Thursday, January 26, 2012

More! More! More! More!

I was blown away this morning by the discovery of these two Vimeo videos about the creation of a logo for More4, the British digital television channel. The design consists of a beautiful and colorful moving array of right isosceles triangles.

The second video documents how the effect was produced. This must have been a budget-breaker.

What an amazing moving street sign I could create for Anita's Beads if I could figure out how to adapt this on a smaller scale. Thinking larger, I could apply it to the entire front peak of my barn. Now that would really stop traffic!

Bravo, ManvsMachine!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Winter of the Mind: The Cornell-Nathan Connection

I've just started reading the marvelous book by Dore Ashton about collage/assemblage artist Joseph Cornell titled A Joseph Cornell Album (NY: Da Capo Press, 1974). It is a portrait of an authentic and original American eccentric with a poetic soul longing for the past, to paraphrase from the Foreward.

From it I have learned about a short novel written by Robert Nathan (1894-1985): Portrait of Jenny (1940). It was made into a film in 1949, and when the book was republished by Tachyon Publications in 1998, Ray Bradbury wrote: "Welcome back, Portrait of Jennie. It touched and frightened me when I was twenty-four. Now, once more, it touches and frightens."

Cornell greatly admired Nathan's supernatural novel and repeatedly referred friends to it. It is a book saturated with the experience of deja vu, writes Ashton. It is also explicitly an avowal of discomfort in the present.

"There is another kind of suffering for the artist which is worse than anything a winter, or poverty, can do; it is more like a winter of the mind, in which the life of his genius, the living sap of his work, seems frozen and motionless, caught--perhaps forever--in a season of death, and who knows if spring will ever come again to set it free?" (Robert Nathan)

Cornell shared Nathan's romanticism and longing for the safety of other times. The possibility of mystery in the universe is another common theme reflected in Cornell's work.

"One must sometimes believe what one cannot understand. That is the method of the scientist as well as the mystic; faced with a universe which must be endless and infinite, he accepts it, although he cannot really imagine it." (Robert Nathan)

Here are links to a number of interpretations, musical and otherwise, of Nathan's novel. I like to think Cornell would have enjoyed these:

Jennifer Jones: A Mozartian "Portrait of Jenny"

Portrait of Jenny Trailer

Portrait of Jenny {a tribute}

Jennie - Nobody knows

Keswick - A Portrait of Jenny

Nat King Cole - A Portrait of Jenny

George Benson - A Portrait of Jenny

Joe Lovano - Portrait of Jenny

How watching these clips makes me feel is best expressed by a German word I learned from reading Ashton: "sehnsucht" or, a longing for other times. This last link is off-topic, but it embodies the longing:

Charlie Parker - Autumn in New York

“I suppose most artists go through something of the sort; sooner or later it is no longer enough for them just to live —to paint, and have enough, or nearly enough, to eat. Sooner or later God asks His question: are you for me, or against me? And the artist must have some answer, or feel his heart break for what he cannot say.” (Robert Nathan)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

My First 15 Spoonflower Sample Swatches

My first swatch samples have arrived from Spoonflower. First off, what an amazing turn around! I ordered the sampler Monday night, it was printed and shipped on Wednesday, and I received it in the mail on Saturday afternoon.

I am also very pleased by the sharpness of the images. The files are all .tif format, 600 pixels/inch, sized around 3725 x 3725 pixels resulting in 39.7 MB which is close to their 40MB size limit. There is slight fuzziness in some views on the Spoonflower site, but the focus on the fabric itself is dead-on perfect!

I smoothed the piece of fabric out on my work table under an Ott light, and proceeded to cut around each individual design with pinking shears.

The individual 8x8 inch swatches are separated by a white unprinted margin marked with blue guidelines and numbers that Spoonflower assigns for identification purposes.

Seven of the swatches could not be improved upon and are now available for purchase at my Spoonflower shop. The rest will be re-worked for various reasons. My unexpected favorite has got to be Impossible Dream in large (top photo) and small:

Three in my Perfect Square Collection also made the cut including Blue Dorje:

and another pleasant surprise, Orange Dorje:

Stay tuned for some Orange Dorje companion fabric! This next one needs to be re-worked because a slight pencil line is visible:

I either need to play it up more or eliminate it entirely. Back to the drawing board!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Ripple No. 1 (Log Cabin Collection)

Ripple No. 1 (Log Cabin Collection) in orange. Coming soon to Spoonflower.

