For this exercise the idea is to explore the qualities of line in order to express emotions or develop ideas and the starting point was to write a letter!
The contents of the letter were irrelevant because it was the writing that was important and once I had done this I photocopied it 4 times before handing copies to my fiance and 3 of my neighbours in order for each of them to respond in a different coloured pen directly on top – luckily my neighbours and fiance are now used to me asking strange things!
Upon return of the letters my local library was able to enlarge them up to A3 but I was unable to acquire many copies as the photocopier was unfortunately fault – I did manage to get 6 however with one A3 coloured copy being sent to me by a friend of a neighbour very kindly. After making the copies I then cut random words out of each letter before laying each sheet over another sheet of paper such as a newspaper or wallpaper etc to create new images. Unfortunately my images are in black and white as that is all my local library copier is able to print and also my local printers charges for A3 colour copies were a little excessive for my personal budget.
The first letter I laid over a piece of art work that I had in my scrap paper file – some fun finger painting I had tried and the result is small patches of colour that seem to be encroaching on the words or could replace the words. The first copy of the letter had been done incorrectly in terms of orientation but considering the issues with the library copier experienced I felt I needed every copy!
The second image I used a carrier bag in place of paper – I really liked the shiny smooth texture of the bag and this produced a very different effect to the first image – the bag seems to add a very different quality and almost appears to be coming through the gaps to the extent the plastic appears stuck onto the paper rather that it being behind it in the photograph. I actually like this piece in its photographed state more than I do with the original due to that appearance of the orange plastic really pushing forward through the letter. This is the only letter that had the coloured response and I like the red ink that appears to create a shadow over my own words and compliment the orange of the bag.
The third image was produced using some scrapbook paper with a polka dot print – again a very different impression is produced with this time the paper and colour appearing to recede behind the words. The colours are so much softer than the orange and the white polka dots appear to break up the white of the page as their edges blend together. On this image the photocopy does not show the secondary words over the top because the coloured ink was very feint – an error on my part was not to instruct the recipients of the letter to use a strongly coloured pen.
The fourth image I painted one of the copies in a light burnt sienna watercolour wash before reversing it behind the top photocopy – the distortion is further enhanced by the fact that the recipient of the letter used a very dark pen which every effectively distorted my own writing considerably.
The coloured copy of the letter can be seen but the words are not clear and almost give the impression of an arabic script which I find really interesting due to them being upside down.
The next version uses a page from a newspaper as the second layer and I have positioned in such a way that the price of a holiday is seen through one of the holes. Again this creates a completely different effect to each of the previous images and I like the fact that in the photograph the paper seems to be stuck in sections on top of the letter rather than behind it – this is definitely something to bear in mind if I use a similar technique in the future.
Finally I have used a pale wallpaper as the second layer for this image – it does not reproduce well in a photograph but it has a glittery shimmery finish which protrudes through the holes giving an impression of a letter which is light and fresh – the letter was about a joyful trip to Kedleston Hall after an initial ‘grump’ at a telephone provider which now seems very appropriate (I have had internet problems for several days and this letter was written over 2 weeks ago!).
I really wasn’t sure how these letters were going to turn out or how effective they would be but now I look at them as I load them into the blog I can appreciate just how different each effect is and how emotionally different each one feels – the last is fresh and joyful whilst the one with the plastic bag almost seems ‘in your face’ but the polka dot feels like it is retreating and trying to hide.
The final bit of the exercise was to explore my original letter using different media and materials.
Firstly I used a variety of different Inktense sticks to write a second of the letter on a pale grey background with the lines of the letter overlapping and in place blending. Normally I would use water with these sticks but for this image I did not want to blur the words further although this is also a possibility for a future piece of work too – I have a limited selection of these sticks but if I wrote the letter line by line and added a light water wash the blending could potentially produce some interesting effects that are worth exploring.
After the end of this exercise I did a second version of the Inktense image but this time adding the water as planned and yes I like the differing effect. The only thing I do wish I had done was to overlap the letters line by line much more so that the colours and words blended into one another more – my mistake was to write each line and put the clear water wash over and what I should have done was to write the whole letter firstly. This now feels a little messy in comparison and the phone is not as clear but I still like the very different feeling or atmosphere this version creates – it feels rougher and somehow despite the bright colours it feels almost sad as if the letter has been written through a mist of tears or that it is being seen through a foggy or wet window.
The second version I decided to try using my sewing machine to write a portion of the letter in white thread on a black cotton background. Initially I used a firm stabilizer behind the fabric which I purposefully chosen not to iron as I liked the wrinkles but the stabilizer caused problems with my needle jamming so I cut it away after the first couple of lines. I found the material crumpled considerably more during the stitching and I had the potential to use a hoop to prevent then but preferred the free form crumpled effects that highlighted the wrinkles and the words being produced by just holding the material very lightly. I only cut the threads at the end of each line and decided not to cut them between each word so that the words flow into each other. Despite the messier appearance of this piece I really loved stitching the words on the machine – despite my quilting background I have avoided doing letters or words!
The final image created was done with the use of a knitting needle and also a very useful sewing tool called a Purple Thang which has one pointed end and one flat beveled end.
Again I only wrote part of the letter out and used a large style of writing letting the letters form themselves and overlap in places.
I am used to doing very traditional calligraphy with a Roman font and with both of the images I have done using the Inktense sticks and the knitting needle/thang it has been really fun to experiment with a freer style of writing to see what effects I can produce with the qualities of the different lines. I love the different thicknesses of the lines in this last image and also the different tones produced by the need to constantly dip the tool in the ink.
Overall this whole exercise I have found almost enlightening into the use of words as a direct inspiration – a letter or word is formed by the use of line and so I am now further fascinated by the calligraphy artists of all genres such as those I discovered on Pinterest such as Vincent Abadie Hafez or Stohead. I am a lover of calligraphy anyway and the use of words in art but now this exercise has ignited a creative need to explore this further in future work in some form whether as a basis for a textile piece or as an art piece in ink, watercolour or some other media.