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.}


  1. A lovely approach to the subject! From any angle.

    And you've addressed the old "what is indigo" conundrum with great flair.I feel "the blues" coming on...

  2. Lisa-I'm just in awe! What an amazing project...I could not have imagined all the thought and work you were going to put into exploring Indigo..WOW!

  3. I feel the need to get down on my knees and bow to the master. Holy smokes Batman! My brain is scrambled in total awe and admiration of your exploration of indigo. More please!!!

    You had me swooning and catching my breath with the first few photos. Reading of your thought process just put my brain in a total tail spin of frenzied "Yes! Yes! Yes!"

    Seriously, I am in awe.

  4. Awe strikes here too! What a wonderful project, complex and perfectly executed. I love your cubes and I think the last one is my favourite too. I've gone through the images again and again with great pleasure!

  5. Thank you all for your generous comments - and for patiently waiting for the quartet of cubes!
    I, too, have been inspired by your work...not to mention being impressed by how well you also 'tend' your blogs (I'm stilling working on that)! Thanks for stopping by, and for the support.
    - Lisa

  6. Hi Lisa, I have visited maybe three times before now - and just couldn't find a way to express my admiration for this work. Not sure I can do it justice even now...I love the thoughtful process and investigation; so considered and thought-out. I love the combination of images and writing and I love the form. I love the story it tells about how indigo didn't really belong. These are precious and special and I have enjoyed spending time with them from afar. Thank you.

    1. Thank you, Fiona! While it can be tempting to only put the final result on the blog, when it comes down to it, I know that I find learning about the process just as interesting as the outcome. I'm so happy to hear that you've enjoyed this latest exploration (and would like you to know that I have certainly found plenty of inspiration in both process & result on your blog as well!)...
      - Lisa

  7. Replies
    1. Thank you, 'Cerulean'! I've just wandered over to your blog for a look at your lovely mixed media pieces - what an appealing collection you're creating...
      - Lisa

  8. Replies
    1. Thank you, Sue - glad you liked the cubes!
      - Lisa


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