31 October 2012

Still-elusive indigo

Cubes have been more or less taking over the studio during the last several months—they are giving form to my second A Letter a Week alphabet and my Book Art Object edition, as well as guiding the design of a couple of items in the works for my shop. So, I decided to continue my exploration for the 'INDIGO' challenge by creating a series of four cubes, with faces each seven-centimeters square. A couple of the sides are composed of a single image that's been divided into four, while others are distinct but harmonize with others through theme, material or technique.

This project saw a general unfolding over a period of several days, and some of the steps are visible in the photos below. A few things still remain to be finished, but I finally got the cubes scored/cut/folded last week. Unfortunately we've lost the lovely light we had mid-October, but the weather doesn't seem to be getting any better... So, on this cold, grey, rainy Halloweenbrightened only by our jack o' lantern and the brigade of my daughter's friends (who came over to prepare themselves to go out and scare everyone who sees them tonight with their creative use of paint, makeup, fake tattoos & hairspray)I have decided to get this post finished up using the photos I took last week...

A brief inventory of the cube faces:
  • A text taken from Littell's Living Age/Volume 145/Issue 1869/Definition of the Color Indigo, with scholarly objections disputing Newton's decision to name 'indigo' as a color (4 cube faces)
  • A reproduction of the color wheel with Newton's placement of indigo (handpainted with indigo watercolor)
  • A 'package' addressed, with indigo pencil, to Newton's family home, with an indigo stamp and tied with indigo string
  • A 'letter' to Newton, written with an indigo water-soluble pencil over a wet background, and expressing some of the frustration over identifying the color 'indigo'
  • A grouping of bluesome possibly even indigo—stamps from Studio Carta
  • A map of Italy, with a sea painted with one of my indigo watercolors
  • A print made with a design using Winsor & Newton's indigo (darker/cooler) over a background of Maimeri's version of indigo (richer/warmer)
  • One of my photos of the Venetian lagoon (4 cube faces)
  • Another of my photos, of a bird floating in the Venetian lagoon
  • Butterflies in colors that I thought paired well with indigo (inspired by my previous post), against an indigo 'sky'
  • The chemical formula of indigo (C16H10N2O2), with indigo sequins within each of the five-/six-sided 'cells' resulting from the arrangement of elements
  • A pattern of indigo sequins
  • A pattern of stitches made with indigo thread
  • A 'book' stitched onto one face with indigo thread. (This idea came from a lovely Florentine marbled paper featuring indigo; it became the 'endpapers', and the 'pages' of the book are for notes/samples of some of the materials used for this project.)
  • A weaving of indigo strips: denim, the indigo marbled paper & hand-colored indigo papers over a square of copper
  • Copper bead 'stars' stitched onto an indigo 'sky'
  • Copper wire & copper beads woven over a cutout that looks into the cube's indigo interior
  • The twenty-fourth face/square remains blank...I may use it for the etymology and/or definition of indigo

Only after taking the first few rounds of photos did I remember that part of the inspiration for choosing the cube form in the first place was in fact to continue with the theme of presenting quartets of square images (which I used for past ROY G BIV posts). So below are a few more photos showing 1) the cubes arranged to recreate the full lagoon image; 2) the text contesting Newton's status for indigo; and 3) a mixed set.

Unfortunately, I liked this concept of arranging the cubes two-by-two better in theory than in practice; because of the '3D' additions (beads, wire, butterflies, the 'book'), I needed to use spacers when displaying them like this, and the effect is not very precise—certainly not consistent with what the very idea of a 'grid' means to me! (Part of this is also because I have not permanently attached the cubes yet—hence the little bulges and gaps.)

It's always interesting to see where an idea takes you, and I must admit that I wished I'd considered more where I was going before diving in. I feel the result is very 'literal', which is where most of my creative ideas tend to begin. In some ways I wish I had taken another direction and created more of a 'palette of indigos', with different materials & media, i.e. a square watercolored with indigo, another square comprised completely of indigo sequins, one of the indigo thread, etc., instead of getting involved with butterflies and books and such. I also might have experimented with papers more; while the decision to use Fabriano Artistico was deliberate and based on quite a bit of experimentation (I like its warm white color, sturdy weight, forgiving surface/ability to accept some manhandling), I don't think it brought out the best of the watercolors in particular. All in all, though, I am happy with the experience—I'm definitely more comfortable producing cubes now, and it's always valuable to conceive a project and see how it unfolds.

The last of these images (above) shows my favorite cube 'face'. Even with the fairly close-up shot, it's still difficult to make out the indigo interior (I painted the backside of this cube with indigo watercolors). The effect of the contrast of copper with indigo was one of my favorite discoveries along the way...



{'VIOLET', November's color, should certainly be easier to identify next month! Click here for the guidelines if you'd like to play along by posting some violet-inpired photos.}

20 October 2012

Enjoying the process

Today's post was supposed to be composed of photos I had taken of my indigo-inspired 'project'...but it seems this was simply not to be. Yesterday I found myself wondering how I would get from where I was then to the position of having everything finished and ready to photograph—and today I realized that, as usual, I imagined there were more hours in the day than there actually are. I feel so very behind with the dozen different projects I am trying to complete (which is one reason the blog posts have been so few in the last several months), but it has been fun to have this indigo diversion.

I must admit that I find the idea of a lot of indigo rather overwhelming. Although indigo is one of the shades of blue that I do like, as I'd mentioned in the 'Surrounded by blue' post last month, blue is still my least favorite color. So, while collecting supplies and materials for October's challenge, I've also been thinking about which other colors indigo pairs well with. After realizing that I wasn't going to have my original project ready by tonight's ROY G BIV deadline, I decided to capture some of these 'pairings' with my camera this afternoon instead. In fact, I barely caught a few images in time (still getting used to the effects of the sun's post-autumn solstice trajectory).

