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Guest Blogger – My Feathered Friends

June 24, 2010

By Lisa M. Harkins.

I spend much of my art time looking very closely at things that many take for granted – the subtle color of a garden bloom, the patterns thrown by the shadows of an ancient basalt cliff, the varying textures of my backyard flock of chickens.  I use my sketchbook to record the things I see, and these days, you will find my sketchbooks full of birds. 

We see them around us every day, but rarely have the time to really look at them.  I am fascinated by their colors – sometimes bold and sometimes very subtle.  Many are interesting studies in pattern, covered in stripes, spots, barring, and speckles.  Their textures are feathery, ruffled, scaly, wrinkled, soft, sharp-edged, and glossy.  In Experimental Research for Advanced Design, we learn a variety of useful methods that help us to actively use our sketchbooks.  What ends up in my sketchbook depends upon what I am trying to observe and record for future work.

One day, I was looking at patterns in chickens, when I discovered that iridescence has a color when viewed in the right light.  The glued-in photos remind me of the pattern I was observing, but I had a fun time using paint chips to capture the colors of iridescence.

Sometimes, I use my sketchbook for experimentation and play.  This is a page I did when I was looking closely at the spots on a loon.  Some sketches record the actual structure of the pattern, and I used other sketches to explore line and geometric pattern. 

When I use my sketchbook for color observations, I can spend hours mixing paint and really observing the make-up of complex colors.  The time I spend doing this helps me immensely when it comes time to dye fibers for a particular project.  As my work progresses, I often use my sketchbook as a resource file.  I will attach small swatches of dyed fabrics and threads, stitch samples, and paint chips.  The notes I make with these entries help me to remember things later when I might need a particular dye recipe, or recall how a stitch technique wasn’t right for this project, but is perfect for that project in the future. 

I have several sketchbooks going at once, and I try not to worry who may see them besides me.  My aim is not to make them an independent work of art, but a record of the things I see and the experiments I work out in fiber.  It is a resource to go back to.  A sketchbook is a truly useful tool that I could not do without.

One Comment leave one →
  1. June 25, 2010 9:25 pm

    Wow Lisa. So nice to see what you have been doing since our long-ago trip to the UK (led by Gail) together. It was that trip that made me love looking at other people’s sketchbooks, so thanks for showing us yours.

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