Fabric Design - Filter Tangent

Yesterday I spent some time exploring the Filters available in Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0. I used a scan of a log cabin design that I created by pasting together little squares of fabric. I repeated and rotated the image to form a block

to which I applied various Filters at random. The examples below illustrate application of the Artistic filter called Cutout. (I've used this one before on my Perfect Square design.) Different results can be achieved through the manipulation of three variables: levels, edge simplicity, and edge fidelity.

Below is an example of another Artistic filter called Plastic Wrap:

And this next one is Posterization:

I've lost track of how I achieved the last one, but here are a few more surface treatments I can still identify:

Then there are applications which dramatically distort the image, affecting more than just the surface character of the design

like Ripple (above) or Pinch (below). The possibilities are endless!

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Pleasures of Pattern Design

Here are a few books off my reading pile that I want to share with you. William Justema's The Pleasures of Pattern (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1982) has been a source of inspiration for a long time. Newer additions to my design library include Lesley Jackson's Twentieth-Century Pattern Design; Textile & Wallpaper Pioneers (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2002)

and Digital Textile Design by Melanie Bowles and Ceri Isaac (London: Lawrence King Publishing Ltd., 2009).

This last book brings textile design into the digital age with tutorials on the use of Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. So far I have not felt a need for Illustrator. There is still so much for me to learn about Photoshop!

Diffuse Glow

Today I'm working towards completing a set of 15 designs so I can proof my Spoonflower fabrics. I'm having so much fun I can't believe it. This example started by cleaning the sort pile on the dryer. I had a little scrap of color chips coated in acrylic medium that was torn from one of my notebooks. It was too cute to throw away so I put it on the scanner and look what happened:

Once the basic unit above was repeated, I decided that I didn't like the brown chip so I changed it to gray. Then I jazzed it up a little with one of my favorite Photopshop devices, the Spiral Brush:

Here's more of it repeated smaller:

The finishing touch was to apply something called "Diffuse Glow" which toned the thing down. I like the softer look as well as the "tea-washed" background color.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Beyond Perfect

Initially I was excited by Perfect Square (Yellow) No. 1 pictured above because it was my first application of "Cutout" in Photoshop. You can see how the character of the original drawing was transformed by enlarging the example below:

After discovering how nicely Perfect Square (Yellow) No.2 reacted when half-brick repeated, I decided that my first version, application of "Cutout" not withstanding, was boring and set out to improve on it. The attempt to retrofit the original design became a lesson in how not to make a successful pattern, and demonstrated how much I still have to learn to become truly proficient in photoshop.

I have since decided that the success of Perfect Square (Yellow) No.2 is due, to a large extent, to its asymmetrical nature. But I made the choice to mess about with No. 1 by attacking it at the center:

Sensing a problem, I carried the project forward by partially obscuring the big misty blue blob in the center and repeated like so:

I was stuck. So I decided to invert the colors in an attempt to achieve novelty. (If you've seen my Spoonflower shop banner you will realize I have traveled this road before! )

At this point I had completely worked myself into the proverbial corner. My one last resort to save the project was to bump up the orange:

The more I consider this exercise of pattern design for fabric, the more I realize how exponentially explosive the possibilities can become. I have a whole Tumblr full of images to play around with, and I can cull through my digital collage posts on this site for more inspiration. Plus my collage activities now have a new focus.

New Year Inspiration: The Perfect Square

The new year has begun with a satisfying new tangent for me: fabric design at Spoonflower. Pattern has obsessed me off and on throughout my life. I dabbled in batik, silk screening and quilting in the 80's before getting involved with beads, jewelry making, and collage. Now the combination of design manipulation in Photoshop with the print-on-demand capabilities of Spoonflower is making me fall in love with pattern all over again.

There are a few publicly viewable designs in my Spoonflower shop but you need to click on designs not for sale to view them. Once I get a dozen or so uploaded that please me I will order swatches to proof them and then make them available to the public. The one called Perfect Square (Yellow) No. 2 is my favorite so far.

It started last June as a marker drawing which is shown above. I scanned it into photoshop where I created an eight-inch square design by repeating the graphic in two sizes on a gridded yellow background.

The options for layout in Spoonflower include basic repeat, half-drop,


and mirrored. I like the half-brick repeat the best so that is what I have specified to be printed on Spoonflower.