well.



Sake draining bag:

Here I have used a watercolour stick to try and demonstrate the thick rubbery gentle folds of the draining bag. I had hoped that when I wet the watercolour it would flow a bit with soft but darker tonal variation.  Unfortunately this didn’t happen. It’s too faint and light with not enough form.



Here I have used oil stick to give an overall texture and flexible but dimensional pattern, as the persimmon treated bag.  I have overlaid the oil stick with watercolour paint which flows into the areas not touched by oil stick to added softer tone to the folds of the fabric.  It’s ok but fairly uninteresting.



Finally I have chosen to represent the function in mark. As this is a bag that strains fluid I have masked out the bag shaped area and dropped watercolour from a height as the sake drips from the bag. I’m happy with this sort of mark but it is conceptual and not recognisable as a bag.










Substance and story (1.2)

Child’s kimono:

Childkimono.jpg  I was told that children might have worn a kimono like this to school and I have found an old photo on line with the young boys wearing a kimono like this. Here is a fragment of the photo from a website/blog with lots of old Japanese photos.

https://oldjapanphoto.wordpress.com/2007/12/17/vintage-japanese-photo-school-children-kimono-portrait/  Viewed 6 July 2017


On my kimono the store has placed this label:



Kasuri means fabric dyed by using resist dyed threads prior to the weaving process. Ikat is the resist dyeing method whereby the threads are bound to create areas of resist to the dye.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kasuri  viewed 6 July 2017

The fabric feels like cotton but it is quite crisp. I wonder if some starch finishing has been added at some stage, possibly prior to on selling as an antique.

On the back of the label it states that gentle treatment is needed for washing this fabric – hand wash – as it is fragile now from age. Normally cotton can stand up to hot machine wash and the dryer but I imagine if I subjected this kimono to that it would show it’s age much more.

Wikipedia also provides a link to a book on Ikat fabric written in 1975 https://yoshikowada.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/yw-ikat_an-intro-002.pdf  Viewed 6 July 2017

This Kimono is a woven Kasuri fabric. The cotton threads were first resist dyed and then woven by hand into fabric that allowed a pattern to be created. Traditionally the weaving was done by hand in rural Japan. It is hand sewn together, maker unknown but likely to be for personal use.

The kimono has been bought at auction in Japan. I am not able to know what part of Japan it was originally from. It is likely that the cotton fibres were produced in Japan, where cotton was made in the west but not in the north where it was too cold for cotton. The traditional dye used was indigo.

https://www.kimonoboy.com Viewed 6 July 2016

This site gives a good potted history of Japanese textiles, but it is a commercial site and I’m not sure of it’s validity. I have books coming that I will also be able to use for further investigation but this will do in the meantime.

Kimonoboy’s Antique Japanese Folk Textiles

The above is a pdf from the above website.

Traceability may be important for historical purposes, to investigate the story behind the textiles, to understand the properties of a textile if you plan to use it in textile art, and to establish the genuine antique status of a textile. Maybe other reasons too but I’m late for work. Will add in if I think of others.

I might be able to find out more information through history books, other internet sites and other archives or museums.

This little kimono looks like it would have fitted a primary school child, and looking online suggests that this style was more for the younger children. It is is very good condition and I suspect it has been sprayed and pressed for sale.  There are no holes in the outer fabric, but the inner yoke lining does have some thinning of the fabric with holes. The arm pits are reinforced and this has broken down a little bit with some loose thread visible.


The kimono is not personalized in any way, but the reinforcing suggests that it was made for use rather than decoration. The hand stitching could well have been done by a mother for her child. It is not labeled in any way inside.

I feel some mild nostalgia in relation to the kimono.  But it is not my cultural heritage and as such feels also a bit foreign and novel. Whilst there are common nostalgic themes-a child now grown, perhaps even likely dead- that as a mother I can identify with, it is not the strong nostalgia I would feel about a textile that reminded me directly of my own now grown children. For example fleece with a pattern similar to the track suits I made for my children.

Boro futon cover:



This is a fragment of a cover made for sleeping futons. Could be either underneath or over the top like a blanket according to Jan (japanese shop owner).

It is made from scraps of fabric, likely cotton or hemp.

Cotton was prized for its softness and warmth in Japan but in the north where cotton could not be grown, scraps from the south were used in this boro patchwork style. Hemp was the traditional weaving material of the north of Japan.

A textile like this would have been washed when in use, but is now so fragile through age and degradation of use that it would like deteriorate significantly if I washed it.

A lot of my information in regard to this piece is coming from a book:

Rags and Tatters from the Far North of Japan, 2008, Yukiko Koide and Kyoichi Tsuzuki (eds), ASPECT Corp, Tokyo, Japan

The fabrics used in this fragment are all woven fabrics. Traditionally weaving was done by hand on small looms but later factories produced machine woven cottons for use. There is various types of weaving, plain and patterned weaves and double ikat weaving, as in the kimono above. This textile would have been assembled from fragments with a view to providing warmth. It has been hand stitched together with heavy duty thread and large stitches in the style that has come to be known as Boro.  Originally boro was not a textile art style but a purely functional means of assembling a larger textile from scraps for very poor people in northern Japan. It is well worn and stained in parts. Some holes have been patched but others have developed in the patches. Larger pieces on the back are largely shredded. Multiple layers are employed to give added warmth.