The jacket of Gayle Brandeis' Fruitflesh, with that luscious deep red pomegranate, is among my all-time favorite book covers and it occurred to me that it would go well with my daughter's best-loved blue jeans (first image below). I also find the deep blue and rusty-orange of Sue Bender's cover for Everyday Sacred very striking (second image). I had intended to photograph some of my past play with indigo & olive green, but only managed to get the fresh smudge of it on the palette (last image) this afternoon. Interestingly enough, those two brands of indigo watercolors next to the olive are very different from one another. I'm not sure yet if this is going to open up more possibilities or complicate things!

* * *

On the whole 'color' topic, my sister-in-law told me about an app—Color Vacuum—which uses the camera of handheld Apple devices to collect colors. The app is aimed at kids, but I think it sounds like a lot of fun (how useful it would have been this month!). I'm not very gadget-crazy/savvy, but this is the kind of thing that makes me sort of want an iPhone/iPod with a camera. Click here for details on how it works & to check out the very appealing interface. One of the promotional images even fits in with the indigo theme:

iPhone Screenshot 1

This month I also discovered, in the 'Utilities' folder on my mac, the DigitalColor Meter. It isolates the color of anything that the mouse hovers over + shows the RGB composition. I have been creating a few calendars for the shop, and it's been helpful to be able to pull colors from the calendar images and use them for the fonts as well.

* * *

May you all have a colorful weekend! I hope to be back with the results of my indigo explorations very soon...

19 October 2012

Settling into autumn

After a period of temperamental skies and rain, Florence has had a week of classic autumn days ~

blue skied with a crisp bite
tempered by the warmth of
the kind of golden light that
goes hand-in-hand with
ever-shortening days
dissolving into indigo...

At least I think those dozens of gradations of blue at twilight culminate in indigo...though, in all honesty, I'm still not sure. With the latest ROY G BIV challenge at the back of my mind the last few weeks, I've kept my eyes open for the 'I'which stands for indigo and is October's color. And it's brought up the question: What exactly is indigo?

The other artists participating in the challenge all commented that indigo was going to be a tough one. My perception of indigo shifts constantly, so I knew I needed to get a better grasp of what the color truly is. But trying to 'educate' myself only placed more doubts in my mind. Perusing the web didn't help much; I tried replicating the color 'formulas' I found for indigo, but the values that appeared on the computer screen each looked like shades of purple. In my mind, indigo more closely resembles the indigo dye that comes from the plant that originally inspired the name (which Wikipedia says is in fact closer to the 'Midnight Blue' used for the web).

As always, though, I enjoy the search. I was thrilled when, as I scrubbed the knees of my daughter's jeans one day, indigo dye began to run onto the washboard of the laundry sink. I grabbed my camera to preserve the watery lines of indigo, but in that darkest corner of the apartment the shots couldn't capture the color. It did remind me to find the scrap from a pair of jeans that I had spotted recently, as possible inspiration.

After the inconclusive research and the 'lost' dye, I decided to try something different this month. With the idea of creating some indigo-themed work in the studio, I visited a belle arti (art supplies) shop to calibrate my notion of the elusive shade. Fortunately, some brands conveniently define their colors with names, which made it easy to choose an indigo pencil and a couple of tubes of indigo watercolor paint. I also tried my luck at the only craft store I know of in Florence (a funny little place that never seems to have the items on my listeverything is always due to arrive 'in about ten days'), but I realized that many crafts companies code the colors of their products with numbers. I spent ages opening dozens of drawers as I searched for the embroidery thread that most resembled what I think indigo is, contemplated the bead rack before choosing a tiny container of sequins that mayor may not!be indigo, and stood puzzling before displays of ribbons, paints, mosaics, glitter, papers, etc. I did walk away with a slightly larger collection of possibly- indigo-colored bits and pieces.

Each time I cleared up a pile, box or corner of the studio this month, I was on the lookout for indigo treasures; some are gathered on the tray in the photo at the top of this entry. Besides my small purchases, there's the scrap of old jeans, a postcard retrieved from a collage I made years ago, the book Everyday Sacred by Sue Bender, a sheet of locally marbled paper, and some vintage stampsa thoughtful gift from Angela Liguori.

Building on a form that has guided several other projects currently in progress in the studio, the indigo things will be brought together and transformed into something new. I am hoping to have the project done in time to post photos before this month's ROY G BIV deadline (Saturday at midnight EST). Of course, colors don't necessarily translate accurately via the camerawhich has proved to be another challenging aspect of this month's color...not to mention that colors show up differently from one monitor to the next. It only makes me want to laugh about this whole quest to find 'INDIGO'. Just another reminder of the importance of savoring the journey.

* * *

As I was brainstorming about 'INDIGO' one night, I remembered the title of an Italian song: Indaco dagli occhi del cielo. Translating as the rather vague 'Indigo from the eyes of the sky', the lyrics of this so-called cover recorded by Zucchero don't seem to have anything in common with the original, Everybody's Got to Learn Sometime. (I still remember when The Korgies' came out with the single in 1980; I was just twelve, and even now, hearing the song recalls that first summer in the US after my family had moved back from Brazil.) 

I'll leave you with a 'video' of the Italian version from You Tube. The sound quality is good, but there's only a still image; unfortunately, the only videos I could find were shaky recordings made at concerts. Many of you will likely recognize the familiar melody...

{I imagine that, as usual, Jennifer & Julie (the artists who first inspired this ROY G BIV challenge) will be posting their own images + links to other participants. I'm very curious, but am saving my blog visits until I've completed mine!}

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