It has been a durable and sturdy piece in the past but is now so degraded it is no longer of much practical use.

The label indicates that it comes from the late 19th or early 20th century. I’m assuming this is really just a guess based on the known timing of the production of these sort of items. These items have been bought at auction in Japan so probably have variable traceability and there is further loss of this in the transport to Australia. borolabel.jpg

I selected all these items because they have a sense of history and story, and in this way a nostalgic element. Of the three, this one is probably the most evocative of a time when women were struggling with whatever they had to improvise warmth for their families. It would be easy to romanticise this simple life, using materials at hand and heavily recycling, although I suspect that the truth was a little more harsh and miserable.


Sake draining bag:



Sake draining bags were used to filter solids out of the fermented sake. They were made of cotton which was woven and periodically treated with persimmon juice to help preserve the fabric. It was likely to be hand woven and visibly hand sewn. The bag has been used and is now perished in multiple parts. This bag has not been repaired so it is likely that it was not in use after it began to perish. Many bags like these are repaired with heavy thread for continuing use. In the shop I was told that these bags are now prized to be made into hand bags, presumably because of the leather like appearance that has resulted from the persimmon juice.

The bag feels thick and leathery but fairly brittle now.  I can see that there is a lack of fraying at the edges of those holes, presumably also due to the persimmon juice.






All three of the above pieces reflect the heritage of Japan, demonstrating textile practices that were utilised in the last few centuries of Japanese history. Much has changed in the second half of the twentieth century for Japan, and these sort of textiles are records of the type of rural society that existed in Japan for a long time prior to its transformation after the second world war.

The Archive (1.1)

There are no easily accessible textile archives that I could find in Hobart. I decided to use textiles from a shop called Wafu Works. They source antique japanese textiles and other things from auction lots in Japan. I went to the shop and browsed all available, looking for interesting used textiles.

I have chosen a child’s kimono:


Things I have learnt from the lady in the shop. This type of kimono was used in school uniforms for kids pre second world war. It is made of cotton and all hand sewn. The fabric is resist dyed in the Ikat style, which means that the threads are resist dyed prior to weaving.


And a sake straining bag:


Things I know so far. These bags were ‘tanned” with persimmon juice hence the brown colour. There are now valued in Japan for use in handbags. That’s all Jan was able to tell me about these.


And a fragment of a futon covering:


This was quite expensive. It is a fragment of a futon cover that has been repaired on both sides with handstitched patches, in what is now known as boro style. Boro means rags. There are pieces of ikat dyed indigo fabric and also some pieces that look like they could be silk. Some areas are completely holey now without patching. It is from the 20 th century, early or mid. There is lots to see in this piece and I hope to have fun spending many hours examining and recording it.

Textiles as a discipline

My broad definition of textiles is any largely two dimensional material that is soft and can be manipulated and stitched into. I realise this is not as broad as some definitions. In my definition I would consider some papers as suitable for use in a textile context but not  thick cardboard, stiff metal or wood.  These things could be made into what I think of a textile – as in chain maille or wood pulp making rayon – but I think for me it’s something to do with the form the material is presented in. It must be essentially flat or linear, have some degree of drape and flexibility, and often made from smaller parts, essentially fibres or fragments of the material formed into a sheet.

So, for me, asbestos fibres presented in a fire blanket is clearly a textile, whereas asbestos fibres set in concrete sheet is not. And a plank of wood is not a textile but pulped and presented as rayon it certainly is.

Lots of different materials could be made into a textile, but the materials themselves are not a textile to start with.

Plastic, wood, plants, milk and animals can all provide the raw materials but some processing is required before they are a textile.

All textiles have stories behind them. Because they are largely processed to become a textile, they all have the story of how they came to be in the first place. History of the development of that textile, why it exists and how it was first used. Its cultural significance in different parts of the world, and its history of uses through the ages.

Then there is the personal history and story of an individual piece. Who spent time making it and why.  Where it travelled and who it was close to. Who loved it and cared for it and held it close. Who used it to protect them from the elements and wrapped it tight around them. Who used it to comfort the sick or miserable. Who waved it in joy. Who repaired it and passed it on. Some much to love about textiles.

And there is the message from the work itself. Was the maker trying to convey something with the textile. A surrender flag or a protest banner. A clandestine message. A celebration of an event. A record of history.  Textiles can convey and hold so much meaning.

I’m sure I could think of many more examples but I’m eager to get on and work with my textiles so I’ll leave this as a place holder and if I come across visual examples or other ideas I can add them here.